My Take on Atheism
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03-09-2015, 06:11 PM
RE: My Take on Atheism
(03-09-2015 04:15 PM)jabeady Wrote:  I somehow got involved in a religious discussion while visiting a gun forum. Here's what I came up with:

1st. It's well-known that it's impossible to prove a negative (there is no god), so demanding that someone do so is inherently a dishonest deflection of the conversation.

It may be well known, but it is not a fact. Proving a negative is indeed possible, and mathematicians and scientists do it regularly.

More on Proving a Negative Here.

Quote:2nd. There is no objective evidence of the workings of a super-being in nature. All observable phenomena can be explained through natural means; where natural explanations suffice, supernatural explanations are unnecessary.

True.

Quote:3rd. There are no known independent references to Jesus outside the Bible. Claimed corroboration such as Tacitus and Josephus were written long after the events related in the four Gospels supposedly occurred and, in fact, refer to what the early church followers believed and did rather than to Jesus himself (and evidence is strong that the relevant passages in Josephus are pious frauds, altered or added long after the original text was written). As to any Biblical references to otherwise known historical events, they are no more corroborative of biblical inerrancy than is "Ben Hur."

In mainstream academia, Tacitus is virtually uncontested with only a handful of fringe theorists known as Jesus Mythicists trying to discredit it, but having absolutely no success at all.

Of the two passages in Josephus' "Antiquities of the Jews," the first passage is thought to have been at least partially interpolated by the majority of scholars, and the second passage is virtually uncontested except, again, by a small handful of Jesus Mythicist fringe theorists.

Quote:4th. Biblical prophecy has not been shown to be more accurate than any other kind of prophecy. It can be easily demonstrated that anyone with an agenda can bolster their position through "interpretation" of cherry - picked passages from throughout the Old and New Testaments. This is identical to the process by which various groups have repeatedly drawn from the Bible to support political and "moral" arguments. Illustrative are the pro- and anti-slavery factions preceding the American Civil War, where each sought to justify it's opinion of the "peculiar institution" through biblical interpretation.

There is no such thing as "prophecy" let alone any kind of so-called prophecy having any degree of accuracy. Biblical prophecy always uses 20/20 hindsight in an attempt to claim that something came true, and modern "prophets" have made so many failed predictions as to bring the house down in laughter.

It's nothing more than a freak show.

Quote:5th. It is easily demonstrated that the Bible is abundantly internally inconsistent (conflicting accounts of Creation, the 10 Commandments, Jesus' resurrection, etc), but its believers are inconsistent, as well. They are divided into opposing factions on every conceivable aspect of Bible teaching: the Bible is to be understood as it is written, the Bible speaks metaphorically; all can be saved, some are predestined to Heaven and some to hell; there are but two sacraments, there are seven sacraments; pray to Mary, don't pray to Mary; Jesus was God *and* man, Jesus was God *in* man. And so on.

Jesus was merely a man who likely claimed to be a son of god, which pissed off a few high ranking Jews at the time, who then accused him to Pontius Pilate as being someone who professed to be a king when Caesar was the only one who could assign a kingship.

Pontius Pilate prompty bent Jesus over and forced him to answer the question of, "Who's your daddy now, bitch?"

They strung him up on a couple of sticks like a side of beef, laughed at him, spit on him, and let him kick the bucket.

He's dead, and that ship has sailed.

Quote:6th. Even if an individual finds it necessary to believe in "god," he is therefore faced with the perplexing necessity of choosing which faction to join or, indeed, whether to form his own. It should be noted here that this discussion is limited to mainstream Christian beliefs and does not consider Mormons, gnostic, or the more esoteric Christian sects. And then there are all of the non-Christian beliefs in the world today (Islam is the world's largest religion but it is almost as factional as is Christianity). In fact, there is no way to tell how many thousands or millions or hundreds of millions of gods humanity has believed in, and more are being born every day. The United States alone has given rise to at least three major sects in the last two centuries (LDS, Seventh Day Adventists, Scientology). Nor are the old gods necessarily giving way; Zoroastrianism, the religion of the first Mesopotamian civilizations, still exists.

True

Quote:7th. Most Christians and other believers will tell you that you must believe as they do in order to receive the benefits of a belief in "God." A few will allow that it is (barely/theoretically) possible to believe otherwise and still receive at least some benefit, but usually only if a stern set of (their) rules is strictly adhered to.

None of them have a fucking clue what they are talking about because each faction has its own pile of shit to sell to anyone who will be stupid enough to buy it.

Quote:What, then, to believe? And why? Whether to believe at all, oddly enough, is easier to answer. Belief in a deity can help make sense of a world or universe that might otherwise be inexplicable. Belief in a compassionate god can give succor in time of trouble. Belief can foster a sense of community. In short, believing feels good. But this still begs the question, why should I believe as you do? Will it make me feel better than believing the way someone else does? How and why will it do that?

Do not believe. It's that simple.

How can anyone become an atheist when we are all born with no beliefs in the first place? We are atheists because we were born this way.
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03-09-2015, 06:32 PM
RE: My Take on Atheism
(03-09-2015 04:15 PM)jabeady Wrote:  ...

What comes after this? I dunno. As with the question of god, I don't see any reason to think or believe anything comes after. I could be wrong. If I am, would a god who, as I am told, created me and gave me my reason and intellect and who, I am also told, is infinitely compassionate, really abandon me to an eternity of suffering simply because I misunderstood? ...

As you correctly point out in your dissertation above, if one decides to believe in a god, that does not solve the question of who or what that god is. Therefore, for the benefit of people who do choose to believe in a god, I offer the following scientific analysis:

Evolution by natural selection is an established fact. Natural selection has no heart or compassion. Those more suited to their environment survive, and those who are less suited perish. Further, the vast majority of individuals, both human and non-human, spend most of their lives starving, diseased, and infested by parasites, and in the non-human world most end their lives being torn apart and eaten by something bigger or stronger. In the human world, vast numbers are slaughtered in war, starve, or die of horrible diseases, in most cases in agony. Only in the last 5 or 6 decades have infectious diseases like smallpox and tuberculosis dropped out as major killers of people in their 20's.

What's clear from this is that our putative god has chosen the most brutal suffering as his tool for creating species and populating the Earth. We can reliably conclude from this that if there is a god he delights in the suffering of his creatures, both human and animal. Original sin cannot be cited as the origin of suffering because animals were suffering and dying the most ghastly deaths long before there were primates, much less modern humans.

It therefore becomes obvious that it is the will of god (if there is a god) that his creatures suffer as much as physically possible. So, yes, he probably will punish you with eternal torture for the mistake of choosing the wrong sect. What's more, if anyone will be saved (probably unlikely, given god's love of torment) it will not be the people who do good, but rather the people who do god's obvious will by causing as much suffering as possible.

Reflecting on the above, I sure am glad I don't believe in god!

"El mar se mide por olas,
el cielo por alas,
nosotros por lágrimas."
-- Jaime Sabines
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03-09-2015, 06:33 PM
RE: My Take on Atheism
Interesting catch, DLJ.

Since many of the theists are fascinated with such number-lists, a title which catches their eye might prevent them from tending to skip as both religiously offensive to them and TL;dr.

I'd come up with catchy summaries for each, like:

The Seven Fatal Sins of Christian Theology:

1. The Burden
2. The Magic
3. The Historians
4. The Cherry Pickers
5. The Disagreements
6. The Cults
7. The Threats

(By no means a definitive list-title, just throwing some ideas out there.)

"Theology made no provision for evolution. The biblical authors had missed the most important revelation of all! Could it be that they were not really privy to the thoughts of God?" - E. O. Wilson
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03-09-2015, 07:02 PM
RE: My Take on Atheism
(03-09-2015 06:11 PM)Free Wrote:  
Quote:3rd. There are no known independent references to Jesus outside the Bible. Claimed corroboration such as Tacitus and Josephus were written long after the events related in the four Gospels supposedly occurred and, in fact, refer to what the early church followers believed and did rather than to Jesus himself (and evidence is strong that the relevant passages in Josephus are pious frauds, altered or added long after the original text was written). As to any Biblical references to otherwise known historical events, they are no more corroborative of biblical inerrancy than is "Ben Hur."

In mainstream academia, Tacitus is virtually uncontested with only a handful of fringe theorists known as Jesus Mythicists trying to discredit it, but having absolutely no success at all.

Of the two passages in Josephus' "Antiquities of the Jews," the first passage is thought to have been at least partially interpolated by the majority of scholars, and the second passage is virtually uncontested except, again, by a small handful of Jesus Mythicist fringe theorists.

Usually Free drives me a bit crazy with his posts on this, but he has a valid point, here. The scholastic concensus seems to be that Tacitus' and Josephus' (non-edited) entries are valid, and do seem to reference the existence after the fact of people who clearly and early-on think that Jesus was a real person. It may be dangerous to say that "no known independent references", since many Believers will also have that information at hand, or will refer to a theologian who knows that stuff. I happen to agree with Carrier's arguments that it was a later Christian interpolation, but that's a minority position among scholars, however he supports it. It is better to make a weaker argument than to make one that is provably false on some points, making it sound like you have a totally invalid argument.

For instance, even if we take the references by Tacitus, 80 years after the execution of Jesus, as 100% valid, all he talks about is the persecution of the Christian sect and the name of the person from whom the sect derives its name. He mentions Pilate and the execution of Jesus as an original attempt to suppress the sect of Christians, but gets Pilate's Roman title wrong, an odd "mistake" by a Roman historian (Josephus commits the same error of title), and provides no evidence of a historical Jesus, only of a group of people who were followers of "the annointed one" (Christ). He is writing from the perspective of a Roman who saw the suppression of the early Christian sect by Nero, and is recording the reasons. (It should hardly surprise anyone to learn that Christianity was a real thing by the end of the first century.) His phrasing seems to indicate that he was repeating the words of others about the Christians, not actual historical events from independent Roman records now lost:

"Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judæa, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their center and become popular. Accordingly, an arrest was first made of all who pleaded guilty; then, upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city, as of hatred against mankind".

The point here is that you can't argue there's "no" extra-Biblical evidence for early Christianity, implying it was wholly made up at some later point. Again, it should surprise no one that there were Christians in the first century; our argument is rather that he was a real rabbi whose legend grew with time as the early Christians continued to add to the myth of his life and death over that century, and afterward. There are other works that also seem to verify the persecution of early Christian "Jewish superstitions" by Nero, such as Suetonius and Pliny the Younger, who seem equally concerned about the rise of this new superstition, and while their interpretation is more ambiguous (they may have simply been referring to the problems associated with Jews expelled from Jerusalem after the war in the first century), they do seem to give credence to the idea that by the middle of the first century, around the time Paul was writing to the churches, there were indeed such groups of Jesus-followers. None of this points to an actual, historical Jesus, except through indirect references; it instead only proves that there were people who gathered together in the belief in a Christ. It's not the same thing. But saying there's "no evidence" is dangerous ground.

Final caveat: Given the fact that the oldest copy the passage by Tacitus comes from the 11th century, a copy made by Christian monks, Carrier's objections to the authenticity of that claim seem to be worth noting carefully.

"Theology made no provision for evolution. The biblical authors had missed the most important revelation of all! Could it be that they were not really privy to the thoughts of God?" - E. O. Wilson
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03-09-2015, 07:11 PM
RE: My Take on Atheism
One extra note: the evidence that the Jesus-story was a mythology being constantly added to by early Christian sects is enhanced by the difference between the earlier ("synoptic", or one-eyed) gospels of Mark, Matthew, and Luke, where he is less-magical and less-miraculous as you go back toward Mark, the generally-agreed "oldest" gospel, and compare them to John, which contains more accounts of miracles by Jesus than the others put together. John, based on syntax and the Greek words employed, was written around the time of the reports by the historians being cited, and thus gives good evidence that the Christ-stories were being "enhanced" for the first hundred years after his life.

"Theology made no provision for evolution. The biblical authors had missed the most important revelation of all! Could it be that they were not really privy to the thoughts of God?" - E. O. Wilson
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03-09-2015, 07:26 PM (This post was last modified: 03-09-2015 07:40 PM by Free.)
RE: My Take on Atheism
(03-09-2015 07:02 PM)RocketSurgeon76 Wrote:  
(03-09-2015 06:11 PM)Free Wrote:  In mainstream academia, Tacitus is virtually uncontested with only a handful of fringe theorists known as Jesus Mythicists trying to discredit it, but having absolutely no success at all.

Of the two passages in Josephus' "Antiquities of the Jews," the first passage is thought to have been at least partially interpolated by the majority of scholars, and the second passage is virtually uncontested except, again, by a small handful of Jesus Mythicist fringe theorists.

Usually Free drives me a bit crazy with his posts on this, but he has a valid point, here. The scholastic concensus seems to be that Tacitus' and Josephus' (non-edited) entries are valid, and do seem to reference the existence after the fact of people who clearly and early-on think that Jesus was a real person. It may be dangerous to say that "no known independent references", since many Believers will also have that information at hand, or will refer to a theologian who knows that stuff. I happen to agree with Carrier's arguments that it was a later Christian interpolation, but that's a minority position among scholars, however he supports it. It is better to make a weaker argument than to make one that is provably false on some points, making it sound like you have a totally invalid argument.

Not sure why Carrier makes such judgements, especially since he has absolutely no evidence, and admits that he has no evidence. Carrier is one of a very tiny handful of main stream academics that make up less than 1% of academics who contest historicity. I'm not kidding, less than 1%.

The reality is- and this is from a long list of sources within the academic community- that the Jesus Mythicist position of which Carrier partakes is viewed in exactly the same light as the following:

1. Young Earth Creationists
2. Intelligent Design Religionists.
3. Chem Trail Proponents.
4. "Man Never Landed On The Moon"
5. “AIDS is a germ-warfare creation of the government, which is withholding the cure while eliminating the targeted groups.”
6. “The World Trade Center towers were brought down by controlled demolition using ‘super-thermite’.”

Believe me, the real academic professionals see Jesus Mythicism in exactly that same way you would view that list above.

Bart Ehrman says:

These [Jesus never existed] views are so extreme and so unconvincing to 99.99 percent of the real experts that anyone holding them is as likely to get a teaching job in an established department of religion as a six-day creationist is likely to land one in a bona fide department of biology.

Now you know why Carrier doesn't have a job.

The truth is, in regards to historicity, the burden of proof of the existence of Jesus was met decades ago. The American Academy of Religion/Society of Biblical Literature joint conference attracts professors and other scholars from universities, graduate schools, and other academic institutions from all over the world in numbers as high as 10,000+. In this great meeting of the minds, the Jesus Mythicist position is not even mentioned except in jest to illicit a few chuckles. It is such a joke that virtually nobody takes it seriously.

What you see and read on the internet on both sides of the argument is absolutely nothing compared to what is actually available in main stream academia among the professionals.

In main stream academia, Jesus Mythicism doesn't even really exist. It's not even relevant. Richard Carrier is virtually unknown, and those who do know of him think he's nuts.

Read this guys opinion.

How can anyone become an atheist when we are all born with no beliefs in the first place? We are atheists because we were born this way.
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03-09-2015, 08:11 PM
RE: My Take on Atheism
It should be pretty clear that I agree that Jesus was probably a real person, and I referenced Carrier's position on the Tacitus passage's interpolation by later Christians, which was "worth noting". Incidentally, comparing him to 9/11 conspirators is hardly fair, and just because you're a minority in academia doesn't make you wrong. I simply consider his information to be worth considering in forming my overall picture.

As I believe I made clear, I am willing to accept Tacitus' work as 100% valid in forming my ideas about early Christianity, including the possibility that Jesus was crucified by Pilate, and that a cult formed as a result of this. Just as accepting Tacitus' writing as an accurate source of information would lead to the acceptance of the idea that Jesus was a real person who was killed by Romans and was the basis of the Christ-cult that the Romans tried to suppress, accepting his work also means accepting that the miraculous claims of the Christians about what else happened during the crucifixion simply didn't happen, for instance the darkness and the zombie infestation, as Tacitus was a high-ranking Senator and a member of a council specifically tasked with investigating such occurrences/claims within the Roman Empire. Either way, it's not good for the "Jesus is God" camp, which is the one I'm worried about in this discussion.

There is quite a bit more debate about the work of Tacitus, problems with the passage's meaning and citations, and whether he was citing from lost Roman official documents or hearsay sources for his information, which are not from Carrier.

"Theology made no provision for evolution. The biblical authors had missed the most important revelation of all! Could it be that they were not really privy to the thoughts of God?" - E. O. Wilson
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03-09-2015, 08:11 PM
RE: My Take on Atheism
(03-09-2015 07:26 PM)Free Wrote:  Not sure why Carrier makes such judgements, especially since he has absolutely no evidence, and admits that he has no evidence.

He's the echo that initiates the avalanche. All that scholarly consensus that you love so much is merely one bright guy drawing a conclusion and a thousand others pounding the table going, "hear, hear!" The whole dynamic is in transition. Besides, it's not as if it matters. The sheep ain't never gonna look up.

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03-09-2015, 08:41 PM
RE: My Take on Atheism
(03-09-2015 08:11 PM)houseofcantor Wrote:  
(03-09-2015 07:26 PM)Free Wrote:  Not sure why Carrier makes such judgements, especially since he has absolutely no evidence, and admits that he has no evidence.

He's the echo that initiates the avalanche. All that scholarly consensus that you love so much is merely one bright guy drawing a conclusion and a thousand others pounding the table going, "hear, hear!" The whole dynamic is in transition. Besides, it's not as if it matters. The sheep ain't never gonna look up.

Also, I'm told that there are still a handful of people who think that King Arthur and Robin Hood were real people, or at least, myths based on real people.

Angel

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03-09-2015, 09:12 PM
RE: My Take on Atheism
(03-09-2015 08:11 PM)RocketSurgeon76 Wrote:  There is quite a bit more debate about the work of Tacitus, problems with the passage's meaning and citations, and whether he was citing from lost Roman official documents or hearsay sources for his information, which are not from Carrier.

Again, in main stream academia, there is no debate at all about where Tacitus got his sources. None whatsoever. Here is a little sampling of why:

Tacitus Opens His Annals With This:

[1:1]
"The histories of Tiberius, Caius, Claudius, and Nero, while they were in power, were falsified through terror, and after their death were written under the irritation of a recent hatred. Hence my purpose is to relate a few facts about Augustus - more particularly his last acts, then the reign of Tiberius, and all which follows, without either bitterness or partiality, from any motives to which I am far removed."

Tacitus' View On Hearsay:

[4.11]
"My object in mentioning and refuting this story is, by a conspicuous example, to put down hearsay, and to request all into whose hands my work shall come, not to catch eagerly at wild and improbable rumours in preference to genuine history which has not been perverted into romance."

Tacitus On His Sources For The Great Fires of Rome, Which Includes Christ and the Christians:

[15.38]" A disaster followed, whether accidental or treacherously contrived by the emperor, is uncertain, as authors have given both accounts."

It's obvious that Tacitus was accessing previously written Roman records for his information on the Great Fires of Rome, which includes Christ and the Christians. Not only that, in the very next paragraph after the mention of Christ, we see this:

[15:45] According to some writers, poison was prepared for him at Nero's command by his own freedman, whose name was Cleonicus.

And again we see Tacitus accessing previously written Roman records.

But also ...

"Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judaea..."

The above quote actually tells us many things:

1. It shows the history of Nero, consistent with Tacitus' chapter on Nero.
2. It names Christ as being the originator of the Christian religion.
3. It names a high ranking Roman official, Pontius Pilate, as Christ's executioner.
4. It show that a superstition broke out (arguably, the resurrection) in Judea as a result of the execution of Christ, demonstrating that Pilate was, in fact, in Judea.
5. It names a Caesar, Tiberius, within the text.

All of this is completely consistent with Tacitus' works, and it is virtually unanimous in the academic world that it is 100% Tacitian. This is not even about Christ. It's all about Nero, and Christ is just a very small part of this Neronian history.

This "procurator verses prefect" business is insane. The Pilate Inscription shows he was a Prefect, which is just fine. The early governors of Judaea were of Prefect rank, the later governors were of Procurator rank. At the time there was absolutely no difference between the two. Their functions were identical, and therefore any governor could be considered as being either a Prefect or a Procurator. The titles were interchangeable, and so they were also within the Roman ranks.

It is entirely plausible that Pontius Pilate was first a Prefect, and then as the title of Procurator emerged within 5 years of him being governor of Judea, his rank title was changed within the Roman ranks and records as that of a Procurator.

In short, the titles of the governors of Judea was changed from Prefect to Procurator in Ad 41 - 44, a few short years after Pilate's commission in Judea. Therefore, Pilate started out in Judea as a Prefect, but his title and rank was later changed to Procurator by the Roman administration.

You can read more here.

So the question of Tacitus using hearsay has been answered by Tacitus himself. Actual history tells you all the rest you need to know. You won't find this on Jesus Mythicist sites, or from Carrier, as actual history simply does not work with their conspiracy theory agenda.

How can anyone become an atheist when we are all born with no beliefs in the first place? We are atheists because we were born this way.
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