Attack a Theist - Mark Fulton Challenge
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27-05-2013, 03:45 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

RE "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. "

Sorry Mojch, you lost me here! Could you humor me and reword this?

RE "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?"

Mmmmmmmmm. You state
"It seems to me that what the study finds is that uniform acceptance of a worldview tends to produce higher rates of social benefit."

Ah....no. The "healthiest" societies were the ones least Christian, and there is an almost linear relationship in developped countries around the world confirming the fact. There is no "uniform acceptance of a worldview" in a secular society, only an absence of traditional religious views.

You are trying to suggest that the reason Christian societies score highly as dysfunctional is because they're arguing with other Christians or secularists...
"Honest daddy, I caught gonorrhoea from the Jehovah witness!"...or
"An atheist must have been on the toilet seat!"

Come on..let's be rational and honest. Christian societies have more unwanted teenage pregnancies, more abortions, more STD's, more homicides and lower life expectancies because, statistically speaking , they're not applying rational solutions to life's problems.
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27-05-2013, 04:01 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

You state
"The problem is the Church and not the religion itself. Is there any actual Biblical support for not teaching kids about sexual hygiene?

The authors of the bible knew nothing about sexual hygiene. If they had some link with a god, that god should have promoted condom use. He didn't.

Churches need to get over their aversion to sex, and should start teaching that it is a normal, natural healthy part of life. They should recognise they have a responsibility to help prevent unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases. They should admit that the Bible was written by authors trying to control people's behavior, and one of the ways they did that was by wounding people in their egos by making them feel guilty about sex. This is outdated immoral bullshit.

If sex was discussed openly and honestly in churches, there would be a lot less child molestation going on, many less frigid relationships, and a whole lot less neurotic people around.
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27-05-2013, 04:35 AM (This post was last modified: 27-05-2013 04:42 AM by Mark Fulton.)
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

You write "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."

Gee, I'm not sure where to start with this. Your religion, Christianity, is so full of flaws there's barely a paragraph from the bible one could give some credibility to without "interpreting" it and "putting it into context."

I'll leave the biggest culprit, Paul, out of the argument for the moment. Let's just consider Jesus, who, by the way, had little or nothing to do with a once living flesh and blood characetr who may or may not have existed. This is going to be long, but let's consider what "Jesus" has to say for himself.

Jesus’ Teachings

There’s a public perception that Jesus was a peace-loving preacher who taught compassion, forgiveness, and humility. Most Christians believe he was perfect; sinless and faultless. Thousands of books in Christian bookstores talk in glowing terms about his wonderful teachings. However, in my opinion, what he had to say reveals some serious errors and character faults. Most Christians fail to appreciate this because Jesus’ teachings have been reinterpreted, glossed over, or ignored to make him sound attractive. I’ll assess his written record at face value.

Intolerance

Christian intolerance has been, and still is, a serious cause of disharmony around the world, a fact that many people, even some Christians, acknowledge. It’s fashionable in some circles to blame churches, rather than the dogma itself, for Christian prejudice against the outsider. Yet Christians have a bigoted mentor. Jesus berated anyone who didn’t buy his message:

“Anyone who believes in the Son has eternal life, but anyone who refuses to believe in the Son will never see life: the anger of God stays on him” (John 3:33, NJB).

“He who believes and is baptized will be saved; he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:16, NJB).

He even threatened to burn or kill others for not believing:
“Anyone who does not remain in me is like a branch that has been thrown away—he withers; these branches are collected and thrown on the fire and they are burnt” (John 15:6, NJB). (A similar quote is repeated in Mark 6:11.)

“Then he began to approach the towns in which most of his miracles had been worked, because they refused to repent. Alas for you Chorazin! Alas for you Bethsaida! For if the miracles done in you were done in Tyre or Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sack cloth and ashes, and still I tell you that it will not go as hard on Judgment day on Tyre or Sidon as with you. And as for you Capernaum, did you want to be exalted as high as heaven? You shall be thrown down in hell for if the miracles done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have been standing yet. And still, I tell you that I will not go as hard with the land of Sodom on Judgment day as with you” (Matt. 11:20–24, NJB).

“But as for my enemies who did not want me for their king, bring them here and execute them in my presence” (Luke 19:27, NJB).

There’s no interpretation that can tone down these atrocious tirades. Jesus had an arrogant, fanatical belief in himself, and an ambition to be in charge. He denounced anyone who didn’t worship him, and threatened violence. These aren’t the words of someone spreading peace and goodwill.

Throughout history, many Christians in positions of power have persecuted, converted or killed the outsider. Jews, Muslims, and American and African natives have been brutalized as a consequence. Christian parochialism was one of the reasons George W. Bush invaded Iraq. Imagine a world today if Jesus had consistently preached universal liberalism and love; it would probably be a far less violent and happier one!

We should be grateful that Christian violence has been curtailed over the last two centuries as humanitarian ethics have countered the confidence of churches. Some Christians, however, still unashamedly condemn unbelievers.

Jesus the Xenophobe

“Jesus loves me! This I know,
For the Bible tells me so”
(Traditional, Words by Anna B. Warner)

Most Christians assume Jesus had affection for anyone who accepted him; that he had a personal interest in each and every individual. I think they seriously misunderstand their main man. Jesus didn’t love gentiles (who he referred to as pagans.) He told his disciples:
“Do not turn your steps to pagan territory, and do not enter any Samaritan town. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel” (Matt. 10:6, NJB).

He said:
“I was sent only to the lost sheep of the House of Israel” (Matt. 15:24, NJB).

He forbade his fellow Jews to pray like pagans:
“And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him” (Matt. 6:7–8, NJB).

Here is Jesus’ encounter with a Greek (i.e., non-Jewish) woman:
“He left that place and set out for the territory of Tyre. There he went into a house and did not want anyone to know he was there, but he could not pass unrecognized. A woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit heard about him straight away and came and fell at his feet. Now the woman was pagan, by birth a Syrophonecian and she begged him to cast the devil out of her daughter and he said to her ‘the children should be fed first, because it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the house dogs’. But she spoke up ‘Ah yes sir’ she replied ‘but the house dogs under the table can eat the children’s scraps’. And he said to her ‘for saying this, you may go home happy; the devil has gone out of your daughter’. So she went off to her home and found the child lying on the bed and the devil gone” (Mark 7:24–30, NJB). Jesus was drawing an analogy. The children were the Jews, who were to be fed first. The dogs were the gentiles (when Jews wished to insult someone they often referred to them as dogs), whom he’d rather not help. Jesus hesitated before healing the girl because her mother wasn’t Jewish.

Caesaria was the capital of Judea and Sepphoris the capital of Galilee, yet there’s no record that Jesus ever preached in either, despite their size and importance, I think because they were populated almost entirely by gentiles.

He could’ve taken his mission outside Palestine. Egyptians, Greeks, Africans, and Romans might have been wowed by his words of wisdom, yet he didn’t bother with them either, as they too were in gentile territories.

Jesus was, understandably, xenophobic. He was an insurrectionist trying to start a war. Preaching platitudes to gentiles would’ve been the last thing on his mind.
People who push the “Jesus loves you” line need to read their Bibles more carefully, and should try to understand the real history. It’s obvious Jesus didn’t love you unless you were Jewish and supported his military ambitions.

It’s true there are quotes portraying him as a preacher for all people. I think Gentile interpolators have added these to try to give him universal appeal, yet they can’t compensate for his bigotry elsewhere.

Threats of Hell

Jesus said,
“But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!...woe to you, blind guides…You blind fools!…You blind men!…You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell?” (Matt. 23:13–34, NJB).

“Well then, just as the darnel is gathered up and burnt in the fire, so it will be at the end of time. The Son of Man will send his angels and they will gather out of his kingdom all things that provoke offences and all who do evil, and throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth” (Matt. 13:40–43, NJB).

“Next he will say to those on his left hand ‘Go away from me with your curse upon you, to the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels’’’ (Matt. 25:41, NJB).
Jesus was convinced of the reality of hell, and threatened people he disliked with damnation.

His threats raise four key issues:
First, he would’ve had no need to intimidate people if he’d made a convincing case for himself. The implication that those who offended him would incur retribution (argumentum ad baculum, or literally an “argument with a cudgel”) means he resorted to intimidation after he’d failed to convince them. I think biblical authors were browbeating people who balked at joining their new cult.

Second, Jesus claimed that the love of the divine arbitrator was only granted to those who behaved. Most people today say that true, real love, such that a parent has for a child, is unconditional. In Jesus’ scheme, God is a petty, vindictive dictator who threatens his own creation, hardly the loving character he’s made out to be.

Third, these quotes confuse Jesus’ doctrine. He advised people to love their enemies, bless those that curse them, and forgive seventy times seven times, so hardly set an example by blackmailing people with threats of hell.

Fourth, one wonders on what basis God decides who goes to hell? There must be borderline cases. Some Christians claim that people choose hell by “rejecting Jesus.” What does that mean? What about those who’ve never heard of him? Some state we have to “accept Jesus” to avoid hell. “Accepting Jesus” means being compliant. Church people know how to create, then calm, newcomers’ fears—mention hell and then convince them to embrace Jesus and conform.

It’s highly unlikely that the real Yeshua, a dyed in the wool Jew, would have believed in hell. Jews never have, and still don’t, preach about such a place.

Many church people still preach hellfire to vulnerable children. This is psychological bullying, nothing less than child abuse. Some adults still have vivid childhood memories of being terrified by the immense, unending pain in hell.

In the past, churches used hell to justify terrible behavior. They thought it gave them license to burn any helpless person they didn’t like; they were just beginning the roasting, on earth, that Satan was to continue for all eternity.

The concept of eternal punishment is immoral. It’s quite rightly an embarrassment to many modern Christians, who choose not to talk about this ancient/medieval mandate any more.
( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SF6I5VSZVqc ).

In Praise of Poverty

Jesus said,
“How happy are you who are poor; yours is the kingdom of God” (Luke 6:20, NJB), and,
“But alas for you who are rich: you are having your consolation now” (Luke 6:24, NJB).
In Mark, his advice to a wealthy man is:
“Go and sell everything you own and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me” (Mark 10:21, NJB).

Jesus claimed the real riches were in heaven and you wouldn’t get there if you were rich. He said poverty was a virtue that would make you happy. He told people to give up material possessions to follow an ideology.

Yet people everywhere know that money talks, money works and money’s cool. Money buys quality of life. Nearly all of us like it, and Christians are no different, so they always ignore these maxims.

If everyone stopped work to follow an ideology there’d be no goods or services to buy. The very structure of society would collapse.

It was convenient to have first century crowds content with their lot. The dream of an afterlife reduced the rank and file’s ambitions. I think the government and ruling classes used Jesus to discourage poor people from protesting.

Jesus Invoked Misery

Jesus proposed people should be spiritually poor too:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven; Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matt. 5:3–5 NKJV), and
“Happy you who weep now; you shall laugh” (Luke 6:21, NJB), and
“Anyone who loves his life loses it; anyone who hates his life in this world will keep it for the eternal life” (John 12:25, NJB).

He may have been trying to cheer people up, but this was no way to do it. To praise misery is perverse! There’s nothing good about being poor in spirit, weeping and hating one’s life, the modern term for which is depression. It’s the antithesis of happiness. The depressed suffer terribly, as can their families and friends.

The Roman government, who had the final say on what went into the gospels, didn’t want discontented customers complaining or causing a disturbance.
Some interpreters claim that Jesus was trying to counsel against egoism or arrogance, but that’s not what he said.

I say miserable people who dream about the afterlife are doing themselves and society a serious disservice. Strength of spirit and a happy life are virtues to which we should all aspire.

One of the keys to happiness is living in the present, rather than dreaming about the future.

The Patronizing Jesus

The Gospel authors wrote as if people needed to be rewarded for obeying simple dogma.
“Love your enemies and do good, and lend without any hope of return. You will have great reward, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he himself is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked” (Luke 6:35, NJB).
“But when you give alms…your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (Matt. 6:3–4, NJB).
“Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven…” (Matt. 5:12, NJB).
Rewarding good behavior may help teach a child, or control the family dog, but shouldn’t be used to bribe adults.

We should behave well to benefit everyone, not to win a prize.

The public was being placated with promises about paradise. People should feel patronized.

The Ignorant Jesus

Jesus said:
“When an unclean spirit goes out of someone it wanders through waterless country looking for a place to rest, and not finding one it says, "I will go back to the home I came from." But on arrival, finding it swept and tidied, it then goes off and brings seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and set up house there, and so that person ends up worse off than before” (Luke 11:24–27, NJB).
Today “evil spirits” disappear with epileptic and anti-psychotic drugs that treat faulty brain biochemistry. Evil spirits are considered real only in the religious fringe.
I can’t criticize Jesus for believing in them, but if he was God, he should’ve known better.

The Inconsistent Jesus

Jesus said,
“The father is in me, and I in Him” (John 10:38, NJB), and “I and my father are one” (John 14:30, NJB). So he is a part of, and equal to his father, but he also spoke of his father as someone else:
“For the father is greater than I” (John 14:28, NJB), and
“For God sent his son into the world not to condemn the world, but so that through him the world might be saved.” (John 3:17, NJB).

In the fourth century some Christians murdered others over controversies about whether Jesus was God or a man. If John’s contributors had come to some consensus, maybe these fanatics wouldn’t have lost their lives and the Bible wouldn’t be so confusing.

Jesus said,
“Were I to testify on my own behalf, my testimony would not be valid” (John 5:31, NJB). This was followed a few chapters later by
“It is true that I am testifying on my own behalf, but my testimony is still valid…” (John 8:14, NJB).

Jesus said,
“You have the poor with you always, but you will not always have me” (Matt. 26:11, NJB). Then he said,
“Know that I am with you always, yes to the end of time” (Matt. 28:20, NJB).
Jesus said,
“Blessed are the peacemakers: they shall be recognized as children of God” (Matt. 5:9, NJB). He then said,
“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth: it is not peace I have come to bring, but a sword” (Matt. 10:34, NJB), and
“If you have no sword, sell your cloak and buy one” (Luke 22:36, NJB).

Jesus said,
“Do not make your way to gentile territory, and do not enter any Samaritan town; go instead to the lost sheep of the House of Israel’” (Matt. 10:5–6, NJB). Then he contradicted himself:
“Go, therefore, make disciples of all nations; baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 28:19, NJB).
There were too many punters putting words in Jesus’ mouth. A public figure that made gaffes like this today would be laughed at.

A Forgiving Jesus?

Jesus preached unqualified forgiveness:
“Then Peter went up to him and said, ‘Lord, how often must I forgive my brother if he wrongs me? As often as seven times?’ Jesus answered, ‘Not seven, I tell you, but seventy-seven times’” (Matt. 18:21–22, NJB).

This was unsound advice. Consider how the Vatican has repeatedly forgiven their pedophile priests and let them loose near playgrounds. Or that some people forgive their abusive partners only to be abused again.
The guilty should be held accountable and prevented from re-offending before they’re forgiven, a point Jesus fails to make.

Jesus broke his own rules:
“And he said unto them, Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables: That seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them.” (Mark 4:11–13 KJV). He didn’t want anyone not part of his inner circle forgiven. He said:
"And so I tell you, every human sin and blasphemy will be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. And anyone who says a word against the Son of man will be forgiven; but no one who speaks against the Holy Spirit will be forgiven either in this world or in the next” (Matt. 12:31–32, NJB). If the Holy Spirit (whatever or whoever that is) was spoken badly of, there was no forgiveness to be had. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MfDtrbVwodY).

Jesus and Sex

Jesus said,
“There are eunuchs born that way from their mother’s womb, there are eunuchs made so by men and there are eunuchs who have made themselves that way for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let anyone accept this who can.” (Matt. 19:12, NJB). He had no issue with castration to expedite entry into heaven. What a sick idea. The “good shepherd” wanted to castrate his sheep!

Throughout the Middle Ages men mutilated other men because of this message.

Jesus said:
“If a man looks at a woman lustfully, he has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matt. 5:28, NJB). He declared desire was depraved and implied we should be ashamed of our libidos. Yet surely sexual thoughts are as natural and as inoffensive as hunger or the need to breathe. They’re not something we can control. We can control giving in to our desires, and to do so may have merit, but that isn’t what Jesus said.

For nearly two thousand years Christians have felt guilt about sex. Some have suppressed their natural urges in the hope of impressing God and buying themselves a ticket to heaven. The consequence has been much misery and frustration, and many have ended up with neurotic issues. Some have sexually abused children. Jesus’ words must take some of the blame.

An Unbalanced Jesus

Jesus didn’t value limbs or organs:
“If your right eye should cause you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; for it will do you less harm to lose one part of you than to have your whole body thrown into hell. And if your right hand should cause you to sin, cut it off and throw it away” (Matt. 5:29, NJB). He clearly had a too fanatical obsession with sin, even if we grant he was talking allegorically.

Jesus the Pacifist

Jesus said:
"To the man who slaps you on one cheek, give him the other cheek too" (Luke 6:29–30, NJB), and
“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” (Matt. 5:5, NKJ). This encourages abuse and engenders poor self-esteem.

Jesus said something very strange about enemies:
“I say this to you: love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matt. 5:44, NJB). Oops! This has to be poor advice. We should listen to our enemies’ grievances and try to sort out any disagreements, but if necessary defend ourselves, not love and pray for them. It’s not surprising that only a tiny minority of Christians have ever taken any notice of this maxim.

Pacifism may be an admirable ideal, but only if balanced with self defence.

Jesus often bad-mouthed and threatened others, so he didn’t lead by example.
I think he was a rabble-rouser who tried to start an insurrection, so it’s ironic that the gospel authors made him out to be a pacifist.

Jesus the Sacrifice?

Jesus said,
“For God did not send His son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved” (John 3:17, NJB), and
“For I did not come to condemn the world, but to save the world” (John 12:47, NJB).

It was Paul who first put forward the idea that Jesus’ death was a sacrifice to save the world. It’s a concept at the very core of Christianity, yet it’s a profoundly flawed proposition. Yeshua, an Essene who didn’t set any store in sacrifice, would never have dreamed his death would save men from their sins, unless he was seriously deluded, and I don’t think he was. He was a Jew, so would’ve supposed sin was a matter the offender needed to sort out directly with god and whoever he’d wronged. There was never any need for faith in a third party to make things right.

If we assume God was Jesus’ father, let’s consider his position. Insisting his son die a horrific and degrading death for someone else’s sins is harebrained.

Jesus and Salvation

Jesus claimed everyone needed to believe in him to win the prize of salvation:
“No one who believes in him will be condemned; but whoever refuses to believe is condemned already because he has refused to believe in the name of God’s only son” (John 3:18, NJB). Oh dear. What a kooky concept! An arrogant Jesus alleged people had to believe in him to buy their way into heaven. I don’t think the real Jesus ever said anything of the sort. This is another of Paul’s imaginative ideas that’s been retrofitted to Jesus.

“Jesus” tried to cajole people with threats. Yet bona fide belief is the result of examining evidence, not of being intimidated.

Furthermore, while it’s possible to lie to avoid, say, a firing squad, an omnipotent god knows one is lying, so we can’t fool him by pretending to believe. Jesus should have known this.

Belief buying salvation is part of a power play. Churches find it a useful idea to promote, as they can promise a prize they’re never obliged to produce, in return for which they can control their congregations.

Jesus and Faith

Jesus made plenty of promises. He talked of kingdoms and miracles to come. His promises never came to fruition. As he never produced the promised goods, he had to insist people have faith:
“Everything is possible for anyone who has faith” (Mark 9:24, NJB). Everything is possible after a heroin injection too, but that’s an illusion. One comes back to a cold, harsh world. Faith, like heroin, will never reverse reality.
Jesus stated,
“I tell you solemnly, unless you change and become like little children you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 18:3, NJB).

Mmmm. Consider kids. They have very active imaginations, which is natural, healthy, and does no harm. Adults, on the other hand, need to face real life. If adults become like little children they avoid life’s responsibilities.

Jesus was demanding uncritical belief, and threatening anyone who doubted by refusing them heaven. The fact he resorted to a threat suggests the weakness of his argument.

It’s obvious this patronizing piece was written for an uneducated audience, and what’s more, that the authors hoped to keep them ignorant.

Uncritical belief, otherwise known as faith or superstition, is integral to Christian ideology. Without it, Christianity completely disintegrates, which is why the Gospels have Jesus praising its value.

What’s more, if a spiel such as this is repetitively promoted as “truth,” a person can lose confidence in common sense. They can become convinced their future is out of control, determined by the whim of an unpredictable God, so they don’t direct their own destiny. That’s tragic. Jesus, the puppet philosopher, asks people to do something we should never, ever do: surrender our sense of reason.

Europe failed to progress, and in fact declined, throughout the dark ages, largely because Christian churches discouraged logical thought. Any theories not focused on a church’s doctrine were seen as a threat to their power.

This faith idea, as still marketed today, must stop. There’s a far superior alternative to faith. We become happy, mature and well-balanced by being rational. Society too makes advances in science, education, and law by employing reasoned thought.

Jesus Failed to Deliver

Jesus reckoned a revolution was about to ruffle the status quo:
“The time has come he said and the kingdom of God is close at hand. Repent and believe the Good News” (Mark 1:15, NJB), and
“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is close at hand” (Matt. 4:17, NJB).
He promised that God was about to intervene in the affairs of the world in an unmistakable way; the dead would be brought back to life, injustices set right, the wicked punished, and the righteous rewarded - all within one generation:
“Amen, I say to you, all this will recoil on this generation” (Matt. 23:36, NJB).
“I tell you solemnly, before this generation passes away all these things will have taken place.” (Matt. 24:34, NJB). Yet the kingdom of God never materialized. We’re now two thousand years, or one hundred generations, down the track, with absolutely no sign of it.

Jesus said believers could get anything through prayer:
“I will tell you solemnly once again, if two of you on earth agree to ask anything at all, it will be granted to you by my father in heaven” (Matt. 18:19–20, NJB).
“If you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask what you will and you will get it.” (John 15:7, NJB). Literally millions of the faithful have asked God for miracles, yet Jesus and his old man have been stony silent and depressingly dormant for 2000 years. Most sensible ten-year-olds know there’s no response when we pray. Jesus’ empty promises insult our intelligence.

For the faithful, marvelous miracles are always going to happen but never ever actually do happen.

Some preachers claim Jesus listens to requests, but doesn’t necessarily act on them. This is lame.

Why not just admit the undeniable? Jesus is as dead as a dodo, so he can’t deliver, and never will.

Jesus Undermined the Family Unit

Jesus was anti family:
“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth: it is not peace I have come to bring, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter in law against her mother in law. A man’s enemies will be those of his own household. Anyone who prefers father or mother to me is not worthy of me. Anyone who prefers son or daughter to me is not worthy of me. Anyone who does not take his cross and follow in my footsteps is not worthy of me. Anyone who finds his life will lose it; anyone who loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matt. 10:34–39, NJB).

He asserted he was more important than parents, siblings, wife and children, and what’s more, hoped to create animosity between family members. The family unit is the backbone of society, yet blessed Jesus wanted to break it up. Unfortunately, he’s too often been successful.

Jesus said,
"Anyone who loses his life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it" (Mark 8:35, NJB.) His promise was hollow, as he never proved heaven exists. He failed to consider family members left behind. There’s no religion more important than the family unit.

Religious leaders and governments have often promised heaven as a ploy, so people would put their lives at risk for god or country. Jesus set a terrible precedent.

Incidentally, Yeshua couldn’t have said this, as there were no Gospels in his lifetime.

Poorly Explained Dogma

Jesus often expressed himself poorly:
“Now has the Son of Man been glorified, and in him God has been glorified. If God has been glorified in him, God will in turn glorify him in himself, and will glorify him very soon” (John 13:32, NJB). This is so confusing it is almost meaningless!

“He also said, ‘What can we say the kingdom of God is like? What parable can we find for it? It is like a mustard seed which at the time of its sowing in the soil is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet once it is sown it grows into the biggest shrub of them all and puts out big branches so that the birds of the air can shelter in its shade.” (Mark 4:30–32, NJB). Huh? The Son of God should have used a speech writer to get his point across.

Many of Jesus’ teachings raise more questions than answers:
“Yes, I tell you again, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 19:24, NJB). He was renouncing wealth, yet didn’t tell us why. Is it wealth itself or the pursuit of it that precludes heaven? What about the wealthy philanthropist? Is the Pope, the head of a filthy rich institution, excluded from heaven?

Jesus’ Admirable Teachings

There are some attractive, well-written, and valuable parables in the Gospels that use clever imagery and similes, for example the parable of the shepherd who leaves ninety-nine sheep to look for the one that is lost.

There are sayings attributed to Jesus that have merit, for example some lines from the Sermon on the Mount:

“Happy those who hunger and thirst for what is right: they shall be satisfied.”
“Happy the pure in heart: they shall see God.”
“Happy the peacemakers: they shall be called sons of God.”
Jesus encourages people to look after each other:
“For I was hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in...” (Matt. 25:35 KJB).

Jesus also said,
"So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets” (Matt. 7:12, KJV), and “Love one another,” (John 13:34, KJV), yet neither of these are original. Five hundred years before Jesus, Confucius said,
“Do not impose on others what you yourself do not desire,” and Buddha said
“Hatred does not cease by hatred, but only by love; this is the eternal rule.”

Confucius’ and Buddha’s teachings are more impressive than Jesus’, as they extended benevolence to all people, whereas Jesus loved only those who worshipped him.

Some of Jesus’ nicer notions are ok, yet they’re hardly novel or earth shattering.

He Should Have Left a Written Legacy

The Christian is told Jesus’ mission was to reveal God’s will. Jesus failed, as he had oodles of time to document his ideas, but didn’t bother. He left his entire legacy in the hands of anonymous authors, long after he was gone. Those who think Jesus was God should wonder why he didn’t do a better job.

He was no Philosopher

There’s no chapter on Jesus in most philosophy textbooks.

A philosopher has credentials and Jesus didn’t. He was uneducated and illiterate. Galilean peasant society was insular and primitive, even by the standards of the times. He might’ve been clever and charismatic, yet he knew nothing of the philosophy and science of the Greek and Roman world. Non-Jewish law, ethics, history, art and literature were a mystery to him. Such an uninformed person wasn’t qualified to be a world-class teacher of philosophy, and it shows.

Jesus was a deluded dreamer who made wild promises that didn’t come true. He was judgmental, intolerant, inconsistent, egocentric and ethnocentric. He failed to give consistent or comprehensive solutions to life’s conundrums. Most of his teachings lack the detail to make them meaningful. Dogma without reasoning and explanation doesn’t cut the mustard as philosophy.

Truly inspiring words in great books, poetry, or speeches have a timeless coherency and consistency to them. Jesus’ teachings don’t. If they were sent to a publisher who’d never read the Bible, they’d garner a pink slip. He’d assume Jesus was a dunce.

Commendable philosophers are seekers of truth and admirers of wisdom who propose answers to the mysteries of life and the universe after a reasoned analysis. They see through gloss to discover substance. They occasionally come up with profound one-liners (aphorisms) such as “E=mc squared” or “I think, therefore I am,” but these are the products of elaborate reasoning. Jesus’ numerous one-liners only proposed unsatisfactory simplistic solutions to complex problems.

Good philosophers have open minds and are genuinely interested in the opinions of others. They don’t assume or pretend they alone have all the answers. They care enough about their audience to document their ideas with precision and detail. They’re aware that one day their ideas may appear outdated. Much of what Jesus said was a dictatorial diatribe that failed to do any of this.

Many people argue that everything he said was perfect because he was god. This is just blind, unreasoned faith, and it can’t rescue Jesus from a thinking, critical public. (http://www.richardcarrier.info/McFallRebuttal1.html)

Some claim it was the fact he became a man that’s what matters; that Jesus’ primary purpose was to save the world from its sins. Paul invented this idea, and he ignored Jesus’ teachings, probably because he’d never heard them. People might wonder why the true founder of Christianity didn’t consider Christ a philosopher, yet wrote volumes propounding his own philosophy.

Many people disagree with me. I think they too easily accept any of the thousands of books and articles that try to explain, harmonize or “contextualize” Jesus’ sayings. All this commentary is heavily manufactured; it resorts to artificial and arbitrary interpretations rather than simply taking what are said to be Jesus’ words at face value. There’s no other way to make Jesus sound authoritative and wise, yet I think it’s intellectually dishonest.

“Getting back to Jesus”

Over the centuries, people disillusioned with church hierarchies have branched off to form their own. This happened time and again, so there are now over 34,000 Christian denominations in the world. They all claim they want to “return” to the basics of the gospels, to Jesus’ “original message.” Individuals, too, often wax lyrical about how pure and simple Jesus’ message was. I cringe a little on hearing such talk, for two reasons.

Firstly, Jesus’ divinity and his injunctions are obviously fabricated. Dogma based on falsehood is less than valuable.

Secondly, the teachings aren’t particularly meritorious, interesting or innovative. Many of them were invented to suppress critical thought, people’s individuality, and to discourage crowds from complaining. “Jesus” is, in fact, a pawn that was invented to control people.

I think there’s no point turning to Jesus. There’s a better place to look for true “spirituality.” It’s found with loved ones, friends, and in a stranger’s smile. It’s in a child’s hug, a neighbor’s thank you, or in the satisfaction of a job well done. It’s called a healthy self - esteem, and it comes from the love and respect we get from each other.
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28-05-2013, 04:21 AM
RE: Attack a Theist - Mark Fulton Challenge
(26-05-2013 09:12 AM)Mojch Wrote:  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

Hi Mojch,

you write
"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)."

Please explain why you seem to have a need to follow any one set of beliefs or arguments. Why not just address an issue as you come across it based on some facts?

I have no burning need to be a follower of anyone or anything. Why should you? Might I suggest that this is an erroneous concept pumped into your pliable mind when you were a child?

Also...you're not really a devout Christian, are you? If you were, you wouldn't have to modify traditional Christian beliefs.

There are truths to be discovered in most books. The New Testament is a different proposition, because most Christians confidently claim it’s not a book of men’s opinions but the unerring word of God. They therefore can’t justify ignoring parts of it, (which is what they all do.)

I say if you can cherry pick an infallible set of rules, the whole rulebook is redundant.
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28-05-2013, 01:05 PM
RE: Attack a Theist - Mark Fulton Challenge
Dr. Mark,

Obviously, I do not intend to respond to everything you wrote or else this discussion would become incredibly lengthy. Highlights from my perspective are below. Once again, I am not arguing so much as asking you to correct my reasoning if it is flawed. I quote you and then respond, as succinctly as I can.

For the record, I enjoy reading your evidence.

In this response, Point #10 is by far the most significant.

*** 1. "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 by dozens of authors across many years and time periods. How can you ascribe a singular purpose to all of them? I can do it because I claim a single author speaking through various men. Obviously, you reject this claim as absurd. That is irrelevant for purposes of this particular logical contradiction. I can attribute a single purpose because I attribute a single author. The flaw in your argument is not present in mine unless you can tell me how you can reasonable assume dozens of different men writing in various time periods all had a singular purpose to deceive the populace.

I concede that if you meant only that the COMPLIATION of the Bible was to control others then this argument is irrelevant. However, that does not seem to be what you are claiming.

***2. "The assholes at the top of churches are also typically immoral. (We agree on this I think)"

Yes, we do.

***3. "Sorry Mojch, you lost me here! Could you humor me and reword this?"

Of course, sorry for the lack of clarity. It is a simple point really. In the study you cited, the following language appears [modified here for length, not content]...

"The absence of exceptions to the negative correlation between absolute belief in a creator
and acceptance of evolution . . . cast[s] doubt on the thesis that societies can combine high
rates of both religiosity and agreement with evolutionary science."

I was simply asserting that this conclusion is only valid if one assumes that the "religiosity" rejects evolution. Since I believe the Church should accept evolution, this portion of the study isn't relevant to disproving my personal beliefs [although I admit it supports changing main stream Christian beliefs].

***4. "You are trying to suggest that the reason Christian societies score highly as dysfunctional is because they're arguing with other Christians or secularists."

I was trying to suggest that the dysfunction was a result of conflicting religious and secular views causing low levels of adherence to traditional Christian standards. This is what produces the dysfunction, not the religion itself. This is an important distinction.

***5. "...let's be rational and honest."

This is my goal in all of my communications. When I fail, it is inadvertent.

***5. "Christian societies have more unwanted teenage pregnancies, more abortions, more STD's, more homicides and lower life expectancies because, statistically speaking , they're not applying rational solutions to life's problems."

We agree on this. However, this is not because the Christian solutions are WRONG but because they are not REALISTIC. Thus, we need back-ups and the refusal to provide those backups is irresponsible. Once again though, this is not evidence that the ideas themselves are wrong.

***6. "Churches need to get over their aversion to sex, and should start teaching that it is a normal, natural healthy part of life. They should recognize they have a responsibility to help prevent unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases." & "If sex was discussed openly and honestly in churches, there would be a lot less child molestation going on, many less frigid relationships, and a whole lot less neurotic people around."

Totally agree. However, your response didn't address my actual question which was "Is there any actual Biblical support for not teaching kids about sexual hygiene?" The decision to do, and all the negative consequences that flow from it, rest with the Church and not the religion. These consequences are evidence that the Church is wrong, not that the religion is. This is an old argument because it is valid. You cannot refute the truth of a belief based on the results of an improper application of that belief.

***7. "They should admit that the Bible was written by authors trying to control people's behavior."

They do. They just claim that the ultimate author was God and that the reason for the control was to ensure the benefit of humanity. You disagree with the Church that God wrote the Bible but do you honestly believe the Church doesn't openly acknowledge that the Bible seeks to control behavior?

***8. "There's barely a paragraph from the bible one could give some credibility to without "interpreting" it and "putting it into context."

Of course there isn't! I was surprised to see you write this. NO language can be given valid meaning without interpreting it and putting it into context. Forget religion. Google "theories of legal interpretation" and look at how we evaluate arguably our most important secular writings. The most basic canons are that interpretation must occur in CONTEXT. Heck, the Constitution was written just a few hundred years ago and we can't even agree on the proper context to interpret that document. The Bible SHOULD have more interpretive trouble. This isn't evidence that it is flawed. It is evidence that it is a written document from a long time ago.

***9. "Let's just consider Jesus, who, by the way, had little or nothing to do with a once living flesh and blood character who may or may not have existed." vs. "Most Christians fail to appreciate this because Jesus’ teachings have been reinterpreted, glossed over, or ignored to make him sound attractive.
These positions contradict in my mind. Either Jesus was a living flesh and blood being who taught discernible lessons or else there is no way to know that his teachings have been "reinterpreted". How can you claim that we have no real evidence Jesus existed and then turn around and claim that the modern versions of his teachings are different from the originals? Either Jesus made teachings that can be reinterpreted and the existence of these teaching is evidence he existed OR he did not make such teachings and these non-existence interpretations could not be "reinterpreted".

***10. "Jesus berated anyone who didn’t buy his message..."

Although I concede that you can, by approaching these quotes with the express intention of making them seem "intolerant", paint Jesus this way, they are much more coherently interpreted to be messages of grace and mercy. Before rejecting this out of hand, let me explain why.

You CANNOT disprove the conclusion of a proposition by assuming its premises are different than they are and thus creating a contradiction. You must disprove it by assuming it premises are TRUE and showing that they lead to a contradiction. This is NOT my opinion. It is basic Philosophy 101 at the college level. See http://www.jimpryor.net/teaching/vocab/validity.html for an NYU philosophy professor's explanation of this concept. Thus, in order for your argument, which challenges a conclusion, to make sense, you must presume that the premises of Christianity are true and THEN prove that Jesus was intolerant. This you have not, and I argue you cannot, do.

EXAMPLE: “Anyone who believes in the Son has eternal life, but anyone who refuses to believe in the Son will never see life: the anger of God stays on him” (John 3:33, NJB). Assuming Christianity is true, this is not a statement of intolerance, it is a statement of truth. In fact, it would have been IMMORAL for Jesus not to have said it because, IF IT IS TRUE, then not saying it would prevent us from saving ourselves. Most of the other quotes you mentioned are explained in this way.

Basically, you attempt to prove that the message of Jesus is intolerant by assuming, from the beginning, that the basic premises of the message are wrong. Then, you attempt to prove that this intolerance shows the argument is wrong. Unless I am mistaken, this is circular reasoning.

One final example to make my point...

Bob shouts: "Shoot all of the zombies"

Is this statement "intolerant" of zombies? Who knows? We have to interpret it in context.

Let's assume that I assert that when Bob said this, all the zombies were attacking a building full of puppies and orphans. Thus, I claim Bob's statement was not intolerant of zombies but necessary in the circumstances.

In this situation, would the following argument be acceptable?

1. The zombies were not attacking the puppies and orphans.

2. Therefore, Bob's statement to shoot all the zombies was unjustified.

3. Therefore, Bob is intolerant because he advocated a negative position against zombies without cause.

I think the answer is clearly no. Notice that the conclusion ASSUMES premise 1. If you remove premise 1 but attempt to keep the conclusion, then the entire argument becomes invalid because the conclusion states something that is unproven. If you remove premise 1 and remove the "without cause" language, you are left with calling Bob intolerant just because he advocated a negative position. For reasons I hope should be obvious, this is an absurd position. Thus, your argument is, as a matter of logic, circular, invalid, or absurd. I am mistaken please explain in clear logical form how your argument is different. I ask for specificity because, if I am correct, this entire section of your argument is irrelevant.

***11: "Jesus had an arrogant, fanatical belief in himself, and an ambition to be in charge."

Once again, this is a perfect argument UNLESS HE WAS CORRECT AND JUSTIFIED IN HIS BELIEF. Thus, this is circular. See above. I think you have many more arguments with this same flaw. Once again, can you actually demonstrate why I am wrong in a logically coherent form and not just with broad generalities?

***12: I do not have time to respond and explain each of these quotes. Suffice it to say that I can. If you doubt this, I ask you to pick ONE that you think is difficult to explain. Then, we can have a manageable discussion.

***13: " “Yes, I tell you again, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 19:24, NJB)

See the study you cited above that proves that as material success increases, faith decreases. Your own study confirms that this statement is true.

***14: "Also...you're not really a devout Christian, are you? If you were, you wouldn't have to modify traditional Christian beliefs."

Forgive the forceful nature of this reply. I am going to take a certain tone here because I found this statement to be highly offensive.

My religious faith is the most important thing in my life. I attend church regularly, pray multiple times daily, consistently modify my actions to conform to my beliefs, give of my time and money to support the parts of the Christian message that I agree with (which is ALL the ones that are crucial to the heart of the belief system), and spend hours upon hours testing my faith against the best argument that others can provide.

I have explained what I believe below. Please point to a SINGLE argument I have made that contradicts any of the below. I am relatively certain that what I just wrote would be a pretty accurate summation of the basics of Christian belief.

I believe...

God created the Universe and everything within it. God is an eternal, just, loving, personal, intelligent, coherent, and logical being who seeks a personal relationship with man. Mankind sinned and destroyed the perfect Universe created by God. God could not save mankind without modifying the current state of the Universe. Thus, Jesus Christ was sent to Earth. Jesus Christ is the living and eternal Son of the Most High God, sent to Earth to die for my sins. At the same time, he was both fully God and fully Man. He is part of ONE God, though he has a separate temporal existence in our world. He was crucified after living a perfect life. He died. He rose from the dead after the passage of three days. His death created sacrificial atonement which can be willingly accepted by any and all. Upon accepting that atonement, sins are forgiven begins to work in the life of the believer. Ultimately, those who believe will be removed from this Universe, their free will taken away because sin is not possible in heaven, and given a place to live for eternity with God. Those who do not accept the sacrifice of Christ will spend eternity in Hell (although I WILL admit that my conception of Hell is VERY different from the mainstream view).

***15. "They therefore can’t justify ignoring parts of it, (which is what they all do.)"

I would be included in "all". Please tell me one passage of the Bible that you believe I "ignore". Note that reconciling a contradiction is NOT ignoring it. The words mean fundamentally different things.

Also, please don't point to the OT and say, "You don't keep this old law anymore." Asserting that changing times have caused changing standards is NOT the same as ignoring the old law. I will defend the OT laws as valid IN THEIR HISTORICAL CONTEXT. They have NOT "passed away". Contrary to ignoring them, I view them as evidence that the Israelite society was MORE moral than its contemporaries. Many of the OT laws so often attacked can be justified on the very same reasoning you use to attack Christianity for not advocating birth control. For example, God knew that the Israelites, as fallible humans, would sometimes commit rape during war times. Thus, he gave a specific set of commands that were designed to MITIGATE the harsh consequences of this immoral act. Unlike most ancient people who would simply rape and murder captured women, if the Israelites followed the OT commands, they had to give such women very specific protections. Of course, this is not as good as simply stating DO NOT RAPE. However, if you take this position to attack the OT law, then you are taking a position inherently contradictory to your assertion that simply giving blanket prohibitions is immoral when the consequences can be mitigated through additional information.

Sincerely,

Mojch
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28-05-2013, 09:41 PM (This post was last modified: 29-05-2013 02:17 AM by Mark Fulton.)
RE: Attack a Theist - Mark Fulton Challenge
(28-05-2013 01:05 PM)Mojch Wrote:  Dr. Mark,

Obviously, I do not intend to respond to everything you wrote or else this discussion would become incredibly lengthy. Highlights from my perspective are below. Once again, I am not arguing so much as asking you to correct my reasoning if it is flawed. I quote you and then respond, as succinctly as I can.

For the record, I enjoy reading your evidence.

In this response, Point #10 is by far the most significant.

*** 1. "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 by dozens of authors across many years and time periods. How can you ascribe a singular purpose to all of them? I can do it because I claim a single author speaking through various men. Obviously, you reject this claim as absurd. That is irrelevant for purposes of this particular logical contradiction. I can attribute a single purpose because I attribute a single author. The flaw in your argument is not present in mine unless you can tell me how you can reasonable assume dozens of different men writing in various time periods all had a singular purpose to deceive the populace.

I concede that if you meant only that the COMPLIATION of the Bible was to control others then this argument is irrelevant. However, that does not seem to be what you are claiming.

***2. "The assholes at the top of churches are also typically immoral. (We agree on this I think)"

Yes, we do.

***3. "Sorry Mojch, you lost me here! Could you humor me and reword this?"

Of course, sorry for the lack of clarity. It is a simple point really. In the study you cited, the following language appears [modified here for length, not content]...

"The absence of exceptions to the negative correlation between absolute belief in a creator
and acceptance of evolution . . . cast[s] doubt on the thesis that societies can combine high
rates of both religiosity and agreement with evolutionary science."

I was simply asserting that this conclusion is only valid if one assumes that the "religiosity" rejects evolution. Since I believe the Church should accept evolution, this portion of the study isn't relevant to disproving my personal beliefs [although I admit it supports changing main stream Christian beliefs].

***4. "You are trying to suggest that the reason Christian societies score highly as dysfunctional is because they're arguing with other Christians or secularists."

I was trying to suggest that the dysfunction was a result of conflicting religious and secular views causing low levels of adherence to traditional Christian standards. This is what produces the dysfunction, not the religion itself. This is an important distinction.

***5. "...let's be rational and honest."

This is my goal in all of my communications. When I fail, it is inadvertent.

***5. "Christian societies have more unwanted teenage pregnancies, more abortions, more STD's, more homicides and lower life expectancies because, statistically speaking , they're not applying rational solutions to life's problems."

We agree on this. However, this is not because the Christian solutions are WRONG but because they are not REALISTIC. Thus, we need back-ups and the refusal to provide those backups is irresponsible. Once again though, this is not evidence that the ideas themselves are wrong.

***6. "Churches need to get over their aversion to sex, and should start teaching that it is a normal, natural healthy part of life. They should recognize they have a responsibility to help prevent unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases." & "If sex was discussed openly and honestly in churches, there would be a lot less child molestation going on, many less frigid relationships, and a whole lot less neurotic people around."

Totally agree. However, your response didn't address my actual question which was "Is there any actual Biblical support for not teaching kids about sexual hygiene?" The decision to do, and all the negative consequences that flow from it, rest with the Church and not the religion. These consequences are evidence that the Church is wrong, not that the religion is. This is an old argument because it is valid. You cannot refute the truth of a belief based on the results of an improper application of that belief.

***7. "They should admit that the Bible was written by authors trying to control people's behavior."

They do. They just claim that the ultimate author was God and that the reason for the control was to ensure the benefit of humanity. You disagree with the Church that God wrote the Bible but do you honestly believe the Church doesn't openly acknowledge that the Bible seeks to control behavior?

***8. "There's barely a paragraph from the bible one could give some credibility to without "interpreting" it and "putting it into context."

Of course there isn't! I was surprised to see you write this. NO language can be given valid meaning without interpreting it and putting it into context. Forget religion. Google "theories of legal interpretation" and look at how we evaluate arguably our most important secular writings. The most basic canons are that interpretation must occur in CONTEXT. Heck, the Constitution was written just a few hundred years ago and we can't even agree on the proper context to interpret that document. The Bible SHOULD have more interpretive trouble. This isn't evidence that it is flawed. It is evidence that it is a written document from a long time ago.

***9. "Let's just consider Jesus, who, by the way, had little or nothing to do with a once living flesh and blood character who may or may not have existed." vs. "Most Christians fail to appreciate this because Jesus’ teachings have been reinterpreted, glossed over, or ignored to make him sound attractive.
These positions contradict in my mind. Either Jesus was a living flesh and blood being who taught discernible lessons or else there is no way to know that his teachings have been "reinterpreted". How can you claim that we have no real evidence Jesus existed and then turn around and claim that the modern versions of his teachings are different from the originals? Either Jesus made teachings that can be reinterpreted and the existence of these teaching is evidence he existed OR he did not make such teachings and these non-existence interpretations could not be "reinterpreted".

***10. "Jesus berated anyone who didn’t buy his message..."

Although I concede that you can, by approaching these quotes with the express intention of making them seem "intolerant", paint Jesus this way, they are much more coherently interpreted to be messages of grace and mercy. Before rejecting this out of hand, let me explain why.

You CANNOT disprove the conclusion of a proposition by assuming its premises are different than they are and thus creating a contradiction. You must disprove it by assuming it premises are TRUE and showing that they lead to a contradiction. This is NOT my opinion. It is basic Philosophy 101 at the college level. See http://www.jimpryor.net/teaching/vocab/validity.html for an NYU philosophy professor's explanation of this concept. Thus, in order for your argument, which challenges a conclusion, to make sense, you must presume that the premises of Christianity are true and THEN prove that Jesus was intolerant. This you have not, and I argue you cannot, do.

EXAMPLE: “Anyone who believes in the Son has eternal life, but anyone who refuses to believe in the Son will never see life: the anger of God stays on him” (John 3:33, NJB). Assuming Christianity is true, this is not a statement of intolerance, it is a statement of truth. In fact, it would have been IMMORAL for Jesus not to have said it because, IF IT IS TRUE, then not saying it would prevent us from saving ourselves. Most of the other quotes you mentioned are explained in this way.

Basically, you attempt to prove that the message of Jesus is intolerant by assuming, from the beginning, that the basic premises of the message are wrong. Then, you attempt to prove that this intolerance shows the argument is wrong. Unless I am mistaken, this is circular reasoning.

One final example to make my point...

Bob shouts: "Shoot all of the zombies"

Is this statement "intolerant" of zombies? Who knows? We have to interpret it in context.

Let's assume that I assert that when Bob said this, all the zombies were attacking a building full of puppies and orphans. Thus, I claim Bob's statement was not intolerant of zombies but necessary in the circumstances.

In this situation, would the following argument be acceptable?

1. The zombies were not attacking the puppies and orphans.

2. Therefore, Bob's statement to shoot all the zombies was unjustified.

3. Therefore, Bob is intolerant because he advocated a negative position against zombies without cause.

I think the answer is clearly no. Notice that the conclusion ASSUMES premise 1. If you remove premise 1 but attempt to keep the conclusion, then the entire argument becomes invalid because the conclusion states something that is unproven. If you remove premise 1 and remove the "without cause" language, you are left with calling Bob intolerant just because he advocated a negative position. For reasons I hope should be obvious, this is an absurd position. Thus, your argument is, as a matter of logic, circular, invalid, or absurd. I am mistaken please explain in clear logical form how your argument is different. I ask for specificity because, if I am correct, this entire section of your argument is irrelevant.

***11: "Jesus had an arrogant, fanatical belief in himself, and an ambition to be in charge."

Once again, this is a perfect argument UNLESS HE WAS CORRECT AND JUSTIFIED IN HIS BELIEF. Thus, this is circular. See above. I think you have many more arguments with this same flaw. Once again, can you actually demonstrate why I am wrong in a logically coherent form and not just with broad generalities?

***12: I do not have time to respond and explain each of these quotes. Suffice it to say that I can. If you doubt this, I ask you to pick ONE that you think is difficult to explain. Then, we can have a manageable discussion.

***13: " “Yes, I tell you again, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 19:24, NJB)

See the study you cited above that proves that as material success increases, faith decreases. Your own study confirms that this statement is true.

***14: "Also...you're not really a devout Christian, are you? If you were, you wouldn't have to modify traditional Christian beliefs."

Forgive the forceful nature of this reply. I am going to take a certain tone here because I found this statement to be highly offensive.

My religious faith is the most important thing in my life. I attend church regularly, pray multiple times daily, consistently modify my actions to conform to my beliefs, give of my time and money to support the parts of the Christian message that I agree with (which is ALL the ones that are crucial to the heart of the belief system), and spend hours upon hours testing my faith against the best argument that others can provide.

I have explained what I believe below. Please point to a SINGLE argument I have made that contradicts any of the below. I am relatively certain that what I just wrote would be a pretty accurate summation of the basics of Christian belief.

I believe...

God created the Universe and everything within it. God is an eternal, just, loving, personal, intelligent, coherent, and logical being who seeks a personal relationship with man. Mankind sinned and destroyed the perfect Universe created by God. God could not save mankind without modifying the current state of the Universe. Thus, Jesus Christ was sent to Earth. Jesus Christ is the living and eternal Son of the Most High God, sent to Earth to die for my sins. At the same time, he was both fully God and fully Man. He is part of ONE God, though he has a separate temporal existence in our world. He was crucified after living a perfect life. He died. He rose from the dead after the passage of three days. His death created sacrificial atonement which can be willingly accepted by any and all. Upon accepting that atonement, sins are forgiven begins to work in the life of the believer. Ultimately, those who believe will be removed from this Universe, their free will taken away because sin is not possible in heaven, and given a place to live for eternity with God. Those who do not accept the sacrifice of Christ will spend eternity in Hell (although I WILL admit that my conception of Hell is VERY different from the mainstream view).

***15. "They therefore can’t justify ignoring parts of it, (which is what they all do.)"

I would be included in "all". Please tell me one passage of the Bible that you believe I "ignore". Note that reconciling a contradiction is NOT ignoring it. The words mean fundamentally different things.

Also, please don't point to the OT and say, "You don't keep this old law anymore." Asserting that changing times have caused changing standards is NOT the same as ignoring the old law. I will defend the OT laws as valid IN THEIR HISTORICAL CONTEXT. They have NOT "passed away". Contrary to ignoring them, I view them as evidence that the Israelite society was MORE moral than its contemporaries. Many of the OT laws so often attacked can be justified on the very same reasoning you use to attack Christianity for not advocating birth control. For example, God knew that the Israelites, as fallible humans, would sometimes commit rape during war times. Thus, he gave a specific set of commands that were designed to MITIGATE the harsh consequences of this immoral act. Unlike most ancient people who would simply rape and murder captured women, if the Israelites followed the OT commands, they had to give such women very specific protections. Of course, this is not as good as simply stating DO NOT RAPE. However, if you take this position to attack the OT law, then you are taking a position inherently contradictory to your assertion that simply giving blanket prohibitions is immoral when the consequences can be mitigated through additional information.

Sincerely,

Mojch

Hi Mojch, thanks for your considered reply, and for not getting (visibly) upset when you disagree with me. I will split my replies to you into a few posts.

Re "The Bible was written by dozens of authors across many years and time periods. How can you ascribe a singular purpose to all of them?"

After many years studying the bible in its historical context, my opinion is that all the authors were into crowd control. The ancient Levites wanted to keep Jews united, obeying god (ie them), pure (no marrige to foreigners), and doing what they're told. The priests in Babylon and pharisees after Jesus compiled and edited the writings for the same reason. I believe the gospels were written under the direction of the Roman Flavian government to control the people. (Blessed are the poor, blessed are the meek, pay your taxes, dream of heaven, think like a child etc etc). Paul, the real creator of Christian theology, was also a government agent. One day I'll as good as prove it to you. The church fathers were seriously into crowd control, as was the Constantine government in the 4th century, under which the NT was definitively compiled.
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29-05-2013, 02:48 AM
RE: Attack a Theist - Mark Fulton Challenge
(28-05-2013 01:05 PM)Mojch Wrote:  Dr. Mark,

Obviously, I do not intend to respond to everything you wrote or else this discussion would become incredibly lengthy. Highlights from my perspective are below. Once again, I am not arguing so much as asking you to correct my reasoning if it is flawed. I quote you and then respond, as succinctly as I can.

For the record, I enjoy reading your evidence.

In this response, Point #10 is by far the most significant.

*** 1. "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 by dozens of authors across many years and time periods. How can you ascribe a singular purpose to all of them? I can do it because I claim a single author speaking through various men. Obviously, you reject this claim as absurd. That is irrelevant for purposes of this particular logical contradiction. I can attribute a single purpose because I attribute a single author. The flaw in your argument is not present in mine unless you can tell me how you can reasonable assume dozens of different men writing in various time periods all had a singular purpose to deceive the populace.

I concede that if you meant only that the COMPLIATION of the Bible was to control others then this argument is irrelevant. However, that does not seem to be what you are claiming.

***2. "The assholes at the top of churches are also typically immoral. (We agree on this I think)"

Yes, we do.

***3. "Sorry Mojch, you lost me here! Could you humor me and reword this?"

Of course, sorry for the lack of clarity. It is a simple point really. In the study you cited, the following language appears [modified here for length, not content]...

"The absence of exceptions to the negative correlation between absolute belief in a creator
and acceptance of evolution . . . cast[s] doubt on the thesis that societies can combine high
rates of both religiosity and agreement with evolutionary science."

I was simply asserting that this conclusion is only valid if one assumes that the "religiosity" rejects evolution. Since I believe the Church should accept evolution, this portion of the study isn't relevant to disproving my personal beliefs [although I admit it supports changing main stream Christian beliefs].

***4. "You are trying to suggest that the reason Christian societies score highly as dysfunctional is because they're arguing with other Christians or secularists."

I was trying to suggest that the dysfunction was a result of conflicting religious and secular views causing low levels of adherence to traditional Christian standards. This is what produces the dysfunction, not the religion itself. This is an important distinction.

***5. "...let's be rational and honest."

This is my goal in all of my communications. When I fail, it is inadvertent.

***5. "Christian societies have more unwanted teenage pregnancies, more abortions, more STD's, more homicides and lower life expectancies because, statistically speaking , they're not applying rational solutions to life's problems."

We agree on this. However, this is not because the Christian solutions are WRONG but because they are not REALISTIC. Thus, we need back-ups and the refusal to provide those backups is irresponsible. Once again though, this is not evidence that the ideas themselves are wrong.

***6. "Churches need to get over their aversion to sex, and should start teaching that it is a normal, natural healthy part of life. They should recognize they have a responsibility to help prevent unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases." & "If sex was discussed openly and honestly in churches, there would be a lot less child molestation going on, many less frigid relationships, and a whole lot less neurotic people around."

Totally agree. However, your response didn't address my actual question which was "Is there any actual Biblical support for not teaching kids about sexual hygiene?" The decision to do, and all the negative consequences that flow from it, rest with the Church and not the religion. These consequences are evidence that the Church is wrong, not that the religion is. This is an old argument because it is valid. You cannot refute the truth of a belief based on the results of an improper application of that belief.

***7. "They should admit that the Bible was written by authors trying to control people's behavior."

They do. They just claim that the ultimate author was God and that the reason for the control was to ensure the benefit of humanity. You disagree with the Church that God wrote the Bible but do you honestly believe the Church doesn't openly acknowledge that the Bible seeks to control behavior?

***8. "There's barely a paragraph from the bible one could give some credibility to without "interpreting" it and "putting it into context."

Of course there isn't! I was surprised to see you write this. NO language can be given valid meaning without interpreting it and putting it into context. Forget religion. Google "theories of legal interpretation" and look at how we evaluate arguably our most important secular writings. The most basic canons are that interpretation must occur in CONTEXT. Heck, the Constitution was written just a few hundred years ago and we can't even agree on the proper context to interpret that document. The Bible SHOULD have more interpretive trouble. This isn't evidence that it is flawed. It is evidence that it is a written document from a long time ago.

***9. "Let's just consider Jesus, who, by the way, had little or nothing to do with a once living flesh and blood character who may or may not have existed." vs. "Most Christians fail to appreciate this because Jesus’ teachings have been reinterpreted, glossed over, or ignored to make him sound attractive.
These positions contradict in my mind. Either Jesus was a living flesh and blood being who taught discernible lessons or else there is no way to know that his teachings have been "reinterpreted". How can you claim that we have no real evidence Jesus existed and then turn around and claim that the modern versions of his teachings are different from the originals? Either Jesus made teachings that can be reinterpreted and the existence of these teaching is evidence he existed OR he did not make such teachings and these non-existence interpretations could not be "reinterpreted".

***10. "Jesus berated anyone who didn’t buy his message..."

Although I concede that you can, by approaching these quotes with the express intention of making them seem "intolerant", paint Jesus this way, they are much more coherently interpreted to be messages of grace and mercy. Before rejecting this out of hand, let me explain why.

You CANNOT disprove the conclusion of a proposition by assuming its premises are different than they are and thus creating a contradiction. You must disprove it by assuming it premises are TRUE and showing that they lead to a contradiction. This is NOT my opinion. It is basic Philosophy 101 at the college level. See http://www.jimpryor.net/teaching/vocab/validity.html for an NYU philosophy professor's explanation of this concept. Thus, in order for your argument, which challenges a conclusion, to make sense, you must presume that the premises of Christianity are true and THEN prove that Jesus was intolerant. This you have not, and I argue you cannot, do.

EXAMPLE: “Anyone who believes in the Son has eternal life, but anyone who refuses to believe in the Son will never see life: the anger of God stays on him” (John 3:33, NJB). Assuming Christianity is true, this is not a statement of intolerance, it is a statement of truth. In fact, it would have been IMMORAL for Jesus not to have said it because, IF IT IS TRUE, then not saying it would prevent us from saving ourselves. Most of the other quotes you mentioned are explained in this way.

Basically, you attempt to prove that the message of Jesus is intolerant by assuming, from the beginning, that the basic premises of the message are wrong. Then, you attempt to prove that this intolerance shows the argument is wrong. Unless I am mistaken, this is circular reasoning.

One final example to make my point...

Bob shouts: "Shoot all of the zombies"

Is this statement "intolerant" of zombies? Who knows? We have to interpret it in context.

Let's assume that I assert that when Bob said this, all the zombies were attacking a building full of puppies and orphans. Thus, I claim Bob's statement was not intolerant of zombies but necessary in the circumstances.

In this situation, would the following argument be acceptable?

1. The zombies were not attacking the puppies and orphans.

2. Therefore, Bob's statement to shoot all the zombies was unjustified.

3. Therefore, Bob is intolerant because he advocated a negative position against zombies without cause.

I think the answer is clearly no. Notice that the conclusion ASSUMES premise 1. If you remove premise 1 but attempt to keep the conclusion, then the entire argument becomes invalid because the conclusion states something that is unproven. If you remove premise 1 and remove the "without cause" language, you are left with calling Bob intolerant just because he advocated a negative position. For reasons I hope should be obvious, this is an absurd position. Thus, your argument is, as a matter of logic, circular, invalid, or absurd. I am mistaken please explain in clear logical form how your argument is different. I ask for specificity because, if I am correct, this entire section of your argument is irrelevant.

***11: "Jesus had an arrogant, fanatical belief in himself, and an ambition to be in charge."

Once again, this is a perfect argument UNLESS HE WAS CORRECT AND JUSTIFIED IN HIS BELIEF. Thus, this is circular. See above. I think you have many more arguments with this same flaw. Once again, can you actually demonstrate why I am wrong in a logically coherent form and not just with broad generalities?

***12: I do not have time to respond and explain each of these quotes. Suffice it to say that I can. If you doubt this, I ask you to pick ONE that you think is difficult to explain. Then, we can have a manageable discussion.

***13: " “Yes, I tell you again, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 19:24, NJB)

See the study you cited above that proves that as material success increases, faith decreases. Your own study confirms that this statement is true.

***14: "Also...you're not really a devout Christian, are you? If you were, you wouldn't have to modify traditional Christian beliefs."

Forgive the forceful nature of this reply. I am going to take a certain tone here because I found this statement to be highly offensive.

My religious faith is the most important thing in my life. I attend church regularly, pray multiple times daily, consistently modify my actions to conform to my beliefs, give of my time and money to support the parts of the Christian message that I agree with (which is ALL the ones that are crucial to the heart of the belief system), and spend hours upon hours testing my faith against the best argument that others can provide.

I have explained what I believe below. Please point to a SINGLE argument I have made that contradicts any of the below. I am relatively certain that what I just wrote would be a pretty accurate summation of the basics of Christian belief.

I believe...

God created the Universe and everything within it. God is an eternal, just, loving, personal, intelligent, coherent, and logical being who seeks a personal relationship with man. Mankind sinned and destroyed the perfect Universe created by God. God could not save mankind without modifying the current state of the Universe. Thus, Jesus Christ was sent to Earth. Jesus Christ is the living and eternal Son of the Most High God, sent to Earth to die for my sins. At the same time, he was both fully God and fully Man. He is part of ONE God, though he has a separate temporal existence in our world. He was crucified after living a perfect life. He died. He rose from the dead after the passage of three days. His death created sacrificial atonement which can be willingly accepted by any and all. Upon accepting that atonement, sins are forgiven begins to work in the life of the believer. Ultimately, those who believe will be removed from this Universe, their free will taken away because sin is not possible in heaven, and given a place to live for eternity with God. Those who do not accept the sacrifice of Christ will spend eternity in Hell (although I WILL admit that my conception of Hell is VERY different from the mainstream view).

***15. "They therefore can’t justify ignoring parts of it, (which is what they all do.)"

I would be included in "all". Please tell me one passage of the Bible that you believe I "ignore". Note that reconciling a contradiction is NOT ignoring it. The words mean fundamentally different things.

Also, please don't point to the OT and say, "You don't keep this old law anymore." Asserting that changing times have caused changing standards is NOT the same as ignoring the old law. I will defend the OT laws as valid IN THEIR HISTORICAL CONTEXT. They have NOT "passed away". Contrary to ignoring them, I view them as evidence that the Israelite society was MORE moral than its contemporaries. Many of the OT laws so often attacked can be justified on the very same reasoning you use to attack Christianity for not advocating birth control. For example, God knew that the Israelites, as fallible humans, would sometimes commit rape during war times. Thus, he gave a specific set of commands that were designed to MITIGATE the harsh consequences of this immoral act. Unlike most ancient people who would simply rape and murder captured women, if the Israelites followed the OT commands, they had to give such women very specific protections. Of course, this is not as good as simply stating DO NOT RAPE. However, if you take this position to attack the OT law, then you are taking a position inherently contradictory to your assertion that simply giving blanket prohibitions is immoral when the consequences can be mitigated through additional information.

Sincerely,

Mojch

Re...I was simply asserting that this conclusion is only valid if one assumes that the "religiosity" rejects evolution.

Have another look at the study. One of his parameters he measured was a rejection of evolution.

Re...I was trying to suggest that the dysfunction was a result of conflicting religious and secular views causing low levels of adherence to traditional Christian standards. This is what produces the dysfunction, not the religion itself.

Mojch, I'll give you the benefit of the doubt and just presume you didn't really think this through before you wrote it down. The argument is so inherently flawed I needn't rebut it.

Re..."However, this is not because the Christian solutions are WRONG but because they are not REALISTIC."

Nice try to explain why Christian beliefs don't work, but are still "right." But sorry, if a solution doesn't work in the real world...it doesn't work. It is therefore WRONG.

RE "Is there any actual Biblical support for not teaching kids about sexual hygiene?" My answer is no. But your question means nothing...it says nothing about the merit of a biblical teaching on sexual hygiene. My point was that if the bible was inspired by an all knowing god, he should have commented on sexual hygiene. He didn't. There is no "improper application of belief" because there is no belief.

We both agree churches are at fault here.

Re "You disagree with the Church that God wrote the Bible but do you honestly believe the Church doesn't openly acknowledge that the Bible seeks to control behavior?"

Ah... this is important. I think priests and preachers are controlling people using the bible. They benefit, because they're wielding the power. So the bible was written by them, for their benefit.

They tell the people it's god's or Jesus' ideas they're pushing, whereas it's really their own pathetic egos they're bolstering. Do you understand my argument? Do you agree?
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29-05-2013, 03:10 AM
RE: Attack a Theist - Mark Fulton Challenge
(28-05-2013 01:05 PM)Mojch Wrote:  Dr. Mark,

Obviously, I do not intend to respond to everything you wrote or else this discussion would become incredibly lengthy. Highlights from my perspective are below. Once again, I am not arguing so much as asking you to correct my reasoning if it is flawed. I quote you and then respond, as succinctly as I can.

For the record, I enjoy reading your evidence.

In this response, Point #10 is by far the most significant.

*** 1. "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 by dozens of authors across many years and time periods. How can you ascribe a singular purpose to all of them? I can do it because I claim a single author speaking through various men. Obviously, you reject this claim as absurd. That is irrelevant for purposes of this particular logical contradiction. I can attribute a single purpose because I attribute a single author. The flaw in your argument is not present in mine unless you can tell me how you can reasonable assume dozens of different men writing in various time periods all had a singular purpose to deceive the populace.

I concede that if you meant only that the COMPLIATION of the Bible was to control others then this argument is irrelevant. However, that does not seem to be what you are claiming.

***2. "The assholes at the top of churches are also typically immoral. (We agree on this I think)"

Yes, we do.

***3. "Sorry Mojch, you lost me here! Could you humor me and reword this?"

Of course, sorry for the lack of clarity. It is a simple point really. In the study you cited, the following language appears [modified here for length, not content]...

"The absence of exceptions to the negative correlation between absolute belief in a creator
and acceptance of evolution . . . cast[s] doubt on the thesis that societies can combine high
rates of both religiosity and agreement with evolutionary science."

I was simply asserting that this conclusion is only valid if one assumes that the "religiosity" rejects evolution. Since I believe the Church should accept evolution, this portion of the study isn't relevant to disproving my personal beliefs [although I admit it supports changing main stream Christian beliefs].

***4. "You are trying to suggest that the reason Christian societies score highly as dysfunctional is because they're arguing with other Christians or secularists."

I was trying to suggest that the dysfunction was a result of conflicting religious and secular views causing low levels of adherence to traditional Christian standards. This is what produces the dysfunction, not the religion itself. This is an important distinction.

***5. "...let's be rational and honest."

This is my goal in all of my communications. When I fail, it is inadvertent.

***5. "Christian societies have more unwanted teenage pregnancies, more abortions, more STD's, more homicides and lower life expectancies because, statistically speaking , they're not applying rational solutions to life's problems."

We agree on this. However, this is not because the Christian solutions are WRONG but because they are not REALISTIC. Thus, we need back-ups and the refusal to provide those backups is irresponsible. Once again though, this is not evidence that the ideas themselves are wrong.

***6. "Churches need to get over their aversion to sex, and should start teaching that it is a normal, natural healthy part of life. They should recognize they have a responsibility to help prevent unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases." & "If sex was discussed openly and honestly in churches, there would be a lot less child molestation going on, many less frigid relationships, and a whole lot less neurotic people around."

Totally agree. However, your response didn't address my actual question which was "Is there any actual Biblical support for not teaching kids about sexual hygiene?" The decision to do, and all the negative consequences that flow from it, rest with the Church and not the religion. These consequences are evidence that the Church is wrong, not that the religion is. This is an old argument because it is valid. You cannot refute the truth of a belief based on the results of an improper application of that belief.

***7. "They should admit that the Bible was written by authors trying to control people's behavior."

They do. They just claim that the ultimate author was God and that the reason for the control was to ensure the benefit of humanity. You disagree with the Church that God wrote the Bible but do you honestly believe the Church doesn't openly acknowledge that the Bible seeks to control behavior?

***8. "There's barely a paragraph from the bible one could give some credibility to without "interpreting" it and "putting it into context."

Of course there isn't! I was surprised to see you write this. NO language can be given valid meaning without interpreting it and putting it into context. Forget religion. Google "theories of legal interpretation" and look at how we evaluate arguably our most important secular writings. The most basic canons are that interpretation must occur in CONTEXT. Heck, the Constitution was written just a few hundred years ago and we can't even agree on the proper context to interpret that document. The Bible SHOULD have more interpretive trouble. This isn't evidence that it is flawed. It is evidence that it is a written document from a long time ago.

***9. "Let's just consider Jesus, who, by the way, had little or nothing to do with a once living flesh and blood character who may or may not have existed." vs. "Most Christians fail to appreciate this because Jesus’ teachings have been reinterpreted, glossed over, or ignored to make him sound attractive.
These positions contradict in my mind. Either Jesus was a living flesh and blood being who taught discernible lessons or else there is no way to know that his teachings have been "reinterpreted". How can you claim that we have no real evidence Jesus existed and then turn around and claim that the modern versions of his teachings are different from the originals? Either Jesus made teachings that can be reinterpreted and the existence of these teaching is evidence he existed OR he did not make such teachings and these non-existence interpretations could not be "reinterpreted".

***10. "Jesus berated anyone who didn’t buy his message..."

Although I concede that you can, by approaching these quotes with the express intention of making them seem "intolerant", paint Jesus this way, they are much more coherently interpreted to be messages of grace and mercy. Before rejecting this out of hand, let me explain why.

You CANNOT disprove the conclusion of a proposition by assuming its premises are different than they are and thus creating a contradiction. You must disprove it by assuming it premises are TRUE and showing that they lead to a contradiction. This is NOT my opinion. It is basic Philosophy 101 at the college level. See http://www.jimpryor.net/teaching/vocab/validity.html for an NYU philosophy professor's explanation of this concept. Thus, in order for your argument, which challenges a conclusion, to make sense, you must presume that the premises of Christianity are true and THEN prove that Jesus was intolerant. This you have not, and I argue you cannot, do.

EXAMPLE: “Anyone who believes in the Son has eternal life, but anyone who refuses to believe in the Son will never see life: the anger of God stays on him” (John 3:33, NJB). Assuming Christianity is true, this is not a statement of intolerance, it is a statement of truth. In fact, it would have been IMMORAL for Jesus not to have said it because, IF IT IS TRUE, then not saying it would prevent us from saving ourselves. Most of the other quotes you mentioned are explained in this way.

Basically, you attempt to prove that the message of Jesus is intolerant by assuming, from the beginning, that the basic premises of the message are wrong. Then, you attempt to prove that this intolerance shows the argument is wrong. Unless I am mistaken, this is circular reasoning.

One final example to make my point...

Bob shouts: "Shoot all of the zombies"

Is this statement "intolerant" of zombies? Who knows? We have to interpret it in context.

Let's assume that I assert that when Bob said this, all the zombies were attacking a building full of puppies and orphans. Thus, I claim Bob's statement was not intolerant of zombies but necessary in the circumstances.

In this situation, would the following argument be acceptable?

1. The zombies were not attacking the puppies and orphans.

2. Therefore, Bob's statement to shoot all the zombies was unjustified.

3. Therefore, Bob is intolerant because he advocated a negative position against zombies without cause.

I think the answer is clearly no. Notice that the conclusion ASSUMES premise 1. If you remove premise 1 but attempt to keep the conclusion, then the entire argument becomes invalid because the conclusion states something that is unproven. If you remove premise 1 and remove the "without cause" language, you are left with calling Bob intolerant just because he advocated a negative position. For reasons I hope should be obvious, this is an absurd position. Thus, your argument is, as a matter of logic, circular, invalid, or absurd. I am mistaken please explain in clear logical form how your argument is different. I ask for specificity because, if I am correct, this entire section of your argument is irrelevant.

***11: "Jesus had an arrogant, fanatical belief in himself, and an ambition to be in charge."

Once again, this is a perfect argument UNLESS HE WAS CORRECT AND JUSTIFIED IN HIS BELIEF. Thus, this is circular. See above. I think you have many more arguments with this same flaw. Once again, can you actually demonstrate why I am wrong in a logically coherent form and not just with broad generalities?

***12: I do not have time to respond and explain each of these quotes. Suffice it to say that I can. If you doubt this, I ask you to pick ONE that you think is difficult to explain. Then, we can have a manageable discussion.

***13: " “Yes, I tell you again, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 19:24, NJB)

See the study you cited above that proves that as material success increases, faith decreases. Your own study confirms that this statement is true.

***14: "Also...you're not really a devout Christian, are you? If you were, you wouldn't have to modify traditional Christian beliefs."

Forgive the forceful nature of this reply. I am going to take a certain tone here because I found this statement to be highly offensive.

My religious faith is the most important thing in my life. I attend church regularly, pray multiple times daily, consistently modify my actions to conform to my beliefs, give of my time and money to support the parts of the Christian message that I agree with (which is ALL the ones that are crucial to the heart of the belief system), and spend hours upon hours testing my faith against the best argument that others can provide.

I have explained what I believe below. Please point to a SINGLE argument I have made that contradicts any of the below. I am relatively certain that what I just wrote would be a pretty accurate summation of the basics of Christian belief.

I believe...

God created the Universe and everything within it. God is an eternal, just, loving, personal, intelligent, coherent, and logical being who seeks a personal relationship with man. Mankind sinned and destroyed the perfect Universe created by God. God could not save mankind without modifying the current state of the Universe. Thus, Jesus Christ was sent to Earth. Jesus Christ is the living and eternal Son of the Most High God, sent to Earth to die for my sins. At the same time, he was both fully God and fully Man. He is part of ONE God, though he has a separate temporal existence in our world. He was crucified after living a perfect life. He died. He rose from the dead after the passage of three days. His death created sacrificial atonement which can be willingly accepted by any and all. Upon accepting that atonement, sins are forgiven begins to work in the life of the believer. Ultimately, those who believe will be removed from this Universe, their free will taken away because sin is not possible in heaven, and given a place to live for eternity with God. Those who do not accept the sacrifice of Christ will spend eternity in Hell (although I WILL admit that my conception of Hell is VERY different from the mainstream view).

***15. "They therefore can’t justify ignoring parts of it, (which is what they all do.)"

I would be included in "all". Please tell me one passage of the Bible that you believe I "ignore". Note that reconciling a contradiction is NOT ignoring it. The words mean fundamentally different things.

Also, please don't point to the OT and say, "You don't keep this old law anymore." Asserting that changing times have caused changing standards is NOT the same as ignoring the old law. I will defend the OT laws as valid IN THEIR HISTORICAL CONTEXT. They have NOT "passed away". Contrary to ignoring them, I view them as evidence that the Israelite society was MORE moral than its contemporaries. Many of the OT laws so often attacked can be justified on the very same reasoning you use to attack Christianity for not advocating birth control. For example, God knew that the Israelites, as fallible humans, would sometimes commit rape during war times. Thus, he gave a specific set of commands that were designed to MITIGATE the harsh consequences of this immoral act. Unlike most ancient people who would simply rape and murder captured women, if the Israelites followed the OT commands, they had to give such women very specific protections. Of course, this is not as good as simply stating DO NOT RAPE. However, if you take this position to attack the OT law, then you are taking a position inherently contradictory to your assertion that simply giving blanket prohibitions is immoral when the consequences can be mitigated through additional information.

Sincerely,

Mojch

RE: "NO language can be given valid meaning without interpreting it and putting it into context."

This is true to a degree. It's particularly true of unfamiliar language written in different cultures many thousands of years ago. Yet Christian apologists have, of necessity, taking this practice way too far. They continually reinterprets and contextualize the bible, so much so that they often end up stating the exact opposite to what the bible says.

I say we should trust the translators of the Bible and not try to make biblical passages say what we would like them to say. When God or Jesus says something that only an asshole would say, the fact should be acknowledged. This is what I've done in my discussion of Jesus.

When we read the contemporaries of the new Testament authors we have no need to interpret what they say. For example pick up the works of Josephus, Cicero, Seutonius, Philo or Celsus. They still read well today, and don't need to be revised and reinterpreted to make good honest sense.

Try reading the supposed words of Jesus and one has to continually ask
"what the fuck?" The writings of Paul are even worse!

Then we have the old Testament and I hardly need to tell you that Yahweh was a right old bastard. He had nearly all the most unattractive features of a primitive, megalomaniac tyrant. He was violent, sexist, racist, egotistical, power-hungry, capricious, jealous, homophobic, and not overly intelligent. He allowed and encouraged rape, even of children. He sanctioned slavery, war, murder and the unnecessary killing of animals. He took sides and interfered in proceedings like a meddlesome, mischievous bully. He passed judgment on the most trivial of issues and insisted the Jews worship him.
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29-05-2013, 03:42 AM
RE: Attack a Theist - Mark Fulton Challenge
(28-05-2013 01:05 PM)Mojch Wrote:  Dr. Mark,

Obviously, I do not intend to respond to everything you wrote or else this discussion would become incredibly lengthy. Highlights from my perspective are below. Once again, I am not arguing so much as asking you to correct my reasoning if it is flawed. I quote you and then respond, as succinctly as I can.

For the record, I enjoy reading your evidence.

In this response, Point #10 is by far the most significant.

*** 1. "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 by dozens of authors across many years and time periods. How can you ascribe a singular purpose to all of them? I can do it because I claim a single author speaking through various men. Obviously, you reject this claim as absurd. That is irrelevant for purposes of this particular logical contradiction. I can attribute a single purpose because I attribute a single author. The flaw in your argument is not present in mine unless you can tell me how you can reasonable assume dozens of different men writing in various time periods all had a singular purpose to deceive the populace.

I concede that if you meant only that the COMPLIATION of the Bible was to control others then this argument is irrelevant. However, that does not seem to be what you are claiming.

***2. "The assholes at the top of churches are also typically immoral. (We agree on this I think)"

Yes, we do.

***3. "Sorry Mojch, you lost me here! Could you humor me and reword this?"

Of course, sorry for the lack of clarity. It is a simple point really. In the study you cited, the following language appears [modified here for length, not content]...

"The absence of exceptions to the negative correlation between absolute belief in a creator
and acceptance of evolution . . . cast[s] doubt on the thesis that societies can combine high
rates of both religiosity and agreement with evolutionary science."

I was simply asserting that this conclusion is only valid if one assumes that the "religiosity" rejects evolution. Since I believe the Church should accept evolution, this portion of the study isn't relevant to disproving my personal beliefs [although I admit it supports changing main stream Christian beliefs].

***4. "You are trying to suggest that the reason Christian societies score highly as dysfunctional is because they're arguing with other Christians or secularists."

I was trying to suggest that the dysfunction was a result of conflicting religious and secular views causing low levels of adherence to traditional Christian standards. This is what produces the dysfunction, not the religion itself. This is an important distinction.

***5. "...let's be rational and honest."

This is my goal in all of my communications. When I fail, it is inadvertent.

***5. "Christian societies have more unwanted teenage pregnancies, more abortions, more STD's, more homicides and lower life expectancies because, statistically speaking , they're not applying rational solutions to life's problems."

We agree on this. However, this is not because the Christian solutions are WRONG but because they are not REALISTIC. Thus, we need back-ups and the refusal to provide those backups is irresponsible. Once again though, this is not evidence that the ideas themselves are wrong.

***6. "Churches need to get over their aversion to sex, and should start teaching that it is a normal, natural healthy part of life. They should recognize they have a responsibility to help prevent unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases." & "If sex was discussed openly and honestly in churches, there would be a lot less child molestation going on, many less frigid relationships, and a whole lot less neurotic people around."

Totally agree. However, your response didn't address my actual question which was "Is there any actual Biblical support for not teaching kids about sexual hygiene?" The decision to do, and all the negative consequences that flow from it, rest with the Church and not the religion. These consequences are evidence that the Church is wrong, not that the religion is. This is an old argument because it is valid. You cannot refute the truth of a belief based on the results of an improper application of that belief.

***7. "They should admit that the Bible was written by authors trying to control people's behavior."

They do. They just claim that the ultimate author was God and that the reason for the control was to ensure the benefit of humanity. You disagree with the Church that God wrote the Bible but do you honestly believe the Church doesn't openly acknowledge that the Bible seeks to control behavior?

***8. "There's barely a paragraph from the bible one could give some credibility to without "interpreting" it and "putting it into context."

Of course there isn't! I was surprised to see you write this. NO language can be given valid meaning without interpreting it and putting it into context. Forget religion. Google "theories of legal interpretation" and look at how we evaluate arguably our most important secular writings. The most basic canons are that interpretation must occur in CONTEXT. Heck, the Constitution was written just a few hundred years ago and we can't even agree on the proper context to interpret that document. The Bible SHOULD have more interpretive trouble. This isn't evidence that it is flawed. It is evidence that it is a written document from a long time ago.

***9. "Let's just consider Jesus, who, by the way, had little or nothing to do with a once living flesh and blood character who may or may not have existed." vs. "Most Christians fail to appreciate this because Jesus’ teachings have been reinterpreted, glossed over, or ignored to make him sound attractive.
These positions contradict in my mind. Either Jesus was a living flesh and blood being who taught discernible lessons or else there is no way to know that his teachings have been "reinterpreted". How can you claim that we have no real evidence Jesus existed and then turn around and claim that the modern versions of his teachings are different from the originals? Either Jesus made teachings that can be reinterpreted and the existence of these teaching is evidence he existed OR he did not make such teachings and these non-existence interpretations could not be "reinterpreted".

***10. "Jesus berated anyone who didn’t buy his message..."

Although I concede that you can, by approaching these quotes with the express intention of making them seem "intolerant", paint Jesus this way, they are much more coherently interpreted to be messages of grace and mercy. Before rejecting this out of hand, let me explain why.

You CANNOT disprove the conclusion of a proposition by assuming its premises are different than they are and thus creating a contradiction. You must disprove it by assuming it premises are TRUE and showing that they lead to a contradiction. This is NOT my opinion. It is basic Philosophy 101 at the college level. See http://www.jimpryor.net/teaching/vocab/validity.html for an NYU philosophy professor's explanation of this concept. Thus, in order for your argument, which challenges a conclusion, to make sense, you must presume that the premises of Christianity are true and THEN prove that Jesus was intolerant. This you have not, and I argue you cannot, do.

EXAMPLE: “Anyone who believes in the Son has eternal life, but anyone who refuses to believe in the Son will never see life: the anger of God stays on him” (John 3:33, NJB). Assuming Christianity is true, this is not a statement of intolerance, it is a statement of truth. In fact, it would have been IMMORAL for Jesus not to have said it because, IF IT IS TRUE, then not saying it would prevent us from saving ourselves. Most of the other quotes you mentioned are explained in this way.

Basically, you attempt to prove that the message of Jesus is intolerant by assuming, from the beginning, that the basic premises of the message are wrong. Then, you attempt to prove that this intolerance shows the argument is wrong. Unless I am mistaken, this is circular reasoning.

One final example to make my point...

Bob shouts: "Shoot all of the zombies"

Is this statement "intolerant" of zombies? Who knows? We have to interpret it in context.

Let's assume that I assert that when Bob said this, all the zombies were attacking a building full of puppies and orphans. Thus, I claim Bob's statement was not intolerant of zombies but necessary in the circumstances.

In this situation, would the following argument be acceptable?

1. The zombies were not attacking the puppies and orphans.

2. Therefore, Bob's statement to shoot all the zombies was unjustified.

3. Therefore, Bob is intolerant because he advocated a negative position against zombies without cause.

I think the answer is clearly no. Notice that the conclusion ASSUMES premise 1. If you remove premise 1 but attempt to keep the conclusion, then the entire argument becomes invalid because the conclusion states something that is unproven. If you remove premise 1 and remove the "without cause" language, you are left with calling Bob intolerant just because he advocated a negative position. For reasons I hope should be obvious, this is an absurd position. Thus, your argument is, as a matter of logic, circular, invalid, or absurd. I am mistaken please explain in clear logical form how your argument is different. I ask for specificity because, if I am correct, this entire section of your argument is irrelevant.

***11: "Jesus had an arrogant, fanatical belief in himself, and an ambition to be in charge."

Once again, this is a perfect argument UNLESS HE WAS CORRECT AND JUSTIFIED IN HIS BELIEF. Thus, this is circular. See above. I think you have many more arguments with this same flaw. Once again, can you actually demonstrate why I am wrong in a logically coherent form and not just with broad generalities?

***12: I do not have time to respond and explain each of these quotes. Suffice it to say that I can. If you doubt this, I ask you to pick ONE that you think is difficult to explain. Then, we can have a manageable discussion.

***13: " “Yes, I tell you again, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 19:24, NJB)

See the study you cited above that proves that as material success increases, faith decreases. Your own study confirms that this statement is true.

***14: "Also...you're not really a devout Christian, are you? If you were, you wouldn't have to modify traditional Christian beliefs."

Forgive the forceful nature of this reply. I am going to take a certain tone here because I found this statement to be highly offensive.

My religious faith is the most important thing in my life. I attend church regularly, pray multiple times daily, consistently modify my actions to conform to my beliefs, give of my time and money to support the parts of the Christian message that I agree with (which is ALL the ones that are crucial to the heart of the belief system), and spend hours upon hours testing my faith against the best argument that others can provide.

I have explained what I believe below. Please point to a SINGLE argument I have made that contradicts any of the below. I am relatively certain that what I just wrote would be a pretty accurate summation of the basics of Christian belief.

I believe...

God created the Universe and everything within it. God is an eternal, just, loving, personal, intelligent, coherent, and logical being who seeks a personal relationship with man. Mankind sinned and destroyed the perfect Universe created by God. God could not save mankind without modifying the current state of the Universe. Thus, Jesus Christ was sent to Earth. Jesus Christ is the living and eternal Son of the Most High God, sent to Earth to die for my sins. At the same time, he was both fully God and fully Man. He is part of ONE God, though he has a separate temporal existence in our world. He was crucified after living a perfect life. He died. He rose from the dead after the passage of three days. His death created sacrificial atonement which can be willingly accepted by any and all. Upon accepting that atonement, sins are forgiven begins to work in the life of the believer. Ultimately, those who believe will be removed from this Universe, their free will taken away because sin is not possible in heaven, and given a place to live for eternity with God. Those who do not accept the sacrifice of Christ will spend eternity in Hell (although I WILL admit that my conception of Hell is VERY different from the mainstream view).

***15. "They therefore can’t justify ignoring parts of it, (which is what they all do.)"

I would be included in "all". Please tell me one passage of the Bible that you believe I "ignore". Note that reconciling a contradiction is NOT ignoring it. The words mean fundamentally different things.

Also, please don't point to the OT and say, "You don't keep this old law anymore." Asserting that changing times have caused changing standards is NOT the same as ignoring the old law. I will defend the OT laws as valid IN THEIR HISTORICAL CONTEXT. They have NOT "passed away". Contrary to ignoring them, I view them as evidence that the Israelite society was MORE moral than its contemporaries. Many of the OT laws so often attacked can be justified on the very same reasoning you use to attack Christianity for not advocating birth control. For example, God knew that the Israelites, as fallible humans, would sometimes commit rape during war times. Thus, he gave a specific set of commands that were designed to MITIGATE the harsh consequences of this immoral act. Unlike most ancient people who would simply rape and murder captured women, if the Israelites followed the OT commands, they had to give such women very specific protections. Of course, this is not as good as simply stating DO NOT RAPE. However, if you take this position to attack the OT law, then you are taking a position inherently contradictory to your assertion that simply giving blanket prohibitions is immoral when the consequences can be mitigated through additional information.

Sincerely,

Mojch

Re " "Let's just consider Jesus, who, by the way, had little or nothing to do with a once living flesh and blood character who may or may not have existed." vs. "Most Christians fail to appreciate this because Jesus’ teachings have been reinterpreted, glossed over, or ignored to make him sound attractive.
These positions contradict in my mind."


Ok. Permit me to clarify my position. I do believe there probably was once a flesh and blood character named Yeshua. He was a Jew, not a Christian, and he tried to start a war with Rome. He was spectacularly unsuccessful, and was crucified by the Romans as a political insurgent. Now there is another character that the world knows as Jesus, who has been written up in the Gospels. He was a pro Roman son of God who was sacrificed to save men from their sins. This was an idea probably invented by Paul, many years after the Yeshua character died. Jesus' existence may or may not have been loosely based on the life story of Yeshua. Irrespective of that, his story is nearly entirely mythical. I believe Jesus, the Christ is a product of Roman government propaganda, and is therefore a 180° reversal of the real story of Yeshua.

I imagine the above scenarios are probably entirely foreign to you. I would ask you to not casually dismiss them however, as they are the conclusions of many years of hard thinking.

Now that I've explained myself, I hope you will agree that there is no circular reasoning here.

RE "Jesus had an arrogant, fanatical belief in himself, and an ambition to be in charge." Once again, this is a perfect argument UNLESS HE WAS CORRECT AND JUSTIFIED IN HIS BELIEF.

Well, "he" wasn't correct and justified, in my opinion."'He" is , in fact, a largely fictional creation of propagandists.

Even if we grant "Jesus" was an inspirational leader, or even the son of god, his atrocious tirades that I've documented are abysmally bad. Can you imagine the Dali Lama saying such things? No.

Re "See the study you cited above that proves that as material success increases, faith decreases. Your own study confirms that this statement is true."

Ah ha! You're betraying your fundamentalist indoctrination by implying that faith is a positive virtue. Faith, in the religious sense, is the belief in something for which there’s no good evidence. It’s just a nice word for wishful thinking, bias, or superstition, has no intellectual merit, and is no substitute for honest enquiry. ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qp4WUFXvCFQ ).

RE. "Although I concede that you can, by approaching these quotes with the express intention of making them seem "intolerant", paint Jesus this way, they are much more coherently interpreted to be messages of graceand mercy."

to be continued...
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29-05-2013, 04:09 AM
RE: Attack a Theist - Mark Fulton Challenge
(28-05-2013 01:05 PM)Mojch Wrote:  Dr. Mark,

Obviously, I do not intend to respond to everything you wrote or else this discussion would become incredibly lengthy. Highlights from my perspective are below. Once again, I am not arguing so much as asking you to correct my reasoning if it is flawed. I quote you and then respond, as succinctly as I can.

For the record, I enjoy reading your evidence.

In this response, Point #10 is by far the most significant.

*** 1. "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 by dozens of authors across many years and time periods. How can you ascribe a singular purpose to all of them? I can do it because I claim a single author speaking through various men. Obviously, you reject this claim as absurd. That is irrelevant for purposes of this particular logical contradiction. I can attribute a single purpose because I attribute a single author. The flaw in your argument is not present in mine unless you can tell me how you can reasonable assume dozens of different men writing in various time periods all had a singular purpose to deceive the populace.

I concede that if you meant only that the COMPLIATION of the Bible was to control others then this argument is irrelevant. However, that does not seem to be what you are claiming.

***2. "The assholes at the top of churches are also typically immoral. (We agree on this I think)"

Yes, we do.

***3. "Sorry Mojch, you lost me here! Could you humor me and reword this?"

Of course, sorry for the lack of clarity. It is a simple point really. In the study you cited, the following language appears [modified here for length, not content]...

"The absence of exceptions to the negative correlation between absolute belief in a creator
and acceptance of evolution . . . cast[s] doubt on the thesis that societies can combine high
rates of both religiosity and agreement with evolutionary science."

I was simply asserting that this conclusion is only valid if one assumes that the "religiosity" rejects evolution. Since I believe the Church should accept evolution, this portion of the study isn't relevant to disproving my personal beliefs [although I admit it supports changing main stream Christian beliefs].

***4. "You are trying to suggest that the reason Christian societies score highly as dysfunctional is because they're arguing with other Christians or secularists."

I was trying to suggest that the dysfunction was a result of conflicting religious and secular views causing low levels of adherence to traditional Christian standards. This is what produces the dysfunction, not the religion itself. This is an important distinction.

***5. "...let's be rational and honest."

This is my goal in all of my communications. When I fail, it is inadvertent.

***5. "Christian societies have more unwanted teenage pregnancies, more abortions, more STD's, more homicides and lower life expectancies because, statistically speaking , they're not applying rational solutions to life's problems."

We agree on this. However, this is not because the Christian solutions are WRONG but because they are not REALISTIC. Thus, we need back-ups and the refusal to provide those backups is irresponsible. Once again though, this is not evidence that the ideas themselves are wrong.

***6. "Churches need to get over their aversion to sex, and should start teaching that it is a normal, natural healthy part of life. They should recognize they have a responsibility to help prevent unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases." & "If sex was discussed openly and honestly in churches, there would be a lot less child molestation going on, many less frigid relationships, and a whole lot less neurotic people around."

Totally agree. However, your response didn't address my actual question which was "Is there any actual Biblical support for not teaching kids about sexual hygiene?" The decision to do, and all the negative consequences that flow from it, rest with the Church and not the religion. These consequences are evidence that the Church is wrong, not that the religion is. This is an old argument because it is valid. You cannot refute the truth of a belief based on the results of an improper application of that belief.

***7. "They should admit that the Bible was written by authors trying to control people's behavior."

They do. They just claim that the ultimate author was God and that the reason for the control was to ensure the benefit of humanity. You disagree with the Church that God wrote the Bible but do you honestly believe the Church doesn't openly acknowledge that the Bible seeks to control behavior?

***8. "There's barely a paragraph from the bible one could give some credibility to without "interpreting" it and "putting it into context."

Of course there isn't! I was surprised to see you write this. NO language can be given valid meaning without interpreting it and putting it into context. Forget religion. Google "theories of legal interpretation" and look at how we evaluate arguably our most important secular writings. The most basic canons are that interpretation must occur in CONTEXT. Heck, the Constitution was written just a few hundred years ago and we can't even agree on the proper context to interpret that document. The Bible SHOULD have more interpretive trouble. This isn't evidence that it is flawed. It is evidence that it is a written document from a long time ago.

***9. "Let's just consider Jesus, who, by the way, had little or nothing to do with a once living flesh and blood character who may or may not have existed." vs. "Most Christians fail to appreciate this because Jesus’ teachings have been reinterpreted, glossed over, or ignored to make him sound attractive.
These positions contradict in my mind. Either Jesus was a living flesh and blood being who taught discernible lessons or else there is no way to know that his teachings have been "reinterpreted". How can you claim that we have no real evidence Jesus existed and then turn around and claim that the modern versions of his teachings are different from the originals? Either Jesus made teachings that can be reinterpreted and the existence of these teaching is evidence he existed OR he did not make such teachings and these non-existence interpretations could not be "reinterpreted".

***10. "Jesus berated anyone who didn’t buy his message..."

Although I concede that you can, by approaching these quotes with the express intention of making them seem "intolerant", paint Jesus this way, they are much more coherently interpreted to be messages of grace and mercy. Before rejecting this out of hand, let me explain why.

You CANNOT disprove the conclusion of a proposition by assuming its premises are different than they are and thus creating a contradiction. You must disprove it by assuming it premises are TRUE and showing that they lead to a contradiction. This is NOT my opinion. It is basic Philosophy 101 at the college level. See http://www.jimpryor.net/teaching/vocab/validity.html for an NYU philosophy professor's explanation of this concept. Thus, in order for your argument, which challenges a conclusion, to make sense, you must presume that the premises of Christianity are true and THEN prove that Jesus was intolerant. This you have not, and I argue you cannot, do.

EXAMPLE: “Anyone who believes in the Son has eternal life, but anyone who refuses to believe in the Son will never see life: the anger of God stays on him” (John 3:33, NJB). Assuming Christianity is true, this is not a statement of intolerance, it is a statement of truth. In fact, it would have been IMMORAL for Jesus not to have said it because, IF IT IS TRUE, then not saying it would prevent us from saving ourselves. Most of the other quotes you mentioned are explained in this way.

Basically, you attempt to prove that the message of Jesus is intolerant by assuming, from the beginning, that the basic premises of the message are wrong. Then, you attempt to prove that this intolerance shows the argument is wrong. Unless I am mistaken, this is circular reasoning.

One final example to make my point...

Bob shouts: "Shoot all of the zombies"

Is this statement "intolerant" of zombies? Who knows? We have to interpret it in context.

Let's assume that I assert that when Bob said this, all the zombies were attacking a building full of puppies and orphans. Thus, I claim Bob's statement was not intolerant of zombies but necessary in the circumstances.

In this situation, would the following argument be acceptable?

1. The zombies were not attacking the puppies and orphans.

2. Therefore, Bob's statement to shoot all the zombies was unjustified.

3. Therefore, Bob is intolerant because he advocated a negative position against zombies without cause.

I think the answer is clearly no. Notice that the conclusion ASSUMES premise 1. If you remove premise 1 but attempt to keep the conclusion, then the entire argument becomes invalid because the conclusion states something that is unproven. If you remove premise 1 and remove the "without cause" language, you are left with calling Bob intolerant just because he advocated a negative position. For reasons I hope should be obvious, this is an absurd position. Thus, your argument is, as a matter of logic, circular, invalid, or absurd. I am mistaken please explain in clear logical form how your argument is different. I ask for specificity because, if I am correct, this entire section of your argument is irrelevant.

***11: "Jesus had an arrogant, fanatical belief in himself, and an ambition to be in charge."

Once again, this is a perfect argument UNLESS HE WAS CORRECT AND JUSTIFIED IN HIS BELIEF. Thus, this is circular. See above. I think you have many more arguments with this same flaw. Once again, can you actually demonstrate why I am wrong in a logically coherent form and not just with broad generalities?

***12: I do not have time to respond and explain each of these quotes. Suffice it to say that I can. If you doubt this, I ask you to pick ONE that you think is difficult to explain. Then, we can have a manageable discussion.

***13: " “Yes, I tell you again, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 19:24, NJB)

See the study you cited above that proves that as material success increases, faith decreases. Your own study confirms that this statement is true.

***14: "Also...you're not really a devout Christian, are you? If you were, you wouldn't have to modify traditional Christian beliefs."

Forgive the forceful nature of this reply. I am going to take a certain tone here because I found this statement to be highly offensive.

My religious faith is the most important thing in my life. I attend church regularly, pray multiple times daily, consistently modify my actions to conform to my beliefs, give of my time and money to support the parts of the Christian message that I agree with (which is ALL the ones that are crucial to the heart of the belief system), and spend hours upon hours testing my faith against the best argument that others can provide.

I have explained what I believe below. Please point to a SINGLE argument I have made that contradicts any of the below. I am relatively certain that what I just wrote would be a pretty accurate summation of the basics of Christian belief.

I believe...

God created the Universe and everything within it. God is an eternal, just, loving, personal, intelligent, coherent, and logical being who seeks a personal relationship with man. Mankind sinned and destroyed the perfect Universe created by God. God could not save mankind without modifying the current state of the Universe. Thus, Jesus Christ was sent to Earth. Jesus Christ is the living and eternal Son of the Most High God, sent to Earth to die for my sins. At the same time, he was both fully God and fully Man. He is part of ONE God, though he has a separate temporal existence in our world. He was crucified after living a perfect life. He died. He rose from the dead after the passage of three days. His death created sacrificial atonement which can be willingly accepted by any and all. Upon accepting that atonement, sins are forgiven begins to work in the life of the believer. Ultimately, those who believe will be removed from this Universe, their free will taken away because sin is not possible in heaven, and given a place to live for eternity with God. Those who do not accept the sacrifice of Christ will spend eternity in Hell (although I WILL admit that my conception of Hell is VERY different from the mainstream view).

***15. "They therefore can’t justify ignoring parts of it, (which is what they all do.)"

I would be included in "all". Please tell me one passage of the Bible that you believe I "ignore". Note that reconciling a contradiction is NOT ignoring it. The words mean fundamentally different things.

Also, please don't point to the OT and say, "You don't keep this old law anymore." Asserting that changing times have caused changing standards is NOT the same as ignoring the old law. I will defend the OT laws as valid IN THEIR HISTORICAL CONTEXT. They have NOT "passed away". Contrary to ignoring them, I view them as evidence that the Israelite society was MORE moral than its contemporaries. Many of the OT laws so often attacked can be justified on the very same reasoning you use to attack Christianity for not advocating birth control. For example, God knew that the Israelites, as fallible humans, would sometimes commit rape during war times. Thus, he gave a specific set of commands that were designed to MITIGATE the harsh consequences of this immoral act. Unlike most ancient people who would simply rape and murder captured women, if the Israelites followed the OT commands, they had to give such women very specific protections. Of course, this is not as good as simply stating DO NOT RAPE. However, if you take this position to attack the OT law, then you are taking a position inherently contradictory to your assertion that simply giving blanket prohibitions is immoral when the consequences can be mitigated through additional information.

Sincerely,

Mojch

RE "EXAMPLE: “Anyone who believes in the Son has eternal life, but anyone who refuses to believe in the Son will never see life: the anger of God stays on him” (John 3:33, NJB). Assuming Christianity is true, this is not a statement of intolerance, it is a statement of truth. In fact, it would have been IMMORAL for Jesus not to have said it because, IF IT IS TRUE, then not saying it would prevent us from saving ourselves. Most of the other quotes you mentioned are explained in this way."

I understand your argument, but is is profoundly flawed. You are saying that Jesus could make grossly immoral ( in my opinion, for reasons documented) proclamations, and not be shouted down for it, because you think they might be true. I say they aren't true, and they are profoundly immoral.

Imagine the boot on another foot. You are at a rally. An angry Islamist shouts in your face "Mohamed is the messenger, get down on your knees and pray to Allah or you will burn in hell forever!" Would you tolerate this, and do what he says, because he may be right? No. You've read the Koran, and you know Mohammed was a fuckwit, and you know the Islamist is a hot headed brainwashed dill.

You are trying to excuse Jesus' poor behavior. Sorry, your argument doesn't cut the mustard.
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