Attack a Theist - Mark Fulton Challenge
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22-05-2013, 01:46 AM (This post was last modified: 23-05-2013 11:21 PM by Mark Fulton.)
RE: Attack a Theist - Mark Fuller Challenge
(21-05-2013 10:11 PM)Mojch Wrote:  Dr. Mark,

I have enjoyed our discussion so far. However, I think we should move on to keep things interesting. I have proposed a question for you at the end of this post. Of course, if you want to continue the debate on this topic, I am amenable.

Regarding Post #1:

As I stated before, I concede my initial definition was faulty and have altered my personal beliefs to align with this new understanding. I do NOT agree with your characterization that Biblical laws, understood in their historical context, can be equated with modern rape, child abuse, etc. I suggest we move on so as to avoid boring everyone (since the entire idea here is education and not to exhaust every line of reasoning). However, if you still find this point engaging, I ask you to choose a single verse (to make things manageable), quote it, and explain, in the historical context, why you think it advocates something inevitably immoral.

Regarding Post #2:

If you concede my Biblical definition, your argument is flawed because you reason from emotion. "Imagine if your gay preacher insisted you were only allowed to have gay sex. A gay person experiences something similar." My emotional response to such a situation is, no matter how harsh this truth may be, irrelevant. Just because something invokes a negative emotional consequence does not mean it is logically untrue. EXAMPLE: Classical physics has the potentially terrifying consequence of rendering the Universe entirely deterministic and eliminating free will. I have a negative reaction to this and, in fact, I would find such a truth to make much of my life meaningless. Is this evidence that classical physics is untrue? If not, where does my analogy break down?

Should you wish to move on, I ask you the following question. For a twist, I move beyond the realm of traditional Christianity to challenge your atheism.

Question: Can nothing exist or is it simply a concept without a physical manifestation?

Sincerely,

Mojch

Hi Mojch,

I agree this topic is getting stale. For your interest, have a look at post 19 here...

http://www.thethinkingatheist.com/forum/...rah?page=2

Bucky Ball has a very nuanced, informed understanding of ancient Israel. I learnt from this, and I think you will too.

A few more parting thoughts from the bible about sex...
A man and his virgin sister:

Leviticus 21:3 or an unmarried sister who is dependent on him since she has no husband--for her he may make himself unclean.

A man and his half-sister:

Genesis 20:12
And yet indeed she is my sister; she is the daughter of my father, but not the daughter of my mother; and she became my wife.

Cousins:

Genesis 28:2
Arise, go to Padanaram, to the house of Bethuel your mother's father; and take you a wife from there of the daughers of Laban your mother's brother.

Hard to make a case against adultery when you have this:

Matthew 1:18
Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost.

Polygamy:

Isaiah 4:1
And in that day seven women shall take hold of one man, saying, We will eat our own bread, and wear our own apparel: only let us be called by your name, to take away our reproach.

Fair young virgins (plural) for the King:

Esther 2:2-4,8-14
Then said the king's servants that ministered to him, Let there be fair young virgins sought for the king:

Women are Chattel:

Hosea 3:2
So I bought her to me for fifteen pieces of silver, and for an homer of barley, and an half homer of barley

So...ok...let's move on.

Metaphysics isn't my forte...but....

yes, I think nothing can exist. I'm happy to be proven wrong though.
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22-05-2013, 09:43 PM
RE: Attack a Theist - Mark Fuller Challenge
Dr. Mark,

First, thank you for your admission.

Second, you state "It's interesting that the more 'Christian" a society is, the more unwanted pregnancies and abortions there are and the higher the rates of sexually transmitted disease." I find this point interesting but have never come across any research proving it in my studies. Could you provide a citation to research I could read that proves this point?

Third, your objection in your latest post seems to boil down to this...

Quote: "I do not presume anyone has the right to tell other adults how to live out their sexuality. We are all individuals with different wants, desires and relationships . . . That's only your opinion. You have no right to impose your opinion on others."

Where did I ever say I wanted to impose my opinion on others? At no point have I ever stated that just because I think these sexual activities are wrong that they should be IMPOSED on others. Advocating a point of view is not the same an mandating its imposition. Additionally, how is this an argument that my position is illogical or incorrect? If reduced to logical form, your argument is...

1. A asserts X is true.
2. A has no right to impose X on others.
3. TF, X is false.

Do you dispute that this is faulty reasoning? Or have I mischaracterized your opinion?

Fourth, after you address my points above, I reiterate that I would like your answer to the question below. I suspect interest in our discussion of sexuality has waned.

Question: Can nothing exist or is it simply a concept without a physical manifestation?

Sincerely,

Mojch
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22-05-2013, 09:47 PM
RE: Attack a Theist - Mark Fuller Challenge
Dr. Mark,

Apologies! I missed your updated post moving on to the next topic. I will address it in more detail tomorrow. Thank you for continuing our discussion.

Sincerely,

Mojch
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23-05-2013, 01:57 AM (This post was last modified: 23-05-2013 02:10 AM by Mark Fulton.)
RE: Attack a Theist - Mark Fuller Challenge
(22-05-2013 09:43 PM)Mojch Wrote:  Dr. Mark,

First, thank you for your admission.

Second, you state "It's interesting that the more 'Christian" a society is, the more unwanted pregnancies and abortions there are and the higher the rates of sexually transmitted disease." I find this point interesting but have never come across any research proving it in my studies. Could you provide a citation to research I could read that proves this point?

Third, your objection in your latest post seems to boil down to this...

Quote: "I do not presume anyone has the right to tell other adults how to live out their sexuality. We are all individuals with different wants, desires and relationships . . . That's only your opinion. You have no right to impose your opinion on others."

Where did I ever say I wanted to impose my opinion on others? At no point have I ever stated that just because I think these sexual activities are wrong that they should be IMPOSED on others. Advocating a point of view is not the same an mandating its imposition. Additionally, how is this an argument that my position is illogical or incorrect? If reduced to logical form, your argument is...

1. A asserts X is true.
2. A has no right to impose X on others.
3. TF, X is false.

Do you dispute that this is faulty reasoning? Or have I mischaracterized your opinion?

Fourth, after you address my points above, I reiterate that I would like your answer to the question below. I suspect interest in our discussion of sexuality has waned.

Question: Can nothing exist or is it simply a concept without a physical manifestation?

Sincerely,

Mojch

Hi Mojch, thank you too for your comments, particularly as you are busy in a number of discussions at present. I'm imagining you may be a little overwhelmed!

I'll address your 2nd point now, your third next post. I actually did provide you with a link to a blog of mine that discusses this very issue and , in particular the evidence for my assertions. It's ok that you didn't have time to read it. I'll paste it here so it is part of the discussion. Please read it, because it is important, relevant, and very interesting. Here it is....

The Cost of Christianity to Society

"My own view on religion is that…I regard it as…a source of untold misery to the human race." (Bertrand Russell)

Let’s not forget the history. There have been literally hundreds of wars started or inflamed by Christian intolerance. Millions of people were murdered in the Inquisition, the witch-hunts, and as a consequence of forced conversions in America and Africa. For centuries women, homosexuals, scientists, Jews, and Muslims have been attacked or suppressed. Churches have opposed secular education, fought against each other and resisted scientific advances. Churches have been the cause, not the cure, of many of the world’s ills.

Many people today, even Christians, are disgusted by the typical church’s pursuit of power and money.

Church people commonly claim that if all communities were Christian the result would be moral health, peace, and happiness. I don’t believe that, and have some statistics to back up my opinion, as there is a good study that addresses this very issue. The American Gregory Paul is an independent researcher on subjects dealing with paleontology, evolution, religion, and society. In 2005 he undertook a study titled
“Cross-National Correlations of Quantifiable Societal Health with Popular Religiosity and Secularism in the Prosperous Democracies: A First Look.” It was published in the Journal of Religion and Society. This paper can be found at http://moses.creighton.edu/JRS/2005/2005–11.html.

Gregory Paul was attempting to test whether high rates of belief in and worship of a creator correlate with social health. He wrote that his paper was a
first, brief look at an important subject that has been almost entirely neglected by social scientists…not an attempt to present a definitive study that establishes cause versus effect between religiosity, secularism and societal health.”

The paper compared statistics from first-world developed countries (Australia, Austria, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Great Britain, Holland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United States.) It focused on these prosperous democracies, because
“levels of religious and nonreligious belief and practice, and indicators of societal health and dysfunction, have been most extensively and reliably surveyed” in them. Also,
“The cultural and economic similarity of the developed democracies minimizes the variability of factors outside those being examined.”

“Dysfunctionality” was defined by indicators of poor societal health, such as homicide rates, youth suicide, low life expectancy, STD infection, abortion, early pregnancy, and high childhood (under five years old) mortality. “Religiosity” was measured by belief in biblical literalism, frequency of prayer, and service attendance, as well as absolute belief in a creator, in order to quantify religiosity in terms of ardency, conservatism, and activities. The study had a massive sample size of eight hundred million, mostly middle-class people. The data was relatively current, collected in the middle and latter half of the 1990s and early 2000s from the International Social Survey Program, the UN Development Program, the World Health Organization, Gallup, and other reputable sources. What did the results show?

Japan, Scandinavia, and France were the most secular nations. The United States is the only nation in the study considered to have high rates of religiosity, a feature other studies have demonstrated is otherwise limited only to the so called second and third worlds.

In general, higher rates of belief in and worship of a creator correlate with higher rates of homicide. The US has by far the highest homicide rates.

There is a remarkable positive and consistent correlation between pro-theistic factors (especially regarding absolute belief in God, and prayer) and juvenile mortality.

Life spans tend to decrease as rates of religiosity rise, especially as a function of absolute belief. Denmark was the only exception.

Higher rates of belief and worship of God in all countries correlated with higher juvenile and adult sexually transmitted diseases. Rates of adolescent gonorrhea infection were six to three hundred times higher in the USA than in less theistic secular developed democracies. Gonorrhea is markedly more prevalent in the USA’s adult population too. The USA also suffers from uniquely high adolescent and adult syphilis infection rates. These STD’s have been nearly eliminated in strongly secular Scandinavia. In my opinion, the reason is obvious. Christian parents and schools refuse to educate adolescents about basic sexual hygiene.

Belief in and worship of a creator shows a positive correlation with increasing adolescent abortion rates in all countries. Rates of abortion are uniquely high in the USA.

Belief in and worship of a creator strongly correlates with higher early adolescent pregnancy. Teenage birth rates are two to dozens of times higher in the U.S. than in all the other countries. In my opinion, the high rate of adolescent pregnancy and abortion is because Christians typically refuse to educate adolescents about contraception.

No democracy in this study was shown to have both strong religiosity and comparatively high rates of societal health in any of the parameters measured. The opposite is true. Only the secular, pro-evolution democracies had the lowest rates of lethal crime, juvenile-adult mortality, sex-related health issues, and abortion. The three least theistic democracies—Japan, France, and Scandinavia—also have the best figures in these categories.

Interestingly, within the United States, the strongly theistic, anti-evolution south and mid-west have markedly worse homicide, mortality, STD, and youth pregnancy rates than in the northeast part of the United States, where secularization and acceptance of evolution approach European norms.

Let’s pause for a moment to discuss religiosity in America. President Ronald Reagan once said,
“Of the many influences that have shaped the United States into a distinctive nation and people, none may be said to be more fundamental and enduring than the Bible.” I suspect there is much truth in that! (For a list of US presidential quotes about the Bible, see http://renew-daily.blogspot.com/2010/10/...eep.html).

There’s a widespread belief in American folklore that America is God's country because metaphorically it is a shining city upon a hill. The source of this idea is in the Gospel of Matthew, when Jesus says to his disciples,
“Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid” (Matt. 5:14, KJV.)

Some recent American presidents and presidential contenders, namely John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, Walter Mondale, Bill Clinton, Michael Dukakis, and George W. Bush, have all claimed that the US was this “shining city on the hill,” by which they meant a shining example to the rest of the world.

The facts contradict this assumption. “God’s country” has the highest rates of murder, juvenile mortality, sexually transmitted disease, abortion, and adolescent pregnancy in the developed world. “God’s country” has recently gone to war in two Islamic countries, partly because of the Christian beliefs of George W. Bush’s government.

I’ve no wish to offend Americans. My comments only point out that there appears to be a strong positive correlation between Christian religiosity and social problems.
No one should, however, conclude that this study absolutely proves that Christian religiosity causes a dysfunctional society. Correlation here only implies causation. Nor should the data be interpreted as saying that Christianity flourishes in dysfunctional societies. Both could be caused by a third factor, or the correlations could just be spurious.

This very large study proves that there’s no evidence that Christianity has a beneficial effect on society in first-world countries in the parameters mentioned. Christian societies aren’t better, healthier, or safer than secular societies.
Gregory Paul believes that America is slowly becoming as secular as its peers. See his brief article on this at http://www.energygrid.com/society/2008/0...right.html

Has Christianity provided any social benefits? There’s no doubt some Christians do excellent humanitarian work, particularly so in the developing world. I think this happens primarily because good people do altruistic things for those less fortunate. It’s also true some of them are inspired by carefully chosen snippets of the bible. I genuinely respect and admire these good people, but think everyone would be better off if they left god out of it.

References;
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QbBVB66DC...re=related
http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=pla...O32W5yXJkA
http://secularhumanist.blogspot.com.au/2...ional.html
https://sites.google.com/site/leavingxtianity/home
http://confidentman.net/self-esteem/reco...upbringing
http://truth-out.org/news/item/7331:how-...efs-on-you
http://atheism.about.com/od/pentecostali...epress.htm
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/...olm-bowden
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2j3VU1T8ALU
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23-05-2013, 04:23 AM (This post was last modified: 23-05-2013 04:53 PM by Mark Fulton.)
RE: Attack a Theist - Mark Fuller Challenge
(22-05-2013 09:43 PM)Mojch Wrote:  Dr. Mark,

First, thank you for your admission.

Second, you state "It's interesting that the more 'Christian" a society is, the more unwanted pregnancies and abortions there are and the higher the rates of sexually transmitted disease." I find this point interesting but have never come across any research proving it in my studies. Could you provide a citation to research I could read that proves this point?

Third, your objection in your latest post seems to boil down to this...

Quote: "I do not presume anyone has the right to tell other adults how to live out their sexuality. We are all individuals with different wants, desires and relationships . . . That's only your opinion. You have no right to impose your opinion on others."

Where did I ever say I wanted to impose my opinion on others? At no point have I ever stated that just because I think these sexual activities are wrong that they should be IMPOSED on others. Advocating a point of view is not the same an mandating its imposition. Additionally, how is this an argument that my position is illogical or incorrect? If reduced to logical form, your argument is...

1. A asserts X is true.
2. A has no right to impose X on others.
3. TF, X is false.

Do you dispute that this is faulty reasoning? Or have I mischaracterized your opinion?

Fourth, after you address my points above, I reiterate that I would like your answer to the question below. I suspect interest in our discussion of sexuality has waned.

Question: Can nothing exist or is it simply a concept without a physical manifestation?

Sincerely,

Mojch

Hi Mojch,

your third point asks

"Where did I ever say I wanted to impose my opinion on others? At no point have I ever stated that just because I think these sexual activities are wrong that they should be IMPOSED on others. Advocating a point of view is not the same an mandating its imposition."

Apologies to you are in order, as I have assumed you are a man who practices what he preaches. You have, after all, stated, and I quote you...

“Thus, while I hold to many of the same fundamental doctrines as the modern Church...” and

“that sexuality as dictated by the Bible is the best possible ordering of sexual relationships available....” and

"The sexual morality advocated by the Bible is superior to any other method of ordering human sexual experiences [because it maximizes protection for the group while, when properly implemented, minimizing the unnecessary sexual dissatisfaction of the individual.]"

Given that you also stated
"Yes, I am a Christian. By denomination I am a Missouri Synod Lutheran..." I feel I had some basis for assuming you had many beliefs similar to that particular version of Christianity. And ...there is no doubt that the overwhelming majority of Christians always have, and still do, hope to impose their beliefs on others. It's a fundamental tenet of the religion. Jesus says non believers will burn in hell and those who are not for him are against him. I perhaps had some reason to assume you were something more than an intellectual sitting on the sidelines commenting on people's prejudices. I hear it that you may well be of a different inclination, and I applaud you if you are.

Allow me to indulge myself by discussing how Christianity, via Christians , manages to pollute our societies, even though you may not be part of it...

Christian churches have committed atrocities throughout the ages. Many of them didn’t hesitate to use violence to grab power, accumulate riches and convert natives. Their methods may have changed, but their agenda hasn’t. In modern times, some of them are still powerful and wealthy, and are closely linked with the world’s governments, stock markets, and financial institutions. The Vatican, for example, is one of the wealthiest institutions in the world and frequently entertains government leaders in Rome. It’s estimated that the Holy See presently owns 10 - 15 per cent of all the shares registered on the Italian Stock Exchange. (http://www.cai.org/bible-studies/vatican-billions). Politicians in Western democracies are very aware of the voting power of Christians, particularly in the USA. Every day clergymen give their opinions from the pulpit and through the media, preaching to people on social, moral, and even scientific issues. In America, some churches even own television and radio stations. Churches educate a large proportion of the western world’s children. Amazingly, most of their activities are financed by tax-free money.

Churches and Children


“We’ve been got at, and our principal spiritual battle is waking up to that fact”
(Douglas Lockhart, Dark Side of God, 233).

It’s a free world, so churches have a right to advertise to adults, but when they impose their ideas on young children they’re playing dirty. Youngsters are prime targets because it’s easy to sell them mythical nonsense. They’re uncritical, trusting, sensitive and pliable; suitable soil in which to sow a seed. Churches own schools for this very purpose.

Churches are like a schoolyard bully preying on little kids for their lunch money. Children’s heads are filled with prayers, hymns, and stories about heaven, hell, Jesus, sins, death and guardian angels. Behavior is judged in Christian terms, and they’re told Satan is a bad guy out to get them. Hell is a concept deliberately designed to create distress. To teach it to children is just plain sick, and in my opinion amounts to child abuse. Junior is offered Jesus as his best buddy, and some church people think that’s justification. Yet Jesus can’t stop children’s nightmares. ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nzGVateOWto ).

Christmas toys and Easter eggs, deliberately designed to delight children, are used to sell the Jesus story.

Convictions inculcated in children can become so embedded in their subconscious young people can’t shake them. The consequences can include paranoia, anxiety, poor self-expression, guilt about sexuality, poor self esteem and hurt due to hypocrisy and prejudices. These problems often don’t become apparent until later in life.

Well-meaning Christian teachers and parents don’t realize churches are using them to fill children’s minds with so much superstitious nonsense it makes the advertising on television look small time. ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UTedvV6oZjo).This promotional blitz has one aim - to develop brand loyalty to a church. Brainwashed kids become compliant consumers, pliable people willing to part with their cash. They help indoctrinate the next generation and the cycle continues. Churches have refined the system that keeps them powerful by targeting youngsters. They make the corporations of the commercial world look like amateurs.

I think a fundamental feature of an exceptional education is to give children a mental picture of their world that’s in tune with reality. Children should also be taught how, not what, to think. They need encouragement to explore. They should be told that they control their own destiny, and that they must be open-minded. Christianity undermines all of this. To teach children to find solutions by praying to an imaginary judgmental sky buddy is a subtle form of child abuse.

I think parents should question the use of repetition in prayers and hymns. Surely if the teaching is that terrific, it should sell itself, and be taught without trickery.
If parents insist their kids be coached in Christianity, why not teach it when children are experienced enough to reason for themselves? There’s no need to indoctrinate and prejudice young minds. Geography, trigonometry, and economics are universally regarded as valuable, but nobody believes a five-year-old should be saturated with them.

The fact is that most church leaders know it’s imperative to get inside little one’s minds early. Their agenda is the institution’s growth, and the child’s development is secondary. That’s inexcusable from organizations claiming to promote people’s welfare.

All youngsters deserve nothing but the best. What makes kids happy, well adjusted, with a healthy self – esteem, is love, gentle discipline and stimulation. Consider the happily radiant children found in close-knit communities who have never heard of God or Jesus. Human love and interactions with people are real. Nonsense about an ancient God with odd ideas, whom they can’t see, hear or touch, isn’t.

Some people may accuse me of being cynical, yet have they considered church greed and the reality of indoctrination? I say a culture of church loyalty has been so heavily stamped into some people they can’t cope with their church losing little clients. Consider what most Christian parents would think about another denomination teaching their children. The dogma is almost identical, yet they’d be put out, because a “Christian education” is all about shoring up the numbers in their own church.

Marketing to Adults

Throughout history most churches have tried many tricks to convince, impress, and make money from people. They’ve employed the world’s best architects, artists and composers to create the impression of the church’s grandeur with overpowering edifices, music that can move one to tears, and stupendous sculptures and paintings. These things may be magnificent, yet they add nothing to the veracity of the Bible, or to validate God’s existence. Some of the world’s most fraudulent fiends own impressive palaces and the most awesome art collections. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BmNbecu1V6I)

Early Protestants were among the first to break the tyranny of the Papacy by ignoring its claimed connection to God. They knew that the Catholic Church had exploited people and lied about their god given supremacy for over a thousand years. Yet many Protestants today accept similar lies from their own money-grubbing ministers.

Evangelical Protestants, an eclectic group, often sell themselves using modern marketing techniques. Many have become media-savvy, owning television and radio stations. They open their doors to everyone and greet people with smiles. They need customers to feel there’s something special going on, so they manufacture an excited atmosphere, with live music and choreographed sermons delivered by charismatic, confident characters. Jesus is portrayed as part of a package that’s the generic default solution to people’s search for meaning. The sales pitch touts some untrue, trumped-up and tired old teachings,
“Jesus lives…”
“Jesus saves…”
“Jesus loves you…”
“Jesus sacrificed himself for you…”
It’s not Jesus who’s been sacrificed, but common sense. Anyone familiar with Yeshua’s real history and Paul’s prejudices knows these beliefs are baloney. They’re just part of a ploy to get people paying up as members of the Jesus fan club. ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4TUT98mOwKs ).

Customers get sold on the spiel if they’re impressionable or vulnerable and uninformed. They’ve usually heard most of it before in their childhood. They score an instant circle of superficial friends, but there’s a price to be paid. They’ll have less money in their pockets, and, more importantly, will be plagued with prejudices that put their mental health under significant strain.

End of rant. You may now have a better appreciation of why I do what I do, and why many of the members of TTA forum are so pro-active. We want to protect the children and make a better world for everyone.
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23-05-2013, 09:39 PM
RE: Attack a Theist - Mark Fulton Challenge
Dr. Mark,

Two things...

1. "I perhaps had some reason to assume you were something more than an intellectual sitting on the sidelines commenting on people's prejudices. I hear it that you may well be of a different inclination, and I applaud you if you are." First, thank you for implying that I might be an intellectual. High praise indeed. Second, I agree that your assumption was not unjustified and I should not have taken the tone that I did in pushing back against it. For the record, while I am an adamant believer in Christianity, I am equally (if not more so) adamant that Christianity (nor any other religion or system of thinking) should impose its beliefs on those who do not want them. Of course, there are obvious exceptions because mankind must impose some laws but those laws should be deduced from reason and not religion.

2. I have not had time to read these lengthy posts in depth and I note that you specifically requested that I do so. Without work this weekend, I will do so and then, if you will permit, I would like to ask some questions about them. Then, we can move on to the new topic. Agreed?

Thank, I am loving this.

Mojch
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23-05-2013, 09:58 PM
RE: Attack a Theist - Mark Fulton Challenge
(23-05-2013 09:39 PM)Mojch Wrote:  Dr. Mark,

Two things...

1. "I perhaps had some reason to assume you were something more than an intellectual sitting on the sidelines commenting on people's prejudices. I hear it that you may well be of a different inclination, and I applaud you if you are." First, thank you for implying that I might be an intellectual. High praise indeed. Second, I agree that your assumption was not unjustified and I should not have taken the tone that I did in pushing back against it. For the record, while I am an adamant believer in Christianity, I am equally (if not more so) adamant that Christianity (nor any other religion or system of thinking) should impose its beliefs on those who do not want them. Of course, there are obvious exceptions because mankind must impose some laws but those laws should be deduced from reason and not religion.

2. I have not had time to read these lengthy posts in depth and I note that you specifically requested that I do so. Without work this weekend, I will do so and then, if you will permit, I would like to ask some questions about them. Then, we can move on to the new topic. Agreed?

Thank, I am loving this.

Mojch

I'd be honored to answer any questions and look forward to your comments. I'm impressed by your open-mindedness.

I'm particularly hoping to share with you some of the history that is responsible for the very core beliefs of Christianity. It took me many years to work it all out, and, like anyone who thinks they've discovered "the truth" I'm keen to share with anyone interested. Of course....in doing that....I can clarify my own thoughts and practice communicating....and....learn from you too.
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26-05-2013, 08:40 AM
RE: Attack a Theist - Mark Fulton Challenge
Dr. Mark,

As promised in my last email, I have read and considered (in-depth, since I always try to at read in full each post directed at me to avoid unnecessary mistakes / confusion) the evidence and research presented in your last email about the cost of Christianity to society. I have the following questions and comments. Note that this is long. Note also that it is NOT intended as an argument. I read and considered what you provided and simply wrote down the thoughts and questions that came to me. I have tried to consider these opinions and facts with complete intellectual honesty so if you see an error in my reasoning, please be explicit in explaining it so I can correct it. If possible, I would like your considered response to each of these questions since it took me significant amounts of time to read and critique the provided materials.

I address your first post (the Paul study) here, and your next post in a reply to be forthcoming.

1. "There have been literally hundreds of wars started or inflamed by Christian intolerance." Upon reflection, it seems like religion is usually the veil used to govern the lusts of the powerful after money, power, etc. Thus, while the war may claimed to be religious, it is actually the opposite: Man using a superficial version of religion to justify his own greed etc. I realize that the term "inflamed" was also used here but I think my question still stands: Isn't the problem is not with the religion itself but with the misuse of religious teachings by those with power and influence? Isn't this an objection for better LEADERS of the church and not for rejecting the Church altogether?

2. "Many people today, even Christians, are disgusted by the typical church’s pursuit of power and money." Absolutely. However, see my above question about corrupt leaders, not corrupt religion.

3. I found the Gregory Paul study interesting and researched the man himself a little on Wikipedia (not the best source I know but, well, time constraints do exist). I note that the link you provided to the study itself returns a 404 error. However, I googled the study and pulled it up. I think the error is that the end of address should be .pdf because that is what it was when I found the study. (I say this only since you copied this from your personal website and I thought you might want to fix it if it is in fact broken.)

Quoting from the study with my questions following...

QUOTE: "The absence of exceptions to the negative correlation between absolute belief in a creator
and acceptance of evolution, plus the lack of a significant religious revival in any developed
democracy where evolution is popular, cast doubt on the thesis that societies can combine high
rates of both religiosity and agreement with evolutionary science. Such an amalgamation may
not be practical. By removing the need for a creator evolutionary science made belief optional."

QUESTION: I agree with this up to a point. However, isn't the more correct conclusion that the study "cast[s] doubt on the thesis that societies can combine high rates of both [belief in a religion that rejects evolution] and agreement with evolutionary science"? It would seem so. If the Church would modify its position to accept, embrace, and even teach evolution (as I believe it should), then this result would be meaningless. It seems to me that this is a great argument that the Church is wrong about accepting evolution but a poor argument that the Church is wrong in general.

QUOTE: "The United States is almost always the most dysfunctional of the developed democracies, sometimes spectacularly so, and almost always scores poorly. The view of the U.S. as a “shining city on the hill” to the rest of the world is falsified when it comes to basic measures of societal health."

QUESTION: Here is where I have a serious problem. You claim this study as evidence against the proposition that the claim "that if all communities were Christian the result would be moral health, peace, and happiness." This study did not, and does not purport to, study an entirely Christian society (of course doing so would be impossible because such a society does not exist). It seems to me that what the study finds is that uniform acceptance of a worldview tends to produce higher rates of social benefit. Diversity of worldviews tends to create dysfunction. Think about the above quote. The US is most dysfunctional not because it is "religious" but because it is "diversely religion". Even within Christianity, there are dozens, if not hundreds, of sects warring to settle on a truth. This is what creates the social dysfunction. At best, I don't think this study supports what you said it does. Am I incorrect here? If so, how?

4. Returning to your commentary on the study. "These STD’s have been nearly eliminated in strongly secular Scandinavia. In my opinion, the reason is obvious. Christian parents and schools refuse to educate adolescents about basic sexual hygiene." You are correct. The Church should be embarrassed by its failure to accept the difference between living in an ideal world and living in one where kids will have sex and need to know how to be protected. Of course, my original point stands. The problem is the Church and not the religion itself. Is there any actual Biblical support for not teaching kids about sexual hygiene? Song of Solomon is entirely sexual and the New Testament advocates for active sex lives. A case can be made that OT law require avoiding contraception but I think the case is pretty clear that such laws were socially contextual and now longer hold.

5. "Interestingly, within the United States, the strongly theistic, anti-evolution south and mid-west have markedly worse homicide, mortality, STD, and youth pregnancy rates than in the northeast part of the United States, where secularization and acceptance of evolution approach European norms." Assuming you accept the causation vs. correlation here (which I do for purposes of beneficial discussion) I would argue, once again, that this is the result of (1) the South having a diversity of religions and beliefs that create internal strife not because they are religious but because there are many different religions and (2) the modern Church is at least partly responsible for many of these problems because it teaches tradition instead of what the Bible actually claims. It has been doing so for hundreds of years and it is this failure that has caused much of the evil the modern Church is responsible for.

6. "The facts contradict this assumption." That is because the assumption is stupid and nowhere found in Scripture. Just as many atheists make dumb claims based on a misunderstanding of science, so do many religious people make dumb statements about religion. It does not mean the religion is flawed. It means people are. Any Christian that claims America is "God's country" is either insane, a politician, or, most likely, simply accepting an emotionally comforting truth without comparing it to the facts.

7. "This very large study proves that there’s no evidence that Christianity has a beneficial effect on society in first-world countries in the parameters mentioned. Christian societies aren’t better, healthier, or safer than secular societies." I reject this conclusion as phrased because, as discussed above, the study does not support it. However, I would accept the conclusion below because I think it more fairly states the actual findings of the study.

"This very large study proves that there’s no evidence that [a diversity of conflicting religious beliefs operating within the same country] has a beneficial effect on society in first-world countries in the parameters mentioned. [Diversely religious] societies aren’t better, healthier, or safer than secular societies."

Am I wrong that this statement would more fairly reflect the actual findings of the study?

Sincerely,

Mojch
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26-05-2013, 09:12 AM
RE: Attack a Theist - Mark Fulton Challenge
Dr. Mark,

This second post addresses the evidence you raised in your second evidence post, starting with the section "Churches and Children". I note also that I articulated my thoughts on this position in our original thread as well and, for the sake of time, will not rehash them here. Apologies.

1. "Christian churches have committed atrocities throughout the ages. Many of them didn’t hesitate to use violence to grab power, accumulate riches and convert natives." I note, again, that you are arguing against the Church and not Christianity. The Bible clearly says (with certain exceptions authorized explicitly by God which we can discuss at another time so as not to get distracted here), that violence and greed are bad things. Thus, if your argument is that the Church was wrong then you are correct. But the Church is not Christianity.

2. "In America, some churches even own television and radio stations." ASIDE: Ugh...religious TV is the worst. Seriously. Televangelism should be punishable by death. :-)

3. For the record, and I know arguing from personal experience is highly suspect, but I directly attribute my Christian upbringing to by current level of education. I found religion to be so satisfying that I studied it in-depth, becoming fascinated by arguments both for and against it. As I considered the arguments, I realized many "traditional" Christian beliefs needed to be modified (some highly) but that, in the end, I was more intellectual fulfilled as a believer in Christianity than in any other religion or secular position (yes, I considered them). This resulted in a belief far stronger than one held without such thought and examination. My very presence on this board is a result of this fact. I explain this only because I object to the idea that religious upbringing NECESSARILY requires stifling clear thought. Often, it does. The Church needs to change that.

4. "Children should also be taught how, not what, to think." This is clearly false. Children don't possess the mental faculties to make reasoned conclusions regarding certain aspects of life until much later (often mid-twenties). I could cite research on adolescent brain development but, given your level of medical background, I assume this point is obvious. Parents must teach their kids both PROCESS and OUTCOMES because often the children must make decisions about those OUTCOMES far before they possess the mental faculty to complete the process themselves. Now, we can disagree over whether religion is an outcome that should be taught but I don't think this statement as phrased is remotely defensible.

5. "Surely if the teaching is that terrific, it should sell itself, and be taught without trickery." Agreed.

6. "All youngsters deserve nothing but the best." Agreed. Of course, we disagree over what is "best".

7. "I say a culture of church loyalty has been so heavily stamped into some people they can’t cope with their church losing little clients." OMFSM! (Oh My Flying Spagetti Monster). I LOVE this quote but probably for a radically different reason than you intended. To me, this is the fundamental problem with the modern Church. The reason the modern Church is dying is because people are holding to DENOMINATIONS and old-style, clearly erroneous beliefs. Science has revealed much about the majesty of the universe to us. We should see that knowledge not as a challenge to religion but as a light to guide us to a better interpretation of the Scriptures. My study of science has deepened my faith considerably and yet the modern church has caused countless problems (and serious human suffering) by failing to believe its own dogma. If the Bible is infallible, science should illuminate it and help us to determine which of the possible interpretations of the text is correct. Yet, the Church, unwilling to give up old positions because of emotional attachments to them, fights a losing battle against science.

8. "Throughout history most churches have tried many tricks to convince, impress, and make money from people. They’ve employed the world’s best architects, artists and composers to create the impression of the church’s grandeur with overpowering edifices, music that can move one to tears, and stupendous sculptures and paintings. These things may be magnificent, yet they add nothing to the veracity of the Bible, or to validate God’s existence. Some of the world’s most fraudulent fiends own impressive palaces and the most awesome art collections." Completely agree. For the record, this reasoning leads to the ONLY contradiction in Scripture I have not been able to yet reconcile in my own mind (although I have a few working theories that make me confident that reconciliation is possible). If you are interested, a basic form of the contradiction is...

(1) The OT God demands charity.
(2) The OT God demands a glorious, expensive temple be built to him.
(3) Why would the OT God need a glorious temple when that money could be used to help others?

9. "We want to protect the children and make a better world for everyone." An admirable goal and one I share.

Sincerely,

Mojch
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27-05-2013, 03:04 AM
RE: Attack a Theist - Mark Fulton Challenge
(26-05-2013 08:40 AM)Mojch Wrote:  Dr. Mark,

As promised in my last email, I have read and considered (in-depth, since I always try to at read in full each post directed at me to avoid unnecessary mistakes / confusion) the evidence and research presented in your last email about the cost of Christianity to society. I have the following questions and comments. Note that this is long. Note also that it is NOT intended as an argument. I read and considered what you provided and simply wrote down the thoughts and questions that came to me. I have tried to consider these opinions and facts with complete intellectual honesty so if you see an error in my reasoning, please be explicit in explaining it so I can correct it. If possible, I would like your considered response to each of these questions since it took me significant amounts of time to read and critique the provided materials.

I address your first post (the Paul study) here, and your next post in a reply to be forthcoming.

1. "There have been literally hundreds of wars started or inflamed by Christian intolerance." Upon reflection, it seems like religion is usually the veil used to govern the lusts of the powerful after money, power, etc. Thus, while the war may claimed to be religious, it is actually the opposite: Man using a superficial version of religion to justify his own greed etc. I realize that the term "inflamed" was also used here but I think my question still stands: Isn't the problem is not with the religion itself but with the misuse of religious teachings by those with power and influence? Isn't this an objection for better LEADERS of the church and not for rejecting the Church altogether?

2. "Many people today, even Christians, are disgusted by the typical church’s pursuit of power and money." Absolutely. However, see my above question about corrupt leaders, not corrupt religion.

3. I found the Gregory Paul study interesting and researched the man himself a little on Wikipedia (not the best source I know but, well, time constraints do exist). I note that the link you provided to the study itself returns a 404 error. However, I googled the study and pulled it up. I think the error is that the end of address should be .pdf because that is what it was when I found the study. (I say this only since you copied this from your personal website and I thought you might want to fix it if it is in fact broken.)

Quoting from the study with my questions following...

QUOTE: "The absence of exceptions to the negative correlation between absolute belief in a creator
and acceptance of evolution, plus the lack of a significant religious revival in any developed
democracy where evolution is popular, cast doubt on the thesis that societies can combine high
rates of both religiosity and agreement with evolutionary science. Such an amalgamation may
not be practical. By removing the need for a creator evolutionary science made belief optional."

QUESTION: I agree with this up to a point. However, isn't the more correct conclusion that the study "cast[s] doubt on the thesis that societies can combine high rates of both [belief in a religion that rejects evolution] and agreement with evolutionary science"? It would seem so. If the Church would modify its position to accept, embrace, and even teach evolution (as I believe it should), then this result would be meaningless. It seems to me that this is a great argument that the Church is wrong about accepting evolution but a poor argument that the Church is wrong in general.

QUOTE: "The United States is almost always the most dysfunctional of the developed democracies, sometimes spectacularly so, and almost always scores poorly. The view of the U.S. as a “shining city on the hill” to the rest of the world is falsified when it comes to basic measures of societal health."

QUESTION: Here is where I have a serious problem. You claim this study as evidence against the proposition that the claim "that if all communities were Christian the result would be moral health, peace, and happiness." This study did not, and does not purport to, study an entirely Christian society (of course doing so would be impossible because such a society does not exist). It seems to me that what the study finds is that uniform acceptance of a worldview tends to produce higher rates of social benefit. Diversity of worldviews tends to create dysfunction. Think about the above quote. The US is most dysfunctional not because it is "religious" but because it is "diversely religion". Even within Christianity, there are dozens, if not hundreds, of sects warring to settle on a truth. This is what creates the social dysfunction. At best, I don't think this study supports what you said it does. Am I incorrect here? If so, how?

4. Returning to your commentary on the study. "These STD’s have been nearly eliminated in strongly secular Scandinavia. In my opinion, the reason is obvious. Christian parents and schools refuse to educate adolescents about basic sexual hygiene." You are correct. The Church should be embarrassed by its failure to accept the difference between living in an ideal world and living in one where kids will have sex and need to know how to be protected. Of course, my original point stands. The problem is the Church and not the religion itself. Is there any actual Biblical support for not teaching kids about sexual hygiene? Song of Solomon is entirely sexual and the New Testament advocates for active sex lives. A case can be made that OT law require avoiding contraception but I think the case is pretty clear that such laws were socially contextual and now longer hold.

5. "Interestingly, within the United States, the strongly theistic, anti-evolution south and mid-west have markedly worse homicide, mortality, STD, and youth pregnancy rates than in the northeast part of the United States, where secularization and acceptance of evolution approach European norms." Assuming you accept the causation vs. correlation here (which I do for purposes of beneficial discussion) I would argue, once again, that this is the result of (1) the South having a diversity of religions and beliefs that create internal strife not because they are religious but because there are many different religions and (2) the modern Church is at least partly responsible for many of these problems because it teaches tradition instead of what the Bible actually claims. It has been doing so for hundreds of years and it is this failure that has caused much of the evil the modern Church is responsible for.

6. "The facts contradict this assumption." That is because the assumption is stupid and nowhere found in Scripture. Just as many atheists make dumb claims based on a misunderstanding of science, so do many religious people make dumb statements about religion. It does not mean the religion is flawed. It means people are. Any Christian that claims America is "God's country" is either insane, a politician, or, most likely, simply accepting an emotionally comforting truth without comparing it to the facts.

7. "This very large study proves that there’s no evidence that Christianity has a beneficial effect on society in first-world countries in the parameters mentioned. Christian societies aren’t better, healthier, or safer than secular societies." I reject this conclusion as phrased because, as discussed above, the study does not support it. However, I would accept the conclusion below because I think it more fairly states the actual findings of the study.

"This very large study proves that there’s no evidence that [a diversity of conflicting religious beliefs operating within the same country] has a beneficial effect on society in first-world countries in the parameters mentioned. [Diversely religious] societies aren’t better, healthier, or safer than secular societies."

Am I wrong that this statement would more fairly reflect the actual findings of the study?

Sincerely,

Mojch

Hi Mojch, phew....this is gonna be long. My challenge is to get my points across succinctly. Here goes....

RE "Upon reflection, it seems like religion is usually the veil used to govern the lusts of the powerful after money, power, etc. Thus, while the war may claimed to be religious, it is actually the opposite: Man using a superficial version of religion to justify his own greed etc. I realize that the term "inflamed" was also used here but I think my question still stands: Isn't the problem is not with the religion itself but with the misuse of religious teachings by those with power and influence? Isn't this an objection for better LEADERS of the church and not for rejecting the Church altogether?"

This is an old argument, repetitively used, and it is fundamentally flawed. I'll tell you why. The essence of Christianity is the bible. I'm sure you agree. The bible is all about power and greed. Sure...there are some nice "one-liners" contained therein, but IT WAS WRITTEN TO CONTROL PEOPLE. The Jewish priesthood, made up of power hungry Levites, started the ball rolling, and I think the Roman government copied a successful formula to create the New Testament. I cannot possibly prove that to you in a few paragraphs...I can tell you that this conclusion is the result of many years study. Here is how I word it in my book...

"The Real Purpose of the Bible
Authorities in churches usually claim the bible exists for people’s benefit, yet I think it was created for crowd control.

God didn’t write it, nor did bona-fide historians, or people discussing what they thought was the truth, or people who genuinely cared about their readers. It was scrawled by power hungry priests and propagandists; spin-doctors asserting their own authority.

They had a similar agenda to people who currently work in advertising agencies, and their writings share many of the features of an advertising campaign. The Bible was written to profit certain groups; it contains little of true value, and its authors tried to appeal to the emotions and dreams of the masses to push a product. The bible was written for the hoi polloi, the gullible gatherings, the naive people, the consumers; those who are easily impressed by promises and frightened by threats. It was thought up to promote power over them and empty their pockets. It worked, and this is the main reason it’s survived the passage of time. ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TudX_15VCA4 ).

All talk about spirituality, morals and ethics in the bible is just floss designed to disguise the above.

Promoting biblical propaganda is an old trick. Priests and preachers want the people dreaming and scheming about the after-life, as that gives them power.
Preaching the bible requires no real resources to get results. Stories of gods, miracles, prophets, promises of heaven and threats of hell require nothing more than confidence and an active imagination to advertise.

The Bible is a product of the petty politics of power-hungry people. The very core of Christianity has no legitimate authority. It’s nothing more than a mountain of superstitious nonsense."

So...I think the bible (ie "Christianity") is, at its very core, IMMORAL. ( You disagree...but give me time and I'll prove it to you)

The assholes at the top of churches are also typically immoral. ( we agree on this I think)
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