Positive Atheism Dialogue
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Atheism:
A Position of Convenience?
Mike Boston

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From: Positive Atheism <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: Boston, Mike
Subject: Re: Positive_Atheism_Letters_Section
Date: Wednesday, September 22, 1999 5:29 PM

No.

Cliff Walker
"Positive Atheism" Magazine

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From: Positive Atheism <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: Boston, Mike
Subject: Re: Positive_Atheism_Letters_Section
Date: Thursday, September 23, 1999 12:34 PM

Did I say yes?

No. I said no. My answer is: No. You are wrong about this.

This is why I do not like entering into discussions with most theists: no means yes and yes means no.

It is not worth my time to decipher your question and provide for you an explanation. It is not my job to go to school for you and teach you how to think or how to hold a discussion.

Cliff Walker
"Positive Atheism" Magazine

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From: Positive Atheism <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: Boston, Mike
Subject: Re: Positive_Atheism_Letters_Section
Date: Thursday, September 23, 1999 1:31 PM

This is not true at all. What you have done is propose what is known as a "false dilemma": Since we do not have "absolute knowledge of the universe" (whatever that is) in order to disprove the existence of gods through that means, therefore the proposition "A god exists" must be true. Christians often take this leap one step further: since we do not have absolute knowledge to disprove the existence of the Christian god(s), therefore the Christian god(s) exist(s).

Besides, you are using a false definition for atheism here. Atheism is the lack of a god-belief. An atheist does not necessarily assert that no gods exist. A handful of atheists do make this claim, but they are in the minority.

Here are the two problems: First, logic does not require the listener to disprove an existential claim (a claim for the existence of something). It is the responsibility of the one making the existential claim to prove that his or her claim is true. If all you have to say is "a god exists" then I have every reason to doubt your claim. If I tell you that "the tooth fairy exists" you would be most reasonable in doubting my claim and demanding that I back it up. You don't need "absolute knowledge of the universe" in order to be satisfied that no tooth fairy exists; my inability or refusal to prove my claim would be proof enough. The same holds true for any and all god-claims: since the existence of gods is not self-evident, you need to demonstrate your claim.

Secondly, you are right in saying that I cannot make the statement "There is no God" and be rational, because we have not defined the word God for this discussion. It would be unreasonable for me to deny that a "God" exsits when I don't even know what you are talking about. Explain to me what you mean by the word God and we will go from there. Without your definition for the word God we don't have a discussion. You need to describe the "God" you are talking about first, and then bring forth proofs for your claim (unless what you claim is self-evident and undisputed, like the existence of the sun is self-evident and undisputed).

These requirements are not made out of convenience for those who hold the atheistic position; rather, this is how logic works when dealing with existential claims. The theist makes the existential claim; therefore, the theist needs to back up the claim. The theist also uses a controversial word, God, when making the claim, thus it is the theist's responsibility to define the word.

Cliff Walker
"Positive Atheism" Magazine

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From: "Positive Atheism"
To: "Boston, Mike"
Subject: Re: Positive_Atheism_Letters_Section
Date: Fri, 24 Sep 1999 15:12:15 -0700

You told me about a man, Jesus Christ, who allegedly lived in Palestine and was allegedly crucified under Pontius Pilate. You have said nothing about what a "God" is. (Do you even know what a "God" is? or are you simply parroting dogma that you heard from somewhere else?)

There are no contemporary records claiming his existence and describing details of his life predating C.E. 80 to 90. All the early descriptions of him betray bias and show clear signs of having undergone extensive revisions. Luke corrects the mistakes of Matthew, who in turn corrects the errors of Mark. These documents are unreliable and untrustworthy, and cannot be used to make the case that the Jesus Christ described in them was a historical figure. It is very easy to explain the existence of the Christian religion without there having ever been a literal Jesus Christ as historical figure. The same holds true for Islam: Mohammed need never have existed for Islam to have become what it is; many scholars doubt the historicity of Mohammed.

Cliff Walker
"Positive Atheism" Magazine

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From: "Positive Atheism"
To: "Boston, Mike"
Subject: Re: Positive_Atheism_Letters_Section
Date: Fri, 24 Sep 1999 17:13:09 -0700

You have refused to describe what you mean by the word "God."

Nevertheless, I will honor your request. Here's a contradiction for you:

For example, the story of the scribe who asks which is the greatest commandment shows two mutually exclusive descriptions of the scribe's motives for approaching Jesus. The earliest, "Mark," says: "And one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, and perceiving that he had answered them well, asked him, Which is the first commandment of all?" The later "Gospel of Matthew" changes this cordial, respectful exchange into one of malice: "Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words." and "Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying, Master, which is the great commandment in the law?" Was this scribe respectful of Jesus, as implied in "Mark" or was he trying to lay a trap for him, as implied in "Matthew"?

Here's another one, that makes Jesus look monumentally stupid. In "Matthew" 21, it says: "Now in the morning as he returned into the city, he hungered. And when he saw a fig tree in the way, he came to it, and found nothing thereon, but leaves only, and said unto it, Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever. And presently the fig tree withered away." Interesting. Jesus is hungry and seeks nourishment from a fig tree. Unfortunately, the Gospel of "Mark" 11 it says: "he found nothing but leaves; for the time of figs was not yet." Now, why would anybody -- even a moron -- seek nourishment from a fig tree in the springtime? This story might make a little sense if it were set during the autumn, but in both accounts this story is set shortly before Passover. The fig tree accounts also contradict each other in that one has the tree withering the next day ("Mark" the earlier Gospel) and the other has it withering immediately ("Matthew" -- one of dozens of places where "Matthew" has revised "Mark's" accounts of Jesus's activities to make Jesus appear more powerful than "Mark" describes him.) And I will not comment on role models versus what most people usually think about a grown man who would throw a tantrum as described here.

Okay. I've spent fifteen minutes detailing two very serious problems in the New Testament -- problems that show evidence that the writers deliberately tampered with the story. Now it's your turn. (Actually, it was your turn several letters ago!) Please explain to me what you mean when you use the word "God."

Cliff Walker
"Positive Atheism" Magazine

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This letter came as is, and we have chosen not to try to clean it up: we have instead used the HTML <PRE>Preformatted Text</PRE> codes to display it as it came to us.

 

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From: Positive Atheism <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: Boston, Mike
Subject: Re: Positive_Atheism_Letters_Section
Date: Monday, September 27, 1999 1:58 AM

I am saying that if you tamper with a story, it is impossible to patch up the additional holes that inevitably result from that tampering. I am saying that it is best to follow truth. It is best to come clean when shown that you are in error.

Nice try!
 

You have not described to me what you mean when you use the word "God." Give me some characteristics, some character traits -- something! Otherwise, the word "God" is simply a three-letter word that has no meaning in this discussion. You can talk all you want, but I don't know what you are saying.
 

 

... [SNIP drivel about figs ripening more than two full months after the date alleged for this passage] ...

 

I don't have to know anything about figs: "Mark" said that it was not fig season. According to the narrative, a hungry Jesus was looking for figs when it was not fig season.

This is a very serious problem for those who hold the biblical inerrancy position.
 

First, "Mark" gives a clear description of the motives of the "scribe." For you to say that the motives of the "scribe" in "Mark" were actually something other than how "Mark" describes them is inference on your part. We are talking about my allegation that the two stories contradict: the account in "Mark" differs from the account in "Matthew," which itself differs from the account in "Luke."

Secondly, before you can rely on the notion that the Pharisees were always trying to catch Jesus, you will need to confront a few other accounts of the alleged actions of the Pharisees, such as that described in "Luke" 13:31: "The same day there came certain of the Pharisees, saying unto him, Get thee out, and depart hence: for Herod will kill thee."

Also, the leader of the Pharisees, Gamaliel, is quoted as saying: "Ye men of Israel, take heed to yourselves what ye intend to do as touching these men. For before these days rose up Theudas, boasting himself to be somebody; to whom a number of men, about four hundred, joined themselves: who was slain; and all, as many as obeyed him, were scattered, and brought to nought. After this man rose up Judas of Galilee in the days of the taxing, and drew away much people after him: he also perished; and all, even as many as obeyed him, were dispersed. And now I say unto you, Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought: But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God." This attitude is typical of the Pharisees described in Josephus and elsewhere, but completely contradicts that very biased portrayal of Pharisees and Jews throughout most the Gospel accounts.

(I will not here get into the stories of Nicodemus or Joseph of Aramathea or the Pharisee who invited Jesus to supper, but they likewise falsify your notion that Pharisees were always trying to catch Jesus.)

The main point, though, is that the scribe in "Mark" marvelled and the scribe in "Matthew" was trying to ensnare. Clearly the author of "Matthew" was dissatisfied with the portrayal of a cordial scribe in "Mark" and made the scribe in his account more devious than that of "Mark" -- to place it in further harmony with the general tenor of how Jews are portrayed in the Gospel stories.
 

You missed my point completely. If you told me, on Tuesday, that you had seen the Mayor on Monday, and I had reacted by saying, "Wow! Really? Tell me about it!" we wouldn't think anything of it. However, if you again told me on Wednesday that you had seen the Mayor on Monday, and I responded -- again -- by saying, "Wow! Really? Tell me about it!" we could reasonably suspect that something was awry.

In the one story, the disciples immediately noticed that it had died and they immediately marvel (the "Matthew" account, which was a revision of the "Mark" account). In the other, it was the following day when the disciples noticed that the tree had withered and it was then that they marvelled. Clearly, the author of "Matthew" was not satisfied with a fig tree that took a whole day to wither -- his "Jesus" was much more powerful than this -- and so "Matthew" has the fig tree wither immediately.
 

How could a book allegedly without contradictions even be confusing "on the surface," much less have the problems I have described here? Joseph Lewis wrote:

 "A precept claiming infallibility should certainly possess the universality of the law of gravitation and the perfection of the arithmetical table. If it fails to possess these undeviating qualities, its imperfection is self-evident and its value either greatly diminished or useless."
-- (From his 1946 book, The Ten Commandments, chapter 7, "The Seventh Commandment," page 457.)
 

Cliff Walker
"Positive Atheism" Magazine

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From: Positive Atheism <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: Boston, Mike
Subject: Re: Positive_Atheism_Letters_Section
Date: Tuesday, September 28, 1999 1:56 PM

My name is Cliff. Cops and judges and the like are allowed to call me Clifton in polite company.
 

I am not asking for a material or scientific explanation (though either would buoy up your case considerably); I am asking for a valid philosophical justification for believing what you say is true.

Your first post to us was very accusatory in its tone, denouncing us for being self-referential, and stating that our motive is a quest for convenience: "Atheism is convenient isn't it? That way we don't have to answer anyone other than ourselves, which is easy, right?"

At this point, I would like to turn that accusation back upon yourself, and demonstrate that you practice the very "convenience" that you accused us of practicing.
 

How convenient it is for you to fall back on "faith" when you cannot make your case through other means. Just take a step of faith and believe a proposition for no reason other than that somebody tells you it is true. Then you will relax your critical judgement and will open yourself to seeing "evidence" for what you already think is true.

No. It is very hard work to use reason to examine existential claims (claims for the existence of something), and to reject comforting or enticing claims that cannot be demonstrated. Most people do not have the discipline or the luxury to learn even the basics when it comes to philosophical argument. Even fewer have the integrity to apply such discipline to their everyday lives, and only a handful are willing to examine their very world view and adjust it if they see a discrepancy.

Most people prefer to let somebody else tell them what to believe about the universe and about themselves. Such people seem to prefer to get on with the task of living.

This brings us to a serious problem: unprincipled con artists know that unlearned people will tend to believe an emotionally charged argument if it is cloaked in enough falsehood. Such hucksters have been known to take advantage of this human tendency and have exploited many in their quests for power or revenge. While Adolph Hitler would be the most extreme and destructive example of this in recent times, I am prepared to show the apostle Paul to have been an opportunist and a charlatan who built a fantastic pagan god-myth upon the memory of a Judaean nationalist who was executed under the Roman occupation for his irredentist sentiments and activities. Disappointed that he was rejected in his quest to join the prestigious Pharisee party, he proceeded to discredit the Pharisees to the point of claiming to Gentiles that he was himself a former Pharisee!

The real tough part is surviving within a society in which the majority of the people think a certain myth is actually true, and where many people will judge you and discriminate against you because you have examined the dominant myth and have discovered that it is easily shown to be falsehood.

Here is an extreme example that any Christian should understand: imagine what it would be like to live in Iran. Imagine what it would be like if you knew that scholars cannot verify that Mohammed even existed as a historical figure, and that the existence of Islam can be explained without there ever having been a historical Mohammed.

The United States would surely be the same way in a Christian sense had our forefathers not had the foresight to separate state from church. (Considering that Bush and Gore are the front-runners for the American presidency, this may change during my lifetime.) As it stands, we must endure rejection, attempts at humiliation, bigotry, discrimination, and the intrusions of the dominant religion upon our private lives and upon our pocketbooks -- even though we can demonstrate to you that the Christian religion is pure falsehood.
 

My final question to you is: Why would I want to believe and teach Christianity -- a body of doctrine which I find reprehensible -- unless I also could demonstrate that it was true?

Sometimes the truth is ugly. Since such things can be demonstrated, we are obligated to face the fact that they are true. This is an important reason why so many Americans reject evolution. Many people find the thought repulsive and think they can get around this by denying the fact.

However, there is no reason to believe a vile and disgusting claim unless it can be shown to be true. We certainly would not want to believe something objectionable simply upon "a step of faith." We must have more to go on.

Paul recognized this when he said: "And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead.... And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile ... If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men."

Yes. I pity the Christian because Christ was not raised; the arguments for the resurrection can be shown to be so flawed as to warrant disbelief. What is left has been at minimum a crippling dogma and at most a source of vast destruction to humankind over the past 2,000 years.

Recovering from this crippling outlook and discovering a healthy, truth-based replacement for it is no easy deal. It would take all the resources we have and more even if Christianity would vanish off the planet today. Bur Christianity will not go away, and many of us think a repeat of the Dark Ages looms for our offspring. I, for one, will die knowing I have fought the good fight.

Cliff Walker, Publisher
Positive Atheism Magazine

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From: Positive Atheism <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: Boston, Mike
Date: Thursday, September 30, 1999 4:28 PM

C. Dennis McKinsey wrote The Encyclopedia of Biblical Errancy which is over 550 pages long. McKinsey got a lot of his material by reading the works of inerrency apologists and examining their arguments.

He makes a good case that biblical errancy is an important study and that it is important to get the word out, but I have discovered that many hard-nosed believers will knowingly lie if doing so would protect their cause: the reputation of the Christian religion. A case in point is that of Columbine High School "martyr" Cassie Bernall: investigators informed her parents just weeks after the incident that the story of her being asked if she believed in God was not verifiable and was, according to the testimony of several others who were there, not true. Her parents went ahead and published the book She Said Yes: The Unlikely Martyrdom of Cassie Bernall which has gone into its second printing after 300,000 copies were sold to gullible Christians.

As for biblical errancy, I prefer to point out that many of the core values, in both the Old Testament and the New, are barbaric, and that the acts of the Bible's most vocal supporters are extremely dishonest when it comes to promoting the Bible (a used-car salesman could learn a lot from an evangelist). Contrary to the lies told about us by theists, we atheists usually place a high value on ethics.

As for your question, I only have a few lists of contradictions, and they are all in the Letters sections. One list from Genesis is in the "Fish with Legs" letter, and I gave you some of the others.

Cliff Walker
"Positive Atheism" Magazine

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From: Positive Atheism <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: Boston, Mike
Date: Thursday, September 30, 1999 7:39 PM

I have been tediously careful in giving you my position and explaining why I hold it. I have not skirted any issue here or elsewhere; I simply am not interested in Biblical errancy and choose not to do your research work for you.

You "skirted the issue" when you diverted from the theme of our dialogue (thus avoiding the direct challenges I had presented to you, that you still have yet to address). You "skirted" when you changed that subject and insisted that I lay out some bible contradictions. I did that, and you ignored the problems I raised in these verses (specifically, that "Mark" says it was not fig season: you never answered that one).

I think you owe me an apology for this remark.
 

Why does this matter? I'll tell you:

Christians are clearly and demonstrably lying here for the purpose of furthering the Christian faith.

The truth is that nobody at Columbine died for their faith. The testimony says just the opposite, that one young woman, Valeen Schnurr, was spared after saying "Yes" to the question of whether she believed in God. Cassie Bernall was never asked this question by either gunman. Cassie's parents have known this for a long time, and went ahead and published their book anyway.

Here is what the investigators are saying:

The investigators got one story from one kid, Joshua Lapp, that the alleged Bernall-Klebold dialogue occurred, but Lapp later admitted he never saw Bernall, but only thinks he recognized her voice. When asked to point out which table Bernall was under, he pointed out a table under which Valeen Schnurr, and not Cassie Bernall, had been hiding.

The story that Schnurr relates is that Klebold asked Schnurr if she believed in God and Schnurr said yes. At which point, Klebold spared Schnurr. Meanwhile, Emily Wyant, the gal who was under the same table with Bernall, says that Bernall was not asked if she believed in God, but was (understandably) cowering under the table saying, "Dear God. Dear God. Why is this happening? I just want to go home." Emily answered Cassie in a hushed voice, "I know. We all want to get out of here." Suddenly, Klebold slammed the top of their table, said "Peekaboo," and looked under the table at both girls. "Then he looked at her, and he shot her," Emily said.

(None of us would know any of this except for the fact that the Bernall family has sold 300,000 books, and that her tale is broadcast across America, even being recited on the floor of Congress for the purpose of passing pro-Christian, anti-everybody else legislation.)
 

I accuse you of bluffing and deliberately lying for the purpose of furthering the Christian faith.

Please dispute the investigators' reports that I have summarized above:

This information is all public record, published in the Rocky Mountain News, picked up by AP and Reuters who both confirmed the report, and independently related in a separate report in "Salon" magazine by a different investigative reporter.

I have done the best I can to relate what I see to be the truth, but I cannot hold a dialogue with you if you continue to lie to me. On top of that, your apparent love for falsehood has prompted me to completely lose respect for you.
 

What!? You call human slavery good? You call the Inquisition good? You call Imperialism good?

I think the Bible may have done some damage to your human sense of compassion if you think the Bible has done good.

Had the Bible actually done even some good for humanity, I wouldn't have as much of a problem with people trying to shove it down our throats and with people lying to further the Biblical agenda.
 

I have shown you to be a liar, and it is my humble opinion that you are a fool -- a dangerous fool. That's all I have to say.

I will not respond to any more of your drivel unless you: (1) apologize for your "skirt the issue" remark and admit that it is you who has skirted every issue that I have raised; (2) either make the case that we should not believe the investigators and witnesses in the Cassie Bernall case, or admit that you (and Cassie's parents) have propagated falsehood for the purpose of furthering the Christian faith.

Cliff Walker
"Positive Atheism" Magazine

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From: Positive Atheism <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: Boston, Mike
Subject: Re: Positive_Atheism_Letters_Section
Date: Tuesday, October 12, 1999 12:57 PM

Are you now resorting to fictional humorous anecdotes to make your case?

Meanwhile, I am still waiting for you to: (1) apologize for your "skirt the issue" remark and admit that it is you who has skirted every issue that I have raised (including this one, by responding to it with humor); (2) either make the case that we should not believe the investigators and witnesses in the Cassie Bernall case, or admit that you (and Cassie's parents) have propagated falsehood for the purpose of furthering the Christian faith.

Cliff Walker
"Positive Atheism" Magazine

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From: Positive Atheism <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: Boston, Mike
Subject: Re: Positive_Atheism_Letters_Section
Date: Tuesday, October 12, 1999 10:10 PM

This is very convenient, isn't it? It appears as if you don't have to answer to anybody.

I am justified in concluding this because you are the one who insisted that the Cassie Bernall "martyrdom" story is true. On top of that, you did not mince words in denouncing me for thinking that this story is a hoax. You told me, "you don't have a leg to stand on." This is very powerful language.

I will not allow you to "skirt the issue" on this one: your response is required before we can change the subject. Otherwise, I have every reason to think you are bluffing.

I presented a clear synopsis of the current reports of the Columbine investigation, and I detailed for you why I think the story is a hoax. I made a very powerful argument that I am not pronouncing it a hoax simply because Christians are repeating it.

Now, it's your turn. You need either to back up your (very stern) claim that the investigators are wrong on this point, or to apologize both for telling me that the story is true and for your attitude toward me for thinking it is yet another Christian hoax.

Without this, I have good reason to believe that you don't care about truth, and that you have been bluffing the whole time -- ever since your initial claim that atheism is a "convenient" position because, "that way we don't have to answer anyone other than ourselves." I have every reason to think you were bluffing then, that you are bluffing now, and that you have been bluffing all along.

If the story is true, then I'm sure you can easily find arguments to shut down the position of the investigators. Any argument is better than total silence, which makes it appear that you are "skirting the issue" again.

On the other hand, if the investigators have shown us good reasons to doubt the case, then you have no business letting stand your previous insistence that the story is true (aggravated by your attitude toward me for saying it is a hoax).
 

You need to describe to me what you mean when you use the word God. (Pretend I don't know anything about gods and that I've never been to church. Start from scratch and tell me what a "God" is. Then, I will tell you what I think about what you described.)

I ignored, at first, your initial claim that atheism is a position of "convenience" in that we atheists "don't have to answer anyone other than ourselves." My initial suspicion came to pass more vividly than I could ever have predicted: During the course of this conversation, you have been the one who has repeatedly acted as if you have absolutely no standards guiding your behavior. You have played the hypocrite at every turn by refusing to follow the very standards you accuse atheists of not having.

I have been the one who has needed to insist -- again and again -- that you follow the fundamental concepts of truthfulness in this discussion.

After you tried to argue against the atheistic position by (1) using a false definition for atheism and (2) using the fallacy of the false dilemma, I insisted that you describe to me what you mean by the word God.

You first sent me some vague, controversial passages from the Bible -- but never a useful description. Then you "skirted the issue" by challenging me to show some Bible contradictions -- still never answering my request that you describe to me what you mean when you use the word God. (All the while, you accused me of "skirting the issue"!)

Indulging your departure, I gave you two examples of passages that I think are most problematic. Your responses betrayed the likelihood that you did not even understand the nature of the problem I posed. When I clarified the "fig tree" problem by reminding you that the narrator of "Mark" said that it was not fig season, you avoided that one by asking me to produce a list of Bible contradictions. I will not do this because (1) you are "skirting the issue" of my question of what you mean when you use the word God; (2) you are "skirting the issue" of the problem of "Mark" saying that Jesus was looking for figs when it was not fig season; (3) it is not my responsibility to do your homework for you (I have absolutely no respect for someone who cheats at school, and have felt this way since the first and last time I cheated in school -- in kindergarten); (4) others have very thoroughly documented the biblical discrepancies much more competently than I could; and (5) I personally don't care about biblical errancy, I think it is much more important to discuss the fruits of theism, particularly Christianity -- especially when it comes to some Christians' patently false claim that the Christian religion is effective at making people moral, and that atheists cannot be moral because we "don't have to answer to anybody."

Again I ask you: Describe to me what you mean when you use the word God. I cannot discuss atheism unless you give me a workable meaning of what you mean when you use this otherwise meaningless three-letter word.

If you cannot do this, then simply admit that you believe that a "God" exists but that you don't know what you mean by that word. This position dates back to the Upanishads, which denounce any attempts describe "not this, not this -- beyond all that is cognizable" and "from which, along with the mind, words turn back." In this sense, a believer would say, "I feel the presence of Something, which I am unable to comprehend and express. I have given the name God to it. I feel that I am inisolable from It. But I can say nothing more about It." (Adapted from An Atheist with Gandhi by Gora, "Introduction" by Shri K. G. Mashruwala.)

Remember, though, if you cannot describe to me what you mean when you use the word "God" then you have no business trying to convince somebody else (an atheist) that such a "God" exists. This is because you don't know what you are talking about, your "God" being incomprehensible. Along with this, you have no business holding anybody (including yourself) accountable to the "will" of this incomprehensible "God."

If the "will" of your "God" can be discerned, then your "God" is not incomprehensible and you need to describe to me what you mean when you use this word.

If you can give me a clear description of what you mean when you use this word, then we can continue our discussion. Until then, it is dishonest for me to assume that I know what you mean and then to argue against my own (possibly false) assumption.

Cliff Walker
"Positive Atheism" Magazine

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From: Positive Atheism <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: Boston, Mike
Subject: Re: Positive_Atheism_Letters_Section
Date: Wednesday, October 13, 1999 2:39 PM

You lie!

I have quoted witnesses and investigators. These are not my own words; this is the same information that is being reported widely in the mainstream press and on the major wire services. Attached is a copy of the story from the Rocky Mountain News.

The case against the Bernall family is very convincing; they are perpetrating a hoax for the purpose of bringing credibility to the Christian religion. The only kid who says he heard it, when asked by investigators to point out where Cassie was, pointed to a completely different part of the room from where Cassie was shot. Cassie was never asked if she believed in God. The Bernall family knew all this before they made plans to publish their book.

I don't make this kind of stuff up. If I did, I wouldn't have a leg to stand on. I will not place myself in that position because I am accountable to the truth. In addition to this, I will not tarnish my position (atheism) by spreading lies -- like so many Christians (including yourself) have done to further Christianity.
 

I say the investigators and the witness cast serious doubt on the story. I detailed to you what they have said and what the witnesses have said. I have shown why the story cannot be trusted.

You need to give reasons to believe these witnesses are lying and these investigators are wrong. You need to cough up witnesses who heard the conversation -- other than this one kid who pointed to a table that was nowhere near where Cassie died. You need to explain why the young woman who was with Cassie when she died tells a completely different story about what was said before she died.

I insist that you do this because of the attitude you displayed toward me after I'd expressed my doubts about the story.

Had you simply said, "Cliff you ... said it was not true ... I just disagree," we wouldn't be having this problem. But you went much further than this, denouncing me several different ways, and you continue your arrogant cocksureness in the face of publicly available evidence against your position.
 

You cannot have your cake and eat it too. You cannot jump up and down for two long paragraphs about how "you don't have a leg to stand on" and how "you ... peddle your pseudo-intellect ... to all your self proclaimed intellectual heavy-weights" and how "it doesn't compute in your logical world" -- suggesting that I, as an atheist, am an unfeeling automaton -- and then refuse even to challenge the details of my case against the Cassie Bernall hoax. What you are doing is patent dishonesty.

And you are doing this in the name of Christ.

No! I am as impassioned as anybody. This is not simply an innocuous but false story, this hoax is being used as an extremely effective weapon in a vicious culture war -- and the story is pure falsehood.

The Cassie Bernall lie is being used to convince people that the Christian religion is a religion of truth.

The Cassie Bernall hoax was repeated on the floor of the United States House of Representatives when passing a whole package of pro-Christian, anti-everybody else legislation.

The Cassie Bernall "martyrdom" falsehood is deliberately being used to portray atheists as capable of murdering Christians simply because they are Christians! (Remember how eager the Christians in Kentucky were to call Michael Carneal an atheist? This falsehood was so prevalent that Michael's pastor, Rev. Paul Donner, of the St. Paul Lutheran Church, Paducah, Kentucky, had to stage a press conference to announce, "I'm firmly convinced Michael Carneal is a Christian. He's a sinner, yes, but not an atheist." This did not stop the rumors then, and similar rumors are back again in full force with the Columbine situation with the notion that Kleiberg "hated Christians.")

What is happening -- as I write this -- is that it is becoming fashionable (again) to discriminate against atheists, and this fashion is being fueled by yet another Christian lie: the Cassie Bernall hoax.

You are contributing to all this by continuing to spread this story in the face of strong evidence against it. By contributing to it, you are responsible for this despicable trend that, when it happened in the past, resulted in atheists being burned at the stake and having our tongues torn out and hot lead poured into our ears and mouths and having our breasts and genitals cut off or crushed and having our estates confiscated. Every one of these tortures was instigated by a lie similar to the Cassie Bernall hoax -- a lie that any bigoted Christian would believe without further investigation.

You are "skirting the issue" here because you can't get around this one.

The Bernall family lied to us (the public) and published 300,000 copies of their book even after the investigators told them the story was in serious doubt. The Bernall family even apologized (although without recanting their lie), and even placed minor disclaimers in their book.

You are more dishonest than even the Bernall family in that you allow for no doubt whatsoever.

The moment you either confront or acknowledge this publicly available evidence against the Cassie Bernall "martyrdom" story, we can continue.

Cliff Walker
"Positive Atheism" Magazine

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From: Positive Atheism <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: Boston, Mike
Subject: Re: Positive_Atheism_Letters_Section
Date: Thursday, October 14, 1999 7:32 PM

Show me where, in the previous letter, I quoted the Bible. Show me!
 

(Calling me "you atheist," eh? Is your use of this word supposed to be a derogatory smear of some kind?)

I rest my case about Christianity's hostility toward education, toward humankind's pursuit of truth. The "uneducated" people you describe are not savvy to the ways of hucksters, and get taken for a ride. They have not made the effort to learn how to discern a sound argument from a tricky one.

You also lie about our motives: we are not out to convince anybody of anything. Our goal is to be left alone, to live life the way we see fit. This is clearly stated all over our web page. It is lying Christians (like yourself) who want to force us to live the lying Christian way.

You told me that atheism is a position of convenience, because, you said, we don't have to answer to anyone. Your geocentric religion does not have to pass muster with a strict scientific review board, with the entire scientific community scrutinizing every claim you make. Uneducated people will not make you abandon your theory if it does not pass the test, because uneducated people are not even aware that a test exists.

This is why your totem religion does not even try to appeal to the educated, because it cannot pass the test of truthfulness except among the uneducated -- where no real test for philosophical truthfulness exists.

The problem is that while the uneducated may not think, they do vote. The Christian hucksters know this, and this is why they thrive on any falsehoods that will help them win votes. They don't have to worry about the uneducated masses even doubting their stories, so they go ahead and tell the biggest whoppers they can think of.

Since "truth," to Christians who think like you do, is not a matter of weighing the evidence but is a matter of tribal totem loyalty, the Christian hucksters can get away with hoax after hoax after hoax. Decades after the hucksters who created the Paluxy "man tracks" admitted they were fraudulent, the Christians who think like you do still insist that they are real. Long after David Barton of WallBuilders admitted that his "quotations" of Jefferson and Adams and Madison, etc., are not real (after Barton himself was forced to ask Christians to stop using them), the Christians who think like you do still submit these bogus "quotations" to the Letters to the Editor column and enter them as testimony into the Congressional Record.
 

Motive for what?

(Your desperation is showing.)

Explain to me why Emily Wyant, Cassie's close friend, would (according to your scenario) publicly deny that her friend said something (her final word, at that) if she had actually said it. Why would she lie in the face of the vicious community pressure to protect her friend's mother from shame, if all she needed to do to protect Cassie's mother was to tell the truth? Why would the girl who was with Cassie the whole time quote her as saying, "Dear God. Dear God. Why is this happening? I just want to go home"? And then, why would she quote herself as telling Cassie, "I know. We all want to get out of here"? And then why would she tell investigators that Klebold slammed the table and said, "Peekaboo" if what he actually did (according to you) was ask Cassie if she believed in God?

Your position has some serious problems that do not go away when you resort to the notion that extremely stressful situations are quickly forgotten (when in fact most people will remember many more details about stressful times than they ordinarily would).

Explain to me why Joshua Lapp (who started the rumor, and who is the only person who says he heard it, but who admits he didn't see Cassie), when asked by investigators where the conversation took place, pointed to a table that wasn't even near where Cassie was shot. Why did your side's only witness point investigators to a table that was across the room from where Cassie was hiding.

Explain to me why Valeen Schnurr, who was under the table where Joshua Lapp claims he heard the killer ask Cassie if she believes in God, describes a conversation with the killer that was similar to the one reported about Cassie, but was different in that the killer spared Valeen after she admitted to him she believed in God.
 

Testimonies in the Bible!? This I gotta hear! Tell me more, tell me more!

Cliff Walker
"Positive Atheism" Magazine

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Mike here argues the case that the accounts attributed to the Twelve Apostles are to be trusted, simply because they are alleged to be witnesses:

 

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From: Positive Atheism <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: Boston, Mike
Subject: Re: Positive_Atheism_Letters_Section
Date: Saturday, October 16, 1999 4:19 PM

Are you now admitting that Emily Wyant, the young woman who was under the same table with Cassie when she died, is a more credible witness than Joshua Lapp, who was on the other side of the room from Cassie? Emily says that Cassie didn't say it, and Joshua, who originally made up the story, was nowhere near where Cassie's body was found.

Meanwhile, the rumors of Jesus's resurrection did not surface until long after the fact.
 

You still are "skirting the issue" on my request that you explain to me what you mean when you use the word God.

I will, however, indulge your "issue skirting" one more time. However, if your next letter does not contain even an attempted explanation of what you mean by this word, I will end this dialogue and will be justified in concluding that the Christian religion has callused one more conscience into speaking falsehood for the purpose of propagating the Christian religion, and into sacrificing truth for loyalty to the Christian religion.
 

This is a claim, a statement. You need to make a case.

The fact that the Bible not only gets historical events wrong but that even gets geographical locations wrong is enough to call its unverifiable claims to question. Paul, in Galatians, uses a mistranslation of an Old Testament passage ("Cursed is he who hangs on a tree") and then builds an entire argument on something the Old Testament doesn't even say. Paul makes many similar mistakes that call to question his claim that he was a former Pharisee. This would be like my mother setting a table for important guests and placing the forks on the wrong side of the plates. That a former Pharisee would make such mistakes is untenable; that Paul was lying when he told Gentiles he was a former Pharisee is much more likely.

It also portrays Pharisees as condemning Jesus for doing things that the Pharisees did not think were wrong (such as Sabbath healing). The New Testament shows a vicious and vitriolic bias against Jews in general and against Pharisees in particular. The Gospel "accounts" never portray a Roman in an unfavorable light, and you would never guess, from reading the Gospel "accounts," that Judaea was, at the time, under vicious Roman occupation.

All this makes sense, though, when we realize that the earliest Gospel "accounts" were not in circulation until at most 90 C.E., and at the earliest ("Mark"), 70 C.E. -- after Jerusalem had been wiped out by the Romans and after there were likely no original followers of Jesus left to dispute what they said.
 

Nobody thinks that the words we have of Socrates, that we only have because Plato quoted him, are entirely trustworthy. Nobody knows for sure what Socrates said, and every historian will admit this.

Nobody is trying to take the myth of the Cyclops, try to palm it off as literal history, and then make it part of our science or history classes. Nobody is going to teach, in biology or history classes, that there once exited a race of one-eyed giants.

Although we can take some of the words of Caesar and verify the likelihood of certain historical accounts, nobody thinks that Caesar was literally born of a virgin, literally sired by a god.

When historians refer to Homer or to Socrates, they examine first the merit of the ideas contained therein. They can, for example, verify that a certain idea that was attributed to Socrates dates at least to Plato's time.
 

What, then, is the science of Cosmology doing? How can that science be called a science? How can the science of cosmology speculate about the history of the Universe? It is because the science of physics deals with what can and cannot happen, and how certain particles act under various conditions.

If someone reads a "historical" manuscript that says that the sun did not set for an entire day, we have an account of an event that is so unlikely as to be preposterous. For this even to happen (even granting that its cause was supernatural) would leave indelible marks on the physical properties of Earth. We can also see if any other cultures (China, India, Egypt) remember such a monumental event (they don't). We are then left with a decision: Which is more likely, that the earth would stop rotating for a day, or that some ancient priest has a long imagination?

Given the fact that the same priests who tell us about the long day of Joshua also get many things wrong about geography (mistakes that we can easily verify), and also given the fact that the "Joshua" writer uses the geocentric model of the universe ("Sun, stand thou still"), it becomes very clear to me that an ancient, superstitious, politically biased priest wrote the tale of Joshua's long day.

No allegedly inspired writers said anything about the earth orbiting the sun; we had to discover that fact ourselves. Until then (and for long afterward: heliocentrism dates to 600 B.C.E.), the "inspired" writers told by their supernatural sources that the sun is pulled across the solid dome of the sky (the "firmament" -- a word deriving from the word firm).

If I wrote to you and told you that I have perfected the square circle, would you believe me? No. You don't even believe the written accounts of federal crime investigators, writing about something that happened earlier this year. Even you don't believe something just because someone said it's true.

You doubt the words of the Columbine investigators because you think it is in your interest to protect the credibility of the Christian religion. You are in a long line of good company. For its entire history, Christian leaders have perpetrated what are called "pious frauds"; there are enough pieces of wood from the "original cross of Jesus" to furnish a modest home. There are several complete headless skeletons alleging to be the body of John the Baptist. There are dozens of foreskins from the Baby Jesus out there -- they cannot all be real. It was only with the advent of the information age that we were able to compare notes and see that each community had its own "pious frauds" and that nobody in that community knew that the community on the other side of the mountain had the same prepuce of Jesus.

I argue that it would be in Christianity's best interest to denounce the Cassie Bernall story as falsehood. Christianity would do well to "come clean" on this one. The Roman Catholic Church has announced that during the year 2000 it will apologize to the world for many of the atrocities it has committed throughout its history.
  

Fact!? No. Speculative history, based on flawed accounts that do not square with other historical evidence. The "persecution" of the first century church is as mythical as the accounts of its founder's life.

You cannot even make a good case that Jesus ever existed, much less that he was crucified under Pontius Pilate. The existence of the Christian religion can be explained without there ever having been a historical Jesus, just as the existence of the Islamic religion can be explained without there ever having been a historical Mohammed and the existence of the Jewish religion can be explained without there ever having been a historical Moses.

The earliest detailed "accounts" (allegedly) of Jesus's life did not appear until, at the earliest, 70 C.E., and more likely not until 90 C.E. The accounts that did appear contradict one another in many, many important details. Meanwhile, what we can verify as being early Christian writings (James, parts of Romans, Galatians, parts of Corinthians) describe absolutely no details of the life of a human named Jesus, but rather contain vague descriptions of a god who became a man, sometime in the past, and was killed and resurrected (like so many of the other Roman gods who were popular at that time). The only Christian writings that describe a historical Jesus (Peter, the Pastorals) came out long after the Gospel accounts had been in circulation.

I have shown that the Testimonium "account" in Josephus was inserted by Christians in the fourth century (pious frauds, again).

All you have are very flawed, extremely biased accounts that were written by people who had a clear political agenda, and written long after the incidents they allege to describe supposedly took place.

I am beginning to think that the Christian leadership has a policy of telling so many huge, huge lies so that at one point it begins to seem absurd to hear historians and other scholars saying, "That's a lie!" and "That's a lie, too!" and "That, also, is a lie!" and "That's another lie!" and "That's not true!" and "Let me show you how that cannot be true!" and "That one's a lie!" If our only response to Christian falsehoods is to point out that they are lies (because so many Christian "accounts" are easily shown to be deliberate falsehood), it eventually begins to reflect on us: we begin to sound like a broken record. I am beginning to wonder if the Christians have intended all along, by continuing to repeat their lies throughout history, to make us sound like parrots repeating the phrase, "That's a lie!"

Have you read my piece, based on a piece by C. Dennis McKinsey, on how the bible protects itself against criticism?
 

and

I will go further than that: One man had an agenda. His name was Paul, and the "history" was built up around his wild tales after he died. A group called the Ebionites claimed that he was a fraud; they claimed to have the true Gospel of Jesus which they propagated in Jerusalem, and that Paul spread a false story of Christ throughout the Roman world.

The Ebionites claimed ancestry going back to the original Jerusalem followers of Jesus, and their story fits more smoothly into a critical examination of the New Testament accounts than do the accounts of the New Testament. A study of Galatians and of Acts 15 reveals that there was, indeed, a rift between Paul and the alleged original followers of Christ. Galatians, the earlier account, shows Paul being very hostile to Peter, and Peter then appearing to concede to Paul but later showing that he did not really mean it. The Acts account shows every indication of having smoothed over this rift, portraying the players as being cordial. (This may have something to do with the large sum of money that Paul collected, some of which he probably gave to the Jerusalem church.) The Ebionite accounts portray Paul as an imposter and an opportunist, exploiting the fame of Jesus and teaching that Jesus was a supernatural being.

Meanwhile, the tales of the martyrdoms of the "Twelve Apostles" are extremely doubtful; this is admitted by most Bible scholars, even those in the fundamentalist camps. The so-called persecution of Christians in the first century cannot be established, and the accounts of these "persecutions" did not appear until long after the fact.
 

I'm saying that they probably did not die for believing in Jesus. In all likelihood, they died for being Jews when the Romans leveled their country in 66-70 C.E. Paul's followers were securely settled throughout the Roman Empire, and neither his followers nor his ideas suffered extinction (or even persecution) during those times. Paul's myth of a dying and resurrected god-man (Mythraism) was popular during those times and existed in various forms. Other forms had other god-men dying and resurrecting; Paul's god-man happened to be named Jesus, but none of the Mythraistic religions were known to be hostile to one another. There is nothing contained in Paul's Gospel of a dying and resurrected Christ that would have drawn persecution.

Paul have been first in saying that his his man-god (Jesus) is the only name under heaven by which men can be saved. The other religions weren't exclusivist like Paul's was. This idea of exclusivism is one that always leads those who hold it to do the persecuting. Paul was the first to blend the myth of the dying and resurrecting god-man with the Gnostic notion that the earth is inherently evil and that man is too corrupt even to see his plight. His followers (but probably not Paul) later hung this Gnostic-Mythraistic myth combination upon the history of a Jewish political messiah, who had sought to save his country from the Roman occupation, but who failed. It was only then, after Paul died, that the Gospel "accounts" of this figure's life were composed and distributed.

Meanwhile, lots of people have died for a lie. Lots of people have died for what they knew was a lie. Klebold died for what he knew was a lie. The older brothers of my high school buddies, who went to Viet Nam and never came back, died for what they knew was a lie. Joseph Smith, after having fabricated the Book of Mormon and other "revelations" now canonized by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, willingly and proudly died defending his cause -- knowing all along that he had fabricated those "scriptures."

You are "Exhibit A" in making the case that truthfulness is not a high priority for some people. You have shown me that you would rather lie than concede even one inch in your zeal to portray the Christian religion in a favorable light. It is clear to me that the reputation of the Christian religion -- right or wrong -- means more to you than truth.

I'd bet that the reputation of the Christian religion -- right or wrong -- means more to you than does life itself.

Cliff Walker
"Positive Atheism" Magazine

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From: Positive Atheism <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: Boston, Mike
Subject: Re: Positive_Atheism_Letters_Section
Date: Monday, October 18, 1999 10:31 PM

Well, you've told me that if I knew there wasn't any such thing as a god, that "you must have absolute knowlege of the entire universe which means that you yourself would be God." (My position has always been, tell me what a "God" is and I'll tell you what I think.) I suggested that I don't know what "absolute knowlege of the entire universe" means. From this I can infer that you say a "God" has "absolute knowlege of the entire universe" and I don't understand what this can mean: the phrase "absolute knowlege of the entire universe" can mean any number of things -- or it could be meaningless. If you could explain to me what "absolute knowlege of the entire universe" means, we would have a start.

You then recited what appears to be poetry (it certainly is poetic language, containing what appear to be metaphors and code words): "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it."

What is "the Word"? What is a "God"? What does "the beginning" mean, "Once upon a time"? What does "in him was life" mean? What is "the light of men"?

This clearly is poetry, because it says that "the light shines in the darkness." Any kid who took physics in high school knows that where light literally shines, there is no longer literal darkness; photons are either present or absent. So, then, what does "the light shines in the darkness" mean, poetically? What is "darkness" in that it can be expected to "understand" something? Obviously, "light" and "darkness" are code words, but what are they codes for? What do they really mean?

You also said that "in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form" which does not explain anything to me because many people have claimed that one or another is "Christ"; even the followers of Paul claimed that a man who may or may not have been crucified in Palestine during the reign of Pontius Pilate was a Christ. Some New Age types tell us that I am Christ, and so are you. To say "Christ" is not to explain the word God.

After I asked for further clarification, and explained that I don't find the bible to be a reliable source of knowledge, you "skirted the issue" by demanding that I list Bible contradictions for you. I listed two. After several exchanges, you refused to respond to the challenges I made about the fig tree enigma, particularly the part where the Gospel of "Mark" says it was not fig season.

You also said nothing after I pointed out several cases of the Gospels describing Pharisees as good people and as allies of the Jesus character. I had pointed this out to counter your claim that "in every account throughout the New Testament the Pharisees where always trying to catch Jesus in a lie or see if they could twist his words." This was your response to my objection that in "Matthew," the narrative says the scribe was "tempting him" and was trying to trip Jesus up, and that in "Mark," the narrative says that the scribe approached Jesus after "perceiving that he had answered them well." Had the scribe been quoted as saying something like, "I see that thou hast answered that question well ..." you could legitimately suggesting that they scribe may have been lying. But in this case, it is the narrative itself that makes the contradiction; the Gospels themselves attribute these two motives to the scribe.

You then said, "I told you the most material explanation I can give you is that of Jesus Christ." This tells me nothing about what you mean when you use the word God. Pythagoras's followers claimed divinity for him, that he was born of a virgin; people claimed divinity for the Caesars, that they were born of virgins. I don't know what they mean by this and I don't know what you mean when you claim that Jesus Christ was a god.

All I know about Jesus Christ is that the Gospel "accounts" of his life are very suspicious, and contain many, many errors in matters such as geography, physics, medicine, Pharisaic law, and the Roman occupation of Judaea. They were obviously written by people who thought the earth was flat (more poetic language?), and who attributed many now curable diseases to "demons" and "devils" (still more poetic language?).

In addition to this, there are many serious inconsistencies from one Gospel "account" to the other: I already gave you the example of the scribe "admiring" Jesus in one account and "tempting" him in a later account.

Since it is easy to show many, many problems and falsehoods (that we can verify) in the "accounts" of Jesus's life, I cannot claim to know anything about Jesus. I cannot trust those claims that are untestable if the accounts contains statements (such as whether a certain city was on the coast) that are easily refuted.

If the New Testament is wrong about verifiable things such as science and geography and the contemporary socio-political situations, I cannot use it to find out anything about the Jesus it describes.

This, you referring me to Jesus tells me nothing about what you mean when you use the word "God."
 

Huh?

Which is it? Person, place or thing? or all of the above or none of the above?

You have told me nothing.
 

First, if I was in court and wanted to impair the credibility of the witnesses against my client, I would certainly bring Dr. Loftus in to testify.

If I wanted to enhance the credibility of my own witnesses against a defendant, there are many other psychologists with equivalent credentials who would contradict Dr. Loftus: I think Dr. Loftus is in the minority on this one. She is one of the few experts who would make this case; many others would dispute it.

Secondly, you are dodging the several other points I have presented against the truthfulness of the Cassie Bernall "martyrdom" rumors. Perhaps one or two of the following points can be attributed to stress, but not all of them put together.

Here they are, again:

(I have previously said Joshua Lapp; I apologize for this error and stand corrected: it was Craig Scott, not Joshua Lapp, who started this whole thing.)

1. Craig Scott originally came up with the story of the alleged conversation between Kleberg and Cassie, and Scott is now the only one who still insists that he actually heard the version that Christians are broadcasting worldwide. Joshua Lapp and others do not say they actually heard the "conversation." The "martyrdom" story rests entirely upon Craig Scott. Let's see how credible his story is:

When asked if he saw Cassie praying under the table, or saw her talking to Kleberg, Craig said no. He never saw Cassie, but only "recognized her voice."

When asked to point out where Cassie was when he heard her, Scott pointed to a table that was nowhere near where Cassie was shot. Cassie was shot on the other side of the room, over by a wall, and she and Emily were the only ones in that part of the room.

Scott not only never saw Cassie, but also gets the facts wrong about where he thought Cassie was and who he thought was under the table where he says the "martyrdom" took place. You cannot base the truthfulness of the Cassie Bernall "martyrdom" on the story of this one lad, particularly since his version not only contradicts the facts, but contradicts what two others are saying.

2. The table where Craig Scott told investigators Cassie was shot (but she wasn't there) was where Valeen Schnurr lie bleeding from fifteen nonfatal gunshot wounds.

Valeen realized that the conversation between her and Kleberg has been bastardized and misattributed, and is now being broadcast around the world. Valeen's family has begun to confront the ones perpetrating this falsehood.

Valeen (who was under the table where Craig Scott says he heard Cassie Bernall's "martyrdom" take place) says that while she was praying, Kleberg did ask her (Valeen) if she believed in God. Valeen says that she told Kleberg "Yes." At this point, says Valeen, Kleberg spared her life.

3. Emily Wyant was with Cassie when she died, and says that the alleged conversation between Cassie and Kleberg never took place. Emily describes an entirely different conversation, including her claim that after Kleberg shot Cassie, Harris called out to him, "Hey, there's a n----- over ere!" -- which many others also say they heard.

Here we have many people in the room agreeing that they also heard something that Emily says she heard. Emily also says that the alleged conversation between Cassie and Kleberg never took place.

In summary: Cassie was never asked if she believed in God. The story that she did rests on very flimsy evidence, and is also contradicted by a large amount of other evidence and testimony.

Valeen was asked if she believed in God, and upon saying "Yes," was spared, not shot. It was Valeen who had been praying under the table which Scott pointed out to investigators when asked where he heard Cassie say what he thinks she said.

Since both Cassie and Valeen were shot, blood evidence could easily be used to verify Scott's version of the story -- if his story squared with the fact. If Cassie had been under that table, her blood would have been found under that table. If Valeen was not under that table, puddles of her blood not would have been found under the table. One reason investigators take so many blood samples is to prevent people (including victims and exploiters) from changing their tune long after the fact.

Here is your problem: the Christian religion has a long, thoroughly documented history of perpetrating "pious frauds" to get people to believe that the Christian religion is true. These frauds begin with the forgeries that are the Epistles to Timothy and Titus, the Epistles of Peter and John, the book of Revelation and the four Gospels. We know that Peter couldn't have written Peter (though whoever wrote it says he was Peter) and that Paul did not write Timothy or Titus (although Paul's name is appended to these monstrosities as well). We know they are forgeries, and most Christian scholars now quietly admit that they are, in fact, forgeries. Romans, Corinthians, and Galatians are the only New Testament books that are probably genuinely written by the person whose name is signed at the top. We also have strong evidence of later tampering with the texts, where passages such as I John 5:9 and John 8:1-11 occur only in later manuscripts and not earlier ones. The passage in Mark 16:1-20 is admitted by most bible publishers as either very suspect or outright false.

This fraudulent practice continued with the relics: the many headless skeletons of John the Baptist, the gallons of milk from Mary's breast, the dozens of foreskins from the penis of the baby Jesus, a large number of handkerchiefs from the apostle Paul, viles of blood from the woman with the issue who touched Jesus's hem, a veritable lumberyard of wood from the actual cross upon which Jesus was allegedly crucified, and many, many other hoaxes that were easily palmed off on residents of small, isolated towns who had not the resources to compare notes with other small towns who had the same relics.

The Inquisition and the witch hunts were set up so that any attempt to establish your innocence was seen as further proof of your guilt. If you confessed, you were punished; if you endured the heinous tortures without confessing, this was evidence that the devil was assisting you. I can think of a number of salty words I would feel justified in using to describe the brutal tortures that Christians inflicted on the rest of us for over 1,000 years, but their system for determining true accusations from false ones was flat-out dishonesty. If you think this is only a Roman Catholic thing, think again: the Protestants on both European and American continents were just as evil. The story of John Calvin tricking Servetus and then slowly burning him at the stake (it took several hours for Servetus to die because they deliberately placed him upwind of the flames) and the stories of how Martin Luther burned Jews and leveled their homes and confiscated their money are enough to curl your hair. I was a Christian once but renounced Christianity after studying the histories of the Christian sects.

Paul even said, "For if the truth of God hath more abounded through my lie unto his glory; why yet am I also judged as a sinner?" (Romans 3:7.) Martin Luther, the founder of Protestantism (who, by the way, denounced the Epistle of James as a forgery), counseled one of his wards in a letter to "tell a great big lie." These are not just mistakes or slips of judgement, they betray the basic disrespect for truth that underlies their motives, and clearly show us their utter lack of morals.

Evangelist Peter Popoff was caught pretending to receive information about people supernaturally, but James Randi discovered that his wife was providing this information to him over a miniaturized walkie talkie. His wife had gathered the information by reading the prayer requests that people had submitted before the sermon. Randi tape recorded what the wife said, and it is clear by reading the transcripts that she and Mr. Popoff had absolutely no respect for the gullible people who donated millions of dollars to their lavish lifestyle.

Jimmy Swaggert and Jim Bakker were also caught perpetrating pious frauds. David Barton was forced to admit that the phony "quotations" of the founding fathers, that he has spread for years, are not true. Christians were so quick to paint Michael Carneal as "an atheist" who was out to persecute Christians, but this was shown to be falsehood, too; Carneal had a personal beef with members of that particular group and was, himself, a Christian.

Now we have the Cassie Bernall "martyrdom" hoax, and the cat's out of the bag on this one, too.

Knowing the truth about Cassie Bernall will not stop some Christians from telling this lie, though, because these Christians think that furthering the Christian religion is more important than truth itself. Such Christians will knowingly and willingly tell a lie if it means that some poor unsuspecting sucker will believe the lie and join the Christian religion.

Cliff Walker
"Positive Atheism" Magazine

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From: Positive Atheism <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: Boston, Mike <msboston@unocal.com>
Subject: Re: Positive_Atheism_Letters_Section
Date: Tuesday, October 19, 1999 6:22 AM

Do a study of every occurrence of the word Jews in the Gospel of John. You won't get very far before you see exactly what I mean.

Pharisees were the Jewish loyalists; they were the party of the common people. It was the Sadducees who were the Roman quislings. The Zealots were materialistic or humanistic Pharisees, rejecting the notion that God was going to help them escape Roman tyranny. They taught that it was their responsibility to free themselves and not to depend upon God. Although Jesus is said to have had several Zealots among his disciples, Jesus was clearly of the opposite persuasion in that he hoped for supernatural intervention in Judaea's political affairs. This is shown by the clear references to his attempts to fulfill various prophecies in Zechariah, which goes on to describe a miraculous "cleaving" of the Mount of Olives. Another clue is that he instructed his disciples to bring only a few swords to fight off the expected legions who would take the tip from Judas, whose job was to entice the Romans over to where God was going to strike: the Mount of Olives.

Unfortunately for Jesus, God didn't follow through; he was arrested and killed as a rebel against Rome. Rebellion was the only crime that earned crucifixion; if Jesus was crucified, it was because he was convicted of rebellion against Rome.

The god of the Jews was a tribal totem god, and as such dealt with the nation as a whole. He seldom if ever cared for the welfare of individuals. Paul, the Roman, was raised on a religion and in a culture that cared more for individuals; thus, it makes sense that his "Messiah" would care about the welfare of individuals.
 

The text -- the narrative, not the Pharisee character -- says that he was healing on the Sabbath.

The only objection that Pharisees had to healing was if the healing itself involved what they considered labor (setting a bone, etc.); Jesus was merely laying on hands or simply speaking a word. This form of healing was nor forbidden by the Pharisees.

You might enjoy a good book about the Pharisees that portrays them in a less vitriolic light than do most Christian writers. You might even discover that Jesus was probably a Pharisee himself, and that the arguments the New Testament places in his mouth against the "Pharisees" are actually standard Pharisee positions; the arguments the NT usually places in the mouths of the "Pharisees" are usually stock Sadducee (Roman quisling) positions.

A man who thought he was the Jewish Messiah, who thought he was ordained by God to save his country from the Roman occupation through a fulfillment of the prophecies in Zechariah (if such a person even existed) is much more exciting and inspirational than the mythical god-man Jesus of the New Testament. Many problems occurred when the Gospel writers had to explain why the Jews "rejected" their god-man-messiah -- when in all likelihood (if he existed), Jesus was a standard run-of-the-mill Jew who would be appalled if he could have known out that people would later make him out to be a god-man.
 
 

I have studied this passage in both the commentaries on the Greek Septuagint and the commentaries on the Hebrew text, because this passage is very important in showing that Paul lied to his Gentile followers, and that Paul showed blatant contempt for truthfulness. We would not be having this discussion if I did not think that Galatians was a genuine writing of Paul, the true inventor of Christianity.

I wouldn't want to go around saying that Paul tells the truth about metaphysical matters when he can be shown to have lied about matters that we can test. Truth means too much to me, so I made sure that this argument was sound before I renounced the Christian religion.

Besides this, even as an atheist being critical of the Christian religion, I would never simply look it up in the NIV or the NKJ and close the book and state that I have understood the matter. I have spent many hours on this one, researching it and even discussing it with others (including a Rabbi). This is what sets me apart from some of my fellow Bible critics who spew forth unresearched drivel and who have no bones about making a long-winded case based upon a quirky reading that is unique to the King James and that is not supported by any other translations.

The philosophy of Positive Atheism, as we advocate it here, is a brand of atheism that places truthfulness above all other morals. Gora, who founded this philosophy of Positive Atheism, was a friend of Mahatma Gandhi. At the urging of Gora, Gandhiji placed truth above any gods, and said that all gods are accountable to truth.

Meanwhile, have you checked out the difference between the Septuagint version (which Paul used) and the Hebrew text (which Paul, if he really was a former Pharisee as he claimed, should have been familiar with)? The Greek Septuagint version, which the Christians follow in Deuteronomy 21 in order to mask this problem, clearly says that God places a special curse upon any man that is hanged -- even if the man was hanged in error through an act of injustice. From this reading, Paul builds up his fantastic case that Jesus, an innocent man who was hanged on a pole, incurred a curse from God simply for having been hanged on a pole.

But the Septuagint's reading does not explain why a body that is hanged is not to be left on the tree overnight, or why the case of hanging is different from any other death. The Hebrew text says that the body should not be left overnight because it is shameful before God to leave any body -- the image of God -- hanging exposed on a tree. It is not a curse from God upon the person who was hanged, but a curse upon those who would subject a corpse -- the image of God -- to the indignity of leaving it hanging.

This is the more natural meaning of the Hebrew text, and also goes along with how the Pharisees of Paul's time interpreted the passage. The New English Bible translates it this way: "When a man is convinced of a capital offence and is put to death, you shall hang him on a gibbet; but his body shall not remain on the gibbet overnight; you shall bury it on the same day, for a hanged man is offensive in the sight of God." While the NEB subdues the element of the curse a little further than it probably should be (the curse being upon those who would leave the image of God exposed like this), it does avoid the problem of saying that a curse is placed upon the person who was hanged.

This reading explains why a body is not to be left hanging after it dies, and it does not create the problem caused by the interpretation that the Greek Septuagint give is, that being that someone who is hanged incurs a special curse that someone who, for example, was stoned with stones, does not incur. It also does not have the problem of saying that an innocent man who was hanged unjustly is de facto cursed of God simply because he was hanged.

The point is that the two texts differ, and Paul used the less reliable Greek Septuagint (which was translated to Greek from Hebrew) because that was the only one he knew how to read (since he was lying when he told his Gentile followers he was a former Pharisee).

I can understand why the Christians would try to cover Paul's tracks on this one, but in doing this they render themselves just as dishonest as Paul was, and just as culpable.
 

I don't understand why you wouldn't want me to document geographical or historical errors. Nevertheless, here are some problems that are neither geographical nor historical, but mathematical:
 

Do you see why I don't trust the Bible?

Cliff Walker
"Positive Atheism" Magazine

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From: Positive Atheism <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: Boston, Mike
Subject: Re: Positive_Atheism_Letters_Section
Date: Tuesday, October 19, 1999 4:22 PM

I knew that. You are clearly not serious about truthfulness. Can you find for me the body of the apostle Paul? Nobody claims that his tomb was empty, so based on your logic here, it should be a simple matter to discover his body and to verify that it is his.

A book called "The Jesus Scroll" documents the life of a Hasmonaean king named Jesus who, when he was about to assume the throne, discovered that his long lost cousin, John, had been living in the desert with the Essenes. His cousin, being six months older than he, claimed right to the throne but did not want it. The only way around this technicality, though, would be for the cousin to die, which death this Jesus expediently arranged.

After being drugged by his supporters, he was crucified by the Romans, but did not die. He only appeared dead, and he went on to live at Masada. When the Romans finally captured Masada, the final holdout to protect the Royal bloodline, King Jesus left a description of his life, killed everybody else in a noble suicide, took his family to the inner reaches of the mountain, and killed them and then himself. His skeleton was discovered in 1964 and was given a dignified burial in 1966.

Who was this deposed king, Jesus, who had a cousin named John six months older than he? Who was this King Jesus who wrote the scroll found at Masada, who had a wealthy father named Joseph, who paid the authorities for the privilege of "burying" the "body"? Who was this Jesus who had a mother named Mary? Who was this Jesus whose wife was also named Mary?

Meanwhile, in the first century of the Common Era, there appeared at the eastern end of the Mediterranean a remarkable religious leader who taught the worship of one true God and declared that religion meant not the sacrifice of beasts but the practice of charity and piety and the shunning of hatred and enmity. He was said to have worked miracles of goodness, casting out demons, healing the sick, raising the dead. His exemplary life led some of his followers to claim he was a son of God, though he called himself the son of a man. Accused of sedition against Rome, he was arrested. After his death, his disciples claimed he had risen from the dead, appeared to them alive, and then ascended to heaven. Who was this teacher and wonder-worker? His name was Apollonius of Tyana; he died about 98 A.D., and his story may be read in Flavius Philostratus's Life of Apollonius.

Can you find for me the body of Apollonius of Tyana? If you cannot, then perhaps, using your logic, we ought to believe the tales regarding Appolonius of Tyana's alleged resurrection -- or, perhaps you do well to stop using the "where's the body" approach to truthfulness.
 
 

So, then, why is it called a science?

And if the basic principles of "creation science" cannot be tested or replicated, it being based entirely upon what allege to be historical accounts, why, then, are creationists now insisting that "creation science" be taught as science in our biology classes? How can "creation science" be called a science if science deals exclusively with replicable phenomena?

Do we have yet another case of Christians wanting to have their cake and eat it too?
 

This claim is not only contested but is not even recognized as close even by most conservatives. The conservatives cannot even make a case for the historicity of Second Peter. When my church asked me to defend the historicity of all the New Testament books, I could find few sources willing to make a case for the books other than Romans, Corinthians, and Galatians.

While I did find sources making reasonable-sounding cases for the other books, not one commentary I found (and I hung out with folks at Westminster) could make a case for the historicity of Second Peter. And this was me trying to defend the historicity of Second Peter! My very faith was on the line over this, because it is Second Peter that so strongly establishes the authority of Paul's epistles in the wake of doubts created by Galatians and Acts 15.

If Second Peter cannot be defended as being the work of Simon Peter (the Cephas of the Gospels and Acts), then doubt is cast on the authority of Paul and the claim that the original disciples agreed with his mission and his message.

When it became clear to me that even the most conservative scholars would not defend the historicity of Second Peter beyond mere statements of faith, the whole picture began to unravel right before my eyes. Paul was a huckster, making things up as he went along, and telling the Gentiles one thing while telling the Jerusalem leadership what they wanted to hear and providing them with a lucrative income (I Cor 16).

I have since studied the Pharisees, and it is clear to me that Paul could never have been trained as a Pharisee and still use the inferior logic that you would expect of a Roman.
 
 

Why, then, is Pilate portrayed as wanting to release Jesus? Why did Pilate see no guilt in the man?

It is the Jews who are portrayed as wanting his death, and it is the Jews who are alleged to have said, "His blood be upon us and our children forever!"

Also, no records of any of these alleged trials exist -- except those stories written by the Christians. The "accounts" written by the Christians are so haphazard that in order to remove the contradictions in them, the Christian apologists must make it appear that Jesus had three separate Roman trials.

Can you imagine holding all these trials in one evening? Do you think that could have or would have happened? Or are we dealing with four separate myths, each written and published by competing sects of the Christian religion, and a modern attempt to see them through the shady glasses of inerrancy?

But, then, I have never accused Christians of any era of having much respect for truthfulness.

Cliff Walker
"Positive Atheism" Magazine

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[Article about the new Archaeoraptor findings. Archaeoraptor and several other fossils have traits of both reptiles and birds. Some conclude that birds are dinosaurs. The first such fossil discovered was Archaeopterix.

As of this formatting, the article no longer exists at MSNBC. Click here to see mirrored copy of text.]

 

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From: Positive Atheism <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: Boston, Mike
Subject: Re: Here Cliff
Date: Tuesday, October 19, 1999 1:10 AM

Explain what is a "lie" in this story, and back up your claim. I have included the text of the story below, for your convenience. If you are going to call the new Archaeoraptor findings a lie, you need to back up this claim with strong arguments. If you do not know whether the new Archaeoraptor findings are true or are a lie, and you call them a lie anyway, you, yourself are guilty of lying.

I warn you that attempts to call the Archaeopterix fossil a hoax failed: it was proven that Archaeopterix's feathers were not carved into or molded onto the fossil by sneaky evolutionists -- or anybody else, for that matter. This was shown by microscopic cracks in the fossil, going through from the feather parts to the other parts, which would not have been consistent had the fossil been tampered with in the manner that the Christians claimed it was. Both fossils show clear evidence that the animals in question had feathers and a wishbone, but they also had skeletons that you would expect from a reptile, not from a bird.

The Christians denounced Charles Darwin for not discovering any transitional fossils. (This makes sense, since the studies of fossils did not seem important until after Darwin published Origin of Species). Now that we have studied millions of fossils, the more honest creationists have stopped claiming to their "sheep" that there are no transitional fossils. The more honest creationists now denounce that claim for the lie that it is, and are working on a different approach (though the new approach is no less dishonest than the other approaches).

Are you folks still perpetrating the Paluxy "man-tracks" hoax? This was well documented as a scam way back in the 1930s.

Cliff Walker
"Positive Atheism" Magazine

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[Article that at one point says, basically, we cannot find a shred of physical evidence to support the Exodus story; in fact, the evidence we do have points the other way -- but we know it's just got to be true because a people would never write such unflattering things about themselves.

As of this formatting, the article still exists at U.S. News. Click here to see mirror of text, in case it's gone by the time you read this.]

 

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From: Positive Atheism <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: Boston, Mike
Subject: Re: Here Cliff--ENJOY!
Sent: Friday, October 22, 1999 7:35 PM

Wonderful! Makes for great headlines! This will sell lots and lots of magazines to gullible Christian readers who are scrambling to justify their faith within a reality that has entirely discredited the very basis for their faith: the biblical myths.

It's the same old bit I've been hearing for 30 years: We have absolutely no physical evidence whatsoever to corroborate the Exodus tale, but nobody could have possibly invented such an unflattering account of their ancestors, so therefore it must be true! Never mind the lack of archaeology, of which we could expect if the story was even based on a remotely similar historical incident; never the lack of Egyptian words in the Hebrew language, of which we could expect if a tribe had been enslaved in a country for 430 years; never mind the documentably Babylonian and Chaldean origins of much of the mythology and almost all of the laws. It's just gotta be true because nobody would write such an unflattering account of themselves.

Meanwhile, most of the early Christian Fathers said that Ezra had written the entire Old Testament via a supernatural revelation. Does this line of reasoning, maintained by the Christian Fathers, have any merit?

This only shows the desperate lengths to which some people will go to hang on to an outdated, historically untenable myth system.

Cliff Walker
"Positive Atheism" Magazine

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From: Positive Atheism <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: Boston, Mike
Subject: Re: Here Cliff--ENJOY!
Date: Monday, October 25, 1999 1:40 PM

No. You have to show me. I won't simply take your word for it and "move on."

I don't just make this stuff up, but have been diligently studying biblical and related issues for almost 28 years. Large segments of that time, totaling several years, has been spend in full-time study (eight hours plus per day). There are reasons that I disbelieve the Bible and one of those is not that I don't want there to be a god. I really would like there to be a god taking care of us and ensuring us of an afterlife; however, the books that purport to tell us about the various gods are chock full of lies and falsehoods. The lies of the Bible are easier to document than those of other ancient bodies of "scripture" -- and the Mormon and Christian Science and Jehovah's Witless literature is even easier to demonstrate as falsehood.

I now see how you have come to believe this nonsense; I now see what kind of thinking has lead you to your position.
 

I've heard Josh McDowell say this, but whenever I tried to find some cold, hard, verifiable facts, McDowell was found wanting.

A case in point: the archaeologists have found no evidence that Hebrews were enslaved in Egypt or that Hebrews wandered in the desert; this was made clear in the article to which you referred. In fact, last time I checked, they still hadn't found "Mt. Sinai"! Not that the existence of Mt. Sinai would prove anything, but without it the whole thing crumbles to dust.

I am tempted to ask you to document this "every place" you talk about, but will only challenge you to make the case that Moses existed. You must back your case up with this "archaeology or historical evidence" that you are talking about, or you are shown to be bluffing (read: "lying") once again.

Meanwhile, you still haven't satisfied my request that you provide a description of what you mean when you use the word God, but have insisted that I prove the nonexistence of whatever this word means to you (as if there is any consensus to the word's meaning).

Cliff Walker
"Positive Atheism" Magazine

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From: Positive Atheism <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: Boston, Mike
Subject: Re: Here Cliff--ENJOY!
Date: Monday, October 25, 1999 7:46 PM

You are a liar and I have wasted several hours of my time.
 

With this logic, the document I sent you about the fig tree is "absolute fact." The document I sent you about the Cassie Bernall hoax is "absolute fact."

My claim that an invisible green leprauchan lives in my Chicago Cubs hat is "absolute fact." Can you prove otherwise?

Cliff Walker
"Positive Atheism" Magazine

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From: Positive Atheism <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: Boston, Mike
Subject: Re: Here Cliff--ENJOY! (Final dispatch. You're outta here!)
Date: Tuesday, October 26, 1999 12:48 AM

On what basis to you judge my level of education? the fact that I disagree with you?

Do you know how much study I have done? Do you know where I get my education or what my qualifications are?

I think even most Bible-educated Christians would disagree with you if they were to enter into a biblical discussion with me. For example, when I was at one church, I talked the pastor into abandoning old-earth creationism in favor of young-earth creationism. At another, I talked the pastor into abandoning premillennialist interpretation of eschatology in favor of the more traditional (and more scriptural) amillennialist approach.

I had read the Old Testament cover-to cover over a dozen times, the New Testament cover-to-cover almost 100 times, had translated my own version of Romans and Second Timothy, and was working on Galatians and Hebrews when I woke up and discovered that this collection of writings is the monumental lie of all history.
 

I agree. I desperately wanted the Bible to be true, and that jaded my ability to read it critically. In my state of mind, the Bible had to be true because a few months after I had open-mindedly begun attending church, I was able to kick a vicious and long-term drug habit. If the Bible wasn't true, I feared, I would return to drugs. I was in a state of panic and was forcing the Bible to make sense where it does not make sense, and I was contriving harmony where there existed only contradictions.

In other words, I was being dishonest with my self and with those around me.

It is for this reason that I have so easily pinned every artifice: I have used many of them myself during the years that I was a Christian.
 

No. The reason why I am "unable to reason effectively" is because I am not a Christian.

I have been in your little world and I know that according to your brand of Christianity, only Christians can "reason effectively" and we know this because they agree with your brand of theology. If they do not agree, they de facto are not "reasoning effectively." It is impossible for an atheist to "reason effectively" simply because he is an atheist, and for no other reason -- according to the small-minded Christians who will entertain any notion except one that is critical of the Christian religion.

Your bigotry and your dishonesty has been very apparent throughout this conversation from beginning to end. It has not let up.

At several points I was tempted to give you the benefit of the doubt and ask if you are a Discordian or some other variety of practical joker. I was wondering if you were an atheist secretly trying see if I would believe that a Christian could be so dishonest. However, even if I had noticed some indisputable clues that you were a Discordian or the like, I would still take the conversation at face value and simply drop hints that I was on to your game.

No. If you are a Discordian, you've got the vacant-minded, dishonest, Christian motif down to a tee. But I don't think you are a Discordian. I think you are a Christian and that you simply have been the single most desperate case of a lying, conniving, issue-dodging Christian apologetics that I have ever encountered. As Robert Green Ingersoll wrote, "Tap on his forehead and you will hear an echo. Something is for rent."

With this I am going to end our dialogue. You can write back to me all you want, but I will not receive the e-mail because I have set the filter to bounce into cyber-oblivion any further e-mail from you. We're not going to get anywhere. I am doing this because of your sheer dishonesty and for no other reason. You are a liar and I would never enter into a conversation with someone who has shown himself to be a liar -- except that it is my responsibility here to respond to questions from readers (and others if I have the time).

I cannot "reason effectively" with someone who displays zero skill at the art of reasoning and who disrespectfully trashes the thinking that the human mind is capable of accomplishing. As Thomas Paine wrote, "To argue with a man who has renounced the use and authority of reason ... is like administering medicine to the dead." When I first read these words of Paine, I thought they were unduly harsh; you have reminded me a bit of myself as I was a long time ago (only I was a much less severe case than you), and I now realize that these words of Paine are precise. You have renounced the "authority of reason" altogether (either that or you don't even know what it is -- I can't tell), and there is no more anyone discussing anything with you.

You cannot write any more but we will not stop anybody from browsing our website.

Cliff Walker
"Positive Atheism" Magazine

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From: Positive Atheism <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: Mike Boston
Subject: Re: Cliff--Are you really mad at me?
Date: Friday, October 29, 1999 3:06 PM

This morning, I completed an interview with a scientist who has created self-replicating molecules from scratch. We discussed the philosophical ramifications of whether his self-replicating molecules, intended for use in the manufacture of objects smaller than one micron, are properly defined as "living." I am now experiencing the thrill of having learned another definition of the word life -- the definition that is used by biochemists. I am also having to reformulate my position, having discovered further limitations to my understanding of reality. (A joyous experience for anyone who seeks truth is to discover he was wrong or unclear about a certain matter.)

Now I prepare for an upcoming interview with a particle physicist who is at the forefront of research into the Big Bang. I hope to ask him to help me understand what might have occurred during Planck Time and within Planck Space. To do this properly, I must familiarize myself with the latest scientific thinking about the Big Bang and also with the latest creationist interpretations of the Big Bang. I also must bone up on the latest claims that physics supports the notion of the supernatural, so that I can ask him if these claims have any merit.

Can you see why I refuse to go very far with someone who now admits that he just likes to be contentious? that he likes to engage in the lowest form of argument, the knee-jerk denial of his opponent's claims?

This world is just too wonderful and awe-inspiring for me to ignore. I have only so many minutes to live, and then I close my eyes forever. Meanwhile, serious health problems occupy a large fraction of the comparatively minutes I get to spend in existence.

The forum of Positive Atheism Magazine is primarily to justify such conversations and other inquiries into the forefront of humanity's search for truth. Positive Atheism is not here to engage with theists, and Positive Atheism actually recommends against engaging with theists unless there is hope that someone will learn something, either one or both of the participants or perhaps an audience.

Isn't there some church group or bible study or Twelve Step group or even an AOL forum where you can get your kicks?

Cliff Walker
"Positive Atheism" Magazine

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