RE: New Atheist Dukes it Out with Seasoned Pastor
(03-05-2013 08:02 AM)KMFDM_Kid2000 Wrote: A little back story here. I was a Christian for 21 years. I have a large Christian family which I came out to in January of this year. I've had to deal with them constantly trying to "save me from the devil". Arguments are typically long and drama filled, but I usually keep going until the other person simply drops out. I am tenacious. My aunt was quite frustrated with me as I cornered her logic several times before.
She thought she'd bring out the "big guns" and get her Pastor to "make me see the light. I sent Mr. Pastor packing. Keep in mind, I am a fairly new atheist, and I have only been a deconvert for a couple of months to this point, and even to now. If for nothing else, entertainment value. But it shows, even their leaders resort to dishonest tactics in the name of their god.
This is a rather loooong e-mail exchange.
From: Pastor NAME WITHHELD <Pastor NAME WITHHELD>
To: "Anthony Salcedo"
Sent: Thursday, April 4, 2013 4:18 PM
Subject: from Pastor NAME WITHHELD
Just wanted to drop you a line after our brief phone convo. I didn’t expect you to pick up since I figured you’d be at work, so I was just going to leave you a message.
So anyhow, your Aunt tells me that you’ve spent some time in the church but are now departed from religion, etc. altogether. She tells me you love science and have a hard time believing in a God of it all. I would love to sit down with you and chat about these things. Before I was called into ministry, I was in engineering, and was pre-med in college. I have a BS in Biology and took the MCAT. So I LOVE science!!
If you only get to the area around 6:00, then Wednesday night will be the best night for me sometime to chat.
Let me know!
Pastor NAME WITHHELD
From: Anthony Salcedo
Sent: Thursday, April 04, 2013 5:09 PM
To: Pastor NAME WITHHELD
Subject: Re: from Pastor NAME WITHHELD
What I officially see as my point of view on the subject of "god" and religion is fairly simple. The burden of proof has not been met for the claim that any god exists. The existence or non-existence of a metaphysical god simply is not knowable. What Christians claim is proof, is in no way, shape or form, actual proof. So I am agnostic in the sense that knowing if a generic god exists is simply unknowable.
Moving on to the subject of "YHWH", or Jehova, more commonly referred to as the "Christian God". I am completely and utterly convinced that this entity does NOT exist. So as to the belief I hold towards the christian god, I am completely atheist towards the christian god, similarly to how a christian might feel towards Poseidon, or some other character from mythology. If you're familiar with the "Dawkins Scale" I would consider myself a 6.999 repeating. I am well versed in scripture, common and not so common christian dogmas of several kinds (maybe not all ~30,000 denominations, but a good many of the common ones). I actively read biblical mythology on a near daily basis, analyze it, research it, and consider myself quite knowledgeable in the subject. I used to identify as a born-again christian for about 21 years or so, and now I identify myself as a militant atheist.
Professionally, I was a nurse for 14 years. I chose to no longer practice, due to a desire to change careers. I love computers, computer networking and computer security, so I actively sought to change careers, and turn my hobby into a profession. I currently hold a degree in Computer Technology & Internet Security and hold 13 separate industry certifications, with a heavy emphasis on networking technology and security. I currently work for a chemical manufacturing company, and find great satisfaction in my professional life.
As far as the sciences go, obviously I am a fan of the technology related subjects. I take a great interest in biology, medicine, astronomy, cosmology, abiogenesis, logic (human and not) and of course, evolution. I try to keep up with what is very current in the scientific world, and although I might not have a vase knowledge base in it, I am fascinated by the latest discoveries in quantum physics. I like to think I know or at least have the desire to know, a little bit of everything. What I don't know, I research, and I spend whole days on sites like Wikipedia when I want to learn a new topic. I am a heavily skeptical person, so I am one of the few people that will fact check an article, and examine the sources. I am also extremely well versed on identifying logical fallacies, and I am not quiet about calling them out in a debate.
I am also fairly active in several online atheist/non-theist/humanist groups, and am an active member of the Lancaster Freethought Society. I attend monthly meetings with this group.
I do enjoy debate about religion, and obviously you know my position on it is extremely critical. Most of my family are fundamentalist Christians, so I generally don't share the same ideas with them. I make a point not to try and destroy someone's belief, because as an atheist, I'm not trying to win any deconverts. What this means is I don't go challenging people's beliefs, until they make a claim, or bring up the subject. I am tolerant, and I simply do not care what people believe in, until they start trying to encroach upon the rights and beliefs or non-beliefs of others. However, my experience is others simply do not leave well enough alone. So, with that, I've heard a LOT of apologetic arguments, as well as their refutations. If your intent is to present these very same arguments, please do not take what might seem like dejection personally, as it isn't meant as such, it's just that I have a very LARGE family, and I've heard a lot of claims.
So that's me in a nutshell. To say I spent time in church may have been a bit of an understatement. I was as true a believer as they come, and fiery with conviction at that. However, I simply value truth above all else, and have an extremely high and guarded standard for what I consider it to be. I'm socially liberal, fiscally conservative, pro-choice, pro-science, anti-vegan, pro-capital punishment, pro-equality, pro-humanity, and adamantly anti-religion.
From: Pastor NAME WITHHELD <Pastor NAME WITHHELD>
To: Anthony Salcedo
Sent: Friday, April 5, 2013 11:49 AM
Subject: RE: from Pastor NAME WITHHELD
Wow, that’s a lot to write in your first email!! I imagine you have been exposed to many of the common arguments being in a large family of Christians. I am very curious about your journey, having subscribed to Christian beliefs for many years, even calling yourself ‘born again’ and now being so adamantly opposed to anything religious. So I can’t help but wonder what might have happened to trigger your extreme departure from the faith to become a ‘militant atheist’??
Regarding the debate, I think that one of the areas where atheists have tried to claim dominant ground is in the area of ‘burden of proof.’ Most atheists believe that the ‘burden of proof’ lies squarely on the shoulders of those who believe in a God to prove God’s existence. But I believe an equally important burden of proof lies open for the atheist to prove God’s non-existence. From a purely logical standpoint, you cannot prove that something does not exist unless you can thoroughly comb the entire universe, examining every square inch of space, to prove that God is not there. For example, if I lose my keys in my house, the only way for me to definitively prove that the keys are not in the house is to search every square inch of the house. Only after performing such a search am I able to say with proof that my keys are not in the house. The same is true of a God. Only if one is able to search the entire universe, and after having not found him, can they prove his non-existence. This also assumes the belief that only material things exist. But what of the immaterial world. Can a scientist prove the non-existence of the immaterial (supernatural) world? Unlikely.
Anthony, there are SO many things for which the atheistic worldview has no answer. Here is a short list:
· Why do you believe in capital punishment? If you and I are simply ‘matter in motion’ as an atheistic worldview posits, then it is completely irrelevant if my ‘matter’ happens to damage or destroy your ‘matter.’ It just doesn’t matter, because all of life is here by chance and is random. So what is the source of your ‘moral code’ that tells you that murder is wrong and deserves capital punishment. It surely isn’t Darwin, evolution or the Big Bang. Because if those were true, then capital punishment becomes purely unnecessary, as we are all just randomly existing here without purpose or meaning, just matter in motion.
· In fact, where do you get any of your ‘beliefs’?? Here’s your list: I'm socially liberal, fiscally conservative, pro-choice, pro-science, anti-vegan, pro-capital punishment, pro-equality, pro-humanity, and adamantly anti-religion.” All of these are predicated on some type of ‘moral’ basis. But where do you get morality from your atheistic worldview? Let me answer it for you: you have borrowed it from my worldview.
· How do you explain miracles of healing, of which I have witnessed many myself. Cancers being healed, ears being opened, blind eyes seeing. As much as you would like to deny the occurrence of such things, they are documented worldwide, and happen in many local churches, like ours. I have personally seen many miracles, and spoken with countless who themselves have experienced miracles of healing in their bodies. Science provides no explanation.
· How does atheism explain demons, which I have also seen manifested through people. I have likewise successfully performed ‘exorcisms’ in homes where children were seeing demonic beings. In fact, I have talked with many non-religious people who have seen such things. Science again falls short of an explanation.
· How does atheism explain the phenomenon of speaking in tongues, which I do on a regular basis. I have likewise heard demonic tongues from people. Additionally, speaking in tongues has been documented in other countries where a missionary has been given the ability to speak another language without ever having learned it. I was in Uganda 3 years ago and met a translator who translated my preaching into the indigenous language of the area. He explained that he grew up in a different part of Uganda, where there are 33 distinct languages. He felt called to move to the northern region, and when he arrived, God began giving him words to preach. When asking if the listeners could understand him, they said “YES!” even though he did not know their language. God supernaturally gave him their language. Science has no answer.
· The Big Bang theory is, in my opinion, ridiculous, and requires more faith to believe than an infinite Creator God. You expect me to believe that all the matter in all the universe, including over 100 billion trillion stars, was contained in a ball of mass the size of the period at the end of this sentence. You must be kidding me. Our own common sense should tell us that that is a preposterous explanation of the beginning of all things.
· Since when does a violent explosion create order? Scientists agree that things tend towards disorder, not order. I don’t care how many times you detonate an explosive device, it will always create disorder; never order. Yet science suggests that the most violent explosion of all time has somehow created order in the universe.
· Our very existence defies the First Law of Thermodynamics, which states that matter can neither be created nor destroyed. So where do all the matter in the universe come from?
· How does atheism explain the immaterial part of the human psyche, such as emotions. Again, if we are simply ‘matter in motion’ there is no explanation for why we ‘feel’ anything, such as anger, love, hatred, etc. The table that is holding my laptop right now has no capacity for emotions. It just is. In the atheistic worldview, that’s all you and I are, we just are. So why are we not the same as the table or the tree outside? Just matter in motion. No capacity for emotion. Just a conglomerate of billions of cells randomly organized. Why emotion? Cells just doing their job, randomly.
OK, I could write all day on this, but I have other things I need to do. I look forward to hearing your response to these items.
Pastor NAME WITHHELD
From: Anthony Salcedo
Sent: Friday, April 05, 2013 5:31 PM
To: Pastor NAME WITHHELD
Subject: Re: from Pastor NAME WITHHELD
"But I believe an equally important burden of proof lies open for the atheist to prove God’s non-existence."
This is not how the burden of proof works. Atheism makes no direct claims, other than to disregard the claims of the existence of any gods. There is no positive assertion in atheism, and one must understand that to use the term properly.
Supporting material: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philosophic...n_of_proof
If every negative assertion required a burden of proof, then knowledge would never be attained, as all the time would be spent disproving all claims which don't initially meet their burden of proof. If I asserted that Zeus did in fact, exist, would it be your responsibility to climb Mt. Olympus to snap pictures? No, it would not. You'd demand proof of my claim, or dismiss it. That which is presented without proof, should be dismissed without proof.
Through logic, and what we know, the christian god CAN in fact be disproven, at least as presented in the bible and common dogma. Multiple logical paradoxes exist through any of the "omni-" traits, there is a plethora of biblical contradictions that are clear as the paper they're printed on, and the simple fact that truth requires no faith. Faith is a suspension of disbelief to take stock in the unlikely, nonsensical and is the equivalent of either wishful thinking, or willful ignorance in the face of empirical evidence. The fact that dogma demands faith is a testament to its invalidity. And I know what you're going to counter this with, the "faith in the sun will rise" argument that I hear almost daily. Having faith in events or occurrences which are measurable, predictable, and recurrent is not the same as believing in something based on no measurable or consistent data.
Supporting material for this would be anything on Russell's Teapot.
"From a purely logical standpoint, you cannot prove that something does not exist unless you can thoroughly comb the entire universe, examining every square inch of space, to prove that God is not there."
This speaks to the "Moving the goal posts" logical fallacy, as throughout time, the idea of god gets higher and higher until it disappears into a metaphysical realm. This is the exact opposite of logic, as it is a fallacy, and is logically an invalid argument.
"For example, if I lose my keys in my house, the only way for me to definitively prove that the keys are not in the house is to search every square inch of the house. Only after performing such a search am I able to say with proof that my keys are not in the house."
This is the same argument as Schrodinger's Cat, in which a cat is in a box, and it is unknowable if it were alive or dead. The only way to know is to open the box and find the cat. The equal probability of there being no cat at all is a valid hypothesis, until the cat is proven to be A.) present in the box B.) alive or dead. Remember, this is why I say I am agnostic to the idea of a metaphysical god, yet atheist to the idea of YHWH. Even if you could prove evidence of a "god" in a generic sense, you've still got a loooong way to go before proving that entity is in fact, the god of the christian bible.
"This also assumes the belief that only material things exist."
False. Energy, Dark Matter, Anti-Matter. Physical material is actually a small percentage of what the observable universe consists of. We can prove non-physical things exist.
"Can a scientist prove the non-existence of the immaterial (supernatural) world? Unlikely."
This is not what science is meant to do. This is akin to saying science cannot disprove the existence of Metropolis, therefore Superman exists.
"there are SO many things for which the atheistic worldview has no answer"
Again, atheism claims no answers for any questions. It is not a positive assertion of ANYTHING, simply a rejection of claims of existence of any gods. Please understand this, as you're setting up another logical fallacy here, the strawman. You're building up a non-existent entity that you're labeling atheism with to pummel, but in fact, what you're directing your words towards is NOT what atheism is. Please keep this conversation an honest one, or do learn what these terms actually represent.
"Why do you believe in capital punishment? If you and I are simply ‘matter in motion’ as an atheistic worldview posits, then it is completely irrelevant if my ‘matter’ happens to damage or destroy your ‘matter.’ It just doesn’t matter, because all of life is here by chance and is random."
Life is not here as a "random" occurrence. If this were true, through sheer probability, it would appear randomly. An understanding of abiogenesis and how non-living matter forms basic proteins, which they themselves fold into more complex proteins, onward to RNA, DNA, and living tissue, to living organism is provable, and in at least the earliest stages, re-creatable in a lab environment. We simply do not have 4.7 billion years to see the experiment through to its current modern state. Chance isn't re-creatable, at least not on a consistent level.
"So what is the source of your ‘moral code’ that tells you that murder is wrong and deserves capital punishment."
Empathy and common sense.
"It surely isn’t Darwin, evolution or the Big Bang. Because if those were true, then capital punishment becomes purely unnecessary, as we are all just randomly existing here without purpose or meaning, just matter in motion."
We do have purpose and meaning. Each individual does. We all work towards a whole. I personally see the meaning of life as leaving this planet in at least a little better shape than it was when I got here. It is narcissistic to think that the universe, of which we are a mere spec, 0.2% the mass of just the solar system, was created just for us. Seems rather wasteful, and speaks against any intelligent design. Might I remind you, evolution is fact, and very provable. The big bang is observable. As far as matter in motion, we have sentience, and as a free thinker, I am extremely aware of this fact. However I am keenly aware of the evidence that shows how our basic elements were forged through nuclear fusion within the cores of stars and then dispersed through supernovae. Where is the scripture on THAT fact?
"In fact, where do you get any of your ‘beliefs’??"
Again, empathy and common sense.
"But where do you get morality from your atheistic worldview? Let me answer it for you: you have borrowed it from my worldview."
This is quite arrogant of you to say. Religion does NOT have a monopoly on morality. Evidence for morality exists in the animal kingdom for one. There are SEVERAL examples for immoral behavior in scripture perpetrated by YHWH, or at the very least, ordered by the character, including, but not limited to rape, murder, genocide, infanticide, and slavery. Christianity borrows heavily from Judaism, which in turn borrows heavily from Zoroastrianism, ancient Egyptian religions, ancient Babylonian religions, and other polytheistic religions of the time. The fact that there is evidence of plagiarism in the Torah, and later Old Testament supports this, as well as archeological and anthropological finds, as well as the Documentary Hypothesis, which attempts to explain how the OT came together, based on analysis and the given evidence. Even the Code of Hammurabi predates the OT. To claim your world view is even original is a falsehood. To claim it is a source of morality is lying through your teeth. As a pastor, I hold you to a higher understanding of the history and basic tenants of your belief, so if you're going to bring these topics up for debate, at the very least keep the debate honest.
"How do you explain miracles of healing, of which I have witnessed many myself."
I'm going to call you out on this right now. No you haven't. As a medically educated individual, you KNOW the human body is capable of self repair, and is very obfuscated with it's underlying structures and mechanisms. If miracles existed, amputees would grow limbs back.
"Cancers being healed, ears being opened, blind eyes seeing."
Science has done far more in the past 5 years for these diseases than faith healing has done in over 2,000. It's not even a fair comparison. It's like comparing macaroni pictures to a Picasso.
"As much as you would like to deny the occurrence of such things, they are documented worldwide"
No they aren't. And when they are MISDOCUMENTED as such, and examined, perfectly natural causes and explanations are usually found. Or evidence of fraud.
"Science provides no explanation."
The "I don't know, therefore God" is the most dishonest, curiosity-killing, falsehood laden explanation for anything unknown. The difference between the theist and the scientist is the very fact that the scientist says "I don't know, let's find out" rather than "God did it, that settles it". If this were the case throughout history, the world would be flat, with the sun revolving around it, while we all ride donkeys and camels to get back and forth to the grocery store.
"How does atheism explain demons"
Atheism makes no claims to explain anything, it simply rejects your assertion. Psychology explains it by mental disorders, such as schizophrenia, bipolarism, and delusions. These diseases are all measurable, as well as well understood. Claiming demonic possession is superstition of the highest magnitude.
"I have likewise successfully performed ‘exorcisms’ in homes where children were seeing demonic beings."
Children have very active imaginations. I hope you didn't charge people for this, because that would make you a charlatan.
"Science again falls short of an explanation."
No it doesn't, see above. And once again, "I don't know, therefore God" is dishonest.
"How does atheism explain the phenomenon of speaking in tongues, which I do on a regular basis."
Again, atheism makes no assertions, and I will hammer this home for you every time I see it. If you're going to debate me, I will not tolerate strawmen. I take the time to learn all of what people believe to great detail. The only thing I ask is the same in return. Most people fake it (speaking in tongues). I know I did. Brainwave studies have been done on this very subject, and no evidence has been found to determine this is an actual phenomenon. The fact that the later chapters of Mark, regarding Pentecost and the events post resurrection, did not exist in the earliest manuscripts and were tacked on post 5th century point heavily to the fact that these things mentioned are complete and utter hogwash. The fact that there are southern preachers dying of snake bites is heavy evidence for this.
"Additionally, speaking in tongues has been documented in other countries where a missionary has been given the ability to speak another language without ever having learned it."
Ever hear of people speaking in other accents not native to them after a stroke or brain damage? Seems a lot more likely an explanation.
"I was in Uganda 3 years ago and met a translator who translated my preaching into the indigenous language of the area. He explained that he grew up in a different part of Uganda, where there are 33 distinct languages. He felt called to move to the northern region, and when he arrived, God began giving him words to preach. When asking if the listeners could understand him, they said “YES!” even though he did not know their language. God supernaturally gave him their language. Science has no answer."
Science doesn't need an answer for this one, and people pick up foreign languages without translation simply by learning. Where were the native American translators when America was discovered? This is not supernatural, nor is it impressive.
"The Big Bang theory is, in my opinion"
Science is not a matter of opinion. It is simply conclusions drawn based on observable and measurable facts. It simply does not care what you personally think, and neither does the universe.
"requires more faith to believe than an infinite Creator God."
Even though we can measure the cosmic background radiation left over to such a degree that we can map it out? Use it to measure and predict the rate of expansion of the universe? Interesting, it seems your standard for proof is extremely inconsistent. That is the hallmark of bias.
"You expect me to believe"
I don't expect you to believe anything. If you care to examine irrefutable and measurable facts, on the other hand, I can point you to where you can see this for yourself.
"that all the matter in all the universe, including over 100 billion trillion stars, was contained in a ball of mass the size of the period at the end of this sentence."
Actually, even smaller than that. And the rest of that matter wasn't in existence yet. That's why it expanded to where it is now, and it has taken nearly 14 billion years to do so. At least we can observe and measure this. You'd have the world believe that IT was created over the span of three days, despite only encompassing 0.2% of just the solar system, while the rest of the universe only took 1 day. That and the paradox of why an omnipotent being would need rest...
We've proven this phenomenon very recently. You should read up on Higgs-Boson particles, if you want to keep current with the latest in scientific discovery, and what has been recently proven when it comes to "something" coming from "nothing". At the very least, it isn't resorting to "magic", which no matter how you dress it up, is exactly what the biblical creation myth proclaims. Light before a light source, and other nonsensical things, and I'm not even really harping on the inconsistency of the biblical account of creation. That alone is a huge red flag. Truth is always consistent with itself, otherwise it wouldn't be truth.
"You must be kidding me. Our own common sense should tell us that that is a preposterous explanation of the beginning of all things."
As was gravity, centrifugal force, relativity, electricity and a host of other proven scientific facts that have been proven and disseminated over time. Scientific knowledge builds upon itself over time, and offers measurable and undeniable evidence, so long as it's looked at without bias and objectively. When one takes the scientific knowledge we posses today, even with a handicap of the knowledge we possessed in 1920, nearly 100 years ago, the evidence does NOT support the biblical creation myth's model. And it's not just cosmology that disproves it. Geology disproves it. Anthropology disproves it. Chemistry disproves it. Dendochronology disproves it for the very fact that we have found trees dated over 10,000 years old, destroying the 6,000 year timeline of the myth. Not one science rooted in fact supports the creation myth's model. Even genetics and mathematical probability is against it, because you can't propagate a species with only two hosts. That's not enough unique genetic material to be viable. Calculations and observations of endangered species show a minimum of 50 to 80 individual genetically diverse hosts are needed. Not to mention incest. Authority on morality? Seriously? And then I've heard arguments of "Well Adam and Eve weren't the only ones created" well, that shoots a huge hole in the original sin model. Tainted blood jumping to unrelated individuals? I don't think so, the entire thing is preposterous. The evidence doesn't support the creation myth's model, and there goes any dogma on original sin, and by domino effect, there goes the need for salvation. Any omnibenevolent being wouldn't create a hell, or punish, or require belief for forgiveness. I am not your congregation, and I am capable of some seriously deep thought. I am not a sheep that will simply buy what you're selling just because you're saying it. i will tear it apart and examine every detail, as that is my due diligence if I want to claim I am REALLY searching for the truth. Frankly, what you're selling simply just isn't it.
"Since when does a violent explosion create order?"
Look up and learn about entropy. This is observable in diffusion. Basic physics.
"Scientists agree that things tend towards disorder, not order."
No they do not. Your information is backwards. If this were the case, then basic experiments involving matter would fall apart.
"I don’t care how many times you detonate an explosive device, it will always create disorder; never order."
The big bang wasn't an explosion. To think that is to think like a layperson. The big bang was an expansion. There was no shock wave, and they are not the same principle. If you studied the event, you would know (and can observe) that immediately after the event, matter was in a chaotic state of coming into and out of existence due to extremely high temperatures and close proximity with anti-matter. The matter that exists today is what is left of the event, matter that was not cancelled out by anti-matter, which actually encompasses a very small part of everything that makes up the universe.
"Yet science suggests that the most violent explosion of all time has somehow created order in the universe."
Over the span of 13.77 billion years, yes, given matters tendency to ORDER and not DISORDER, as demonstrable with simple experiments.
"Our very existence defies the First Law of Thermodynamics, which states that matter can neither be created nor destroyed. So where do all the matter in the universe come from?"
I think you mean the 2nd law of Thermodynamics. And that's only applicable in a closed system. And that's a tired apologetic argument, one of the oldest actually, next to Pascal's Wager, which I'm surprised you haven't brought up yet, and I was fully expecting you to use. Then again, I'm not done reading your e-mail just yet.
"How does atheism explain the immaterial part of the human psyche, such as emotions."
Atheism doesn't try to explain it, psychology does. Some emotions are learned, some are instinct, all are chemical and electrical. That's some really basic stuff there, why would you even bring that one up? We know a ton about serotonin and the other neurotransmitters, maybe not everything, but a good bit of how these work, as well as the different parts of the brain, as well as how these can be consistently artificially stimulated, i.e. The "God Helmet" which is an interesting scientific experiment you should look up, which explains those "holy" feelings believers get.
"Again, if we are simply ‘matter in motion’"
I'm convinced you've made this up, as I've NEVER heard an atheist or humanist use this term, EVER. Or anything even close to it.
"there is no explanation for why we ‘feel’ anything, such as anger, love, hatred, etc."
Physical, psychological, visual, tactile, aural stimulation and processing of that stimulation by the higher functioning subroutines in the brain. It seriously is not that hard to observe and understand that.
"The table that is holding my laptop right now has no capacity for emotions."
It also has no neurons.
"In the atheistic worldview, that’s all you and I are, we just are."
Again, atheism makes zero assertions, it just rejects claims of the existence of gods. It crafts no world view. I'm sorry if you can't grasp that paradigm, but that's all atheism is. Again with the strawman arguments.
And the christian world view? Believe in a deity, who kills himself, to save us from, himself. So that we love him, or else. Morality is morality and is independent from dogma. We are good because we are good, evil if we are evil, and mostly a mixture of the two. What christianity teaches is to be good for personal reward, or to avoid punishment. The most vile, narcissistic, and dishonestly selfish two reasons for doing anything good. And it forces its virus on to the people in attempts to change laws that have no arguable real benefit other than to spread its own infection, while indoctrinating our children and historically killing those who stand in its way. Christopher Hitchens said it best when he said "Religion poisons everything". And it does so in the most vile ways, disguising itself as the truth, offering false hope to the hopeless, while digging its claws into the minds of the populace, freezing any beneficial discovery in its own ignorance, holding the world back from its progress. The bible isn't worth the paper its printed on. Whatever "wisdom" we can get from it is tainted by its disgusting advocations of slavery, going so far as to give instruction as to how much a master can legally beat his slave. That very thing alone is enough to render the whole thing moot, and sifting through its pages is akin to sifting through feces for sweet corn nuggets. I apologize for giving such a disgusting analogy, but it is quite accurate.
You have every right to believe what you want, and I will even fight and die for your right to have it, but once again, you've failed to meet any burden of proof you've been presented with. And I am assured you never will. I'm sure you're a very nice person, and I don't doubt that. But what you're claiming is science, and what science actually is are worlds apart. I would hope you would educate yourself on the matters we've discussed, and I would be happy to connect you to resources further explaining any of the concepts mentioned above. I knew this would be a long response, and my form in a debate like this is to provide immediate proof, via links or quotes, or some kind of reference you could independently look up for yourself to verify any claims I make. Honesty is paramount to me, and in a debate, I expect nothing less than the very same standard for it from whom I am debating with.
As I have mentioned before, I am not looking to deconvert anyone, and i keep my beliefs to myself, and only share them where appropriate, or if asked. Do keep in mind that any assertions you make will be microscopically scrutinized and verified, and if it doesn't cut the mustard, I will ruthlessly tear that assertion apart, bit by bit and replace it with the truth, or at the very least, show exactly why it is false. I do not take kindly to misrepresentations of the facts, and above all else, I value the truth. This is the very reason I am no longer a christian. Given what I had learned as irrefutable evidence in contradiction to my own beliefs, I valued my integrity and self honesty, more than I valued my dogma and beliefs. That is called cognitive dissonance, when two competing ideas in the brain cause disharmony, and usually one wins out over the other. You're not going to win any arguments with me using half baked pseudosciences, and dishonest claims. Again, I am not someone in your congregation that will just believe anything you say. I'm no layperson on a lot of these subjects, and I am tenacious in my desire for knowledge. I do not intend to offend personally, but remember I will not pull punches if what you're putting out isn't true, or is flawed in any way.
Hope your weekend treats you well, and let me know if you want any supporting research for any of the points or refutations I've presented. The latest discoveries and confirmations of Higgs-Boson particles is utterly fascinating, and learning about that alone will give you a lot of clarity as to why I so vehemently opposed some of your claims.
From: Pastor NAME WITHHELD <Pastor NAME WITHHELD>
To: Anthony Salcedo
Sent: Sunday, April 7, 2013 12:29 AM
Subject: RE: from Pastor NAME WITHHELD
Very impressive email. But the only thing I agree with is your first point. I concede that I do not want to have to disprove Zeus’ existence in order to believe that he does not exist, and thus, my ‘burden of proof’ suggestion for atheists is not valid.
I was calling/emailing you initially because I thought perhaps you were someone who might be searching for answers about God and faith. But clearly you have it all figured out already. I have a very full life with my family (wife and 3 kids) and ministry, so spending hours and hours reading and writing emails to you, when I am quite certain that neither one of us will ever be persuaded to the other’s point of view, is not high on my list. You have obviously spent WAY more time studying some of these items than I have. It will likely remain that way.
I have read a very small amount about the Higgs-Boson particle, but it sounded like more of the same to me, people desperately trying to say that they can explain something that will never be measured or observed because it happened billions of years ago.
For the record, I do not charge for visiting homes, thus I am not a ‘charlatan’ as you have implied. And also for the record, I am not a liar: I have seen healing miracles that defy logic and biological explanation or ‘obfuscation.’ And finally, the phrase ‘matter in motion’ is not something I made up. But it isn’t something that you would likely here in your circles.
Best wishes to you in your quest for meaning and purpose in this life.
Pastor NAME WITHHELD
From: Anthony Salcedo
Sent: Friday, April 07, 2013 3:55 AM
To: Pastor NAME WITHHELD
Subject: Re: from Pastor NAME WITHHELD
"I was calling/emailing you initially because I thought perhaps you were someone who might be searching for answers about God and faith."
I am not some doubtful believer who has swayed away and wants some sort of way back to faith. I completely reject the very core idea of believing anything without some warranted reason, be that rational, logical, scientific, or some other method of proving an idea to be valid. I am a skeptic, but I am also a realist, and I know how well the human senses can be fooled. Remember, I was a practicing medical professional, so I know how the human body works in great detail, including the brain's interpretation of stimuli.
I never once implied I was searching for answers about god. I can and have, done extensive research on the subject from both scripture and secular sources. My aunt is the one in denial, thinking I am just "going through a phase", and I guess is uncomfortable that someone in her family might actually think for themselves, and come to rational conclusions that differ from her own beliefs. I tried very hard to establish my position from the start, and identified myself to you as a militant atheist. What this means is I am an anti-theist, and many of my actions are geared with the intent to refute the claims theists make, preferably with proof, or more easily, pointing out logical flaws being presented, or flat out false claims. I don't try to deny people's right to have any belief they wish, but if they try to pass off these beliefs as fact, and try to affect our laws, our children, and our society with their superstition over provable fact, well then that's where the militant action comes out.
"But clearly you have it all figured out already."
There's that christian passive-aggressiveness I've grown so accustomed to seeing in debates. Obviously, this is an over generalization that isn't accurate. I don't have it ALL figured out, but I have enough of it figured out to be able to call out false information when I see it. Some subjects I have a great deal of knowledge in, and some I know just enough to know truth from falsehood. It's not about what you know, it's about HOW you acquire your knowledge. Not what to think, but how to think. That is far more valuable.
"I have a very full life with my family (wife and 3 kids) and ministry, so spending hours and hours reading and writing emails to you, when I am quite certain that neither one of us will ever be persuaded to the other’s point of view, is not high on my list."
I too have a family, two boys, a wife, as well as a very demanding professional life. I'm no stranger to obligation myself. Again, I would like to stress I am not out to deconvert anyone. However I find it imperative that false assertions be combated with fact, reason, logic, and the truth. I usually don't approach anyone about beliefs, they seem to gravitate towards me, and attempt to challenge my disbelief. For that I always welcome them to try, but I always hear the same exact arguments, typically rife with logical fallacies and misinformation. What I typically find is a lot of scripture being thrown at me, but to my benefit in argument, scripture is often easily self refuting. What I mean by this is for many concepts, there is an equal concept in the complete opposite direction. I know scripture well. Ironically, I've experienced a sizable amount of believers do not. Penn Jillete said it best when he said the best way to create more atheists is to have people read the bible. I welcome debate, I enjoy it, and I have lots of practice at it, and I rarely turn it down.
"You have obviously spent WAY more time studying some of these items than I have. It will likely remain that way."
I do spend a considerable amount of time in study, and my thirst for knowledge is insatiable. It is a shame that you don't pursue knowledge in some of the scientific areas we've discussed. These subjects have a lot to offer, and give a lot of perspective to we as a species and our place in this universe. I feel a deep understanding of these topics never hurts, so long as the knowledge being attained is accurate to the best degree we are capable of in this period in history.
"I have read a very small amount about the Higgs-Boson particle, but it sounded like more of the same to me, people desperately trying to say that they can explain something that will never be measured or observed because it happened billions of years ago."
I suggest you take up some observational time on this subject, and some of the later discoveries on the topic. Recently, the concept has been solidified and proven and has huge implications for our understanding of the physical world and just how matter works. There is no desperation involved. It is a definite building block concept that will lead to more discovery down the road. As of last month or so, the data has been definitively confirmed. This is exactly the way matter as we know it, comes into existence. Just because something happened billions of years ago, doesn't mean we can't create those conditions based on other facts we know, today. The amount of time involved is moot, be it billions of years, or last week. Police are able to recreate events and convict criminals based on facts, even when no one was present to witness a crime. That's simply how proof works.
"For the record, I do not charge for visiting homes, thus I am not a ‘charlatan’ as you have implied."
I would hope not. There are plenty of people who do, and I find that appalling and dishonest. There are many psychics, mediums, exorcists and other "ghost busters" that take advantage of people. Yet there always seems to be a natural, rational and logical explanation for everything I ever see people claim as supernatural. The problem I see is people never seem to look at these explanations objectively and without bias. If there was ever proof for anything like faith healing, demons, psychics or fortune telling, you can count on the fact that I would believe these claims. The philosophical concept of "Occam's Razor" states if there are two competing theories to explain an occurrence, the least complex and least nonsensical explanation tends to be the more accurate one. "Miraculous" healings always seem to have a very natural explanation. Doctors are scientists, and do not like to give explanations that involve assumptions. The very word "miracle" is part of the common vernacular, and makes people feel good. They also understand that a layperson's standard of proof isn't anywhere near a scientist's. I doubt you'd hear many of them claiming such a thing professionally, otherwise you'd see such things published in medical journals, which is absolutely not the case.
"And also for the record, I am not a liar"
I never said you were. I did state you were using dishonest debate tactics, and I stand by this, because this is true. To state a conclusion is true, while having no proof for it is dishonest. By proof I mean demonstrable, repeatable, explainable. To assert someone elses argument supported by evidence takes more faith than your own belief, which isn't supported by any demonstrable, repeatable and explainable evidence is not only dishonest, it is also biased, and therefore not rational. Good science is ready to discard any hypothesis or theory in the light of better evidence. When leeches and blood letting were proven to be largely ineffective, those practices ceased. Good science is self correcting.
I specifically did not call you a liar for the simple fact that you are most likely convinced internally that what you claim is reality. For you, faith healings, tongues and demons might be very real. But I challenge you to ask yourself, is there merit to a rational alternative explanation to what you believe, or are you believing these things out of bias, a desire for an "eternal" reward, avoidance of an "eternal" punishment, or simply, is it possible that you've been had? Is it possible that those people's afflictions and diseases would have gotten better over time either way? Have they in fact been healed in the first place? Can you repeat these results and demonstrate the methodology as to how they were healed in the first place? Is it possible that these people with "demonic" possession are simply undiagnosed mental health cases? Have any of these afflicted people been compared to any control groups, or could there be a placebo effect in place? Is it possible that your translator knew the other language all along, and was dishonest with you in order to sound more convincing and make a good story to the congregation? Is it possible that a child's overactive imagination, desire for attention, or a combination of these factors explain why they would claim to see things that aren't there? If you take the time and really think about these things, I mean really think objectively, without any bias at all, you would see that these are plausible and rational explanations that do not add any supernatural elements or dogmatic biases. They may not be as fantastical, or as romantic, but they are rooted in logic as well as reason. Occam's Razor has allowed us to shear away any extra assumptions, and has afforded us with explanations rooted in this reality, with things we already know and can prove exist, and not have to introduce any outside elements containing concepts that simply can't be asserted with complete and utter truth. This is one of the keys to good, rational thought, and a formidable tool in a scientist's arsenal.
"And finally, the phrase ‘matter in motion’ is not something I made up. But it isn’t something that you would likely here in your circles."
Do remember, my "circles" were once your circles. Of my 33 years on this planet, a very large portion of that was spent in christian circles. I've attended many a Sunday service, bible study, youth group, you get the picture. I have never once heard that phrase. The more prolific atheist and anti-theist authors, speakers, and public figures I keep tabs on (Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Seth Andrews, AronRa, Sam Harris, Penn Jillette, and many others) , never use that phrase. This is because atheists, free thinkers and secular humanists simply do not think that way, and to suggest as such is a false assumption. What I have ACTUALLY seen/heard/discussed as part of the more secular worldviews is we are sentient beings capable of great things, and this far in our journey have come to great understanding of the universe around us. We have only this life afforded to us, and we should treat is as precious. This is not a practice run, there are no do-overs. Morality is a rational concept based on empathy, and has existed long before religion. It is independent of dogma, as dogma too often teaches irrational and immoral things dressed up as morality. To think that we are nothing more than matter in motion is to deny the obvious, and goes against the very definition of humanism.
As an atheist, I believe in no gods. Nothing more, nothing less.
As a free thinker, I will use logic and rational thought to formulate my opinions, and guide myself to finding truth.
As a secular humanist, I believe in the power and value of humanity, the value of life, and it's fragility. The love for one's family and friends. The worth of a person based on his or her integrity, deeds, thoughts, and actions.
As a scientist, I remove all biases in searching for the truth. I never start with a conclusion and try to find facts that support it. I start with evidence, and draw my conclusions based on what I find, ready to revise what I believe, no matter what it is, in the light of better evidence.
As a rationalist, I use logic and reason to guide my thinking, that it may never be clouded by false and nonsensical notions. I realize all are entitled to their opinions, however some opinions are more valid than others, when they are based on fact.
As a skeptic, I don't accept fantastical claims without fantastical evidence. I remain guarded and critical of ideas not rooted in reality.
As an anti-theist, I oppose the abuses of the church and its dogma. I oppose the belief that we are born in need of redemption. I oppose punishment for other's mistakes. I oppose the indoctrination of our youth. I oppose the sexual abuse of children. I oppose misogynistic teachings. I oppose the advocation of slavery. I oppose the bigotry of the church towards minority groups. I oppose wars and killing in the name of god. I oppose teaching false and debunked claims as fact. I oppose changing our laws to suit a specific group based on its teachings that can't be proven. I oppose its superstition. Finally, I am ready at any moment's notice to debate these issues, in an honest, prepared, and enthusiastic manner while maintaining personal integrity.
These are what these terms mean, not just to myself, but a growing number of people that are waking up and leaving faith behind. Non-belief will soon be the 2nd most popular belief and eclipse Islam, and will be biting at the heels of Christianity most likely during our lifetimes. What am I saying by this? Not that it's "right" because so many people think this way, simply the fact that, although this might be the last you may ever hear or read anything from me personally, there are a lot more like me out there, and a lot more coming. This isn't any sign of "end" times, rest assured, we've got another 5 billion or so years of Earth existing, and we'll probably be extinct long before that anyway. The point is, if you want to be taken seriously, and we all do, it would be best if you learned what it is exactly that these groups define themselves as. What are their tenants, and what do these terms actually mean? Most of us identify with these terms have done our due diligence, and have learned exactly what it means to be Christian, Wiccan, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, and perhaps once identified ourselves as these things. We have read your holy books and scriptures and will use them against you. We know your arguments and exactly how to refute and decimate them with logic and truth. We know the reasons and psychology behind what drives you. We've studied prayer, and know it does not accomplish what people claims it does. We are educated, intelligent, modern, and informed.
It is a shame that you've chosen to cease this discussion, as I feel, although yes, I can go into great detail sometimes and be rather long winded, it is necessary. I've been the victim of many a theist trying to take my own words and twist them into something I did not intend to communicate, often nefariously. You're not the first clergy I've taken on in debate, and I doubt you will be the last. Please know that this will be the last correspondence you will receive from me, unless you choose to continue this conversation by way of reply, refutation, or request for supporting material for my arguments, all of which I would gladly provide. I do wish you well on your endeavors, and I hope if nothing else, you've gained some insights on what atheism and some of the related concepts actually are and mean. Hopefully you can shed some false assumptions you've communicated to me about these ideas. I hope the rest of the weekend treats you well.
From: Anthony Salcedo
Sent: Sunday, April 07, 2013 4:56 AM
To: Pastor NAME WITHHELD
Subject: Re: from Pastor NAME WITHHELD
I would like to add a short addendum to my earlier correspondence, in the spirit of the integrity of my words. In regards to calling you a liar, I did not do so as you claimed, and I stand by my explanation given in my last correspondence. Reviewing our conversation, I did come across the following in one of my e-mails:
"To claim it is a source of morality is lying through your teeth."
I can see how you could take this as me calling you a liar, and possibly that isn't the best choice of words for what I'm trying to convey by this statement. To clarify, what I meant by this would be more accurately stated by the fact that religion has proven to be the exact opposite of what morality is. Supporting information for this would be the Crusades, the Inquisition, the persecution of non-believers and believers of other faiths throughout history, the actions of hate by the Westboro Baptist Church, the molestation of children by clergy in the Catholic church, Jihad by the Muslims, the Holocaust (Hitler claimed to be doing God's work, and clearly claimed to be a Christian more than once, this can be cited specifically if need be), and too many other atrocities to list here. To claim religion is the source of morality is itself highly inaccurate, and dismissive of historical and verifiable fact. I suppose I would be presumptuous in stating you would be lying, as you may not immediately make the connection of these events directly to your belief, but to the "other" religions. I try not to generalize, which is why I have given as many varied examples as I have. To imply you were lying would be dishonest of me, as I realize you might not hold that intention. The aim is to get you to see from my perspective, and what the facts support, religion is the opposite of morality, and why that is so.
That is all.
“That which can be asserted without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence.” - Christopher Hitchens