Psalms 14 redux: April fools = Atheists?

No GodAs I was making my daily rounds the other day on Facebook the status of one of my friends caught my eye. Because Facebook and especially statuses are incredibly bad places to hold sensible debates I have decided to post the comments that occured after that. If it is hard to follow I am sorry, but I truly hope that the participants might join in and begin commenting here in order to continue hashing this out…now that we have Intense Debate installed at RagingRev these sorts of things should be MUCH easier to facilitate. 

note!: I am changing the names of anyone that may not want to be identified…Just stuff I am making up

as you can see, it’s long, but I hope it will be worth it and I truly hope those involved will join in on the comments. Note also that I did remove a small side conversation and one other part but they were not important…we are at over 5000 words here.

 

Here is what it said:

Erich’s Status:  It’s Atheist Day! (The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”)

Bill says:

I am an atheist, but I am not a fool. Your statement is exactly backwards, because who is the bigger fool? One who uses logic and reason to define their way, or one who blindly believes in superstition, (faith)? Now, I don’t go around calling all of my religious friends “fools,” but you seem to have no problem dishing out such an insult.

Erich retorts:

I did not mean to offend, but the Scripture teaches it is foolish not to believe in God. Furthermore, on what basis do you assume logic and reason are accurate means by which to determine truth? That is as much of a presupposition (or “superstition”) as is faith. Everyone starts with basic presuppositions. Mine happen to lie in the belief in an ultimate reality that exists outside of man and which can explain man’s existence and why his logic and reason work. The presuppositions of an atheist cannot give him an explanation of why reason and logic even work, he merely assumes that they do. Not only that, if there is no God, there can be no right or wrong, only the whims of the powerful; survival of the fittest – might makes right. That won’t work.

Finally, it is very different to blindly believe in superstition (such as, don’t walk under a ladder) rather than to look beyond the physical world for an explanation of the physical world. Those are two different things.

 

I Chime in:

Matthew 5:22 “Whosoever shall say Thou fool, shall be in danger of hellfire”.

Put a sombrero on the ground and start running around in circles because thats where this is headed.

http://ragingrev.com/2009/03/23/psalm-14-godless-bunch-of-fools/

 

Bill says:

This scripture you refer to was created in a time before science. If you look at human history, the main groundwork of Christianity was set in a time before science really came about. Therefore, there is no science in Christianity. Isn’t it just safe to say that we can move on from such beliefs now that we know much more about existence? Sure,the big questions haven’t really been answered, but I might as well believe in the flying spaghetti monster as I would Jesus Christ, because in all actuality there is no scientific evidence that such a man even existed in the first place, let alone performed magic tricks and ascended into heaven.

Me again:

That reason and logic work is not actually a presupposition that most Atheists hold, that the Scientific theory is valid is more like what we may have, but certainly not logic and reason, as logic and reason are obviously flawed across the spectrum of humanity. 

Atheism is only foolish to those afraid to imagine a life without a creator and a loving god, or an existence without the threat of hell or the reward of heaven. It is odd that religion relies on the most base of our instincts and emotions, almost as if it were developed to exploit those things…Fear based evangelism is by far the most successful way to bring about conversion, then comes shame/guilt/ or a manipulation of love, Me thinks it is far too convenient.

 

Bill again:

And the thing is that religion wouldn’t have gotten as far as it has without indocrination. If all parents and other adults waited until their children were grown to introduce to them the concept of religion, then ole’ Jesus might just be a footnote in history or the equivalent to a cult today. But no, instead parents instill this belief system in their children’s minds and of course they grow up thinking that it’s the utter truth. And Erich, you can have morals and be a good person without believing in the invisible man upstairs. Besides, the Bible teaches a lot of things that are not good, in fact, far from it.

 

Dawn proclaims:

Eric please refute these two guys and tell them in the name of Jesus we are praying for them.

Bill again:

Dawn, I know you mean well, but it is actually impossible for Erich to refute us in any way that would satisfy someone with a respect for reasonable debate. You can sell this ivisible product to people using the idea of faith, but you can’t win an argument with someone who doesn’t buy into it. It’s like going to a sword fight with a butter knife. Maybe you both should think about this: Religion can do some good on this Earth and it does in some ways, but it also does a lot of damage. How many people throughout history have died in the name of God? Answer: A sh*tload.

Dawn replies:

I understand your frustration with the gospel. I would offer a book for you to read–A Case for Christ by Lee Strobel and refute the scientific facts there. I will continue to pray for you with all my heart and soul. If you want to truly see God at work I challenge you to join me in my mission work in Haiti. I know lots of people died for the gospel. I died to myself when I accepted Christ as my Savior. I would challenge you to research and see for yourself. I know without a doubt Christ lives and I have a hope of tomorrow. There is peace and joy like you never imagined in serving God. Try it you may like it. Keeping you always in prayer.

Matt, I challenge you to read Lee Strobel’s book a Case for Christ, then refute Erich’s comments. I will continue to keep both of you in my prayers. I am sure I have oversteepd my boundaries Erich I apologize, but I am sure your friends will find if they are willing and up to the challenge to read this book. He was also an atheist as well as CS Lewis. Read some of his literature also

I reply to Dawn:

Dawn, you are twisting our frustrations to fit with your worldview. It isn’t the “gospel” that is the main subject of this “offense”. As silly as the gospel sounds from the outside, a simple look at the Bible before anyone heard of the Gospel is enough to make a sailor blush. The gospel offends my sensibilities, not my morals, the old testament handles that part quite well.

I commend you for your work in Haiti, assuming you put less focus on proselytizing and more on helping people with things that they really need…food, water, homes, information etc…If you allow these individuals to continue living with no improved condition yet call it some sort of mission you are providing them with a false and invisible hope when that is nothing near what they need. I will always respect those that give their time to help others and I hope you fall in the former category. That would be rather offensive otherwise.

I died to self once too

Bill again:

There is no doubt in my mind that you believe in what you do truly, and that your intentions are very good. I’m sure also that your mission work is bringing some good to Haiti, (besides the dogma), because I know people that have worked on missions, (in their case it was with the church of Mormon), and I admire them and you greatly for passionately doing something that is not easy and does some good. However, this does not change my beliefs. Until there is tangible proof that Jesus Christ walked this earth and all that the Bible says is true, then I will not believe. And Matt and I both know that this day will almost certainly not come. On another note, I was a devout Christian for a lot of my childhood and it brought me nothing but grief. It took me a long time to shake those indoctrinated beliefs but I’m glad that I did, because I am a better person for it.

Me again:

Dawn, regarding Lee Strobel. Lee was an Agnostic…not an Atheist. I have skimmed over the books he has written with not even a touch of real evidence…anecdotes and “expert testimony” aside, there is nothing within his books that prove that God exists or that Jesus was deity. I will go through them again in case I missed it or perhaps you can point me to something that I may have missed.

I have a challenge for you as well, and that is to go to my website or friend me here on facebook and I will provide that challenge to you. I can be found @ http://ragingrev.com and I am always open to discussion of this nature

Know that I Have lived the Gospel, I have been gods bondservant- yet under the slightest criticism that god and his book began to crumble and I came out of that experience a freer person than I was before.

Bill again:

Matt makes a good point, mission work has to give needy people things that will help them survive, not just instill false hope in them. I hope that your mission is including some direct assistance there.

Dawn:

Please read the book I suggested. I think you will see differently. Thanks for the compliment on missions. It does fill a place in my life. I will not comment on anything again, just please read the book. Lee was also an atheist who researched his wife’s beliefs to prove her wrong, you might be suprised at what you find.

I Reply:

Too bad 🙁 I will do my part, I hope you will do yours as well. It wouldn’t be fair for me to answer your challenge while you get off easy now would it?

Like i said though, I’ve been there…I know the Bible far better than at least 95% of Christendom, both from a literalist and fundamentalist point of view as well as the point of view of a skeptic, I highly doubt that you, Erich, or Lee Strobel can possibly say anything to change my inability to believe. At this point it really isn’t even my choice

Dawn closes:

Matt, please read the entire book and i think you will find differently. I will not comment on anything again. I will continue to pray for you both. My mission includes medical, dental, construction as well as water projects and taking the gospel into other areas. I will continue to do this as long as I live. I believe this is a calling in my life. I will close with this-understanding is the reward of faith. Therefore seek not understanding that thou mayest believe, but believe that thou mayest understand.

Logan comes up to bat:

Bill – “a time before science” – what does that mean?

Erich joines us after a lengthy absense:

Sorry I was away at work and missed all the fun stuff. I wasn’t trying to dodge the arguments, only trying to get a paycheck.

The summation of the whole matter, from my perspective, is this:

Everyone relies on presuppositions as foundational to everything they believe. It is impossible to operate without them.

Matt, you point out that logic and reason are flawed. I agree with you, but how did you arrive at that conclusion? Was it through experience? If so, then how can you trust your experience? You indicate that you once had experiences you trusted (related to God), that you now reject. So experience is not an absolute tutor, since it also leads people astray. How, then, can we know anything? Obviously, there must be presuppositions on which we base our understanding of reality. My presuppositions are simple: God exists, and he has revealed himself to us

I respond:

I will correct Bill for you Logan, A Time before we were at our current understanding of science…which is ever evolving. There were of course scientistst in these days, but it was limited greatly by the religious institutions of whatever given era we refer to. Galileo died because he defended sound science that we now know is true–why?, because the Bible did not support the idea. That is what Bill is referring to or if I am wrong he can surely correct me

Erich again:

Let’s take morality…

If God doesn’t exist, why is it wrong for me to kill my neighbor and take his wife as my own? How is it wrong to spread my genetic material to as many women as possible? If there be no God, there is no good or evil, only the whims of whomever be in charge, whether despots or democracies.

Jay chimes in now:

I agree with Erich’s main point and wish to add the following:

If man came about as a result of random mutation and chance evolution; then we came about through irrational forces that were not working intentionally (i.e., with a purpose in mind). If that is true, then where do our rational minds come from and can we trust them?

If we do not trust the accuracy of irrational thought, then why do we trust our rational minds which were created by irrational forces…

An atheist is forced to concede that his own mind cannot be trusted and therefore is left with the fact that his own through are meaningless.

Erich Responds to Bill:

Now Bill, to answer your point about Christianity being based in a time before science, I’m not sure that’s accurate. Science is not just what you learn in biology or chemistry; science is the obtaining of knowledge. While there was no practice of the modern Scientific Theory, there was careful scholarship in many disciplines as far back as the ancient Egyptians, which predates not only Jesus, but also Moses. Look at the pyramids! As for the claim that there is no historical proof for Jesus, that’s a bold assertion. Especially when you consider that there is stronger historical evidence for the existence of the man Jesus of Nazareth than there is for either Plato, Socrates, Homer, or even William Shakespeare! What proof do we have of William Shakespeare? No birth certificate, no baptismal record, no death certificate, no tomb, no bones, only his works and a few eyewitnesses. We have far more evidence for Jesus. Consider:

Many people who were against Christianity from the beginning wrote about Jesus. All before AD 100 Pliny wrote about him in the Epistles, Suetonius in The Lives of the Twelve Caesars, Josephus in Antiquities, Tactus in Annals, and he is mentioned several times in the Jewish Talmud. All of these were written by people who were not Christians so why would they lie about it? Sure they often had a different view of Jesus as much of the time they were completely against him but they do say he was a revolutionist with crazy ideas who died by the cross. The Talmud even includes that he was guilty of witchcraft (miracles).

This is to say nothing of the thousands of Christians who were killed by the Romans for refusal to renounce belief in him, within thirty years of his death. History records this more certainly than it does the life of Leonardo da Vinci.

Jesus was the most influential person to have ever lived. He is the most written about and talked about person to have ever lived.

I Respond to Jay and Erich:

@Erich. I have dealt with morality a few times already on my blog. Morality and God are not mutually exclusive:

http://ragingrev.com/2009/01/14/atheists-morality-rehashed/

http://ragingrev.com/2008/12/21/robert-asks-on-the-morality-of-god/

http://ragingrev.com/2008/12/16/morality-and-god/

http://ragingrev.com/2008/11/15/atheist-experience-on-the-morality-of-god/

@Jay: Random Chance? Care to define that?

@Erich again (Regarding the argument about Christs Existence):  I’d love to know how any of this confirms the Deity of Christ, a cardinal doctrine in “orthodoxy”, or much less that man required a savior for any reason! the whole premise of religion needs to be examined, not just the existence of ONE LATE messiah archetype

Jay again:

@Matt: You don’t believe in random chance evolution? The theory of mutation? Do you believe in purposeful evolution?

I respond:

Mutation perhaps, is random, purpose is found later through natural selection. Evolution occurs because of a need in my understanding, mutation itself is random…but bad mutation will not produce good results…thats how it works, millions of mutations occur and only a few promote greater survival rates in the species.

Trev gets involved:

Here we go again: some more Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens acolytes.Bill is just flat out insulting when he attempts to place the Christian God in the same category as the “flying spaghetti monster.” Do these kind of caricatures and straw men contribute anything to the discussion? Since both of these atheists appeal to the laws of logic, I would be interested in knowing how either can account for them. The problem with demanding tangible proof for the existence of God is that such a request assumes that all questions are answered in the same way. Scientific knowledge is not the only knowledge even though Bill and Matt seem convinced that it is. I would ask them: how do they know that? Did they empirically verify the belief that only empirically verifiable statements are legitimate? What is even more startling is both these men probably still kiss their wives/girlfriends/mothers and set their alarm clocks at night. The atheist is a mass of contradictions.

I reply:

@ Trev, I am sorry but since Spiritual knowledge, or whatever knowledge you are trying to point to is not measurable it is going to be difficult to bring into an argument of this nature…to do so feels to me like a cop-out. I won’t argue for their being invalid, as I relied on faith for the majority of my short life, but right here and right now it just doesn’t feel relevant. Of course it is to one that depends on it and that I respect, you can’t very well deny that which you know spiritually unless you are willing to challenge your own perception, and trust me friend, that is a difficult and painful thing to endure.

Jay again:

@Matt: How can natural selection breed “purpose”. Also, please elaborate on “Evolution occurs because of a need in my understanding”. Natural selection can only explain that some things survive and others do not, it cannot explain purpose or meet any need in understanding.

I have a question for you, If you were walking down the road and say a cluster of stones that spell out “Hi Matt.” Would you assume this happened by random chance or that an intelligent being placed it there?

If random chance created it, then would you still believe the message

I respond once again:

@ Jay, 

Let me clarify, I believe i made a poor choice of words here, sorry about that.

Evolution occurs as a result of mutations being beneficial to a species…which fulfills the need to survive for that species which is the very reason why it actually works- it is the very definition of natural selection.

If i happened upon said stones I would assume that an intelligent being put it there, indeed i would, why? because I have seen men spell out things with stones and have yet to see anything other than human beings do this thing, it is still a logical fallacy to assume that GOD must have done something because it is so complex that we cannot understand it.

Random chance is not likely creating these things, that is the problem I am having with your use of the term Random Chance…Random CHance is assuming that life could not have happened outside of the sequence of events that it did…this too is untrue as many of the variables for life can be interchanged yet produce life

Bill comes back:

You know, you can say what you want about the idea that maybe all of what we know was created by some being and that it wasn’t chance, but what does that have to do with Jesus Christ? And Erich, there is no tangible evidence that Jesus Christ existed as a man, much less a spiritual being. If you’re so certain of this side of the argument, then emaybe you can list some of the evidence that’s out there. Tell me what has been found and no, scripture and such hearsay do not count. It has to be scientific.

Also, about the science comment earlier: I was simply saying that the way we view science today, involving the scientific method, did not exist back when the scriptures were actually being written.

Earlier you said this, Erich: “Furthermore, on what basis do you assume logic and reason are accurate means by which to determine truth?”

Erich, it’s very difficult to have a reasonable discussion to someone who would argue such a point. This statement is utterly absurd and it kind of taints everything else that you have to say on the matter.

And Trev, nice vocabulary but some of those statements just don’t make sense.

Erich responds:

Bill, I think it is absolutely legitimate to question how we can be sure logic and reason are the best means by which to determine truth.

Let me elaborate:

We use logic and reason to construct arguments and to make theories and examine our conclusions, etc. But, how can we be certain they don’t actually lead us astray? Who’s to say that logic and reason are infallible tools? 250 years ago, doctors used their logic and their reason to deduce that using leeches on patients with sicknesses would cure them.

So, you see, merely using logic and reason doesn’t lead one to discover truth. One must first have a correct premise. That is ultimately the larger question. What is your first premise, your presupposition?

If your first premise, upon which you base all your understanding, is that logic and reason will lead to truth, how did you derive that premise? Was it by logic and reason? If so, then your basis for knowledge is circular.

I believe logic and reason work because God ordered it so.

As a created being, we can be confident our minds operate within the confines of reality because we are made in the image of God. If we are the result of mere genetic mutations over time, there can be no certainty that our minds work correctly.

Trev responds to my last one and then Bill:

Matt- who ever said anything about spiritual knowledge? I merely asked you orBill to account for the laws of logic which neither of you seem to be able to do. In fact, no atheist can account for the laws of logic because his worldview does not support it. Matt, you continue to claim that you will not believe in the Christian God unless he presents himself (I presume in bodily form), yet seeking such kind of proof is contradictory to the definition of the concept for which you seek proof (i.e. the Christian God is invisible and immaterial). You ask me to prove the existence of God as if a measure of evidence would convince you. However, you are committed to certain presuppositions that would not allow you to believe in the Christian God (i.e. the only legitimate reality is one that is empirically verifiable, etc.). However, this presupposition is internally incoherent because you have not empirically verified it! So my question remains: how do you account for the laws of logic?

Bill- Your anti-metaphysical bias is really deteoriating the level of this discussion. You cannot simply avoid the question of how to account for the laws of logic with some form of special pleading. If I were to treat the question of the existence of God by just calling it a nonsense question you would not think that right of me either! 

As far as the scientific method goes, which you seem to rely so heavily upon, how do you know the future will be like the past? How do you know the sun will rise tomorrow? Have you empirically verified that? If your epistemological commitment is to this strong empircism (as it seems to be, since you keep up with your demands for scientific proof), then how do you know that if you drop a pen a thousand times that on the thousandth time it will not hover in the air? You may say, “Well past futures were like past pasts” but that is still begging the question, isn’t it? You still do not have any empirical basis for believing the future will be like the past. As for calling my statements nonsense, it is only nonsense to one who persists in dishonest caricature, misrepresentation, and special pleading and all the while does not realize he is a fish in the sea, wet without even knowing it. As Van Til said, “You climb up into God’s lap to slap him in the face.”

Bill Replies to both:

Erich, this is the thing: the world is a very chaotic place. I hear enough on the news every day to know that things are not perfect in this world. In fact, it’s far, far, far from it. We are all in a state of breaking down, that’s entropy. Of course one of the main reasons religion is so prevalent is that some people are deeply terrified of  that. I have accepted that when I die, there’s a very good chance that there is nothing after that. It’s kind of like before you were born, you know, non-existense. Do I know that for sure? No. But neither do you, and you do not possess mental powers that I do not. I think more people should join the club of I DON’T KNOW. Because remember, I’m not arguing that I somehow know the secrets of the universe. I am arguing that you don’t.

Trev, all of that abstract conversation makes some strange points, though they’re not really plausible. And even if they were, it still wouldn’t explain why all of you think that the Bible is literarly true. I’m assuming that because you can’t really be a Christian if you don’t believe fully in the word of God. So here are some Bible verses you should take a better look at:

“Samar’ia shall bear her guilt, because she has rebelled against her God; they shall fall by the sword, their little ones shall be dashed in pieces, and ther pregnant women ripped open.

Hosea 13:16

Now therefore, kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman who has known man by lying with him. But all the young girls who have not known man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves.”

[Moses] Numbers 31:17

Oh, and there’s much, much more than this. One verse even says that it’s ok to sell your daughter into slavery. I’d like to see you defend these passages.

And that goes for all of you in this conversation. If you truly believe in the scripture, then you’ll defend it.

I Finish:

@Trev asks:

“who ever said anything about spiritual knowledge?”

you said:

“Scientific knowledge is not the only knowledge even though Bill  and Matt seem convinced that it is. I would ask them: how do they know that? ”

I am working on an assumption , if my assumptoin is incorrect then you should provide a better example of just what type of knowledge exists outside of that which is gained via the scientific theory…i don’t know of any realm of knowledge that isn’t testable using the scientific model, If you know something here that I don’t please provide it

however the problem arises currently that keeps me from continuing this discussion via Facebook…it is such an inefficient medium and it is unavailable whilst I am at work…therefore you are all welcome to bring it over to ragingrev.com, the psalms 14 thread seems to me to be an ideal place unless you would be happier if i copied all of this content over to it on a new post.

Jay retorts:

@ Matt

You said “Evolution occurs as a result of mutations being beneficial to a species…which fulfills the need to survive for that species which is the very reason why it actually works- it is the very definition of natural selection”

If this statement is true, then how come the fossil provides no evidence of the mutations that were not beneficial to the species? Why don’t we see fossils of fish who had legs? Why do we see only the favorable mutations? (And please don’t counter with the arguement that they died out too quickly because wouldn’t we see that in some type of fossil record?)

@Matt: The example of the stones is this:

Do you believe your sense organs to be an accidental and unintended result, over ages of time, of perfectly impersonal, non purposeful forces? 

If so, then how can you trust these to understand information you regard as true or false? If our senses are only chance variations, brought about by natural selection, then how can we rely on them as guides of a truth that exists apart from themselves? Irrational does not create rational right?

How can you say your cognitive faculties are a product of chance, purposeless forces, yet place trust on those same cognitive faculties?

@Bill You said “there is no tangible evidence that Jesus Christ existed as a man, much less a spiritual being.”

This guy lays out a compelling argument that Jesus did exist.

http://www.tektonics.org/jesusexist/jesusexisthub.html

Erich says:

Alright, everyone is just talking right past each other without answering the objections/questions presented. You can’t get anywhere with just questions and no answers. Another medium would be appropriate.

No more Erich’s profile, please. It’s filling up my inbox.

Bill Finishes:

ok, but I’m still waiting on someone to defend those Bible verses.

Jay That article did not even begin to change my mind. A lot of conspiracy theory mumbo jumbo.