Saturday, June 26, 2010

Darwin Meets Orwell

Evolution’s corruption of science continues to reach new heights. Consider a recent paper written by an evolutionist in a leading journal about, of all things, our criminal justice system. That’s right, evolutionists now want to recast sentencing procedures according to their beliefs about origins. It’s another should-we-laugh-or-cry story as the underlying reasoning is so banal while the recommendations are so scary. I doubt even George Orwell could have envisioned this.

According to evolutionist Andrew Cashmore, we have no free will and therefore individuals should not be held responsible for their actions. What we do is simply a consequence of our genes (the key to our hardware design according to evolutionists), our environment, and the underlying random motion that has been held to be important ever since Lucretius.

And since we have no choice about all three of these factors, we therefore have no responsibility for our actions. You thought you chose to read this article, but that was just an illusion.

And how is Cashmore so sure we have no free will in spite of the steady stream of apparently free decisions we all continually make? I certainly thought I was choosing between chocolate or vanilla. So why is free will so obvious to people, if it is non existent? Because, of course, the illusion evolved via selection. As the peer reviewed paper reports, it is all an evolutionary illusion:


In discussing free will, Susan Blackmore has noted that “many scientists believe that the real causal factors are all those interacting neurons that do many things including creating a sense of self, and a sense of free will—both of which are illusions.” She goes on to say, “I think nature has played this enormous joke on us.” In addressing the same issue, Rita Carter has asked, “If free will is an illusion and each of our actions is determined by unconscious cognitive processes in response to external stimuli, why should our brains delude us into thinking otherwise?” A variation on this question is: what is the evolutionary selective advantage of consciousness? One answer to this question is that consciousness provides us with an apparent sense of responsibility: “Along with the illusion of control, our sense of agency brings the burdens of individual responsibility. Though this may sometimes weigh heavily on us personally, for society as a whole it is hugely beneficial. Our entire morality and judicial system is dependent on everyone accepting that they are agents of their own misdeeds, and those who don’t acknowledge this are—by legal definition—insane. We may not consciously control our own actions, but the cognitive mechanisms that create the illusion that we do keep society functioning.” A similar argument has been made by Wegner: “The ability to know what one will do … would seem to be an important human asset … This preview function could be fundamentally important for the facilitation of social interaction.” I find that the above are attractive explanations for the existence (the selective advantage) of consciousness. […]

In summary, then, I believe that free will is clearly an illusion. However, this is not to say that consciousness does not have a function. I believe it does, and from this I assume that it must give rise to an evolutionary selective advantage. Consciousness confers the illusion of responsibility. No wonder the belief in free will is so prevalent in society—the very survival of those “selfish free-will genes” is predicated on their capacity to con one into believing in free will!

The beauty of evolutionary theory is its tremendous elasticity in data interpretation. Evidence that can be interpreted as supporting evolution is viewed as legitimate whereas contradictory evidence is anomalous or even, as in this case, illusory. This most striking of evidences is, with a wave of the hand, dismissed as illusory—a evolutionary trick. Perhaps evolution also planted all those fossils and deviously constructed those adaptation mechanisms.

But dispensing with evidence is by no means Cashmore’s only proof. Amazingly, he weaves an even more banal argument into the narrative. Free will, according to Cashmore, is obviously a stretch for the simple reason that it could not be created by natural laws. Conjectures about free will lack “any hint of molecular details concerning mechanisms” and “Neither religious beliefs, nor a belief in free will, comply with the laws of the physical world.” Similarly, the evolutionist explains:


relatively few biologists seriously question the concept of free will. This holds in spite of the fact that we live in an era when few biologists would question the idea that biological systems are totally based on the laws of physics and chemistry.

So let’s see, biological systems are totally based on the laws of physics and chemistry, so therefore there is no free will. Got it.

As the fallacies mount up it is not surprising that Cashmore gives experimental evidence an evolutionary spin. He finds it significant, for example, that measured brain activity precedes conscious awareness of a decision.

By the time he finishes Cashmore is utterly convinced:


A belief in free will is akin to religious beliefs […]

The reality is, not only do we have no more free will than a fly or a bacterium, in actuality we have no more free will than a bowl of sugar. The laws of nature are uniform throughout, and these laws do not accommodate the concept of free will. […]

as living systems we are nothing more than a bag of chemicals.

With this conclusive dismissal of free will, the evolutionist moves on to critique our criminal justice system. Does he suggest all go free? After all, no one is to blame for his actions, so how can we justify incarceration? Unfortunately Cashmore suggests nothing so pleasant. Would that evolutionary thinking was so benign. No, the evolutionist suggests something far more scary:


The proposal is a pragmatic one, based on the belief that the welfare of society at large is more important than the welfare of the individual offender.

if a defendant were found guilty, then a court-appointed panel of experts would play a role in advising on matters of punishment and treatment.

But in the evolutionist’s two-dimensional world, what is an expert, and how would the court ever know it? After all, any such “expert” is merely acting according to those uncontrollable mechanical factors, as is the judge who anoints them.

I can see it now. The “offender” is brought into a chamber where he is examined by the panel. The group might consist of some social workers, administrators, one or two clerics, perhaps a philosopher, and so forth. These court-appointed “experts,” who of course are evolutionists, would have an air of all-knowing, thinly veiled condescension. They would pose questions creating various Catch-22’s, having little to do with the case.

“Did you ever cheat in school?” An affirmative indicates a hooligan while a negative indicates a pathological liar. After brow-beaten into submission the offender is escorted away while the experts decide on his punishment and treatment. Annual reviews evaluate the convicts “progress,” determine how much longer to extend the sentence and the appropriate punishments and treatments for the coming year.

Should we laugh or should we cry. The evolutionist believes evolution created the illusion of free will and in him the ability to see through the illusion. He now, as a consequence of his genes, environment, and those Lucretian swerves, argues against free will. He is right and those who don’t agree are wrong (even though we’re all just a bag of chemicals). And consequently we should now trade our criminal justice system for an evolutionary kangaroo court. It is, at once, both idiotic and disturbing. Religion drives science and it matters.

209 comments:

  1. The problem of free will does not arise from evolution, or from materialism; it arises from the principle of cause and effect. Either our decisions are caused by our interior mental states -- our desires and beliefs -- or they are not, and it does not matter whether those desires and beliefs arise from physical or supernatural causes, or whether evolution can shed any light on them.

    If they are caused by our interior mental states, then you are indeed a deterministic system -- a very complex one, no doubt, and even one, perhaps, with some random elements. But the random elements don't make you freer, they just make you harder to predict (for everyone, yourself included). Not everyone who accepts this view embraces Cashmore's conclusion: Daniel C. Dennett, for example, holds that free will is entirely compatible with our choices being caused. So did John Calvin (Luther, for his part, sided more with Cashmore on free will, if not on the proper responses to our presumed lack of it). Either free will is the ability to act according to our own best judgment of our own best interests, uncoerced by outside forces, or it is something more.

    If it's something more, though, what would it be? If our decisions are not determined by our interior states, by our desires and beliefs, then you end up, basically, not choosing what you want but choosing something else. Ron Rosenbaum's book Explaining Hitler spent a lot of space circling around this problem: some people he talked to dreaded the idea that something caused Hitler to make the choices he did (since it implies Hitler was no guiltier than a bullet fired by one of his murder squads); others embraced even the sketchiest causal accounts (e.g. maybe he caught syphilis from a Jewish prostitute) because it's equally terrifying to suppose that Hitler chose between genocide and tolerance as unpredictably as, e.g. he might choose between two entrees at a restaurant. Perhaps the man, interviewed by Rosenbaum, who spent years making a documentary about the Holocaust will next choose to make a documentary denying it: if our choices aren't determined by our nature, how could he ever say that he would not do such a thing?

    Free will is problematic in the extreme. I don't see that accepting evolution implies that one accept Cashmore's rejection of compatibilism or his rather crude reductionism (even if man is just matter in motion, he's rather obviously more complex and flexible than a tossed brick or a "bag of chemicals," which might pose major problems for his utilitarian-therapeutic approach, in that we just don't know enough to make it work). Indeed, I don't really see how his program follows from such crude incompatibilist reductionism (he seems to assume that despite his claims, lawmakers and law-abiding citizens have more free will than criminals, which doesn't seem to follow).

    Note, though, that he is in fact arguing for a utilitarian and therapeutic model of justice, not for kangaroo courts as that term is normally understood.

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  2. Seriously?

    First of all, you seem to be implying that it is a fundamental part of the theory of evolution that there is no free will. This is a fallacy. The theory of evolution is there to explain the diversity and specialisation we see in nature. It has no philosophical stance on the nature or existence of free will.

    Maybe we do have free will - maybe we have EVOLVED it. There is nothing contradictory in saying both that we have evolved and that we have free will.

    Some evolutionists, I am sure, will be determinists. Others may not be. But highlighting one particular evolutionist who is also a determinist and suggesting that EVERYONE who accepts evolution is a determinist, or that determinism is a fundamental part of evolution is as inaccurate as it is bizarre.


    “Did you ever cheat in school?” An affirmative indicates a hooligan while a negative indicates a pathological liar.


    This, I think, is another fallacy. Surely the determinist argument is that every action which takes place was inevitable, not that people's personalities are set in stone? Under determ,inism, people's personalities can still be as complicated, intricate, and as subject to their environment as all the evidence tells us they are. It's just that each individual action, each crime, each act of redemption, each case of a perfect studen snapping and going on a rampage, was inevitable.

    Finally, what evidence do you have that the determinist is wrong? You didn't actually say. They might be right. Or are you hoping we will conclude that it is 'just obvious' that we do have free will?

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  3. Yet again, Dr Hunter conflates a proposition that he finds repugnant (that free will is an illusion) with another proposition that he finds repugnant, the theory of evolution.

    Whether free will is real or illusory is an issue for cognitive psychology. See, for example,

    The Illusion of Conscious Will, by Daniel M Wegner, professor of psychology at Harvard.

    I have a copy of the book, and it is entirely devoted to empirical findings of cognitive error, and contains no mention of evolutionary history or concepts.

    Our minds often play tricks on us, and conventional wisdom is often incorrect. How our minds came to be that way is a different issue.

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  4. "Whether free will is real or illusory is an issue for cognitive psychology."

    So all the philosophers who thought about and wrote on this subject before the rise of Darwinian evolution were simply wasting their time because they erroneously assumed that their thoughts were their own and not the result of a long chain of chemical accidents?

    True, humans have errors in our thought proceses, but under a naturalistic view of things we actually have no reason to believe there is a _right_ way of thinking let alone hope of ever detecting it.

    As for the poster earlier who asked whether evolution nessiciates the removal of the will; I think the philosopher Alvin Plantinga's "Evolutionary argument against naturalism" http://bit.ly/bdmYGi sums up the issue quite nicely.

    In short: If evolution is true then we have no reason to trust our senses (and that includes the tall tales like the one Hunter referenced in his post above). Thus evolution fails to even get off the ground because it undercuts any and all knowledge at the outset.

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  5. I don't think Dr. Hunter conflates anything, the idea that free will is illusory is a logical conclusion of the naturalistic philosophy that necessitates Darwinian interpretations of biology including theories of consciousness and will. The end result of the viewpoint certainly appears to be that nothing really means anything including the assertions of the viewpoint, not to mention the the protests against this post. I think it takes vested reasoning to get around that conclusion, it seems so obvious that a even a child could see it.

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  6. Cornelius Hunter: Darwin meets Orwell

    Calling free will an illusion may be just as misleading as considering free will an élan vital (though not nearly as misleading as "Darwin meets Orwell," of course). Free will is a sensation that normal people experience when they make choices. Free will assumes lack of constraint and lack of painful compulsion, and usually refers to the ability to choose between desirables. Even if we know the physiological reasons why a person may choose chocolate, that doesn't mean the person doesn't experience the sensation of free choice, just like they experience the sensation of consciousness itself.

    Steven J: some people he talked to dreaded the idea that something caused Hitler to make the choices he did

    If someone had given Hitler a little encouragement with his painting, maybe he would have ended up a happy, albeit, second-rate artist.

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  7. So, did his genes compel him to come up with that absurd notion?

    And, if we ought to just follow along with the evolutionary path, then removing such evil-compelling genes from the genetic pool would be imperative. And since evil is genetic and crime is in the DNA, incarceration for the purpose of rehabilitation is a farce as well.
    So, let's dispense with prison sentences and have a "Three Strikes, Terminated" system: You get three appeals and then you're summarily and immediately executed.

    Something clean, like immolation.

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  8. Wes Widner -


    In short: If evolution is true then we have no reason to trust our senses (and that includes the tall tales like the one Hunter referenced in his post above).


    I don't see how that follows at all. Can you elaborate here a bit, please?

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  9. music2myear -


    And, if we ought to just follow along with the evolutionary path, then removing such evil-compelling genes from the genetic pool would be imperative. And since evil is genetic and crime is in the DNA, incarceration for the purpose of rehabilitation is a farce as well.


    Evil-compelling genes? Evil is genetic? Crime is in the DNA? That's just silly! Who is making such claims?

    Behaviour may be compelled by our genes, it's true. But 'evil' and 'crime' are entirely abstract and relative concepts.


    So, let's dispense with prison sentences and have a "Three Strikes, Terminated" system: You get three appeals and then you're summarily and immediately executed.

    Something clean, like immolation.


    Again, you are building a ridiculous strawman.

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  10. "... That’s right, evolutionists now want to recast sentencing procedures according to their beliefs about origins. ..."

    There's nothing new about Imperial Science!, nor about this particular manifestation of it (for those interested, here is my analysis of that particular foolishness).

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  11. There is also nothing at all new in the willfully ignorant (i.e. intellectually dishonest) responses of these foolish DarwinDefenders to C.Hunter's blogging about this.

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  12. " But 'evil' and 'crime' are entirely abstract and relative concepts."

    Based on our past conversation in another post that's an interesting statement for you to make.

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  13. Ilion -


    There is also nothing at all new in the willfully ignorant (i.e. intellectually dishonest) responses of these foolish DarwinDefenders to C.Hunter's blogging about this.


    I don't think anyone is claiming to be coming out with anything new. These misunderstandings of evolution, I am sure, go way back.

    Fil -


    Based on our past conversation in another post that's an interesting statement for you to make.


    Nevertheless, I stand by it. They are moral judgements, and entirely relative. Surely the concept of an 'evil gene' necessitates evil be something tangible and objective?

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  14. "Surely the concept of an 'evil gene' necessitates evil be something tangible and objective? "

    I would think so. To claim a gene or genes forced someone to action is unrealistic to me... and an easy way out to disavow resposibility for ones own actions. That being said it wouldn't surprise me to see genes play a part in the tendency of a person towards 'evil' things.

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  15. Ok. I read that wrong but my statement still reflects my views.

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  16. How idiotic! Can't this guy see that everything he is saying, the choices and interpretations he made to write this paper is also subject to the same problem that a criminal with no free will is subject to? If the criminal had no choice in the matter, then, to be consistent, neither did Cashmore in writing his paper, right? His opinion is simply the result of the chemical reactions taking place in his brain. Why are the chemical reactions in his brain and the conclusions that the programs in his brain led him to any more valid than the chemical reactions in an ID scientists brain and the conclusions that the software in his brain led him to? After all, neither one has a choice in the matter, right? Isn't that what he is saying?

    How can he say the problem of "no free will" applies only to the criminal and not to himself? How can he stand back and exempt himself from this? He is a human just like us and subject to the same physical laws, right?

    Here is what he wrote:

    "The reality is, not only do we have no more free will than a fly or a bacterium, in actuality we have no more free will than a bowl of sugar. The laws of nature are uniform throughout, and these laws do not accommodate the concept of free will. […]"

    "... as living systems we are nothing more than a bag of chemicals."


    Hunter: "With this conclusive dismissal of free will, the evolutionist moves on to critique our criminal justice system."

    Again, the question is, why should we trust the conclusions of any bag of chemicals more than the conclusions of another bag of chemicals? How do we know Cashmore, who is simply a bag of chemicals by his own admission, can be trusted?

    What good is science, argument, opinion, etc if we have no free will? All of these things are determined and we have no choice in our beliefs, thoughts, opinions, conclusions, etc.

    I am a product of the Creator of the world. I was created with a sound mind, reasoning skills, a basis for absolute truth and morality, and God has given me a free will. I would trust the conclusions of such a person 100 percent of the time vs the conclusions of a bag of chemicals, wouldn't you?

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  17. This is more proof of the problems with atheism. Remember that post on June 23rd by Hunter which was entitled "Atheism's Hidden Assumptions"?

    Here it is if you forgot:
    "Evolutionist Jerry Coyne thinks atheism is true. But if atheism (in addition to evolution) is true, then how could Coyne know it? For if atheism and materialism are true, then Coyne's brain is nothing more than a set of molecules in motion. Its various configurations are simply a consequence of its beginning, subsequent inputs, and some random motion here and there.

    What Coyne thinks is knowledge would merely be certain molecular states, not necessarily having any correspondence with truth. How do evolutionists reconcile their atheism with their convictions of knowledge and truth? This Hobbesian predicament is particularly ironic in light of the atheist's strong theological convictions and arguments. We know atheism is true because god wouldn't have created this world. Do you see why atheism is parasitic on (and much less dangerous than) theism? "

    So, there is really no way to know anything if there really is no God. Why, because we cannot ever know if the chemical reactions of our brains are right or not. There is no standard for truth to which we can compare our conclusions, ideas, and interpretations. So your opinion vs my opinion, atheist's opinion vs the opinion of an ID scientist, or even their writings for that matter are all determined. They cannot help themselves. They are just the victims of the chemical processes that take place in their brain. As this guy state, we are just bags of chemicals and therefore we cannot have free will.

    Is there anyone out there who really believes this garbage? Again, if this is true, atheism as a worldview is proven to be unlivable. We all have to live and act thinking that we do have free will and the ability to choose between two different actions, etc. But if the atheist worldview cannot account for this, then isn't it possible it just isn't true? Isn't this good evidence for the existence of at least some kind of Supernatural intelligence?

    - because an atheistic worldview cannot account for what our hearts know to be true.

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  18. tokyojim:

    "Again, the question is, why should we trust the conclusions of any bag of chemicals more than the conclusions of another bag of chemicals? How do we know Cashmore, who is simply a bag of chemicals by his own admission, can be trusted?"

    A computer is a "bag of chemicals". Do you trust the results of its calculations?

    Of course there is no reason to trust a bag of chemicals unless it has shown to be trustworthy.

    "I am a product of the Creator of the world. I was created with a sound mind, reasoning skills, a basis for absolute truth and morality, and God has given me a free will. I would trust the conclusions of such a person 100 percent of the time vs the conclusions of a bag of chemicals, wouldn't you?"

    No. In my experience creationists that comment on blogs such as this one reach the wrong conclusions nearly 100% of the time.

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  19. Good post again CH.

    When I first saw the book "A Natural History of Rape: biological bases of sexual coercion" - by Randy Thornhill and Craig T Palmer (MIT Press) - I thought, "Well here we are, someone other than Peter Singer et al. is actually taking Darwinism to its logical conclusions. Now see how the courts will deal with the consequences of Darwin's inane idea!"

    It was inevitable.

    Sooner or later someone with no brains and no real conscience would come up with suggested mods to the justice system.

    I can just see the rapist's defense lawyer, "Your honor, science has proved that he was constrained by his genes. It is thus impossible that he is responsible for this brutal rape."

    Indeed, like the Nazis who had no qualms whatsoever about killing Jews - since they were less evolved, "not truly human" and inferior animals - these more recent writers have come to the same conclusions that allow for the same insane suggestions.

    And, God forbid, if ever taken seriously by the courts, will inevitably lead to the same conclusions for robbery, torture, murder, serial killing, and you name it.

    "Evolution is the greatest engine of atheism ever invented." "Naturalistic evolution has clear consequences that Charles Darwin understood perfectly. 1) No gods worth having exist; 2) no life after death exists; 3) no ultimate foundation for ethics exists; 4) no ultimate meaning in life exists; and 5) human free will is nonexistent." ~ William Provine

    If Darwinian evol. is true then free will is indeed and illusion and no one is responsible for anything - whether it be crimes or writing witless, idiotic nonsense like Anthony R. Cashmore's insane rhetoric.

    In light of these things one does well to remember Lewotin's statement: "Scientists, like others, sometimes tell deliberate lies, because they believe that small lies can serve big truths." -Lewontin, R.C., The Inferiority Complex, New York Review of Books, 22 October 1981

    Darwinians are generally great con men and blatant liars with a sinister underlying purpose also exposed by prof Lewontin, "We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counterintuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover the materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door."

    CH, you have once again hit the nail of the head and anyone with a brain knows this very thing requires that another nail be firmly hammered into the Darwinian theory's coffin.

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  20. troy: you clearly do not understand what you're talking about. Why am I not surprised?

    "Of course there is no reason to trust a bag of chemicals unless it has shown to be trustworthy."

    Yes, and just how have we come to the conclusion that our brains are trustworthy? Duh?!
    By testing our brains using our brains? Of course.

    Hopefully, you may be bright enuff to see the problem with that.

    "You are nothing but a pack of neurons" (Crick), yet you inanely think we should trust your pack of neurons over our own? Why should I trust a pack of neurons?

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  21. Gary:

    "troy: you clearly do not understand what you're talking about. Why am I not surprised?"

    Since you ask, I would guess because you're not very bright and presumably not very well educated either.

    "Yes, and just how have we come to the conclusion that our brains are trustworthy? Duh?!
    By testing our brains using our brains? Of course."

    I suggest you replace the word "brains" with "soul" and think again.

    How else but by using our senses can we determine that our senses are trustworthy?

    If a bag of chemicals, or an entity by any other name, makes repeatably accurate predictions according to our senses, then we call it trustworthy. Do you agree?

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  22. Fil -


    I would think so. To claim a gene or genes forced someone to action is unrealistic to me... and an easy way out to disavow resposibility for ones own actions. That being said it wouldn't surprise me to see genes play a part in the tendency of a person towards 'evil' things.


    The idea that we have no free will is determinism, and it is radically different to evolution. According to determinism, if you know the laws of the universe and the position of every atom in it, you can work out the future. Every action that happens is inevitable. Free will is only an illusion.

    Cornelius is confusing this with evolution. Evolution is not necessarily deterministic. In fact, determinism is not particularly connected with biology as opposed to, say physics. Just because we are a product of our genes, does not mean we are a slave to them. I may feel violent urges when I am angry and that is doubtless my natural instincts kicking in. But I can overrule them. I do at least appear to be able to chose not to give in to them. Whether this choice was free (and thus a real choice) at all or whether it was inevitable is a puzzle for the determinist, not the evolutionist.

    Also, evil is not objective. No meter registers the presence of 'evil'. We cannot see, touch, taste, smell or hear a spark, crumb or whiff of it.

    If a man kills a baby, we might agree that it was an evil action. But the action does not intrinsically have the quality of being evil. We, as observers, JUDGE the action to be evil. Morality is thus like a pair of spectacles, allowing us to view the world and see moral values in it - values which do not exist independantly of us.

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  23. A computer is a "bag of chemicals". Do you trust the results of its calculations?

    Troy, you said:

    "Of course there is no reason to trust a bag of chemicals unless it has shown to be trustworthy."

    What makes your conclusions better than mine? We're both nothing more than bags of chemicals in your view it seems so why is your bag better than my bag? And how do you know?

    Besides, again, like Hunter states here, we have no free will so you are a slave to those brain processes and have no other option to come out with your view and I have no choice when it comes to my views. We don't have the freedom to evaluate and choose - so says Cashmore in his article.

    If you don't agree with that, why don't you? What makes your bag better than his bag?

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  24. Darwinists are like a bunch of mindless drones flocking to defend their religious belief and attack the messenger (in this case CH) for shining a light on their asinine god.
    * Yet again, Dr Hunter conflates a proposition that he finds repugnant (that free will is an illusion) with another proposition that he finds repugnant, the theory of evolution.
    * First of all, you seem to be implying that it is a fundamental part of the theory of evolution that there is no free will. This is a fallacy. The theory of evolution is there to explain the diversity and specialisation we see in nature. It has no philosophical stance on the nature or existence of free will.
    * The problem of free will does not arise from evolution, or from materialism

    This is a very strange phenomenon, i.e. sometimes when you show a Darwinists what believing in Darwinism means they find it repugnant, and begin to deny the reality of their belief system. Clearly it was not Dr. Hunter who said,
    “interacting neurons … creating … a sense of free will … which are illusions.”
    “If free will is an illusion … what is the evolutionary selective advantage of consciousness?”
    “In summary, then, I believe that free will is clearly an illusion. … I assume that it must give rise to an evolutionary selective advantage. Consciousness confers the illusion of responsibility.”

    And this also from the paper.
    “Darwin was aware of the implications of his theories concerning evolution in reference to free will as indicated in these notes: “This view should teach one profound humility, one deserves no credit for anything. Nor ought one to blame others”

    All you have to do is shine a light on what these Darwinian Priors said and watch the Darwinian drones scatter like turning a light on cockroaches.

    Darwinists also have an amazing affinity in using incongruous analogies like this one.
    A computer is a "bag of chemicals". Do you trust the results of its calculations?

    Let’s think about this for a nanosecond. A human is a bag of chemicals and a computer is a bag of chemicals therefore they are equivalent. There are hundreds of millions of computers sold worldwide annually. Computers that the human purchaser have never seen or interacted with, yet upon first use this human bag of chemicals immediately trust the results of this other bag of chemicals. Therefore if you trust one bag of chemicals (computer) without prior experience then you must trust another bag of chemicals (human) without prior experience. Oh but wait, that inane bag of chemicals who made the computer analogy doesn’t trust the bag of chemicals (tokyojim)
    No. In my experience creationists that comment on blogs such as this one reach the wrong conclusions nearly 100% of the time.
    Are creationists not bags of chemicals? The bag of chemicals (with the inane computer analogy) should have always trusted the bag of chemicals (creationists) because doesn’t it always trust the results of the computer?

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  25. So let's see. The criminals are not free not to commit their crimes, and by the same token, juries and the justice system are not free to not lock them up in prison.

    Fine. But then where's the complaint? Why does the majority (non-criminals) need to be tweaked to exhibit proper behavior instead of the minority? Why is Cashmore so driven to calibrate the non-criminal automatons instead of the much fewer in number criminal automatons?

    That which calibrates least calibrates best!

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  26. tokyojim:

    "What makes your conclusions better than mine? We're both nothing more than bags of chemicals in your view it seems so why is your bag better than my bag? And how do you know?"

    You see, that's why we have invented that concept of objectivity. If all of us bags of chemicals can agree on certain observations, then we call it objective. On that basis we can do science.

    "Besides, again, like Hunter states here, we have no free will so you are a slave to those brain processes and have no other option to come out with your view and I have no choice when it comes to my views. We don't have the freedom to evaluate and choose - so says Cashmore in his article."

    Cashmore may well be right - or wrong, I don't know - but you must realize that even if we are "just" deterministic robots, the process of decision making, as it were, may be so complex, as to be indistinguishable from free will. Imagine a very complicated decision tree, with lots of "if A then B, else C" nodes, and that those trees differ between individuals, and that the trees can be modified by feedback from their own output and new sensory input. Surely you can see that a flexible robot like that could appear to have "free will". I'm not saying I have prove that's the way it is - just that it might be like that.

    Do you see my point?

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  27. teleological blog -

    "This is a very strange phenomenon, i.e. sometimes when you show a Darwinist what Darwinism means they find it repungant and begin to deny the reality of their own belief system."

    That is exactly the point - Darwinism does NOT mean determinism. Not at all. Perhaps you think it does, as apparently does Cornelius, in which case you are both simply wrong.

    You can find evolutionists who are also determinists and quote them on their views on free will. But I can also find evolutionists who are also Republicans and quote them talking about the economy. That doesn't mean the theory of evolution has anything to do with determinism any more than it has anything to do with politics.

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  28. Great post. It is like a concession speech for naturalists. I realize he doesn't speak for all of them, but it is so splendidly ironic for him to cop to what we've been saying for centuries: The atheistic worldview has no grounding for morality.

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  29. I said: "What makes your conclusions better than mine? We're both nothing more than bags of chemicals in your view it seems so why is your bag better than my bag? And how do you know?"

    Troy said: “You see, that's why we have invented that concept of objectivity. If all of us bags of chemicals can agree on certain observations, then we call it objective. On that basis we can do science.”

    Troy, I’m not so sure. Much of science involves interpretation of the evidence. Both evolutionists and creationists have the same evidence. They have access to the same fossils and the same rocks. They study the same principles of genetics, chemistry, and physics. They observe the same universe. Why then do they draw such different conclusions when it comes to matters of origins? Ultimately, it is because they have different worldviews, and so they interpret the same evidence differently. So we put the same evidence into our computers or bag of chemicals but we come out with different answers. Why are you more objective than me? There are lots of differences of opinions when it comes to evolution and yet we have the same evidence. OK, so many chemical bags in this world have computer software that leads them to the conclusion that we evolved totally by natural processes and that we are all related through common descent. However, there are a large number of chemical bags(both scientist type chemical bags and ordinary people type chemical bags) in this world whose brain tells them something different. It is not as objective as you want to think. Why is the thinking of a scientist any more trustworthy than a non-scientist if we are just bags of chemicals with no free will? I still don’t get it.

    Troy said:
    “Cashmore may well be right - or wrong, I don't know - but you must realize that even if we are "just" deterministic robots, the process of decision making, as it were, may be so complex, as to be indistinguishable from free will…. Surely you can see that a flexible robot like that could appear to have "free will". I'm not saying I have proof that's the way it is - just that it might be like that. Do you see my point?”

    Troy, I don’t think that you really want Cashmore to be right because of the implications of that view. That is the whole point of this article that Hunter wrote. He, as a scientist, is using his authority to make a claim and trying to use his “discoveries” to influence our criminal justice system. Hunter says this is scary. Don’t you think so too? Especially since you don’t know if he is right or wrong? By the way, how can we tell if he is right or wrong? How do we evaluate his claim if we have no reference for truth.

    Do I see your point? Yes and No. In the end, no matter how complex the decision making process of the chemicals in our brain, still the end result is determined, right? We cannot control or change it if Cashmore is right.

    Garbage in – Garbage out? Sure. If you put faulty information into the computer, it will get the wrong answer every time. But here is the point. How do we determine what is faulty and what is right when it comes to information that we feed into our brain? Here is where our worldview comes into play. No one can prove their worldview – especially an atheist – because there is no such thing as knowledge – no foundation for real knowledge in the atheistic worldview. So really, we are back to the battle of worldviews or what we accept as true before we begin to interpret the evidence(which is the same for both of us.)

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  30. A follow up:

    Troy, here is an intriguing article for you to read about the philosophy of science:

    http://creationsafaris.com/crev200807.htm#20080724a

    So what can science really know? Take the layers of rocks we see in geology. How were these layers formed? Uniformitarians say it was by the same processes that we see at work today - the very slow erosion of the rock due to the river running through it. But this is an interpretation made based upon their philosophy of uniformitarianism. A catastrophe like a great flood could just as easily have been responsible for those rock layers we see. And the fact that there is no erosion between the layers is good evidence that these layers were laid down rather quickly as opposed to millions of years. However, this does not fit the uniformitarian worldview, the atheist's worldview, or the materialist's worldview, so that idea is thrown out and not even allowed into the arena of possibilities to begin with. It all comes down to worldview.

    Another example of how our worldview forces different interpretation even though we start with the same evidence. Remember when Mary Schweitzer announced the presence of collagen in the dinosaur and in a mastodon bone? A femur from a T. rex broke open during transport and was found to contain pliable tissue and blood vessels with apparent red blood cells. Evolutionists were outraged by the suggestion and claimed she had to have made a mistake. They KNEW this was not possible because collagen, the principal protein in connective tissue, is rarely found in fossils more than a few hundred thousand years old. But now they have been forced to admit that red blood cell proteins can exist for 80 million years!( Robert F. Service, “Paleontology: ‘Protein’ in 80-Million-Year-Old Fossil Bolsters Controversial T. rex Claim,” Science, 1 May 2009: Vol. 324. no. 5927, p. 578, DOI: 10.1126/science.324_578) Why would they come to such an outrageous belief? Because of the evidence? No. Because of their worldview. It is the only answer that fits their worldview. Creationists will say that the dinosaur bones are obviously young - because of their worldview. The evidence is the same, but the conclusions are different. How do we know who is right? Is the evolutionist’s bag of chemicals producing the right answer or is the creationist’s bag of chemicals doing it? How can we know? Science is not as objective as you would like to think.


    Here is a bit more technical article about the philosophy of science:

    http://creationsafaris.com/crev200708.htm#20070813a

    Here is a pertinent excerpt from that article:

    The Christian world view is also the precondition for intelligibility in science. Both Greg Bahnsen and J. P. Moreland (see his book Christianity and the Nature of Science) have argued this case cogently that one must accept Christian presuppositions before one can even do science. To do science, you must defend the correspondence theory of truth, be able to account for a world of natural law, defend the validity of inductive inference and deductive proof, accept the reality of the mind, believe in the universal applicability of the laws of logic, and uphold universal standards of morality. All these functions come included in the Christian world view package. They are indefensible in any other world view.
    Christianity, then, is a precondition for the intelligibility of science and for reason itself. This does not mean that non-Christians cannot do science or use reason, because clearly they do; it means that they cannot account for the validity of science from within their own world view. Whether they are aware of it or not, they plagiarize Christian assumptions whenever they reason inductively or deductively about the world. This is part of what it means to be created in the image of God and distinct from animals.

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  32. Are not DarwinDefenders simply amazing with their in-your-face willful ignorance -- which *just is* intellectual dishonesty? Just look that the comments, in this thread alone, by the usual gaggle of DarwinDefenders. Simply amazing!

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  33. Thorton:

    Asterisks don't get you a free pass. Cut the language. Here's your post:


    ===============

    tokyojim said...

    So what can science really know? Take the layers of rocks we see in geology. How were these layers formed? Uniformitarians say it was by the same processes that we see at work today - the very slow erosion of the rock due to the river running through it. But this is an interpretation made based upon their philosophy of uniformitarianism.

    tokyojim, there's no polite way to say this, but the stuff you get from places like creationsafaris is -------------. The science of geology has know for over 200 years that getting the geologic column laid in one year is a physical impossibility. It has nothing to do with "interpretation", it has everything to do with the physical evidence. The geologic column is miles thick with hundreds of strata composed of vastly different materials, some water laid, some aeolean (wind laid sand dunes), some volcanic in origin, all intermixed and interspersed with evidence of land life like footprints and animal burrows.

    On another E/C board I frequent, TalkRational.org, there was a whole thread on Geologic formations that YECs won't touch

    Please go read through it, look at the pictures and the correct scientific explanations. I'd be glad to walk you through any of the many wonderful examples of features that are physically impossible to have formed in massive one year Flood.

    Sadly, every time there is a scientific discovery made somewhere the professional liars in YEC organizations like AIG, ICR etc. come out with some dishonest spin to cater to their YEC audience. Yes, I called them professional liars because they are, and I can back it up with hundreds if not thousands of cross-correlating and collaborating research papers from the peer-reviewed scientific literature. There is no evidence anywhere - NONE - that gives a less than 10,000 year age of the Earth. There is an incredible amount of evidence that says the planet and the life on it are much older - 4.5 billion years for the planet, over 3.5 billion years for the life.

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  34. David:

    ===
    Yet again, Dr Hunter conflates a proposition that he finds repugnant (that free will is an illusion) with another proposition that he finds repugnant, the theory of evolution.
    ===

    False and false. Try reading the post next time. What I find repugnant is religiously motivated junk science being mandated as fact and compromising science and the peer review process. How did this junk get into PNAS?

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  35. Dr Hunter, I read the post, and I understood that you were quoting Cashmore (whose pertinent remarks you so kindly bolded) to the point that

    A variation on this question is: what is the evolutionary selective advantage of consciousness? One answer to this question is that consciousness provides us with an apparent sense of responsibility...

    And,

    In summary, then, I believe that free will is clearly an illusion. However, this is not to say that consciousness does not have a function. I believe it does, and from this I assume that it must give rise to an evolutionary selective advantage.

    It is your take home message that I was critiquing, and I consider the critique accurate, notwithstanding your objection. You are as guilty as Cashmore of conflating two unconnected concepts, each for your own apologetic purposes.

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  36. How did this junk get into PNAS?

    One man's junk is another man's garbage and a third man's treasure.

    It was an opinion piece, written by a botanist. I share your puzzlement.

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  37. 4simpsons -


    The atheistic worldview has no grounding for morality.


    You honestly believe there is no grounds for morality without a God/gods?

    Exactly what sort of morality does a God/gods provide? 'Do what I say or burn in Hell'? That doesn't sound very secure grounds for morality to me.

    The problem of theism and morality can be summed up in a quote by Plato: Are things wrong BECAUSE God says so, or does God says they are wrong because they are?

    To pick a random example, in the Bible, for instance God tells us not to murder in the ten commandments. Is murder wrong BECAUSE God has said it is, or is murder objectively wrong, and God is merely pointing it out to us?

    If the first is true, then morality is subjective. It just happens to be a God arbitrarily deciding what is good and what is bad and we humans are merely obeying. And if morality is subjective, then what is wrong with us decided good and bad for ourselves?

    If the second is true, then God is unnecessary and your point against atheism collapses. If things are right and wrong independant of God's will, then an atheist can simply refer to this objective morality.

    The canard that there is no basis for morality in atheism is a transparent smear and woefully inaccurate.

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  38. Cornelius -


    False and false. Try reading the post next time. What I find repugnant is religiously motivated junk science being mandated as fact and compromising science and the peer review process.


    Your post appears to be about determinism. This is not evolution. Can't you distinguish between the two? They are not synonymous.

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  39. tokyojim: Much of science involves interpretation of the evidence. Both evolutionists and creationists have the same evidence.

    The key difference is that evolution is supported by the scientific method, that is, hypothetico-deduction.

    tokyojim: So what can science really know? Take the layers of rocks we see in geology. How were these layers formed?

    The geologists who determined the geological succession predate Darwin. Start with the Principle of Superposition.

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  40. "You honestly believe there is no grounds for morality without a God/gods?"

    What is your 'basis' for morality then.

    "The canard that there is no basis for morality in atheism is a transparent smear and woefully inaccurate. "

    Individual atheists can have good moral values. That goes without saying. However, there is nothing in their atheism that creates/mandates them.

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  41. Cornelius Hunter said...

    Thorton:

    Asterisks don't get you a free pass. Cut the language. Here's your post:


    Apologies CH, rule noted.

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  42. Fil: Individual atheists can have good moral values. That goes without saying. However, there is nothing in their atheism that creates/mandates them.

    Morality and ethics derive from the interplay of human nature, cultural influences and thought. Religion is a cultural influence, but for an atheist, it doesn't mandate a particular morality.

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  43. Fil -


    Individual atheists can have good moral values. That goes without saying. However, there is nothing in their atheism that creates/mandates them.


    This is, of course true. But that is because atheism is simply a lack of belief in one particular thing - gods. Atheists collectively are necessarily unified by nothing else.

    Athiests therefore need to construct their own moral code. Is this really inferior to being handed a morality from your religion?

    I would say quite the reverse. It is a handicap deriving morality from the words of a single book which does not change or develop as human societies do. People slavishly following such a book will revere the morality of a society we have long outgrown, leading them to oppose, say interracial marriage, to pluck a random example.

    You can argue that as a society develops it interprets the book differently. But that undermines the authenticity of the book itself. If it is so subject to interpretation, then why should you have any confidence your interpretation of it is correct? And we are back to morality being subjective again.

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  45. Fil -


    What is your 'basis' for morality then.


    On a personal level? I myself think you can't go far wrong with basic humanism - seek to minimise suffering and maximise happiness, for yourself and others (though I do slightly resent the bias towards human beings implied by humanism's name. Animals can suffer too). 'Do unto others...' might be a Christian way of putting it, though the ethic finds explicit expression in many cultures, philosophies and religions which predate Christianity by centuries.

    Following this principle leads me to advocate things such as gay marriage, interracial marriage, stemcell research and the abolition of slavery, all of which were/are held back largely by those who (in my view) value the words of a holy book as more important than real world suffering/happiness.

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  47. "When I do good, I feel good; when I do bad, I feel bad, and that is my religion." - Abraham Lincoln

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  48. you are invited to follow my blog

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  49. Thorton, are you saying that in addition to being gay, AL wasn't a true Christian either? The mind boggles.

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  50. "But that is because atheism is simply a lack of belief in one particular thing - gods."

    Merriam-Webster definition: one who believes that there is no deity

    Atheism is not simply a lack of belief. It is the choice made to not believe. Your way of phrasing implies to me a simple, nonchalant decision. One this definitely should not be.

    "Atheists collectively are necessarily unified by nothing else."

    Those who are theists are almost unified by nothing else as well. The different versions of a god(s) and his(their) teachings are almost endless.

    "I would say quite the reverse. It is a handicap deriving morality from the words of a single book which does not change or develop as human societies do. People slavishly following such a book will revere the morality of a society we have long outgrown, leading them to oppose, say interracial marriage, to pluck a random example."

    Absolutely, if the interpretation is forced from scripture then it cannot but be harmful to society as in your example. In fact, religion(or religious leaders) trying to force itself on people has been a cause of a lot of problems.

    Thats why Jesus said what he did at John 15:17-19 and John 17;14-16.

    "I myself think you can't go far wrong with basic humanism - seek to minimise suffering and maximise happiness, for yourself and others "

    That's a good start, too bad many don't apply even that.

    "'Do unto others...' might be a Christian way of putting it, though the ethic finds explicit expression in many cultures, philosophies and religions which predate Christianity by centuries."

    The Golden rule is beautiful, but it implies that the person applying it is good hearted as well, not sadistic or greedy.

    "Following this principle leads me to advocate things such as gay marriage, interracial marriage, stemcell research and the abolition of slavery, all of which were/are held back largely by those who (in my view) value the words of a holy book as more important than real world suffering/happiness. "

    Advocate in what sense? Lobby for? March in a parade for? You won't get an argument from me about the fact that ones who called themselves Christians have caused problems for others.

    As an example, I believe the Bible condemns the practice of homosexuality. That being said I don't have active homosexuals in my circle of friends because in my religion it is not accepted. I have worked with some on a number of occasions, however, we joke and are completely polite and civil. I even liked a few as people (which is possible regardless of their orientation). I do not lobby against gay marriage. I do not try to deny them the right to cohabit, adopt or anything else. They are, in my mind and by my actions, free to live as they choose and I will not in any way try to stop them, mock them or do anything personal to insult them for how they live. My conduct in that regard is why I cited those two scriptures above. Jesus did not try to influence the political leaders of his day to do things a certain way. His early followers did not. Within a few centuries, however, those who claimed to serve him began to use religion as a political tool, to impose their own views, just like people do today.

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  51. "As an example, I believe the Bible condemns the practice of homosexuality."

    Jesus didn't. Jesus did condemn divorce, though.

    "That being said I don't have active homosexuals in my circle of friends because in my religion it is not accepted."

    How would you know?

    Do you have divorced people in your circle of friends?

    What did Jesus Christ say about hypocrites?

    It sounds to me like your religion has very little to do with the teachings of Jesus Christ.

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  52. "It sounds to me like your religion has very little to do with the teachings of Jesus Christ."

    But then, you clearly are a fool (i.e. intellectually dishonest), who doesn't know -- or care -- the first damned thing about "the teachings of Jesus Christ."

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  53. Fil -


    Atheism is not simply a lack of belief. It is the choice made to not believe.


    From thefreedictionary.com: 1. Disbelief in or denial of the existence of God or gods.
    2. The doctrine that there is no God or gods...
    from Greek atheos, godless : a-, without; ... + theos, god;

    The distinction between a lack of belief in God/gods and an active disbelief in God/gods sounds superficially like a game of petty semantics. But the distinction is important, I think. Some have distinguished these as 'strong' theism' (the belief that there are no gods) and 'weak atheism' (the mere lack of belief in gods). I myself would be a weak atheist. I do not claim to know for certain that no gods exist. I do not even have an active belief that no gods exist. But I do lack belief in the existence of gods. It seems to me that no evidence/logic/argument for the existence of God/gods really stands up. We have no reason to think there is a God/gods. It is possible a God exists. It is possible unicorns exist. I won't dimiss the possibility. But without a valid reason to think they do exist, it strikes me as profoundly unreasonable to believe in them, and that we should act as though no such beings exist until we find evidence to the contrary.


    Those who are theists are almost unified by nothing else as well. The different versions of a god(s) and his(their) teachings are almost endless.


    True. But I don't think many theists define their religious views as merely theistic. It strikes me that most theists have picked a particular religion and define their religious beliefs through that (eg, Christian), or even more specifically, by a particular denomination within a religion (eg, Protestant Christian). I can't recall meeting someone who believed in a God/gods, who did not specify WHICH God/gods.


    Absolutely, if the interpretation is forced from scripture then it cannot but be harmful to society as in your example...
    Thats why Jesus said what he did at John 15:17-19 and John 17;14-16.


    Forgive me if I find it amusing that you are quoting scripture! You are taking as certain the words of a particular holy book. This is exactly the practice I was decrying in the passage to which you responded here.


    The Golden rule is beautiful, but it implies that the person applying it is good hearted as well, not sadistic or greedy.


    Perhaps. But would religion help such a person overcome such sadistic/greedy urges? Again, let's use Christianity as an example as I believe it is the religion most of us here are most familiar with. What would Christianity offer to help such a person mend their ways? Is it just 'You'll go to Heaven if you're good and Hell if you're bad?' Because that is just coercion. I don't think someone who does a good deed because they want a reward/fear a punishment is behaving as morally as someone who does exactly the same good deed for it's own sake - without promise of punishment or fear of reprisal. Seeking a reward/to escape punishment is still essentially a selfish motivation.

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  54. (continued)


    That being said I don't have active homosexuals in my circle of friends because in my religion it is not accepted. I have worked with some on a number of occasions, however, we joke and are completely polite and civil. I even liked a few as people (which is possible regardless of their orientation).


    Oh, how very mangnanimous of you!

    Read that passage back to yourself but replace the word 'homosexuals' with 'black people' and 'orientation' with 'colour'. See how it sounds...


    I do not lobby against gay marriage. I do not try to deny them the right to cohabit, adopt or anything else. They are, in my mind and by my actions, free to live as they choose and I will not in any way try to stop them, mock them or do anything personal to insult them for how they live.


    Whilst I find this live-and-let-live attitude honourable and laudable, it strikes me that few of your fellow Christians feel the same. I am thinking specifically of California's vote on Proposition 8 in November 2008, which was passed and overturned the state's (very brief) sanction of gay marriage. There is little doubt the religious right was a huge motivating force behind the 'Yes to Prop 8' movement in this ballot, and ones in other states. Such ballots have real world consequences to the happiness of real people, and it seems to me that the vast amount of political muscle the church in the US had was put behind pushing through this proposition - for entirely religious reasons! Good for you if your interpretation of the Bible leads you to be so liberal on this issue, but it is clearly not doing the same for a huge number of your fellow Christians.

    And you know what? It seems to me that you are right in that the Bible does seem to condemn homosexuality. The question therefore is why do you not oppose it? Why DON'T you shun homosexuals and lobby/vote to take away their rights and freedoms to express a... condition (right word...?) you admit your own holy book says is wrong?

    Don't get me wrong, I approve of your liberal stance. But I think it is at odds with your religious views. It seems to me that the more 'religous' a person is - ie, the more a person believes in the LITERAL truth of every word of the Bible, the more intolerant and bigoted they are to anyone who does not share their views. Why would they not be? Everyone else is at best wrong, and at worst an evil, devil-hosting heathen. Your views seem tempered with acceptance and compassion, but I think this must compromise your religious beliefs - you are, after all, implicitly condoning a behaviour your holy book says is wrong...

    I think your liberal stance towards homosexuality is more the result of common sense and humanitarian compassion - NOT the guidance of your holy book which must, if anything, disapprove of it.


    Within a few centuries, however, those who claimed to serve him began to use religion as a political tool, to impose their own views, just like people do today.


    What actions are denied he who believes he is doing God's work? People commit the most appaling atrocities because they believe it is God's will, which trumps and law or moral objection. When you have God on your side, the cruelist atrocities are allowed, even absolutely necessary. Again, I see religion as nothing but a dangerous, and often corrupting, force. Not the shining beacon of morality many religions claim to be.

    Atheism, on the other hand, offers no such free passes for appaling deeds. I am not saying atheists never do bad things - clearly some do. But atheism itself never seems to be the motivating factor which, in the mind of the perpetrator, compels such actions.

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  55. Ilion-
    Hugs to you too.

    Ritchie:
    "... the more a person believes in the LITERAL truth of every word of the Bible…"

    But NO one does. EVERYONE manages to see that at least some of the Bible is meant metaphorically.

    Not only that, there's nothing obscure about this metaphor.

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  56. Fil: ""That being said I don't have active homosexuals in my circle of friends because in my religion it is not accepted.""

    Remember Larry Haggard? Do you think he's the only one?

    "I think your liberal stance towards homosexuality is more the result of common sense and humanitarian compassion - NOT the guidance of your holy book which must, if anything, disapprove of it."

    I think if I had to choose between common sense and humanitarian compassion that wins out every time than some ancient holy book of dubious origins and dubious morality and dubious value in our modern world..

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  57. Smokey -


    But NO one does. EVERYONE manages to see that at least some of the Bible is meant metaphorically.


    Do they? There are, I think, some who would at least claim not to.

    Janfeld -


    I think if I had to choose between common sense and humanitarian compassion that wins out every time than some ancient holy book of dubious origins and dubious morality and dubious value in our modern world..


    Me too. And the thing about commen sense and compassion is that they are freely available to the atheist just as much as to the theist. The difference is the atheist does not have the baggage of trying to compromise them with the words of a historical relic espousing the morality of a bygone era.

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  59. Trading our criminal justice system for an evolutionary kangaroo court is just another example of a long line of dangerous and bad conclusions drawn from the flawed theory of evolution.

    From Darwins contempt for "primitive" people, Eugenics, Hitler's master race, and "junk-dna" evolution has proved to be a theory that adds to the darkness of mankind.

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  60. Neal Tedford said...

    Trading our criminal justice system for an evolutionary kangaroo court is just another example of a long line of dangerous and bad conclusions drawn from the flawed theory of evolution.


    LOL! You can always count on pastor Neal for some woefully uninformed but humorous bluster. The pastor was apparently too lazy to read the actual Cashmore paper, which said nothing about doing away with criminal justice system. The paper only suggested modifying the system to remove mention of 'intent', effectively removing the mental state of the defendant from consideration.

    From Darwins contempt for "primitive" people, Eugenics, Hitler's master race, and "junk-dna" evolution has proved to be a theory that adds to the darkness of mankind.

    Don't forget our Evil Atheist Scientist Sex, Drugs, and Debauchery Fest held the second Saturday of every month, weather permitting. We'll be serving the normal menu of barbecued kittens on a stick.

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  61. Pastor Neal,

    Do you agree or disagree with the following statements?

    "For it was by the Will of God that men were made of a certain bodily shape, were given their natures and their faculties."

    "From where do we get the right to believe, that from the very beginning Man was not what he is today? Looking at Nature tells us, that in the realm of plants and animals changes and developments happen. But nowhere inside a kind shows such a development as the breadth of the jump , as Man must supposedly have made, if he has developed from an ape-like state to what he is today."

    "The most marvelous proof of the superiority of Man, which puts man ahead of the animals, is the fact that he understands that there must be a Creator.

    "The fox remains always a fox, the goose remains a goose, and the tiger will retain the character of a tiger. The only difference that can exist within the species must be in the various degrees of structural strength and active power, in the intelligence, efficiency, endurance, etc., with which the individual specimens are endowed."

    Whaddaya say?

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  62. Ritchie asked:
    "Do they?"

    Yes, EVERYONE, without exception, treats at least one part of the Bible as metaphor. It's neither obscure nor difficult to understand. Think about it. Anyone with any exposure to Christianity has been exposed to it.

    "There are, I think, some who would at least claim not to."

    Absolutely, but they are bearing false witness. The Ninth Commandment was not offered as a metaphor.

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  63. Neal -


    Trading our criminal justice system for an evolutionary kangaroo court is just another example of a long line of dangerous and bad conclusions drawn from the flawed theory of evolution.


    You have failed to grasp the distinction between the theory of evolution and determinism. The fault is Cornelius' for pretty much equating the two in his OP. Again, evolution is not a deterministic theory.


    From Darwins contempt for "primitive" people...


    How do you arrive at that? Surely the logical conclusion of evolution is that all human beings are cousins.

    Contrast this with the entirely religious beliefs of 'chosen people' and 'heathens', and you will find it is religion, not evolution which sanctions the majority of human atrocities.


    ...Eugenics, Hitler's master race...


    More strawmen. Eugenics is an extension of artificial selection - known to be a fact for centuries by those who work in agriculture. For example, farmers can breed for certain traits in their livestock, and have been doing so for centuries.

    Darwin's theory of natural selection was simply that nature does it too. This is not a step towards eugenics.


    and "junk-dna" evolution has proved to be a theory that adds to the darkness of mankind.


    And what woes has junk DNA heaped upon mankind, pray?

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  64. Smokey -


    Yes, EVERYONE, without exception, treats at least one part of the Bible as metaphor.


    That seems quite a sweeping generalisation to me...

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  65. Ritchie replied to Smokey:

    Yes, EVERYONE, without exception, treats at least one part of the Bible as metaphor.

    That seems quite a sweeping generalisation to me...


    It is. Do you have some reason to suppose that it is a false generalization? Twice in the Bible -- in the Noah's Flood account and later in Malachi -- reference is made to the "windows of heaven" which are opened to let rain fall. In Revelation 6, the sky rolls up like a broken scroll. Do you know of anyone who actually thinks the sky has the sort of properties (i.e. is a solid sheet of something set like a bowl or tent over the flat earth) that would let these be literal descriptions of the sky?

    Now, you might object that atheists and skeptics do indeed suppose that these were once intended as literal meteorological descriptions. But I'm pretty sure that atheists hold that other parts of, e.g. Revelation are figurative, even where some modern evangelicals try to treat them as literal.

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  67. Steven J. wrote:
    "Twice in the Bible -- in the Noah's Flood account and later in Malachi -- reference is made to the "windows of heaven" which are opened to let rain fall. In Revelation 6, the sky rolls up like a broken scroll. Do you know of anyone who actually thinks the sky has the sort of properties (i.e. is a solid sheet of something set like a bowl or tent over the flat earth) that would let these be literal descriptions of the sky?"

    You're correct about that, but the one I'm thinking of, which is a completely accurate generalization, is much more obvious than that!

    It's a passage from the Bible that every churchgoing Protestant has repeated hundreds, often thousands, of times. Ignorance is no excuse.

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  68. Um, okay. Have it your way.

    The point I was getting at is that the fundamentalists, intolerant and biogoted as they often are, do at least have scripture on their side. The more liberal a person is with their religious views, the less their views can be said to be 'religious'. Religion is a force which seems to breed intolerance and hatred.

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  69. Smokey:

    "Jesus didn't. Jesus did condemn divorce, though."

    Jesus didn't specifically mention incest and beastiality as well. So those are ok? Look up the definition of the greek word "porneia" by the way.

    Regarding divorce, how and why did he condemn it?

    "How would you know?"

    Absolutely? I wouldn't. I trust them to be honest though. ie. I will believe my wife is faithful to me until proven otherwise.

    "Do you have divorced people in your circle of friends?"

    Answer the question above re: jesus on divorce first since your line of reasoning is flawed.

    "What did Jesus Christ say about hypocrites?"

    He condemned them.

    "It is possible a God exists. It is possible unicorns exist. I won't dimiss the possibility."

    What about a 3 headed, 6-legged hermaphrodite tree dwelling fish? Some things are less likely then others. So I guess that makes you more of an agnostic?

    Merriam webster:a person who holds the view that any ultimate reality (as God) is unknown and probably unknowable; broadly : one who is not committed to believing in either the existence or the nonexistence of God or a god

    "You are taking as certain the words of a particular holy book. This is exactly the practice I was decrying in the passage to which you responded here."

    Your decrying it has no bearing on it's impact on my life. The scripture I quoted explains my worldview on involment in politics and lobbying governments on issues such as gay rights.

    "The question therefore is why do you not oppose it? Why DON'T you shun homosexuals and lobby/vote to take away their rights and freedoms to express a... condition (right word...?) you admit your own holy book says is wrong?"

    Did Jesus lobby to have the rulers of the time change things to suit his teachings? Did the Christians in the 1st century try to get governments to adopt their viewpoint? No. They stayed out of politics. Jesus came to preach the good news of the kingdom of God, not to get the kingdoms of the day to adapt themselves to him. I imitate that.

    "I think your liberal stance towards homosexuality is more the result of common sense and humanitarian compassion - NOT the guidance of your holy book which must, if anything, disapprove of it."

    I'm not liberal. I disapprove of it. But I will not force, or try to force, anyone to live the way I want them to. I do not have that right. No human does. Jesus taught people. If he had the power the Bible says he does he could have forced people, but he did not do that.

    "Again, I see religion as nothing but a dangerous, and often corrupting, force. Not the shining beacon of morality many religions claim to be."

    I agree with you...with one caveat. False religion. Can you see the earliest Christians taking the sword and commiting atrocities? I quote "A careful review of all the information available goes to show that, until the time of Marcus Aurelian(Roman emperor from 161 to 180CE), no Christian became a soldier; and no soldier, after becoming a Christian, remained in military service.' The Rise of Christianity (London,1947) E W Barnes p333
    My words: After that it slowly became corrupted. It still is.

    "Oh, how very mangnanimous of you!"

    lol. Funny. Every Christian has the obligation to show 'agape' love to EVERYONE.

    C. S. Lewis, in his book The Four Loves, used agape to describe what he believed was the highest level of love known to humanity—a selfless love, a love that was passionately committed to the well-being of the other.

    Sadly, this is nowhere near the case with most of Christianity or anyone else, even atheists I dare say. If it were, the world would be far different.

    Smokey:
    "Absolutely, but they are bearing false witness. The Ninth Commandment was not offered as a metaphor. "

    Please quote the ENTIRE 9th commandment here.

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  70. Ritchie: ... atheism is simply a lack of belief in one particular thing - gods. Atheists collectively are necessarily unified by nothing else.

    Atheists therefore need to construct their own moral code. Is this really inferior to being handed a morality from your religion?


    Almost all atheists (there are exceptions, e.g. Buddhists) seem to be unified by something else, and a major one: the belief in universal personal annihilation.

    If a person, say a Buddhist, knows on a deep level that survival of death is guaranteed, I would find pretty laughable the idea that such belief makes no difference to the moral thinking of that person. The idea that possible encounters after death with ones encountered here seems to be a huge driver of life attitudes.

    And knowing what that hypothetical person does about life and death has nothing to do with religion. Clinical research with powerful agents such as ibogaine and LSD have shown this, no question. Persons who have entered treatment with such agents typically, when resolving severe personal problems (such as addiction), experience what Grof terms "spiritual opening". Stan Grof, M.D., has no religious ax to grind, and I would suggest reading his "Realms of the Human Unconscious" before getting twisted off in debating the universality of spiritual matters, cutting across ALL HUMAN CULTURES. Spending a lifetime trying to refute the inevitable really is an inferior way of life. Read Grof, or any of the literature on psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy. No researchers/practitioners in this field have remained materialist in outlook.

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  71. Fil -


    What about a 3 headed, 6-legged hermaphrodite tree dwelling fish? Some things are less likely then others.


    I won't dismiss the possibility of that either. There is practically an inifitine number of things which MIGHT exist. I judge God, unicorns and tree-dwelling fish to be equalliy unlikely, given that the evidence for them all is zero.


    So I guess that makes you more of an agnostic?


    No. You either believe in the existence of a god/gods or you do not. If you do, then you are a theist. If you do not, you are an atheist.

    Agnosticism is the position that truth claims about the existence of God/gods is unknowable. It is not a middle ground between theism and atheism. From the greek 'a-', without and 'gnosis', knowledge.

    thefreedictionary.com: 'agnosticism - the tenet that neither the existence nor the nature of God is known or knowable. — agnostic, n., adj.'


    Your decrying it has no bearing on it's impact on my life. The scripture I quoted explains my worldview on involment in politics and lobbying governments on issues such as gay rights.


    But why are you turning to scripture at all? The Bible never spacifically addresses lobbying governments or gay right, so you are simply interpreting it. Aren't we as a society mature enough to work out these issues for ourselves?


    Did Jesus lobby to have the rulers of the time change things to suit his teachings?


    I would say no - because he was probably a fictional character. I suspect that is not the answer you were looking for.


    Did the Christians in the 1st century try to get governments to adopt their viewpoint? No. They stayed out of politics.


    The earliest Christians had absolutely no political power. They were a fledgling sect of an established and tradition-soaked religion in an occupied land. Mistrusted and split into many factions (some we would hardly recognise today as Christian), they had no power at all until the Emporer Constantine converted and plucked their religion up from a local and ostracised sect to the official religion of the Roman Empire.


    Jesus came to preach the good news of the kingdom of God, not to get the kingdoms of the day to adapt themselves to him. I imitate that.


    That's rather tangental. The Bible condemns homosexuality. Yet you do not oppose it. You are not being guided by the Bible on this matter. Someone who really was being led by the Bible would have little choice but to oppose homosexuality at every turn.

    You, I believe, are being guided by your own sense of morality - compassion, empathy, and a desire to do good. This is very laudable, and certainly better than trying to divine guidance from an ancient relic of a book. But even an atheist has access to this morality - compassion, empathy... and they are not hamstrung with having to pay lip service to the often bizarre or tortured morality of a holy book.


    I'm not liberal. I disapprove of it.


    I do not mean liberal in the political sense (though I do wonder exactly when and how 'liberal' became such a dirty word...), but in the easy-going, live-and-let-live sense.


    After that it slowly became corrupted. It still is.

    Sadly, this is nowhere near the case with most of Christianity or anyone else, even atheists I dare say. If it were, the world would be far different.


    I'm puzzled. You seem to disaprove of modern organised religion. As though you think the original teachings of Christianity have been corrupted when it became institutionalised and the church formed.

    Whilst you'll get no argument from me about the church being a corrupt institution, I'm left wondering exactly what the basis for your claim is to be a Christian. Can anyone really read the Bible and interpret it however they like? What use is a text which is so subjective?

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  72. MSEE -


    Almost all atheists (there are exceptions, e.g. Buddhists) seem to be unified by something else, and a major one: the belief in universal personal annihilation.


    I disagree. We are back to the 'active belief in no God/lack of belief in God' distinction. I don't think it is a part of atheism to believe in personal annihilation (odd that you consider Buddhists 'an exception', btw, since it is one of the world's largest religions with followers in the millions). We merely do not know what happens after death, and lack belief in the traditional afterlifes as presented by most major religions. Maybe there is a Heaven. Maybe we reincarnate. Maybe we all turn into space jellyfish. Who can say? We simply do not know what happens after death, and have no way of finding out. A belief in annihilation would be as irrational as a belief in a specific afterlife.


    If a person, say a Buddhist, knows on a deep level that survival of death is guaranteed, I would find pretty laughable the idea that such belief makes no difference to the moral thinking of that person. The idea that possible encounters after death with ones encountered here seems to be a huge driver of life attitudes.


    I absolutely agree. But would it be a driving force FOR THE BETTER?

    I can't really see why belief in an afterlife would make your life better. It might, for example lead to a high rate in suicides. Life not working out that well? Never mind, just kill yourself and move on to the next one!

    In fact it seems to me that the value of life here on Earth is diminished if one sincerely believes in an afterlife - as though this world is just a practice run to prepare you, or an assault course of temptations to avoid in the hope of ultimate reward.

    Acknowledging that this is the only life we know we have infuses it with meaning and urgency to make the most out of every day. It hammers home that we had better make this the best world we can for ourselves and everyone around us. Life is all the more precious for being brief.


    Spending a lifetime trying to refute the inevitable really is an inferior way of life. Read Grof, or any of the literature on psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy.


    Psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy? Forgive me if I sounds sceptical, but drugs famously induce experiences people describe as spiritual. Doesn't this in itself suggest spiritual experiences are the result of internal chemical imbalances?

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  73. MSEE: "Almost all atheists (there are exceptions, e.g. Buddhists) seem to be unified by something else, and a major one: the belief in universal personal annihilation.
    .
    If a person, say a Buddhist, knows on a deep level that survival of death is guaranteed, ...
    "
    .
    As I understand it, Buddhists "solve" that intractable atheistic problem by positing that our existence is an illusion.

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  75. Ritchie ... who refuses to grasp the logical implications of atheism "I absolutely agree. But would it be a driving force FOR THE BETTER?"

    What does that even MEAN in a world where atheism is the truth about the nature of reality?

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  76. Ritchie ... who accuses Richard Dawkins of not understanding "evolution" "The point I was getting at is that the fundamentalists, intolerant and biogoted as they often are, do at least have scripture on their side. The more liberal a person is with their religious views, the less their views can be said to be 'religious'. Religion is a force which seems to breed intolerance and hatred."

    What a willfully ignorant, intentionally self-deceived, transparently hypocritical-with-respect-to-reason, blatantly intellectually dishonest person -- in a word, what a fool!

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  77. ... for those who don't quite get it, those last two post of mine have a common theme in that I am mocking Ritchie's intellectual hypocrisy (which is very common amongst atheists) of asserting, when it suits him for the moment, the very thing he vociferiously denies (*) -- objective morality.

    (*) and which, in any event, simply cannot exist were atheism the truth about the nature of reality.

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  78. Ilion: I am mocking Ritchie's intellectual hypocrisy … -- objective morality.

    Is this like that CS Lewis song?

    Watchin' the atheism roll in
    Then I watch morality roll away
    Sittin’ in the Dock of the Bay.
    Watchin’ meaning and purpose roll away.
    Sittin’ in the Dock of the Bay.
    Calling Nihilism

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  79. Ilion -


    who refuses to grasp the logical implications of atheism


    Do I? If I do that is something for you to demonstrate, not just claim.


    I absolutely agree. But would it be a driving force FOR THE BETTER?"

    What does that even MEAN in a world where atheism is the truth about the nature of reality?


    It means, 'would a belief in an afterlife lead you to do more good things/make you happier/lead a more fulfilled life'.

    I suspect you equate atheist with moral nihilism. If so, this is another fallacy.


    who accuses Richard Dawkins of not understanding "evolution"


    No I didn't. And you link does not demonstrate me doing any such thing. Why are you getting so hysterical?


    What a willfully ignorant, intentionally self-deceived, transparently hypocritical-with-respect-to-reason, blatantly intellectually dishonest person -- in a word, what a fool!


    And what a vaccuous post. I'm getting rather sick the content-free personal abuse on here. Feel free to address me if you have an actual point to make, but if it is just childish, petty insults and vaccuous name-calling then please don't bother writing. You only make yourslef look stupid and childish.


    I am mocking Ritchie's intellectual hypocrisy (which is very common amongst atheists) of asserting, when it suits him for the moment, the very thing he vociferiously denies (*) -- objective morality.


    Are you? How? It seems to me you're just having a tantrum. Please grow up.

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  80. Ritchie ... who will never admit, in any way, that we DarwinDeniers do know what we're talking about: "No I didn't [accuse Richard Dawkins of not understanding "evolution"]. And you link does not demonstrate me doing any such thing. Why are you getting so hysterical?"

    But, you did, and it does ... for the "misunderstander of "evolution"" whom I referenced, is none other than Richard Dawkins making *exactly* the argument that C.Hunter's post is about.

    Ritchie ... who is hypocritical in this regard, too : "And what a vaccuous post. I'm getting rather sick the content-free personal abuse on here. Feel free to address me if you have an actual point to make, ..."

    I *mock* dishonest persons (the only other rational option is to attempt to ignore them); I don't address them (I may speak *at* you, but I cannot speak *to* you). Until you cease your dishonesty, there is no rational possibility of discussion with you.

    Ritchie ... who wouldn't know maturity if it bit him in the ass (which it clearly never has): "Are you? How? It seems to me you're just having a tantrum. Please grow up."

    Become honest.

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  81. Ilion -


    But, you did, and it does ... for the "misunderstander of "evolution"" whom I referenced, is none other than Richard Dawkins making *exactly* the argument that C.Hunter's post is about.


    But all I said to you in the post you are linking to is that I don't think anyone is claiming these arguments (about atheism and determinism) are new. Beyond that I didn't say anything at all about Dawkins' article or your evaluation of it.


    I *mock* dishonest persons (the only other rational option is to attempt to ignore them); I don't address them (I may speak *at* you, but I cannot speak *to* you). Until you cease your dishonesty, there is no rational possibility of discussion with you.


    I think the problem is that you have so many preconceived ideas about what atheism is about, many of them fallacious, and you then call any atheist who doesn't fit into your characture 'intellectually dishonest/hypocritical', or that we don't understand our own position!

    Take the dialogue between myself and Fil as an example about how two people with opposing views can learn a bit about each other's beliefs instead of just name-calling because the other person doesn't fit into our own pre-conceived ideas about what they OUGHT TO/MUST believe.

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  82. Ilion -


    But, you did, and it does ... for the "misunderstander of "evolution"" whom I referenced, is none other than Richard Dawkins making *exactly* the argument that C.Hunter's post is about.


    But all I said to you in the post you are linking to is that I don't think anyone is claiming these arguments (about atheism and determinism) are new. Beyond that I didn't say anything at all about Dawkins' article or your evaluation of it.


    I *mock* dishonest persons (the only other rational option is to attempt to ignore them); I don't address them (I may speak *at* you, but I cannot speak *to* you). Until you cease your dishonesty, there is no rational possibility of discussion with you.


    I think the problem is that you have so many preconceived ideas about what atheism is about, many of them fallacious, and you then call any atheist who doesn't fit into your characture 'intellectually dishonest/hypocritical', or that we don't understand our own position!

    Take the dialogue between myself and Fil as an example about how two people with opposing views can learn a bit about each other's beliefs instead of just name-calling because the other person doesn't fit into our own pre-conceived ideas about what they OUGHT TO/MUST believe.

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  83. Ritchie, being a hypocrite, objects to, and whines about, the fact that I accuse him of the same flaws of which he accuses all us anti-Darwinists, and especially Mr Hunter.

    Of course, there are some differences in these accusations:
    1) mine are founded and supported; his are neither;
    2) I make my accusations directly, using blunt fact-based "masculine" language; he generally makes his accusations indirectly, using the fuzzy and emotive "feminized" language popular in academia.

    So, *of course* he whines!

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  84. Ilion -


    Ritchie, being a hypocrite, objects to, and whines about, the fact that I accuse him of the same flaws of which he accuses all us anti-Darwinists, and especially Mr Hunter.


    What are you talking about?!? It's like you're having a different conversation to the rest of us...


    I make my accusations directly, using blunt fact-based "masculine" language; he generally makes his accusations indirectly, using the fuzzy and emotive "feminized" language popular in academia.


    Is that your way of saying you're being rude? Because if it is, I agree.

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  86. ... and for the record I do not consider it an insult to be called feminine. I do not consider women to be beneath me.

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  87. "Did Jesus lobby to have the rulers of the time change things to suit his teachings?


    I would say no - because he was probably a fictional character. I suspect that is not the answer you were looking for."

    Please provide references or at least reasons as to why Jesus did not exist.

    "I'm puzzled. You seem to disaprove of modern organised religion. As though you think the original teachings of Christianity have been corrupted when it became institutionalised and the church formed."

    Bingo.

    "Whilst you'll get no argument from me about the church being a corrupt institution, I'm left wondering exactly what the basis for your claim is to be a Christian. Can anyone really read the Bible and interpret it however they like? What use is a text which is so subjective? "

    The key is to not let your own views determine how you read it.(I'm sure you will say its impossible but I assure you it isn't). 'Let scripture interpret scripture' is a phrase I heard a while ago. If you want to see what the Bible teaches on a subject look at and list all scriptures that have a bearing on it. If some of the scriptures 'seem' to have an opposing viewpoint then get a deeper understanding of the original languange, possible translations, textual and historical context. Any major doctrinal point can be confirmed in this fashion. Honesty is essential though.

    Subjective? The simplest explanation in life is usually the best. The same goes for the bible. If you try to complicate it then you often go on the wrong path. ie(hellfire,immortality of the soul,trinity,etc.) The church had to come up with limbo, purgatory, and all sorts of things that support these false doctrines yet have no basis in scripture.

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  88. Oh. Let me also add that the above regarding interpretation is of no value if it does not move one to act in harmony with ones believes. Any Christian MUST have love of God and love of neighbor as I descibed above. Without that you are wasting your time.

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  89. "Did Jesus lobby to have the rulers of the time change things to suit his teachings?

    I would say no - because he was probably a fictional character. I suspect that is not the answer you were looking for."

    How about you try that again, without evasion this time. Answer based on your knowledge of his teaching in scripture, real or not.

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  90. Ilion: As I understand it, Buddhists "solve" that intractable atheistic problem by positing that our existence is an illusion.

    I've never heard a Buddhist espouse this, nor have I read of it. I would be surprised if a Buddhist claimed our existence as illusion. What I am familiar with is the idea the physical existence is filled with illusory attributes, and this extends to the body. I don't think it is that difficult to understand, the "solid" objects with which humans have been preoccupied are almost entirely space, as the last 100 years have shown.

    This not to take away from the ideal that the body is something that should be respected, especially as it applies to the rights of others to live in peace.

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  91. Ritchie: (odd that you consider Buddhists 'an exception', btw, since it is one of the world's largest religions with followers in the millions).

    I should have said that the majority of atheists in western countries believe that their own existence comes to this obliteration or annihilation.

    We merely do not know what happens after death, and lack belief in the traditional afterlifes as presented by most major religions. Maybe there is a Heaven. Maybe we reincarnate. Maybe we all turn into space jellyfish. Who can say? We simply do not know what happens after death, and have no way of finding out. A belief in annihilation would be as irrational as a belief in a specific afterlife.

    When you say "we" you are speaking for yourself and others who occupy your particular consensus "reality", one that doesn't comport with millions of persons who have experienced disembodied states. This would include people from all walks of life who have experienced clinical death. Or people who have overthrown major personality disorder in sessions using psychoactive substances. This is not a part of your knowledge apparently. Such disembodied states are more often than not accompanied by high level spiritual instruction from reported super-intelligence, complete with symbology that parallels some of the world's spiritual traditions. You can go ahead an make jokes or smart comments all you want about this, all it shows is that you are not familiar with the clinical, professional, and occasionally lay literature on the subject.



    I can't really see why belief in an afterlife would make your life better. It might, for example lead to a high rate in suicides. Life not working out that well? Never mind, just kill yourself and move on to the next one!

    I'm well aware of what a belief in 72 virgins waiting for the "martyr" can do. You have to come to a rational belief about these matters, reading the clinical literature on psycholytic therapy is one way.

    In fact it seems to me that the value of life here on Earth is diminished if one sincerely believes in an afterlife - as though this world is just a practice run to prepare you, or an assault course of temptations to avoid in the hope of ultimate reward. Acknowledging that this is the only life we know we have infuses it with meaning and urgency to make the most out of every day. It hammers home that we had better make this the best world we can for ourselves and everyone around us. Life is all the more precious for being brief.

    Don't think so. That's a philosophical stance suited to you. If we reincarnate, (not saying we do) then the whole idea of making spiritual progress would maybe have some value for the future, right?

    Psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy? Forgive me if I sounds sceptical, but drugs famously induce experiences people describe as spiritual. Doesn't this in itself suggest spiritual experiences are the result of internal chemical imbalances?

    Have you ever seen a chemical imbalance? Have you ever measured one? Have they been explored, categorized, catalogued, synthesized, mapped, terminated, cured or whatever? Is this science talk or is it popular myth talk?

    So far as your scepticism, forgiveness not required, it simply doesn't matter. You have not expressed interest in gleaning any other titles from the large body of literature to which I have referred. You are only interested in what you think you already know about the field which is really nothing. You probably don't know for example that there is now a liberalized legal framework in the U.S. for conducting research in this area which is now ongoing, and has been for several years, as an article on page 78 of the 7/15/06 issue of the Economist explains.

    Here is a little related blurb on scienceblogs:
    http://scienceblogs.com/neurophilosophy/2008/04/lsd_discovered_on_this_day_65.php

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  92. "I've never heard a Buddhist espouse this, nor have I read of it. I would be surprised if a Buddhist claimed our existence as illusion."

    Perhaps you should get out more. Even Wikipedia can fill you in on that score.

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  93. Fil -


    Please provide references or at least reasons as to why Jesus did not exist.


    Well, obviously I can't prove it absolutely. You can't prove a negative. However, there are reasons to think no such person as Jesus existed.

    The biggest one being the almost total lack of historical evidence for a Jesus outside of the gospels, and two of the gospel writers (Mark and Luke, I believe) never actualy met Jesus themselves. Neither, incidentally, did Paul - author (or at least alleged author) of the vast majority of the New Testament.

    For an individual as important as Jesus who apparently attracted crowds in the thousands wherever he went, the lack of written historical evidence is hugely conspicuous and very curious. This is a man who allegedly walked on water, turned water into wine, brought a man back from the dead, and performed all sorts of miracles, loudly and publically, preaching all the time. How can it be that no-one AT ALL mentioned him in writing while he was alive?

    The earliest non-Bible reference we have to Jesus comes from Josephus Flavius, a Jewish scribe for the Romans, who mentions a Jesus 'the Christ' in his Testimonium Flavianum. This was written late in the first century - sometime after 70 AD, and it is widely regarded as a forgery. Josephus Flavius himself was born around 35-36 AD, so he could not have met Jesus himself. Apart from that, we must look to the second century to find anyone who mentions him at all.

    What can account for this? Take Jesus' crucifixion, for example. According to the gospels, when Jesus died there was an earthquake (Matthew 27:51), a worldwide three-hour darkness (Luke 23:44), and hundreds of dead saints rose from the dead and walked the streets of Jerusalem showing themselves to many people (Matthew 27:52-53). No historical account verifies these. Pliny the elder was a passionate natural scientist with a particular interest in meterology, and a meticulous record keeper. Yet we have nothing about a three hour darkness in the middle of the day in/around 33 AD. No-one mentions the zombie saints wandering around Jerusalem either - a passage which is particularly interesting since it is not referred to again by Matthew, nor is it found in the other gospels. Are we really to suppose it is anything other than a dramatic flourish in a piece of fiction?

    Fair enough, literacy was at a very low rate in the ancient world, but it's not as if the ancient world was short on historians. Philo of Alexandria (20 BC - 50 AD), a Jewish scholar probably living in or around Jerusalem at the time of Jesus' work and death, had an interest in ethics and Jewish off-shoot sects, such as the Essenes and the Therapeutae. Yet he never mentions someone who could be Jesus. He was perfectly placed if Jesus really existed.

    In 80 AD Justus of Tiberius from Galilee wrote a history covering the time Jesus supposedly lived and does not mention him. Seneca the Younger was a Roman writer who lived 3BC - 60AD and wrote extensively on ethics, and never mentions Jesus or his teachings. We are not wanting for people who surely WOULD have noticed Jesus had he really lived.

    So let's turn to the New Testament itself. Correct me if I'm wrong here, but to my knowledge, outside of the gospels Jesus' life, work and teachings are rarely, if ever, mentioned in the rest of the New Testament. It is as if the rest of the New Testament was written before the gospels were (as indeed some scholars believe) and, oddly, without apparent knowledge of the life of Jesus - see Hebrews 8:4, Ephesians 3:4-5, and, by curious omission, James 5:6,10-11 and Hebrews 12:15-16.

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  94. (continued)

    Even some early Christians seem rather ignorant of the life of Jesus as a man. Theophilus of Antioch has much to say on the 'Son of God', but never that it was incarnated as a human. He was even challenged once: "Show me even one who has been raised from the dead!" and remained mute in reply, mentioning neither Jesus nor those he raised. Athenagoras of Athens also spelled out Christian doctrine in meticulous detail, omitting the resurrection and the life of Jesus entirely, and claiming that salvation is to be attainted through knowledge of the Logos alone. Finally there is Minucius Felix, a second century Christian who in 'Octavius', espouses his religious views in the form of a fictional dialogue between a Christian and a Pagan. The Pagan in chapter 9 accuses the Christians of all sorts of false and repulsive claims, including baby-killing and -eating rituals, worshipping the head of an ass or the genitles of a priest, and worshipping a man who suffered a wretched criminal's death on a cross - which Felix has his Christian deny in these words: "For in that you attribute to our religion the worship of a criminal and his cross, you wander far from the neighbourhood of the truth, in thinking either that a criminal deserved, or that an earthly being was able, to be believed God."

    That leaves us with the gospels which, far from being the independent eye-witness accounts they are often held to be, are in fact built upon, copied from, and sometimes contradict each other. See the Synoptic Problem: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Synoptic_problem
    They are also all anonymous, and curiously written in the third person (why do they say 'THEY went there' rather than 'WE went there'?)

    In summary, the epistle writers don't appear to know the story of Jesus, several early Christians apparently don't either and present what they claim is a complete picture of Christianity without mentioning the resurrection while one plainly denies it, the gospels seem to be copied and rehashed versions of the same story, and we have a total lack of reliable first-hand evidence for Jesus.

    The picture drawn from these lines of evidence presents a difficult picture if Jesus really did live. I believe it much better fits a scenario that the Jesus stories began as allegorical, and slowly began to be taken seriously by people claiming they were the literal truth of a man who had very recently lived and died.


    The key is to not let your own views determine how you read it.(I'm sure you will say its impossible but I assure you it isn't).


    Okay - sincerely study the Bible as objectively as you can. Fair enough. So when we read, say, instructions on how to keep your slaves (Leviticus 25:44-46, Exodus 21:7-11), the horrendous treatment of rape victims (Deuteronomy 21:10-14, Deuteronomy 22:28-29), and the death penalty called for fortune-telling (Leviticus 20:27), striking your parents (Exodus 21:15) or for an entire town of people if even one of them has turned away from God (Deuteronomy 13:13-19), we are to read these instructions objectively and at face value, right?

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  95. How about you try that again, without evasion this time. Answer based on your knowledge of his teaching in scripture, real or not.


    No, to my knowledge he just preached to the people rather than lobby governing bodies. He also gave up all wordly possessions and wandered the land to preach. Are you going to emulate him in this too?

    I realise that sounds like a snarky question. But I really do mean it. If you are going to emulate someone, real or fictional, you will never be able to do it 100%. You are not Jesus. You cannot actually live his life. So why try to emulate him?

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  96. Crap that's long lol. Give me a few minutes.

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  97. MSEE -


    I should have said that the majority of atheists in western countries believe that their own existence comes to this obliteration or annihilation.


    I still would have considered this inaccurate.


    one that doesn't comport with millions of persons who have experienced disembodied states. This would include people from all walks of life who have experienced clinical death.


    I don't doubt such experiences are real. But I do doubt what they are. I don't see near death experiences as anything other than the brain reacting to oxygen starvation/resuscitation. We already know that drugs can give you 'highs' that feel pretty similar to spiritual experiences. Chemicals can and do induce fantasical experiences and mental states. What no-one has ever shown is that such Near Death Experiences genuinely show the continued existence of the person (or part of the person) beyond clinical death.


    You can go ahead an make jokes or smart comments all you want about this, all it shows is that you are not familiar with the clinical, professional, and occasionally lay literature on the subject.


    Can you link me to a specific study whose findings show, or at least suggest, life after death?


    Don't think so. That's a philosophical stance suited to you. If we reincarnate, (not saying we do) then the whole idea of making spiritual progress would maybe have some value for the future, right?


    Well, in the long run, perhaps. But you don't need to make much spiritual progression in THIS life - you can kick back and take it easy and do some catching up in your next one. In fact, according to some, you have an eternity of reincarnating. So what's the rush?


    Have you ever seen a chemical imbalance? Have you ever measured one? Have they been explored, categorized, catalogued, synthesized, mapped, terminated, cured or whatever? Is this science talk or is it popular myth talk?


    ??? You sound as though you don't believe in chemical imbalances. Anti-depressants change the chemicals in your brain (doctors, I imagine would say they 'correct' a chemical imbalance rather than produce one, but the bottom line is that they chemically affect your brain). So does nicotine. So does caffeine. So does alcohol. So does sex. So does exercise. All these things chemically affect you and can induce a variety of mental states. What do you think drugs actually do?


    You have not expressed interest in gleaning any other titles from the large body of literature to which I have referred. You are only interested in what you think you already know about the field which is really nothing.


    The argument of: 'You don't know anything about X, go away and read up on it...' always seems rather a cop-out to me, even if it is accurate. You can always argue that I don't know enough no matter how much I read. If there are studies that demonstrate or suggest life beyond death, then please link me to one.

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  98. Fil -

    Yeah, sorry. Took me ages too! :)

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  99. "The earliest non-Bible reference we have to Jesus comes from Josephus Flavius, a Jewish scribe for the Romans, who mentions a Jesus 'the Christ' in his Testimonium Flavianum. This was written late in the first century - sometime after 70 AD, and it is widely regarded as a forgery."

    The authenticity of the Testimonium Flavianum has been disputed since the 17th century, although most modern scholars agree that it is partially authentic.[1] The second passage mentions Jesus as the brother of a James, possibly James the Just. Most scholars consider this passage genuine.[2] wikipedia(I know you like it)

    Next:Tacitus, born about 55 C.E. and considered one of the world’s greatest historians, mentioned the Christians in his Annals. In the account about Nero’s blaming the great fire of Rome in 64 C.E. on them, he wrote: “Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus.” The details of this account match the information regarding the Jesus of the Bible.

    Next: Justin Martyr, writing in the middle of the second century, wrote in reference to the death of Jesus: “That these things did happen, you can ascertain from the Acts of Pontius Pilate.”14 In addition, according to Justin Martyr, these same records mentioned Jesus’ miracles, regarding which he says: “That He did those things, you can learn from the Acts of Pontius Pilate.”15 True, these “Acts,” or official records, no longer exist. But they evidently did exist in the second century, and Justin Martyr confidently challenged his readers to check them to verify the truth of what he said.

    You can read a copy of Justins work here: chapter 35
    http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0126.htm

    The text of the Christian Greek Scriptures is in better condition than ANY other ancient literature. There are available for comparative study more than 13,000 papyrus and vellum manuscripts containing the whole or a part of the Christian Greek Scriptures, dating from the 2nd to the 16th century. Of these, some 5,000 are in Greek, and the remainder in various other languages. More than 2,000 of the ancient copies contain the Gospels, and more than 700, the letters of Paul. While the original writings themselves are not currently extant, copies date back to the second century, which is very close to the time the originals were written. This vast number of manuscripts has enabled Greek scholars in the course of years to produce a highly refined Greek text of the Scriptures, confirming in many respects the dependability and integrity of our present-day translations of the Christian Greek Scriptures.

    Yet you trust other ancient literature? How convenient for you.

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  100. Matthew 27:52,53
    ‘Tombs Opened’ at Jesus’ Death. The text at Matthew 27:52, 53 concerning “the memorial tombs [that] were opened” as the result of an earthquake occurring at the time of Jesus’ death has caused considerable discussion, some holding that a resurrection occurred. However, a comparison with the texts concerning the resurrection makes clear that these verses do not describe a resurrection but merely a throwing of bodies out of their tombs, similar to incidents that have taken place in more recent times, as in Ecuador in 1949 and again in Bogotá, Colombia, in 1962, when 200 corpses in the cemetery were thrown out of their tombs by a violent earth tremor.—El Tiempo, Bogotá, Colombia, July 31, 1962."El Tiempo (July 31, 1962) reported: “Two hundred corpses in the cemetery of this town were thrown out of their tombs by the violent earth tremor.” Persons passing by or through that cemetery saw the corpses, and, as a result, many of the people in Sonson had to go out and rebury their dead relatives.

    "I believe it much better fits a scenario that the Jesus stories began as allegorical, and slowly began to be taken seriously by people claiming they were the literal truth of a man who had very recently lived and died."

    Let us imagine that someone fabricated a figure called Jesus Christ. Suppose that person was clever enough to come up with the teachings credited to Jesus in the Bible. Would he not contrive to make Jesus and his teachings as palatable as possible to people in general? Yet, the apostle Paul observed: “Both the Jews ask for signs and the Greeks look for wisdom; but we preach Christ impaled, to the Jews a cause for stumbling but to the nations foolishness.” (1 Corinthians 1:22, 23) The message of Christ impaled was attractive neither to the Jews nor to the nations. That was, though, the Christ that first-century Christians proclaimed. Why the depiction of the Christ impaled? The only satisfactory explanation would be that the writers of the Christian Greek Scriptures recorded the truth about Jesus’ life and death.
    Another line of reasoning supporting Jesus’ historicity is found in the untiring preaching of his teachings by his followers. Only some 30 years after Jesus started his ministry, Paul could say that the good news “was preached in all creation that is under heaven.” (Colossians 1:23) Yes, Jesus’ teachings spread throughout the ancient world despite opposition. Paul, who was himself persecuted as a Christian, wrote: “If Christ has not been raised up, our preaching is certainly in vain, and our faith is in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:12-17) If preaching a Christ who had not been resurrected would be in vain, preaching a Christ who had never existed would be even more in vain. As we read in the report by Pliny the Younger, first-century Christians were willing to die for their belief in Christ Jesus. They risked their lives for Christ because he was real; he had walked the earth and had lived as the Gospel accounts record.

    Ritchie, you yourself said above"They were a fledgling sect of an established and tradition-soaked religion in an occupied land."

    'We are to read these instructions objectively and at face value, right? '

    Who was that Law given to? What does the New Testament tell us regarding that Law and how binding it was to be on Christians?

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  101. 'He also gave up all wordly possessions and wandered the land to preach. Are you going to emulate him in this too?'

    I do preach and use my financial resources(meagre though they are) to advance bible truth. I do walk but not wander so much.

    'I realise that sounds like a snarky question.'

    No problem.

    'If you are going to emulate someone, real or fictional, you will never be able to do it 100%.'

    True.

    'You cannot actually live his life. So why try to emulate him? '

    Is this a serious question? Have you never copied anyone in their deeds or actions because you approved of them? Does it disappoint you because some might be kinder, milder, wiser, etc? Does the fact you may never be as kind as someone else mean you should not try to be kind? I seriously hope you asked that question strictly as a philosopher and not as part of your life view. Otherwise, you may want to work on humility and modesty. Sorry if that sounded snarky.

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  102. Fil: "Crap that's long lol. Give me a few minutes."

    It would have been simpler to say, "That's a load of crap."

    You cannot reason with a man like this, who hypocritically asserts two standards.

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  103. I have a great idea. Why don't Ilion and Joe G go on a long holiday together. You guys both seem to enjoy macho posturing without ever making an actual argument. Who knows what else you have in common. You could even ask Sal Cordova and Ted Haggard to join you, it could be a blast! In the mean time the adults could keep the discussion going.

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  104. Fil -


    The authenticity of the Testimonium Flavianum has been disputed since the 17th century, although most modern scholars agree that it is partially authentic


    It's true many scholars advocate a 'reduced testimonium', with much of the flowery praise for Jesus omitted. But I suspect this is a tactic to save the testimonium from claims of being a forgery outright. There are reasons to doubt even the reduced testimonium. For one thing, even the reduced version still praises Jesus highly - extremely dubious since Josephus was an orthodox Jew all his life, and worked under the patronage of the Roman Emporer. If he believed even the reduced version, why did he not convert? And how would he have been allowed to write what he did?

    Also, in the book (Antiquities Book 18), the paragraph before the testimonium talks about a massacre of the Jews by Pilate. Then comes the testimonium. Then the next paragraph begins "And about the same time, another terrible misfortune confounded the Jews..." This makes little sense, but if the testimonium is removed, the two surrounding paragraphs fit together neatly.

    Finally, the testimonium is not referenced or quoted until the fourth century. Early Christian scholars wrote many letters back and forth explaining, attacking and defending their theology, including Origen who demonstrated particular familiarity with Josephus' writings, but no-one mentions the testimonium, which, if true, would appear to be a trump card. Eusebius in the fourth century was the first person to quote it. He was a man who admitted it was acceptable to lie and decieve to get people to convert, and seems a pretty strong candidate for our forger.

    If the passage is believed to be, at least in part, a forgery, I don't see the rationale behind leaving a 'reduced' version of it. If it is a forgery at all, it is probably a forgery in it's entirety. A reduced version just seems a tactic by scholars to keep it as a reference for a historical Jesus - something which is dubious at best.


    Tacitus, born about 55 C.E. and considered one of the world’s greatest historians, mentioned the Christians in his Annals.


    True. But he was, as you pointed out, born twenty years after Jesus supposedly died. We then need to consider where he got his information. And the most likely answer is a contemporary Christian source. We know there were Christians in Rome in the Late first century. All Tacitus says is that Christians got their name from 'Christus', whom Pilate put to death. Had he gathered this much from a Christian source, there is no obvious reason for him to doubt it, nor any reason to think he was able to check such facts for himself - there is no evidence that Romans kept meticulous details of every crucifixion in every province of the empire, and even if they had, Rome had burned down in the interim - the event Tacitus is writing about.


    Justin Martyr, writing in the middle of the second century, wrote in reference to the death of Jesus: “That these things did happen, you can ascertain from the Acts of Pontius Pilate.”


    Justin Martyr was a Christian apologist, which immediately marks his testimony as dubious. Also, he was not known for his accuracy - he also invited his reader to examine the census under Quirinius, which almost certainly did not exist.

    Finally, notice when these people were born - Josephus: around 36 AD, Tacitus: around 55 AD, Justin Martyr: 103 AD. None of them can be giving us a first-hand account because Jesus died before they were born. They must all be reporting hearsay. Again, the total lack of first-hand accounts of Jesus is as telling as it is conspicuous.

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  105. (cont)


    The text of the Christian Greek Scriptures is in better condition than ANY other ancient literature....
    confirming in many respects the dependability and integrity of our present-day translations of the Christian Greek Scriptures.


    I don't deny we have many copies of the Christian Greek Scriptue. But that does not solve our problems. The synoptic problem remains no matter how many copies we have, and it casts a huge shadow of doubt over the integrity of at least three of the four cannon gospels.


    On Matthew 27:52,53


    Whilst your interpretation is more believable, it is not what the gospel says. "And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, and came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many." I think it is wishful thinking which interprets this as anything other than it appears to say: zombie saints. So bizarre it is, I have heard that Harper's Bible Commentary actually advises us to simply ignore it!


    Let us imagine that someone fabricated a figure called Jesus Christ. Suppose that person was clever enough to come up with the teachings credited to Jesus in the Bible.


    Well, for one thing, there is nothing very original in the moral lessons taught by Jesus. But besides that, there are other explanations for how the Jesus story got started other than a deliberate fabrication. Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy, for example, conclude that Christianity was nothing more than the Jewish version of pagan mystery cults which flourished in and around Israel at the time:

    http://www.pufoin.com/pufoin_perspective/jesus_mysteries.php

    It turns out that there is little original in the story of Jesus either. Practically all the imporatant points in his life find expression in other deities worshipped at the time. Now Freke and Gandy's conclusions are a little 'conspiracy theory' for my taste, but the evidence they uncover is very illuminating. Suppose a Jewish sect did incorporate Pagan mystery rites and stories. Then suppose that people started to take them literally as historical truth, rather than as allegorical myth, as was originally intended...

    My point is that even if the story of Jesus is not historically true, it doesn't mean someone deliberately fabricated it.


    Another line of reasoning supporting Jesus’ historicity is found in the untiring preaching of his teachings by his followers...As we read in the report by Pliny the Younger, first-century Christians were willing to die for their belief in Christ Jesus.


    I find this line of reasoning particularly weak. All it really shows it that some people genuinely believed in Christianity - to the point where they were willing to be martyred for it. But that itself is no evidence. I'm sure many people throughout history have believed a falsehood so sincerely they would die for it.

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  106. (cont)


    Who was that Law given to? What does the New Testament tell us regarding that Law and how binding it was to be on Christians?


    You touch upon another glaring problem for Christianity. In the OT, God sets up loads of laws for his chosen people to obey. Those who follow them recieve God's blessing. Then in the NT, Jesus comes along, sweeps all that aside and proposes salvation comes through personal faith rather than obedience to laws. According to Jesus all you need to do apparently is love God and your neighbour.

    The thing is, if Jesus' way is better, why didn't God enact it in the first place? Why set up the Jewish covenant (and specifically decree several times that it would be in place forever) only to do away with it later? Why set up Judaism at all if it was only to be outdone by Christianity? Especially considering God's views on false religions. If God doesn't want his Christians to follow these laws, why give them to the Jews - the precursors of Christianity - in the first place?


    Is this a serious question? Have you never copied anyone in their deeds or actions because you approved of them?


    Okay, maybe I have wandered in a bit of a blind alley here. When it comes to moral choices I tend to ask 'What is the right thing to do' rather than 'What would person X do'. But even so, I can see the value in emulating a figure you find inspiring.

    My point, however, was about taking the Bible as a moral code. We agree it condemns homosexuality. But what are the practical implications of that for you as someone who turns to the Bible for moral guidance? Because for many it certainly means lobbying to restrict the personal freedoms of homosexuals. And it can hardly be denied such people are acting according to the guidance of their religion.

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  107. Ilion -


    You cannot reason with a man like this, who hypocritically asserts two standards.


    What two standards are those? I don't think you've actually said...

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  108. I have a better idea, Troy (you abuser of a fine name). Why don't you take your irrational and dishonest self elsewhere? You know, someplace where dishonestly, illogic, and irrationality are appreciated.

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  109. Ritchie ... who *aims* to be self-deluded: "What two standards are those? I don't think you've actually said... "

    Did the "Alexander the Great" exist? How do you know there was such a person?

    You assert one, hyper-critical, standard for evaluating that which you wish to reject, and another, more lax, standard for evaluating that which you are willing to accept.

    And then you pretend you've done nothing of the sort.

    But, of course you do; it's all part of the pseudo-skeptical, intellectually dishonest mindset that is typical of DarwinDefenders.

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  110. "You assert one, hyper-critical, standard for evaluating that which you wish to reject, and another, more lax, standard for evaluating that which you are willing to accept."

    Ritchie, I must agree with Ilion in this. If you do not accept Jesus as a historical figure(and I'm not talking about him being the son of god) then there are many more historical personages that you need to dismiss.

    "You touch upon another glaring problem for Christianity.'

    Really? I don't think so.

    'In the OT, God sets up loads of laws for his chosen people to obey. Those who follow them recieve God's blessing.'

    Is it 'simply' obedience? How then would you measure the 10th commandment as an action?

    'According to Jesus all you need to do apparently is love God and your neighbour.'

    True. Yet how much do you think those two commands encompass? More or less than the laws given to the Jews?

    'The thing is, if Jesus' way is better, why didn't God enact it in the first place? Why set up the Jewish covenant (and specifically decree several times that it would be in place forever) only to do away with it later? Why set up Judaism at all if it was only to be outdone by Christianity? Especially considering God's views on false religions. If God doesn't want his Christians to follow these laws, why give them to the Jews - the precursors of Christianity - in the first place?'

    Do you really not know the purpose of the Law covenant? Before I go into it, why do YOU think God gave it to them, based on your understanding of scripture?

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  111. Ilion -


    Did the "Alexander the Great" exist? How do you know there was such a person?

    You assert one, hyper-critical, standard for evaluating that which you wish to reject, and another, more lax, standard for evaluating that which you are willing to accept.


    I do not. I hold them both up to the same critical standard.

    We may not know much about Alexander the Great on a personal level - the earliest biography of him was written centuries after his death. But he conquered a vast empire and left a great deal of evidence in his wake. He founded cities (such as Alexandria) and established entire dynastys in his wake - such as the Ptolemys in Egypt, of which the infamous Cleopatra was one.

    But more importantly, I do not acceopt the supernatural claims about Alexander the Great to be historically accurate. Alexander did actually claim to be the son of Zeus rather than his mortal father. This claim I do not accept - much like I do not accept it of Jesus. I am not *totally* opposed to the idea of Jesus as a normal, mortal man. Perhaps the stories about a Jesus were based on a real Jew who was crucified by the Romans, and just became exaggerated. But if Jesus was just a normal man with a human father and not the son of God, then that pretty much still undermines the whole Christian thesis, doesn't it?

    It seems to me YOU are the one being the hypocrit here. Why do you accept Jesus' claims about having a deity as a father and not Alexander's?

    Who's applying a double standard now?!

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  112. Fil -


    Ritchie, I must agree with Ilion in this. If you do not accept Jesus as a historical figure(and I'm not talking about him being the son of god) then there are many more historical personages that you need to dismiss.


    I take the point that there are several figures in the ancient world for which the evidence is extremely sparse, and in some cases, non-existent (I believe Socrates is an example). But, and here's the thing, I do not accept the SUPERNATURAL claims about any of them. I see no reason to dismiss the idea of Socrates as a historical figure. All things being equal, the stories about him are perfectly reasonable, so I see no reason to dismiss them. The stories about Jesus relate to him being the son of God who performed miracles and was resurrected after his death. This alone gives me ample reason to dismiss these stories.

    As I said to Ilion, I am not *totally* opposed to the idea of Jesus as a mortal man. Perhaps Jesus was just an idealist and charismatic Jew who inspired many people and was crucified for it. After his death the stories about him told by his followers got exaggerated into the stories we know today. I am fairly open to that as a possibility. But such a version of events undercuts Christianity entirely. The Christian claims absolutely rest not only on Jesus really existing, but on the SUPERNATURAL claims about him being true.

    Alexander the Great claimed to be the son of Zeus. Julius Caesar claimed to be descended from Venus, whilst Cleopatra claimed to be an incarnation of Isis herself. If it is me, not you, who is applying a double standard of evidence here, then on what grounds do you dismiss these supernatual claims yet accept the one for Jesus?


    Is it 'simply' obedience? How then would you measure the 10th commandment as an action?


    I thought it wasn't our place to measure these commandments. I thought it was our place to merely strive to obey them and have God judge whether we have suceeded.


    True. Yet how much do you think those two commands encompass? More or less than the laws given to the Jews?


    Well, in a sense, they encompass more, since practically every action can be seen as an expression of either loving your neighbour (or not) or loving God (or not). However, that's not really the point. Let's go back to the treatment of slaves as an example. Why did God explicitly decree that it was okay to keep slaves if he did not mean such a law to be kept forever (and indeed, Jesus never explicitly condemns slavery. You can infer it from his talk about 'loving thy neighbour', but that is only a subjective interpretation)?

    It's not just that Jesus decrees encompass MORE than the OT laws; it's that they often CONTRADICT the OT laws that is the problem. If the OT laws were to be made redundant at some future time, why did God set them up in the first place?

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  113. (cont)


    Do you really not know the purpose of the Law covenant? Before I go into it, why do YOU think God gave it to them, based on your understanding of scripture?


    The way I understand it God selected the descendants of Abraham to be his chosen people. They were to enjoy divine protection, a promised land, and the chance for salvation - on the condition of obedience to very strict laws which have been described by many as extremely difficult to follow.

    As it actually turned out (according to the Bible anyway), God's promise eventually passed to Abraham's son, Issac, who had two sons - Esau and Jocob. Esau, as the elder son, was supposed to recieve the promise through a blessing, but Jacob managed to deceive his father into giving him the blessing instead - a blessing which God, despite allegedly being all-knowing, honoured. Was God fooled too, or did He just endorse Jacob's actions? Jacob and his twelve sons became the Israelites, each son the head of one of the twelve tribes, while Esau and his descendants were condemned to serve the Israelites, setting the scene for millenia of racial tensions and strife.

    What good the covenant actually turned out to be, I am at a loss to say, since God apparently forgot about his promise to protect his chosen people, and they were soon whisked off by the Egyptians for hundreds of years of slavery there. But I never claimed the Bible stories make sense!

    Perhaps I've drifted from the point you were getting at...?

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  114. But, and here's the thing, I do not accept the SUPERNATURAL claims about any of them.'

    So be it. There is no point discussing it further then.

    'Perhaps Jesus was just an idealist and charismatic Jew who inspired many people and was crucified for it. After his death the stories about him told by his followers got exaggerated into the stories we know today. I am fairly open to that as a possibility.'

    That would be a greater miracle than him actually being the son of God.

    'I thought it wasn't our place to measure these commandments. I thought it was our place to merely strive to obey them and have God judge whether we have suceeded.'

    Measure probably isn't the best word. Maybe comprehend? Understand? Still can't think of the perfect word. Anyway, the first 9 commands were easily visible to men. If you made an image and worshipped it others could see that and punish you. Same with stealing, adultery, etc. The 10th is unique in that it applies to the inner person. You can covet another mans wife and not act on it, but in God's eyes that was still wrong. This showed obedience to God was to be from the inside out, not a mere checklist of commands to follow.

    'Why did God explicitly decree that it was okay to keep slaves if he did not mean such a law to be kept forever '

    Is the historical context important to you?
    Slavery was practiced in virtually every nation back then. However, the slavery that existed in Israel was vastly different from the tyrannical forms of slavery that have existed throughout history.
    God’s Law stated that kidnapping and selling a human was punishable by death. Furthermore, God provided guidelines to protect slaves. For example, a slave who was maimed by his master would be set free. If a slave died because his master beat him, the master could be punished with death. Women captives could become slaves, or they could be taken as wives. But they were not to be used for mere sexual gratification. The gist of the Law must have led righthearted Israelites to treat slaves with respect and kindness, as if these were hired laborers.—Exodus 20:10; 21:12, 16, 26, 27; Leviticus 22:10, 11; Deuteronomy 21:10-14.
    Some Jews voluntarily became slaves to their fellow Jews in order to repay debts. This practice protected people from starvation and actually allowed many to recover from poverty. Furthermore, at key junctures in the Jewish calendar, slaves were to be released if they so desired. (Exodus 21:2; Leviticus 25:10; Deuteronomy 15:12) Commenting on these laws regarding slaves, Jewish scholar Moses Mielziner stated that a “slave could never cease to be a man, he was looked upon as a person possessing certain natural human rights, with which the master even could not with impunity interfere.” What a stark contrast to the abusive systems of slavery that other nations practiced, even just a few hundred years ago.

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  115. 'Was God fooled too, or did He just endorse Jacob's actions?'

    The Bible does not give all the details as to why Rebekah and Jacob acted as they did, though it does indicate that the situation arose suddenly. We should note that God’s Word neither justifies nor condemns what Rebekah and Jacob did, establishing no precedent for lies and deception. The Bible does, however, shed light on the situation.
    First, the account makes clear that Jacob was entitled to his father’s blessing; Esau was not. Earlier, Jacob had legally purchased the birthright from his unappreciative twin brother, who sold it for a meal to satisfy his hunger. Esau “despised the birthright.” (Genesis 25:29-34) So in approaching his father, Jacob was seeking a blessing that rightfully belonged to him.
    Second, when Isaac realized that he had given the blessing to Jacob, he did not seek to change what he had done. Perhaps he recalled what God had told Rebekah before the twins were born: “The older will serve the younger.” (Genesis 25:23) It is noteworthy too that when Jacob was about to depart for Haran, Isaac expanded the blessing that he had given earlier.—Genesis 28:1-4.
    Finally, it should be remembered that God was both aware of and interested in all that was happening. The blessing that Isaac gave was tied up with God’s promise to Abraham. (Genesis 12:2, 3) If God had not wanted the blessing to go to Jacob, he could have intervened in some way. Instead, Jehovah confirmed the matter to Jacob, saying: “By means of your seed all the families of the ground will certainly bless themselves.”—Genesis 28:10-15

    'They were to enjoy divine protection, a promised land, and the chance for salvation - on the condition of obedience to very strict laws which have been described by many as extremely difficult to follow.'

    So, look at Galatians 3:19 use the Amplified Bible, New Living Translation or Contemporary English Version to look at it. Other versions mostly say 'because of transgression' which is not concise enough.

    Then look at Galatians 3:24 'law became a tutor' leading us to Christ.

    So that the Law could NOT be followed perfectly by any human WAS the point. It showed humans needed to obtain salvation based on the undeserved kindness of God's love. So primarily it taught the Israelites of their need for the Messiah, who would redeem them from their sinful state.

    This was God's purpose right from when the first prophecy was uttered at Genesis 3:15. The Israelites were chosen, not because they were inherently better or more obedient than other nations, the Bible shows for the most part they kept turning away from God. They were chosen due to the faithfulness to God by their forefathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob so that a way could be prepared for Jesus to arrive on the earthly scene.

    "What good the covenant actually turned out to be, I am at a loss to say, since God apparently forgot about his promise to protect his chosen people, and they were soon whisked off by the Egyptians for hundreds of years of slavery there.'

    Ummmm....the Law covenant came AFTER the Israelites were released from Egypt. Biblical chronology shows the Israelites were in Egypt 215 years. Not as a large nation at first since less than a hundred in the family and servants entered as GUESTS of Pharaoh. They were slaves for only a part of that.

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  116. Btw, I use my Google account to post here, what do you use? It doesn't let me bold characters which is much more effective.

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  117. {b}bold{/b}
    {i}italic{/i}
    {a href="http://..."}Text{/a}

    Replace { with <
    Replace } with >

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  118. Fil -


    So be it. There is no point discussing it further then.


    If it's all the same, I'd still like to know whether (and, if so, why) you dismiss the supernatural claims of many figures in the ancient world if you will accept the ones for Jesus. Because it appears to me you (and Ilion) are applying the double standard here - willing to accept an incredibly lax standard of evidence for Jesus that you probably would not accept for other figures.

    Heracles (I prefer this spelling over 'Hercules'), for example. The ancient Greeks absolutely believed he was a real, historical figure. Like Jesus, he was the son of a God (Zeus in this case) and a mortal woman, wandered around helping people and performing miraculous deeds, was betrayed, killed, and rose up to spend eternity as a god. The evidence for both figures is similar too - Homer tells epic stories of the life of Heracles, as the gospels do for Jesus. Hesiod and Plato mention him in their writings, Aesop quotes his words directly and, most intriguingly, he is also mentioned by Josephus Flavius and Tacitus in the very same works as they mention Jesus, and more times! Just like Jesus, for Heracles we have no artifacts, writings or eye-witnesses - just hearsay stories and belief. The evidence for the two figures so closely parallel each other that I'd be fascinated to hear why we should accept the stories for one and not the other...


    That would be a greater miracle than him actually being the son of God.


    A bizarre claim. How do you work that out?


    Is the historical context important to you?


    Well yes it is. But I have a hard time swallowing this picture you're painting of slavery as a rosy and humane institution. Especially as the instructions in the Bible on how to treat slaves includes such gems as this:

    "When a man strikes his slave, male or female, with a rod and the slave dies under his hand, he shall be punished. But if the slave survives a day or two, he is not to be punished; for the slave is his money." Exodus 21:20-21 (RSV)

    And even if slavery for the ancient Jews was a friendly, fraternal affair (!), an all-knowing God still has no excuse for not knowing that sanctioning slavery here would directly lead to it being considered moral and appropriate in a host of future nations - nations which certainly would consider slaves as valueless chattel.


    So that the Law could NOT be followed perfectly by any human WAS the point.


    I have a hard time buying this too. If all the laws were a mere lesson in humility, why did God decree the death penalty for failing to obey certain ones? Seems a bit draconian if the point is that they are unfollowable rules.


    Ummmm....the Law covenant came AFTER the Israelites were released from Egypt.


    D'oh! Got me there. Schoolboy error. Nevertheless, the covenant has unquestionably been broken. In 1 Kings 7:12-16, God promises explicitly that the house, the kingdom and the throne of David "shall be established for ever". If the King does wrong, God will punish him, but will not take away his kingdom, as He did to Saul. This promise is unconditional, unambiguous - and broken. There is no kingdom and no Davidic dynasty today. The line of descent was broken and the house of David no longer exists. In 587 BC the Babylonians destroyed the Israelites and they have never reestablished themselves. There is a modern Israel, but it is not a monarchy. This must be regarded as a broken promise (well, either that or the covenant was just a piece of patriotic propaganda rather than an accurate divine mandate in the first place...).

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  119. Zachriel: {b}bold{/b}
    ...
    Replace { with <
    Replace } with >


    To avoid the clumsiness of having to use substitution characters, there are HTML codes which will allow you to display exactly what you mean (and yet will not turn what you wrote into an HTML tag). As, for instance, thus:

    <b>bold</b>

    The codes to use are:
    "& l t ;" (without the spaces) for "<"
    "& g t ;" (without the spaces) for ">"

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  120. Ilion -

    Btw, please feel free to have a stab at this question yourself:


    If it's all the same, I'd still like to know whether (and, if so, why) you dismiss the supernatural claims of many figures in the ancient world if you will accept the ones for Jesus. Because it appears to me you (and Ilion) are applying the double standard here - willing to accept an incredibly lax standard of evidence for Jesus that you probably would not accept for other figures.


    I'd really appreciate an answer. Thanks.

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  121. Crap, my computer messed up and undid all my typing. Im out of time. I'll get back to you tomorrow Ritchie.

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  122. Fil -


    Crap, my computer messed up and undid all my typing. Im out of time. I'll get back to you tomorrow Ritchie.


    HATE it when that happens!

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  123. I'd still like to know whether (and, if so, why) you dismiss the supernatural claims of many figures in the ancient world if you will accept the ones for Jesus.

    Like Heracles? When did he supposedly live? And when were the first writings about him supposedly written?

    Just like Jesus, for Heracles we have no artifacts, writings or eye-witnesses - just hearsay stories and belief.

    Yes, that's true. If you completely dismiss the Gospels and those quotes written within 100 years of his existence. Of course, the account of Heracles would make sense as a myth built upon the account of Genesis chapter 6 with a whole lot of details added in.

    A bizarre claim. How do you work that out?

    Imagine a small group, making up everything about Jesus. The person, the life, the miracles, etc. Making up a religion that is so opposed to the way the Jews liked things. Being persecuted and killed for their faith in, as you say, nothing real. Persevering for centuries so that within 400 years they go from being a hated, apostate religion of ex-Jews and Gentiles to being the state religion of the world empire at the time. An empire that previously killed them.

    Now THAT'S a miracle!

    an all-knowing God still has no excuse for not knowing that sanctioning slavery here would directly lead to it being considered moral and appropriate in a host of future nations - nations which certainly would consider slaves as valueless chattel.

    Directly lead? Really? Did you know slavery existed before the Israelites were even a people? Existed even among those who had no clue there was a God like the one in the Bible? Slavery exists because people in general look to their own selfish interests. All God did is make it better for ones who weres slaves. Would you expect him to make the Israelites an enlightened peace loving country like the United States or Canada?(I live in Canada btw). Did you read Exodus 21:16?

    If all the laws were a mere lesson in humility, why did God decree the death penalty for failing to obey certain ones? Seems a bit draconian if the point is that they are unfollowable rules.

    Out of the 600 laws in the covenant, how many had the death penalty? If you wanted to obey the command 'You must not murder' that was doable by anyone. The entire mass of laws however showed the Israelites that they were imperfect, that they needed a Messiah and a Redeemer, that they could not obtain salvation through following a Law. That's why Paul said what he did in Galatians 3:24,25.

    D'oh! Got me there. Schoolboy error. Nevertheless, the covenant has unquestionably been broken. In 1 Kings 7:12-16, God promises explicitly that the house, the kingdom and the throne of David "shall be established for ever".

    Hmmm... there's another schoolboy error. Can you show me where in the Law covenant that promise to David was made? Once you reply I'll show you how that promise to David has been kept.

    There is a modern Israel, but it is not a monarchy.

    Absolutely. Since all their geneological records were destroyed in 70CE by the Romans noone can claim to be a descendant of David today anyway.

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  124. Fil -


    Like Heracles? When did he supposedly live? And when were the first writings about him supposedly written?


    The dates are vague, but following a calculation taking Eusebius as a reliable guide, Heracles lived 1264 - 1226 BC. The earliest writings I know of him are from Homer and Hesiod - both of whom are believed to have lived around 800 - 900 BC.

    If you think this alone gives you reason to completely dismiss the stories about him as myth, then how about a more concrete figure, such as Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar or Cleopatra? In the ancient world there is no shortage of people claiming divine heritage. On what grounds can you claim Julius Caesar was not descended from Venus, or Alexander not the son of Zeus?


    Yes, that's true. If you completely dismiss the Gospels and those quotes written within 100 years of his existence.


    There are significant problems with treating the gospels as historical documents - the synoptic problem for instance. And how many quotes do we have that were written within 100 years of his existence?


    Imagine a small group, making up everything about Jesus...
    Now THAT'S a miracle!


    No, it isn't. Such a scenario violates no natural laws. There is nothing 'impossible' about it. On the other hand, the son of God incarnating as a man, performing miracles and being resurrected after death violates many natural laws and has many 'impossible' elements.

    I realise you were probably being more rhetorical than literal here. Nevertheless, your writing implies you find it more plausible to accept the stories about Jesus as true than to imagine Jesus was a normal human and the stories about him got exaggerated? That stretches credulity beyond breaking point.


    Directly lead? Really? Did you know slavery existed before the Israelites were even a people?


    Yes. But Christianity soon because the dominant religion of Europe and later many other nations. These countries allowed slavery to flourish and many took their moral cues from the sanction slavery recieves in the Bible.

    I am not accusing God of STARTING slavery, but I am accusing Him of failing to speak out against it - an oversight which has cost the lives of thousands and caused untold suffering.


    All God did is make it better for ones who weres slaves.


    By stating it's okay to beat slaves to death as long as they linger a day or two before actually dying?


    Would you expect him to make the Israelites an enlightened peace loving country like the United States or Canada?


    Why not? What is so ridiculous about this prospect?

    In fact, when I consider what I would expect to find in a holy book that really was written (or at least divinely inspired) by an all-knowing and benevolent deity, then yes I would expect to find moral instructions that surpass the ethics of the society in which the book arose. If the book showed no such moral insight (as is the case with the Bible) then this is a clue that the book is just a product of human beings, not of an all-knowing deity.

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  125. (cont)


    Out of the 600 laws in the covenant, how many had the death penalty?


    Well, in Deuteronomy 11:17 God promises starvation as punishment for disobedience: "Then the Lord’s anger will burn against you, and he will shut the heavens so that it will not rain and the ground will yield no produce, and you will soon perish from the good land the Lord is giving you."


    The entire mass of laws however showed the Israelites that they were imperfect, that they needed a Messiah and a Redeemer


    But surely that point had already been made through the tale of Eden? According to Christian and Jewish (?? I think) doctrine, we need salvation because we inherit the sin of Adam and Eve. So what is the point of constructing an entire religion with a detailed covenant just as an exercise in futility?


    Can you show me where in the Law covenant that promise to David was made?


    1 Kings 7:12-16: "And when thy days be fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will set up thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build an house for my name, and I will stablish the throne of his kingdom for ever. I will be his father, and he shall be my son. If he commit iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the children of men: but my mercy shall not depart away from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away before thee. And thine house and thy kingdom shall be established for ever before thee: thy throne shall be established for ever."


    Absolutely. Since all their geneological records were destroyed in 70CE by the Romans noone can claim to be a descendant of David today anyway.


    Right. So the line of King David has been broken...?

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  126. I've seen this Sagan quotation (and, so, you know it's 'Science!') other times, generally used for the purpose it appears to have been just posted here

    ===
    From The Demon-Haunted World by Carl Sagan

    "Consider this claim: as I walk along, time -as measured by my wristwatch or my ageing process -slows down. Also, I shrink in the direction of motion. Also, I get more massive. Who has ever witnessed such a thing? It's easy to dismiss it out of hand. Here's another: matter and antimatter are all the time, throughout the universe, being created from nothing. Here's a third: once in a very great while, your car will spontaneously ooze through the brick wall of your garage and be found the next morning on the street. They're all absurd! But the first is a statement of special relativity, and the other two are consequences of quantum mechanics (vacuum fluctuations and barrier tunnelling,* they're called). Like it or not, that's the way the world is. If you insist it's ridiculous, you'll be forever closed to some of the major findings on the rules that govern the Universe.

    *The average waiting time per stochastic ooze is much longer than the age of the Universe since the Big Bang. But, however improbable, in principle it might happen tomorrow."
    ===

    My response:

    And, sometimes, iron axeheads which fly off their handles into a pond float to the surface. And, sometimes, the dead bodies of persons who really and truely are dead, rise back to life.

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  127. On what grounds can you claim Julius Caesar was not descended from Venus, or Alexander not the son of Zeus?

    I could claim to be God. The mere claim does not back it up. Did Julius,Alexander or Cleopatra perform any miracles documented somewhere?

    And how many quotes do we have that were written within 100 years of his existence?

    From wikipedia:Many scholars see the prophecy of the siege and destruction of Jerusalem [74] as suggesting a date of composition after the year 70.[75] However, John A. T. Robinson argues that the lack of a passage indicating the fulfillment of the prophecy suggests an earlier date.[76] Furthermore the Gospel of Matthew does not mention the death of James in 62 nor the persecutions of the early Christians by Nero.

    This view has been challenged by two scholars almost a century apart, The Reverend C. B. Huleatt and Carsten Peter Thiede. In December 1994, Carsten Peter Thiede redated the Magdalen papyrus, which bears a fragment from the Gospel of Matthew, to roughly the year 60 on palaeographical grounds, and thus the Gospel of Matthew could have been written by an eye-witness to Jesus.[77][78][79](end of quote)

    Interesting how the dating of Matthew by some is simply due to prophecy being supernatural, thereby impossible, so it HAD to be after 70CE. Yet some scholars disagree and say before. That's less than 100 years.

    Gospel of Mark around 70CE
    Gospel of Luke in the 1st century still
    Gospel of John in the 1st century still
    The book of Acts still in the 1st century

    And I could go on to the rest of the New Testament. The reason for ongoing debate is that, like you, many people take anything supernatural and rule it out. No questions asked. Therefore any other possible explanation must be true. So that means the writings are wrong and the miracles never happened. Beautiful circular reasoning.

    Now THAT'S a miracle!

    No, it isn't. Such a scenario violates no natural laws.


    Me flipping a normal coins and having it come up heads 1 million times in a row doesn't violate any natural laws. But it sure as heck would be a miracle!

    I am not accusing God of STARTING slavery, but I am accusing Him of failing to speak out against it - an oversight which has cost the lives of thousands and caused untold suffering.

    That is a fallacious argument. People will do whatever they want regardless of what the Bible of any other holy book says. If Christianity didn't exist I can GUARANTEE humans would still have had slaves and reasoned it away somehow. Your attaching blame for slavery over the past several thousand years to God takes the blame away from where it rightfully belongs, the people who sanction it.

    then yes I would expect to find moral instructions that surpass the ethics of the society in which the book arose.

    Please explain to me, in historical context, how the moral laws of Israel made them worse than the nations around them. Thank you.

    Well, in Deuteronomy 11:17 God promises starvation as punishment for disobedience: "Then the Lord’s anger will burn against you, and he will shut the heavens so that it will not rain and the ground will yield no produce, and you will soon perish from the good land the Lord is giving you."

    Based on what actual command?

    So what is the point of constructing an entire religion with a detailed covenant just as an exercise in futility?

    We need salvation how?

    Can you show me where in the Law covenant that promise to David was made?

    1 Kings 7:12-16


    I read it the first time. Can you explain to me how that is part of the Law covenant?

    Right. So the line of King David has been broken...?

    Has it? Romans 1:1-4 2 Timothy 2:8 Psalm 110:1 Acts 2:29-36 and many more

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  129. Ritchie: "On what grounds can you claim Julius Caesar was not descended from Venus, or Alexander not the son of Zeus?"

    On the very grounds that you pretend (*) atheists cannot deny it: reason; on both the fact that here are reasoning beings in the world, and by use of reason; as is being discussd in this post (which post I'm still building):

    "It's not just that naturalism can, but that it *does* logically encompass most pagan pantheons.

    Naturalism (and atheism) cannot rule out Zeus [or Venus], or Thor, without ruling out humans on the same grounds. The point being that the grounds on which naturalism (and atheism) attempt to account for humans are the same grounds upon which the pagans accounted for their gods -- "
    They just happened, order out of chaos!"
    ...

    The cosmologies of the ancient paganisms *start* with a chaotic material world, which "
    just is," and which self-organizes itself into an ordered world, into which living organisms and/or minds "arise" ... some of whom are able to affect the Cosmos/Nature in ways humans (who come later) cannot; including, generally, having formed the first humans.

    These ancient cosmologies are
    indistinguishable in kind from the modern naturalistic-and-atheistic cosmology. The main difference -- and it is a difference of focus (and/or sequence), not of kind -- is that for the paganisms, the first sapient minds which "arose" were those of deities of one sort or another, frequently the ancestors of the then-worshipped deities; but for modern naturalism, the first sapient minds which "arose" were those of our own species, or one biologically ancestral to us; or possibly space-aliens, who may or may not have caused our species to exist.

    On the other hand, the cosmology of the ancient Hebrews (and their modern spiritual and intellectual heirs), starts with an immaterial Mind, a Person, who "
    just is," and who creates an ordered material world, including all living things, from nothing at all material, but rather from and by his own wisdom and will. And his love."


    (*) Most self-identifing atheists are only playing at being atheists; they don't understand -- and worse, exert great effort to avoid understanding -- the logical implications of God-denial, of that which *must* be true if there is no God.

    ...........
    Ritchie ... who is really asserting the 'Just One More' fallacy, belovéd of Dawkins' fanboys: "On what grounds can you claim [that there is One God, and that there are no other gods than the One God]?"

    You foolish, willfully foolish, children.

    We do it on the same ground that our spiritual ancestors defeated your spiritual ancestors in the ancient era: by reason, by logic, by truth.

    For starters: we (all human beings) *know* that atheism, the denial that God is, is false -- there is, and never was, and never will be, any excuse for atheism (including the actually quite rare real atheism).

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  130. Fil -


    I could claim to be God. The mere claim does not back it up.


    Yes, I agree. Extrordinary claims require extrordinary evidence - something we do not have for Jesus.


    Did Julius,Alexander or Cleopatra perform any miracles documented somewhere?


    Not to my knowledge. But so what? That doesn't mean they didn't have divine heritage, does it? By comparison, the only evidence we have of Jesus performing miracles comes from several highly dubious accounts with a clear religiously motivated bias, who clearly were built on each other, find no support from impartial historical sources (something which is absolutely unbelievable if these miracle claims are true) and do not even claim to be eye-witness testimony. The evidence there was a Jesus who performed miracles is somewhat less than convincing.


    Interesting how the dating of Matthew by some is simply due to prophecy being supernatural, thereby impossible, so it HAD to be after 70CE. Yet some scholars disagree and say before. That's less than 100 years.


    Firstly, the first gospel to be written was actually Mark, not Matthew. We can tell this because it is the shortest, simplest, and clearly the text that at least both Matthew and Luke borrow from.

    Secondly, on your point regarding the prophecy, (the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem, I believe...?) we have a number of conclusions. 1) the gospel in question was written after 70 AD and 'predicts' an event that has just happened. 2) the gospel was written before 70 AD and the prophecy is just a lucky guess/coincidence, in which case, was does that show? 3) the gospel was written before 70 AD and is a genuine, bona fide prophecy.

    Conclusion 3 is a lot to swallow for anyone approaching the texts objectively. You have to assume that this is a genuine prophecy for it to be evidence for a fulfilled prophecy. THAT is beautiful circular reasoning.

    And in any case, there are many more problems with using the gospels as accurate, reliable historical documents, the first of which I would have thought is the fact that they do not even CLAIM to be eye-witness accounts. They are just anonymous stories, written in the third person, clearly built on each other, (and yet still with several contradicting passages) with a clear agenda and miraculous claims. As far as historical reliability goes, it doesn't get much weaker than this.


    Me flipping a normal coins and having it come up heads 1 million times in a row doesn't violate any natural laws. But it sure as heck would be a miracle!


    I wouldn't say so - becuase it is entirely possible given natural laws and chance. It is titanically unlikely, I grant you. But not impossible. A virgin giving birth, men returning from the dead and walking on water - these things are miracles because according to what we know about the way the world works, they are impossible. So until such things are shown to be possible, the version of events requiring no impossibilities will always be the more likely to be true.

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  131. (cont)


    That is a fallacious argument. People will do whatever they want regardless of what the Bible of any other holy book says. If Christianity didn't exist I can GUARANTEE humans would still have had slaves and reasoned it away somehow.


    a) What a cynical view of humanity.
    b) You can obviously make no such guarantee.
    c) You cannot claim that the Bible is a reliable moral guide in one breath, and then claim there are gaping, chasmic omissions in that morality because 'people wouldn't have bothered listening' in the next. Either the Bible is a reliable moral guide or it isn't.


    Your attaching blame for slavery over the past several thousand years to God takes the blame away from where it rightfully belongs, the people who sanction it.


    It is sanctioned in the Bible!


    Please explain to me, in historical context, how the moral laws of Israel made them worse than the nations around them. Thank you.


    I cannot. I never made that claim, nor do I (necessarily) think it is true. What I AM claiming is that the Bible, OT and NT, shows no great leap in moral understanding from the ethics of the society in which it first appeared, which is what as we might expect from a book that was a product of people in that society rather than of an all-knowing deity.


    Based on what actual command?


    Obidience and loyalty.


    We need salvation how?


    Sorry, I'm not sure what you're asking here. Is this sarcastic, rhetorical, literal...?


    I read it the first time. Can you explain to me how that is part of the Law covenant?


    Whoops, sorry, my mistake. It is actually 2 Samuel 7:12-16, not 1 Kings 7:12-16. That'll teach me to double check!

    God says David's kingdom, throne and lineage would be established forever, enjoying divine protection. It obviously hasn't been.


    Right. So the line of King David has been broken...?


    Yes. Which means God's promise to keep and defend the line of David has been broken. What are we to make of this?

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  132. Ilion -


    And, sometimes, iron axeheads which fly off their handles into a pond float to the surface. And, sometimes, the dead bodies of persons who really and truely are dead, rise back to life.


    If it is entirely in keeping with natural laws that the dead sometimes rise back again to life then why should we take the claim about Jesus having done exactly that as evidence of divine heritage or miraculous interventiuon? The logical extension of your argument is - 'It is perfectly reasonable to expect the dead to return to life sometimes. Therefore it should be treated as nothing but an entirely natural occurrence.' You cannot simultaneously claim that Jesus' return from the dead was both miraculous and entirely possible. It's one or the other.


    On the very grounds that you pretend (*) atheists cannot deny it: reason;


    That's a silly response. WHAT reasoning? Explain to me the logic that concludes that Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar's claims of divine heritage are false if you will accept the ones of Jesus are true.


    It's not just that naturalism can, but that it *does* logically encompass most pagan pantheons.


    What are you using 'encompass' to mean? 'to include'? 'to allow for'? 'to necessitate'? 'to logically entail'?


    Naturalism (and atheism) cannot rule out Zeus [or Venus], or Thor, without ruling out humans on the same grounds. The point being that the grounds on which naturalism (and atheism) attempt to account for humans are the same grounds upon which the pagans accounted for their gods -- "They just happened, order out of chaos!"


    We have mountains of evidence that humans exist. Every time we see/hear/touch another human being is more evidence of their existence. The existence of God/gods is doubted entirely because there is no such evidence of their existence.


    The cosmologies of the ancient paganisms *start* with a chaotic material world, which "just is,"... but rather from and by his own wisdom and will. And his love."


    Rii-iiight. Ummm, so what? WHat does any of that have to do with the divinty claims of Jesus and Alexander the Great? As far as I can see you are equating and comparing naturalism and atheism to Paganism (for no logical reason I can fathom). I fail to see the relevance of this.

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  133. (cont)


    Most self-identifing atheists are only playing at being atheists; they don't understand -- and worse, exert great effort to avoid understanding -- the logical implications of God-denial, of that which *must* be true if there is no God.


    Ilion, here's a tip - if you think you understand someone else's point of view better than they do themselves, that's generally a pretty good indication that YOU are the misinformed one.

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but you are not an atheist. I am. I think that entails that I understand slightly more about what atheists do and do not believe than you.


    You foolish, willfully foolish, children.

    We do it on the same ground that our spiritual ancestors defeated your spiritual ancestors in the ancient era: by reason, by logic, by truth.


    a) If you are defining 'your spiritual ancestors' and 'our spiritual ancestors' as theists and atheists, then no such 'defeat' has ever taken place
    b) Reason, logic and truth are things you need to demonstrate, not just claim.

    In short, that response was nothing more than self-important hot air.


    we (all human beings) *know* that atheism, the denial that God is, is false


    We (all humans) know no such thing! For one thing, you cannot speak for *ALL* humans. What a ridiculous thing to be able to claim to do! For another, I for one do not know any such thing.

    It seems reasonable to me not to believe in something until there is at least some evidence for its existence. There is no evidence for the existence of God/gods. Therefore it is reasonable not to believe in it/them. See? Seems perfectly logical to me.

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  134. Firstly, the first gospel to be written was actually Mark, not Matthew.

    While you may think I said Matthew was written first, I did not. Those dates are all from Wikipedia.

    1) the gospel in question was written after 70 AD and 'predicts' an event that has just happened.

    Yes, that would make it nothing special.

    2) the gospel was written before 70 AD and the prophecy is just a lucky guess/coincidence, in which case, was does that show?

    Funny how people on this blog tell ID people that predicting is a part of evolutionary science and mock them for not making predictions. If 2 is correct then you are ‘mocking’ a prediction. I guess evolutionary predictions are all lucky guesses too.
    There’s your double standard.

    the gospel was written before 70 AD and is a genuine, bona fide prophecy.

    Yet, what happens if this IS the correct answer? What then?

    As far as historical reliability goes, it doesn't get much weaker than this.

    I wasn’t aware you were so familiar with so many historical documents as to be able to make such a sweeping assertion.

    A virgin giving birth, men returning from the dead and walking on water - these things are miracles because according to what we know about the way the world works, they are impossible.

    Are they? Are you sure about that?

    a) What a cynical view of humanity.

    Thank you. So, what you are saying is that people will not do what they want? Instead always do to good and right thing? Do we live in the same world? Apparently not. I live near Toronto. A little while ago a man was having a heart attack on the sidewalk there and people ignored him and kept on walking. By the time someone helped him it was too late and he died. Were all those people walking past him Christians, Muslims or Atheists?

    b) You can obviously make no such guarantee.

    I obviously don’t have to. Go to www.antislavery.org There are still tens or hundreds of millions of slaves today. Many in non-Christian countries.
    The ancient Egyptians, Greeks, Romans and many other nations had slaves… and guess what? They weren’t Christians!

    c) You cannot claim that the Bible is a reliable moral guide in one breath, and then claim there are gaping, chasmic omissions in that morality because 'people wouldn't have bothered listening' in the next. Either the Bible is a reliable moral guide or it isn't.

    Yes, I can. It is a reliable moral guide. You are not reading closely enough. If people follow it they are successful. But how many actually do? It condemns immorality, murder, theft, lying all in the New Testament. How many Christians do these things? God cannot be blamed when those who claim to follow him ignore his guidance and cause themselves and others problems and suffering. I think you are not just as atheist Ritchie, you also hate the concept of the God of the Bible, thinking he is at fault for much suffering and hardship over the years. But it is not Him it is those who pretend to worship him and don’t that are at fault. Also, when I said People will do whatever they want regardless of what the Bible of any other holy book says. I meant it. People will follow the Bibles principles if they want to and they will not follow them if they don’t. That’s simply fact.

    It is sanctioned in the Bible.

    Yes, but only in the Law covenant in the ancient nation of Israel. Nowhere else, for no one else and for no other time period is it sanctioned. Period. And they standards of slavery in that setting were far and away better than in any other period of the time. Even better than many places today.

    shows no great leap in moral understanding from the ethics of the society in which it first appeared,

    Really? Are you truly that unfamiliar with Israelite society back then? Please explain to me then how things went for them as a nation, regarding morals, when following the Law covenant vs. not following the Law convenant.

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  135. I asked,Out of the 600 laws in the covenant, how many had the death penalty?

    Ritchie answered,Well, in Deuteronomy 11:17 God promises starvation as punishment for disobedience: "Then the Lord’s anger will burn against you, and he will shut the heavens so that it will not rain and the ground will yield no produce, and you will soon perish from the good land the Lord is giving you."

    I asked, Based on what actual command?

    Ritchie, Obidience and loyalty.

    What I meant was, what was the law that resulted in the punishment you quoted. You quoted a punishment, not a law. That still doesn’t answer how many of the laws had the death penalty.

    I asked, We need salvation how?

    What I meant by that(the question was too short, I know) how would what happened in Eden show we how we could or could not obtain salvation? How did the Law covenant help make it clear?

    I read it the first time. Can you explain to me how that is part of the Law covenant?


    Whoops, sorry, my mistake. It is actually 2 Samuel 7:12-16, not 1 Kings 7:12-16. That'll teach me to double check!


    Is that part of the Law covenant? If so, how?


    Yes. Which means God's promise to keep and defend the line of David has been broken. What are we to make of this?


    No, it hasn’t. Did you read those scriptures I cited above?

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  136. If it is entirely in keeping with natural laws that the dead sometimes rise back again to life then why should we take the claim about Jesus having done exactly that as evidence of divine heritage or miraculous interventiuon? The logical extension of your argument is - 'It is perfectly reasonable to expect the dead to return to life sometimes. Therefore it should be treated as nothing but an entirely natural occurrence.' You cannot simultaneously claim that Jesus' return from the dead was both miraculous and entirely possible. It's one or the other.

    It’s entirely possible to resurrect the dead it you have complete knowledge of natural laws and power to manipulate them. If, as evolutionists claim, we are just matter and energy then to resurrect someone all that is needed is a complete knowledge of that persons material and electrical structure(I’m not sure of all the terms). Then everything, including memories, could be brought back. The thing is Ritchie, the ability to do something so complex is so far beyond what we perceive to be possible(as you stated) that it seems miraculous. Many things that are commonplace today would have been miraculous a hundred or two hundred years ago. Many things that are inconceivable now may be possible in a thousand or million years. Many things that may be conceivable may never be attainable due to their inherent complexity. So yes, it can be both miraculous and possible.

    Explain to me the logic that concludes that Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar's claims of divine heritage are false if you will accept the ones of Jesus are true.

    They are more likely. To you they are just not likely. If one accepts the bible then of necessity they must reject pagan gods.

    The existence of God/gods is doubted entirely because there is no such evidence of their existence.

    I would say that it does but that you do not recognize it as such. That is, to me at least, a material difference.

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  137. It seems reasonable to me not to believe in something until there is at least some evidence for its existence.

    What would convince you that God exists? By your own admission it would have to be scientific so therefore testable and measureable. A figure as awesome so as to be the God of the Bible would be neither. So then what? A miraculous vision? Some demonstration of power? You could dismiss either as a hallucination, and act by an extremely advanced alien race or even a magic fairy? There is no evidence you would be willing to accept as proof. So don't say you want evidence if there is none you would accept.

    Now, if there some type of evidence you would accept please let us know what it would be.

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  138. Fil asks Ritchie:

    "What would convince you that God exists?"

    You first please.

    (1) On what evidence did you first become convinced that (the Christian) God exists?

    (2) On what basis did you reject the existence of the numerous other postulated gods?

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  139. You first please.

    This thread and others have been rather long. If you cannot determine the means by which I am convinced that there is a God to the exclusion of all others then you will need to wait until I get my answer before I elaborate. Nice though, trying to put the ball back in my court without touching the subject whatsoever yourself.

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  140. OK fine. But first we need to agree on a definition of "God" before I could say what would convince me that such a thing exists. Fair enough?

    I'll start with listing some properties, and then you can correct me and add some of your own.

    - All knowing. God knows the state of all physical particles in the past, the present and the future. In other words, it knows the entire history of the universe.

    - All powerful. God can change the state of the universe to any other state. This may require breaking the laws of nature, i.e. the rules that govern the dynamics of the universe when God is not interfering.

    Your move.

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  141. OK fine. But first we need to agree on a definition of "God" before I could say what would convince me that such a thing exists. Fair enough?

    How about I make it easy for you. Give me the evidence you would accept for any of the following:

    1)A God like you stated in your post. All-knowing, all powerful.

    2)A God that knows all the past and present but can choose to know, or not know, select parts of the future. Is all powerful in relation to everything else in existence inside or outside our universe.

    3)A god like Zeus, Hermes or other god from history.

    Which of these could, in theory for you, have the potential for evidence to appear, or be provided, to satisfy you of its existance? What evidence would you need?

    If you have any other definitions of 'god' you would accept or not feel free to tell me why.

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  142. "1)A God like you stated in your post. All-knowing, all powerful."

    Those properties are of course impossible to verify, but I'd accept evidence based on a sufficiently large number of clear-cut violations of laws of nature such as the SLOT.

    For example:

    - if I asked God for a perpetuum mobile in the form of Porsche convertible, and one suddenly appeared in front of my house, and the car keys suddenly appeared in my pockets,
    - and if I asked God to beam me up to Mars, and it would happen without the slightest damage to my health
    - all amputees in the world suddenly grew back their lost limbs on my count of three
    - and so on for a while.

    Then I might be convinced, although I'd first try to rule out I am dreaming or crazy.


    "2)A God that knows all the past and present but can choose to know, or not know, select parts of the future. Is all powerful in relation to everything else in existence inside or outside our universe."

    Interesting. I wonder why you added that option. My guess: it allows you to rationalize the problem of evil away. But how it's even possible to select some information that one doesn't want to know about, I'm at a loss.

    "3)A god like Zeus, Hermes or other god from history"

    Same kind of evidence as before, accompanied by a thundering voice announcing that said evidence was produced by Zeus.

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  143. - if I asked God for a perpetuum mobile in the form of Porsche convertible, and one suddenly appeared in front of my house, and the car keys suddenly appeared in my pockets,
    - and if I asked God to beam me up to Mars, and it would happen without the slightest damage to my health
    - all amputees in the world suddenly grew back their lost limbs on my count of three
    - and so on for a while.


    Is that all?

    Interesting. I wonder why you added that option. My guess: it allows you to rationalize the problem of evil away. But how it's even possible to select some information that one doesn't want to know about, I'm at a loss.

    If I want to know the definition of a word I look it up in the dictionary. I am not forced to read the definition of every word just to find the one I want.

    Same kind of evidence as before, accompanied by a thundering voice announcing that said evidence was produced by Zeus.

    Once again, is that all? How would you know the voice is telling the truth and isn't really a super-advanced alien that evolved within this universe but just way before us?

    Imagine 2000 years ago you asked God for the destruction of Rome and someone somehow had obtained a nuclear bomb, teleported it back through time and blew the city up. Would you have believed in God back then? How scientific would your belief be?

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  144. "Is that all?"

    Yes, that should do the trick. Think I'm gullible?

    "If I want to know the definition of a word I look it up in the dictionary. I am not forced to read the definition of every word just to find the one I want."

    But if you're all-knowing you don't need to look up anything. If you "can choose to know, or not know, select parts of the future", and actually choose to not know some select part (probably a part that would make you look bad had you known in advance and not prevent it), then you're not all-knowing. Oh, the paradoxes of infinity.

    "Imagine 2000 years ago you asked God for the destruction of Rome and someone somehow had obtained a nuclear bomb, teleported it back through time and blew the city up. Would you have believed in God back then? How scientific would your belief be?"

    Not very, but then that was then and this is now. Now science actually exists, unlike back then, and some scientific knowledge is now so secure (verified over and over and over again), that it is quite reasonable to take suspension at will of the SLOT as evidence for a "higher power".

    But what evidence convinced you that God exists, more specifically the Christian one to the exclusion of all others?

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  145. Fil -


    While you may think I said Matthew was written first, I did not. Those dates are all from Wikipedia.


    Okay. But the synoptic problem shows us that Mark was written before Matthew, and if Mark was written around 70CE (as wiki says it was), then Matthew must have been later...


    Funny how people on this blog tell ID people that predicting is a part of evolutionary science and mock them for not making predictions. If 2 is correct then you are ‘mocking’ a prediction. I guess evolutionary predictions are all lucky guesses too.
    There’s your double standard.


    Hmmm, I think we need to distinguish different types of predictions here. When we are talking about scientific theories, predictions generally mean 'if my theory is true, then this will/will not be the result'. In this sense, however, the predictions are in a 'I see the future through divine powers' kinda way. There is no logical extrapolation towards the prediction - merely the claim to know future events.


    Yet, what happens if this IS the correct answer? What then?


    Then the writer had the power to predict that future event. Which would be a miracle in and of itself. But it wouldn't actually make the gospel any more historically reliable.


    I wasn’t aware you were so familiar with so many historical documents as to be able to make such a sweeping assertion.


    Any historian will tell you what makes for sound evidence and what makes for weak evidence. That is not the sort of thing you need an in-depth knowledge for. However, if you are genuinely interested in a critical analysis of the New Testament, Bart Ehrman is an exceptional scholar in this field, and is one I particularly trust.


    Me - A virgin giving birth, men returning from the dead and walking on water - these things are miracles because according to what we know about the way the world works, they are impossible.

    You - Are they? Are you sure about that?


    Well, yes. I am.


    Thank you. So, what you are saying is that people will not do what they want? Instead always do to good and right thing?


    No, people are a complex mix of desires, responsibilities, drives and principles. And sometimes these things conspire to allow for terrible things to happen. But instead of dwelling on them, how about dwelling on the good things people do? How many people do charitable work? How many people make selfless gestures and sacrifices every day that don't get noted? If someone had helped that man who had the heart attack right away, I doubt the incident would evern have caught your attention. Is this condemnation of humanity an extension of the religious belief that we are all worthless sinners who deserve eternal damnation? Because if so, religion is even more insidious than I thought...


    There are still tens or hundreds of millions of slaves today. Many in non-Christian countries.
    The ancient Egyptians, Greeks, Romans and many other nations had slaves… and guess what? They weren’t Christians!


    This is true. Again, I am not condemning God/Christians for STARTING slavery, or for being solely responsible for it, just for failing to say anything at all against it in the Bible.


    Yes, I can. It is a reliable moral guide. You are not reading closely enough. If people follow it they are successful. But how many actually do?


    This just sounds like the No True Scotsman fallacy - if people don't fall into accordance with your interpretation of the Bible, then they are not interpreting it 'properly'.


    People will follow the Bibles principles if they want to and they will not follow them if they don’t. That’s simply fact.


    You mean like opposing homosexuality?


    Yes, but only in the Law covenant in the ancient nation of Israel. Nowhere else, for no one else and for no other time period is it sanctioned. Period.


    Where are you getting that idea? There is absolutely nothing in the Bible that suggests these laws are specific to any one time and place?

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  146. (cont)


    And they standards of slavery in that setting were far and away better than in any other period of the time. Even better than many places today.


    If they could still beat their slaves to death if they wanted, I think that rather suggests it was still below a level of humanity we would find acceptable today.


    Really? Are you truly that unfamiliar with Israelite society back then? Please explain to me then how things went for them as a nation, regarding morals, when following the Law covenant vs. not following the Law convenant.


    I'm not exactly sure what you're getting at, but let me illustrate my point. There are many concepts in the Bible which were accepted at the time, but which we, looking back from an outsider's perspective, can see as immoral - things like slavery, the innate inferiority of women, and corporate guilt (that the punishment of a crime may be shared by the family/nation/tribe of the guilty party, even if they were totally innocent of the crime). We see no hint of recognition that these things are immoral in the Bible - they are simply worked into it without being questioned. You'd think a moral and benevolent God would have said 'Oh, and while we're on the subject of slavery... stop it!' or words to that effect.


    What I meant was, what was the law that resulted in the punishment you quoted. You quoted a punishment, not a law. That still doesn’t answer how many of the laws had the death penalty.


    It does not relate to a specific law. It comes as part of a general declaration which takes up Deuteronomy 11 which goes on about how great God is, the wonderful things God will do if the Israelities keep his laws and the things He will do if they do not.


    What I meant by that(the question was too short, I know) how would what happened in Eden show we how we could or could not obtain salvation? How did the Law covenant help make it clear?


    Assuming the Eden story is true, then we all inherit sin directly from our parents, since Adam and Eve were the first couple and passed their guilt onto their descendants. The convenant is an attempt by God to establish a 'chosen people' a lineage of people who have the opportunity to redeem themselves by obeying the laws of the covenant. That is my understanding, anyway.

    Does that answer your question? I'm still not entirely sure...?


    Is that part of the Law covenant? If so, how?


    It is a section from a passage laying out the terms of the covenant in general.


    No, it hasn’t. Did you read those scriptures I cited above?


    What I see are passages claiming Jesus to be the descendant of King David.

    But this is irrelevant, surely? The kingdom of David no longer exists. There is no living descendant of David ruling over an Israelite people.

    Btw, I never really got straight how Jesus could be the descendant of King David if he was the son of God rather than of Joseph... I mean, Acts 2:30 says 'God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne' and both Luke and Matthew give geneologies from David to Jesus, both of which are traced through Joseph (though it is also interesting that the two geneolgies hardly correlate at all). But surely this is for nothing if Jesus's actual father was God?

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  147. (cont)


    It’s entirely possible to resurrect the dead it you have complete knowledge of natural laws and power to manipulate them.


    In which case, it stops being miracle.

    Besides, Ilion is citing quantum mechanics (or his understanding of it), which does not claim random things happen due to being manipulated, they just happen randomly because they just do. Though I suspect we are all dancing around in a blissfully haze of ignorance of what quantum mechanics ACTUALLY says...


    If, as evolutionists claim, we are just matter and energy then to resurrect someone all that is needed is a complete knowledge of that persons material and electrical structure(I’m not sure of all the terms). Then everything, including memories, could be brought back.


    Some things cannot be manipulated. We humans beings cannot fly through the air like a bird unaided, and I suspect this fact would not change no matter how thorough was our understanding of the relevant natural laws. Some things, I suspect, are just plain impossible.


    Many things that are commonplace today would have been miraculous a hundred or two hundred years ago.


    Many things that are commonplace today would have been *PERCIEVED AS BEING* miraculous a hundred or two hundred years ago. That is not the same. Things are possible or they are not. Some things, I am sure, are possible, though currently vastly beyond our comprehension. That does not make them genuine miracles, though we might think they were if we actually saw someone performing one of them.


    They are more likely. To you they are just not likely. If one accepts the bible then of necessity they must reject pagan gods.


    How are Jesus' supernatural claims more likely that Alexander the Great's? They both claim a divine father. That's equally unlikely, surely? You may say 'The miracles Jesus did support his claims', but the evidence for a Jesus at all, performing miracles or not, is weak (in fact a miracle-performing Jesus is even less likely because then it is even more curious that we have no independant historical evidence for them). At least we can be pretty sure Alexander the Great really existed, which kinda gives his claims the edge in plausibilty.


    I would say that it does but that you do not recognize it as such. That is, to me at least, a material difference.


    If you have to believe BEFORE you recognise the evidence as being evidence, then that kinda shows it is not objectively evidence at all.

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  148. (cont)


    What would convince you that God exists?


    I would be remiss if I did not cite this source:

    http://www.ebonmusings.org/atheism/theistguide.html

    My list has been slightly modified from that one.

    Things I would consider very strong evidence:

    1) A holy book containing lots of really specific prophesies that have been proved correct. This does not include prophesies which are vague, unsurprising, self-fulfilling, or accompanied by dozens of other prophesies which did NOT pan out (keep throwing darts and you're likely to get the odd bullseye eventually). It must also be clear the prophesy preceded the event it foretold.

    2) A holy book which contains lots of correct scientific information totally unknown at the time. The more specific, advanced and counter-intuitive the better. Again, points deducted for scientific facts taken to be true we now know are wrong.

    3) If the followers of a specific religion seemed to enjoy extreme good fortune - never seemed to be the victims of natural disasters, illnesses, and general bad luck.

    4) If followers of a specific religion were able to bring about miraculous events through prayer. Again, the success rate must be extremely high, and the prayers must be really specific and unlikely to occur anyway. The more so the better.

    5) A direct manifestation of the divine. Ideally in such a way I could be condifent was not a hallucination - for example, a face in the sky over an entire city who coherently answered all questions put to it, and caught on film by every camera pointed at it, so multiple witnesses and mountains of independantly verifiable evidence supported such an occurrance. This I would accept.

    Things I would accept as fairly good, but not absolutely conclusive evidence:

    1) A truly consistent and inerrant holy book. Practically every religion that has a holy book CLAIMS these qualities for it, but all the ones I know need to do abscene amounts of verbal and literary gymnastics to make it look like the book actually meets this criteria.

    2) A religion without internal disputes or factions. If a religion IS thusly split, it rather suggests the meaning it is trying to impart is subjective and not easily proved correct.

    3) A religion whose members have never sanctioned, condoned ot taken part in atrocities. You may say that religion is often corrupted by selfish/sinful people, but if there really is a God, why would He ALLOW that to happen to His genuine religion?

    4) A religion that had a consistent record for winning holy wars.

    5) A religion that was found in an identical form in several cultures which had previously had no contact - eg, if the conquistodores had sailed over to the Americas to find the native people had a religion identical to their own.

    Finally, a list of 'evidence' which I do NOT find convincing at all:

    1) Pseudo-miracles such as speaking in tongues. Things which can be accounted for by the placebo effect, a pressure to conform, the power of suggestion, or wishful thinking such as seeing the image of holy figures in a coffee stain or similar random pattern... stuff like that.

    2) Other people's conversion stories. They may explain the evidence and logic that convinced them, in which case I will evaluate the evidence and logic for myself and maybe THAT will convince me, but just telling me 'they suddenly felt a voice calling to them' or 'they can feel the power of God's love right now' will do nothing to persuade me.

    3) Subjective evidence - if you need to believe in God/a specific religion BEFORE some evidence seems to support it, this is a good sign that objectively it is not evidence at all. Good evidence is objective evidence.

    Does this seem reasonable to you?

    Also, to echo troy's question, what was the evidence that convinced you that Christianity alone was the one true religion? It is a personal question, I grant, so feel free to refuse to answer if you wish...

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  149. Troy- Yes, that should do the trick. Think I'm gullible?

    Not at all. However, any of us can be fooled. All it would take is someone vastly more intelligent with far superior technology.

    Oh, the paradoxes of infinity.

    Can you show me a passage in the bible where it says God is all-knowing? From all I have researched he has the ability to look into the future if he so chooses. He is not forced to in any instance. There are passages which support him not knowing certain things until a certain point. Consistently, he offers people choices, something that would be redundant if he knew in advance their choice and outcome.

    Not very, but then that was then and this is now.

    And in 2000 years now will be then and then people will look back at our time period as one of scientific ignorance.

    But what evidence convinced you that God exists, more specifically the Christian one to the exclusion of all others?

    I will get to that.

    Ritchie-But the synoptic problem shows us that Mark was written before Matthew,

    Although most scholars interpret it that way, that is still a theory. There are actually more than 180 passages and fascinating details that are not found in Matthew and Luke, making it a truly unique account of Jesus’ life. So it may very well have been written after.

    Then the writer had the power to predict that future event. Which would be a miracle in and of itself. But it wouldn't actually make the gospel any more historically reliable.

    I would think if the writer had the power to truly predict a future event then the same source which inspired him to do that would inspire him to write accurate history.

    Bart Ehrman is an exceptional scholar in this field, and is one I particularly trust.

    I will look up his work.

    Fil - Are they? Are you sure about that?


    Ritchie- Well, yes. I am.


    Have you heard of artificial insemination? 2000 years ago that would have been considered a miracle too. Can something be attributed to man that a God could not lay claim to?

    No, people are a complex mix of desires, responsibilities, drives and principles. And sometimes these things conspire to allow for terrible things to happen.

    Sadly, more often than they conspire to allow wonderful things to happen.

    If someone had helped that man who had the heart attack right away, I doubt the incident would never have caught your attention.

    I’m sure that’s true. Unfortunately that’s another indication of the state of society, that bad news sells, and good news often gets the least noticed spot in the paper if it’s there at all. Why does bad news sell more?

    just for failing to say anything at all against it in the Bible.

    Just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean he doesn’t. It encourages respect and equality among men. (Acts 10:34, 35) It exhorts humans to treat others the way that they would like to be treated. (Luke 6:31) Moreover, the Bible encourages Christians humbly to view others as superior, regardless of their social standing. (Philippians 2:3) These principles are totally incongruous with abusive forms of slavery practiced by many nations, especially in recent centuries.

    if people don't fall into accordance with your interpretation of the Bible, then they are not interpreting it 'properly'.

    I guess you need to determine for yourself whether any Christian groups are truly successful nowadays.

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  150. You mean like opposing homosexuality?

    I mean not accepting homosexuality but leaving the judging of it to God. He reserves that right.

    Where are you getting that idea? There is absolutely nothing in the Bible that suggests these laws are specific to any one time and place?

    Ok, let’s start with Deuteronomy 5:1-3, 1 Moses summoned all Israel and said:
    Hear, O Israel, the decrees and laws I declare in your hearing today. Learn them and be sure to follow them. 2 The LORD our God made a covenant with us at Horeb. 3 It was not with our fathers that the LORD made this covenant, but with us, with all of us who are alive here today.

    A covenant between God and Israel ONLY. So the Law was not in existence or in force before this time.

    Psalm 147:19,20 19 He has revealed his word to Jacob,
    his laws and decrees to Israel.
    20 He has done this for no other nation;
    they do not know his laws.
    Praise the LORD.
    Again, to Jacob (Israel) meaning the nation at the time in the scripture above. To no other nation were they made known. So they would not be binding on them in their lands.
    Would the Law end? Romans 7:6,7 6But now we have been (I)released from the Law, having (J)died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in (K)newness of (L)the [a]Spirit and not in oldness of the letter.
    7(M)What shall we say then? Is the Law sin? (N)May it never be! On the contrary, (O)I would not have come to know sin except through the Law; for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, "(P)YOU SHALL NOT COVET."
    They were released from the law to be in the new covenant for Christians inaugurated by Jesus. Notice Paul quoted the 10th commandment. So the entire Law including the 10 commandments were no longer binding. They still had value in principle but not in Law.

    If they could still beat their slaves to death if they wanted, I think that rather suggests it was still below a level of humanity we would find acceptable today.
    It depends where in the world you live I guess. I would find it unacceptable here in Canada yet some don’t. Like I said, there are still millions and millions of slaves today. Also, you think a person owning a slave in Israel might think twice about beating them if it meant their own death if they went too far? In any other civilization then and maybe even since you could kill your slave out of hand with no consequences. Like I said, the Law elevated them above their surrounding neighbors. It was not meant to create a Utopian society…like we live in.

    There are many concepts in the Bible which were accepted at the time, but which we, looking back from an outsider's perspective, can see as immoral - things like slavery, the innate inferiority of women, and corporate guilt (that the punishment of a crime may be shared by the family/nation/tribe of the guilty party, even if they were totally innocent of the crime).

    Slavery exists today. We live in an immoral world.
    Innate inferiority of women was predicted in Genesis to occur. Jesus and his apostles showed that women as just as precious in God’s eyes as men and of equal worth (uncommon in his time).
    Corporate guilt exists today. Many innocent people suffer due to the wickedness of a few.

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  151. It does not relate to a specific law.

    It does relate to their worship of other gods, mentioned immediately preceding your verse. The worship of other gods would inevitably lead them to violate many of the other laws.

    Assuming the Eden story is true, then we all inherit sin directly from our parents, since Adam and Eve were the first couple and passed their guilt onto their descendants.

    Good so far.

    The convenant is an attempt by God to establish a 'chosen people' a lineage of people who have the opportunity to redeem themselves by obeying the laws of the covenant.

    It was there to show that noone could redeem themselves. They needed someone else to redeem them. Think of it this way. Even if you don’t accept the concept of sin I can tell by our discussion you have a strong sense of right and wrong. Can anyone alive now or who has lived since Adam and Eve perfectly control their thoughts and actions so as never to have a bad one from birth until death? We probably agree it’s impossible. I know I don’t even come close. The purpose of the Law was to set up a group of commands set out by God to show that noone could act perfectly their entire life. Since noone could follow them perfectly there then that showed they needed an outside redeemer. Jesus when he came fulfilled the Law. He acted in perfect harmony with the letter and spirit of the Law. Thus showing he was that redeemer needed. He fulfilled the Law and he ended the need for the Law. He set up a new covenant based on loving principles rather than rigid guidelines.

    It is a section from a passage laying out the terms of the covenant in general.

    No. That passage has nothing to do with the Law covenant which was between Israel and God. This is a covenant with David as the representative of his house for a Kingdom. Jesus was in the lineage of David both through his mother in a fleshly sense and his father Joseph in a legal sense.

    In which case, it stops being miracle.

    Not to those who have absolutely no comprehension regarding how it could be done. Your statement also means that if God created the universe that also isn’t a miracle.

    Some things cannot be manipulated.

    So far as you know. Are you being dogmatic about this point?

    Some things, I am sure, are possible, though currently vastly beyond our comprehension. That does not make them genuine miracles, though we might think they were if we actually saw someone performing one of them.

    So what you are saying is that all miracles are impossible or else they aren’t miracles. So if Jesus resurrected the dead either he didn’t use any natural laws, forces, or power….or else he did and it wasn’t a miracle.
    At least we can be pretty sure Alexander the Great really existed, which kinda gives his claims the edge in plausibilty.

    Then obviously his followers did a pretty shoddy job of convincing people of it since noone believes it now.

    If you have to believe BEFORE you recognise the evidence as being evidence, then that kinda shows it is not objectively evidence at all.

    Then same could be said for evolution. Children are told it is true then given facts that are claimed as evidence for it rather than shown the facts and letting them decide what is true. I have a friend who was in high-school during the 1930s. Evolution was taught as a fact even then. Funny that they had little knowledge of genetics and an extremely limited amount of fossils then and yet it was still true!. Belief before evidence(unless you count Piltdown man).

    This took a long time, we really need to keep it to one topic. Give me a few hours to respond to the rest.

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  152. Fil:

    "Can you show me a passage in the bible where it says God is all-knowing?"

    No. I never managed to read an entire bible, let alone memorize passages. It was just too boring and absurd to my taste, no offense. I grew up in an entirely atheistic environment and I was never encouraged to read it as a child.

    Anyway, so you seem to believe that God is not all-knowing. That seems to be a minority opinion among Christians as far as I can tell. Can God be regarded as perfect if he is not omniscient?

    Looking forward to hearing what evidence convinced you.

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  153. No. I never managed to read an entire bible, let alone memorize passages.

    Fair enough.

    It was just too boring and absurd to my taste, no offense.

    None taken.

    That seems to be a minority opinion among Christians as far as I can tell.

    Probably. But a lot of my beliefs are in the minority. I don't believe in the Trinity, immortality of the soul, hellfire, predestination, all good people going to heaven, and in Christs Return being visible the way most Christians do. Somewhere I read you need to jump through hoops to believe the Bible. If you believe the doctrines mentioned above then, yes, you do need to jump through hoops.

    I believe that scripture should interpret scripture. If one is unclear to you then you should use all scriptures that discuus the same idea to reach the appropriate conclusion. I don't believe I have 100% understanding(I never will) but well enough that I am convinced of it's truth.

    Unlike you I was raised in a Christian house. We studied the bible and did the things Christians do(and probably more than most) but I never took it took seriously until I was 19. I realized it was either there is a God or there isn't. When I studied the Sciptures more carefully myself I began to see it's main thread from the book of Genesis right through Revelation about how man turned away from God but he set in motion a purpose immediately to restore our relationship with him. That theme is constant throughout the entire Bible even though it had many writers and was written over centuries. Prophecies played a part. I'm familiar with some modern bible criticisms but I'm also aware that in many areas where scholars used to criticize the Bible the truth eventually came to light through archeological and other discoveries.

    Examples:Animal Life: Lev. 11:6: “The hare . . . is a chewer of the cud.” Though this was long attacked by some critics, the rabbit’s cud chewing was finally observed by Englishman William Cowper in the 18th century. The unusual way in which it is done was described in 1940 in Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London, Vol. 110, Series A, pp. 159-163.

    Example, according to the book of Daniel, the last ruler in Babylon before it fell to the Persians was named Belshazzar. (Daniel 5:1-30) Since there appeared to be no mention of Belshazzar outside the Bible, the charge was made that the Bible was wrong and that this man never existed. But during the 19th century, several small cylinders inscribed in cuneiform were discovered in some ruins in southern Iraq. They were found to include a prayer for the health of the eldest son of Nabonidus, king of Babylon. The name of this son? Belshazzar.

    Example: According to the Bible, Abraham was raised in “Ur of the Chaldeans.” (Genesis 11:27-31; 15:7) For centuries, Ur’s location was a mystery. Critics believed that if it existed at all, it was an insignificant, backward place. Then, to their embarrassment, ruins that lie between Babylon and the Persian Gulf were identified unmistakably to be those of Ur. Thousands of clay tablets unearthed at the site revealed that Ur was a center of world trade, with a large cosmopolitan population. In the time of Abraham, the city even had schools where boys were taught to write and do arithmetic.

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  154. Example:What about Abraham’s victory over Chedorlaomer, king of Elam? In the early 19th century, little was known about the Elamites. Bible critics rejected the idea that Elam ever had influence over Babylonia, let alone Palestine. Now, the Elamites are viewed differently. Archaeology reveals them to have been a powerful warfaring nation. Funk & Wagnalls Standard Reference Encyclopedia states: “The Elamites destroyed the city of Ur about 1950 B.C. . . . Subsequently they exerted considerable influence on the rulers of Babylonia.”
    Furthermore, the names of Elamite kings have been found on archaeological inscriptions. Some of them begin with the expression “Kudur,” similar to “Chedor.” An important Elamite goddess was Lagamar, similar to “laomer.” Thus, Chedorlaomer is now accepted by some secular sources as a historical ruler, his name possibly meaning “Servant of Lagamar.” One set of Babylonian inscriptions has names similar to three of the invading kings—Tudhula (Tidal), Eri-aku (Arioch), and Kudur-lahmil (Chedorlaomer). (Genesis 14:1) In the book Hidden Things of God’s Revelation, Dr. A. Custance adds: “Besides these names were details which seemed to refer to the events which transpired in Babylonia when the Elamites established their sovereignty over the country. . . . So confirmatory of Scripture were these tablets that the Higher Critics jumped on them and did everything in their power to deliberately suppress the significance of them.”

    Example:What about the invasion by the four kings? Is there any archaeological evidence in Transjordan and the Negeb to support this? Yes. In his book The Archaeology of the Land of Israel, Professor Yohanan Aharoni refers to the disappearance of a pre-Israelite civilization that had “impressive” settlements in Transjordan and the Negeb, “around 2000 B.C.E.” Other archaeologists say this happened about 1900 B.C.E. “The pottery of both the Negeb and Transjordan for this period are identical and both show sudden, catastrophic termination of the civilization,” states Dr. Harold Stigers in his Commentary on Genesis. Even Bible critics, such as John Van Seters, accept the evidence for this. “One unsolved problem is where these people went, if anywhere, at the end of the period,” he states in his book Abraham in History and Tradition.
    Genesis chapter 14 provides a possible solution to the problem. According to Bible chronology, Abraham arrived in Canaan in 1943 B.C.E. Chedorlaomer’s destructive invasion must have taken place shortly after that. Later, in that same century, God brought fiery destruction upon the immoral cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. This forever changed the ecology of the once fertile lower Jordan Valley. (Genesis 13:10-13; 19:24, 25) It was no longer the prize of foreign invaders.

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  155. But archaeology has its limitations. The evidence it provides is often indirect and subject to the interpretations of humans. So there are things that it has not yet confirmed and may never confirm. That does not shake my belief that it is true. Critics will be critics and everyone has a bias that affect us.

    That's part of the answer. Now one question for you. Imagine what you stated above happened.
    - if I asked God for a perpetuum mobile in the form of Porsche convertible, and one suddenly appeared in front of my house, and the car keys suddenly appeared in my pockets,
    - and if I asked God to beam me up to Mars, and it would happen without the slightest damage to my health
    - all amputees in the world suddenly grew back their lost limbs on my count of three
    - and so on for a while.


    Then you said.

    Then I might be convinced, although I'd first try to rule out I am dreaming or crazy.

    Now you ruled out being crazy because everyone around you was experiencing the same thing. Would you acknowledge God's existence? And if he told you he created the universe and us and had a plan but you would need to change the way you lived and some of your moral standards(I'm assuming their are different from the bibles in some respect) but you would be guaranteed a happy, eternal life would you go from belief to worship?

    Please either be completely honest after giving it some thought or just say you would rather not answer. Thanks!

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  157. Fil -

    Yes, our posts are getting a bit epic, aren't they? Let me see if I can trim them a bit - let me know if you think I've left out anything relevant.


    ON THE GOSPELS


    The gospels are historically weak evidence. Anonymous, written in the third person and in the style of a story, copied to no negligable degree from each other, curiously unsupported by external sources (where such confirmation may have been expected), occassionally contradictory, and filled with magical events. Even the other books in the Bible don't confirm the events of Jesus' life.


    ON THE MORALITY OF PEOPLE


    You ask why bad events make the news - something I myself considered many times, working for a newspaper. I think partly because tragedies are more dramatic. But alos, they are more shocking - a man having a heart attack and being ignored would should most people, and that's because it jars against our morals. When tragedies are reported and everyone just shrugs their shoulders and says 'So?' THAT is the day we can despair for the morality of humans.


    MORALITY IN THE BIBLE


    You cite New Testament passages apparently calling for equality between men. But the NT was written centuries after the OT. So, for centuries the Israelites had a sanction to beat slaves to death without a restriction to treat them as equals.

    I am under no pressure to make the Bible seem consistent. I think the different books of the Bible were written by different people with different morals and no divine inspiration. As such, there is no reason the books should agree. Some may seem to condone slavery while others stress equality for all. You seem to be in the far more precarious position of not only making the Bible sound good, but CONSISTENTLY so. And if you are merely balancing out the 'bad' passages with contradicting 'good' ones, that doesn't mean the immorality in the Bible is offset - it means the Bible contradicts itself.


    Slavery exists today.


    Indeed it does.


    Innate inferiority of women was predicted in Genesis to occur.


    Predicted? You think the book of Genesis PRE-DATES misogyny?


    Corporate guilt exists today. Many innocent people suffer due to the wickedness of a few.


    That's not quite it. I don't mean bad people can inflict suffering on good people. Corporate guilt is the belief that IT IS JUST to punish the family/tribe/descendants of a criminal for their crimes. If you do me wrong, I can punish your whole family, even if they didn't do anything, just to spite you. For example, the second of the Ten Commandments says: "You shall not bow down to [idols] or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me". How is it just to punish someone's children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren for their crime? Read the Bible again with an eye to people INHERITING guilt from an ancestor, and you will find many examples of this. In one place God even kills a guilty man's infant son INSTEAD of the guilty man (in 2 Samuel 11:2 - 12:18). But today we consider it a cornerstone of justice that the innocent not be punished for the sins of the guilty.

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  161. (cont)


    ON THE JEWISH COVENANT


    As well as giving the Israelites laws to follow, God promised to defend and keep the kingdom of Israel and the dynasty of David. This promise has obviously failed. There is no such kingdom or monarchy today. If I understand you, you say this was not part of the covenant. Perhaps I misunderstand precisely what the covenant is. Nevertheless, God did make the promise, and it plainly has not been kept.

    Whether Jesus was or was not descended from David, there is no kingdom of Israel with a direct descendant of King David as ruler today.


    Jesus was in the lineage of David both through his mother in a fleshly sense and his father Joseph in a legal sense.


    Elaborate please.


    ON MIRACLES


    I believe miracles are violations of natural law. If Jesus ever did a miracle, that means he violated one or more natural laws.


    ON EVOLUTION


    You seem to be advocating 'teaching the controversy'. Which sounds so reasonable, until you realise that to do so is to treat the two as equally legitimate. They are anything but. Evolution is one of best supported theories in all of science. It is science in every sense. Creationism in any form (including ID) simply is not science. It is religious dogma. And to teach the two in science lessons is to give Creationism the air of scientific respectability they crave. And they crave it so much because their idea lacks it entirely.


    ON ARCHAEOLOGY


    The Bible stories, history or myth, are at least set in this world. They incorporate real places, maybe even real people to a degree, but that does not substantiate its supernatural claims any more than London being a real city makes Oliver Twist non-fiction.

    It is true there have been places we once only knew about through the Bible (as thus, took their existence to be less than guaranteed) which we later found. But I think you are over-stressing the importance of these discoveries. They do little to testify to the reliability and historical accuracy of the Bible, given that the Bibles stories are generally about supernatural events in the real world. In fact, many of the Biblical stories may be attempts to explain or account for real events through supernatural explanations. It should therefore be no surprise that some locations and people turn out to be historical, and that alone does nothing to substantiate it's supernatural elements.

    Besides, for the Bible to be historically reliable, archaeology must support ALL of it. And there are many places where this is problematic. For example, the Exodus from Egypt is not merely unevidenced - it is actively contradicted by the archaeological evidence.


    ON EVIDENCE I WOULD ACCEPT


    How did you find my list? Reasonable? Fanciful? I think, looking at the list objectively, it is rather telling that all evidence presented for Christianity, or any other religion, generally comes from the third list - the sort of evidence which isn't really evidence. Are you drawing any conclusions from this?

    Is that shorter? Hope so...

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  162. You seem to be in the far more precarious position of not only making the Bible sound good, but CONSISTENTLY so.

    Funny, I don’t find it precarious at all. I do find it consistent from beginning to end. He dealt with humans within the context of society at the time, not society today. Some things were absolute and remained so, some things changed as time went on and his purpose progressed. So if you look for dealings based on 21 century society you will continue to misunderstand its morality and message. If you choose not to see why God changed his way of dealing with humans over the years then I am at a loss as to what else to tell you regarding that.

    Predicted? You think the book of Genesis PRE-DATES misogyny?

    Since, you don’t accept the supernatural then there’s no point in me explaining.

    Corporate guilt is the belief that IT IS JUST to punish the family/tribe/descendants of a criminal for their crimes. If you do me wrong, I can punish your whole family, even if they didn't do anything, just to spite you.

    It doesn’t exist today? How about in 1945?

    http://www.dannen.com/decision/handy.html

    Nuclear bombs targeting civilian cities. Innocent people killed because their country was at war even if they didn’t agree with it.

    Your examples of genocide and murder in the bible are a joke compared to what humans have done themselves.

    As well as giving the Israelites laws to follow, God promised to defend and keep the kingdom of Israel and the dynasty of David.

    Who broke the covenant first? The Israelites repeatedly broke it and God kept taking them back. He owed them nothing and never broke the Law covenant.

    Whether Jesus was or was not descended from David, there is no kingdom of Israel with a direct descendant of King David as ruler today.

    You are right. There is no earthly kingdom. There is a heavenly one however with Jesus Christ as king. It will last forever. So David’s ancestor actually got a better deal than him. Of course, that’s supernatural so I don’t expect you to believe it.

    I believe miracles are violations of natural law.

    Ok.

    Evolution is one of best supported theories in all of science. It is science in every sense.

    And it rests on abiogenesis being true because you cannot disprove the Law of Biogenesis. If you can’t prove life from non-life then evolution fails because a creator becomes essential as, as you put it, science becomes completely unreliable.

    And to teach the two in science lessons is to give Creationism the air of scientific respectability they crave.

    Can you show me where I’ve advocated teaching creationism in school? I could care less!

    But I think you are over-stressing the importance of these discoveries.

    Am I? Then why is it that bible critics and scholars latched onto these missing places as a way to discredit the Bible? Not due to any basis in truth but because they want the bible to be false!

    Besides, for the Bible to be historically reliable, archaeology must support ALL of it.

    Then the same applies to evolution. I want transitional fossils for all homo sapiens lineage with DNA samples for them all. No interpolating genetics backward in time. I want real, tangible DNA for scientist to analyze in every organism. Archaeology must support every claim you make in an absolute sense, not inferred sense.

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  163. For example, the Exodus from Egypt is not merely unevidenced - it is actively contradicted by the archaeological evidence.

    What evidence? The Palermo stone? The Turin Papyrus? The works of Manetho?

    How did you find my list? Reasonable? Fanciful?

    So you need a supernatural occurrence to make you believe in the supernatural. Ok. If you are comfortable with it I propose the same question to you that I did to Troy.


    Now you ruled out being crazy because everyone around you was experiencing the same thing. Would you acknowledge God's existence? And if he told you he created the universe and us and had a plan but you would need to change the way you lived and some of your moral standards(I'm assuming their are different from the bibles in some respect) but you would be guaranteed a happy, eternal life would you go from belief to worship?

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  164. Fil:

    "Now you ruled out being crazy because everyone around you was experiencing the same thing. Would you acknowledge God's existence?"

    I said as much. Yes. Not the Christian God, but a God.

    "And if he told you he created the universe and us and had a plan but you would need to change the way you lived and some of your moral standards(I'm assuming their are different from the bibles in some respect) but you would be guaranteed a happy, eternal life would you go from belief to worship? "

    No. Why should I worship the big boss? I wouldn't change my moral values just because he says so. To make eternal life conditional on blind "befehl ist befehl" sounds like blackmail to me.

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  165. Ok, thanks for the answer Troy.

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  166. Fil -


    Funny, I don’t find it precarious at all. I do find it consistent from beginning to end.


    You find it consistent to say you can beat a slave to death, and then say things like 'thou shalt not kill', or stress respect for fellow men?


    He dealt with humans within the context of society at the time, not society today. Some things were absolute and remained so, some things changed as time went on and his purpose progressed.


    If some of His laws and commandments aren't objective, how do we know any of them are? How do we know the condemnation of, say, homosexuality wasn't, like with slavery, just God dealing with us in the context of our society, and that it is perfectly acceptable in our 21st century society? Likewise with abortion, sex before marriage, or anything, really. Surely the conclusion of this logic is that the Bible is no longer morally relevant for us - not a conclusion I would disagree with.


    It doesn’t exist today? How about in 1945?


    I am not saying it doesn't happen today. Atrocities do happen, and always have done. But is it just to punish the innocent for the sins of the guilty? Is a relationship to a person enough to justify you sharing the guilt of their crimes? I know of no-one who would agree so, yet it is a concept found explicitly throughout the Bible. How do you square this? It seems to me you can either deny the Bible advocates this (an extremely tough challenge seeing as it blatantly does), or you can deny it is unjust (possibly an even more difficult option).


    You are right. There is no earthly kingdom. There is a heavenly one however with Jesus Christ as king.


    Oh, I see! You don't find that a bit of a cop-out 'That's not what I meant'-after-being-proved-wrong explanation? Is there, anywhere in the Old Testament, a hint that that is what God 'really' meant? Is there anything which suggests he did not mean anything other than a literal, Earthly kingdom?


    And it rests on abiogenesis being true because you cannot disprove the Law of Biogenesis.


    We COULD disprove it. We just haven't yet.


    If you can’t prove life from non-life then evolution fails because a creator becomes essential as, as you put it, science becomes completely unreliable.


    Yep, and we're working on it, with scientific experiments yielding real results. (btw, even if abiogenesis was proved impossible, that would not mean a creator did it. The creator hypothesis has to stand on its own evidence, not just claim to be the default answer if/when competing theories fail.)


    Am I? Then why is it that bible critics and scholars latched onto these missing places as a way to discredit the Bible? Not due to any basis in truth but because they want the bible to be false!


    Exactly the same criticism could be made of Christian Biblical scholars (of which, understandably, most are) who want the Bible to be true.

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  167. (cont)


    What evidence? The Palermo stone? The Turin Papyrus? The works of Manetho?


    The rich archaeological record we have which does not allow a window for the centuries of utter societal collapse which must surely have followed the string of disasters which hit Egypt during the Exodus, according to the Bible.


    Then the same applies to evolution. I want transitional fossils for all homo sapiens lineage with DNA samples for them all.


    That is simply an unreasonable demand. Fossilization is a rare occurrence. We should not expect every species to be represented in it - or anywhere near that mark.


    Would you acknowledge God's existence?


    IF one or more of the criteria on my first list was met (or several of my second), then yes I think I probably would.


    And if he told you he created the universe and us and had a plan but you would need to change the way you lived and some of your moral standards(I'm assuming their are different from the bibles in some respect) but you would be guaranteed a happy, eternal life would you go from belief to worship?


    Well, I suppose yes I would - but conditionally. Firstly I wouldn't want to simply be told what was right or wrong. I would want Him/Her/It to explain WHY something is good or bad. Likewise, I might believe claims to have done amazing things such as creating the universe, but I would want Him/Her/It to explain how. Finally I would want to know why such a being requires worship. Presumably they know how amazing they are already. Are they really so vain that they want to be told it forever by beings who are so vastly inferior than themselves?

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  168. Sorry this may be really long. I know, I’m the one who said we need to keep it short. ;)

    You find it consistent to say you can beat a slave to death, and then say things like 'thou shalt not kill', or stress respect for fellow men?

    You quoted "When a man strikes his slave, male or female, with a rod and the slave dies under his hand, he shall be punished. But if the slave survives a day or two, he is not to be punished; for the slave is his money." Exodus 21:20-21 (RSV)

    What is the punishment if he dies under his hand? The Contemporary English version rendering of the same verses is:

    20Death is the punishment for beating to death any of your slaves. 21However, if the slave lives a few days after the beating, you are not to be punished. After all, you have already lost the services of that slave who was your property.

    So if a slave was beaten and died under his hand, basically the same day in contrast with him surviving a day or two, then the master who beat him was put to death as well. I’m not into fighting but I figure you must have to beat someone pretty bad to actually kill them or beat them so bad that they die within a day or two. It’s not just a simple punch or smack with a rod. I would also think that emotions would have to be pretty high. How many people would risk trying to beat someone so bad that they would die within a day or two but not so bad that they would die that day? That is a REALLY fine line. They would have to really think twice because THEIR LIFE was literally on the line in this situation.

    Exodus 21:26,27 says26"If a man strikes the eye of his male or female slave, and destroys it, he shall let him go free on account of his eye.
    27"And if he knocks out a tooth of his male or female slave, he shall let him go free on account of his tooth. (NASB)

    If a master beat the slave and knocked out his tooth, or destroyed the eye of his slave, the slave gained his freedom. The owner lost the money he had spend on him.

    Exodus 21:2 says 2"If you buy (A)a Hebrew slave, he shall serve for six years; but on the seventh he shall go out as a free man without payment.

    So if they sold themselves into slavery to another Hebrew then after 6 years they gained their freedom.

    Deuteronomy 15:13-15 says 13"When you set him free, you shall not send him away empty-handed.
    14"You shall furnish him liberally from your flock and from your threshing floor and from your wine vat; you shall give to him as the LORD your God has blessed you.
    15"You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God redeemed you; therefore I command you this today.

    So when the slave went free the master had to give him a gift to assist him on his way.

    Deuteronomy 15:16-17 says 16"It shall come about (A)if he says to you, 'I will not go out from you,' because he loves you and your household, since he fares well with you;
    17then you shall take an awl and pierce it through his ear into the door, and he shall be your servant forever. Also you shall do likewise to your maidservant.

    So if the slave enjoyed working for his master and was well taken care of he could make the choice to stay indefinitely. That would guarantee his being taken care of for life.

    Exodus 20:10 says 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates.

    Menservants, both bonded servants which are slaves and hired servants which aren’t, were given the Sabbath to rest. They were not forced to work long, brutal hours day after day non-stop.

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  169. Leviticus 25:49 says 49or his uncle, or his uncle's son, may redeem him, or one of his blood relatives from his family may redeem him; or (A)if he prospers, he may redeem himself.

    He could buy himself out of slavery.

    So you see, slavery had strong restrictions on it unlike that of many other nations. Owners could not arbitrarily deal with their slaves in any manner without repercussions.

    Lastly, once again. Deuteronomy 5:1-3 1Then Moses summoned all Israel and said to them: "Hear, O Israel, the statutes and the ordinances which I am speaking today in your hearing, that you may learn them and observe them carefully.
    2"The LORD our God made (A)a covenant with us at Horeb.
    3"(B)The LORD did not make this covenant with our fathers, but with us, with all those of us alive here today.

    The Law Covenant was only for Israel. Once the Law Covenant was made obsolete there was no provision for slavery any longer, by Israel or anyone else.

    I’ll be honest. Slavery is distasteful. I’d never condone it now and the Bible doesn’t. But you are looking at it based on 21st century society. If we lived back then our perspective would have been different.

    While we are at it:

    What were the Caananite nations displaced by Israel like? Halley Bible Handbook says, In the debris of one of these “high places” of Canaanite times, archaeologists “found great numbers of jars containing the remains of children who had been sacrificed to Baal. The whole area proved to be a cemetery for new-born babes.” Also found were “enormous quantities of images and plaques of Ashtoreth with rudely exaggerated sex organs, designed to foster sensual feelings. So, Canaanites worshiped, by immoral indulgence, as a religious rite, in the presence of their gods; and then, by murdering their first-born children, as a sacrifice to these same gods.”—Pages 166, 167.

    Is that better than Israel?

    I asked: Would you expect him to make the Israelites an enlightened peace loving country like the United States or Canada?


    Ritchie said: Why not? What is so ridiculous about this prospect?

    Funny how these countries came into existence by almost committing genocide too.
    Funny how in the United States “In 2000, 1.31 million abortions took place, down from an estimated 1.36 million in 1996. From 1973 through 2000, more than 39 million legal abortions occurred.”
    Only recently has Congress passed the ‘Unborn Victims of Violence Act.’ God passed that law in Exodus 21:22-23 ‘ 22 "If men who are fighting hit a pregnant woman and she gives birth prematurely [a] but there is no serious injury, the offender must be fined whatever the woman's husband demands and the court allows. 23 But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life’

    How’s that for well ahead of it’s time? Now, if you assume God should have based everything on modern society, how about this?

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  170. Deuteronomy 23:12,13 12 Designate a place outside the camp where you can go to relieve yourself. 13 As part of your equipment have something to dig with, and when you relieve yourself, dig a hole and cover up your excrement.

    Should God be condemned for not teaching them about modern plumbing? After all, wouldn’t the God who created everything know plumbing is better?
    Context, context, context. Without that any understanding of why they were given the Law is impossible. That’s also why the Law was temporary and led to the Christ so a permanent covenant based on principles would come into existence and function forever.

    How do we know the condemnation of, say, homosexuality wasn't, like with slavery, just God dealing with us in the context of our society

    Homosexuality was directly spoken of by Paul in the New Testament. It is a requirement for Christians from that point on. Society may accept it today but God doesn’t and neither does any true Christian. It existed back then as well but the early Christians didn’t campaign to get it abolished, neither do I.

    But is it just to punish the innocent for the sins of the guilty

    You are quoting Exodus 34:4-7 6 And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, "The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, 7 maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation."

    Can I say context again? That chapter is discussing what the entire nation was responsible to God for. If the fathers disobeyed and God left them because of it the sons and generations following would suffer for their fathers sins. You can find example after example of this in the Bible. Children are affected by their parent’s actions. For example, let’s say I work for you and I have 4 kids. The economy is really tough and the odds of me finding another job are slim to none. Then you find out I am stealing from you! Do you keep me on because I have 4 kids to feed or do you fire me? My children did nothing wrong but suffer the consequences of my actions. They may go hungry, end up on the street or any number of things. Do the go to you and ask you why you are punishing them?

    That differs from personal responsibility which is mentioned at Ezekiel 18:20. Once again CONTEXT.

    You don't find that a bit of a cop-out 'That's not what I meant'-after-being-proved-wrong explanation?

    Did you honestly think I didn’t know where this was headed?

    Is there, anywhere in the Old Testament, a hint that that is what God 'really' meant?

    Psalm 110 (quotations mine)
    1 The LORD(God) says to my Lord(Jesus):
    "Sit at my right hand
    until I make your enemies
    a footstool for your feet."
    2 The LORD will extend your mighty scepter from Zion;
    you will rule in the midst of your enemies.
    3 Your troops will be willing
    on your day of battle.
    Arrayed in holy majesty,
    from the womb of the dawn
    you will receive the dew of your youth. [a]
    4 The LORD has sworn
    and will not change his mind:
    "You are a priest forever,
    in the order of Melchizedek."
    5 The Lord is at your right hand;
    he will crush kings on the day of his wrath.
    6 He will judge the nations, heaping up the dead
    and crushing the rulers of the whole earth.
    7 He will drink from a brook beside the way [b] ;
    therefore he will lift up his head.

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  171. Referenced to at Acts 2
    29"Brothers, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day. 30But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne. 31Seeing what was ahead, he spoke of the resurrection of the Christ,[f] that he was not abandoned to the grave, nor did his body see decay. 32God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact. 33Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear. 34For David did not ascend to heaven, and yet he said,
    " 'The Lord said to my Lord:
    "Sit at my right hand
    35until I make your enemies
    a footstool for your feet." '[g]
    The book of Acts explaining that prophecy from the Psalms as applying to Jesus.

    And it rests on abiogenesis being true because you cannot disprove the Law of Biogenesis.


    We COULD disprove it. We just haven't yet.


    I could make it as a NBA player. I just haven’t yet.
    Until you prove you CAN do something you can’t do it. It’s just bluster.

    even if abiogenesis was proved impossible, that would not mean a creator did it.
    So, when it’s proved impossible, what other options do you have?

    Exactly the same criticism could be made of Christian Biblical scholars (of which, understandably, most are) who want the Bible to be true.

    The point was not motivation of the scholars, Christian or non-Christian. The point was use of evidence. Christian scholars did not use biblical locations to say, ‘Hey look we are right!’, until non-Christian ones began saying that places and people never existed because we have no archeological proof. So when archeology then discovers something it is proper to say you were wrong in saying Pilate never existed for example.

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  172. The rich archaeological record we have which does not allow a window for the centuries of utter societal collapse which must surely have followed the string of disasters which hit Egypt during the Exodus, according to the Bible.

    During WWI Germany lost 15.1% of its active male population. The economy was devastated. Hyper inflation occurred. Things were brutal. How many centuries before they were able to be a serious power on the world scene again?

    That is simply an unreasonable demand.

    So was yours. Not every city gets rediscovered. Not every person in history, regardless of who they are has papers and inscriptions just waiting to be found.

    I would want Him/Her/It to explain WHY something is good or bad.

    The bible will give you a good indication if you approach it honestly. Isa 48:17,18 says, 17 This is what the LORD says—
    your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel:
    "I am the LORD your God,
    who teaches you what is best for you,
    who directs you in the way you should go.
    18 If only you had paid attention to my commands,
    your peace would have been like a river,
    your righteousness like the waves of the sea.

    But like children we don’t always see what’s best for out long term benefit. History has proved that time and again. It’s like a child who wants just cookies. He can’t understand why he can’t have that for dinner. But as adults we know that just eating junk food is detrimental to long term health. Sometimes listening to God involves faith, just like a child has faith in his parents, but long term it always turns out well.

    Are they really so vain that they want to be told it forever by beings who are so vastly inferior than themselves?

    People worship sports stars, movie stars, music stars, money and so many other things. People stand in awe of a beautiful painting or piece of music crafted recently or centuries ago and we marvel at the creativity and ability of the crafter. Don’t those things pale into insignificance when you marvel at the complexity, intricacy and beauty of our earth and the universe? Especially since none of those things gave you the ability to walk, breathe and think with the depth that we have. If he exists then to worship him is completely rational.

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  173. Ritchie, if instead of replying to everything(because that would take a while) pick the point you disagree with the most(that may be a hard choice too) and we'll focus on that then come backs to the rest.

    ReplyDelete
  174. Fil -


    Sorry this may be really long. I know, I’m the one who said we need to keep it short. ;)


    Lol, no probs.


    ON SLAVERY


    I get that you think the Bible is making the condition of slavery better for the Israelites. Though I have to say I think you are seeing it through rose-tinted glasses. For example, you quoted Exodus 21:2, but read on until Exodus 21:6 and you will find a slave may indeed go free after six years - but if they had a wife and children in that time, the wife and children would NOT go free. Effectively the wife and child are thus hostage. While Exodus 21:7-11 makes it clear that female slaves are not to enjoy this six year freedom opportunity as male slaves are.

    But be that as it may, my point is that it is the very concept of slavery itself that today we find so distateful - owning another human being as property. Is it, or is it not acceptable to consider another human being as property? I cannot think of a moral argument for the affirmative. Yet the Bible condones it. Why does it not just explicitly condemn it? In my mind, if it was a genuine manual of morals, it should have.

    On the Canaanites sacrificing children you ask: "Is that better than Israel?" To which I would answer, no. I find the idea of child sacrifice distasteful in the extreme. But I am not arguing that the ancient Israelites were more depraved than their neighbours - merely that the Bible condones moral concepts that we have outgrown and come to condemn, and thus is no longer a reliable moral guide for us in the 21st century.


    YOU: Would you expect him to make the Israelites an enlightened peace loving country like the United States or Canada?

    ME: Why not? What is so ridiculous about this prospect?

    YOU: Funny how these countries came into existence by almost committing genocide too.


    If you are referring to the slaughter of the native Americans, how do we view this genocide today? With pride? As a necessary evil? Or as a national disgrace?

    (Perhaps it is a cheek to say 'we' seeing as I'm not actually American...)


    Funny how in the United States “In 2000, 1.31 million abortions took place,


    This is not equivocal. Genocide is the extermination (or the attempt of one) of a race of people. Abortion is the termination of foetuses each for individual reasons. Perhaps the child was a product of rape. Perhaps it was likely to be deformed. Perhaps pregnancy was a significant health risk to the mother. Whatever the case, abortion is not equivocal to genocide.


    Deuteronomy 23:12,13 12 Designate a place outside the camp where you can go to relieve yourself...

    Should God be condemned for not teaching them about modern plumbing? After all, wouldn’t the God who created everything know plumbing is better?


    An amusing aside. Though I notice you omit the verse which follows: "14 For the LORD thy God walketh in the midst of thy camp, to deliver thee, and to give up thine enemies before thee; therefore shall thy camp be holy: that he see no unclean thing in thee, and turn away from thee."

    The reason given for burying excrement is that God might come walking by and He would be offended at such a sight. Isn't God everywhere? And why would He be offended by a natural function He presumably 'designed' us to perform?

    There is no mention that excrement is unhealthy for us, or that it might cause sickness or disease - just that it might offend God when He comes strolling by. A sensible precaution attributed to utterly bizarre and nonsensical reasons.


    Homosexuality was directly spoken of by Paul in the New Testament. It is a requirement for Christians from that point on.


    And slavery was condoned explicitly in the Bible. We no longer see that as having any moral relevance for us today. Why should we with regard to homosexuality?

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  175. (cont)


    ON CORPORAL PUNISHMENT

    You are quoting Exodus 34:4-7 6


    I am in fact quoting Exodus 20:5, which makes it clear that God will deliberately punish the descendants of anyone who worships an idol.

    This is not merely a warning that descendants of a wrong-doer will suffer consequences - like the children of a thief going hungry because their father gets fired for stealing at work. No, this is God explicitly declaring that He will punish the descendants of an idol-worshipper for their ancestor's deeds.


    ME: Is there, anywhere in the Old Testament, a hint that that is what God 'really' meant?


    You referenced a passage from Psalms, but I did not see any explicit refernece to David's kingdom being transfered to Heaven, or anything similar. You also cited a passage from Acts which can be discounted for being part of the New Testament, not the Old.


    I could make it as a NBA player. I just haven’t yet.
    Until you prove you CAN do something you can’t do it. It’s just bluster.


    A reasonable point. But notice you are invoking the God of the Gaps logic - claiming the right to assume a mystery is the handiwork of God until science can produce a naturalistic explanation.

    Gods/spirits/demons/ghosts have always been invoked to explain things humans don't understand, from the weather to illnesses, to the seasons, to magnetism, to pregnancy. And such explanations have always eventually been shown to be wrong. Every mystery ever solved has always turned out to have a natural explanation. Why should we expect this one to be any different?


    So, when it’s proved impossible, what other options do you have?


    Ignoring the presumptuous 'when'... how about random chance? The idea that the first living thing just happened to spontaneously appear. Possible. Or how about the idea of life as a brute fact - always existing in one form or another. Let me stress I am not advocating these ideas as likely, merely demonstrating that disparaging one theory is not sufficient to support a competing one. ID would not in any way be de facto supported if (by some truly freakish happenstance) the theory of evolution came tumbling down tomorrow.


    The point was not motivation of the scholars, Christian or non-Christian. The point was use of evidence. Christian scholars did not use biblical locations to say, ‘Hey look we are right!’, until non-Christian ones began saying that places and people never existed because we have no archeological proof. So when archeology then discovers something it is proper to say you were wrong in saying Pilate never existed for example.


    To be honest, I find this assertion quite a tenuous one. Who exactly were these non-Christians who said 'these places never existed'? Because such a statement seems wholly irrational to me. There may well have been people who said: 'We have no reason to believe these places existed' (concluding that the Bible's say-so is indeed not reliable evidence). That I can accept. And it seems a rational (if, in the end, incorrect) position to me.

    Though again, it is important to remember that the discovery of, say a Biblical town no more proves the supernatual stories that took place there than the discovery of Troy proves the supernatural claims of the Illiad.

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  176. (cont)


    During WWI Germany lost 15.1% of its active male population. The economy was devastated. Hyper inflation occurred. Things were brutal. How many centuries before they were able to be a serious power on the world scene again?


    The speed of economic recovery in a 20th century nation is quite different to the total collapse of a civilisation in ancient times. If the Bible is to be believed, when Moses took the Jews from Egypt, the livestock were dead, the orchards were smashed, the crops were eaten or infected by the plagues of locusts, flies and frogs, the one source of fresh water was polluted, the pharoah and entire standing army were dead, the population riddled with boils and suffering at least one death in every family, and the slave population upon whom the economy depended had vanished overnight with nothing to replace it, looting all the treaure as they went. There would simply have been nothing of Egypt left. It totally defies credulity that Egypt stayed afloat, let alone reigned as the superpower of the mediterranean.


    So was yours. Not every city gets rediscovered. Not every person in history, regardless of who they are has papers and inscriptions just waiting to be found.


    I think you misunderstand me. I was not suggesting that every city and person in the Bible needs positive archaeological evidence. I meant that no archaeological evidence should contradict it.


    The bible will give you a good indication if you approach it honestly


    That is not what I see. I see a passage CLAIMING that God (ie, the one depicted in the Bible) knows best. Such a claim is meaningless. It is like a person saying: 'Trust me. I am trustworthy'.


    But like children we don’t always see what’s best for out long term benefit. History has proved that time and again. It’s like a child who wants just cookies. He can’t understand why he can’t have that for dinner. But as adults we know that just eating junk food is detrimental to long term health.


    We do not know the nutritional value of cookies because God told us it. We know it because people sat down and worked it out.

    Yes, human beings have their follies and foibles. But we are also responsible for our greatest achievements. We are capable of so much. And yes, that potential often gets wasted, or worse, misdirected. But it is the greatest insult to the intellectual pioneers of the human race to claim that the greatest truths are to be found by idly sitting around praying for them.


    People worship sports stars, movie stars, music stars, money and so many other things. People stand in awe of a beautiful painting or piece of music crafted recently or centuries ago and we marvel at the creativity and ability of the crafter. Don’t those things pale into insignificance when you marvel at the complexity, intricacy and beauty of our earth and the universe?


    Again, they are not comparable. We may admire movie or sports stars, works of art or music may inspire us, but none of these things actively demand our grovelling worship.

    What is the use of spending a lifetime on your knees? It is a waste for you, and I can't see that it would be much use to God either.


    If he exists then to worship him is completely rational.


    That's a truly titanic 'IF'. *IF* Allah exists, it is perfectly rational to worship Him. *IF* Vishnu exists, it is perfectly rational to worship Him. *IF* Zeus exists, it is perfectly rational to worship Him. There are, in fact, a practically infinite variety of gods that MIGHT exist. Worshipping, and following the dictates of them all would be virtually impossible in a practical sense. How do you know you have the right one?

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  177. Though I have to say I think you are seeing it through rose-tinted glasses.

    No I see it for what it was, acceptable in it’s time, then done away with by God himself.

    but if they had a wife and children in that time, the wife and children would NOT go free. Effectively the wife and child are thus hostage.

    Note the words, in that time, so he did not have to accept a wife and have children if he chose not to. If he did he knew what would result. I personally would wait I think.

    While Exodus 21:7-11 makes it clear that female slaves are not to enjoy this six year freedom opportunity as male slaves are.

    Female slaves were to be concubines or wives. That was a more permanent arrangement. But notice in those verses you mentioned it says, 10 If he marries another woman, he must not deprive the first one of her food, clothing and marital rights. 11 If he does not provide her with these three things, she is to go free, without any payment of money.

    She had rights.

    Yet the Bible condones it.

    You obviously keep skipping over the part where I discuss it was only for the Israelites and only while the Law Covenant was in force so until you can get that or challenge my comments above then this point is moot. FYI read, Jeremiah 31:31-33 to help you out some more with that.

    merely that the Bible condones moral concepts that we have outgrown and come to condemn,

    Hmmmm…..yeah. We live in such a moral world.

    If you are referring to the slaughter of the native Americans, how do we view this genocide today? With pride? As a necessary evil? Or as a national disgrace?

    Hmmmm…..yeah. We haven’t had any genocides in the last 100 or even 20 years because we live in such a moral world.

    This is not equivocal. Genocide is the extermination (or the attempt of one) of a race of people. Abortion is the termination of foetuses each for individual reasons. Perhaps the child was a product of rape. Perhaps it was likely to be deformed. Perhaps pregnancy was a significant health risk to the mother. Whatever the case, abortion is not equivocal to genocide.

    You are right. It’s worse. More lives have been taken in abortion that in any genocide that has ever taken place. Plus, you just showed you can rationalize the taking of lives too.

    A sensible precaution attributed to utterly bizarre and nonsensical reasons.

    A fine way for God to help keep his people clean physically and healthier. Physical cleanliness is linked to holiness. Is that wrong? Would you expect otherwise? There are countries today that could learn a lesson from that. Even where I live in Canada a lot of people are pigs hygienically.

    And slavery was condoned explicitly in the Bible. We no longer see that as having any moral relevance for us today. Why should we with regard to homosexuality?

    Can you show me where in the bible homosexuality was ever condoned?

    I am in fact quoting Exodus 20:5, which makes it clear that God will deliberately punish the descendants of anyone who worships an idol.

    You are quoting it but your interpretation is incorrect. To support it can you give me any examples? I can give you plenty for mine.

    You referenced a passage from Psalms, but I did not see any explicit refernece to David's kingdom being transfered to Heaven, or anything similar.

    I will requote that verse and ask you two questions. Psalm 110:1
    The LORD says to my Lord:
    "(B)Sit at My right hand
    Until I make (C)Your enemies a footstool for Your feet."

    Who is the narrator. Who is the LORD and who is the Lord?

    Why should we expect this one to be any different?

    Just going back to strictly complexity (not scale) ….what would you consider to be more complex and why? The universe excluding life? Or all the variety of life we see on this single planet?

    Ignoring the presumptuous 'when'... how about random chance?

    That’s what abiogenesis is. You have two options. Chance or design. One or the other.

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  178. Who exactly were these non-Christians who said 'these places never existed'?

    Example. In the Bible, Sargon was mentioned as king of Assyria (Isaiah 20:1). Sargon's name was not found in ancient literature. This caused critical scholars to say that Sargon never existed.6 They believed that the Bible was wrong.
    6 George L. Robinson, The Bearing of Archaeology on the Old Testament (New York: American Tract Society, 1941) (Ch. 4, n.27), p. 96, cited by Joseph P. Free, Archaeology and Bible History (Wheaton: Scripture Press, 1956), p. 200.
    Finegan, Light from the Ancient Past, p. 209.

    I’d assume that getting books from the late 18th, early 19th century from bible critics on these matters would be challenging but that’s one example I found.

    The speed of economic recovery in a 20th century nation is quite different to the total collapse of a civilisation in ancient times.

    Very EARLY 20th century. Yet wikipedia says Germany was in fact doing remarkably well after its hyper-inflation of 1923, and was once more one of the world's largest economies. Wow. The war had been over for only 5 years…..pretty good.

    There would simply have been nothing of Egypt left. It totally defies credulity that Egypt stayed afloat, let alone reigned as the superpower of the mediterranean.

    It defies credulity that we are here. Yet we are.
    Here’s a good read on the Exodus. It’s pretty long though.
    http://www.scribd.com/doc/3249516/Amenhotep-II-and-the-Historicity-of-the-Exodus-Pharaoh

    But it is the greatest insult to the intellectual pioneers of the human race to claim that the greatest truths are to be found by idly sitting around praying for them.

    Really. I wasn’t aware that that it was only since Darwin that humans had been searching for great truths. Are you saying everything before then was irrelevant? That all those theistic scientists, inventors and engineers just sat around praying? Nice strawman.

    We may admire movie or sports stars, works of art or music may inspire us, but none of these things actively demand our grovelling worship.

    Sure they do. The entertainment business depends on it. God on the other hand doesn’t want or expect groveling. The Bible depicts it as a Father-son relationship.

    How do you know you have the right one?

    The evidence convinces me. If you equate the evidence from the Bible about God to the evidence for Zeus’ god-ship then you are not just a skeptic, you are a willful unbeliever. I’m not trying to say that in a derogatory way but it makes me doubt that anything, even the points you listed above, would change your mind.

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  179. Fil -


    No I see it for what it was, acceptable in it’s time...


    Slavery was acceptable at the time, yes. And that perfectly explains why it was condoned in the Bible if the Bible is merely the work of mortal men - they just didn't see anything wrong with it! It is much harder to swallow the idea that an all-knowing, benevolent, moral deity oversaw this book which condoned slavery rather than condemns it.


    ...then done away with by God himself.


    Pardon? Slavery was done away with by God? Did God Himself manifest and tell slaveholders all to stop it? Did God send us an amendment or epilogue for the Bible with new moral instructions? How can you possibly attribute the end of slavery (in the west, for as you point out, it is still rife in many countries) to God?

    Of course I accept that there were Christians such as William Wilberforce in the American abolitionist movement (though there were also freethinkers such as Abner Kneeland) but the slaveholders they were opposing were also explicitly Christian. The Southern Baptist Convention, for example, was formed expressly to defend the continued practise of slavery. They held that the Bible expressly condones slavery - and the thing is, they were right! Morally of course, the abolitionists (who were both religious and secular) were correct and thank goodness they triumphed, but theologically the slaveholders were right. If you lived at the time and didn't know who to support and consulted your Bible as a moral guide, you would surely have sided with the slaveholders!


    Note the words, in that time, so he did not have to accept a wife and have children if he chose not to. If he did he knew what would result. I personally would wait I think.


    Why should you have to?


    She had rights.


    Woefully few and rather backward ones. A man could sell his daughter into slavery if he chose, and she had no say in it (Exodus 21:7-11). A raped woman was to marry her rapist - again, no say in the matter (Deuteronomy 22:28-29), even if he was an invader who had killed her family (Deuteronomy 21:10-14).

    Again, like with the slavery laws you can point to the few concessions women had and try to make out that their lot wasn't so bad, but this is just an attempt to whitewash history. However many rights or concessions they had slaves were still slaves - allowed even to be beaten to death, and women were property to be sold into slavery, openly raped or forced into marriage, and her wishes counted for nothing.

    If you are making the case that these Biblical concessions *improved* the lives of slaves and/or women, then that point is simply moot. The concessions are relevant only to their time and culture. And the bottom line is that the Bible is out-dated and should not be consulted as a moral guide on these issues today. And if so on these, how many other issues is it outdated on?


    You obviously keep skipping over the part where I discuss it was only for the Israelites and only while the Law Covenant was in force so until you can get that or challenge my comments above then this point is moot.


    How is that relevant? The Bible never condemns slavery. Even Jesus, who speaks out against kosher dining laws and prohibitions of working on the Sabbath, has nothing at all to say against slavery, and even works it into a parable as if it were perfectly ordinary and acceptable, favourably comparing God to a slaveholder who beats his slaves for disobedience (Luke 12:46-47).


    Hmmmm…..yeah. We live in such a moral world.


    I don't pretend the world is perfect. Clearly there are immoral people and immoral acts. But the Bible will not help us to become moral people if it condones barbaric institutions like slavery.

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  180. (cont)


    Hmmmm…..yeah. We haven’t had any genocides in the last 100 or even 20 years because we live in such a moral world.


    Pick whichever genocide you like. I notice you dodged my question. How are genocides viewed? With pride? As necessary evils? Or with shame? If the latter, again, the Bible is no good moral guide to correct such behaviour, considering all the genocides cheerfully carried out and explicitly ordered by God.


    You are right. It’s worse. More lives have been taken in abortion that in any genocide that has ever taken place. Plus, you just showed you can rationalize the taking of lives too.


    For one thing you are dodging the issue. Genocide is an atrocity, and the fact that so many are ordered or condoned in the Bible marks the Bible out as highly immoral.

    For another, I disagree with your assessment of abortion. Under certain circumstances I can absolutely agree that termination is the best course of action. You may disagree, but that is just you and me. What does the Bible have to say?

    Curiously, the Bible is not nearly as anti-abortion as the religious right makes out. I know of no passages which condemns it explicitly. The way I understand it, the argument is usually that from the moment of conception a foetus is to be considered a person, and therefore an abortion is murder. But this logic is not found in the Bible either.

    Numbers 5 maintains that if a man suspects his wife has become pregnant through infidelity, he can make her to drink a potion to force a miscarriage. How is this to be squared with the view that the Bible condemns abortion? Also, Numbers, starting in verse 3:15, tells of a census God ordered among the Israelities - in which children under a month old were not to be counted. A sensible precaution in a society where infant mortality was sky-high, but it hardly fits with this image of foetuses counting as people. Exodus 21:22 says that if men fight and happen to injure a pregnant woman, the guilty man will be put to death if the woman dies, but only fined if she just miscarries. Then there is the story in Genesis 38 of a man who was so furious that his daughter-in-law was pregnant (proof of her infidelity) that he ordered her to be killed, with no indication he would wait for the child to be born. The unborn child did not seem to bother him at all.

    Can we really conclude the Bible is anti-abortion?


    A fine way for God to help keep his people clean physically and healthier. Physical cleanliness is linked to holiness. Is that wrong?


    I don't think cleanliness is wrong. But why didn't God say 'Keep yourselves clean and it will make you healthier' rather than 'Keep yourselves clean because I might come strolling by and effluence offends my delicate sensibilities'?


    Can you show me where in the bible homosexuality was ever condoned?


    You miss my point. The Bible's views on slavery are culturally-specific and now outdated. What makes us think the Bible's views on homosexuality aren't likewise culturally-specific and now outdated?


    You are quoting it but your interpretation is incorrect.


    How else am I to interpret "I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;" It seems pretty clear to me.

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  181. (cont)


    To support it can you give me any examples?


    Okay,
    The LORD had fast closed up all the wombs of the house of Abimelech, because of Sarah Abraham's wife. (Genesis 20:18)
    A bastard shall not enter into the congregation of the LORD; even to his tenth generation shall he not enter into the congregation of the LORD. (Deuteronomy 23:2)
    Their blood shall therefore return upon the head of Joab, and upon the head of his seed for ever. (1 Kings 2:33)
    Prepare slaughter for his children for the iniquity of their fathers. (Isaiah 14:21)
    Wherefore hath the Lord pronounced all this great evil against us? ... Because your fathers have forsaken me, saith the Lord. (Jeremiah 16:10-11)
    And my personal favourite - God punishes King David by killing his infant son (Samuel 11:2 - 12:18) - another telling passage on the Bible's attitude to abortion and killing children...


    The LORD says to my Lord:
    "(B)Sit at My right hand
    Until I make (C)Your enemies a footstool for Your feet."

    Who is the narrator. Who is the LORD and who is the Lord?


    As far as I can tell, the narrator is David and the LORD is God. No idea who the Lord is.

    How exactly does this passage imply the kingdom of David will be removed from Earth to Heaven?


    Just going back to strictly complexity (not scale) ….what would you consider to be more complex and why? The universe excluding life? Or all the variety of life we see on this single planet?


    Pass. They're both pretty damn complex. But so what? Complexity alone is not an indication of design, unless you want to invoke an argument from ignorance.


    That’s what abiogenesis is. You have two options. Chance or design. One or the other.


    Abiogenesis is not random chance. Neither is evolution. Abiogenesis is living matter arising from non-living organic chemicals. The 'design' hypothesis is not supported by attacking the 'chance' hypothesis, though this is a very common tactic from those who don't understand the distinction.


    I’d assume that getting books from the late 18th, early 19th century from bible critics on these matters would be challenging but that’s one example I found.


    But this is an example of people simply not taking the Bible's say-so as reliable historical evidence (which to me seems sound). In this case it was wrong. Fair enough. But what does that prove, exactly? Surely nothing more than the Biblical stories were woven using real people and places - something that no-one I know is really disputing. But this in no way supports the Bible's supernatural claims and accounts of events.


    Very EARLY 20th century. Yet wikipedia says Germany was in fact doing remarkably well after its hyper-inflation of 1923, and was once more one of the world's largest economies. Wow. The war had been over for only 5 years…..pretty good.


    Irrelevant. The economic dive of a 20th century country does not compare to the total collapse of an ancient kingdom. The population of Germany before WW1 was in the millions, so a 15.1% loss still leaves a healthy population. Besides, there was still industry, food and work to do. But most importantly, there are all the technological advances of the modern age. Medicine and hygiene has done wonders for people's birth rates, life expectancies and illness recovery rates, travel means it takes days or even hours to cross vast expanses of land, not weeks, and water boards keep taps flowing. There was none of this in ancient Egypt. Suddenly without water, food, an army, money, slaves, a king, and with the death rate already given a healthy kick-start, what else was there to do but run or starve? Finally, there is ample evidence of WW1 - exactly what we curiously do not have for the exodus.


    It defies credulity that we are here. Yet we are.


    Cute dodge. But irrelevant from a historian's point of view.

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  182. (cont)


    Here’s a good read on the Exodus. It’s pretty long though.


    It is pretty long. Let me send you a link back (it's hardly much shorter though:
    http://www.ebonmusings.org/atheism/otarch2.html


    Really. I wasn’t aware that that it was only since Darwin that humans had been searching for great truths. Are you saying everything before then was irrelevant? That all those theistic scientists, inventors and engineers just sat around praying? Nice strawman.


    I am not saying anything of the sort. Of course there were scientists before Darwin - but they have always reached their achievements through scientific means, not through religous ones. Religion itself gives us nothing but myth, empty promises and the fossilized beliefs of a bygone age. That doesn't mean a religious person cannot be a scientist, but a scientist cannot bring religion into the lab. The assumption that miracles can happen stops science dead in its tracks. When it comes to finding out truths about the world, religion itself brings absolutely nothing to the table.


    God on the other hand doesn’t want or expect groveling. The Bible depicts it as a Father-son relationship.


    If it does, then it is an inaccurate one - or the Bible writers had some damn odd fathers!

    My father guides me and helps me to mature. He offers advice when I ask it, help when I need it, he answers my questions about the world, he shows me what he thinks I should do, tells me how he understands the world. He is nurturing and personable, he cheers me on when I succeed and comforts me when I fail. He leads by example to show me how to be a man.

    God does none of these things.

    A relationship with God is like having a 'relationship' with a person who stays forever behind a locked door and gives absolutely no indication he is in there. You can sit at the door and talk as though someone can hear you - you can ask for a favour, talk about your day, cry out for help, sing songs of praise, but all you will get is stone-cold silence.

    This is not a healthy relationship, let alone a paternal one. The human prays, and God may grant it or not, without explanation or consolation. His silence also means there is no two-way communication or increase in understanding of Him. Even to a lifelong theist His ways remain mysterious. Even in our saddest, loneliest moments, God cannot provide so much as a hug in comfort - and according to some He even places tragedies in our path to test our faith (eg, Job). What is the use of being told God cares if He will not show it in any tangible way?

    This is not a healthy relationship. It is static and utterly one-sided. You might as well spend your time talking at a locked door.

    Has God EVER spoken to us? There is the Bible, of course. But that has proved itself to be morally subjective, contradictory, and in places simply inaccurate. But even if this were not the case, does reading a book mean you have a relationship with the author? Do I have a relationship with Charles Dickens by reading Oliver Twist? Whatever relationship that might be, I fail to see how it could be a paternal one.


    The evidence convinces me.


    What evidence? Thinking back I believe you were asked this question before but did not answer it. What evidence convinced you of the truth of Christianity? Or even that there was a God at all?


    If you equate the evidence from the Bible about God to the evidence for Zeus’ god-ship then you are not just a skeptic, you are a willful unbeliever. I’m not trying to say that in a derogatory way but it makes me doubt that anything, even the points you listed above, would change your mind.


    I certainly would not like to think that was the case. You speak as though you have solid, compelling, objective evidence for the truth of Christianity... Do you? I'd be delighted to hear it.

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  183. Ritchie,

    I was hoping to get time today to respond but it looks like it will have to wait to get back from holidays. Check back on the July 26 or so, I should have a reply up by then.

    Fil

    ReplyDelete
  184. Hunter said: "The evolutionist believes evolution created the illusion of free will and in him the ability to see through the illusion."

    I wonder how you can sleep at night after telling whoppers like that. Did you even blush, or are you immune to feelings of guilt when telling whoppers?

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  185. Ed Darrell:

    ===
    Hunter said: "The evolutionist believes evolution created the illusion of free will and in him the ability to see through the illusion."

    I wonder how you can sleep at night after telling whoppers like that. Did you even blush, or are you immune to feelings of guilt when telling whoppers?
    ===

    Why is it a whopper?

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  186. Why is it a whopper?

    The paper is on philosophy. It's written by a guy who has no identified credentials in evolution, and who makes no pretension of writing a paper in biology or evolution. Look at the title: "The Lucretian swerve: The biological basis of human behavior and the criminal justice system."

    Should we understand that you don't have a clue about who Titus Lucretius Carus was, and why this paper has that title?

    If I grant that you don't know the difference between philosophy and science, if I grant that you're a naif on research papers, I must wonder why you make the unwarranted and unevidenced extrapolation that this one man's opinion is "the evolutionist view." It is the view of Anthony Cashmore, a botanist. He has every right to his views, and to publish them, and to make arguments to support his views.

    But where do you get off claiming this botanists philosophical views represent the science views of all evolutionists?

    There is no support for that claim in the paper. It's not a rational assumption. It is grandiose beyond belief, as well as almost completely without foundation. I don't believe you are irrational or unbalanced. (You may be. If you wish to plead that, be my guest.)

    So, it appears that you have manufactured out of whole cloth the claim that this guy is "an evolutionist" (is he? how can you tell), and that his odd views are shared by all other people of science. There's no evidence of that at all. That's crazy talk, were it coming from an irrational person.

    It appears to me you have made a choice to try to manufacture a falsehood. Argumentatively, that's known as a "straw man." In your realm, that's called "intelligent design."

    But in any case, it's a whopping falsehood.

    So, I wonder: How do you sleep at night? Does your sect believe in confession and forgiveness? Shouldn't part of that confession include a retraction here?

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  187. Ed Darrell:

    Thanks so much for taking a look at the blog and commenting. Your criticisms, however, are off the mark. You have made strong accusations based on faulty information. As if often the case with evolutionists, your self righteous indignation seems to be exceeded only by your level of error. Cashmore certainly has the credentials (he is a member of the NAS).


    ===
    So, it appears that you have manufactured out of whole cloth the claim that this guy is "an evolutionist" (is he? how can you tell), and that his odd views are shared by all other people of science. There's no evidence of that at all. That's crazy talk, were it coming from an irrational person.
    ===

    Of course Cashmore is an evolutionist, and his views are certainly not "odd" by evolutionary standards. A great many evolutionists agree with his views on free will -- they are just not so outspoken so as to put their absurdities into print. No, they are not "shared by all other people of science" (I never said they were), but they did make their way into a leading journal. So not only are the views not uncommon amongst evolutionists, but a leading journal saw fit to print them. Instead of making false accusations against me, I would suggest you focus your energies on the problem at hand.

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  188. Cornelius -


    Of course Cashmore is an evolutionist, and his views are certainly not "odd" by evolutionary standards. A great many evolutionists agree with his views on free will -- they are just not so outspoken so as to put their absurdities into print.


    How can you possibly know this? What you mean, of course, is that this fits in with your ridiculous preconceived ideas and strawman of what 'evolutionists' believe.

    Again...

    1) Do you understand the difference between the theory of evolution and determinism? Because you seem to equate the two in the OP and this is a serious and utterly bizarre error.

    2) What evidence do you actually have that determinism is wrong?

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  189. Ok, I’m back. I will try to keep this as short as possible.

    Slavery- God permitted it and regulated it. He did not say it’s awesome, do it everybody and do it forever! Is it reasonable for a perfect God to expect humans to be perfect? No, it is not. So he makes some exceptions for our weaknesses, based on society and time. Notice the word some. He decides what they are and when they end. He makes some exceptions for us now.
    Jesus didn’t condone slavery in that parable instead he used it because they would understand it. Nice quote mine by the way, try reading a few verses back and see why the master beat his slave. It is a fitting illustration for the biblical fact that God will destroy the wicked in the future.

    Law Covenant Do some reading up on this. It is extremely relevant to the discussion about slavery and everything other moral discussion that you want to have regarding the bible. It is also relevant if you want to understand the distinction between a Christian and a Jew.

    Genocide Show me a supposed genocide in the Bible that was based strictly on race, where moral conduct had nothing to do with it.

    Abortion Abortion is scripturally wrong. I do agree with you that there may be very limited cases where the mother may choose to do it, such as where her life is absolutely in danger when she is going to deliver the baby. Those cases are rare. The Bible does not discuss such a case since, of course, medicine has advanced a bit since then.

    Numbers 5 does not denote miscarriage, it denotes her sexual reproductive organs withering or becoming useless. See http://bible.cc/numbers/5-27.htm foe a variety of translations.

    Numbers 3:15 Census – Irrelevant. Acknowledging that infant have a higher mortality rate does not equal indifference to willfully taking their lives.

    Exodus 21:22 No, if the baby dies he dies too. The baby coming out means prematurely. If a fatal accident occurs to either the baby or the mother then the man dies too.

    The LORD had fast closed up all the wombs of the house of Abimelech, because of Sarah Abraham's wife. (Genesis 20:18)

    The unconceived are being punished? This was a sign to Abimelech of his Godship so that when God spoke to him in a dream he took it seriously that Sarah had to be released untouched. Then he opened their wombs again…. Did you honestly use this as an example?

    Deuteronomy 23:2 This was a purposeful law that protected the inheritance rights of legitimate sons and their offspring. It also deterred prostitution and the breakdown of the family arrangement. Of course, this law did not express eternal judgment against individuals. If the Israelites were faithful to God and there marriage mates there would be no illegitimate children. If adulterous wives were put to death then no child would be born. Men too were to be put to death due to fornication or adultery.

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  190. Your favorite…God punishes King David by killing his infant son

    One factor to remember when we are faced with a situation that appears to be unfair is that our viewpoint may be distorted or limited. It can be distorted by imperfection, prejudice, or cultural background. It is also limited by our inability to discern motives and to know what is really in people’s hearts. In contrast, God has no such limitations.—Prov. 24:12

    Let us analyze the account of David’s adultery with Bath-sheba. (2 Sam. 11:2-5) According to the Mosaic Law, they deserved to be executed. (Lev. 20:10; Deut. 22:22) Although God punished them, he did not enforce his own law. Was that unfair on God’s part? Did he show favoritism to David and violate His own righteous standards?
    Some Bible readers have felt that way. However, this law on adultery was given by God to imperfect judges, who could not read hearts. Despite their limitations, they were enabled by this law to be consistent in their judgments. On the other hand, God can read hearts. (Gen. 18:25;1 Chronicles 29:17) So we should not expect that God would have to be restricted by a law he designed for imperfect judges. If he were, would that not be like forcing someone with perfect vision to wear eyeglasses that are designed to correct the vision of those with defective sight? God could read the hearts of David and Bath-sheba and see their genuine repentance. Taking such a factor into consideration, he judged them accordingly, in a merciful and loving manner.

    Keep in mind too if he has enforced the law blindly that child would have died as well. Either way the child died. What parents do has repercussions on their children for good or bad. It has always been that way. If it makes you feel better to blame God for it then knock yourself out.

    As far as I can tell, the narrator is David and the LORD is God. No idea who the Lord is.

    Who is David’s Lord? It’s not God since he is LORD. It must be someone in heaven since God is saying ‘Sit at my right hand.’ It must be someone who is going to be a King since God tells him he will put all enemies under his feet. So who is it? A heavenly person who David calls Lord but isn’t God.

    Jesus Christ

    Though you will probably say it’s just another wacky verse that makes no sense.

    Ritchie, have you ever read the Bible? Have you really studied it? Or do you just google ‘bible contradictions’, ‘bible is evil’ and take what you read as fact?

    My father guides me and helps me to mature. He offers advice when I ask it, help when I need it, he answers my questions about the world, he shows me what he thinks I should do, tells me how he understands the world. He is nurturing and personable, he cheers me on when I succeed and comforts me when I fail. He leads by example to show me how to be a man.

    God does none of these things.


    That convinces me you have never really read the bible because he does all those things for me. I would not be the man I am, my wife would not be the woman she is if not for our relationship with Him. You never gave it a chance and then condemn it as a failure.

    Even to a lifelong theist His ways remain mysterious.

    Name me a mystery.

    You speak as though you have solid, compelling, objective evidence for the truth of Christianity... Do you? I'd be delighted to hear it.

    Here’s my evidence, do with it what you will.

    1) Bible Prophecy. I do not simply dismiss the supernatural because I cannot measure it. The Bible has hundreds of fulfilled prophecies. It has prophecies that are being fulfilled now. I will get to one at the end of this post.(You may simply dismiss this one but it is evidence to me.)

    2) Candor of Bible Writers. Bible writers expose their own flaws as individuals and as a nation. Most ancient nations magnified their victories and minimized or glossed over their failures or defeats. (I’m sure to you this is irrelevant.)

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  191. 3) Accuracy. It is more accurate than you think. Like I said people discredit it’s accuracy at their peril. Time and again it has been proven true. Where it has not YET does not mean it’s wrong. Even with the Exodus I am confident it will be borne out. (Once again, I know you will dismiss this.)

    4) Harmonious – Written over 1600 years and with so many writers Genesis and the rest of the Hebrew Scriptures are brought to a completion in explanation of purpose by the Gospels through Revelation. If you haven’t read it then don’t bother commenting on this.

    As it says in 1 Corinthians 2:14 ‘The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.’

    So if you persist on discounting everything in the Bible then you will never see my point. Seriously, in our discussions you never agreed, accepted, understood or conceded a single point. It is as if you are determined to always take the contrarian position on anything I point out to you in Scripture. I can understand your points. Some things in the Bible may seem hard to reconcile. There are still things I don’t get. Yet you categorically take the Bible and interpret it in the worst possible way, every time. That to me is proof that you really aren’t interested in understanding it, just slamming it.

    Now, let’s refer back to point 1 on prophecy. Read John 13:34,35. It says.

    34A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. 35By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.

    Love would be THE identifying mark of true Christians. That is a prophecy. It is one finding fulfillment today. I am one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. To me this finds application in us. Let me qualify that we are not perfect. Far from it really. Yet there are over 7 million Jehovah’s Witnesses around the world and they are all like family. I don’t obviously know even 99% of them but in every country, province or state I’ve been to we are treated like family by everyone we meet. We have an instant bond due to our love of Jehovah that makes us like family. I have visited some and even though they didn’t know me from anyone else they invite me into their home, feed me and my wife, sometimes we stayed the night. We were left alone without them worrying whether we would steal from them. I have also had people stay with me from all over and the same thing applied. I had no compunctions about leaving them alone with no worries of theft or vandalism because I know the kind of people they are even though I just met them. These experiences are not unique to me. I have hundreds of friends who have experienced the same thing all over the entire world. It is a documented fact that Jehovah's Witnesses as a group demonstate this.That love is demonstrated regularly and it is what defines us. If nothing else, this would convince me personally that God exists and the Bible is true, this force that motivates us. Unless personally experienced it’s hard to convey the bond we feel. If everyone in the world was a Jehovah’s Witness there would still be problems, of that there is no doubt. But if minimizing human suffering is important to you then I suggest that the amount of suffering that would exist would be far, far less.

    How do you measure it? How scientific is my feeling on that verse? It isn’t, so if that is what you require then I cannot satisfy your demands….and once again, I’m OK with that.

    Let me make clear that one doesn't have to be a Jehovah's Witness, have any other specific religion, ideology, belief or lack of belief to demonstate love or any other moral quality that people find virtuous. However, as I said above, Jehovah's Witnesses are unique as a group in doing so.

    Now I look forward to people complaining about our controversial beliefs. =)

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  192. Fil -

    Welcome back. Hope you had a good break.


    Slavery- God permitted it and regulated it. He did not say it’s awesome, do it everybody and do it forever! Is it reasonable for a perfect God to expect humans to be perfect? No, it is not. So he makes some exceptions for our weaknesses, based on society and time.


    But societies and times change. That is pretty much the point. If what the Bible says about slavery is only relevant to the society and time it was written in, then it is irrelevant to us now. And the same is true of its teachings on any other topic - homosexuality, abortion, etc. In short, the moral teachings in the Bible would then be irrelevant to us today.

    You cannot have it both ways - either the Bible is relevant to everyone in every age and culture, or it is culturally specific. If the former, then it has many oddities, including condoning slavery. If the latter, then there is no reason for us to treat it as a moral guide today. Arbitrarily selecting the passages that strike you as moral and insisting they have an eternal stamp of divine approval, while dismissing the bits you find morally repugnant as 'culturally specific' is just trying to have your cake and eat it.


    Jesus didn’t condone slavery in that parable instead he used it because they would understand it. Nice quote mine by the way, try reading a few verses back and see why the master beat his slave. It is a fitting illustration for the biblical fact that God will destroy the wicked in the future.


    I mentioned this passage because to my knowledge it is one of the only mentions of slavery in the New Testament. The Old Testament openly condones slavery. And the New Testament says nothing to negate it. The fact that Jesus works it so naturally into a parable implies he sees no issue with it. True, this is not an explicit sanction, but it is indicative of the failure of the New Testament to condemn slavery.


    Law Covenant Do some reading up on this. It is extremely relevant to the discussion about slavery and everything other moral discussion that you want to have regarding the bible.


    How so? Does God declare His laws are temporary, arbitrary or culturally specific? Does He declare we are to work out for ourselves which of His laws to enforce and which to reject? Does He imply morality, and His laws, are subjective?


    Show me a supposed genocide in the Bible that was based strictly on race, where moral conduct had nothing to do with it.


    Upon entering the Promised Land, God instructs the Israelites to completely obliterate the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites,the Hivites, and the Jebusites, showing them no mercy. He specifically identifies them by nationality and orders that not a single one should be left alive: man, woman or child. How many infants would have been butchered, how many babies who could not possibly have done anything worthy of a death sentence - unless of course you accept the principle of corporate guilt: that all members of a community share the guilt of every other member? To declare that these people were slaughtered for their moral conduct is to imply that newborns and infants can possibly commit crimes worthy of a death sentence (and, to heap absurdity onto absurdity, that every single baby among these nations HAD done this).


    Abortion is scripturally wrong.


    What is your basis for saying this? Is abortion ever specifically addressed (unless you just equate it with murder, which is exactly the crux of the abortion debate)?


    Numbers 5 does not denote miscarriage, it denotes her sexual reproductive organs withering or becoming useless.


    Oh, I see. That's okay then...

    !!!!!!!!!!

    Seriously, you don't see any twisted morality here at all???

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  193. (cont)


    Numbers 3:15 Census – Irrelevant. Acknowledging that infant have a higher mortality rate does not equal indifference to willfully taking their lives.


    But it does undercut the assumption that unborn infants are to be considered people in their own right and thus given the same human rights as adults.


    Exodus 21:22 No, if the baby dies he dies too. The baby coming out means prematurely.


    The exact wording (according to the King James version) is: "If men strive, and hurt a woman with child, so that her fruit depart from her..." The New American Standard Bible actually uses the word 'miscarriage'.


    The unconceived are being punished? This was a sign to Abimelech of his Godship so that when God spoke to him in a dream he took it seriously that Sarah had to be released untouched. Then he opened their wombs again…. Did you honestly use this as an example?


    That's a rather forced interpretation, don't you think? It's not as if being barren is an obvious nor obviously divine sign. If it was a sign it was an extremely subtle one, which surely nulifies the point? And why did God have to inflict this 'sign' onto others - people who neither decieved nor committed the apparent crime of believing the deception. I am not saying 'closing the wombs' was a harsh (by God's chilling standards) punishment, but however fleeting or painless, it was inflicted onto individuals who had done nothing to deserve it. That is the point.


    Deuteronomy 23:2 This was a purposeful law that protected the inheritance rights of legitimate sons and their offspring.


    Firstly, surely this is more than about inheritance laws? According to this passage, a bastard shall not enter into the congregation of the Lord - which is much more than a simple legal matter. But in any case, why did it have to go down TEN generations? Why not just say 'illegitimate children shall not inherit'? Why must their children nine generations hence be punished?


    Although God punished them, he did not enforce his own law. Was that unfair on God’s part? Did he show favoritism to David and violate His own righteous standards? ... Taking such a factor into consideration, he judged them accordingly, in a merciful and loving manner.


    All irrelevant. I am not objecting to God sparing David from punishment. But why did he then kill the child? It is a senseless and vindictive killing. And it makes it all the more twisted that God actively smites an innocent party when He decides to pardon the guilty. This is a macabre mockery of justice.


    Keep in mind too if he has enforced the law blindly that child would have died as well. Either way the child died. What parents do has repercussions on their children for good or bad. It has always been that way. If it makes you feel better to blame God for it then knock yourself out.


    A thoroughly bizarre argument. God can do what He likes, surely, including forgiving sins. I understand that had the law been followed the child might have been put to death (surely an unjust law, but there it is), but why then did God show up and spare the guilty party, and not the innocent one? And God did not just fail to spare the child - He actively killed it Himself. I think it is entirely appropriate to blame God for this moral car-crash of a story.


    It must be someone who is going to be a King since God tells him he will put all enemies under his feet. So who is it? A heavenly person who David calls Lord but isn’t God.

    Jesus Christ


    I still don't follow. I still don't see how this implies that David's kingdom will be removed to Heaven. It sounds like a complete non-sequitur to me.

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  194. (cont)


    Ritchie, have you ever read the Bible? Have you really studied it? Or do you just google ‘bible contradictions’, ‘bible is evil’ and take what you read as fact?


    I have indeed read it. Though I didn't exactly take notes, and I confess I do google certain points when I debate online for the sake of convenience and quick reference. But I am not doing this blind from a book I haven't read.


    ME: My father guides me and helps me to mature....God does none of these things.

    YOU: That convinces me you have never really read the bible because he does all those things for me. I would not be the man I am, my wife would not be the woman she is if not for our relationship with Him. You never gave it a chance and then condemn it as a failure.


    I was a Christian until my early twenties. I prayed, believed and read my Bible like a good boy. My faith crumbled in part because I was fed up with talking to someone who never talks back. I never heard a voice, saw a vision, etc,. I just tried to interpret events around me as signs and guess their meaning - an all-too-common exercise in self-delusion.

    Do you claim you actually HEAR God's voice? Does He actually SPEAK to you? Can you have a literal conversation with Him? Has He actually appeared in front of you? If not, how exactly do you have a relationship with someone who doesn't speak or manifest themselves in any tangible way at all? I do not doubt your faith is an important, perhaps critical, factor in your life, but that is no reason at all to suppose your faith is actually justified or based on fact. Throughout history people have believed countless things which aren't true. The sincerity or power of faith bares no relation to the validity of it.


    Name me a mystery.


    The problem of suffering. If God is beneovlent, all-powerful and all-knowing, why is there so much needless suffering? By the above definition He must know about it, be able to prevent it, and wish to. A classic theological problem, but one which I am not aware has ever received a satisfactory reply.


    Here’s my evidence, do with it what you will.

    1) Bible Prophecy. I do not simply dismiss the supernatural because I cannot measure it. The Bible has hundreds of fulfilled prophecies. It has prophecies that are being fulfilled now.


    Does it? Such as? Can you give me what, in your opinion, is the best demonstration of this, please? And remember my list of evidence that would convince me - a really good prediction should be really specific, predict a surprising event, not be self-fulfilling, be unaccompanied by dozens of other, incorrect predictions and clearly precede the event it predicts.


    2) Candor of Bible Writers. Bible writers expose their own flaws as individuals and as a nation. Most ancient nations magnified their victories and minimized or glossed over their failures or defeats. (I’m sure to you this is irrelevant.)


    Not totally irrelevant, but it hardly balances the scales of probability against the magic and miracles it also invokes.


    3) Accuracy. It is more accurate than you think.


    Not a high bar.


    Time and again it has been proven true. Where it has not YET does not mean it’s wrong. Even with the Exodus I am confident it will be borne out. (Once again, I know you will dismiss this.)


    Again, your confidence here seems vastly unfounded. Certain parts of the Bible have indeed been supported by archaeological evidence. But others contradict it. And it is not merely a case of 'we haven't discovered supporting evidence yet' it's a case of actively going AGAINST the archaeological evidence. And if you are referring to scientific truths, then again I'll need to ask for what, in your opinion, is the most impressive scientific truth the Bible reveals, because I can see none. As far as I can see, it contains many scientific inaccuracies and demonstrates no genuine insight.

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  195. (cont)


    4) Harmonious – Written over 1600 years and with so many writers Genesis and the rest of the Hebrew Scriptures are brought to a completion in explanation of purpose by the Gospels through Revelation.


    ?? I take it you mean it doesn't contradict itself? I'm aware we've had this particular conversation before, but nothing short of willful denial could reach that conclusion. The Bible is deeply contradictory in many places and on many issues, both trivial and pivotal.


    Some things in the Bible may seem hard to reconcile. There are still things I don’t get. Yet you categorically take the Bible and interpret it in the worst possible way, every time. That to me is proof that you really aren’t interested in understanding it, just slamming it.


    I appreciate it suits your position to make me (and thus, by extension, my position) out to be unreasonable and irrational, but the claims of Christianity which you are implicitly supporting are grandiose indeed and should not be accepted without a rigourous critical examination - and if it is true, it should be able to withstand such. I take your point that I always present the Bible in the worst light, but that is simply down to the nature of our discussion. If you insist the Bible is moral, I will naturally present the worst cases of its immorality.

    If it helps, I do not necessarily think the Bible is a bad book. There is much that is bad in it, but there is good stuff in there too. On balance, I believe it to be a fairly insightful look into the theological, political, social and moral beliefs of a particualr culture. But the further step that this book is actually holy - that it is perfect and inerrant, possibly even divinely inspired, that its moral revelations and claims of historical miracles are true... that is the irrational step, and I am not the one taking it.


    Love would be THE identifying mark of true Christians. That is a prophecy.


    As the passage calls it, this is a commandment. It is not a prophesy - or if it is, it is a self-fulfilling one. John says to love one another, so Christians strive to do so. That is a case of people obeying a commandment, not a surprising event being foretold.

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  196. (cont)


    That love is demonstrated regularly and it is what defines us. If nothing else, this would convince me personally that God exists and the Bible is true, this force that motivates us.


    This is no objective reason to think God exists. It is difficult discussing personal matters since there will always be the danger of being patronising (which I will try to steer clear of, but am conscious I may fail at). I don't have any specific problem with Jehovah's Witnesses that I don't have with any other religious denomination, and I don't doubt the vast majority of them are perfectly lovely people. But your depiction of Jehovah's Witnesses is so rosey and your opinion on humanity in general is so bleak that it rather seems to me that you have built a them-and-us divide - an in/out group for Jehovah's Witnesses v everyone else.

    People can find tremendous validation from being part of a group - any group. Your stories of unconditional trust and immediate affection with Jehovah's Witnesses are highly plausible, but I think the same can be found among almost any 'in-group'. I'm sure Sikhs are just as friendly and hospitable to other Sikhs in societies where Sikhism is relatively uncommon. Perhaps trekkies are just the same to other trekkies.

    I don't mean to trivialise, but it sounds like all you are describing is the warmth and camaraderie members of any minority in-group often feel for each other. Since your in-group is a religious faith, I'm sure this helps you to trust that other members of your in-group will be of a similar morality to you, which I'm sure is important. Some in-groups will have more camaraderie than others, and yours probably has a lot. But even so, this is hardly tangible evidence of the existence of God. I'm sure there is ample camaraderie within in-groups which are based on a falsehood or misconception.

    In short, the presence of camaraderie is no indication of the validity of the in-group.


    How do you measure it? How scientific is my feeling on that verse? It isn’t, so if that is what you require then I cannot satisfy your demands….and once again, I’m OK with that.


    You argument boils down to sentiment. This is not a rational basis for assessing the objective truth of a claim. I'm sure other denominations of other religions feel just the same religious conviction and in-group affection that you do, and objectively you cannot ALL be right.

    I don't deny the vast majority of Christians are probably lovely people. Perhaps religious faith even helps them to strive to be good people. But the issue is whether is it objectively true, and on this it is extremely lacking. Frankly, it sounds like your faith is important to you because you have built much of your personal identity around it. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with that, but it does not validate it either.

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  197. Thanks for the response Ritchie. I'll try to respond within the next few days. In the meantime would you mind reading Matthew 20:1-15 and let me know if you think the landowner was being fair or not and why?

    1"For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire men to work in his vineyard. 2He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard.
    3"About the third hour he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. 4He told them, 'You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.' 5So they went.

    "He went out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour and did the same thing. 6About the eleventh hour he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, 'Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?'

    7" 'Because no one has hired us,' they answered.
    "He said to them, 'You also go and work in my vineyard.'

    8"When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, 'Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.'

    9"The workers who were hired about the eleventh hour came and each received a denarius. 10So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. 11When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. 12'These men who were hired last worked only one hour,' they said, 'and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.'

    13"But he answered one of them, 'Friend, I am not being unfair to you. Didn't you agree to work for a denarius? 14Take your pay and go. I want to give the man who was hired last the same as I gave you. 15Don't I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?'

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  198. Fil -

    An interesting question.

    I can see both men at the end each have a valid point. On one hand, it does seem very unfair that all workers get paid the same even though some did far more work than others. On the other hand, the first workers agreed to do a day's work for a denarius, which is what they were paid.

    It seems the basis of the early workers' gripe is jealousy - they are jealous of the later workers who did less work, but for the same pay. So in that sense the fault lies with the workers. If they kept their envy in check, they would feel no resentment, since the landowner honoured his contract with them. That said, envy is part of human nature, and the landowner was rather naive, perhaps even unreasonable, if he expected the first workers not to feel any.

    I'm not totally committed to a position, but I suppose I'm more tempted to come down on the side of the landowner being unfair, since it seems he neglected to mention to the first workers that he would later hire others. It was a condition of the work which the landowner kept to himself. If the early workers had known this up front they might well have decided to negotiate their pay, or even simply refuse. The landowner isn't strictly breaking any contractual obligations, but he did apparently keep a condition of the work from the first workers. He is also being rather insensitive. Consider his last line: 'Or are you envious because I am generous?' The problem is that he is being generous to the people he hired last, and not to the people he hired first, who were ar