"To all you
Cliff Walker's discussions with a loving Christian
I reread my last letter to you, Cliff, and I realized that I was being very insensitive, especially about my comment concerning your divorce. I am sorry and I ask your forgiveness. I am a divorced minister. I had to resign my church because of the pressures of going through a divorce and I was unable to find another church to pastor because of it. I hated the church for along time, but I came to the point of forgiveness and acceptance. I know some of what you are feeling. I feel you are struggling with bitterness in your life. Let's talk about it. I believe our conversation, if we take the arrogant talk out, and leave emotive language aside, can be fruitful for both of us. I do not claim to know all the answers nor even most of them. For myself, I believe I have the most important answer, and it lies in the person of Jesus Christ. I would like to hear from you. My name is Bruce.
I'm not ignoring you.
I have been very depressed this weekend. I have clinical depression, a life-long ailment, and the drugs keep it under control, most of the time, but sometimes the pain punches through the effect of the medicine.
This bout has an outside cause, and began right before I got your first letter, as that was the day she backed out of our marriage plans (I've never been married; this was as close as that pursuit ever came to being fulfilled). I didn't feel the full impact, emotionally, until early this morning, about sunrise. You see, last night, my cat of seven years disappeared. I was up till dawn looking for her and was very ill at the same time.
This morning, I went through the process of letting them both go and deciding to prepare to live life without either of them.
Then, the cat came back -- badly mauled and durty and bloody, but she's back.
I'm still deperessed, though. I have answered your fourth letter, but haven't had the time to correct the spelling, syntax, logical consistency, redundency, and all that other stuff that we writers do -- even to our letters to Mom.
I will send you the response to that letter as soon as I can.
PS: I met a student of Cornelius van Till tonight at the bookstore. We went over some of your stuff, and he promised to begin a separate dialogue with me. If you want (and if it goes anywhere) I'll let you watch that discussion. [That student never contacted us.]
Date: Fri, 16 May 1997 00:37:07 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: To all you intellectually dishonest 'thinkers'
You asked me several letters ago what I meant by 'intellectually dishonest.'
(I fully intend to respond to your letter). I say this for three reasons which come to mind:
1) I can prove to you that you use faith every day of your life -- there are every day things in your life which you do accept by faith, which you must accept by faith. I pointed out to you about your brain. There are many others and I will point these out to you in the progress of our discussion.
2) The very sciences/
3) There are things in your own life that are a definite part of human existence, which are beyond science or logic or truth (as you define it) or the 5 senses. Again, I ask you to describe love in logical, reasonable terms. I ask you to describe dreams or a particular dream, in logical, reasonable, terms, or in scientific terms.
Now you asked about proof. I will appeal to William Temple
and his Theistic Proofs for the Existence of God. Temple said that
there is no way that Mind/
I can prove to you that you use faith every day of your life -- there are every day things in your life which you do accept by faith, which you must accept by faith. I pointed out to you about your brain. There are many others and I will point these out to you in the progress of our discussion.
Prove away: I'm listening.
Your bit about the brain involves no faith: the existence and function of the brain requires no trust in the supernatural or the unfathomable to explain. I don't need any concept of a god bowing in obedience to my prayers to understand what I can understand about my brain.
If you can show me that I need to believe in gods, miracles, or the supernatural, I'd like to see it.
The very sciences/
1. I do not question existence, I do not question that things exist.
2. I do not question characteristics, I do not question that things have distinguishing characteristics.
Things exist and have characteristics: without this basis (and they aren't really assumptions, if you think about it), we cannot discuss how man acquires knowledge, we cannot describe things, events, and situations, and we cannot ask questions and make observations and, at times, make predictions. These are the basics, and all other knowledge is ultimately derived from these two "assumptions."
in Math, it is the number 1; in Geometry, the dot .; i.e., each individual science can be narrowed down to a basic element which is simply accepted, without explanation, accepted by faith.
In math, the number 1 is agreed upon by definition; it is not simply accepted on faith -- as one would accept claims made about alleged historical events written down on scrolls by the shaman class of illiterate goat-herding tribes, who bury their dung so the gods won't step in it (Deut. 23. 13-14).
Math is man-made; its game-rules are readily available and fully agreed upon by the players involved.
In geometry, the point (is this what you meant by "dot"?) is agreed upon by definition; again, it is not accepted on faith -- as one would accept claims made about metaphysics written down on scrolls by people who suspected that a naked, angry, bug-eyed man under the influence of psychedelic plants actually had something to say about a "reality" that the rest of us cannot see (Ezek. 1 & 10; Isa. 6 & 20; etc.; etc.).
Geometry, like math, is man-made; it's game-rules are readily available and fully agreed upon by the players involved.
Math and geometry are symbol systems that were created by men to describe things, events, locations, and relationships in abstract terms. These symbol systems (languages) are very useful for interpreting observations and for making predictions. These symbol systems have nothing to do with faith.
We recognize the number 1 (in the symbol system called math) and the point (in the symbol system called geometry) because we agree on what these symbols mean. Since we know what these symbols represent, we are not dealing with anyting remotely rembling faith.
No. This is not faith, but is abstract thinking, expressed as semantics. What differentiates math and geometry from religious faith is that the use of math and geometry, being man-made symbol systems, routinely makes accurate predictions whereas the use of faith has a pathetic record both at making predictions and at guiding individuals and societies toward productive and useful living situations.
Sometimes, though, we need to remind ourselves that the map is not the city and the menu is not the meal. No mater how vehemently I think of the word water I will never get wet from that word. The word water is not the substance water: the symbol is not the reality, but merely describes reality (or, more accurately, describes observations of an environment) in terms that are convenient for thinking and communicating. The point, for example, does not exist in the real world. However, without this very important symbol, our technology would still be taken back to the stone age. Neither faith nor prayer could ever come up with the point: to do this required thought and reason and experiment and discussion.
In other words, if I want something, I need to work for it in time-space reality.
The logic you so ardently appeal to, consists of the basic element 'thought' or 'a thought.' You cannot describe the process of 'thought' or a particular thought, in your own mind. You accept that by faith or assume it 'to be there.' You trust in it.
You lost me when you started calling that "faith"; how does reducing awareness to a basic element of "thought" relate to faith?
And if thought is the basic element of awareness, then why did they perform an electoencephalogram after my injury? What were they looking for if it all boils down to thought and cannot be reduced from there? Why do they prescribe medicine to me which, from all appearances, tends to reduce my tendency to think certain ways about various situations? Why, when I experimented with cocaine during the 1970s, did I "see" police officers climbing through the air-conditioning unit and Neighborhood-Watch vigilantes hiding in every parked car? Why did I "think" they were there only after I had taken a hit of cocaine? How did cocaine influence these thoughts if thoughts cannot be reduced?
If thought is the basic reduction of awareness, then I don't know what you are talking about. Perhaps you are using different definitions of these words than are commonly used (you do enclose a lot of words in quotation marks -- a common indicator that the writer uses an uncommon meaning, that the reader should look out for an irony of some sort).
Again, "thought" is just the definition or description of a phenomenon that we all experience -- phenomena that most of us non-scientific types take for granted and simply never question.
In other words, what does the awareness of the phenomenon called "thought" -- or attempts at its description, for that matter -- have to do with faith? Faith is putting my trust in claims that I cannot independently verify through reason or observation or experiment, because what I am instructed to have faith in is "incomprehensible" (or whatever).
If I could independently verify the claims made about Jesus or Joseph Smith or Mary Fay Bakker-Eddie-Haskell, then there would be no need for faith. If I cannot verify such claims through observation and reason, then the only way to affirm them is through faith. Otherwise, I must simply suspend judgement. To suspend judgement is agnosticism, not faith.
Ida thought yoda learnt that in Seminary.
How do you know that what you think is logical or reasonable? You assume it to be so. You trust or believe it to be so.
I trust the processes of reason (reason being a process for attempting to gain accurate knowledge), because reason appears to work so much better than does the process of faith. (It certainly makes more accurate predictions than faith does; when someone predicts an earthquake through divination and then an earthquake happens, it makes all the tabloid programs -- accurate divination being so rare as to be unworthy of notice or reliance.)
As for saying that I assume or trust or believe that what I think is logical or reasonable, this is not an accurate description of how a reason-based person approaches knowledge. It more accurately describes how some faith-based people try to make the faith-based approach sound reason-based. At the same time, faith-based people try to degrade the reason-based approach and make it look inferior to the faith-based approach -- whichever is convenient at the time.
If you would try describing the reason-based approach accurately and try refuting an accurate description of the reason-based approach, then your argument wouldn't sound so much like that tired ole' "Straw-Man" saw.
I'm sure we can have much discussion on this point.
No. End of discussion.
Do you hear me?
I told you that if you want to discuss the faith-based approach versus the reason-based approach, you must refute the real reason-based approach, and not some "Straw-Man." I cannot defend your "Straw-Man" because it is indefensible: it is a false representation of the reason-based approach. I cannot and will not defend what I know to be falsehood.
You are not unlike the Pentecostalist woman on the street corner who asked me, "Have you ever seen two dogs get married and have a cat?"
I told her, "Evolutionists do not teach that at all. You won't find that idea in any book by an evolutionist. Since you just lied about what evolutionists teach -- something that I can look up in any library -- why should I trust what you tell me about Heaven and Hell and Jesus on a cross?"
You allow the philosophies or disciplines you use to have basic postulates based on faith, then you speak contradictory of those who have a faith perspective. To me, that is intellectual dishonesty.
See? You give an inaccurate description of what you say you oppose, then you proceed to call your inaccurate description "intellectual dishonesty" on my part. Again, this is called the "Straw-Man" and is pure dishonesty. (Only fools are taken in by such ruses as the "Straw-Man" and only someone with the moral improvidence of a preacher would actually use a ruse like the "Straw-Man" on one of his fellow-men.)
There are things in your own life that are a definite part of human existence, which are beyond science or logic or truth (as you define it) or the 5 senses.
Beyond truth? By this, do you mean falsehood?
And what is beyond the five senses? Show me! Describe it in terms that I can understand so I can think about it.
Or do I need to have a miraculous or supernatural ability to discern these things? Is this what you mean by faith? Yes. I think this is precisely what you mean by faith, and this is precisely why I do not depend on faith or the supernatural as a reliable way to gain knowledge.
(Why would I need a supernatural ability in addition to what I already have in my self-contained body? And why would I, of all people, deserve to have such extraordinary abilities when other men clearly lack these abilities?)
My senses, though not flawless, are the most important tools I have for gathering facts and for verifying or disputing claims (or, in many cases, suspending judgement and conceding ignorance).
Again, I ask you to describe love in logical, reasonable terms.
What is love? Pheromones? Emotions? Instincts? Bonding? Imprinting? Attraction? An engorged woodrow and a moist pair of panties? A friendship? A business relationship? An entire childhood's worth of cultural conditioning? An unexpected pregnancy? The Mormon sacrament? The (unsubstantiated) belief that one can only "come back" through physical progeny?
I don't know what you're asking, but I don't need to resort to a god to explain something that I would rather simply experience.
I'm not even sure I understand what you mean by "love" because I'm not sure, at this point, whether I have experienced love first hand. It is a word that many people use, but I don't pretend to know what they are saying (unless she has pretty brown eyes, then I simply keep such doubts to myself).
Tell me, is there something supernatural about love that we need to know about? If so, is this the same "love" that regular people experience?
I ask you to describe dreams or a particular dream, in logical, reasonable, terms, or in scientific terms.
What kind of dream? an abstract plan or hope for the future? or the Freudian dreams like I have during sleep (and occasionally have to clean up after)?
You need to be more specific. Please do not assume that I have the supernatural "Gift of Knowledge" (as in I Cor. 12) like some of you Christian folks claim to have been given.
Now you asked about proof.
(I think he may be putting words in my mouth again, folks.)
A simple word-search of our discussion so far shows you using the word proof ten times in the course of four letters, while my only uses of the word (until now) were when I conceded to your statement, saying, "no proof has come from the 'Jehovah' or the 'Jesus' or the 'Holy Spirit' of the Bible" verifying their existence." I also said, rhetorically, "Now: you prove to me that The Stork does not exist" at one point. I also said that I cannot prove the non-existence of Jesus, because no one can prove a negative.
I will appeal to William Temple and his Theistic Proofs for the Existence of God.
Theistic proofs for the existence of God?
("Theistic" presupposes what theism tries to prove.)
Temple said that there is no way that Mind/-Consciousness can evolve from Matter.
But the phenomenon which is described by the words mind and consciousness do exist -- that much we can agree on. The phenomena exist and can be observed. (Now, are you trying to say that because we cannot fully explain or describe these phenomenon, that the gods must be -- oh, never mind.)
Meanwhile, if Temple said this (I've not read Temple; I take you at your word), then I say it is arrogant for Temple to insist that consciousness cannot evolve from matter, when we aren't really sure we understand precisely what consciousness is and how it is established in the brain of a human. Also, it is ignorant to say or imply that mind and consciousness are material. Mind and matter may be the product of relationships between colloidal tensions, electrical potentials, chemical reactions, and other things. I won't even get into the role that information could play.
Evolution assumes that Matter somehow evolved into Life and leaped the gulf between Simple Life and Consciousness. That is, ameoba >>> thinking human person. That was the proposition, in a sense, of the first Star Trek Movie. Vejur was a machine that accumulated so much knowledge, that somehow, 'he' achieved 'consciousness,' and 'he' wanted that human dimension that would take him beyond logic.
I didn't see Star Trek, but I'll bet it wasn't nearly as deep as I Robot by Asimov. Mom bought me many of Asimov's books, both fiction and scientific, when I was a lad. I couldn't get enough of him. I miss him. He didn't care if the evangelical Christians organized boycotts against his work; with this approach, he could get away with having his machines take on human characteristics that, to a fundamentalist Christian, can only come from on high. The possibility of such bocotts may have been a concern of the producers of Star Trek, and could explain the Vejur bit.
Why do you think Roddenberry had his remains blasted off into orbit? Do you think his remains will ever escape the gravity well? Are his ashes having lengthy philosophical debates with Leary's ashes?
Back to the discussion:
Your description of what evolutionists teach leaves out so much important material as to reduce evolution to the level of a Star-Trek movie -- or, more accurately, to the level of Lost In Space ("Danger! Danger! Dr. Smith teaching birds and bees to youngsters! Danger! Warning!").
According to Temple, this leap is not possible as it stands or under atheistic presuppositions. It is only possible if that ameoba possessed the potential for Mind to begin with, and that is possible only if Mind stood behind Creation to begin with.
Your use of the word "Creation" (particularly the capital "C") presupposes a creator. This renders the above a statement -- an unsubstantiated pronouncement -- not an argument or a question. The speaker presupposes what he is trying to prove.
Also, atheism qua atheism is not a presupposition: it is simply the absence of a god-belief. It is no different than the absence of a Santa belief.
Nevertheless, does this logic apply to matter as well? In other words, is the potential for matter only possible if "Matter" stood behind existence to begin with?
So then, is "God" matter? and where did that matter come from?
(If this sounds absurd, how does the logic in it differ from Temple's use of the same logic to postulate that the potential for mind is only possible if "Mind" stood behind existence?
And where did that "Mind" come from?
The present theory of evolution (and atheism) simply cannot explain this leap in godless terms.
What leap? Since when does the science of evolution describe a "leap"?
And which theory? (You make this sound so cut-and-dried; there are several variant explanations of evolution, just as there are many, many interpretations and explanations of Genesis.)
Atheism, the simple absence of a god-belief -- for whatever reason -- need not explain anything. Atheism is not making the claims, here, theism is.
First, we're talking three or four billion years, here. Secondly, are amoeba devoid of awareness -- even in the remotest sense? I mean, even a tree responds to injury and the healing processes begin almost immediately. Amoeba aren't entirely inanimate, either. (No discussions from me on whether plants grow better while "listening" to Mozart or to the Dead Kennedys.)
Add to that the basic laws of thermodynamics, which state that in the cosmos, things break down, they don't build up (anyone who has ever cleaned off the lint screen on their clothes dryer ought to understand that).
You left out the part about the closed system. Where is there a closed system in your discussion? Is earth a closed system? If not, how can life contradict the second law of thermodynamics? If earth is a closed system, then what role does the sun play in maintaining life? Why do we need the sun at all?
Also, no Christian has ever described for me the relevance of the first law of thermodynamics because, alas, it is useless toward defending theism.
Ah! They resort to science when convenient; at the same time, they denounce science as being inferior to faith!
(anyone who has ever cleaned off the lint screen on their clothes dryer ought to understand that)
It's called cat hair.
Also, a clothes dryer is no more a closed system than the earth is. The dryer gets its outside energy from the gas pipe or the electrical lines; the earth gets its outside energy from the sun. So, how does this relate to the second law of thermodynamics, considering that neither a clothes dryer nor the earth are closed systems? The second law of thermodynamics, remember, describes temperature equilibrium in a closed system -- with no "leaks" of energy entering the closed system or escaping from the closed system? To take the second law of thermodynamics any further than temperature equilibrium is to misuse it. (So what else is new, Cliff?)
What is the 'building up' force in our world? Humanity? -- only as they imitate their Creator.
"'Building up' force"? Huh?
(What jump of logic have we here!?)
Life on earth exists in an open system, and receives energy from the sun. Life does not contradict any tendency toward entropy because life derives sustaining energy from the sun.
The sustaining of life is entirely explainable in these terms and one need not resort to the supernatural or to gods to explain the sustaining of life on earth. Likewise, one need not resort to angels or tablets of stone or breast pincers to explain the existence of ethics and morality among humans, neither need we point to demons or apples or white males to explain the existence of depravity and immorality among humans.
When man follows God as He wishes to be followed, man builds up. When does not, he tears down.
This is patently false. Faith has, and always will be, the enemy of reason and knowledge and dignity and happiness. Only when men apply themselves to the fullest of their abilities do they build anything constructive. And to rely on faith or a god is to cease to apply oneself.
The faithful in our history have burned libraries and librarians. European culture, under the Church, living by faith, forgot (rather, suppressed) Aristotle's three proofs that the earth is a globe, and suppressed the ancient (ca. 400 bce) calculations as to the size of this globe, and suppressed the less ancient (ca. 200 bce) calculations as to how far off from a perfect globe this planet is.
The Church -- living by faith -- tossed Galileo in prison and held him under house arrest and forced him to recant (under threat of death) because his observations contradicted the clear teaching of the Bible: that the earth is flat, that it has four corners, and that it has a "lid" called the "firmament" (whence cometh the word firm) above which God lives. This "firmament" had water above it (I guess, so the gods could bathe!?) and windows through which the water came when the gods decided to allow rain to come to the earth. By faith, they couldn't agree whether this firmament was like an eggshell surrounding the flat earth, or if it was simply a lid on top of the earth.
Mohammad, that man of great faith, made a similar error when he claimed he visited heaven. The testimony indicates he got there by climbing a ladder! (Sound familiar, Jacob?)
Hey! According to that Old Testament myth, why did the gods (plural) become afraid when man was building the Tower of Babel? Did they really think man could build a tower all the way up to heaven? If the earth had a "lid" as the Bible describes, the gods had plenty to fear, and were justified in smiting the tongues of man (the "Gift of Tongues" in reverse, I suppose?).
Faith -- blind, unthinking, unquestioning obedience to what a person thinks is the will of a god -- is Problem Numero Uno on planet earth. Back faith up with the fear of spending eternity roasting in Hell -- with your eyes popping wide open and steam whistling out your ears -- and you can explain 1600 years of Christian history and 1300 years of Islamic history. I won't even get in to the mess in India today, but it, too, is the result of faith.
Again, what it the 'building up' force in our world?
What "building up force"? Explain!
It is the Lord. Evolution cannot explain these things. Certainly logic or reason cannot.
Oh! If you can't explain it, it's unexplainable; therefore, it must be magic -- it must be the gods (or whatever).
I can see your logic.
Jesus (allegedly) told Nicodemus that we know not whence the winds cometh. Greater Christian theologians than yourself have used this passage to justify the teaching that wind is supernatural -- that it comes from gods.
This is a bunch of hooey, though; I would have thought people knew better by now, in the 1990s.
Before 1752, lightning was explained as coming from gods by passages such as Amos 4. 13. Many Christians rallied behind their Bible-quoting preachers and vehemently opposed the use of "Franklin's Rod" (we're not discussing Ben's preference for voluptuous schoolgirls, here). But, the church did finally concede to the supremacy of Franklin's explanation of lightning. His Rod did what no exorcisms nor holy water, what no prayers nor supplications, what no church bells nor processions, what no rack nor thumbscrew, what no burning of witches nor removal of their breasts with giant scissors, and what no auto-da-fe of atheists had ever done. Even the poorest, most ignorant peasants of eastern France could plainly see that the grand spire of Strassburg Cathedral, oft damaged by lightning, was once and for all protected once the Church authorities installed Franklin's Rod. The churches -- one by one -- conceded that Franklin may have a point: that the Bible is wrong in that lightning has a materialistic explanation.
Tell me this: What happened, before the days of Noah, when sunlight reflected off droplets of rain at just the right angle? Was there a rainbow?
"Well, it just happened" sounds to me like a faith statement, just as much as 'God is my Creator.'
Another "Straw-Man." Let's discuss truth, rather than your misrepresentations of what I or other non-theistic people say or think.
"Well, it just happened" is a pronouncement, just as "God did it" is a pronouncement.
Universe exists. That's all we know.
We do not know whether Universe came to be or whether Universe has always existed in one form or another or whether the word Universe is a misnomer, that there may be more than one.
Only the postulate of the existence of a Creator explains our universe.
The idea of the existence of a creator only complicates the question, it certainly doesn't explain it -- without raising even tougher questions than it purports to answer:
If the existence of Universe requires the existence of a more complex creator, then, by the same standard, the existence of a creator requires explanation as well. Where did the creator of Universe come from? If we haven't the right to wonder about the origin of the creator, or if we are instructed simply to believe that the creator is eternal, then what is stopping us from wondering if Universe itself is uncreated, that it has always existed in one form or another.
This line of reasoning puts a double-standard into our discussion, and the use of a double-standard is not a truthful way to hold a discussion. Shame on you!
In Romans 1, Paul said that a person could look around him and inside of himself, and he would see evidence for the existence of the Creator, because the Creator has left His imprint on His creation.
If it were true that we could see evidence of the existence of a creator, then it would be no more faith, but reason and evidence.
Meanwhile, according to the New Testament, it is not the belief in God which gets us a passport through Heaven's Gate (plus a roll of quarters, perhaps?), but faith in Jesus and his death on the cross for the sins of some men. Paul does not say anything about anybody seeing evidence for the existence of Jesus in the first chapter of Romans. So, what good would this talk in Romans 1 be even if it were true? we'd still go to hell for not believing in Jesus!
Paul was wrong about this, though, because I, personally, do not see any evidence for the existence of any creator.
Paul was also a bigot in that he advocated the suppression of woman, advocated slavery, advocated the hatred of homosexuals, advocated the suppression of free inquiry, and advocated the suppression of diversity of religious thought. Paul's ideas are not healthy for children andnother living things.
Paul's claim to having been a Rabbi, a Pharisee, cannot be true. His use of logic was so remedial that to say that Paul was being truthful when he said he had been schooled as a Pharisee, from the school of Gamaliel, would be akin to my mother setting a table and placing the forks and spoons on the wrong side of the plates. Once you learn something complex and reliable, such as Rabbinical logic, you don't later revert back to sloppy and relatively useless methods, such as the thinking popular among Hellenists of his day. I refer you to the post on "The Problem of Paul" by Hyam Maccoby.
That is a logic explanation for the faith dimension in man. You wish to deny this.
"Faith dimension in man"!?
I cannot deny this, because I don't know what you are saying. It would be like denying that a dorktone exists. What's a dorktone?
I see men deceived and enslaved by their fellow-men, and the result is faith in a frustrated, jealous, tyrannical god with a hair-trigger, powder-keg, postal-worker temper who would kill tens of thousands of people -- all because some idiot pissed against a wall. I cannot explain why men would want to enslave their fellow-men through religious teachings such as those found in the New Testament, when it is clear that reason is a vastly superior way to gain knowledge and happiness and freedom and peace and quality of life. That men would teach faith -- particularly faith in the Christian gods -- baffles me to no end. I am clueless as to how someone could possibly read the New Testament and walk away thinking that Jesus is a god of love (much less, that Jesus is a god). I don't know how somebody could submit to any of Jesus' teachings and become a better person for it -- much less live a happier, more abundant life.
(Try basing your sexual ethic on Jesus' inverted variant of the so-called Golden Rule. See how long you stay out of jail -- and off the front page!)
How do you explain the impulse to believe in God...?
I don't. I can't.
I cannot think of a sympathetic explanation for why some people would inflict this evil upon themselves -- this evil called faith.
I do not have such an impulse. I never have had an impulse to believe in a god. I never learned religion as a child. I didn't learn that people actually believe that Jesus actually rose from the dead until I was in high school. It was all Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy to me, so I paid no mind to it. I spent my childhood waiting for my friends' parents to cop out on the god thing, but they never did. Meanwhile, it was really rough being mistreated and beat up and disliked and misunderstood and abandoned by the other children. So I hung with the handicapped kids and the ADD troublemakers. I was the only one who could see that they were people. The other kids treated these kids like freaks -- just like they treated me for not going to church and for not being part of the Catholic-Protestant argument.
I cannot see someone wanting to believe in Christ.
I can see someone needing to be part of the tribe to survive, or someone needing to escape the various Jewish and Christian and Muslim inquisitions and pretending to believe, and I can see someone being taught by their parents and never reaching the emotional maturity required to rebel, and I can see some pathetic and vulnerable cretin being hoodwinked by a criminal of criminals into thinking that this lofty-sounding gobbledegook called the Bible is undeniable fact. But I cannot, for the life of me, explain to my satisfaction why someone would want to do this to themselves -- unless the preacher is telling them something different from what the Bible says. (I was taken in by this once.)
I've had the impulse to go to a church, but that was the impulse to be a member of a group of humans and to experience the bonding and fellowship that goes along with such membership. That impulse immediately leaves me when I remind myself of just what I will be required to beleive in order to be accepted as a member of that group. (At one time, however, the sheer loneliness overrode my respect for reason and truth.)
By the way, how do you explain the impulse to wanna pork those dripping young women that hang out near my office? Does the existence of the impulse make following through on that impulse the right thing to do? If not, then why should one believe in a god simply because one had an impulse to do so? (Lucky for me, that impulse regarding young women immediately leaves me whenever the young lady opens her mouth and starts talking, revealing to me precisely what an air-head she is.)
You sound like Strauss in the early 18th cent. He argued that if two accounts differed in any detail, then both accounts must be thrown out in their entirety as unreliable. If two people observe a car accident, and one person says it was a blue car that hit a red car, and the other person says, no, it was green car which hit a brown car, does that discount that a car accident happened? No. All four Gospels record nature miracles and exorcisms and a death on a cross and a resurrection and post-resurrection appearances. Somehow, you must discount the accounts, That is your only recourse to holding your atheistic position, because if you in some way allow the texts of the Bible to stand or have authenticity, then you have to answer why you cannot reasonably, or with proper thinking, not accept what they say.
I don't worry about the 'errors' or 'discrepencies' in the Bible. They are there and I can point out to you many you probably don't know about. But that does not hide the basic Gospel facts about Jesus, the Son of God, His death, burial, and resurrection, and His continuing life in and among His people.
Please explain this verse to me: Galatians 2:20: I am crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
I wish I had more time. I have to leave for clinical work at the hospital. I apologize for the patchiness of my replies. I notice that there are some typographical errors in my letters. I just did not have time to take them out. I will write more as time permits. There will be a time soon when I can reply more fully to your letters. Please continue to write and share what's on your mind about these matters. Have a good day.
You sound like Strauss in the early 18th cent. He argued that if two accounts differed in any detail, then both accounts must be thrown out in their entirety as unreliable. If two people observe a car accident, and one person says it was a blue car that hit a red car, and the other person says, no, it was green car which hit a brown car, does that discount that a car accident happened? No.
Did I say this? Did I say anything remotely resembling this?
No. I didn't.
In what way, then, do I sound like Strauss?
All four Gospels record nature miracles and exorcisms and a death on a cross and a resurrection and post-resurrection appearances.
The Gospels claim that these things actually happened, and these claims are admittedly farfetched. But to say that the Gospels "record these events" is to presuppose that the events actually occurred. In your attempts to argue your case, you need to stop presupposing the very case you are attempting to make.
It is on the one making a positive claim to argue the case. The alleged miraculous events, as described in the Gospels, are admittedly far-fetched; I have good reason to doubt the accuracy of the account, and need not attempt to disprove them.
Somehow, you must discount the accounts, That is your only recourse to holding your atheistic position, because if you in some way allow the texts of the Bible to stand or have authenticity, then you have to answer why you cannot reasonably, or with proper thinking, not accept what they say.
I must and I do. These claims (not accounts, as that word also presupposes that the events actually happened) are preposterous in that they contradict what we know about physics and biology, and they have all the tell-tale signs of being fables.
The books called the Koran and the Book of Mormon and Science, Health, and Key to the Scriptures lead me to the same conclusions. I don't play favorites. As I said, the main difference between you and I is that I think precisely three more of the alleged gods are mythical than you think are mythical.
I don't worry about the 'errors' or 'discrepencies' in the Bible.
Obviously. So why are you trying to convince me that the Bible is a reliable source of information? Rather, why do you try to convince me that information found only in the Bible -- claims that are highly unlikely and that are not subject to the normal methods of scrutiny -- are to believed without question (seeing that these claims cannot be questioned using human means, but must be accepted on faith)?
They are there and I can point out to you many you probably don't know about.
Please do. I've been collecting Bible discrepancies for years, and am always open to adding more genuine Bible discrepancies to my collection. (I don't put them on my list unless I can satisfy myself that there is a genuine discrepancy; Christians aren't the only ones who lie about these things.)
But that does not hide the basic Gospel facts about Jesus, the Son of God, His death, burial, and resurrection, and His continuing life in and among His people.
Again: If the Bible is unreliable on the verifiable matters, it is not to be trusted with its admittedly untestable claims.
Please explain this verse to me: Galatians 2:20: I am crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
The speaker admits that he has tossed his self-esteem into the wind. He has forfeited what I, Cliff Walker, say are the most important elements of being human: autonomy and responsibility.
And he has done this all for nothing, as Christ is a mythical invention.
This is sad. This is very sad.
I notice that there are some typographical errors in my letters.
Please trust me when I tell you that the last thing I want is to be accused of tampering with your text: I am not trying to belittle you by quoting you verbatim.
I have not forgotten you. This week I am working everyday at my job or in clinical work at the hospital. I will put in a 70 hr. week so things are tough right now. I would like to respond to one thing that you have indicated about the Bible. I cannot find it at the moment in your letters to me, but I believe you made reference to the world-view of the Bible in a, shall we say, a derogatory manner. You are unfair, (and why should that surprize me), by demanding that the Bible be scientific and accurate in every detail. I don't demand that of the Bible. THE BIBLE IS PRE-SCIENTIFIC.
Your apparent demand of the Bible that it reflect a scientific world view is the same as demanding Galileo be judged by Einsteinian standards. The Bible is very logical in its world view. It is the view of a person with his feet firmly on the ground, having never flew in a plane or looked through a telescope or even climbed a mountain. I don't demand that the Bible be `perfect' in its details because I realize two things. First, there is not one Bible `error' that you can point out that affects any major biblical doctrine. Second, you are judging documents that are written from a particular way of thinking, by another way of thinking, and that's part of the reason why you are getting so much supposed ammunition against the Bible.
There are three basic ways of viewing the world, and I am speaking in broad terms. There is the Latin way of thinking and viewing the world. It asks, 'how?' 'How does a thing work?' It is where we get modern science. The second is the Greek mode of thinking. This mode of thinking grasps the world by description. We have alot of this thinking in our world -- just look at your driver's license. The third is the Hebrew mode of thinking. It asks the question, 'why?' This is the biblical mode of thinking. For instance, Jesus and the cross -- the Latin way of thinking would view the death of Jesus on the cross and grasp this death by giving medical reasons for how He died. The Greek way of thinking would describe Jesus and His death in gross details. But the Hebrew way of thinking would -- and does -- explain why He died. You can read the Bible 100s of times but if you cannot ask the questions for which it gives answers, then you are misreading it. I have said the same things to many Christians who have gotten all sorts of stuff out of it that ain't there. The pox is not on the Bible but on those who force upon it ways of thinking that it does not possess, and ask questions that it never was intended to answer.
I know this -- the Bible claims that Jesus is the clearest picture of God the world has ever seen. Show me in the New Testament where Jesus hurt one person or murdered one person. He held out His hand to the forsaken and cast aside people in His own country. He spoke harshly only to the religious leaders of His day. And they killed Him for it. He represents God's kind of love in a sinful world, and His kind of love always ends up on a cross.
If you knew your history, you would know that, the New Testament reflect history as accurately as any of the 'historical' documents of its own day. That is the basis on which they are to be judged as to 'errors,' not in comparison to modern day emphases on accuracy, etc. This is another reason I speak of intellectual dishonesty. You have no sense of fairness what so ever when it comes to reading and interpreting the Bible. And you call yourself sane, reasonable, critical thinkers? Ahem!!
I cannot find it at the moment in your letters to me, but I believe you made reference to the world-view of the Bible in a, shall we say, a derogatory manner. You are unfair, (and why should that surprize me), by demanding that the Bible be scientific and accurate in every detail. I don't demand that of the Bible. THE BIBLE IS PRE-SCIENTIFIC.
The Bible is very pre-scientific. It is also very wrong on many verifiable claims that it makes. I contend, therefore, that if we cannot trust its claim to be the "Word of God" on things that are verifiably in error, then why should we give it a moment's trust on unverifiable matters, such as the nature of Christ or meaning of his death?
Science is man's discussion of his observations of his environment. To call the Bible pre-scientific is akin to admitting that it cannot be what it claims to be: the "Word of God." This is also akin to admitting that the Bible is an unreliable source of information accross the board -- not merely unreliable in matters on which we have proven it wrong or can prove it wrong.
Proving that the Bible is full of forgeries, errors, and internal discrepancies is no proof that there is no god, only that the god of the Bible didn't speak the words written in the Bible. (I contend that no other alleged gods spoke in any other alleged scriptures either, but that's a different discussion: here we discuss the veracity of what is popularly called the word of Jehovah-Jesus.)
Your apparent demand of the Bible that it reflect a scientific world view is the same as demanding Galileo be judged by Einsteinian standards.
Einstein and Galileo were both men; the Bible claims to be the word of God. Einstein and Galileo both spoke about things which were testable; the Bible makes various claims, some of which are admittedly untestable.
Because it claims to be a message from God, I demand that it be free of error when speaking on verifiable things before I trust it regarding the untestable realm of faith.
The Bible is very logical in its world view.
I don't get it. The Bible makes blatant errors when discussing verifiable matters about material things, and the Bible's morality is atrocious, at best, but the Bible is, at the same time, very logical!?
I don't think so.
It is the view of a person with his feet firmly on the ground, having never flew in a plane or looked through a telescope or even climbed a mountain.
So it isn't a "Thus saith the Lord" pronouncement on truth -- as the Bible itself alleges?
Why should I trust it?
Why should I trust the Bible when it gives every indication that most of it is a series of forgeries.
I don't demand that the Bible be 'perfect' in its details ...
You appear simply to trust it on those matters which can neither be proved nor disproved -- seeing that so many of its verifiable claims have been thoroughly disproved.
I don't demand that the Bible be 'perfect' in its details because I realize two things. First, there is not one Bible 'error' that you can point out that affects any major biblical doctrine.
That it is replete with verifiable errors is reason enough to disregard it when searching for truth regarding matters such as "doctrine."
However, many, many errors specifically regard issues that probably fall into the category of doctrine. For example:
Please present, for me, a consistent policy concerning divorce.
Please explain, should I follow Jesus' commandment not to call someone raca -- a fool -- or should I follow Jesus' example and go ahead and call people who disagree with me raca. Which of these two actions will keep me out of Hell?
Also (and this has got to be doctrinal) what is the nature of Hell?
Please explain the role of woman: is she her husband's possession? is she human? or what? can she speak in church? must she submit to her husband even if he is wrong? if she is raped, must she marry the rapist?
If you want more questions along this vein, I'll lay them on you. Just ask; I have plenty.
The Bible tells drastically different stories depending on which part you are reading; about the only two issues where we find any degree of consistency are the issues of slavery and the inferiority of women. The Bible very clearly, throughout its pages, advocates that slavery is normal and reasonable and that women are to be subject to men.
You see, the Bible was written by men -- not by any god -- long before the "science" of systematic theology was developed. (It's not like systematic theology has brought Christians any closer to agreeing with each other; the Bible is so full of discripancies and contradictions in the first place that it is impossible to come to any consensus as to what it says on any doctrinal points -- with or withoug systmeatic theology.)
I don't demand that the Bible be 'perfect' in its details because I realize two things.... Second, you are judging documents that are written from a particular way of thinking, by another way of thinking, and that's part of the reason why you are getting so much supposed ammunition against the Bible.
My "supposed" ammunition is real ammunition because these cretins want our kids to learn this baloney in the public schools; they put on our television programming; they spew forth on our street corners; they paste it on the busses and paint it under the overpass; they use it to revise America's history, thereby trying to affect our laws and nullify the liberties which my ancestors fought and died to establish. You'd better believe this is a real fight against one of the most dangerous weapons used to conquer the minds and bodies of men and women and children and infants and to confiscate the estates of the dead from the rightful heirs.
If what the popular translations of Bible says cannot be understood by a common person such as myself, someone who lacks the specialized education to be able to read it "from a particular way of thinking," then why is it so widely published? Why do we not go back to the Dark Ages where the common people had no access to the Bible and therefore could not dispute it and judge for themselves? (What is the difference between now and then, since only the scholars can properly read the Bible?)
There are three basic ways of viewing the world, and I am speaking in broad terms. There is the Latin way of thinking and viewing the world. It asks, 'how?' 'How does a thing work?' It is where we get modern science. The second is the Greek mode of thinking. This mode of thinking grasps the world by description. We have alot of this thinking in our world -- just look at your driver's license. The third is the Hebrew mode of thinking. It asks the question, 'why?' This is the biblical mode of thinking. For instance, Jesus and the cross -- the Latin way of thinking would view the death of Jesus on the cross and grasp this death by giving medical reasons for how He died. The Greek way of thinking would describe Jesus and His death in gross details. But the Hebrew way of thinking would -- and does -- explain why He died.
I have been studying the Bible, Biblical issues, and Biblical criticism for twenty-five years and this is the first time I've ever heard this "Latin way of ... viewing the world" spin. If this were common teaching, crucial to understanding the Bible, I should have run into it by now, at least once, don't you think?
You can read the Bible 100s of times but if you cannot ask the questions for which it gives answers, then you are misreading it.
Wonderful dodge! (Not quite the Appeal To Authority and not quite Circular Reasoning. Brilliant concoction!)
In other words, since I find fault with the Bible, it's not the fault of the Bible, but merely how I am reading it. So, then, it is impossible for the layman, with no specialized education, to understand what the Bible is saying. (Perhaps it is impossible to read it without undergoing some mystical initiation which results in attaining some unfathomable, undetectable "eye of faith.")
Tell me: Is the purpose of a Biblical education to learn how to "explain" what appears, on the surface, to be evidence that the Bible is a series of forgeries, of human origin, and therefore unreliable? And how can I tell if I am seeing through the "eye of faith" as opposed to lapsing into the error of credulity (like is warned about in the Bible itself)? What is an independent test I can perform to know for sure? (My future abode is allegedly at stake, here, and my fathers were burned at the stake for not "knowing" this stuff.)
First, if I need to know this stuff, and if a fate like an eternity slowly roasting over a spit in hell awaits those who don't get it, then why is this message given to us in a form that can only be interpreted by specialized scholars?
Secondly, why would such an important, sensitive, scholarly work be entrusted -- for generations -- into the hands of illiterate tent-makers, itinerant goat-herders, and runaway slaves?
Now, if I cannot read it or understand it without a specific, specialized education, then what is its usefulness and why do they want to put it in our schools? And why was there yet another Gideon's in the motel drawer last weekend? (And what did I do to the Gideon's I'd liberated from that same drawer the weekend before?)
Again: How can I tell what it really as opposed to what it merely appears to say? How can I tell the difference between what appears to be serious mistakes and what you say is simply my inability, due to my lack of a formal education, to read it properly? And how can I avoid lapsing into the persistent and overwhelming suspicion that I am being taken for a ride?
The pox is not on the Bible but on those who force upon it ways of thinking that it does not possess, and ask questions that it never was intended to answer.
The ultimate question to be asked of any document is: "Is this document truthful?"
The human writers and editors of the series of documents collectively known as The Bible spent very little time thinking about the likelihood that we would hold it to such a test. They had no idea that this book, based on its perposterous claims, its despicable teachings, and its inordinate influence on our culture, would get the scrutiny that people like me give it. "God" certainly did not have the foresight to anticipate this -- unless He is deliberately hiding it from us! Had these entities foreseen any of this, they would have done a better job at clearing up all these external discrepencies and internal contradictions.
A pox on me for thinking that this set of documents should be held to the same standards as other sets of documents of this nature. A pox on me if I am wrong and this collection is actually telling the truth about such things as Hell, in spite of overwhelming evidence which would deem any other document entirely unworthy of my trust. A pox on me for seeking truth using the best resources available to me. A pox on me for telling it how I see it without regard to the consequences. A pox on me.
I know this -- the Bible claims that Jesus is the clearest picture of God the world has ever seen.
If the Bible is right on this, then we are all in very serious trouble!
In fact, I agree with you on this. Jesus, the man, was a fraud and a loser -- and so was the Jesus of the New Testament. In the end he admitted this when he said, "My God, why hast thou forsaken me?" shortly before the end of his life. His predictions of the end of the world during the lifetimes of his followers -- and the moral teachings which went hand-in-hand with this outlook -- also attest to this. Since Jesus was a fraud, and if Jesus is the clearest picture of God the world has ever seen, then the claims for the existence of God must therefore be deemed fraudulent.
Show me in the New Testament where Jesus hurt one person or murdered one person. He held out His hand to the forsaken and cast aside people in His own country. He spoke harshly only to the religious leaders of His day.
You answered your own question here: Jesus hurt his enemies and his followers (and a tree and some money-changers and someone's herd of swine).
He hurt the reputations of his enemies, contrary to his own instructions to "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you."
He hurt his followers by encouraging them to leave their families to join his movement. (Would this be called a "cult" today?)
He, the protagonist of his parable, ordered the wholesale slaughter of his enemies: "But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me." (His followers later did just that in series of blood-baths of unmatched precedence.)
In more literal language, he said: "If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned." This order from Jesus was used to justify the stake and the auto-da-fe against unbelievers such as myself.
But the cruelest and most despicable thing we can attribute to the Jesus of the New Testament is that he introduced the myth of everlasting Hell, which parents have taught as fact to their children ever since. This teaching has not done untold psychological and emotional damage to children and weak-minded adults, and has prompted parents to donate their estates to the Church as "fire insurance" rather than leave it for the sons and daughters where it belongs.
And they killed Him for it.
The Romans killed Jesus for sedition against the state in that he claimed to be the king of the Jews. Later, when the Christian Church had a predominantly Roman following based exclusively on Paul's teachings, Jesus' anti-Roman sentiments were converted to anti-Jewish sentiments. By the time this happened, the Jewish communities had been wiped out and weren't around to dispute these revisions in history. One group, the Ebionites, as described and quoted in the treatise on Heresies by Epiphanius, claim that Paul was a fraud, that the immediate followers of Jesus wrote him off, that Jesus' followers remained in Jerusalem following Jesus' instructions: "But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel" and "I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel." The Ebionites said Jesus was not a god but was just a man and that his mission was to liberate Judaea from the Romans and set up his kingdom.
He represents God's kind of love in a sinful world, and His kind of love always ends up on a cross.
And for good reason, too -- as we can clearly see by the "loving" Jehovah's words and actions as described in the Bible.
If you knew your history, you would know that, the New Testament reflect history as accurately as any of the 'historical' documents of its own day. That is the basis on which they are to be judged as to 'errors,' not in comparison to modern day emphases on accuracy, etc.
Except that the New Testament claims to be instructions given directly from God. Also, so much of what the New Testament says cannot be corroborated by other sources of the day.
We do not need to take it out of the category of historical document of human origin to judge it very biased and very faulty -- as historical documents of that day are judged.
Nevertheless, we do need to address the New Testament's claims that it is of divine origin. This makes scrutinizing the New Testament a whole different ball-game from judging regular documents.
The author of Revelation says: "If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book."
Simon Peter allegedly says (in a book deemed almost unanimously to be a forgery): "And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction." Here, the writer places Paul's writings in the category of Scripture -- the Word of God.
So, what do you mean when you say, "If you knew your history"? Because I disagree with you, does that mean I know more or less about history than you?
This is another reason I speak of intellectual dishonesty. You have no sense of fairness what so ever when it comes to reading and interpreting the Bible. And you call yourself sane, reasonable, critical thinkers? Ahem!!
Daniel 5. 25-7: "MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN.... Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting."
I have weighed this book, which claims to be a message to me from God, and I have found it very, very wanting. I have looked it critically, reasonably, and in all honesty.
I hold every claim to truth to the same standard of scrutiny. What could be more fair than that?
If a claim to truth makes the additional claim of having a divine source, then I give it the additional scrutiny that I would hope anybody would give to an allegedly divine source. The need for additional scrutiny upon allegedly divine pronouncements even has its basis in the Bible (not that that's any reason to do this, but that even the Bible corroborates my sense of fairness).
My sanity is not a question for you to judge; I'll let the doctors determine that, and won't settle for a single opinion even from a doctor. I would never settle for my own opinion if my sanity were in question; therefore, I have never called myself sane. As for the plural, "critical thinkers," I speak for myself; this is not a conspiracy.
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