The Big Idea: Vox Day

Busy day, not a whole lot of time for me to hang about here at the moment. But you know how I like to leave you all something to talk about amongst yourselves while I’m away. And I was thinking, hmmmm, what do I have in the cupboard that will precipitate a lot of conversation while I’m busy? Then I remembered I had this: A Big Idea piece from Vox Day, talking about his latest book, The Irrational Atheist. And I thought, yes, well, that should just work just about fine. Enjoy.

VOX DAY:

If there is one idea that describes this book, it is irony. Irony piled upon irony stacked on top of yet more irony. Oh, you could certainly point to any number of other abstractions, but what lies beneath The Irrational Atheist is the ironic nature of nearly everything about the book. It’s like ten thousand long-handled spoons when all you need is a pitchfork.

For you see, famous scientists are usually expected to indicate some familiarity with the scientific method when defending their hypotheses, or at least to occasionally offer a modicum of empirical evidence in support of them. Secular devotees of Reason are generally assumed to be able to make competent use of that which they champion so vehemently. And public intellectuals on the lecture circuit are supposed to be at least slightly familiar with the history of Europe as well as the authors of some of Mankind’s most influential written works, including Sun Tzu, Julius Caesar and Petrarch.

On the other hand, it seems that proper little theists are absolutely not supposed to describe their targets as “The Circle of Jerkdom”, much less “The Four Horsemen of the Bukkakelypse”. Non-academics are not supposed to dare to question the sacred dictates of the priest-kings of academia. It is generally believed that the religious faithful are not inclined to make use of logic and reason, but rather rely upon emoting passionately and nonsensically about their ineffable supernatural certainties. And the gamer is not supposed to be inclined to make use of any brain function higher than that required to provide efficient hand-eye coordination.

But it is a strange world, and in strange aeons even atheism may die. There was a single thought that repeatedly entered my mind when slogging through the interminable morasses of The God Delusion, The End of Faith, Letter to a Christian Nation, God is Not Great, Breaking the Spell and Trattato di Ateologia during the course of researching TIA, and it was “I cannot believe so many people are falling for this utterly abysmal nonsense.” This isn’t to say that the level of intellectual incompetence was unvaried, however, as it ranged from the spectacular collection of Harrisian disasters to Daniel Dennett’s mild-mannered coherence marred only by the occasional logical derailment.

Indeed, the very idea that one’s personal opinion has anything to do with the existence or non-existence of God is fundamentally irrational. Whether one contemplates the existence of God, Swaziland or string theory, the truth is ultimately whatever it actually happens to be, our current perceptions and ideas notwithstanding. I can’t prove to you that God exists. I can’t even prove to you that I exist. And if God elects to manifest and show Himself to you in all His radiant glory today, you won’t be able to prove to me or anyone else that He did that tomorrow. But if one cannot reasonably reach a rational conclusion on the God hypothesis one way or the other, one can certainly put specific arguments based on foundations of purported facts to the test. If religious faith causes war, how many wars in the last 5,000 years of recorded human history were caused by religious faith? If religion divides humanity into warring groups, what is the ratio of religious divisions to groups capable of engaging in conflict? If morality evolves, at what speed does it evolve and what is the mechanism by which it does so? If the probability of God’s existence is very, very small, precisely how small is it and what are the factors by which that probability is calculated?

These are not matters for philosophical reflection, they are factual assertions which can be examined in detail, and the results of the examination can then be independently verified by any reader. For example, one may dispute my calculation that precisely 6.98 percent of the wars in recorded human history involved religion, but one can no longer seriously argue that eliminating religion will bring an end to war, or even noticeably reduce the amount in which humanity engages.

But the greatest irony of all is undoubtedly the response with which most atheists have met The Irrational Atheist. For years, atheists have been rightly irritated that theists often refuse to meet them on their own ground, that instead of engaging in a substantive discussion based on scientific fact and reason, theists prefer to hide behind Bible-quoting and theological babble that is meaningless to the atheist. Now, having been given exactly what they have been requesting – nay, demanding – the atheist response has largely been to stick their collective head in the sand and hope it goes away before the intellectual depantsing of their icons becomes general knowledge. This isn’t conjecture, by the way, it was the general consensus of nearly two thousand posts discussing an interview about TIA on richarddawkins.net.

Vox Day adds: One final irony: I first ‘met’ Mr. John Scalzi when we were on opposite sides of an Internet flame-skirmish. I’ve since come to like and admire the man as well as his work, and we even happen to have a few things in common besides our SFWA membership. One of these is our mutual belief in the positive effect of free ebook releases on book sales, and so if the subject happens to be of interest to you, please note that the complete text of The Irrational Atheist can be downloaded at http://irrationalatheist.com/downloads.html in four digital formats at no charge. Whatever stat geeks may be interested to know that after one month of downloads, the format breakdown is as follows: PDF 61 percent, OO/Word DOC 25 percent, PDB 7.5 percent, LIT 6.5 percent.”

458 thoughts on “The Big Idea: Vox Day

  1. I suspect this may be one thread where it might be advantageous to suggest people read the comment policy before they post, and also remember that I hold out the opinion we can have really vigorous discussion and debate without devolving into dickheadedness at the earliest available opportunity, on any side of the issue. Indeed, consider this thread a challenge on that score.

  2. Having read this post, I will say that Mr Day’s spelling is wonderful, and the punctuation is beyond reproach.

  3. Wow, I kind of agree with something Vox Day said. Shoot me now, heh.

    I’m about as non-religious as you can get, hold no active belief in God/gods/Flying Spaghetti Monsters at all. And as a filthy homo, the majority of the world’s devoutly religious people probably think I’m immoral. And yet I describe myself as agnostic, rather than an atheist. Why? Because as far as I understand the concept of God, it is by its nature unprovable, and also impossible to DISprove. If there is some supreme being out there (and I really don’t think there is) operating on a completely different level of existence to us, it would seem to me that there’s virtually no possibility that we could meaningfully understand it.

    The concept of God is unnecessary, I 100% agree with that, but it is not impossible. Religion has been used as an excuse/justification/rationalisation for being horrible to many, many different groups of people throughout history, and still is. It is dangerous. But that doesn’t change the fact that smug, assholish, fundamentalist atheism in the vein of Dawkins and Hitchens (and Sam Harris to a lesser extent) is just as illogical as smug, assholish, fundamentalist theism. Not as dangerous by a long shot, but just as illogical.

  4. I’ve considered myself an atheist or, on certain days, an agnostic, for most of my life. It’s true that we get annoyed when our opposite numbers (literally) quote chapter and verse and treat them as legitimate points; so I suppose it’s refreshing, in a way, to see a book like Mr. Day’s be published.

    I must, however, respond to one of the claims professed in the post: that eliminating religion “will bring an end to war, or even noticeably reduce the amount in which humanity engages.” This may be true. In fact, it is most likely true. But the fact remains that ONE war begun over the matter of whose imaginary friend is better than the other’s is one too many.

    My disbelief is a product of viewing what I perceive to be the effects of organized religion, reading the Bible, and my own personal disagreements with the Church on matters such as abortion and homosexuality. I have no quarrel with anyone who wants to believe; it certainly seems to comfort some people. As long as it does not interfere with or harm another person in any other way, I believe you have the right to think or do what you want. But it’s indisputable that without the bigoted teachings of the Christian Church, there would be substantially less anti-gay sentiment in the world today, and fewer fanatics who are perfectly willing to crash the funeral of a US soldier who died in Iraq because he was homosexual.

    I don’t follow the works of Mr. Dawkins. Hitchens and Harris are strangers to me. So it is with my own experience and my own thoughts, Mr. Day, that I highly doubt I’ll be buying your book anytime in the foreseeable future.

  5. When calculating how many wars religious views played a prime role in starting, it might also be helpful to also consider how many wars religious views helped end, or even prevented.

    For example, the medieval church espoused a theory called the Truce of God, which prevented Christians from fighting on certain days of the week. While I am certain it was frequently breached by some, I am also reasonably sure that it restrained some others. So, all in all, the Catholic Church may have saved some lives that would otherwise have been lost.

  6. The problem for me is… you can’t prove God to me by quoting scripture. Religion is a bad sell. Poor marketing, poor delivery, vague benefits, and lots of fine print. And in a time were we have sophisticated advertising campaigns, it seems you must be the type susceptible chia-pet promotion to buy in. Yet we have a country bursting with religious-types. The problem is we don’t know anything about our own religion, not to mention other beliefs. This appears (to me) to be blind belief without exploration. So perhaps the rest of the world is not far off when describing the US population as exceedingly dim.

  7. Yes it’s true technically you can’t prove a negative and therefore you can’t prove that god doesn’t exist. But it is a generally accepted tenet of logic that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. For example if I were to tell you that there is a teacup in orbit around the Earth and you looked and were unable to find any proof for said teacup you would, quite rightly, conclude that said teacup doesn’t exist. If I were to tell you that there is a diamond the size of a Pontiac buried somewhere in Canada you would not give me the benefit of the doubt without significant evidence even though you couldn’t prove that it doesn’t exist.

    Theists have had far longer to provide evidence for the existence of their various gods and have failed to do so. So why are they getting the benefit of a doubt that you wouldn’t give me? Note that the age of their claims works directly against them here. I also find it very interesting that the same arguments they use against rival gods can all be applied to their god and won’t give their rivals the same benefit of the doubt that they demand from skeptics.

    So yes, it’s true, you can’t disprove a negative but that doesn’t mean you can’t treat very very unlikely negatives like giant Canadian diamonds, pink unicorns in Southern Utah, celestial teacups, or god as not existing. Formal logic provides very good tools to do just that with and the god question seems to be the only case where otherwise highly rational people refuse to make use of those tools.

  8. While bringing up the Truce of God that was promulgated by the Church during the 10th and 11th centuries is an interesting idea — and certainly makes the point that the Church was attempting to limit fighting, it doesn’t really fit here. First of all, it didn’t prevent any wars, nor was it intended to. It was intended solely to limit the internecine fighting between Christian nobles, as this tended to kill a lot of the peasantry. It was never intended to limit actual wars — at the time, this would have been a political issue, rather than a religious one, and wouldn’t have been considered the Church’s business.

    However, when all is said and done, the attempts at a Truce of God were almost completely ineffective. And therefore the Church tried another, more effective option that rather limits the effectiveness of your point.

    Crusade.

  9. Not as dangerous by a long shot, but just as illogical.

    Are you sure about that? The documentary evidence wouldn’t appear to support that conclusion.

    ““I believe that, owing to men’s folly, a world government will only be established by force, and therefore be at first cruel and despotic. But I believe that it is necessary for the preservation of a scientific civilization, and that, if once realized, it will gradually give rise to the other conditions of a tolerable existence.” Bertrand Russell. “Icarus, or, the Future of Science”.

    ““We can say it even more simply: we need a world government.. . . The diversity of our religious beliefs constitutes a primary obstacle here.” Sam Harris. The End of Faith.

    I am unaware of any religious organization, with the possible exception of some Muslim sects, that are openly calling for the establishment of cruel and despotic world dictatorship. Even the so-called Christian Dominionists subscribe to American national sovereignty, Constitutional rights, and a limited version of separation of Church and State. It is worth noting that both Russell and Harris, like Kim Jong-il see* Christianity as standing directly in the way of the establishment of their ideal godless despotisms.

    *That would be “saw” in the case of Russell, of course.

  10. But the fact remains that ONE war begun over the matter of whose imaginary friend is better than the other’s is one too many.

    Good point from Red there. No wars, as far as I know, have been fought over theories of stellar evolution or continental drift.

    But I’d like to take issue with this:

    Whether one contemplates the existence of God, Swaziland or string theory, the truth is ultimately whatever it actually happens to be, our current perceptions and ideas notwithstanding.

    True. Swaziland exists whether or not I believe in it.

    I can’t prove to you that God exists. I can’t even prove to you that I exist. And if God elects to manifest and show Himself to you in all His radiant glory today, you won’t be able to prove to me or anyone else that He did that tomorrow.

    True… in the sense that nothing about the physical world can be proved absolutely, simply disproved or proved beyond reasonable doubt. (“All sheep are white”, I say, but I can’t prove it; only disprove it by observing a black (or blue) sheep, or continue to produce supporting evidence in the shape of more white sheep.)

    But if one cannot reasonably reach a rational conclusion on the God hypothesis one way or the other, one can certainly put specific arguments based on foundations of purported facts to the test.

    Yes, but, as above, you can’t prove them – only disprove them.

    These are not matters for philosophical reflection, they are factual assertions which can be examined in detail, and the results of the examination can then be independently verified by any reader.

    Pity you just spent the preceding paragraph arguing that no factual assertion can ever be independently verified, really.

  11. I am unaware of any religious organization, with the possible exception of some Muslim sects, that are openly calling for the establishment of cruel and despotic world dictatorship.

    “One day Jesus Christ will come back and rule the world, and he will cast every unbeliever, and everyone who displeases or opposes him into a lake of fire where they will burn in agony for eternity.”

    Now, I’m sure there are a few religious organisations calling for that sort of thing… no?

  12. Religion has been used as an excuse/justification/rationalisation for being horrible to many, many different groups of people throughout history, and still is. It is dangerous.

    You have absolutely no proof for this assertion. Zero. Read TIA, Vox completely destroys your argument here.

  13. 14: really, PA? Religion’s never been used as an excuse to be horrible to anyone? Not even once?

  14. I quite liked it. Any book that manages to piss off that many Internet intellectuals that rapidly almost certainly has something going for it.

  15. But it is a generally accepted tenet of logic that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

    Please prove a citation from a major philosopher for this “premise.” Please provide a source this is a generally accepted tenet of logic.

    Note: Carl Sagan, who originated this chestnut, was a pop scientist and not a philosopher. But he was on the Tonight Show.

  16. I don’t follow the works of Mr. Dawkins. Hitchens and Harris are strangers to me. So it is with my own experience and my own thoughts, Mr. Day, that I highly doubt I’ll be buying your book anytime in the foreseeable future.

    No, I can’t say that I see any reason why you should since you appear to be largely uninterested in the ongoing debate. Unless, of course, you are a fan of Daniel C. Dennett or Michel Onfray, whose works are also examined in TIA.

    Vox Day? Vox Dei?

    Don’t stop there, Red. Consider the Greek as well.

    But it is a generally accepted tenet of logic that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

    It is no such thing. The idea that this is a tenet of logic is a common atheist myth. In fact, the very statement is in itself illogical. Think about it. If we possessed normal, everyday scientific evidence about the extraordinary claim that Jesus walked on water, rather than the mere documentary evidence from the Bible, would you not accept it?

  17. If we possessed normal, everyday scientific evidence about the extraordinary claim that Jesus walked on water, rather than the mere documentary evidence from the Bible, would you not accept it?

    No, VD, I wouldn’t, because you just told me not to!

    I can’t prove to you that God exists. I can’t even prove to you that I exist. And if God elects to manifest and show Himself to you in all His radiant glory today, you won’t be able to prove to me or anyone else that He did that tomorrow.

  18. It amazes me that theists still trot out the “you can’t prove me wrong, so it’s at least as rational for me to believe as it is for you to disbelieve” line and expect it to convince anyone at all. As if it hasn’t been rebutted about a million different ways by now.

  19. “the very idea that one’s personal opinion has anything to do with the existence or non-existence of God is fundamentally irrational.”

    Let’s see. “Fundamentally irrational”. What does that mean, exactly? “Fundamental” from fundament, or foundation, ground work, or base. And “irrational” meaning without the capacity of reason, or judgment. Or possibly, insane.

    So, if we even posit the (very science-fictional) idea that a Deity might be created by believers, rather than the other way round, we are sumo-wrestled out of the ring of discourse, because the very posit has proved us insane or incapable of reasoning? Or perhaps that’s too strong. The claim, after all, is only that the idea is, at its base, insane. Still, that means we can’t even argue rationally about it. That’s still a pretty strong thesis.

    Prima facie, it doesn’t seem true. It certainly seems as if we can sensibly, reasoningly imagine a God created by the belief of one or more believers, even if such a God does not turn out to be factually true. I’m pretty sure I’ve encountered the trope of a God existentially dependent on belief in fiction. And in a very self-referential way, it seems to me that we can argue about such a God. The very idea of such a God doesn’t seem to be totally beyond the pale of reasoned discourse. But it should be, if the Vox Day quote above were true.

    At the very least, Vox would have to make a reasoned argument for his thesis. But that would be a lot less fun than namecalling, I suppose.

  20. ajay and sng:

    1) It is called “margins.” Look it up.

    2) Neither hating people because of sin, or antisemitism, are justified by the Christian religion (Bible). Further, as a Christian I have an objective moral standard to condemn these types of behavior. What is YOUR standard, if I may ask? By what standard do YOU condemn these things?

    “One day Jesus Christ will come back and rule the world, and he will cast every unbeliever, and everyone who displeases or opposes him into a lake of fire where they will burn in agony for eternity.”

    No, the unbelievers tossed themselves in by their own volition. Those who believe are saved. You have a poor understanding of Christian theology. I suggest you study more before commenting.

  21. “…I can’t even prove to you that I exist.”

    I don’t know about that. . . Descartes, for one, would probably take umbrage with that statement (‘Dubito, ergo cogito, ergo sum’ and all that).

    Cartesian philosophy aside, there are indeed all sorts of things one can ‘prove’ about our reality, using the scientific method. The existence of a deity, by the very nature of what a deity is supposed to be (omniscient, omnipotent, omni* etc.), falls outside the confines of the provable. This does not for a level playing field make.

    Theists have been hiding behind their gods’ supernaturally inscrutable skirts forever, and I’d be interested to read a theist tract that engages “in a substantive discussion based on scientific fact and reason”. . . Good of Mr. Day to provide a link for free download of his ebook. I’ll most definitely be checking it out.

  22. PA and Vox,

    So you are wiling to believe in my giant diamond and Loki?

    And I’d like some evidence sure. Call the Bible documentary is pushing things and a bit circular, no? Given that there is no independent historical evidence for any of it’s claims.

  23. Now, I’m sure there are a few religious organisations calling for that sort of thing… no?

    Advocating the immanentizing of the Eschaton? Although this is a staple of poorly researched occult thrillers, it’s a deeply silly notion. As I noted in TIA, aside from the occasional evangelical organization funding some Jews making aliyah, (which they do for non-eschatonic purposes, btw), Christians do not engage in any effort that can reasonably be interpreted as attempting to initiate the Second Coming.

    It would be rather presumptuous, after all, to attempt to hurry the Almighty God. “Come, Lord Jesus” is not a command.

  24. @ Vox #19- I hardly think that the bible constitutes ‘documentary evidence’. . . . if there’s a text that has been proven time and again to have been compromised over the course of its numerous iterations, it’s the bible.

  25. And, to get down to it: no. As our estimate of the probability of an event decreases, we tend to demand more and more evidence of the event before we conclude that it’s true beyond reasonable doubt. (Look up Bayesian reasoning.)

    So, if you were to say “I had lunch with my brother today” your word alone would probably be enough. If you were to say “I had lunch with former US president Bill Clinton today”, I’d probably ask to see a photograph and some evidence. And if you were to say “I had lunch with former US president Abraham Lincoln today” – well, my immediate reaction would be to decide that you were nuts, but if I decided that you weren’t, I’d want some damn good evidence that Honest Abe had risen from the dead and was spending his time having lunch with bloggers.

    Now, if we want to go for “proven true” – well, as you say in the original post, no evidence would be enough, because it’s impossible to prove anything absolutely.

  26. Ajay, God electing to manifest and show Himself to you in all His radiant glory is not “normal, everyday scientific evidence”

    Call the Bible documentary is pushing things and a bit circular, no? Given that there is no independent historical evidence for any of it’s claims.

    The Bible is documentary evidence by every legal and dictionary standard of evidence. Misuse of the term “evidence” by atheists is one of the most blatantly egregious errors made by them from Richard Dawkins on down. Scientific evidence is only one form of evidence; it is far from the only form.

    There is also a staggering amount of independent historical evidence in support of many of the Bible’s claims. I suggest you look into the history of the discovery of Nineveh and the Assyrian empire, which was long considered Biblical fiction by the scientists of the day.

  27. So you are wiling to believe in my giant diamond and Loki?

    I can’t speak for Vox, only myself. I would say they are certainly possible, just as unicorns are possible. I see nothing in science to prove they couldn’t exist. I don’t put my faith in those things to save me, however, nor do I believe these things are a Supreme Being (important distinctions).

    Given that there is no independent historical evidence for any of it’s claims.

    Stop. We can’t go any further until you give me some specific examples of claims and what you would defined as “independent historical evidence” to prove the claim.

  28. PA,

    So the belief and practices of the dominant Christian sect over the course of hundreds of years constitutes a margin? Interesting definition to say the least.

    See also the Extermination Order and blowing up abortion clinics. Odd how these margins keep piling up isn’t it since, by definition, they should be the exception and I should only be able to find limited and short examples. Not to mention the events of the years leading up to the Extermination Order.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Extermination_Order_(Mormonism)

  29. Hmm. Eboo Patel said last month that most of the violence in this world is performed to the sound of prayer. Perhaps your calculations are correct with respect to war, Mr. Day, but violence is not just war.

    I don’t feel like being serious anymore, because the only exposure I’ve had to SixApartJournalingSite HowDoesHeSpellHisLastNameAnyway is through that whole SFWA thing. And honestly, I’m confused as to what in the world the entirety of that screed is actually saying. Perhaps I’ve just been too nose-to-grindstone in the ever-interesting (shoot me) world of forecasting growth projections. So I’ll just quote “Beware the Believers” for you, Mr. Day/Dei.

    “He’s Dick to the Dawk to the Ph.D.
    He’s still smarter than you, he’s got a science degree.”

    :)

  30. PA: I hardly think that the entire mediaeval Catholic Church counts as “marginal”!

    VD: Christians do not engage in any effort that can reasonably be interpreted as attempting to initiate the Second Coming.

    Oh, as for that:

    2002-JUL: A contingent of 371 Jewish Americans emigrated on JUL-9 to Israel. Many had been bankrolled by grants from U.S. Evangelical Christians. They “regard the return of Jews to the Holy Land as part of an apocalyptic prophecy foretold in the Bible.”

    Bishop Huey Harris, of the First Pentecostal Tabernacle Church in Elkton, MD, raised $2,500 to help them relocate. He said: “What I’m seeing is the Scriptures being fulfilled right before our very eyes….What’s next? I’m looking for the church to be raptured, Jesus returning for the church…and the Jews would receive him as their Messiah…”

    So helping Jews migrate to Israel is necessary to fulfil Scripture – another step of which is the Second Coming.

    You really should stop making these sweeping statements – they’re easy to disprove.

    Here’s another from the LA Times:

    According to various polls, an estimated 40% of Americans believe that a sequence of events presaging the end times is already underway. Among the believers are pastors of some of the largest evangelical churches in America, who converged at Faith Central Bible Church in Inglewood in February to finalize plans to start 5 million new churches worldwide in 10 years.

    “Jesus Christ commissioned his disciples to go to the ends of the Earth and tell everyone how they could achieve eternal life,” said James Davis, president of the Global Pastors Network’s “Billion Souls Initiative,” one of an estimated 2,000 initiatives worldwide designed to boost the Christian population.

    “As we advance around the world,” Davis said, “we’ll be shortening the time needed to fulfill that Great Commission. Then, the Bible says, the end will come.”

  31. sng: I can’t speak for Mormons, as I am a Christian. As far as…

    So the belief and practices of the dominant Christian sect over the course of hundreds of years constitutes a margin?

    You have to show how the belief and practices of a dominant Christian sect are somehow “dangerous” as compared to the rest of human history. A couple of lunatics blowing up clinics is marginal compared to the violent acts of collective human history. Further, I’m checking my Bible and I can’t find a command to blow up random people. Can you please show me where I can find this scripture?

  32. “Christians do not engage in any effort that can reasonably be interpreted as attempting to initiate the Second Coming.”

    What about the evangelicals who support Israel because they believe that the holy land needs to be in Jewish hands for the second coming?

  33. PA @… well every comment you make, but particularly this one.

    “You have absolutely no proof for this assertion. Zero. Read TIA, Vox completely destroys your argument here.”

    You are NOT serious. Really, you can’t be. Vox was relatively calm in his argument, but you’re kinda going into kooky land.

    We’ll starting with the big ones – the Crusades. Islamic terrorism. Then moving down a bit. Matthew Shephard. Fred Phelps. Then on down to my friends (yes, multiple) who were kicked out of home as teenagers when their (fundamentalist) parents found out they were gay.

    You might argue that YOUR interpretation of YOUR religion doesn’t result in such things but clearly, a fair number of people throughout history have at the very least used religious arguments as excuses for (and I would argue at least sometimes genuinely believe their religion requires) vile behaviour.

  34. You have to show how the belief and practices of a dominant Christian sect are somehow “dangerous” as compared to the rest of human history

    You’re shifting the goalposts, PA. You stated originally that there was no evidence that religion had ever been used as an excuse for being horrible to a group of people.

    Religion has been used as an excuse/justification/rationalisation for being horrible to many, many different groups of people throughout history, and still is. It is dangerous.

    PA: You have absolutely no proof for this assertion.

    When the anti-semitism of the mediaeval Catholic church was mentioned, you said first of all that the Catholic church was on the “margins” – which is ridiculous; it was the dominant religion of Europe for many centuries – and now you are saying that we have to show how it’s dangerous “compared to the rest of human history”. I presume that your next step will be to point out that people are also cruel for non-religious reasons. Stop being silly.

  35. @ PA #36—
    “Thus saith the LORD of hosts, I remember that which Amalek did to Israel, how he laid wait for him in the way, when he came up from Egypt. Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.” (I Samuel 15:2-3)

    They didn’t have high explosives back then.

  36. PA @ 36:

    “Further, I’m checking my Bible and I can’t find a command to blow up random people. Can you please show me where I can find this scripture?”

    No, but I can find verses where it says its ok to stone people to death and sell children into slavery.

    And anyway, your argument avoids the fundamental point. People that blow up abortion clinics may not find the justification for that particular act of violence in the Bible, but said act is motivated by their sincerely held (if nutty) religious beliefs.

  37. And if God elects to manifest and show Himself to you in all His radiant glory today, you won’t be able to prove to me or anyone else that He did that tomorrow.

    No, but I’ll be able to ask Him some rather pointed questions. Really, I consider myself a Radical Protestant. A vital underpinning of the various Protestant heresies break-aways from the Catholic Church was the notion that lay people do not need a priesthood standing as intermediary between them and the Revelation of Scripture: the notion that ordinary people can read the Bible for themselves and come to their own Faith in that way.

    Me, I figure why bother with the intermediary of the Bible? Really, the Big Guy is, according to His cheerleaders, Omnipotent, Omniscient, and Omnibenevolent. Surely such an Entity has the nous and wherewithal to provide the necessary Proof to any and all doubters, Proof that is tailored to each according to their needs, and nature.

    In other words, if God wants my belief, he can darn well come earn it Himself. And when He shows up, He’d better have a good accounting of the Problem of Evil and the existence of Hell (presuming it does), among other things. So far, providing me with proof that meets my standards has not been on God’s agenda. One is tempted to suppose He doesn’t care. Or something.

    More generally, it does seem, based on the existence of millions of Buddhists, Muslims, and other assorted unbelievers in the Bible, as if God either does not care to provide sufficient proof of His existence to unbelievers, or He isn’t powerful enough to do so. Or something.

  38. The existence of Jesus Christ as an example of one of it’s claims.

    Multiple eyewitness claims, as documented in the Bible.

    Writings of the Church fathers.

    Writings of Flavius Josephus, Tacitus, Pliny the Younger, the Babylonian Talmud, and other anti-Christians who probably would have mentioned His non-existance as a person.

    If this isn’t enough, we might has well toss out nearly every reference in history prior to 1000 AD. Can you prove the existence of Julius Ceaser? Plato? Socrates? Budda? Alexander the Great?

  39. PA@36: You said: I can’t speak for Mormons, as I am a Christian. Just so you know, Mormons consider themselves Christian. They believe Jesus is the son of their god, and they worship him.

    Also, the Extermination Order doesn’t refer to Mormon practises, but the order to exterminate Mormons themselves. So it was not the practice of the Mormons, but the practice of their Christian neighbours, put into law by the governor of Missouri.

    Just to clarify a few minor points.

  40. Vox:
    I suppose I can see how the Bible is “hearsay evidence,” out of court documents which are offered to prove the truth of the matter asserted. But hearsay is presumed to be unreliable.

  41. PA,

    You are the one who made the statement that there is no proof of religion being used as an excuse to do horrible things to other people. I’m just pointing out examples of where it has been used in that way. Nothing was said about scope. The fact remains that religion is and has been used to justify doing horrible things to others. Nothing you have said has refuted this or backed up your original statement that it has never been used in such a way.

  42. Eboo Patel said last month that most of the violence in this world is performed to the sound of prayer.

    Eboo Patel is wildly and completely wrong. A simple examination of the murder statistics will show that significantly less than one percent of all assaults and murders have any connection to religion whatsoever.

    So helping Jews migrate to Israel is necessary to fulfil Scripture – another step of which is the Second Coming.

    Do show the Scripture…. It isn’t necessary, only the existence of Israel is necessary. In fact, the nonexistence of Israel was long used as an argument against the verity of Scripture. But it was quite clearly incorrect to add the parenthesized statement about funding aliyah, which is an exception I did not make in the book. I’m aware of that program you referenced, I simply forgot its motivation.

    So I’ll just quote “Beware the Believers” for you, Mr. Day/Dei.

    “He’s Dick to the Dawk to the Ph.D.
    He’s still smarter than you, he’s got a science degree.”

    You know that’s a song mocking Dawkins, right? It only took him about 16 hours to figure that out himself. And as it happens, I’ve got a science degree….

  43. The Bible is documentary evidence by every legal and dictionary standard of evidence.

    Hearsay isn’t legally admissible. Neither, generally, are unsworn written statements, with no evidence of who the true author is. I don’t think you’d get far prosecuting a murder suspect if your evidence included an unsigned piece of paper with the words “He did it” written on it. Even if they were written in Greek and contained lots of accurate details about the civilisations of Bronze Age Mesopotamia.

  44. “There is also a staggering amount of independent historical evidence in support of many of the Bible’s claims.”

    Oh lordy. And you neglect to point out the fact that there is a staggering amount of independent historical evidence and *scientific* evidence that is *not* in support of many of the Bible’s claims. You know the whole first book, in which God creates the world in 7 days? You know, the flood that supposedly covered the entire Earth, which no reputable geologist has shown any evidence for? The fact that the Earth is most certainly not a few thousand years old?

    Oh yeah, whenever science or history disproves a part of the bible, the fundamentalist christians put their fingers in their ears and all the others automatically claim it’s “metaphorical.”

    A god who can’t literally do the things in the bible is a god that is not great. At what point does the metaphor end and the literal pick up? Did Jesus really walk on water? Did Moses really part the sea? Since the bible doesn’t specifically differentiate between metaphors and literal truth in most instances, one must assume that once you’ve accepted that one part is a metaphor, the entire book is — you can’t just pick and choose for modern convenience. Which is another way of saying it’s just a book of old myths.

  45. You stated originally that there was no evidence that religion had ever been used as an excuse for being horrible to a group of people.

    False. I disputed your assertion that religion is dangerous compared to other human beliefs. I should have been more specific that I was talking about Christianity. You have shown examples on the margins, but nothing to show Christianity is “dangerous.”

  46. sng, your original comment stated not only that religion had been used as an excuse for violence, but also that it is dangerous. The fact that something can be used as an excuse for violence does not make it dangerous. (I assume you are not in favor of banning, say, Dungeons and Dragons, or the World Series.)

  47. Atheists make no claim that god does not exist – we merely state that there is no proof of god’s existence; a completely different argument from what Day rails about.

    Day can use all the complicated reasoning, distorted historical facts and fancy prose that he wants – the fact remains that modern day Christians have no more proof that their god exists than the Greeks had of Zeus. And as long as churches, synagogues and mosques remain tax-free FOBs for crooks like John Hagee, Joe Ratzinger and Pat Robertson to delude and defraud people, the value of religion will be a net drain on the societies they infest.

    Religion – and churches – are parasitic infestations. That is the one fact that atheists agree on, and it’s very much a provable fact.

  48. Eddie@41 notes the existence of scriptures that promote slavery and stoning. We also have Leviticus, which is full of sexism (women are unclean longer after giving birth to a girl child; women are considered the property of husbands and fathers). In fact, there are a lot of scriptures about women, proscribing their behaviour, telling them what to wear, constantly reminding them to bow down before their husbands, etc. A lot of that contributes to the patriarchal attitudes and gives rise to the notion that men have a right to tell women what to do with their wombs.

  49. Nothing was said about scope.

    But scope is everything when we are talking about “dangers.”

    If something is rare and marginal, it usually isn’t considered “dangerous.”

  50. PA, what are you on?

    …………as someone upthread said, come on, the entire medieval catholic church as “marginal”? The majority of modern Islamic states with dreadful human rights records (particularly with regard to women – women in kuwait got the vote in the 90s!) as “marginal”? There is such a thing as religion outside of North American, modern, Christian context, you know.

    And, actually, given the utterly traumatic experience that coming out to one’s parents and co-workers tends to be in America, I’d say that the fairly mainstream, Christian-inspired homophobia that exists in the US (and other countries) is also an example of religion inspiring nasty behaviour towards other people. I realise that I probably don’t deserve pity for my “lifestyle choices” , but I think the current state of affairs is fairly dreadful. Petty, small-minded, meanness can in some ways be just as damaging in the long term as acts of extreme violence.

  51. Once again for the uninitiated, Titus Flavius Josephus was a Jewish historian from the 2nd century AD.

    If this is the strongest and earliest extra-biblical evidence for the historical Jesus, then the scholarship is on the shakiest grounds. That passage from Josephus has been shown conclusively to be a forgery, and even conservative scholars admit it has been tampered with (this time I am definitively saying “FAKE” and not “DUBIOUS”.

    But even were it historical (which it most certainly isn’t), it dates from more than six decades after the supposed death of Jesus.

    Apologists so often choose to omit the fact that scholars have largely discounted the Josephus paragaph as a later interpolation, and thereby shoot themselves in the foot. The passage, although widely quoted by believers today, did not show up in the writings of Josephus until centuries after his death, at the beginning of the fourth century – another timely arrival. Thoroughly dishonest church historian Eusebius is credited as the real author. The passage is grossly out of context, a clear hint that it was inserted at a later time.

    All scholars agree that Josephus, a Jew who never converted to Christianity, would not have called Jesus “the Christ” or “the truth,” so the passage must have been doctored by a later Christian–evidence, by the way, that some early believers were in the habit of altering texts to the advantage of their theological agenda. The phrase “to this day” reveals it was written at a later time. Everyone agrees there was no “tribe of Christians” during the time of Josephus–Christianity did not get off the ground until the second century.

    If Jesus were truly important to history, then Josephus should have told us something about him. Yet he is completely silent about the supposed deeds of Jesus. He nowhere quotes Jesus. He adds nothing to the Gospel narratives and tells us nothing that would not have been known by Christians in either the first or fourth centuries. In all of Josephus’ voluminous writings, there is nothing about Jesus or Christianity anywhere outside the tiny paragraph cited so blithely by apologists.

    This paragraph mentions that Jesus was foretold by the divine prophets, but Josephus does not tell us who those prophets were or what they said. This is religious propaganda, not history. If Jesus had truly been the fulfillment of Jewish prophecy, then Josephus would have been the exact person to confirm it.

    And this is the “most important” historical evidence for Jesus!

    Such is the celebrated reference to Christ in Josephus. A more brazen forgery was never perpetrated. For more than two hundred years, the Christian Fathers who were familiar with the works of Josephus knew nothing of this passage. Had the passage been in the works of Josephus which they knew, Justin Martyr, Tertullian, Origen an Clement of Alexandria would have been eager to hurl it at their Jewish opponents in their many controversies. But it did not exist. Indeed, Origen, who knew his Josephus well, expressly affirmed that that writer had not acknowledged Christ. This passage first appeared in the writings of the Christian Father Eusebius, the first historian of Christianity, early in the fourth century; and it is believed that he was its author. Eusebius, who not only advocated fraud in the interest of the faith, but who is know to have tampered with passages in the works of Josephus and several other writers, introduces this passage in his “Evangelical Demonstration,” (Book III., p.124), in these words: “Certainly the attestations I have already produced concerning our Savior may be sufficient. However, it may not be amiss, if, over and above, we make use of Josephus the Jew for a further witness.”

    Everything demonstrates the spurious character of the passage. It is written in the style of Eusebius, and not in the style of Josephus. Josephus was a voluminous writer. He wrote extensively about men of minor importance. The brevity of this reference to Christ is, therefore, a strong argument for its falsity. This passage interrupts the narrative. It has nothing to do with what precedes or what follows it; and its position clearly shows that the text of the historian has been separated by a later hand to give it room. Josephus was a Jew — a priest of the religion of Moses. This passage makes him acknowledge the divinity, the miracles, and the resurrection of Christ — that is to say, it makes an orthodox Jew talk like a believing Christian! Josephus could not possibly have written these words without being logically compelled to embrace Christianity. All the arguments of history and of reason unite in the conclusive proof that the passage is an unblushing forgery.

    For these reasons every honest Christian scholar has abandoned it as an interpolation. Dean Milman says: “It is interpolated with many additional clauses.” Dean Farrar, writing in the Encyclopaedia Britannica, says: “That Josephus wrote the whole passage as it now stands no sane critic can believe.” Bishop Warburton denounced it as “a rank forgery and a very stupid one, too.” Chambers’ Encyclopaedia says: “The famous passage of Josephus is generally conceded to be an interpolation.”

    Let’s be frank. Not only does no church father quote Tacitus on the historical existence of Jesus until 200 years later, NOBODY quotes or refers to this passage of Tacitus until 200 years after he supposedly wrote it.

    The first mention found anywhere was by Sulpicius Severus, who was most certainly Christian – a monk no less, who “quoted” Tacitus on this subject just, coincidentally I’m sure, about the time when Christianity was establishing itself as the dominant religion and people needed to be converted from their pagan beliefs.

    Pretty much every quote and edition of Tacitus since that time has been through the church who, while condemning Tacitus, use him to “verify” their historical god-man. Interestingly, “Tacitus” in this same passage refers to Pilate as “procurator”. Pilate was in fact a prefect, a mistake a senator like Tacitus seems very unlikely to have made.

    So, best case for your argument, Tacitus did write about “Christus” without supplying any sources and probably made an assumption (as stated above) that because their were Christians, their must be a Christ. Not so.

    Worst case, this has been edited somewhat to suit the needs of a growing but not quite stable religion.

    Philo, one of the most renowned writers the Jewish race has produced, was born before the beginning of the Christian Era, and lived for many years after the time at which Jesus is supposed to have died. he was a hellenized jew who was terribly interested in Jewish and Greek religion. His home was in or near Jerusalem, where Jesus is said to have preached and to have been crucified. Had Jesus done these things, the writings of Philo would certainly contain some record of his life. Yet this philosopher who would surely be familiar with the preaching and death of Jesus, had these things occurred; who wrote an account of the Jews, covering this period, and discussed the very questions that are said to have been near to Christ’s heart, never once mentioned the name of, or any deed connected with, the reputed Jesus Christ.

    Next, Paul of Tarsus (whoever he actually was).

    The Epistles of Paul is a body of work by the later canonized Paul, who most scholars agree wrote the first account in which there is mention of the Christian Jesus. There is a consensus of agreement that the Epistles were written at about 60-65 A.D. ie some 30 years after the supposed death of Jesus. They were written long before the Gospels (which borrowed and then added to them). If Paul really wrote them, they were written by a man who lived in Jerusalem when Christ is supposed to have been teaching there, yet the two never actaully met. Now, if the facts of the life of Christ were known in the first century of Christianity, Paul was one of the men who should have known them fully. Yet Paul acknowledges that he never saw Jesus; and his Epistles prove that he knew nothing about his life, his works, or his teachings.

    Paul is without the slightest knowledge of the teaching of Jesus. There are many famous elements in the story of Jesus, known to virtually everyone in the Western World, that St. Paul did not mention at all:

    St. Paul did not name Joseph and Mary as the parents of Jesus. St. Paul said nothing of the Immaculate Conception. St. Paul did not mention Jesus’ birthplace, Bethlehem, or identify him as Jesus of Nazareth. St. Paul did not state the place or time of Jesus’ earthly existence. St. Paul said nothing of a trial before Pontius Pilate or of the crucifixion in Jerusalem. St. Paul did not mention John the Baptist or Judas Iscariot. St. Paul mentioned St. Peter, but did not say that Peter denied Christ three times or even that Peter had known Christ at all. St. Paul did not mention the Sermon on the Mount.

    The “Christ” of Paul and the Jesus of the Gospels are two entirely different beings. The Christ of Paul is little more than an idea. He has no life story. He was not followed by the multitude. He did no preaching. The Christ Paul knew was the Christ he was in a vision while on his way to Damascus

    I could go on but won’t cause this is getting a bit long. Suffice it to say that there is no primary evidence for Jesus but there is primary evidence for all of the other historical figures you name.

  52. Hope @ 56

    *raises hand*

    Someone’s being more silly than Vox. Substantially. This is a red letter day. Either PA has his head in the sand or he’s not arguing in good faith.

  53. “So helping Jews migrate to Israel is necessary to fulfil Scripture – another step of which is the Second Coming.”

    Do show the Scripture…. It isn’t necessary, only the existence of Israel is necessary. In fact, the nonexistence of Israel was long used as an argument against the verity of Scripture

    Well, you’re missing the point. I know you don’t believe it, but they do. They say so, right there. It still counts as religion if it doesn’t fit with what you personally believe.

    These guys are funding evangelism and sending Jews to Israel because their particular religious beliefs say that that’s going to hasten the Second Coming. Now, the fact that their beliefs aren’t your beliefs – that you personally think their beliefs are wrong – doesn’t really matter.

    You said about Christian groups attempting to bring on the Second coming that “Although this is a staple of poorly researched occult thrillers, it’s a deeply silly notion.”

    In fact, it’s true.

  54. Marc,

    It was said that it’s dangerous. But not by me. And if we are to accept PA’s argument about scope, just for the sake of discussion, religion is certainly far more dangerous than DnD or the World Series.

  55. It should also be noted for those reading this comment thread that Vox recently penned a column in which he argued that women are inferior to men in the sciences. So keep that in mind as he tries to argue that others are “irrational.”

    Below is an excerpt from the column:

    “The idea of biology classes being taught by lesbian professors who believe that heterosexual procreation is a myth or calculus courses being taught by women who can’t do long division may sound impossible today, but tell that to any software developer, and he’ll be able to provide you with plenty of current examples of computer science engineers, some with advanced CS degrees, who have no idea how to even begin writing a computer program.

    Women love education; it’s the actual application they don’t particularly like. Whereas the first thought of a woman who enjoys the idea of painting is to take an art appreciation class, a similarly interested man is more likely to just pick up a paintbrush and paint something – usually a naked woman.”

  56. sng, your original comment stated not only that religion had been used as an excuse for violence, but also that it is dangerous

    What he said.

  57. What is YOUR standard, if I may ask? By what standard do YOU condemn these things?

    Morality is not necessarily predicated on religious belief. Enlightened self-interest, empathy, the categorical imperative, and humanism all provide systems of morality that do just fine for many, many people.

  58. Vox doesnt try to prove the existence of God in his book. My take on it is that he simply wants atheist to bring better arguments against religion instead of the usual ‘most wars are caused by religion’, ‘religion is dangerous’, etc… It’s quite a good book and funny too, that is, if you took some time to read it.

  59. The Bible is not hearsay evidence, which the Federal Rules of Evidence describe as a statement, other than one made by the declarant while testifying at the trial or hearing, offered in evidence to prove the truth of the matter asserted.

    It is documentary evidence and could reasonably be described as testimonial evidence or historical evidence.

    The fact remains that religion is and has been used to justify doing horrible things to others.

    It certainly has. It certainly is. But it certainly has not been so used on the scale claimed by the New Atheists, much less enough to justify attempting to eradicate it by force, intolerance and political pressure. The fact that abortion clinic bombings, the Crusades and the Inquisition are usually cited as the great evils of the Christian religion is actually testimony to its relative historical beneficence.

  60. trk @66

    vox day says: The fact that abortion clinic bombings, the Crusades and the Inquisition are usually cited as the great evils of the Christian religion is actually testimony to its relative historical beneficence.

    No thanks. I don’t think he’s funny.

  61. Vox,

    For it to be documentary evidence you would have to be able to point to primary sources. After reading my rather long post please do so.

  62. I couldn’t slog my way through much of TIA, but the idea that the religious just want to live and let live is laughable. Too many of them think that their God has decreed how we should live, and they are perfectly happy to enforce those rules on the rest of us.

    Debating about a particular belief, whether it is a belief in God or magic crystals, can be an interesting way to kill some time, but the rest of us had better pay attention to the laws that the dominant religious culture seeks to impose on us.

  63. The majority of modern Islamic states with dreadful human rights records

    I specifically talking about Christianity. My bad, and noted above.

    I’d say that the fairly mainstream, Christian-inspired homophobia that exists in the US

    You are stripping away a lot of historical context. In many cultures homosexual behavior is punished, often by death. Only in the history of Christendom have we seen any sort of growth of human rights. A Christian won’t slay you because you are gay, unlike many other cultures. That doesn’t mean they won’t point out you are sinning — which you might construe as being “mean” — but this isn’t the same as putting you in physical danger.

  64. Okay, here we go. The faulty logical premise is: “the very idea that one’s personal opinion has anything to do with the existence or non-existence of God is fundamentally irrational.” Mr. Day proceeds to suggest that logic and scientific thought would need to be suspended in order to disbelieve in God.

    The premise is faulty because it assumes a fact not in evidence: that there is a “God” who might or might not have a commonly understood and proveable “existence.” Certainly the concept of “God” exists in the mind of Vox Day. It also exists in the minds of devout Muslims, Mormons and Amish. The exact nature of the concept held in each of those minds is not clear, although it seems clear from the tenents of each of those faiths that their concepts are probably very different.

    Because the concepts which exist in the minds of the devout are not uniform, they are not susceptible to a uniform proof in the first place. If something is not proveable using a uniform, repeatable set of proofs, then it is not a proveable scientific fact. Ergo, God can never be proven using scientific process. Mr. Day theorizes that this same process makes it impossible to disprove God either. This is not correct.

    In scientific reasoning, the default state is “negative” or “unproven.” This does not mean “impossible” merely, as the word suggests “unproven.” There may be a “God” which “exists” in some corner of spacetime, or across the entirety of it as far as we know. The concept that such an immensely powerful and omnipitent being would care about each and every one of the six billion beings on this particular planet out of billions in the universe is unwarranted hubris, however, on a scale almost as vast as the concept itself. This aspect of the theory is extremely dubious, but not impossible if you assume omniscience and omnipotence, which most religious theory conveniently does. The notion that there is one simple Mormon God, or Amish God or Muslim God, which all can agree upon, however, is not only incapable of proof, it is an impossibility. Asking people to believe in an impossibility is a violation of logic and, as such, can be fairly rejected by a rational thinker.

    So we get what Mr. Day has presented: a series of circular arguments, false logic, lots of big words and clever references. At the end of the day, the net water in his words would scarcely dampen a kleenex.

    Finally, in reference to a response as follows:

    “Ajay, God electing to manifest and show Himself to you in all His radiant glory is not “normal, everyday scientific evidence”?”

    I respond: How do I know that your version of God has not already manifested himself and shown himself to me today? It could have been an ant I inadvertently crushed on my way to work, or a dandelion seed on the wind, or anything at all. I also respond: How do you know that this text, these letters right here and right now are not the written manifestation of God’s Word telling you that you are wrong?

  65. Vox #67: “The fact that abortion clinic bombings, the Crusades and the Inquisition are usually cited as the great evils of the Christian religion is actually testimony to its relative historical beneficence.”

    Please clarify this statement. It almost sounds like you don’t think that abortion clinic bombings, the Crusades, or the Inquisition are a big deal…

  66. It should also be noted for those reading this comment thread that Vox recently penned a column in which he argued that women are inferior to men in the sciences. So keep that in mind as he tries to argue that others are “irrational.”

    Trying to change the subject already, are you? You left out the rather important fact that the current push to apply Title IX to science is predicated on the assumption of female inferiority in the sciences. So, as I wrote in that column, the application of Title IX to science education and research will obviously force universities to hire inferior and uninterested women, or fire men currently employed in those scientific fields, in order to achieve the appropriate sex ratios.

    You said about Christian groups attempting to bring on the Second coming that “Although this is a staple of poorly researched occult thrillers, it’s a deeply silly notion.”

    In fact, it’s true.

    You’re quite right, I should have said that it’s a deeply silly notion which, while true in the case of a few marginal evangelicals, is rather less common in real life than in fiction. I think you’ll probably admit that there are a few more pressing reasons for Christians to follow the Great Commission than immanentizing the eschaton… the name being the first clue.

  67. The fact remains that religion is and has been used to justify doing horrible things to others.

    It may or may not be helpful to note that it is against the commandments to take the name of the Lord in vain.

    “You shall not make wrongful use of the name of your God”
    It means more than foul language.

  68. The Bible is not hearsay evidence, which the Federal Rules of Evidence describe as a statement, other than one made by the declarant while testifying at the trial or hearing, offered in evidence to prove the truth of the matter asserted

    Sounds about right to me. It’s a collection of statements in written form made (purportedly) by various people, describing among other things the existence of God. It certainly isn’t testimonial evidence, which is the statement of a witness given in court. The authors of the Bible are all long dead and beyond question; there are different textual versions with no obvious master text (which would get you in trouble with the best evidence rule). It isn’t documentary evidence – there’s no witness to authenticate it (did St Paul really write this? Who can say?) nor is there a reliable chain of evidence (because there’s no original).

  69. From PA:

    “A Christian won’t slay you because you are gay, unlike many other cultures. That doesn’t mean they won’t point out you are sinning — which you might construe as being “mean” — but this isn’t the same as putting you in physical danger.”

    So what about the hundreds of news reports that have come out in the last decade or so about Christians attaching electrodes to the scrotums of gay people and electrocuting the gay out of them? This isn’t physical danger?

    Whether or not a group is marginal enough says nothing to the damaging effects it can have on society. A million or so Christians, though they may make up only 1/300th of the US, can do a lot of damage.

  70. sng,
    Sorry about misreading there. Yes, it was Eddie Clark who said “it is dangerous”. I think you may be misunderstanding my point somewhat. It’s not that some things are more dangerous than others, it’s that the use of an idea as a justification for behavior is not proof that the idea is itself dangerous.

    I’d also like to point out to commenters such as JD and PA that “the religious” is not synonymous with “the political wing of American fundamentalist Christianity”.

  71. PA:

    “You are stripping away a lot of historical context. In many cultures homosexual behavior is punished, often by death. Only in the history of Christendom have we seen any sort of growth of human rights.”

    Not true. There’s some really interesting Islamic feminism I’ve read from the late 19th and early 20th century. The difference going forward from then seems to me to be that the fundamentalists retained political power in general in the Islamic world but lost it in the Christian world :).

  72. “Whether one contemplates the existence of God, Swaziland or string theory, the truth is ultimately whatever it actually happens to be, our current perceptions and ideas notwithstanding. I can’t prove to you that God exists. I can’t even prove to you that I exist. And if God elects to manifest and show Himself to you in all His radiant glory today, you won’t be able to prove to me or anyone else that He did that tomorrow”

    Once outside of pure maths, nobody can prove anything. But once you accept that the tools developed from and by mathematics (e.g. logic, statistics, the scientific method) can be used to analyse the real world, then some things are going to be closer to being “proved” than others. Gravity hasnt been “proved” to exist, but the observations and reasoning supporting it are pretty strong. The observations and reasoning behind the existence of the Flying Spaghetti Monster (or other supernatural explanation for the world of your choice) are… less strong.

  73. John,
    I think you may have had a database burp here – the name field on this comment box was prefilled with “trk” ‘s name.

    Pio

  74. The book contains some data on the subject of religion, and it’s used not to promote Christianity, but rather to demonstrate that the atheists profiled don’t know what they are talking about.

    I would suggest looking at it yourself and drawing your own conclusions.

  75. Marc,

    Fair enough.

    None of which changes my simple point that religion is and has been used to justify doing horrible things to others and that it has resulted in things being done that have been dangerous to those people.

  76. The faulty logical premise is: “the very idea that one’s personal opinion has anything to do with the existence or non-existence of God is fundamentally irrational.” Mr. Day proceeds to suggest that logic and scientific thought would need to be suspended in order to disbelieve in God.

    No, he does not do that at all. You appear to be attacking a strawman position in which you extend perfectly reasonable logic to an untenable extent. So, let’s look at the logic, since you’re asserting that I’m committing a logical error here.

    Does your personal opinion have anything to do with the existence or non-existence of Nicaragua? Yes or no? Does your personal opinion have anything to do with the existence of any tangible object with which you have no direct or indirect connection?

  77. You guys are already way off track, not even understanding the purpose of the book, simply offended by what you percieve to be Vox challenging your beliefs about God.

  78. I had a name box earlier that said ‘Jeff’ even before I placed a comment, and the last time I checked, my name is not Jeff.

  79. JD #78: Not really. How is citing an organization’s (and I’m assuming that when Vox says ‘Christian religion’, he means ‘the church’) morally reprehensible deeds a testament to its general goodness? Does he mean that in comparison to these deeds, the rest of their activities are relatively benign? Does he mean that he doesn’t think that the events in question are all that bad?

  80. “The Bible is not hearsay evidence, which the Federal Rules of Evidence describe as a statement, other than one made by the declarant while testifying at the trial or hearing, offered in evidence to prove the truth of the matter asserted.

    It is documentary evidence and could reasonably be described as testimonial evidence or historical evidence.”

    Actually, it is unauthenticated hearsay on two levels: 1) because the author is not available to authenticate the writing and confirm that it has not been tampered with; and 2) because the “divinely inspired” writer did not actually hear or see the actual events described therein. Although theoretically related to him or her by divine inspiration, they are not, technically, within his or her personal knowledge.

    An argument can be made that the experience of a “vision” is no different than seeing an event firsthand, but this is inherently unreliable. Imagine if a witness showed up at a traffic fender-bender trial, declared that they had a “vision” in which they “saw” the whole thing, and it happened a certain way. Would it be wrong to reject that, particularly in favor of measurements and photographs?

    Assuming it passed the lack of personal knowledge problem and someone still wanted to introduce it despite its’ hearsay nature, there is an available exception: the “present sense” recording. Such a recording of the vision would need to be a “present sense impression” made immediately after the event. There is no evidence to tell whether this document was recorded immediately following the event or over a span of time following the event. Certainly the length of the work suggests it was written over a span of time, therefore it probably could not be admitted as a present sense impression exception to the hearsay rule. If it were admitted anyway, it would certainly not be accepted as “documentary evidence” or for the truth of the matters asserted, only for what it has been proven to be: the recounting of a vision of an unnamed person at some point in the past which is unauthenticated and may have been severely tampered with, but is still claimed to be the Word of God.

  81. I would just like to take a moment here to express undying love for sng. Facts! Actual documentation of the primary sources! Rigorous reasoning! *swoon*

  82. “Does your personal opinion have anything to do with the existence or non-existence of Nicaragua? Yes or no? Does your personal opinion have anything to do with the existence of any tangible object with which you have no direct or indirect connection?”

    You are mixing the apple of a tangible object with the orange of an intangible concept. This is not permissible for a logical debate. God is, under any definition, not a tangible object. I merely point out that the multitude of concepts of God render the existence argument impossible, because there is no achievable standard.

  83. Christianity is not in denial about man’s ability to do evil – even Christians. Science resulted in the atomic bomb. Communism killed millions. Do you want to compare headcounts?

  84. KIA,

    ‘Actually, it is unauthenticated hearsay on two levels: 1) because the author is not available to authenticate the writing and confirm that it has not been tampered with; and 2) because the “divinely inspired” writer did not actually hear or see the actual events described therein’

    So by that rule you can toss out Darwin’s Theory of Evolution since #1) He’s dead, and #2)He can’t witness evolution

  85. Vox at #86: You are engaging in an almost textbook example of the logical fallacy known as “begging the question”.

    In order for it to be irrational to suppose that belief affects the existence of God, it must be established that God is the sort of thing whose existence cannot depend on belief. But whether or not God is the sort of thing whose existence can depend on belief is precisely what is at question. Therefore you may not have it as a premise in your argument.

    By the way, Nicaragua may not be the best example of the sort of thing that is not affected by belief. Nicaragua, and any nation state, is a social construct, a species of collective fiction. Like money, or the meaning of “blue”. It could be otherwise, and one of the ways it could be otherwise is simply by enough people believing otherwise. At which point, the personal belief of one person can definitely affect (as a component of a larger intersubjective belief) the existence of Nicaragua. Or, to pick a more puissant case: Istanbul.

  86. Wow, John.

    You’re actually pimping this self-absorbed, preening, faux-intellectual, misogynist fool?

    Shouldn’t “Big Idea” posts focus on writers who are, at the very least, capable of some?

    It’s your blog. But I think I’ve lost a modicum of respect for you.

  87. I hope this isn’t a diversion of the thread, but two different people have suggested that we go look at the book itself. Should we? i’ve read Vox Day’s comments before on this site and, I think, on makinglight. I’ve read his post here. I really hate it when people who haven’t read a book condemn it out of hand, but I think I have all the evidence I need to dismiss TIA without giving it the time of day. It’s silly. And I am not interested or amused.

    So, at what point do you consider it is justified to dismiss something without reading it first? When you’ve read something by the author that makes you think he is a jackass? How much evidence should you need? Or should you always take a look at the book in question, say something by Ann Coulter or Al Franken, before you condemn it as twaddle? Or pornography, for that matter, or propaganda, or not suitable for children, or whatever.

  88. trk – at what point in his writings did Charles Darwin claim to be an eyewitness to the events of natural selection?

  89. @ Hope#98— As I stated in my first post, I was interested in checking out Day’s book. I really was. Even though I’m an avowed atheist, the idea of an argument for theism grounded in logic is very compelling to me, as I enjoy getting all sides of an issue. However, after reading Mr. Day’s comments on here, and finding out a bit more about him (I had no knowledge of him before this post), I’m less enthusiastic about wading into his book. I may still check it out, I don’t know, but judging from what I’ve read here, I don’t think logical arguments grounded in facts are necessarily what I’ll find.

  90. Vox @ 86: Does your personal opinion have anything to do with the existence or non-existence of Nicaragua? Yes or no? Does your personal opinion have anything to do with the existence of any tangible object with which you have no direct or indirect connection?

    Are you arguing here that God belongs to the class of tangible objects?

    I am not a fan of the argument that religion is dangerous, or that it is the cause of harmful behavior; I would argue instead that people often use religion as an easily accessible justification for the foolish/irrational/harmful actions they’ve already decided on.

    To the extent that your book–which I haven’t read, having discovered its existence this afternoon–argues against the conclusion of Hitchens, Dawkins, etc. that religion is dangerous, I can actually agree. Here in the comments, though, you seem to be arguing something else entirely.

  91. I haven’t had a chance to read all the above, so I hope I don’t do too much duplication. Both sides in this believer/atheist argument have difficulty admitting that I can exist, so I feel I can argue both sides. I am a gay born-again Christian. Believers insist I cannot be born-again, and non-believers insist that being gay I cannot believe in any god whose followers heap hate upon me. I have heard the abuse from both sides, and really don’t care what they think. I know what I am.

    Be that as it may, there are some arguments I can see both sides of. For instance, extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof (or at least extraordinary evidence). So, who is making the extraordinary claim? Atheists say that any claim to the existence of a god or gods, or any supernatural being, is the extraordinary claim. Believers say that claiming there is no god of any kind, when you can see the evidence all around you, is the extraordinary claim. So who owes the extraordinary evidence? The statement that “belief in God flies in the face of reason” is no more proof or even decent evidence than “this could not have arisen by chance.” Both are statements of belief, not evidence or proof.

    The constant claim the all evil in the history of the world was perpretrated in the name of religion is nothing but irrational name-calling. Some has been, certainly. The crusades, the Muslim beheadings of men caught dancing together, etc. cannot be ignored. But the horrors committed by Stalin and the various communist Chinese regimes then must be seen as great evil perpretated in the name of godlessness, or atheism. Nobody gets off blameless.

    How about “If there was an all-powerful god, then things like crippling birth defects and diseases would not exist.” Nice statement, but no more rational or provable than any testimony given in the name of faith. All it really means is “If any God exists, he must agree with me on these issues,” Which is irrational at best, incredibly arrogant at worst.

    You can’t use faith healings as proof of God’s existence, or lack of same as proof of non-existence. I have been healed of an incurable disease by prayer, but have another which is still with me in spite of the best that prayer or medicine can do, and have also had a spontaneous remission that can’t be explained any other way. Also, I am still gay in spite of a couple of decades of praying to be changed. Why? I don’t know. I believe in God, but make no claims about understanding how such a powerful alien would think. And whether you believe or not, an all-knowing all-powerful god would essentially be an alien being, just because it would be so different from us.

    I don’t agree with attempts to prove or disprove God at all, actually, because to me it is the epitome of lack of faith. If Rev. Smith claims to believe in God with all his heart, why does he find it needful to write a book proving God? On the other hand, if Prof Jones claims to know with all his mind that no such thing as a god can exist, why does she find it needful to write a book proving it? I think both books are evidence that the writer is not so certain of his/her position as is claimed, and the book is written more to convince the author than to convince others.

    Both sides fail to fight fair. The atheist loves to blame all religion, or all Christianity, for the nutball pope who ordered the children’s crusade, or the mindless fanatic who murdered a doctor for performing an abortion. The believer loves to blame all declines in any area of civilization on those who attempt to “dethrone God” and remove the only true moral basis for the world.

    I am looking forward to reading this book, in spite of the idiotic pseudonym. Thank you for making it available.

  92. There is a hearsay exception for statements contained in ancient documents (documents that have been in existence for 20 years or more.) provided that the document can be authenticated. Authentication of ancient documents is not dependent on eyewitness testimony.

    When people shout “hearsay” in this type of discussion, they are usually trying to apply legal consequences to the lay definition of the term.

    SNG:

    Regarding Josephus, there are Syriac editions of the Testimonium Flavium that predate the interpolated versions. These lack the “red flags” you mention and are quite credible as what a Jew of that period would’ve written about Jesus. Also, there is no dispute as to the authenticity of the shorter reference to Jesus when Josephus discusses John the Baptist.

    The claim that the “Christ” of Paul and the Jesus of the gospels are two different people is ridiculous. Earl Doherty has been taken to the woodshed by scholars of every stripe for this silly idea. Paul omits most of Jesus’ biographical details because he wasn’t trying to write another gospel. Also, there are four instances where Paul absolutely refers to a human, earthly Jesus that can only be dismissed by fanciful claims of interpolation or face saving reinterpretation.
    http://www.tektonics.org/doherty/doherty4sq.html

  93. T.M. Wagner @ 97:

    Righteous Indignation: U haz it.

    I find Vox’s comments annoying and dumb, usually, but the substance of this particular post is actually relatively interesting – inasmuch as Richard Dawkins is fairly self-evidently a bit of an asshole. I feel no huge need to go read the whole of Vox’s book now, but the post itself isn’t really that objectionable, is it?

  94. Um, they are logical arguements grounded in facts. Of course, you have no way of knowing otherwise you just “feel” this might be the case.

    Hence the general radio-silence from atheists and their embarassing non-review reviews.

    I’ve read the book. Chapter 3 is a good place to start if you wish to get straight to the meat and avoid all of the mud tossing.

  95. Re #97. Mr Wagner, are you actually capable of losing respect for someone who makes a book avaliable that does not agree with your mindset? Who is the small one here? The one who says, “Read this, it might make you think” or the one who says “I haven’t read this, but I know it’s trash and you must be stupid to recommend it.”

  96. sng,

    me too on the swoon. the josephus business was very eye-catching. i loved the way you paired it with the tacitus. and the accessories–eusebius, warburton, philo, just the perfect touches. god you look good in print.

  97. I couldn’t tell if this was supposed to be a satirical piece – is the pompous, overwrought style supposed to be a parody of Dawkins? It’s very good if it is!

    Weren’t a lot of those criticisms – of Dawkins and Harris, at least – made when their books were published? I’m pretty sure I remember a number of reviews that pointed out the weaknesses in their arguments.

  98. “So by that rule you can toss out Darwin’s Theory of Evolution since #1) He’s dead, and #2)He can’t witness evolution”

    Again, apples and oranges. A theory is a postulate which is subject to scientific proof. The theory of evolution has been effectively proven for well over a century ever since Gregor Mendel’s formal experiments with peas in 1856-1863. This introduced the concept of genetics, which lead to understandings of DNA. We can now trace DNA strands back for centuries and show commonalities among various families and species of the earth. More importantly, we can, and have pinpointed divergence points where the animals on Madagascar, the Galapagos Islands, and other isolated areas split off and developed unique characteristics. All of these are independently observeable and proveable, repeatable fact.

    So, no. I am not required to “throw out” Darwin’s Theory.” It is a theory. If you are asking for proof, this proof has been amply provided.

  99. Do the peeps here have an aversion to trash-talking in general, or just trash-talking by someone you disagree with? Just curious.

  100. Wagner @ 97, I had a similar initial reaction. I think that Scalzi posted this primarily to provoke conversation, rather than as endorsement of VD or his ideas. That might be totally wrong, of course, but it’s how I square my affection for Whatever with my disagreement with the content, tone, and style of VD’s arguments.

  101. Hope,

    You guys are going to make me blush. But thank you very much. I very much appreciate it.

  102. # T.M. Wagneron 08 Apr 2008 at 1:44 pm

    Wow, John.

    You’re actually pimping this self-absorbed, preening, faux-intellectual, misogynist fool?

    Shouldn’t “Big Idea” posts focus on writers who are, at the very least, capable of some?

    It’s your blog. But I think I’ve lost a modicum of respect for you.

    *clap clap clap*

    Now, I’ve not lost any respect for Scalzi (it’s his blog, after all), but this time around, the “Big Idea” is clearly the equivalent of either repeatedly slamming one’s head in a door jamb, or self-trepanation with the jagged end of a broken bottle of rubbing alcohol.

  103. the other dimension,

    I suppose that is one answer to my question. If TM Wanger thinks that Scalzi has posted Vox Day’s Big Idea just because he wants to draw traffic and will post anything to do it, then I can see why he would lose respect for him. If he thinks Scalzi has been swayed by Day’s arguments, Wagner might lose respect for him. I don’t see either of these as being overly righteous. I don’t see why Scalzi would care either.

    I think Scalzi just likes to throw cats into piles of pigeons.

    I wouldn’t see this post as an endorsement of the book. And I think I’ve seen enough of Vox Day to judge that charcoal writes everyone’s name black. He’s said too many stupid things for me to feel obliged to give his book the benefit of the doubt long enough to look over it. But you obviously feel differently.

  104. You are mixing the apple of a tangible object with the orange of an intangible concept. This is not permissible for a logical debate. God is, under any definition, not a tangible object.

    I am doing no such thing. You claimed a logical error, now we are examining your logic. Don’t try to evade this examination by skipping ahead, answer the question:

    Does your personal opinion have anything to do with the existence of any tangible object with which you have no direct or indirect connection?

    You are engaging in an almost textbook example of the logical fallacy known as “begging the question”.

    No, I am not, and your postmodernist argument is absurd.

    It almost sounds like you don’t think that abortion clinic bombings, the Crusades, or the Inquisition are a big deal…

    I don’t, as they are not a big deal by any reasonable historical measure. If that’s the worst you can come up with in two millenium, it suffices to demonstrate that the Christian religion is one of the gentlest, least dangerous institutions that history has ever known.

    Spanish Inquisition deaths per annum: 9
    Texas executions per annum: 16
    Children’s bicycles deaths per annum: 130

    Deaths from abortion clinic bombings are, of course, neglible. As for the Crusades, it can’t be reduced to simple religious conflict, as the Crusades didn’t even become a Christian-Muslim affair until after the Second Crusade, which was ironically inspired by a Christian noble carelessly taking his forces to the aid of a Muslim ally being attacked by another Muslim emir and losing his principality as a result. Ironically, Muslims know this much better than most Westerners, as Zengi, whose conquest of Edessa inspired the Second Crusade, is still considered to be a heroic figure as the first anti-Western jihadist.

  105. agnosticism and atheism are not mutually exclusive.

    (a)gnosticism discusses knowledge
    (a)theism discusses beliefs

    you can be an
    agnostic atheist
    agnostic theist
    gnostic atheist
    gnostic theist

    i can never know absolutely if there is a god or not, because i accept that there is no absolute knowledge. but i choose not to believe in gods for the same reason i can also choose not to believe in fairies and easter bunnies. i will never know absolutely if there are no fairies or easter bunnies, but it is fairly safe for me to disbelieve in them. this makes me an agnostic atheist.

  106. Does your personal opinion have anything to do with the existence of any tangible object with which you have no direct or indirect connection?

    Surely Christianity holds that God is a) not tangible and b) has a direct connection with everybody? Maybe I’m thinking of a different religion…

  107. T.M. Wagner @ 105:

    Agree on Mr Beale’s comments re women in particular – they are fairly disgusting. But Scalzi hosting a post by Mr Beale isn’t going to change anyone’s mind about the validity of his arguments, and isn’t something that makes me lose respect for anyone. If anything, I was surprised to see that Vox could put forward a semi-coherent, non-insulting argument.

    *Grin* if I was going to lose respect for Scalzi, the “friends with Glenn Reynolds” thing would have already done it. But guilt by association is dumb, and its fairly obvious that John’s politics are fairly different from both Theodore Beale’s and Glenn Reynolds’.

  108. #107: Mr Wagner, are you actually capable of losing respect for someone who makes a book avaliable that does not agree with your mindset?

    Hardly. What I do think is that John simply posted for the fun of watching the comments go crazy. Indeed in comment #1 John admits as much. I haven’t completely lost respect for John by a longshot, but I do question the integrity of his promotion of Vox here. It’s not just that Vox’s arguments for theism and against atheism are pedestrian, or that he’s scientifically illiterate; on those grounds he could simply be ignored. But Vox’s extremist misogyny (see link in comment 117) is something else, and I’m surprised a husband and father like John would be willing to promote the work of someone who holds such views.

  109. Death by children’s bicycles don’t count because they’re accidental rather than deliberate (for the most part), but executions in Texas are carried out under the Texas Constitution, which begins with “Humbly invoking the blessings of Almighty God, the people of the State of Texas, do ordain and establish this Constitution”. So presumably we should add the Texas executions to the death toll for Christianity?

  110. Just considering the negatives in terms of violence or “danger”:

    Alcohol – millions of assaults, murders, riots, etc.
    Crack – thousands dead
    Marijuana – insignificant impact
    Soccer – frequent riots, one war
    Islam – war, frequent honor killings
    Christianity – infrequent abortion clinic bombings
    Basketball – Reggie Lewis, Hank Gathers
    Communism – 100 million+ dead, nearly 2 billion enslaved
    Fascism – 50 million dead (including WW2)
    Capitalism – insignificant impact
    Atomic science – Hiroshima, Nagasaki (the creation of the bomb led to its use)

  111. For SNG’s edification:

    The historical evidence that Jesus Christ was a real person is substantial. As much as it might make you feel better to be ignorant – after all, ‘ignorance is bliss’, right? – it is simply irrational to try and dismiss Jesus for a fictional character.
    All of the historians (not most, ALL) in this area have a firm belief that Jesus was an actual, factual, flesh and blood person. Most of the better (non Christian) ones, like E. P. Sanders, G. Theissen, et. al., even consider Jesus to have been a prophet or at least unusually gifted rabbi.

    I recommend that you read some of the books by these reputable historians (Geza Vermes is another) before you pontificate; you might save yourself from appearing ignorant.

  112. But whether or not God is the sort of thing whose existence can depend on belief is precisely what is at question. Therefore you may not have it as a premise in your argument.

    No, that is not precisely the question. Let’s make it simpler. If the planet Venus exists, it exists regardless of whether you, me or a primitive man living without telescopes many centuries ago know it exists. It exists whether we believe it exists, and whether or not we happen to call it Venus.

    If the planet Gor does not exist, it does not exist, regardless of what you, me, or Tarl Cabot happen to believe. Now, I don’t believe Gor exists, and you don’t believe God exists, but the fact of their existence or non-existence is independent of our belief.

    Are you attempting to argue that the existence of Venus or Gor depends on your belief? I don’t think so, which is why your reference to my “argument” seems to be assuming that I am attempting to construct an argument for the existence of God here. However, I am doing no such thing, as there is no argument for the existence of God in my book. It is merely a criticism of the various New Atheist arguments, as well as a few often-heard atheist ones.

  113. “No, I am not, and your postmodernist argument is absurd.”

    Ah. Well. That settles it, then. The hot dog is enlightened.

    But as for making a case for rational theism, I’m afraid you’ve just outed yourself as a rather poor (read: incompetent) advocate. You demonstrate excellent ignorance of both logic, and Post Modernism, however. On the refutation by argument or substance, not so much.

    If you want to see what actual, intelligent and thoughtful theism looks like, I commend you to the works of Marilyn McCord Adams for a rather more competent display.

    John – next time you want to generate a long, self-sustaining thread, why not bring in a Klansman or a Flat-Earther? Clearly we’re not aiming for the quality of the discourse, just the length.

  114. And whether you believe or not, an all-knowing all-powerful god would essentially be an alien being, just because it would be so different from us.

    That’s probably the best argument for agnosticism I’ve ever heard.

  115. 8 @ 126:

    “Capitalism – insignificant impact”

    LOL. ROFL. LMAO. ROFLMAO.

    You’re joking. Because Capitalism is the natural state of being endorsed by God, right?

    Any form of resource allocation that systemically denies necessary resources (food, housing, clothing, healthcare, not to mention systemically required baseline shortage of employment) is going to result in misery and/or death for countless people. Just because Capitalism is slightly less brutal in how it goes about this that Communism (and I admit that it is – Communism as practiced sucked immesurably) doesn’t mean its a utility neutral system.

  116. Vox @ 118 “You are mixing the apple of a tangible object with the orange of an intangible concept. This is not permissible for a logical debate. God is, under any definition, not a tangible object.

    I am doing no such thing. You claimed a logical error, now we are examining your logic. Don’t try to evade this examination by skipping ahead, answer the question.”

    Cue Jon Lovitz: “I’m not the logical violator… you are! I don’t need to answer your question first when I ignored the problem you raised and asked an irrelevant counter-question. Yeah. That’s the ticket. You’re irrelevant. Logic is irrelevant. I win! Yay me!”

  117. 127: Whether or not there actually was a historical figure that inspired the story of Christ isn’t the issue (though it’s true a lot of people, theists and atheists included, make more hay of that than is necessary). There may have been, or maybe not. The issue is: is there any credible, extra-Biblical evidence that any of the Gospels’ claims of supernatural occurrences (raising the dead, walking on water, loaves and fishes, coming back to life after 3 days) connected to this individual actually happened? Things get a little more problematic there, to put it mildly.

  118. Dropping the atomic bomb wasn’t accidental. Communism wasn’t accidental. Do you want to use that instead of bicycling?

  119. Edie Clark wrote:

    “Why? Because as far as I understand the concept of God, it is by its nature unprovable, and also impossible to DISprove.”

    Two things:

    First, the fact that the few surviving religions have had to alter their original idea of God from an entity intimately tied into everyday human affairs (iron chariots anyone?), to one who is invisible, undetectable, and unfalsifiable is itself testimony to the complete lack of any positive evidence for such a being existing anywhere but in peoples’ thoughts. (ie there is nothing intrinsic to the concept of God that would make it necessarily invisible and unprovable, that’s just what religious people had to do to the idea of God in order to keep their faith in a world where there’s no evidence for such an entity.)

    Second, one does not need to claim an absolute knowledge of God’s nonexistence to be an atheist, nor does one have to somehow disprove the concept. The burden of proof is clearly not on the reality-based community to disprove the existence of a hypothetical entity. This oft-repeated you-need-to-arrogantly-claim-universal-knowledge-to-be-an-atheist tripe is nothing more than a straw man. My atheism is tentative, as are all other beliefs for an empiricist.

  120. Eddie Clark @ 134.

    Agreed, but you are, by your own admission, non-religious. The argument for agnosticism I quoted came from a self-described born-again Christian.

    I like irony. It amuses me.

  121. If the planet Gor does not exist, it does not exist, regardless of what you, me, or Tarl Cabot happen to believe. Now, I don’t believe Gor exists, and you don’t believe God exists, but the fact of their existence or non-existence is independent of our belief.

    That’s true, which is why the sensible thing to do is throw the whole concept of belief out of the equation as an irrelevant waste of time, and concentrate on what can be demonstrated by evidence. Belief is not a valid means of cognition. And if the whole point of what you’re saying is to refute arguments of “the New Atheists,” who among them is actually arguing that belief or disbelief are things that determining something’s existence or nonexistence?

  122. Vox: “If the planet Gor does not exist, it does not exist, regardless of what you, me, or Tarl Cabot happen to believe. Now, I don’t believe Gor exists, and you don’t believe God exists, but the fact of their existence or non-existence is independent of our belief.”

    Interesting example there. (Suddenly Vox’s views on women are becoming much more clear…)

  123. John Scalzi is not responsible for my views, nor does he share many of them. As I mentioned, we first encountered each other as opponents in a little flame skirmish. One thing that we both share, however, is a willingness to consider the views of those we oppose. Indeed, the pathetic weakness of many of the New Atheist arguments tends to illustrate the importance of doing so from time to time.

    As for my politics, please don’t make the mistake of assigning your own authoritarian desires to dictate the behavior of others to me. I am a libertarian, which means that even if I think your behavior is immoral, wildly stupid, and suicidal, I am perfectly willing to let you do as you will and experience the consequences of your actions.

    Indeed, the very first words of the first chapter of TIA are “I don’t care if you go to Hell.” It may be worthwhile to keep in mind that it’s not most Christians who reject the idea of free will, but New Atheists such as Sam Harris and Daniel Dennett.

  124. I’ll take a quote from the Bible out of context…most of you should be familiar with that practice.

    “…there is nothing new under the sun.” Ecclesiastes 1:9; Which pretty much sums up all the anti-faith, anti-God arguments that have been made here today.

    Read TIA, don’t read TIA, I don’t care, and neither does Vox. But have enough respect for yourself and others to admit that your comments and criticisms are based on ignorance, close-mindedness and prejudice rather than a rational review of the facts as Vox sees and presents them.

  125. Now, I don’t believe Gor exists, and you don’t believe God exists, but the fact of their existence or non-existence is independent of our belief.

    But Gor does exist – in a fictional form, granted, but it exists.

    Thus do I prove that God exists, but only in a fictional form. Zowie!

  126. Vox says:

    “The fact that abortion clinic bombings, the Crusades and the Inquisition are usually cited as the great evils of the Christian religion is actually testimony to its relative historical beneficence”

    You’re engaging in cherry-picking and outright misleading characterization of religious critics. They by no means stick to just those three as “the great evils of the Christian religion.”

    Remember slavery? Remember segregation? These are just a few issues in which the Christian religion was used by the most vocal racists and sexists in those days.

    And that is to say nothing of the countless more minor but still important evils that people commit on a daily basis on behalf of Christianity.

  127. Jason @ 136:

    You seem to think I disagree with you?

    I may not have expressed it well (although I think I was relatively clear), but pretty much my only disagreement with Dawkins and particularly Hitchens is that they’re such DICKS about being right. The rhetorical style of “God is Not Great” and “The God Delusion” is, to my eyes, self-satisfied and rude. I agree with most of their arguments, but you only use that sort of tone if you’re preaching to the choir. And preaching athiesm to athiests is kind of pointless.

    As I think amiable atheist put it upthread, I could probably be classified as an agnostic athiest. Your athiesm might be tentative, mine might be tentative, but that of Dawkins, Hitchens, et al is brash and in your face.

  128. Ulrika O’Brien:

    “John – next time you want to generate a long, self-sustaining thread, why not bring in a Klansman or a Flat-Earther? Clearly we’re not aiming for the quality of the discourse, just the length.”

    I don’t know. I’m finding it interesting.

    Also, as a point of data, on the general subjects under discussion, my own mother holds opinions rather closer to Vox Day’s than to mine, and she also reads my blog, and she’s not alone in either of these things. I don’t mind having a long and interesting discussion that airs out these particular concepts; I think overall the result, for folks like me and folks like my mother, is salutatory.

  129. Remember slavery? Remember segregation?

    Hmmm, I seem to remember Christians being the good guys on those.

    But Christians are anti-buggery, so let’s keep harping on that.

  130. Honestly, I’ve read through page 17, and so far, it is filled with tasty, tasty, snark.

    But in this set of comments, and elsewhere Vox/Beale has posted, particularly regarding women,…well, there is neither time enough, nor words, in the heavens or on earth, nor under the earth, nor beneath the seas, nor beyond the furthest extent of the universe, even were it expanded to some theoretical maxima in the throes of heat death, to express how vanishingly small, yea, even smaller than the least, most theoretical sub atomic particle, so minuscule that were it to have consciousness, it would admire the massy heft of a single neutrino as if it were as dense as all the neutron stars of all the universes ever hypothesized by science or imagined by fandom – well, so small is my respect for his conduct.

    Well, maybe not that bad, but good heavens my opinion of him ain’t good.

    pio

  131. I don’t think there is any evidence that capitalism is source of violence or “danger”, i.e. death and destruction. I’ve never heard of anyone starting a war to spread capitalism (unlike democracy) nor do individual people cite capitalism as a reason to initiate violence.

    Many people have said religion is dangerous. Which religion? One must separate, as I wouldn’t say sports lead to violence, since basketball is relatively safe compared with soccer. In terms of pure inspired 20th Century violence, I’d even wager that soccer is deadlier than Christianity. There are major riots almost every year, and there was even a soccer war.

  132. That’s true, which is why the sensible thing to do is throw the whole concept of belief out of the equation as an irrelevant waste of time, and concentrate on what can be demonstrated by evidence.

    Agreed. That’s precisely why I introduced the book that way, to explain that it’s not a book about belief. It’s not a book about theology, except for one chapter at the end. It’s not a Christian apologetic, except indirectly. Among other things, TIA directly addresses 22 of Sam Harris’s specific arguments, 12 of Richard Dawkins specific arguments, including the one that he describes as the central argument of The God Delusion, and 8 general atheist arguments.

    Obviously, given the assumption here that I am somehow attempting to argue for the existence of God in the book, I can see how this was misconstrued. The point T.M. Wagner is making was the basis for the writing of TIA. Throw out belief, throw out assumptions, let’s simply look at the empirical evidence, apply proper logic, and see how the New Atheist arguments stand up. Of course, because I am an Award-Winning Cruelty Artist with a rather vicious sense of humor, there is also an amount of ad hom as well. But since the Four Horsemen have informed us that respect should not enter into the discussion, I saw no reason not to play by their rules.

  133. Dead Kulak – no, there were Christians on both sides. It was minority Christian groups that first set up opposition to slavery, which then spread out into the wider community.

    My point would rather be that religion is largely irrelevant except as a framework through which people justify the things that they are already predisposed to doing.

  134. 142: “…there is nothing new under the sun.” Ecclesiastes 1:9; Which pretty much sums up all the anti-faith, anti-God arguments that have been made here today.

    Then present some credible arguments for God and faith. There are some, right?

  135. But it’s so much fun to lump all the religions together – then you don’t have to learn anything about them, or the fact that they believe totally different things.

  136. #133,

    There are about 6 non-biblical references to Jesus, give or take scholarly disputes as to whether they’re talking about him.

    Of the six, the authentic core of Josephus’ “Testimonium” (without the later forgeries) refers to Jesus doing “wonderful works.” The Greek can be translated as miraculous, surprising or odd.

    Also, later Jewish polemics have Jesus illegally obtaining the divine name and using it to do magic. They seek to explain the origin of his miracles, rather than denying that they happened.

  137. According to Vox in 151 the debate is thus

    New Atheist Authors: There is no god.

    Vox: You’re wrong, sloppy and smell bad. But I’m not arguing in favor of God. Why does everyone seem to assume that I’m arguing in favor of God? They must be stupid.

    Reminder – Blog name = Whatever.

  138. zansibar,

    “Read TIA, don’t read TIA, I don’t care, and neither does Vox. But have enough respect for yourself and others to admit that your comments and criticisms are based on ignorance, close-mindedness and prejudice rather than a rational review of the facts as Vox sees and presents them.”

    I can’t see this. Why shouldn’t we look at what Vox Day has already said and decide that we don’t want to hear anything else? Why should we either read the book or consider ourselves close minded? Why can’t we judge Vox Day on what we have seen of him and decide that his arguments are very likely to be more twaddle? It isn’t as if he hasn’t given us plenty of evidence for believing he is both dim and unpleasant.

  139. 8 @ 150. And now, that I mention it, most of PA and Vox’s arguments upthread.

    All 3 of you have attempted to distinguish between Christianity (I’m assuming, further, Chrsitianity as currently practiced by evangelicals in the USA, but I could be wrong on that) and all other religions. Which leads me to believe that the argument below the surface is not “A religious worldview is just as valid, and no more threatening, than a non-religious worldview” but “The Christian worldview is correct, and athiests, Muslims, Jews, and Hindus are all equally wrong”.

    Is that at all fair (genuine question, I don’t want to mischaracterise, but that is an undercurrent I think I can detect)? Be honest.

  140. CJ,
    Josephus also mentions James the brother of Jesus and there is no doubt over the authenticity of this passage.

  141. You’re engaging in cherry-picking and outright misleading characterization of religious critics.

    That’s not true. I was addressing the three specific examples given to me by a commenter here. Yours are even worse, as Christians are the only group of people in history to have not only taken exception to slavery, but wiped it out across much of the planet. Your attempt to somehow blame segregation on Christianity is downright amusing, especially to someone who has lived in Japan.

    Moreover, Sam Harris declared in The End of Faith that the Inquisition was the second-worst crime committed by religious faith. So, your accusation is false on several levels.

  142. # PA on 08 Apr 2008 at 12:15 pm
    “But it is a generally accepted tenet of logic that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”

    Please prove a citation from a major philosopher for this “premise.” Please provide a source this is a generally accepted tenet of logic.

    Note: Carl Sagan, who originated this chestnut, was a pop scientist and not a philosopher. But he was on the Tonight Show.

    How about David Hume?

    The plain consequence is (and it is a general maxim worthy of our attention), ‘That no testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle, unless the testimony be of such a kind, that its falsehood would be more miraculous, than the fact, which it endeavours to establish….’ When anyone tells me, that he saw a dead man restored to life, I immediately consider with myself, whether it be more probable, that this person should either deceive or be deceived, or that the fact, which he relates, should really have happened. I weigh the one miracle against the other; and according to the superiority, which I discover, I pronounce my decision, and always reject the greater miracle. If the falsehood of his testimony would be more miraculous, than the event which he relates; then, and not till then, can he pretend to command my belief or opinion.

    David Hume, An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding

    this may have been aswered previously. I saw PA’s comment and had to answer it right away.

  143. “I can’t see this. Why shouldn’t we look at what Vox Day has already said and decide that we don’t want to hear anything else? Why should we either read the book or consider ourselves close minded? Why can’t we judge Vox Day on what we have seen of him and decide that his arguments are very likely to be more twaddle? It isn’t as if he hasn’t given us plenty of evidence for believing he is both dim and unpleasant.”

    uuuuhhh……because this thread was a discussion of his book!

  144. Well superninja just confirmed my feeling while I was writing post 158! I’ll address the question to you, too then.

    Superninja: Do you believe everyone that doesn’t hold a particular (Christian) worldview is fundamentally wrong? Yes/No.

  145. The Christian worldview is true. Muslims, Jews, and Hindus come closer to the truth in varying degrees. Atheists are way off, and many are dishonest about this.

  146. You can, hope. I think that’s what he meant by “read it or don’t, I don’t care”.

  147. jm@17: Any book that manages to piss off that many Internet intellectuals that rapidly almost certainly has something going for it.

    (Obligatory disavowal of ill will towards jm, who I’m sure is a lovely person and kind to puppies. I’m attacking the argument.)

    I hate this argument. That an argument cheeses off whoever one thinks the opposition is is NOT necessarily a sign of righteousness or quality.

    Consider, for instance:
    “I see that you vehemently object to my characterization of your mother as a disease-ridden whore! Any argument that annoys you so much must have a grain of truth, therefore…”

    It just won’t wash.

  148. re:153 T.M. Wagner

    “Then present some credible arguments for God and faith. There are some, right?”

    Credible to whom? “To the believer, no proof is necessary. To the non-believer, no proof is possible”.

    1 Corinthians 1:27 says “but God chose the foolish things of the world, that he might put to shame them that are wise; and God chose the weak things of the world, that he might put to shame the things that are strong;”

    One of us is right and one of us is wrong, we’ll all find out which is which soon enough.

    With all that said, this “Big Idea” is about Vox’s book, comments from actual readers for which I am still waiting.

  149. Vox at #128:

    Yes, I see what sort of analogy you are trying to draw, but what you don’t see is that your analogy is dependent on unstated premises that I don’t have to grant you.

    After all, that fairly famous Christian, Bishop Berkeley, reasoned himself to the belief that existence is dependent on perception, and that the physical universe exists outside of human perception due to being perceived by God.

    It is a perfectly plausible thesis that material things are the sorts of things that must exist, whether we perceive them or believe in them, or not. Certainly a materialist will generally have to take that thesis on board in order to have any coherent account of the persistence of objects over time and so forth. But it’s still just a thesis. A premise. We can have alternate ones. And even if we accept the materialist thesis, it doesn’t necessarily follow that immaterial objects obey the same rules of existence as material ones.

    So arguing from planets doesn’t get you anywhere with the nature of the existence of God, unless you further prove, or stipulate, that immaterial objects must have the same sort of rules of existence as material ones.

    You want it taken as given that what it means to be a real object is to exist whether or not people believe in that object. But it’s not a given, it’s not provable, it’s just one way of defining your terms. One can, quite rationally, quite reasonably, quite sanely, begin from alternate definitions of what it means to be real, or arrive at alternate conclusions about the nature of reality. Thus, you have all of German Idealism, for instance.

    By the way, I find the fact that you’re trying to make a materialist argument about God quite amusing. Not enough so to be worth the price of the logic-chopping, but in a sort of schadenfreudish way.

  150. Of course I think my views are correct and everyone else’s are wrong, hence, holding a belief about something. To be otherwise would be irrational.

    I admit the possibility I could be wrong, but I don’t think I am after examining the evidence. How about you?

  151. Scalzi @ #147:

    I don’t mind having a long and interesting discussion that airs out these particular concepts; I think overall the result, for folks like me and folks like my mother, is salutatory.

    What result, shooting fish in a barrel? I mean, what’s salutory about picking apart the logic of a guy who’s asserting in all seriousness that the Bible would be admissible in court to prove the truth of its contents?

    I’m with Ulrika on this one.

  152. I never blamed segregation on Christianity, I said many of its most vocal proponents used Christian argument. By pointing out that Christians also happened to be on the right side of these issues is only to shed light on the ambiguity of the moral code of the bible — which shows how inane theists are when they claim that you can’t have morals without religion. You can find Christians on both side of the abortion debate, both sides of the gay marriage debate, etc… That doesn’t take away from the fact that biblical arguments were routinely made for both slavery and segregation, and were among some of the most often cited during that historical period.

  153. According to Vox in 151 the debate is thus

    New Atheist Authors: There is no god.

    Vox: You’re wrong, sloppy and smell bad. But I’m not arguing in favor of God. Why does everyone seem to assume that I’m arguing in favor of God? They must be stupid.

    You obviously haven’t read any of the New Atheist works, much less TIA. They don’t argue that there is no god. They don’t even seriously attempt to argue that there is no god, even Dawkins only presents a six-point argument (with no less than eight significant errors) that it is highly improbable that God exists. And while Hitchens does state that God doesn’t exist, he doen’t present coherent arguments, he mostly makes naked assertions tangentially connected to anecdotes about his travels around the world.

    Which leads me to believe that the argument below the surface is not “A religious worldview is just as valid, and no more threatening, than a non-religious worldview” but “The Christian worldview is correct, and athiests, Muslims, Jews, and Hindus are all equally wrong”.

    No, that’s a separate argument entirely. I argue in TIA that an atheist worldview, combined with a utopian notion of rationally ordered human society, is orders of magnitude more dangerous than any religious worldview. I also note that not all religious worldviews are equally dangerous; the world would look very different if there were two billion Muslims and one billion Christians instead of the other way around.

  154. Vox Day’s biggest complaint in the screed above is that the famous atheists aren’t paying attention to him. Typical. Again, this post by Vox Day boils down to “Look at me! Pay attention to me!” This is what lies at the basis of all Vox Day’s writings and rantings.

  155. Eddie, to further clarify, of course I think non-Christians can be right about some things just as Christians can be wrong about some things. You just weigh the evidence and make a decision or remain agnostic if you believe you don’t have enough information.

  156. (Side note about WordPress: I don’t suppose you could tell it to render comment numbers as *numbers*, not list items? The current implementation means that comment numbers are neither copy-and-pasteable nor searchable, which is inconvenient.

    (I know MT will do this, so I’m sure someone’s written a tag or plugin or something for WordPress to do the same.)

  157. Superninja (and Dead Kulak who also responded)

    No, I realise that everyone thinks their own beliefs are right, otherwise they wouldn’t be beliefs! just happy that you admitted it.

    But that isn’t the argument that Vox says he is making. That’s the crucial point here. Not whether Christianity is better than Islam or vice versa, but that Vox claims he is talking about religion in general. He is not. Vox is arguing that “religion” isn’t problematic, but I really think he means Christianity and is being dishonest about it. I disagree with you, but at least you’ll actually tell me what you really mean so we can talk about it on the same level.

    As for who’s actually right, I guess I’ll find out I’m wrong if I die and wake up in hell. *grin* Until then, I think I shall continue not going to church and being a bad, sinning gay.

  158. hope, 157

    Why can’t we judge Vox Day on what we have seen of him and decide that his arguments are very likely to be more twaddle? It isn’t as if he hasn’t given us plenty of evidence for believing he is both dim and unpleasant.

    Well, my opinion of him stands above*, but it really isn’t so much work to download the thing and read a chapter or two. Taken for what he represents it as, it’s fairly entertaining. I mean it’s one snark attacking some other snarky things, what’s not to like?

    I mean Dawkins and co can take care of themselves, right? Nobody here is seriously offended on their behalf, are they?

    *he’s offensive to Christians too, yannow.

  159. My apologies, Vox, you posted while I was writing mine.

    OK, I’ll class your argument as “Muslims, Jews, and Hindus are a fair bit less wrong than athiests, but are still wrong.”

  160. ajay,

    “One day Jesus Christ will come back and rule the world, and he will cast every unbeliever, and everyone who displeases or opposes him into a lake of fire where they will burn in agony for eternity.”

    Now, I’m sure there are a few religious organisations calling for that sort of thing… no?

    Except for the fact that not only is there no mandate in the Bible to bring this about, the Bible makes it painfully clear that no human action bring this about. There are many verses that say that the second coming will happen at a time of God’s choosing and that it will take everyone by surprise. They can call for this all day until they are blue in the face, but the time of the second coming is entirely in God’s hands.

  161. So if the Bible is historical evidence, why isn’t the book of Mormon? Or the texts of the messages from Pleiadian dolphins. Or any number of “documented” evidence of the supernatural?

    What makes the Bible any better than all of these things? or for that matter, better than large scale religions like Hinduism? Or even agnostic religions like Buddhism? The Buddha is a historical person, and the accounts of his life reference various Hindu Gods. Does that make them more or less real than Jesus’s experiences?

  162. Of course he holds certain beliefs about Christianity, but this is mainly in response to the profiled atheists who definitely use “religion” but mostly mean Christianity, and Islam to a lesser extent.

    It was a nice tactic for the people here to jump on the “prove God exists” bandwagon, when that is not even the purpose of the book.

    Vox takes the atheists own statements, and looks at the data, and it’s embarassing to all of them.

  163. Vox@30: I suggest you look into the history of the discovery of Nineveh and the Assyrian empire, which was long considered Biblical fiction by the scientists of the day.

    Oh, please. Before its rediscovery in the 19th century, most everyone thought Troy was a legendary or mythological city. Now that Troy’s been found, does that make the Illiad factually true?

  164. I think many of the comments in this thread are based on the idea that atheist belief stems merely from a lack of evidence.

    This isn’t really the case for a lot of atheists who find the concept of a god who is the end-all creator of the universe to be illogical. For instance, such a being is irreducibly complex, which makes its existence improbable.

    Secondly, the theist argument that a creator is needed for the universe to have come into existence is irrational, because it creates an infinite regress. The most obvious, yet somehow most dismissed response is: Then who created god? Theists like to use the creation argument but then don’t apply their own logical rules to their conclusion.

    Another thing that I think is often overlooked is the fact that Christians, like Vox, have *two* hurdles to overcome. First, they must successfully argue that there is a god. Once that is complete, they must successfully argue that there is a Christian god. Unfortunately in discussions like these there is very little differentiation between the two arguments, but in reality Vox has two barriers he has to cross. And playing semantic pseudo intellectual games over the word “belief” just aren’t going to cut it. They just distract from his (lacking) argument.

  165. Eddie @ 158,

    While I would argue that my beliefs are right (otherwise I wouldn’t believe them), I wouldn’t characterize Buddhism, Hinduism, Shinto, Judaism, Islam or most other religions as inherently dangerous and in need of eradication. I’m speaking strictly in terms of violence and danger.

    Certainly an atheist can say all religions are false. But when you start quantifying or qualifying them, by using measures such as violence or danger or charity or whatever, you can’t ignore the vast difference between them nor the similarity or difference with other activities/beliefs that have similar results.

    If someone said all atheltic sports are dangerous and should be eradicated, the argument should focus on a quality that all sports share equally. Taking the criteria of violence again, boxing is not as violent as running. Therefore, condemning all sports because boxing is violent doesn’t make sense.

  166. Yes, I see what sort of analogy you are trying to draw, but what you don’t see is that your analogy is dependent on unstated premises that I don’t have to grant you.

    No, you don’t have to, not if you wish to turn this into a discussion of something that is almost entirely unrelated to the subject at hand. Ironically enough, you are diverting what is essentially a rational materalist analysis of the New Atheist arguments into the epistemological ground where theological proponents always prefer to steer this debate.

    Believe me, there are folks at my blog who would absolutely love to get into this with you, but it has next to nothing to do with TIA. And you know, it is this sort of oppositional quibbling over irrelevant esoterica that is tripping up Kelly of the Rational Response Squad in our current debate.

  167. 167. “Then present some credible arguments for God and faith. There are some, right?”
    Credible to whom? “To the believer, no proof is necessary. To the non-believer, no proof is possible”.

    This is the usual dodge we get from Christians and other believers who want to skirt their responsibility to meet their burden of proof. (And ironically, it’s a statement that openly attributes irrationality to belief.) To claim that atheists are dogmatists who would refuse to accept credible evidence is merely a straw man, and amounts to projecting, depending on how fundamentalist the believer is who’s resorting to this dodge.

    There is quite a lot I’d accept as evidence of a deity’s existence, but to keep things simple, I’ll put myself in Saul’s shoes. The Bible tells us Saul of Tarsus was not merely an unbeliever but an active persecutor of Christians. Since I’ll never be the latter, I imagine that whatever conversion experience Saul had on the road to Damascus would be perfectly acceptable to me.

    So again, theists, what have you got? If there’s a bulletproof argument out there, by all means present it. If the arguments you have are weak, then admit that, and try to develop some better ones, instead of dishonestly shifting blame for the failure of those arguments on the supposed intractability of skeptics.

  168. Josh Jasper,

    For the purposes of this discussion, I’ll limit myself to the Gospels. They are written as Greek bioi (biographies) by eyewitnesses or historians with access to eyewitness accounts. They are not “myths” in the sense that (at the time they were written) they aren’t about things that happened in the remote, unknowable past that explain the origin of something. They are written as history, so I approach them that way.

    The Book of Mormon is mythical in the sense I used above. I don’t know enough about Hindu or Buddhist accounts to comment.

  169. re: 186 Simon Owens:

    Actually Vox, and Christians in general don’t have any hurdles to overcome. Our goal is to live lives as close to that as Jesus Christ’s as possible. God doesn’t need us to prove he exists, we’re just here to help those that finally come to that conclusion.

    It is the anti-God faithful that have the work to do considering the vast majority of people, both past and present, believe in some sort of divine being(s).

  170. Vox: surely the central argument of the “New Atheists” is that there (very probably) is no God – are you saying that your book which dissects the “New Atheists” doesn’t actually address their central argument? This seems a bit weird.

  171. Nicole the Wonder Nerd,

    The bit about Nineveh was in response to the following from SNG:

    “Given that there is no independent historical evidence for any of it’s claims.”

    SNG said there are no black swans, s/he was presented with a black swan. That is all.

  172. T.M. Wagner,

    I am admitting that my evidence is weak from an empirical, scientific standpoint. That was the whole point of my post. Bear in mind I am only speaking for myself and not Christianity as a whole.

    God doesn’t want us coming to him because we are already 100% convinced of his existence, he wants us to have faith, not fact.

  173. Superninja@175: You just weigh the evidence and make a decision or remain agnostic if you believe you don’t have enough information.

    I guess I don’t understand when people mix the ideas of “evidence” and “faith.” Isn’t faith what you have when there is no evidence?

  174. Another thing that I think is often overlooked is the fact that Christians, like Vox, have *two* hurdles to overcome. First, they must successfully argue that there is a god. Once that is complete, they must successfully argue that there is a Christian god.

    What does this have to do with the logical or factual accuracy of the various New Atheist arguments made in their books? Neither hurdle has anything to do with the book. Allow me to quote myself:

    “I’m not trying to convince you that God exists. I’m not trying to convince you to accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. I’m not even trying to convince you that religious people aren’t lunatics with low IQs who should be regarded with pity and contempt. But I am confident that I will convince you that this trio of New Atheists, this Unholy Trinity, are a collection of faux-intellectual frauds utilizing pseudo-scientific sleight of hand in order to falsely claim that religious faith is inherently dangerous and has no place in the modern world.”
    – TIA page 6-7

    Vox Day’s biggest complaint in the screed above is that the famous atheists aren’t paying attention to him.

    That’s amusing. I suspect you’d be shocked speechless if you knew with whom I’ve been exchanging email regularly of late, much less why. And Sam Harris has already conceded a few of the points I made in the book. It’s not so much the famous atheists who are burying their heads in the sand, it’s those who idolize them.

  175. Why does any religious person need to convince any atheist that God exists? It is totally besides the point.

    Either religion is “bad” or it is not. If it is just a stupid belief, then the debate is no more important than an argument over which is better, Coke or Pepsi?

    If it is “bad” then there must be objective criteria which makes religion “bad”. We can then compare religion to other beliefs, ideologies, etc. and make an objective comparison.

  176. In Christianity, faith is not irrational. Now, it can be, as with anything else, but it’s not supposed to be. The apostle Paul said if the resurrection didn’t actually occur, we are to be pitied most of all.

    Does that sound like someone who is intellectually shallow to you?

    Of course, there is faith, as we can never know with 100% certainty about anything, or we would be God.

    In our case, it’s more an issue of authority, trusting and believing that what God has revealed about himself and what he has done in history is true, and in what he has said he will do going forward.

  177. John-

    The point is not the concepts being aired, but the quality of the argument being put forward. Sloppy, circular, logic-chopping, badly reasoned arguments peppered with ad hominem do not do the position or its advocates any good whatsoever. Unless the object of the exercise is to create a bit of mindless cheerleadering to make somebody feel good that their position has advocates, however inept. I’m sure you don’t mean to do your mother that particular disservice.

  178. surely the central argument of the “New Atheists” is that there (very probably) is no God – are you saying that your book which dissects the “New Atheists” doesn’t actually address their central argument?

    I’m saying that is not their central argument. Each of the four have different theses. Sam’s is the Extinction Equation, Dan Dennett’s is the imperative to use science to study religion, Christopher Hitchens’s is incoherent, to the extent that it exists at all. The closest to what you’re describing is Richard Dawkins’s; here is his self-described central argument of The God Delusion, the Argument from Probability for the Non-existence of God, which he regards as “unrebuttable”. It has eight errors, see if you can spot them. I point them out in some detail in Chapter Nine, Darwin’s Judas.

    “1. One of the greatest challenges to the human intellect, over the centuries, has been to explain how the complex, improbable appearance of design in the universe arises.

    2. The natural temptation is to attribute the appearance of design to actual design itself.

    3. The temptation is a false one, because the designer hypothesis immediately raises the larger problem of who designed the designer. The whole problem we started out with was the problem of explaining statistical improbability. It is obviously no solution to postulate something even more improbable. We need a “crane,” not a “skyhook,” for only a crane can do the business of working up gradually and plausibly from simplicity to otherwise improbable complexity.

    4. The most ingenious and powerful crane so far discovered is Darwinian evolution by natural selection. Darwin and his successors have shown how living creatures, with their spectacular statistical improbability and appearance of design, have evolved by slow, gradual degrees from simple beginnings. We can now safely say that the illusion of design in living creatures is just that – an illusion.

    5. We don’t yet have an equivalent crane for physics. Some kind of multiverse theory could in principle do for physics the same explanatory work as Darwinism does for biology.

    6. We should not give up hope of a better crane arising in physics, something as powerful as Darwinism is for biology. But even in the absence of a strongly satisfying crane to match the biological one, the relatively weak cranes we have at present are, when abetted by the anthropic principle, self-evidently better than the self-defeating skyhook hypothesis of an intelligent designer.”

  179. Your evidence that atheists have been sticking their heads in the sand over your arguments appears to be a 2000-post thread on dawkins.net, email correspondence with Sam Harris, and at least one ongoing discussion (with somebody from the Rational Response Squad, whatever that is). Oh, and this thread as well, at a stretch.

    Errr… The evidence does not appear to fit the theory.

  180. “Ironically enough, you are diverting what is essentially a rational materalist analysis of the New Atheist arguments into the epistemological ground where theological proponents always prefer to steer this debate.”

    But it isn’t really a rational materialist analysis, because it is abjectly dependent on the assumption that immaterial objects necessarily resemble material objects in matters of existence. That isn’t a rational materialist assumption, and not one that a rational materialist is likely to grant you.

  181. Death by children’s bicycles don’t count because they’re accidental rather than deliberate (for the most part)

    Why does this mean that they “don’t count”. By what logic do we determine that certain kinds of deaths “don’t count”? The issue is not “what causes the most intentional deaths”… the issue is, “what is the most dangerous to human life”. Intention is irrelevant. Danger to human life is the only factor (unless we are changing the scope of the argument). According to the current scope of the argument, as far as I’m aware of it, childrens bicycles are far more dangerous than the Spanish Inquisition was.

    but executions in Texas are carried out under the Texas Constitution, which begins with “Humbly invoking the blessings of Almighty God, the people of the State of Texas, do ordain and establish this Constitution”. So presumably we should add the Texas executions to the death toll for Christianity?

    According to this logic, every act of violence ever committed in America (including those committed by atheists) can be attributed to Theists, since our Constitution attributes our rights to a “Creator” and most states have similar attributes in their constitutions.

    Remember… this is not about playing games with statistics for the sake of “winning” an argument. This is about determining what truly is a greater cause of danger to human life. Obviously, such a statement at the beginning of a gov’t constitution is not the “cause” of any such thing.

    .

  182. Vox@118 the Crusades didn’t even become a Christian-Muslim affair until after the Second Crusade,

    Wait, what? The First Crusade, launched with the explicit goals of recapturing Jerusalem from Muslim rule and pushing back against the (Muslim) Seljuk Turks, somehow wasn’t a “Christian-Muslim affair”?

  183. superninja@202: In Christianity, faith is not irrational…Does that sound like someone who is intellectually shallow to you?

    I don’t know if this comment was directed at me or not, but if so, I’m unsure how you came to the conclusion that my comments regarding evidence and faith translated to irrationality and intellectual shallowness.

    Evidence (in the demonstrable, repeatable, scientific method sense) for the divinity of Jesus simply isn’t available. Hence the faith.

    That assertion bears no relation to your comments as quoted above.

    NOTE: If you comment was not directed at me, please ignore my comments and move along…nothing to see here…

  184. PA @ 43:

    “Multiple eyewitness claims, as documented in the Bible.”

    The Bible shouldn’t be allowed as evidence for God, especially if the majority of the arguments that use it as evidence amount to ‘God wrote the Bible which says he’s God, so he’s God’.

    If I wrote a text about my belief in the divine nature of my left shoe, and in it I included a number of fictional eyewitnesses that would swear to their fictional graves that they had seen it cure blindness with its sacred theraputic gel insert, who’s to say that thousands of years from now my text wouldn’t be discovered and enshrined at the core of society by whatever neo-humans inhabit Earth at that point?

    Also, Vox @ 19, since you were so kind as to respond:

    I don’t follow the works of Dennet or Onfray either. As amusing as reading about Dawkins ripping into one fundamentalist group or another is, I’ve never read a word written by any of the New Atheists. I don’t support them verbatim, but as their views haven’t inspired nearly as much hatred as the opinions of the Church have I’m inclined to, in a general sense at least, root for them.

  185. Maybe, just maybe, it’s something as simple as the evidence does not support the theory! Maybe, just maybe, that is the whole point of the book.

  186. The point is not the concepts being aired, but the quality of the argument being put forward. Sloppy, circular, logic-chopping, badly reasoned arguments peppered with ad hominem do not do the position or its advocates any good whatsoever.

    Oh, the irony. How very fitting. Ulrika, do you truly not understand that writing a Big Idea for Whatever is not the same thing as making an argument? If you want to examine the extent of my logical capacities or the quality of my arguments, I suggest actually reading the book, not trying to construct an argument from something that was never intended as one.

    Skip the first three chapters, they’re just intro, framing and rhetoric. Start with Chapter Four. If you think you can successfully defend the New Atheists, I’d love to see it and would happily post your arguments in their entirety on my blog.

  187. “combined with a utopian notion of rationally ordered human society…”
    Aye, there’s the rub. Vox Day, I understand this may already be in your book, which I intend to download and read but–having read only a large portion of “The God Delusion”–I don’t remember anything about Dawkins being utopian or calling for something creepy like “rationally ordered.”

    Do you have direct quotes from Harris or Dawkins (Hitchens is an idiot anyway, so we’ll exclude him) to suggest that either one of them wants a utopia or wants to “rationally order” society in some way? If not, than that phrase would indicate a straw man argument.

    “6.98 percent of the wars in recorded human history involved religion”–I’m intrigued to read your calculations for this, but certainly WWII had non-religious causes. But “involved” is tricky.
    Still, wouldn’t you agree that even a 7% reduction in war would be a good thing? What do we gain in exchange for having that much more war?

  188. WATYF: Yes, that’s a good point. Equally, presumably we cannot attribute any deaths under (for example) Stalin to atheism?

  189. Your evidence that atheists have been sticking their heads in the sand over your arguments appears to be a 2000-post thread on dawkins.net, email correspondence with Sam Harris, and at least one ongoing discussion (with somebody from the Rational Response Squad, whatever that is). Oh, and this thread as well, at a stretch.

    Errr… The evidence does not appear to fit the theory.

    Actually the evidence does fit the theory. You are misrepresenting the statement. The statement is not, “Very few atheists are arguing with Vox Day”, because they clearly are, and by the hundreds. The statement is, “Very few atheists are addressing the logic, arguments, and facts presented in the book entitled The Irrational Atheist“.

    This thread is completely excluded from that statement, since none of the atheists arguing here (that I’m aware of, at least) have actually read the book.

    Oddly enough, many in this very thread have come to the same conclusion that Mr. Scalzi stated in his intitial post:

    Now, having been given exactly what they have been requesting – nay, demanding – the atheist response has largely been to stick their collective head in the sand and hope it goes away before the intellectual depantsing of their icons becomes general knowledge.

    Many here have already concluded, for various reasons (some of which have nothing whatsoever to do with a theist/atheist argument) that they don’t even need to bother reading the book. This, of course, gives them no ability to speak to the arguments contained in the book or how solid/weak they are.

    .

  190. Janiece, it was directed at you. I was answering your question about faith as it pertains to Christianity, I was not attempting to provide scientific evidence for Christianity.

    Everyone uses faith.

  191. 197: God doesn’t want us coming to him because we are already 100% convinced of his existence, he wants us to have faith, not fact.

    But what you must understand is, that, to an atheist and skeptic, you could just as easily replace the word God in the above statement with “Zeus,” “Wotan,” “Shiva,” or “Gus, the Invisible Cosmic Hippo,” and it would be just as meaningful (or -less). This kind of wholesale retreat into unreason may be perfectly fine for some believers, but it’s not likely to sway those of us who prefer reason on general principles. Indeed, it makes me disinclined to respect your God even if I found evidence for his existence compelling: Why wouldn’t God want people to have facts, and only rely on “faith”? Why would God have such disrespect and indifference to truth, and what can or cannot be shown as truth through evidence? If God indeed created us, and presumably our capacity for reason, why would he then, as Ben Franklin (I think it was) once quipped, want us to forego its use?

    198: Isn’t faith what you have when there is no evidence?

    I would go further and define “faith” in a religious context as “the permission people give themselves to believe claims that are not worthy of belief based upon their intellectual merits or evidentiary support.”

  192. WATYF: Yes, that’s a good point. Equally, presumably we cannot attribute any deaths under (for example) Stalin to atheism?

    Actually, it’s much more likely that we can. Or, at least, we can do a much better job of it than by using a benign statement about a Creator in a constitution.

    Stalin explicitly stated his desire to eliminate religion and to establish an irreligious, scientific order. Many preists, nuns, and the like were murdered and churches were burned/torn down expressly because he saw religion as a threat to these goals. If we cannot explicitly tie this to “atheism” (although, an argument can be made for it, of course) then we can at least most definitely tie it to “anti-religion”.

    This would give support to the idea that “anti-religion” is more dangerous than “religion”.

    .

  193. Isn’t faith what you have when there is no evidence?

    The Christian worldview is an intellectual system that is internally consistent and explains reality rightly. Faith is not a blind leap, but a step of commitment to God.

  194. But it isn’t really a rational materialist analysis, because it is abjectly dependent on the assumption that immaterial objects necessarily resemble material objects in matters of existence.

    No, it’s not, because it is not part of any argument made in the book. What part of Big Idea!=TIA argument do you not understand?

    That statement to which you are taking exception was part of my explanation for why TIA is NOT an argument for the existence of God, except indirectly in that it refutes various atheist arguments against the existence of God.

    The First Crusade, launched with the explicit goals of recapturing Jerusalem from Muslim rule and pushing back against the (Muslim) Seljuk Turks, somehow wasn’t a “Christian-Muslim affair”?

    No, it wasn’t. In fact, the Fatimids took it from the Seljuks right before the Christians took it from them. The conflict didn’t turn on religious grounds until the Christian kings of the Second Crusade betrayed one of their Muslim allies(!) and attacked Damascus instead of taking back Edessa. In between the First and Second Crusades, many Muslim emirates were allied with the Christian principalities in fear of Zengi, whose conquest of Christian Edessa inspired the Second Crusade. It’s all explained in TIA.

    Your evidence that atheists have been sticking their heads in the sand over your arguments appears to be a 2000-post thread on dawkins.net

    Actually, sticking their heads in the sand and hoping it goes away was the consensus conclusion of that 2000-post thread at Dawkins.net. A couple RD.netters were quite disgusted by their cowardice, one even ended up giving the book a decent review on Amazon. The point is, no one has yet successfully refuted any of the counter-arguments I have made. If you think you can do better, then bring it, by all means.

  195. Wow, Mr Scalzi. Not a post I had expected. I thought the Big Idea posts were a) about fiction; and b) concerning those (small or large) leaps of imagination and inspiration that authors occasionally make. But then again, I haven’t been here long, perhaps I have it all wrong.

    As to the book – well I was thinking about reading it before some of Day’s other writings were linked to (@117 and all the links out of that). Now that I’ve gone and read through those, I really can’t believe that someone who admires and respects his wife, who has a daughter he obviously wants the best future for, would offer this man free publicity. I’m intensely disappointed.

  196. Stalin explicitly stated his desire to eliminate religion and to establish an irreligious, scientific order.

    I don’t think you’ll find too many atheists — “new” or otherwise — who think Stalin was a nice guy, let alone role model. As Harris has pointed into, the problem with this totalitarian regimes in the 20th century wasn’t that they employed too much reason in opposition to religion, but hardly any at all.

    Remember, being fanatically “anti”-anything can make a person do bad things. But atheism does not lead inevitably to violent anti-religionism, any more than theism leads inevitably to violent anti-Semitism or homophobia.

    And Stalin banned the teaching of Darwinism and imprisoned its proponents, too.

  197. 220. The Christian worldview is an intellectual system that is internally consistent and explains reality rightly.

    Then as I’ve asked, please present your proof of God.

  198. If I wrote a text about my belief in the divine nature of my left shoe

    You must then consider the existance, writings or accounts of Julias Ceaser or Alexander the Great or Plato to be lies, falsehoods or mythology — since they have about the same level (and in some cases less) evidence for their existance.

  199. Do you have direct quotes from Harris or Dawkins (Hitchens is an idiot anyway, so we’ll exclude him) to suggest that either one of them wants a utopia or wants to “rationally order” society in some way?

    Harris, Russell, Hitchens and Onfray, yes. Dawkins and Dennett, no, because they don’t. I’m actually somewhat pro-Dennett and concur with his thesis, although I do hit him for a few of brutal errors of logic. Dawkins is what Onfray describes as a Christian atheist, he’s basically fine with the Christian West. Harris and Russell are the dangerous ones, Onfray is rightly nicknamed “the Robespierre of atheism”, he is a genuine nightmare.

  200. WATYF,

    The word creator does not appear in the US Constitution. It does appear in the Deceleration of Independence. The Deceleration is, of course, a statement of ideals and goals by a group about to commit treason and declare war on their government. So it makes sense that they would include their personal beliefs in that document. But unlike the state of Texas the founding fathers understood that their personal beliefs had no place in law and thus did not mention them when it came time to write the law of the land.

  201. 220: Faith is not a blind leap, but a step of commitment to God.

    I disagree. As noted at 209, “Evidence (in the demonstrable, repeatable, scientific method sense) for the divinity of Jesus simply isn’t available. Hence the faith.”

    In my mind, that makes religious faith (of any kind – this is not limited to Christianity) just that – a leap. Perhaps not a blind leap, but it is a leap nevertheless.

    That is not necessarily a criticism, BTW – I’m agnostic, and what other people believe or don’t believe is of no consequence to me. It just irritates me when people of faith try to confuse the discussion by confusing “faith” with “indisputable truth which is proven by my own belief.”

    Faith is faith – it should be able to stand on its own as a aspect of human life without being redefined as something its not.

  202. Why wouldn’t God want people to have facts, and only rely on “faith”?

    You misunderstand what the Christian means by “faith.” We already know God exists. The “faith” is the trust we place in Him. It’s a term about relationship, bonds, how we interact…not existance.

    When you have “faith” in your brother or buddy or spouse, you are not making a claim of their existance or not. God has faith in the Believer too.

  203. I can’t see this. Why shouldn’t we look at what Vox Day has already said and decide that we don’t want to hear anything else?

    Because if you want to be able to address the argument, you must first know it.

    Why should we either read the book or consider ourselves close minded?

    Because that is the very manifestation of close-mindedness. The refusal to examine beliefs/arguments themselves but rather falling back on the assumption that the argument “must” be weak because you heard something bad about the person/group who presented the argument. And besides, even the most staunch Jewish supporter would need to read Mein Kampf in order to be able to accurately argue about the views and beliefs of Hitler.

    Why can’t we judge Vox Day on what we have seen of him and decide that his arguments are very likely to be more twaddle?

    Because then you have no say in the actual argument. You’re just spouting ad hominems and pointless fluff. You’re free to do so, of course, but don’t think that you have anything to contribute to the argument.

    .

  204. Dead Kulak,

    “What standard would you accept as “proof”?”

    The same as any other statement. Measurable predictions that are reproducible under controlled experimental conditions.

  205. On the thread from Vox’s comment:
    ““the very idea that one’s personal opinion has anything to do with the existence or non-existence of God is fundamentally irrational.”

    While the idea of Venus’ existence being affected by our personal opinion of it is irrational, the same is not necessarily true of God; God =/= Venus, obviously, and they’re concepts operating on entirely different levels.

    Gods that are dependent on our belief in them are an occasional concept in fiction – Pratchett’s Small Gods comes to mind, and I have no doubt there are plenty of others. The idea that they’re inherently irrational in a way that the Christian God isn’t is meritless.

    Second, I disagree that asserting that God exists, and asserting that there is no reason to think God exists are equivalent propositions. It’s the old “Atheism is a religion!” chestnut; Atheism is a stance on religion, but it isn’t a religion itself.

  206. Present what you’ve got and I’ll tell you if it’s persuasive or not.

    Actually the ball is your court to explain Truth, Morality, etc. without appealing to non-material things. Unless you are a nilhist.

  207. “Vox takes the atheists own statements, and looks at the data, and it’s embarassing to all of them.”

    No, it is only embarrassing to those who found the new atheist arguments particularly compelling.

  208. Measurable predictions that are reproducible under controlled experimental conditions.

    Why should I accept this standard?

    Do you follow this for all of your political, sexual, moral, atheistic and personal opinions?

  209. The Christian worldview is an intellectual system that is internally consistent and explains reality rightly.

    I’m a practicing Catholic, and I don’t buy this. I’ve learned too much about the way theology developed over time, about the politics of the early Church, about the infighting and the territoriality affecting the question of what was included in the Gospels and the doctrine and what left out, about the demonization of heretics (anyone remember the Albigensians?).

    Church teachings change over time: Native Americans are now acknowledged to have souls; practitioners of other religions are not merely pagans with no moral standing; the world is acknowledged to revolve around the sun and not vice versa; it is our duty to preserve the world rather than merely use its resources. Because the institution of Christianity is made by people, and people are inherently flawed, Christianity–and its belief system–is also inherently flawed. Evolving, imperfect, and often illogical.

    (It’s possible I’m a bad Catholic: I don’t buy Papal infallability, either.)

    There is intellectual rigor in much Christian theological discourse, this is true. But when it comes down to it, the basis of Christian belief is unreasoned belief in the redeeming love of God. Not a heretofore unproven intellectual consistency.

    I am all in support of the position that in the absence of proof of God’s existence, someone would choose not to believe. I don’t consider that a threat to my belief or the Church, myself.

    John, I’m all in favor of having the discussion about the logical/empirical basis for atheism or religion, but I am surprised this was the means you chose to go about it. There are better proponents out there.

  210. 231: You misunderstand what the Christian means by “faith.” We already know God exists. The “faith” is the trust we place in Him. It’s a term about relationship, bonds, how we interact…not [sic] existance.

    Then you start from a completely different place than agnostics and atheists.

    From the perspective of meaningful dialog, how do you get past the Christian’s assumption that God exists, and the atheist’s assumption that God does not?

    Please note that as an agnostic, I define your belief that God exists as a matter of faith. I understand that you don’t consider it so, but how, as people of good conscience, do we get to a starting point we can both agree on?

  211. I would like somebody to give me a reason to have faith in God.

    There seems to be no evidence for his existence – only gaps in our knowledge for which we have no explanation.

    There are many examples of man-made Gods.

    I’ve lived a mostly moral life for almost a half-century without any need for faith. I love learning, and am amazed by the natural world, and by the creativity and humanity of its inhabitants.

    Why should I believe?

  212. Evidence (in the demonstrable, repeatable, scientific method sense) for the divinity of Jesus simply isn’t available.

    What an odd belief to measure historical events. How does one recreate the singing of the Declaration of Independence in a laboratory? If we can’t create this event in a beaker, does this mean history isn’t true?

    I am afraid we are at an impasse. I say the Tomb was empty, and you are telling me the Tomb didn’t exist since we can’t recreate the historical event in an experiment?

  213. sng:

    oh, like that experimental life I’ve been hearing so much about…got it.

    What came before God? Don’t know…maybe the same thing that came before the Big Bang or the primordial ooze.

    Ultimately it doesn’t matter…as superninja said, we all have faith in something, I just have faith that my belief is more rational and more mathematically plausible than any of the scientific origin arguments that I am aware of.

    None of this is of course related to TIA, but let’s not let that stop us.

  214. de #59
    “Once again for the uninitiated, Titus Flavius Josephus was a Jewish historian from the 2nd century AD.”

    Who was describing events in the first century. Events that led to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. Josephus was involved from the Jewish side until he went over to the Romans. The relevant quote is in _Antiquities_ book 18 section 3. It occurs following a description (much longer, BTW) concerning the acts of Pilate.

    “Thoroughly dishonest church historian Eusebius is credited as the real author. The passage is grossly out of context, a clear hint that it was inserted at a later time.”

    Ironically, the section following 18.3 is a much longer narrative concerning a Roman matron of indisputable character who was violated. Apparently, the male involved could not seduce her, could not purchase her favors, and was dissuaded from a hunger strike by one of his freedwoman servants. Said servant urged him to make a large donation to the local temple of Isis, with the stipulation that the priests conspire to convince the matron that Anubis desired her affections. The priests went along, “Anubis”, i.e. the love-struck moron, had his way with her. Longer story short, the whole plot came out. Rome (Tiberius) crucified the servant and the priests, destroyed the temple, tossed the temple statue in the Tiber, and exiled the fool. He escaped death only because Tiberius was convinced the man was insane.

    I’m certain that with the combined brain power resident here, the implicit connections between 18.1-2, as well as 18.4-5 might just find 18.3 a reasonable place. However, that place is hardly the place a Christian with any sense of decorum would choose to insert a statement about God Incarnate.

    I understand that some here might consider Christians to be fools and lunatics with marginal intellect. But really, to interpolate such a small statement into a text of monumental proportions, and in precisely the place that would convince any logical reader of the 2nd century of exactly the opposite conclusion desired by said evil Christian genius, takes the cake.

  215. Why should I accept this standard?

    Because you said that Christianity was an intellectual system that was internally consistent. That standard, of reproduceability, is the one used in the context of evaluating such a claim.

    If you insist that your religious belief is to be considered on a par with scientific theories, that’s the standard to be used.

    And I think we would be better off if we used a scientific standard for more of our public policy decisions, frankly. But that’s a different discussion.

  216. 231: You misunderstand what the Christian means by “faith.” We already know God exists. The “faith” is the trust we place in Him….

    I don’t think I do misunderstand. Read my definition again. Religious faith is the permission people give themselves to believe claims that are not worthy of belief on their intellectual merits or evidentiary support. When you say you “already know God exists,” you are making the classic confusion between belief and knowledge that believers always make. One fundamental problem one always finds with religious arguments is that religion fails to provide its believers with the epistemological tools to distinguish what they know from what they are simply imagining. How do you propose to demonstrate to me that the God you claim to “know” exists actually does exist anywhere other than in your imagination?

    The following shows the innate unreason of your position.

    When you have “faith” in your brother or buddy or spouse, you are not making a claim of their existance or not. God has faith in the Believer too.

    I do know that other people whom I know exist, because I have direct, physical, daily empirical evidence of their existence. So in fact, I do not need to have “faith” in these people. No Christian has been able to provide similarly concrete evidence for his deity’s existence. And before you go into the usual “Then how do you know Finland exists?” stupidity, remember: the Christian God is said to be a transcendent, supernatural entity — a far different thing than, say, some physical location on Earth that one may happen not to have visited, but for which empirical evidence is ample. The claims believers make about God are extraordinary in nature, and extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

  217. Dead Kulak,

    “Present what you’ve got and I’ll tell you if it’s persuasive or not.

    Actually the ball is your court to explain Truth, Morality, etc. without appealing to non-material things. Unless you are a nilhist.”

    I define immorality as that which causes pain of any type for my fellow sentients. Mental and psychological pain and the stress associated with it can be very easily measured and documented with modern medical gear. Physical pain is obvious. In short “Be excellent to each other”. I really fail to see how one needs an invisible friend in the sky to make this point any more obvious.

  218. The word creator does not appear in the US Constitution. It does appear in the Deceleration of Independence. The Deceleration is, of course, a statement of ideals and goals by a group about to commit treason and declare war on their government. So it makes sense that they would include their personal beliefs in that document.

    Right. I was incorrect in attributing it to the Constitution instead of the DOI. Regardless, my implication simply went towards the argument about acts of violence being attributed based on the stated beliefs of a gov’t document. Even if that argument can’t be applied to the whole of the US, it can still be applied to the whole of all states whose constitutions mention God or a Creator or what have you.

    But unlike the state of Texas the founding fathers understood that their personal beliefs had no place in law and thus did not mention them when it came time to write the law of the land.

    Their personal beliefs were exactly what caused them to structure the constitution in the way they did. Why does anyone do anything if not because of their “personal beliefs”. I fail to see how “personal beliefs” did not have a place in writing the law of the land.

    Now, if you are referring to “religious faith” being sanctioned by the state, then I agree that this is not a matter of the state. But make no mistake… they had personal beliefs and they were often derived from religious convictions and those personal beliefs drove them to write the kind of laws that they did.

    .

  219. From the perspective of meaningful dialog, how do you get past the Christian’s assumption that God exists, and the atheist’s assumption that God does not?

    You really can’t, hence the many arguments. But as a Christian, I know my worldview is consistent. If atheists claims to stand for the Truth, or different moral stances, it’s up to them to show how they can do this without an objective standard. Unless they are nilhists, which is at least consistent.

  220. Vox: I’ve just scanned the chapter on Dawkins – I don’t think his argument is especially strong (he’s no philosopher), but I’m afraid that your refutations didn’t hold much water either.

    For example, you argue that fractals demonstrate that complexity can come out of simplicity. However you base this on a fractals generated by computer code – which of course is itself generated by a considerably more complex human being. You say that “approximate fractals” can be found in nature (i.e. sans designer) – which is true, but they are only approximate, so they don’t support your argument.

  221. 242: I am afraid we are at an impasse. I say the Tomb was empty, and you are telling me the Tomb didn’t exist since we can’t recreate the historical event in an experiment?

    Please take care in putting words in my mouth, as I have not done you this discourtesy. I absolutely did not call into question the historicity of the person known as Jesus. I called into question his divinity, and the factual existence of a creator god.

    My only contention is that your belief in both is a matter of faith. Please note that I use the term “faith” as defined as “belief that is not based on proof” as opposed to the way you apparently define it. Note also, that “proof” in this case is defined as scientifically acceptable theory.

  222. sng,
    What about if you had thoughts about having sex with a sheep? Is that immoral according to your code? Or what if you divorce or leave your spouse\life partner, is that immoral even thou it might cause them pain? What if you stole money from my bank and I never knew it, would that be immoral even if it didnt cause any pain?

  223. “Bukkakelypse”?!?! Did I just farking read that? Damn Scalzi, you just taught me a new word! The more you know….

  224. “Measurable predictions that are reproducible under controlled experimental conditions.

    Why should I accept this standard?

    Do you follow this for all of your political, sexual, moral, atheistic and personal opinions?”

    I certainly try. To be fair most of those are, for obvious reasons, thought experiments and I can’t say that I always succeed but I do try.

    As for your historical arguments they fall under a different standard. I suggest you go read about primary sources as a starting point for how to judge historical claims.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Primary_source

  225. 235: Actually the ball is your court to explain Truth, Morality, etc. without appealing to non-material things. Unless you are a nilhist.

    Wrong. You made the claim that Christianity was an “intellectual system that is internally consistent and explains reality rightly.”

    Not surprisingly, when asked to back that up, you’re playing dodgeball and doing the old “shift the burden” thing.

    In any event, it’s amusing you think that explaining concepts like truth and morality without recourse to the imaginary would present some kind of difficulty. Obviously, you’re even more brainwashed than I thought.

    “Truth” is that which is so well supported by evidence (you know, that stuff you haven’t got and which you’re trying to prevent having to produce by hiding behind empty bluster) that it would be less rational to not accept it than to accept it. “Morality” is what we call the set of normative behavioral principles by which individuals and society at large can enjoy the highest degree of happiness, harmony, and success.

    So again I ask you: meet your burden of proof. If Christianity is, as you claim, “an intellectual system that is internally consistent and explains reality rightly,” then you should have no problem presenting ironclad evidence to that effect. So please do so, starting with proof of God.

    I’ll just wait here.

    Further attempts at ducking and dodging will be gleefully mocked.

  226. I would like somebody to give me a reason to have faith in God.

    Because you are fallen creature like the rest us, and faith in Christ is the only to salvation from the pit we throw ourselves in.

    But to answer what you mean: Believing in God’s existance is the not the same as Christian faith. We believe in God in the sense you might “believe” in your friend or co-worker. You know they exist, it’s about how your trust in them.

  227. 249: If atheists claims to stand for the Truth, or different moral stances, it’s up to them to show how they can do this without an objective standard.

    Please see my response @65 for your answer.

  228. I called into question his divinity, and the factual existence of a creator god.

    His resurrection is historical fact. I want to see how you can prove historical fact in a demonstrable, repeatable, scientific method sense.

  229. “Vox takes the atheists own statements, and looks at the data, and it’s embarassing to all of them.”

    No, it is only embarrassing to those who found the new atheist arguments particularly compelling.

    This is bad reading comprehension. The statement is not about all atheists on earth, or about atheists who read Dawkins/Harris/Hitchens and believed them. The statement speaks about Vox “taking the atheists own statements”… so, since Vox hasn’t taken the statements of every atheist on earth and put them in an book… and since Vox hasn’t taken the statements of every Dawkin/Harris/Hitchens fan and put them in a book… what “atheists” do you think he’s talking about here?

    He’s talking about Dawkins/Harris/Hitchens.

    In which case, the statement is accurate.

    It’s really not all that embarrassing to read a book and be convinced by an argument in it only to find out later that more information proves the argument to be fallacious. It can be, however, embarrassing to write a book which is touted as a prime example of logic and reason and that is help up by scads of adoring fans as being a “slam dunk”, only to find out that much of what you wrote in your book is demonstrably wrong or illogical.
    .

  230. 258: His resurrection is historical fact. I want to see how you can prove historical fact in a demonstrable, repeatable, scientific method sense.

    I want to see you prove that “historical fact” at all.

    It’s not other people’s obligations to prove your claims, DK.

  231. 8 – those examples are the same type of evidence as the fractal – mathematically complex but evidence of human agency.

  232. Just a quick show of hands here from the atheists – how many of you thought that either Dawkins or Harris was a “slam dunk”?

  233. “Truth” is that which is so well supported by evidence (you know, that stuff you haven’t got and which you’re trying to prevent having to produce by hiding behind empty bluster) that it would be less rational to not accept it than to accept it.

    Oh I have evidence. The question is by what standard will you accept it is valid evidence. Why should I bother to supply you something when I don’t know what you require?

    “Morality” is what we call the set of normative behavioral principles by which individuals and society at large can enjoy the highest degree of happiness, harmony, and success.

    Who is “we” in your assertion? By what standard do you measure the degree of “happiness, harmony, and success”? Can you supply evidence of these things existance in the material world? By what standard to we measure the value of society vs. individual in making these “highest degree” calculations?

  234. Dead Kulak,

    You have primary sources for the resurrection? Please provide them.

    You prove historical fact with primary sources. It really is that simple. They are demonstrable, repeatable, and back up the prediction of if something happened there will be primary sources for it.

  235. I want to see you prove that “historical fact” at all.

    What would be acceptable to you as “proof”?

  236. Dead Kulak: why don’t you present the evidence that persuaded you – then we discuss whether it’s sufficient for anybody else?

  237. Dead Kulak, the consequence of your thesis that you know that your specific God exists is that every atheist, agnostic, and non-Christian religious person (and possibly some of the more esoteric Christian variants) are fundamentally wrong about the nature of reality.

    I’m happy to say I have no idea what the nature of reality is. Further, I don’t feel any need to tell my Christian friends and associates that I think they’re wrong. Cf my Christian friends worrying about me going to hell, and telling me that I’m sinning but they love me anyway.

    I would have thought that the prostelysing, “everyone else is wrong” view would have the burden of proof over the vast majority of athiests and agnostics who are affable unbelievers (and also, “be excellent to each other” is a most sensible philosophy).

  238. I don’t think his argument is especially strong (he’s no philosopher), but I’m afraid that your refutations didn’t hold much water either.

    Do you really mean that? You really don’t think that my pointing out that Dawkins presented no evidence for a multiverse managed to effectively deal with that particular point? Or that pointing out his closing appeal to keep the faith is not tantamount to a valid logical conclusion was an effective way of disproving the entire argument? Do you really think that digital network monitoring programs are more complex than the sum total of the information passing through them, or do you merely think that failed to disprove his strange argument about God’s need to be more complex than the universe in order to monitor it?

    And do you really believe that the monitoring complexity has anything to do with the existence probability in the first place?

    Actually, I tend to think the fractal point was the weakest one I made in that section myself, but keep in mind that it was only a response to one out of his eight errors. As for the complexity=information metric, I think it’s a rather dumb and poorly defined one myself, but then, it’s Dawkins’s, not mine.

  239. superninja @ 175: What agnostics/atheists desire isn’t information, but actual proof. That’s a vitally important difference. “Have faith”, translated as “forget proof, just believe” is not acceptable. I’m an agnostic (veering toward atheist) for exactly this reason: religious arguments always seem to resolve down to “have faith”. No.

    Vox, generally: admitting outright that your book descends into ad hom and snark does little to encourage actual reading of the thing. Whatever fallacies Dawkins engaged in in his book, direct ad hom was never one of them… I can’t speak for Hitchens and the rest, having read only Dawkins’ so far.

  240. You prove historical fact with primary sources.

    Alas then, most of our history is fraud! There are no primary sources to prove Plato or Socrates existed. Or Alexander The Great and his conquests. We must toss the writings of poor Herodotus into the trash heap…

  241. Dead Kulak, I will now sit back and watch you respond to the other posters who have asked for your so-called evidence of the resurrection, but I will not further participate myself.

    Not because I don’t think the conversation is interesting, and not because I don’t think the topics at hand are important. They are. In both cases.

    I’m opting out because in spite of my repeated requests that we start this conversation from an agreed upon, non-faith-based point, you insist on throwing your non substantiated faith-based beliefs in and calling them “facts.”

    I truly have no issue with people of faith – faith is a huge part of our human existence. But I do have an issue with those who can’t think critically and objectively about their own opinions. You keep insisting your belief in a creator god is not “faith,” but you can’t define what it is, at least in a way that’s not semantically null. Recognizing your faith for what it is does not cheapen or lesson it…but apparently you think it does.

    So I’ll sit back and watch the logical fallacies fly.

  242. SNG,

    Quite a lengthy response offered above. You seem to have an apriori bias against the Gospels themselves possessing any kind of historical weight. Why do quote certain texts as authoritative and then discount the Gospels?

    The manuscript evidence we presently have for the Gospels is stronger than anything else we possess in ancient literature given the time between the autographa and the copies, ie., John Rylands manuscript.

    Atheistic double standards control much of hermeneutics today. You merely confirm it.

  243. Jasperon 08 Apr 2008 at 4:37 pm

    Just a quick show of hands here from the atheists – how many of you thought that either Dawkins or Harris was a “slam dunk”?

    Are you trying to imply that Dawkins is not a hugely successful author, public mouthpiece of atheist thought, and seen as a convincing debater against the existence of God by many people?

    When you end up on episodes of South Park and Doctor Who, it’s pretty safe to say that you’re well known as a leader in your field.

    Would you say that someone of that stature and high-regard would not find it “embarrassing” to have their arguments dismantled?

    .

  244. Who said there is no proof? There is plenty of proof out there, you just do not accept it. There is the whole world wide web waiting for you to type in a search term.

  245. SNG,

    Primary sources are the Gospels and the textual evidence confirming them.

    You refuse to allow the historical Jesus as told via the Gospels to enter into the debate. Why?

    “Because they claim supernatural events and are thus excluded.”

    You have an anti-supernatual bias and thus have pronounced the Gospels, incorrectly, “off-limits.”

  246. Dead Kulak, the consequence of your thesis that you know that your specific God exists is that every atheist, agnostic, and non-Christian religious person (and possibly some of the more esoteric Christian variants) are fundamentally wrong about the nature of reality.

    Oh most are right about good many things, but not the most Important Thing. They tend to follow many of the 10 Commandments, for example, even if they haven’t put their faith in Christ. Very few people are consistent in their materialism. Nearly all people have supernatural beliefs.

    I’m happy to say I have no idea what the nature of reality is.

    Well if you really are open minded about God and Christianity, I respect that. But if you make broad assertions about those topics being lies or falsehoods, “Judge not, lest ye be judged!”

  247. How about WW2 for some holy christian violence? “God with us” right on their belts. The Germans thought they were fighting for god. Lots of death in that war, huh?

    How about the current Iraq war for some christian violence? General Boykin’s claim that his god (the christian one, of course) was real, and the muslim god was false? He’s a friggin’ general. In the US army.

    What is wrong with you holy rollers? Your ignorance makes my world more dangerous. You scare the crap out of me – ignorance and violence all in one.

    The simple fact is that atheists aren’t organized. We don’t get together and talk about how much we don’t believe in god. We have better things to do. Like scare you little people with our science that you clearly don’t understand.

  248. You really don’t think that my pointing out that Dawkins presented no evidence for a multiverse managed to effectively deal with that particular point?

    Well, no – all he said was “Some kind of multiverse theory could in principle do for physics the same explanatory work as Darwinism does for biology”. He explicitly says that “We don’t yet have an equivalent crane for physics” – which indicates that he’s not making an argument for it, just pointing out that it’s been discussed as a possibility. Which it has.

    Or that pointing out his closing appeal to keep the faith is not tantamount to a valid logical conclusion was an effective way of disproving the entire argument?

    That isn’t his closing appeal. His closing appeal is that option a) (which is extremely unlikely but appears possible) is self-evidently a better choice than option b) (which appears to be impossible). Now I don’t necessarily agree with his premises, but they do lead to that conclusion. He’s not just saying “Believe!” – he’s saying “look at these two options and tell me which looks more probable”.

    Do you really think that digital network monitoring programs are more complex than the sum total of the information passing through them?

    No – but the monitoring programs were also designed by humans. So you could argue that God has created some sort of divine monitoring program, but it still requires God to be more complex than that which is being monitored – or doing the monitoring.

  249. WAYTF: Dawkins may be successful, but that doesn’t mean that everybody here thinks his arguments are a “slam dunk”. Me, for example.

    I’m just trying to establish whether you’re arguing with the right people – if you’ve got a bunch of atheists who don’t think his arguments are bulletproof, then you’re probably in the wrong place.

  250. Look, the whole atheists vs. theists thing is totally misunderstood.

    In regards to Greek mythology, I am an atheist because I don’t believe that Zeus, Hera, Aphrodite, etc. were real, are real or ever could be real.

    Yet in regards to the monotheistic religions I could also be called an atheist because I reject that Yahweh/Jehova/Allah is the “one true God”.

    Yet, I don’t apply the label “atheist” to myself because I do have a relationship with God – just not in the way that mainstream Christians do. (I view God and the Universe as one entity, of which we are all a part. I don’t believe that God “has a plan” for us or even cares what we do or needs us to worship. Rather God is evidenced by the workings of nature, of the Universe and the interactions between human beings.)

    In my observation, the debate isn’t really atheism vs. theism but rather atheism vs. Christianity, at least in the West. So it muddies the waters a bit to assert that it’s all about whether or not God exists; it is really about whether the Christian deity is God and if that entity exists. Neither can be proven positively, ergo it is reasonable for one to believe that they don’t.

    To someone with a true belief in God – even if I don’t agree that their deity is God – it does not matter if someone else believes or not. Real believers don’t care if you agree with them or not. They don’t need anyone else to validate their views.

    But the weak believers, the ones who need for scriptures to be “literally true” and who demand that everyone else accept and surrender to their concept of God, they are the ones seeking validation. They are the ones who howl and whine at every advance made in medicine or science which erodes the supernatural belief that is the basis of their faith.

  251. But I do have an issue with those who can’t think critically and objectively about their own opinions.

    What a strange thing to write from someone who decided to end our conversation?

  252. Oh, please. Before its rediscovery in the 19th century, most everyone thought Troy was a legendary or mythological city. Now that Troy’s been found, does that make the Illiad factually true?

    Which parts?

    Like “Gone With The Wind”, Atlanta did burn did it not?

  253. How about WW2 for some holy christian violence? “God with us” right on their belts. The Germans thought they were fighting for god. Lots of death in that war, huh?

    I ‘ve got a feeling you’re going to wish you hadn’t gone there, Anonymous. In the very near future.

  254. 263: Oh I have evidence. The question is by what standard will you accept it is valid evidence. Why should I bother to supply you something when I don’t know what you require?

    Dodge #1.

    265: What would be acceptable to you as “proof”?

    Dodge #2.

    As I said back in #229, present what you’ve got, and I’ll tell you if its persuasive. In the meantime, consider yourself mocked.

    Who is “we” in your assertion?

    Humanity.

    By what standard do you measure the degree of “happiness, harmony, and success”?

    Uh…by the standard to which those conditions are actually present.

    You’re the kind of guy who would look at someone’s red shirt and ask, “By what standard do you judge that it’s red?” aren’t you.

    Anyway, I’m still waiting for your proof of Christianity’s validity (let alone its God). Your continued “shift the burden” empty rhetoric isn’t helping you. And I’m just going to keep making fun of you if you insist on keeping up the same non-responses.

  255. WAYTF: Dawkins may be successful, but that doesn’t mean that everybody here thinks his arguments are a “slam dunk”. Me, for example.

    I’m just trying to establish whether you’re arguing with the right people – if you’ve got a bunch of atheists who don’t think his arguments are bulletproof, then you’re probably in the wrong place.

    I didn’t say that “everybody here” thinks his arguments were a slam dunk.

    I’m not here to argue with a certain demographic. I’m simply responding to statements that I take exception with.

    And it would be odd to say that this is the “wrong place” to argue about the statements of Dawkins/Harris/etc, since the topic of this thread is a book which does that very thing.

    .

  256. I view God and the Universe as one entity, of which we are all a part.

    FYI, this is typically called “pantheism” and not atheism. It’s a supernatural belief, for sure.

  257. “Some kind of multiverse theory could in principle do for physics the same explanatory work as Darwinism does for biology”.

    Sure, it could. And when evidence for it appears, then we can take his argument seriously. Remember, this is the “unrebuttable” argument from probability, which doesn’t even get into calculating the probability.

    His closing appeal is that option a) (which is extremely unlikely but appears possible) is self-evidently a better choice than option b) (which appears to be impossible).

    Which would be true only if you accept the possibility of at least two things for which there is currently even less evidence than there is for God. If we were foolish enough to accept his preceding logic, we’d have to accept this as an “unrebuttable” proof of God’s existence.

    No – but the monitoring programs were also designed by humans.

    Irrelevant. He said the monitoring itself required the complexity. It doesn’t. The fact that humans created those monitors merely leads you into a repetition of the Complex Creator argument. Besides, we could, in principle, develop a Simple Creator theory….

    Come on, it’s totally ridiculous. It’s an embarrasingly bad argument passed off as a logical quasi-proof.

  258. DK: Because you are fallen creature like the rest us, and faith in Christ is the only to salvation from the pit we throw ourselves in.

    You’re assuming what you’re trying to prove here. I should have faith in Christ because … Christ can save me? Very circular.

    DK: But to answer what you mean: Believing in God’s existance is the not the same as Christian faith. We believe in God in the sense you might “believe” in your friend or co-worker. You know they exist, it’s about how your trust in them.

    Two thousand years (actually, much more) and nobody’s come up with proof of God’s existence, so I was moving to the second half of your statement. Tell me why I should have faith. Please don’t tell me that a 1600-year old book says that I should. Remember, you are in competition with a lot of other faiths who have just as much basis to say I should have faith in their God. Why should I have faith in yours?

  259. I’m happy to say I have no idea what the nature of reality is.

    Of course you do. No one conducts their life this way. You have certain ideas about lots of things, they are called beliefs.

    Do you walk out the door hoping reality will not match up with what you believe it will? I mean, that might make for one exciting, but stressful day.

  260. The simple fact is that atheists aren’t organized. We don’t get together and talk about how much we don’t believe in god. We have better things to do. Like scare you little people with our science that you clearly don’t understand.

    This statement is demonstrably false.

    The fact that the internet is chock full of sites devoted to discussion amongst atheist is quite evident. There are even sites whose stated purpose is to eradicate God belief from individuals.

    .

  261. “Anyway, I’m still waiting for your proof of Christianity’s validity (let alone its God).”

    As though you now stand alone as the final arbiter of what shall pass for truth, you alone will pass judgment on the Almighty as you call Him down to show Himself to you.

    The height of hubris exists in the atheist mind as demonstrated by Dawkins and by you.

  262. Why should I have faith in yours?

    Available evidence.

    As Troy is not mythological, so too perhaps Achilles and Hector existed. Helen must have been some babe, huh?

    Makes me wonder, and what of Jericho?

    The problem with evidence arises when one wishes not to consider it.

  263. T.M. Wagner:
    You keep asking for something but are not specifying what. It is not a “dodge” to ask for specification. How can I show you evidence unless we agree to what constitutes as “evidence” in the first place?!

    Uh…by the standard to which those conditions are actually present.

    So if “happiness, harmony, and success” are present or non-present is the standard you accept for “moral standards”? Just want to be clear in what you are saying…

    You also never answered to what degree this applies to individuals vs. humanity as a whole.

  264. Manatee,

    Biblical scholarship has established the fact that the Gospel of “Mark” is the oldest of the four. The chief reasons for this conclusion are that this Gospel is shorter, simpler, and more natural, than any of the other three. It is shown that the Gospels of Matthew and Luke were enlarged from the Gospel of Mark. The Gospel of Mark knows nothing of the Sermon on the Mount, of the Lord’s prayer, or of other important facts of the supposed life of Christ. These features were added by “Matthew” and “Luke”.

    The Gospel of John is admitted by Christian scholars to be an unhistorical document. They acknowledge that it is not a life of Christ, but an interpretation of him; that it gives us an idealized and spiritualized picture of what Christ is supposed to have been, and that it is largely composed of the speculations of Greek philosophy.

    There is not the smallest fragment of trustworthy evidence to show that any of the Gospels were in existence, in their present form, earlier than a hundred years after the time at which Christ is supposed to have died. Christian scholars, having no reliable means by which to fix the date of their composition, assign them to as early an age as their calculations and their guesses will allow; but the dates thus arrived at are far removed from the age of Christ or his apostles. We are told that Mark was written some time after the year 70, Luke about 110, Matthew about 130, and John not earlier than 140 A.D. Let me impress upon you that these dates are conjectural, and that they are made as early as possible. The first historical mention of the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, was made by the Christian Father, St. Irenaeus, about the year 190 A.D. The only earlier mention of any of the Gospels was made by Theopholis of Antioch, who mentioned the Gospel of John in 180 A.D. We know for example that 70 is the earliest date that Mark can have been written because it alludes to the destruction of the temple, which happened in 70 AD.

    There is absolutely nothing to show that these Gospels – the only sources of authority as to the existence of Christ – were written until a hundred and fifty years after the events they pretend to describe.

    Christ is supposed to have been a Jew, and his disciples are said to have been Jewish fishermen. His language, and the language of his followers must, therefore, have been Aramaic — the popular language of Palestine in that age. But the Gospels are written in Greek – every one of them. Nor were they translated from some other language. Every leading Christian scholar since Erasmus, four hundred years ago, has maintained that they were originally written in Greek. This proves that they were not written by Christ’s disciples, or by any of the early Christians. Foreign Gospels, written by unknown men, in a foreign tongue, several generations after the death of those who are supposed to have known the facts (from whom there is nothing) – such is the evidence relied upon to prove that Jesus lived.

    There were many Gospels in circulation in the early centuries, and a large number of them were forgeries. Among these were the “Gospel of Paul,” the Gospel of Bartholomew,” the “Gospel of Judas Iscariot,” the “Gospel of the Egyptians,” the “Gospel or Recollections of Peter,” the “Oracles or Sayings of Christ,” and scores of other pious productions, a collection of which may still be read in “The Apocryphal New Testament.” Obscure men wrote Gospels and attached the names of prominent Christian characters to them, to give them the appearance of importance. Works were forged in the names of the apostles, and even in the name of Christ. The greatest Christian teachers taught that it was a virtue to deceive and lie for the glory of the faith:

    Dean Milman, the standard Christian historian, says: “Pious fraud was admitted and avowed.”

    The Rev. Dr. Giles writes: “There can be no doubt that great numbers of books were then written with no other view than to deceive.”

    Professor Robertson Smith says: “There was an enormous floating mass of spurious literature created to suit party views.”

    The early church was flooded with spurious religious writings. From this mass of literature, our Gospels were selected by priests and called the inspired word of God. Were these Gospels also forged? There is no certainty that they were not. But let me ask: If Christ was an historical character, why was it necessary to forge documents to prove his existence? Did anybody ever think of forging documents to prove the existence of any person who was really known to have lived?

    Let’s assume the four gospels were geunine; let us see what they can tell us about the life of Jesus.

    If Jesus lived, he must have been born. When was he born? Matthew says he was born when Herod was King of Judea. Luke says he was born when Cyrenius was Governor of Syria. He could not have been born during the administration of these tow rulers for Herod died in the year 4 B.C., and Cyrenius, who, in Roman history is Quirinius, did not become Governor of Syria until ten years later. Herod and Quirinius are separated by the whole reign of Archelaus, Herod’s son. Between Matthew and Luke, there is, therefore, a contradiction of at least ten years, as to the time of Christ’s birth. The fact is that the early Christians had absolutely no knowledge as to when Christ was born. The Encyclopaedia Britannica says: “Christians count one hundred and thirty-three contrary opinions of different authorities concerning the year the Messiah appeared on earth.” Think of it — one hundred and thirty-three different years, each one of which is held to be the year in which Christ came into the world.

    His home was Nazareth. He was called “Jesus of Nazareth”; and there he is said to have lived until the closing years of his life. Now comes the question – Was there a city of Nazareth in that age?

    The Encyclopaedia Biblica, a work written by theologians, the greatest biblical reference work in the English language, says:

    “We cannot perhaps venture to assert positively that there was a city of Nazareth in Jesus’ time.”

    No certainty that there was a city of Nazareth! Not only are the supposed facts of the life of Christ imaginary, but the city of his birth and youth and manhood existed, so far as we know, only on the map of mythology. What amazing evidence to prove the reality of a Divine man! Absolute ignorance as to his ancestry; nothing whatever known of the time of his birth, and even the existence of the city where he is said to have been born, a matter of grave question!

    So, let us sum up the historical “facts” about Jesus from the only sources to describe his life, the gospels:

    His time of birth is not known

    His place of residence for most of his life is not even known to have existed.

    Huge gap of silence for roughly thirty years (apart from one anecdote from Luke about him arguing with doctors in the temple)

    Preaching in Jerusalem followed by adoring crowds, arguing with, and upsetting the authorities which no contemporary recorded. At all.

    Crucified following a trial in a Roman court (of which there is no record) before being handed over to executioners of which there is no record.

  265. Rhett – not sure what you’re getting at here. I was moving away from the question of historical proof. I was asking why I should have faith.

  266. Can man save himself? That is what utopian ideaologies propose. However, history shows this is a load of bull, and some utopian ideaologies have resulted in mass murder on an unimaginable scale. So is the idea that man is evolving morally and ethically.

    However, when one believes that chaos produces order (like the Ancient Greeks), I guess that’s what you must hold to, in defiance of reality.

  267. Sure, it could. And when evidence for it appears, then we can take his argument seriously. Remember, this is the “unrebuttable” argument from probability, which doesn’t even get into calculating the probability.

    I think you’re missing the point – it’s not his argument. As he says “Even in the absence of a strongly satisfying crane to match the biological one, the relatively weak cranes” [e.g. current versions of cosmic inflation and string theory] are still good enough to beat out the evidence for a creator God.

    Which would be true only if you accept the possibility of at least two things for which there is currently even less evidence than there is for God. If we were foolish enough to accept his preceding logic, we’d have to accept this as an “unrebuttable” proof of God’s existence.

    As I said in my response, if you agree with his premises, then the conclusion follows. I don’t necessarily agree with his premises – but as I’ve just demonstrated, your arguments do not refute them sufficiently to dismiss them.

    Irrelevant. He said the monitoring itself required the complexity. It doesn’t. The fact that humans created those monitors merely leads you into a repetition of the Complex Creator argument. Besides, we could, in principle, develop a Simple Creator theory….

    I don’t have his book in front of me – all I have is your text. What you say is: “Dawkins makes three even more serious mistakes in attempting to demonstrate the improbability of divine complexity when he argues that a designer capable of not only designing, but continually
    monitoring and controlling the individual status of every particle in the universe must be complex”. He’s not just talking about monitoring – he’s talking about controlling, which you don’t address.

    In addition, packet sniffers only monitor in the weakest sense – they don’t have any comprehension built in, which we would expect God to have, and comprehension would seem to require complexity.

    Come on, it’s totally ridiculous. It’s an embarrasingly bad argument passed off as a logical quasi-proof.

    I think we’re going to have to disagree. Yet, it’s a weak argument, but it only has to be good enough to beat the strongest theist argument. As you can see from the evidence of the comments posted by other theists here, strong theist arguments are extremely hard to come by.

  268. I should have faith in Christ because … Christ can save me?

    Again, “faith” for the Christian presupposes God’s existance. Faith is trust in a relationship with a real person. I can’t show you evidence for His existance until I know what would count as evidence meeting your standards.

  269. It’s interesting to consider an analysis of the atheist argument as presented by Dawkins, et al, on its own merits. Unfortunately, when you point out that someone is being irrational, you are unlikely to be thanked for it. Faith is the practice of believing without proof. Obviously, this really gets under some people’s skin, but the truth is that we all believe things without proof. Every time you place your trust in another human being, you believe, without proof, that the person will live up to that trust. Since you cannot prove that the person you are trusting will never betray you, you have to rely on faith. Each day, we make many decisions on faith alone. This is the fundamental problem with some of these very aggressive atheists. They are convinced that religion is bad and irrational, and that they themselves are never irrational. Anyone who stakes out that territory is inevitably going to have trouble defending it.

    Additionally, these guys have a PR problem. Churches have bingo and potlucks and lasagne and coffee and donuts. They engage your emotional need and give you support and encouragement through dark times, encourage you to rise above your baser instincts, and also help people in need, which is a wonderful feeling. In contrast, the New Atheists offer you the cold but rarified experience of being smarter than nearly every human being on the planet. If they ever succeeded in converting the majority of people to their viewpoint, it wouldn’t be fun to be a New Atheist anymore. Also, no donuts. I mean, really, what is Dawkins supposed to say, “I’m here to bring you the Bad News?” There is something fundamentally uncharismatic about the New Atheist.

    (None of this is to say that I have a problem with anyone being an atheist. Belief is a very personal thing. As long as you respect mine, I’ll respect yours.)

  270. SNG, you might wish to consult “The Search – A Historian’s Search for the Historical Jesus”, Dr. Ron Charles, before you embarrass yourself further.

    Dr. Charles – B.S. Civil Engineering, B.A. Theology, M.A. and Ph.D. Ancient History, Ph.D International Relations, Th.D Historical Theology.

  271. 293: It is not a “dodge” to ask for specification. How can I show you evidence unless we agree to what constitutes as “evidence” in the first place?!

    Okay, Kulak, I’ll try to offer a clear answer. Your claim was that Christianity was an “intellectual system that is internally consistent and explains reality rightly.” Please present whatever convinced you of this.

    You’ll have to excuse my ongoing derision, but you must understand: my experience in dealing with apologists is that they’re very happy to claim they have all kinds of evidence when in fact they do not, and when asked for it, they always whip out the “whatever I present you, you won’t accept” dodge as a way of avoiding their burden of proof and making the atheist sound like the unreasonable one. It doesn’t fool anyone but themselves, but it’s still dishonest and mockworthy.

    So if “happiness, harmony, and success” are present or non-present is the standard you accept for “moral standards”? Just want to be clear in what you are saying…

    Why not? The purpose of moral precepts in any society is to ensure the success of that society, both for its individual members and the society as a whole. Some societies — such as totalitarian or aristocratic societies — have bad moral precepts, as they only allow success for a small, elite group of its members at the expense of oppressing the rest. Typically, those societies don’t tend to last terribly long. Other societies have good moral precepts, that allow the maximum number of citizens equal opportunities for advancement and participation in the system, and laws that punish those who victimize or disenfranchise others. Those societies tend to last a little longer. No society is utopian, naturally, nor can it be. But humanity can only do its best. And there is no convincing argument to be made that a deity is necessary to comprehend basic moral precepts like “don’t hurt others.” Indeed, theocratic societies are historically among the most oppressive. You really don’t want to live in Saudi Arabia or 16th century Spain.

  272. DK: I can’t show you evidence for His existance until I know what would count as evidence meeting your standards.

    My standard would be this: evidence that I cannot explain through natural causes, and which does not require that I have faith in order to accept.

    However, I’ve seen several people give you standards, and you seem to be ignoring them.

    Again – nobody seems to want to budge on the ‘existence of God’ question. I’ve never seen any evidence for its existence. You think that you have, apparently. So I’m more interested in the second half of one of your statements above.

    Even if I accept that God exists, why should I have faith (as you define it)?

  273. Was it Dawkins who admitted that everything does appear like it was created, but that it’s just not so? This mirrors the Greek view that it appears to be ordered on the surface, but it is really chaos behind it. Oh well, nothing new under the sun, so I’ve heard.

  274. Catherine Shaffer: Faith is the practice of believing without proof. Obviously, this really gets under some people’s skin, but the truth is that we all believe things without proof. Every time you place your trust in another human being, you believe, without proof, that the person will live up to that trust. Since you cannot prove that the person you are trusting will never betray you, you have to rely on faith.

    You’re mixing up concepts in our sloppy language. Here’s one kind of faith:

    I believe the sun will rise tomorrow
    I have faith that my wife will pick me up from work
    I have faith in humanity in general

    Here’s another kind of faith:

    I have faith in the Christian God
    I have faith in invisible unicorns
    I believe the Hale-Bopp comet was a spaceship

    The first set are based in reality, experience, and facts. The second are normally considered crazy (except for the established religions – for which we are expected to show tolerance, if not respect).

  275. There are a few things that are clear to me.

    One is that humans wage war. They waged war before there were religions and they will continue to wage war if religions disappear. There is no end to the number of excuses people will use when they want to destroy another tribe. Or when they want to simply murder a member of a different tribe.

    So the underlying issue here, in my opinion, is tribalism, not religion. And this is being displayed here quite nicely.

    I, myself, am pretty convinced there is a God. This is due to experiential evidence and not objective evidence. I think that Vox pretty much understands and expounded upon this. And while it is experiential, I still say “pretty sure” because there may be other explanations but those require more suppositions and posits than I care to invest in at the moment. But I keep them in mind.

    Most people do not know that mysticism is, generally speaking, about providing interested people with experiential roadmaps, signposts, vocabulary, and “places of interest” within the experience of the Holy. There is a mystical component to almost every religion. Some have more than others. Most people ignore all of it.

    Discussions about God are almost always useless because generally no two people are using the same definition of what “God” means.

    I have heard people say, “If God is all that, then why doesn’t it do this? And since it doesn’t do this, the it’s stupid to believe in God.”

    Does anyone see a problem with such reasoning? Perhaps the answer is; maybe God isn’t that.

    I’ve heard atheists say that they get annoyed with people who quote scripture (whatever scripture is common to the surrounding tribe). They hardly ever understand how annoying they are when they feel they have to convince everyone there is no God, and then sigh a heavy condescending sigh when they can’t.

    Not all atheists are like this. But not all religionists quote scripture either. I can deal with both of these. I mean, what do I care?

  276. 290:

    “superninjaon 08 Apr 2008 at 5:10 pm

    “I’m happy to say I have no idea what the nature of reality is. ”

    Of course you do. No one conducts their life this way. You have certain ideas about lots of things, they are called beliefs.”

    Uhuh. And as I said in the post you just quoted, the difference between me and some of my christian friends and acquinatances, not to mention people who occasionally knock on my door or preach on tv, is that I, and most other non-believers do not feel the need to tell everyone else they’re wrong. Prostelysing is not a part of my life. Dawkins et al are the assholish exception to the rule.

  277. Christianity is comprehensive and unifying. It does not require compartmentalization when you run into opposing areas when you try to come up with a universal or overarching worldview that provides rational consistency.

    For instance, it is not opposed to science, because, having been made in God’s image, we are able to understand what he created. We do not have to come up with illogical theories as to how morality emerged – it came from God, him having made man in his image. The same with language and communication, or the desire for transcendance.

    What else? We don’t have to pretend evil doesn’t exist, or if we acknowledge it, propose irrational theories as to the basis for our understanding – it is due to sin and the destructive consequences on creation because of the Fall. It is something that is in opposition to God’s goodness.

  278. VOX:

    One thing is for sure, and I think any rational person might agree: When arguing a point in a scholarly and scientific manner, data is amazing. In fact, it is more than amazing, it is essential.

    One thing is also for sure: The books you are attacking are not meant to be the sort of scientific research you seem to think they presume to be. They are RHETORICAL and you are taking the arguments proposed within them as something far from rhetoric. You take them as if they were trying to prove the empirically derived existence of, dare I say it, an invisible man who created everything.

    Even wikipedia notes that rhetoric is not directly scientific: “Rhetoric is the art of harnessing reason, emotions and authority, through language, with a view to persuade an audience and, by persuading, to convince this audience to act, to pass judgment or to identify with given values.”

    All this being said, we are able to see that those claims made by the authors you mention are to be taken in a rhetorical light, not a empirical and scientific one. They happen to be firmly scientific in backing, but that does not, in any manner, require them to include the sort of data you might include in a scientific research paper.

    I would go so far as to argue that were the books you speak of more like the scientific research papers you wish them to be, they would cease to have value to the public in anything but a hearsay sense. Meaning, the public would not be reading them (because the public is often rather unlikely to read scientific papers) and all people would hear of the arguments would be repeated like so “I hear that…” or “My friend says that….”

    So, these books are not the ULTIMATE ARGUMENTS AGAINST GOD AS SUPPORTED BY RAW EMPIRICAL DATA. These are, and I’m sure the authors would admit this, a paired down and rhetorical introduction to the arguments against god. If you’re wanting raw data, you’re looking in the wrong place.

    All the authors have some connection to the scientific community, but they do not function directly as SCIENCE itself. They are simply popularizing, through use of rhetoric, arguments understandable by the layman against god. Many of these happen to have strong scientific and rational backing.

    You cannot fault these authors for setting out to do something, and accomplishing that thing, just because you wanted them to do something else. You can ask for data and even say “I am not to be convinced without proper data” but you cannot say “you are wrong for having not included data to support these things.”

    Rhetoric is rhetoric, treat it as such and please stop pretending that Darkins, Harris and people like them are trying to engage in anything BUT rhetoric. Nothing you are attacking for lack of data necessitates data in and of itself. It simply requires empirical data for YOU to believe. Which, of course, is a rather strange thing coming from a theist.

    You have a right to your data, but do not demand it of works that were not meant to be littered with it. What data was presented, was presented in the context of rhetoric. In attacking the nitty gritty details, you miss entirely what the point of that sort of rhetoric is: getting people off their asses and thinking about the topic. Something I do believe we are doing right now.

    And as I’m sure you’ll find something wrong with what I’ve said, I look forward to hearing about it and subsequently correcting myself instead of simply dodging and changing the topic as both yourself and PA have been doing the entire time.

  279. I don’t necessarily agree with his premises – but as I’ve just demonstrated, your arguments do not refute them sufficiently to dismiss them.

    We’ll disagree then, since you haven’t demonstrated that as you haven’t even mentioned half of them. I think that faith in the existence of one non-existent scientific theory and one existing scientific theory for which there is zero evidence of any kind is far from self-evidently more likely than the existence of God, for which there is much evidence, albeit non-scientific. And those two weak cranes don’t do anything for his case anyhow, he might as well have thrown in black holes and dark matter; they’re just as relevant.

    He’s not just talking about monitoring – he’s talking about controlling, which you don’t address.

    Yes, the controlling aspect is an argument about the nature of God, not the existence of God. I don’t address it there, although I do later deal with it in implicit fashion in the chapter discussing omniderigence, which Dawkins wrongly assumes here as being intrinsic to God’s nature. But that’s a theological argument, so I felt it had no place there.

  280. Prostelysing is not a part of my life.

    I should hope not, what would you go on about, exactly? It would be irrational. You don’t like other people’s beliefs. Oh, wait, you do this everyday, just like everyone else! Back to square one.

    In terms of people forcing you to believe something, I could see your case. However, that’s impossible, they can only control your behavior.

  281. Frank: Discussions about God are almost always useless because generally no two people are using the same definition of what “God” means.

    I think most atheists have realised this (I certainly have), but most theists haven’t. One of the most interesting parts of Dennett’s “Breaking the Spell” is when he describes Christians in his discussion groups slowly realising that they believed different things to each other.

  282. All this being said, we are able to see that those claims made by the authors you mention are to be taken in a rhetorical light, not a empirical and scientific one. They happen to be firmly scientific in backing, but that does not, in any manner, require them to include the sort of data you might include in a scientific research paper.

    That’s an interesting Fighting Withdrawal. You’ve conceded everything I’d hoped to achieve with TIA. The only point I’d quibble with is that there is any science backing their points, mostly because if you actually read their works, you’ll find there isn’t.

    Rhetoric is rhetoric, treat it as such and please stop pretending that Darkins, Harris and people like them are trying to engage in anything BUT rhetoric.

    I wish you’d post this on RD.Net. I think you’ll find more than a few atheists who very much disagree. I am very aware the New Atheists are engaging in nothing but rhetoric. I’m pleased that you have recognized this. The data simply proves that their rhetoric is insubstantial when it is not based on falsehood.

  283. We’ll disagree then, since you haven’t demonstrated that as you haven’t even mentioned half of them.

    I gave an example. Are you asking for a point-by-point commentary on the entire chapter?!

    I think that faith in the existence of one non-existent scientific theory and one existing scientific theory for which there is zero evidence of any kind is far from self-evidently more likely than the existence of God, for which there is much evidence, albeit non-scientific.

    Cosmic inflation and string theory – the weak cranes – are by no means “non-existent” and with “zero evidence”. Please explain?

    And those two weak cranes don’t do anything for his case anyhow, he might as well have thrown in black holes and dark matter; they’re just as relevant.

    What do you mean, they don’t do anything? They’re part of physics, which provides a decent model for a number of the features that were previously mysterious. Cosmic inflation in particular starts to address some of the issues about the structure of the universe, and hence the appearance of design. You can’t just say they “don’t do anything” – they clearly do.

    Yes, the controlling aspect is an argument about the nature of God, not the existence of God. I don’t address it there, although I do later deal with it in implicit fashion in the chapter discussing omniderigence, which Dawkins wrongly assumes here as being intrinsic to God’s nature.

    I was just going by what you wrote – the part I quoted above – which was to do with the nature of God in three parts – creating, monitoring and controlling. You specifically mentioned monitoring and controlling, but your counter-argument only mentioned monitoring.

    I’ve just read your concept of “omniderigence” – it doesn’t seem to work so well.

  284. Nearly everyone believes different things about a whole range of subjects, but Christians have the Bible as a basis for their beliefs, so there are some standards for us.

  285. Nearly everyone believes different things about a whole range of subjects, but Christians have the Bible as a basis for their beliefs, so there are some standards for us.

    This claim of course supported by the existence of hundreds of different denominations and visible shifts in theology over time.

  286. Rhett,

    Point out where I’m wrong, then. –

    His time of birth is not known

    His place of residence for most of his life is not even known to have existed.

    Huge gap of silence for roughly thirty years (apart from one anecdote from Luke about him arguing with doctors in the temple)

    Preaching in Jerusalem followed by adoring crowds, arguing with, and upsetting the authorities which no contemporary recorded. At all.

    Crucified following a trial in a Roman court (of which there is no record) before being handed over to executioners of which there is no record.

    Herod (The Great) did die in 4 BC. His kingdom was divided up into 3 parts. Jesus would have been ~ 3 when Herod died as je was born in 7 BC.

    Jesus was a Nazarene. FYI, Joseph was most probably a stone mason, not a carpenter (son follows father), as wood was extremely scarce.

    Jesus, being a Nazarene, a Galilean (“Greek culture dominated, Romanized Galilee”), would have spoken Greek when at home. He would have been, implicitly, bi-lingual.

    The gap of silence is most interesting. His adoptive grandfather (Mary’s adoptive father), one “Joseph of Arimathea”, a Jew, was also a Roman Citizen, a man of means and some influence. He was the man in charge of Roman Mining. “Rome” extended quite some distance, even to Britain, where he traveled quite frequently. It is during these silent years that Jesus may have been traveling some with his adoptive grandfather. It is also said Jesus traveled as far as Tibet. He would also have learned the family trade while in Galilee. It’s not surprising that little is written about, those years being ~ irrelevant to his ministry.

    As to any Roman records concerning Jesus trial, etc, perhaps they were destroyed along with so many documents back then. But, the Jews do not deny the events, only his divinity.

  287. Alright, I’m going to post, nervously, as a Christian. The way I see it, is that what is actually dangerous is the lot of religous zealots. Not the religion itself. The Bible I read never told me to kill or hurt anyone. It never told me to hate anyone based on their beliefs, their likes or dislikes, their skin tone, birthplace, crimes of their mother or father, etc, etc. It listed what God considers sins. It listed the things I should, and should not, do. I am a firm follower of the 10 commandments (no, I’m not perfect – no man/woman on this Earth is). The Bible I read told me that God would judge sinners, and speciffically not to judge my fellow man or it would mean punishment to me. (Judge not, lest ye be judged.) The Bible I read told me that we should love one another, that we should unite together. I know, that means to basically convert everyone to worship Him. Well, if you were God, wouldn’t you want your followers to try and get everyone to follow you, too? My own views have thusly kept me out of churches myself. I do have a problem with a great many supposedly religious people/groups in that they DO discriminate, teach hate, bigotry, racism, and a myriad of other sins against humanity. But don’t blame religion, or God. Blame man, for twisting and perverting the words of God. Blame man, for judging his own brother. Blame man, for trying his best to be the perfect man and screwing it up by trying to play God’s ‘hit man’ and ridding the world of sin. I argue that religion is NOT the most dangerous/deadly force in today’s world. It is man. It is us. Whether or not we’re doing it in God’s name is, in my opinion, irrelevent. If I kill anyone, or harm anyone, or discriminate against anyone, or offend anyone, or hate anyone, it is because of my own twisted views, not because God told me to.

  288. “The first set are based in reality, experience, and facts. The second are normally considered crazy (except for the established religions – for which we are expected to show tolerance, if not respect)”

    And on what logical, rational, or philosophical basis do you propose that there are two types of faith in the world? And, if so, how are we to know which belief falls into which category. Your faith that your wife will pick you up from work is touching, but honestly I don’t believe you. I believe that she is going to forget. Can you prove to me that she will pick you up?

  289. Jasper @ 318

    Frank: Discussions about God are almost always useless because generally no two people are using the same definition of what “God” means.

    I think most atheists have realised this (I certainly have)

    I was including atheists…

  290. No, I got it, I was just being a weisenheimer. Do you really want to get into a discussion of that? I mean with all these interesting “prove God” comments?

  291. I know you were including atheists – my point was that it’s not just discussions between atheists and theists that are useless. Discussions between theists are as well, for exactly the same reason – hence all those different denominations and theologies.

  292. I really can’t believe nobody commented on this:

    2) Neither hating people because of sin, or antisemitism, are justified by the Christian religion (Bible).

    The New Testament is absolutely packed with antisemitism both overt and cloaked. There’s clear historical evidence that the “free Barabbas” story was a wholesale invention, inserted to pin the blame for Christ’s death on the Jews rather than Rome, just to give one rather clear-cut example. And as for there not being instructions to “hate sinners”, you must be overlooking the Old Testament – on practically every other page of Deutoronomy there’s instructions to murder people, or even entire nations, who aren’t in line with God’s law. I suppose you could argue that this is not exactly the same thing as “hating people because of sin” (“hate the sin, kill the sinner”, as they say), but I wouldn’t want to.

  293. Jasper, fair enough. Not so much a shift in the Bible itself, though. Of course, Christianity never claims that any of us are perfect, just Jesus.

  294. You mistakenly conflated the nonexistent and the unevidenced with the two “weak cranes”. The unnamed and hypothetical “strong crane” theory is the nonexistent theory. The multiverse is that for which there is no evidence.

    Please feel free to explain how either string theory or cosmic inflation suffice to explain the origins of the multiple universes, since that’s what’s required for Dawkins’s “probability” argument. As I said, they don’t buy you anything since the crane has to actually lift you somewhere, not merely describe a piece of the puzzle here or there.

    I’ve just read your concept of “omniderigence” – it doesn’t seem to work so well.

    The concept isn’t mine, It’s a commonly held concept among Christians and atheists alike, but it’s profoundly non-Biblical. I’m a critic of the idea of “God’s Perfect Plan” or what Dawkins describes it as an all-controlling God.

  295. Vox writes:
    the Christian religion is one of the gentlest, least dangerous institutions that history has ever known.

    That’s one of the dumbest things I’ve ever heard of. What about the 100 years’ war? Or how about The Boxer Rebellion – its leader was a “christian”(self-declared) and it was supported initially by the western powers as a Christian movement. And then there’s The Holocaust. I know it’s a red herring to go back and forth about whether or not Hitler was an atheist, but his followers weren’t and lapped up his constant references to god and his appeals to deep-seated Lutheran anti-semitism. Stalin – who had been raised to be a seminarian – made a point of killing jews, as well – something that would make absolutely no sense whatsoever to an atheist; there is no atheistic tradition of anti-semitism.

    When I read nonsense like your statement, I figure I am dealing either with a profoundly ignorant or seriously self-deluded individual. My guess is the latter – you write too well to be an idiot. But well-written bullshit is still bullshit.

    BTW – yes, I have lost respect for Scalzi’s starting this thread. It’s like paying a bunch of bums to fight for chump change and laughing at their antics.

  296. I tried to find some info on Ron Charles’ The Search, apart from his website. Couldn’t find that much, but this review on a blog called “Minor Thoughts” tickled me:

    So, to review: a book published in 2003 that is supposed to summarize 33 years of research by an archaeologist with six university degrees who claims he’s found Noah’s Ark, had to be self-published, is full of technical errors, and has no citations.

  297. K Signal, you are confusing being “under the law” and being freed of it.

    Also, what “clear historical evidence” are you pointing to referencing Barabbas?

  298. Catherine: Can you prove to me that she will pick you up?

    No, I can’t. And I don’t care to. Your acceptance of that article of faith that I posess doesn’t mean anything to me. You can say that I’m crazy for believing that she’ll pick me up. I have proof that I’m not mistaken in my faith. And if anyone who mattered asked for it, I could provide it.

    On the other hand, Christians expect other people to change their lives based on the Christians’ beliefs.

    By the way, your faith in a sky fairy is also touching.

  299. Maybe since the “Big Idea” series is no longer exclusively about speculative fiction, the next installment can be about Rachael Ray’s latest cookbook. Now that’s something I can’t wait to flame! 30-minute meals, my @#$!

  300. Vox – if you cannot competently present your point here, why on earth should I bother with yet more of your writing elsewhere? You’re doing a truly terrible job of salesmanship.

    I mean, think about it — writing for The Big Whatever you are presumably attempting to give people reading it the best possible reason to go read your book. That means your pitch here, including the reasoning, should be at least as good as your reasoning in the book. Realistically, it should be better, to whet my appetite for more. And yet here you’re making dumb, poorly supported arguments (and whether you realized that’s what you were doing or not, you are propounding arguments here) that just make me tired to read, because you aren’t displaying much of an ability to correct your mistakes when they are pointed out to you. If you’re trying to promote a book that is at base a positional argument, by writing sloppy, poorly informed, ill-considered positional arguments, then my question to you is: if you can’t do better in promoting your work, why should I believe you are capable of doing better at all? What reason have you given me to expend my precious time?

    The job of an author is to give the reader a compelling reason to keep on reading. So far, you are failing at your job.

  301. Catherine: Your faith that your wife will pick you up from work is touching, but honestly I don’t believe you.

    You’re going to burn in hell!

    (That’s what a New Atheist would sound like if we were as bad as the theists make it sound.)

  302. Nathan writes:
    The way I see it, is that what is actually dangerous is the lot of religous zealots. Not the religion itself.

    Sorry – I wish it were the case.

    Here’s why it isn’t: religion puports to answer important questions about life, the universe, and everything (“how did we get here?” “what is our purpose?” “why do bad things happen to good people?” etc) and its answers are generally made-up baloney based on vigorous hand-waving on the part of some cheese-ball who has been dead for hundreds or thousands of years. If you base your answers to important questions like “what is our purpose” on weird baloney, then you’re a danger to yourself (and possibly others around you) because your ability to make sensible decisions is eroded. For example, if you believe Jebus is coming in the next 200 years, you might decide global warming is irrelevant because only the non-christians (except the ones Jesus kills) are going to be left after the rapture. Or, if you believe that you’re trapped in the wheel of Karma, you might be more likely to make poor decisions about future problems, etc.

    I’m sure we can agree that the fundamentalists who want to convert by force are the worst-case, but there are plenty of lives that get twisted all out of shape by belief in absurdities inspired by religion. For example, I knew one kid who really truly believed he was going to hell because someone snuck him some pork in his food at school, as a joke. That “joke” would have had no clout (or point!) if both parties hadn’t believed in something as ridiculous as a god that is anti-pork.

    The bottom line is that when you accept nonsense, and cherish it in your heart and make it an importat part of how you think and lead your life, you’ve just shit on your brain. That doesn’t always result in horrible violence but it sure seems to happen often enough.

  303. As I noted in TIA, aside from the occasional evangelical organization funding some Jews making aliyah, (which they do for non-eschatonic purposes, btw), Christians do not engage in any effort that can reasonably be interpreted as attempting to initiate the Second Coming.

    One of the frustrating things with engaging with Mr. Beale is his habit of making sweeping statements. The simplest counterexample to the above statement is The Red Heifer Project.

    In preparation for the end of the age and the return of Jesus, a Pentecostal preacher has prepared the ultimate sacrifice — a holy cow to be slain on the altar of the third Temple in Jerusalem. Clyde Lott, a minister in the Assemblies of Jesus Christ, bred a red heifer according to the Orthodox Jewish interpretation of the nineteenth chapter of the Book of Numbers.

    Lott, like many conservative Christians, believes that a third Temple must be built in Jerusalem before Jesus can return. The last Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed by Titus in 70 C.E. Ever since, prophecy buffs have eagerly awaited the construction of a new Temple.

    See also this article in the Jewish News Weekly of Northern California.

    “The cows, the first of what Lott hopes will be 50,000 sent to the Jewish state, are part of his plan to fulfill a biblical prophecy that a red heifer be born in Israel to bring about the “Second Coming” of Jesus. The return of Jesus is part of a Christian apocalyptic vision of the end of time, which includes the slaughter of those who don’t accept the Christian messiah as their savior.”

    Some Christians certainly do attempt to bring about the Second Coming.

    Others of Mr. Beale’s sweeping statements are equally susceptible of refutation: “The Bible is documentary evidence by every legal and dictionary standard of evidence.” The Bible is documentary evidence in precisely the same way that Suetonius’s The Twelve Caesars is documentary evidence: some useful information, some repeated folklore, some severe authorial bias. You’ll have a very hard time convincing any historian or archaelogist that Methuselah lived 969 years. (Genesis 5:27.), or that any of the lifespans in Genesis 5 is historically accurate.

  304. So, to review: a book published in 2003 that is supposed to summarize 33 years of research by an archaeologist with six university degrees who claims he’s found Noah’s Ark, had to be self-published, is full of technical errors, and has no citations.

    I have seen no claim as to the Ark, but I shall check it out. What technical errors?

    Oh, it has citations (I’ve read the book). I do not like how he incorporated his references into the narrative without listing them at the end for reference.

    Dr. Charles is a very good friend of one of my closest friends. In this case, I take my friends words concerning Dr. Charles – honest. The tablets, scrolls, parchments, etc he found – if he found them, they exist.

  305. You mistakenly conflated the nonexistent and the unevidenced with the two “weak cranes”. The unnamed and hypothetical “strong crane” theory is the nonexistent theory. The multiverse is that for which there is no evidence.

    In which case, you were unclear in what you wrote. Dawkins a) acknowledges the lack of a strong crane (but points out that evolutionary theory has demonstrated that such cranes can exist, at least to his satisfaction), b) points out that there is at least one theory which would act as such a strong crane (but doesn’t endorse it and doesn’t claim that it will definitely solve the problem), and c) asserts that even in the absence of a strong crane, the weak cranes plus the anthropic principle are sufficient to eliminate the need for theism. His argument doesn’t rely on the strength of multiverse theory; it relies on the weaknesses of theism.

  306. superninja: idahogie, by the way, is the anthropic principle “science”?

    I’d say it was philosophy. Metaphysics, perhaps. Maybe epistemology. I’m not an expert, though.

  307. Rhett – I was quoting somebody else, so I can’t speak to either the book or to Dr Charles. However the comments in the post on Minor Thoughts ends with Dr Charles threatening to sue for libel while dodging questions about the authenticity of his qualifications, which isn’t a very good sign.

  308. vox writes:
    And while Hitchens does state that God doesn’t exist, he doen’t present coherent arguments, he mostly makes naked assertions tangentially connected to anecdotes about his travels around the world.

    I always get upset when an author is so intellectually dishonest that he tries to dismiss other writers as if nobody else has read them — and that we’ll just nod like bobbleheads and go “0h. Right. Vox says Hitch doesn’t argue against god’s existence.”

    I’ve read most of the “new atheist” books many times (something that, based on your stellar performance here I won’t be doing with your book) and many of them make devastating arguments against the existence of god. Perhaps they don’t make them in bloviated pseudo-logic like you appear to enjoy, but the simplest and most devastating takedowns don’t need it.

    Hitchen’s book repeats (in several places) the simple observation that, without proof of god’s existence, and with the god of the fables being such a ridiculous creature, it’s obvious that he was made by man and not the other way around. Can you refute that? Of course it would be easy to refute; all you need to do is prove that god exists. Anyone who understands logic 101 should know that it’s not necessary for Hitchens, Dawkins, Harris, Dennet, etc – to disprove the existence of god. Hitchens goes a fine step further, as far as I am concerned, by pointing out quite well that if such a god existed, he would be a disgusting joke; a tyrannical psychopathic incompetent. So first, serve us some proof of god’s existence and then we can start asking the really interesting questions about god (“what did you do with my puppy, you !(&!*^^#hole!?!”) etc.

    Dawkins’ “ultimate 747″ argument is an overcomplex restatement of “well then who created god?” – a question that ought to explode creation myths in any rational mind. As such it’s not a “disproof” of the existence of god – it’s an argument that religion is, inherently absurd. That’s an argument that Hitchens’ book is 100% chock full of, and Harris’ is fairly chunky crunchy with, as well.

    So when you sit there and say “he doesn’t present coherent arguments” – I call you a fool or a liar. A fool if you can’t understand that every one of those arguments is coherent and indeed devastating. Or, a liar if you think we’re going to take your word for it and simply accept your shoddy attempt to shuffle the burden of disproof on the party that is not asserting the proposition.

  309. Well now, if Marcus were such a paragon of logic like he wants us to believe, why does he litter his claptrap of a post with ad hominem and other spewage inducing fallacies? Please Marcus – give us some fact to argue. Your shtick is getting old very quickly – calling people names is not the best way to prove a point.

    And if Hitchens argument is
    “without proof of god’s existence, and with the god of the fables being such a ridiculous creature, it’s obvious that he was made by man and not the other way around.”
    then you had better start checking your premises. But this argument is very silly indeed, without any further comment.

  310. Vox: “You left out the rather important fact that the current push to apply Title IX to science is predicated on the assumption of female inferiority in the sciences.”

    Well, no. It’s predicated on the assumption of discrimination and the state of underrepresentation, not inferiority.

  311. Yeah but Vox is the guy who thinks that women’s rights are “a disease that should be eradicated”. And I’m to the point in the book where he decided that the enlightenment was a bad thing. I’d laugh if it wasn’t so pathetic.

    On a non-related note. Hi, Marcus. Big fan of your security work.

  312. I’m not giving facts to argue; I don’t need to. I’m taking the perfectly reasonable position of someone who is going to wait for some convincing evidence from the people who are trying to sell faith. If you think that’s not a reasonable position, feel free to enlighten me.

    “without proof of god’s existence, and with the god of the fables being such a ridiculous creature, it’s obvious that he was made by man and not the other way around.”
    then you had better start checking your premises. But this argument is very silly indeed, without any further comment.

    Well, since you think it’s silly then it ought to be easy for you to explain why it’s silly. Feel free to enlighten me.

    By the way – I wasn’t attempting ad hominem. That was simple abuse. It’s a whole different vibe. Your arguments stand or fall on their own merits but when I see someone acting like a fool or a liar I’ll call the shot and if you don’t like it, you can kiss my ass.

  313. Are we really having a discussion about how irrational the people are who don’t believe in an invisible man? Really?

    As the son of a minister, I’ve read plenty of the bible, and it seems that their god spent a lot of time proving his existence to people thousands of years ago. Why not today? Why not to everyone? Religious leaders offer no good answers. So there’s no sense in being agnostic that I can see: if a god were real and wanted you to believe, he’d form dew on a sheepskin for you or something. And I can’t imagine a way to read the bible that indicates that you can go to the christian heaven for just accepting the possibility that there might be a god.

    My problem with Mr. Day is the title of his book: it ought to be “Three Irrational Atheists.” I’m not irrational. Well, not about my atheism anyway.

  314. Rest assured that if you ever manage to get beyond the title, he only goes after the featured atheists, and not all atheists, agnostics everywhere and at all times.

  315. VOX:

    It is unfortunate that you wrote an entire book on something that I was then able to say so simply. You could have saved yourself a lot of time, and I’m sure arguments, had you done this.

    The problem though, is that in completely writing off rhetoric, in the sense that you seem to (at least through your being so pleased to find someone call it such). Doing this causes a number of issues. After all, rhetoric is the entirety of ALL the many different ways to “prove” god. There is absolutely positively no proof that god exists, something you seem to admit yourself.

    So, when we admit that both groups are engaged in rhetoric, and one has immense amounts of sound logic on it’s side (atheism), we can honestly say that that group’s rhetoric is much better than the other’s. Do not mistake the marking of rhetoric as rhetoric as wining at anything. I was simply pointing out that you expected more from them than they were giving. This was for a good reason, and I outlined it in my post above (I do believe it had to do with the audience of the works).

    In terms of rhetoric, you cannot write off something you use in a much poorer manner than these “new atheists” you speak of as easily as you think you can. What little logic your rhetoric holds is immediately dispatched the moment you begin to question it, for what you are arguing, is not that god exists, but that the “new atheists” are wrong on X. X has absolutely nothing to do with whether god exists. You’ve made it clear that your issue with them is not in their pointing out logical issues in believing in god, but in their claims about what religion does to society. Even assuming you were right on all of your points in this regard, your rhetoric in response to what they are actually arguing, the non-existence of a personal god, is completely worthless or nonexistent.

    Your book is amazing, but only for a person who knows they already believe in god and that wants to feel “logical” continuing to do so in light of actual logic. It does a great job of allaying their fears. What it does not do, is make up for the lack of any logical content in the actual belief in god.

  316. marcus,

    you might want to read TIA and then try cast aspersions at Vox. I know you personally Marcus and you’re better than that.

    sng…first infidels.org and then wikipedia.org, yep you’re all for primary sources; way to go.

  317. I suppose I should mention: I am a strong atheist.

    My reason for believing that is that I find the Problem of Evil to be compelling. I find that this belief is an article of faith: I cannot prove it, but it is sufficient to me to draw a personal conclusion.

    If your personal definition of God does not include omniscience, omnipotence, or omnibenevolence, or any combination of the three, then we are using different definitions of God, and to you I say that I am only an agnostic.

    This only says something about my belief in God, not my opinion on religion or the content of my character. If you do not find the Problem of Evil to be compelling, then I have no problem with that as long as you have no problem with me. That doesn’t mean that I don’t like to discuss religion or argue for atheism.

    The problem with atheism is that it’s hard to have a steady argument because the people against whom you argue are hard to pin down. If you have a coherent position against one person, that means nothing to another person.

  318. zanzibar
    you might want to read TIA and then try cast aspersions at Vox. I know you personally Marcus and you’re better than that.

    Well, he sure sounds like a blowhard and an intellectually dishonest clown to me. None of this is convincing me that it’s worth reading his book.

    I’m not interested in rhetoric and word-games and I’ve already seen too much of that here. If this is the way he argues in a blog posting, I don’t want to condemn myself to more of a few pages of it, OK? I just don’t have the kind of patience I used to.

  319. marcus,

    I got it. I don’t disagree that Vox has some issues and it can sometimes be hard to get past the bloviating. Like he himself said…skip the first 3 chapters and start at Ch. 4. It’s a quick read for someone like you and it’ll be worth it. Might not change your mind but I’m more interested in you not coming off as a close-minded ignoramus.

    Like I said, I know you, I’ve worked with you, we’re not close but I consider you a friend. I haven’t seen you around BH/DC to say Hi in the last few years so color me surprised when I see you pop up on here…Hi.

  320. Vox – if you cannot competently present your point here, why on earth should I bother with yet more of your writing elsewhere? You’re doing a truly terrible job of salesmanship.

    So don’t bother. Others understood the point just fine, perhaps if you weren’t looking to attack everything from the start, you might have grasped it too.

    If you’re trying to promote a book that is at base a positional argument, by writing sloppy, poorly informed, ill-considered positional arguments, then my question to you is: if you can’t do better in promoting your work, why should I believe you are capable of doing better at all?

    Because writing a descriptive email in five minutes is not the same as writing an entire book that you know is going to be scrutinized and attacked by thousands of people. Perhaps I should have assumed that every aspect my Big Idea was going to be attacked, but in my defense, I’ve never seen anyone else’s basic description of their book subjected to a similar assault before.

    Do you really make all your decisions about a product’s quality on the basis of its marketing?

    I’ve read most of the “new atheist” books many times (something that, based on your stellar performance here I won’t be doing with your book) and many of them make devastating arguments against the existence of god.

    It’s probably just as well you don’t read TIA, you’re not intellectually tall enough to go on that ride. Hitchens isn’t making any coherent argument against the existence of God, that’s his starting assumption. He also commits the most spectacular feat of self-evisceration I’ve ever read; after insisting that all assertions made sans evidence can be refuted without evidence, he proceeds to make more than 50 assertions without any supporting evidence.

    a) acknowledges the lack of a strong crane (but points out that evolutionary theory has demonstrated that such cranes can exist, at least to his satisfaction), b) points out that there is at least one theory which would act as such a strong crane (but doesn’t endorse it and doesn’t claim that it will definitely solve the problem), and c) asserts that even in the absence of a strong crane, the weak cranes plus the anthropic principle are sufficient to eliminate the need for theism. His argument doesn’t rely on the strength of multiverse theory; it relies on the weaknesses of theism.

    a) Biologists have theories, therefore physicists can have theories too. Profound. Or perhaps it’s really economists that will explain the origins of life, the universe and everything.

    b) It’s actually not a strong crane, it merely offers a potential mathematical way around the improbability problem. And, of course, the actual theory doesn’t exist, as Dawkins admits nor is there any evidence for it.

    c) String theory + cosmic inflation + anthropic principle aren’t enough without the multiverse, because they don’t get around the Goldilock’s Factors.

  321. Atheists never have steady arguements because they argue from a basis of chaos producing order. Those that appeal particularly to the empirical as a way of knowing things have a set of information under constant revision – this is considered a strength. It is hard to pin down something that has no meaning other than what is assigned to it at the current moment.

  322. Spherical Time:
    The problem with atheism is that it’s hard to have a steady argument because the people against whom you argue are hard to pin down. If you have a coherent position against one person, that means nothing to another person.

    You’re right. Because if you get into the details of religion, it’s usually pretty easy to trap your opponent with simple pleas for evidence. So most religios now become these big squishy masses of abstract spirituality when you confront them, and return to thumping the bible when you leave the room. If you want a perfect example of that, check out Hitchens’ “debate” with Al Sharpton (the “reverend” Al Sharpton) who is so squishy about his beliefs that when Hitch tries to get him to even say if he believes in “god” he dodges answering. Precious.

    That’s why the only thing atheists really need to or can fall back on is, “oh, yeah, prove it!” and that’s why you get rhetorical games attempting to deny that the burden of proof should fall on the person selling the belief.

    It’s hard to read through Vox’s supercilious tone but it appears that is at least part of his argument against the “new” atheists (most of whom aren’t saying much that Russell didn’t say before…) – that they’re intellectually incompetent because apparently they don’t understand Vox’s apparent brilliant solipsism that if you don’t like someone’s argument you can simply challenge that they exist, or something like that. Come on, I’ve heard better out of high school students. In fact, I tried that argument in high school myself and my philosophy teacher said that since he didn’t exist, surely I wouldn’t mind if he gave me an F, then…

    Anyway, someone who can make bald-faced assertions that christianity has been one of mankind’s less harmless organizations – is either a raving loon, or ignorant of history, or something else. I’m not interested in reading book-length drivel; I’ve gotten a deep enough mouthful in the extract above.

  323. My reason for believing that is that I find the Problem of Evil to be compelling. I find that this belief is an article of faith: I cannot prove it, but it is sufficient to me to draw a personal conclusion.

    Christian theodicy is only troubling to those who cling to a profoundly unBiblical perspective, which many Christians do.

    If your personal definition of God does not include omniscience, omnipotence, or omnibenevolence, or any combination of the three, then we are using different definitions of God, and to you I say that I am only an agnostic.

    Consider checking out chapter 15. It demonstrates that there are no serious Biblical claims to omniscience and why omnipotence is also not a problem given that perspective. Omnibenevolence is irrelevant, being a tautology. I suggest that the Game Designer God concept at least offers a reasonable resolution of the Problem of Evil, although you will surely reject it if you are wedded to the concept of an Omnigod. Which, I readily admit, many people are, despite ample evidence to the contrary from their Holy book.

  324. Are we really having a discussion about how irrational the people are who don’t believe in an invisible man? Really?

    Yep y’all are!

    As the son of a minister, I’ve read plenty of the bible, and it seems that their god spent a lot of time proving his existence to people thousands of years ago. Why not today?

    Cuz he said he wouldn’t any more, it’s right there in the Bible. See Matt. 12:38-42 for details.

  325. It’s hard to read through Vox’s supercilious tone but it appears that is at least part of his argument against the “new” atheists (most of whom aren’t saying much that Russell didn’t say before…)

    Actually, I point out that with the exception of Onfray, they’re not saying much that Meslier didn’t point out before. Harris is the one parroting Russell.

    Anyway, someone who can make bald-faced assertions that christianity has been one of mankind’s less harmless organizations – is either a raving loon, or ignorant of history, or something else. I’m not interested in reading book-length drivel; I’ve gotten a deep enough mouthful in the extract above.

    Of course, if you’d read the book, you’d learn that what you think you know is incorrect. But far be it from me to forcibly remove a man from his comfortable ignorance. If you’re happy in the dark, by all means, stay there.

  326. Vox writes:
    Hitchens isn’t making any coherent argument against the existence of God, that’s his starting assumption.

    You moron. He doesn’t have to make an argument against the existence of “god.” Furthermore, assuming that something does not exist, until you’re presented evidence that it does exist, is common sense.

    Can you explain to me why the burden of proof of existence of “god” has morphed into Hitchens’ needing to prove a negative?

    Imbecile.

  327. Vox writes:
    Of course, if you’d read the book, you’d learn that what you think you know is incorrect. But far be it from me to forcibly remove a man from his comfortable ignorance. If you’re happy in the dark, by all means, stay there.

    I see. I noticed you didn’t offer up an answer about how christianity had nothing to do with The Boxer Rebellion, or Nazi Germany, etc. I suppose that’s all in your book, too.

    I’m willing to agree that absolute proof is impossible. We can merely decide what we know based on evidence and experience (are those the same thing?) and, yes, one can play all kinds of solipsistic “what is reality” games — but based on what I’ve read here I’m completely comfortable going on this extensive evidence and assuming that your book is probably more of the same nonsensical supercilious dreck you’re spouting here.

    So you can try to make little Marcus cry by implying that I’m gonna remain ignorant if it makes you happy. But I have a good suspicion that you probably are deeply confused about what “ignorant” really means. :) Maybe you’re just 180 degrees out of phase on that one. :)

  328. WATYF@#232: “…even the most staunch Jewish supporter would need to read Mein Kampf in order to be able to accurately argue about the views and beliefs of Hitler.”

    I dunno. I think the industrialized murder of six million people because of who their ancestors were is a pretty clear sign that the views and beliefs of Hitler were basically Evil, and I’ve never read Mein Kampf.

    But I think at this point I have to invoke Godwin’s Law.

  329. “I’ve never seen anyone else’s basic description of their book subjected to a similar assault before.”

    Did the other authors represented on the Whatever represent any work but fiction?

    You appear to be no stranger to controversy, so this is rather surprising.

  330. Can you explain to me why the burden of proof of existence of “god” has morphed into Hitchens’ needing to prove a negative?

    Imbecile.

    I must have misunderstood the rules of the thread, in any case let me proceed.

    Well maybe you should talk to one whom both Harris and Dawkins. support in their book reviews. “God: The Failed Hypothesis: How Science Shows That God Does Not Exist” – Victor Stenger, Prometheus Books (January 25, 2007)

  331. DG Lewis writes:
    I dunno. I think the industrialized murder of six million people because of who their ancestors were is a pretty clear sign that the views and beliefs of Hitler were basically Evil, and I’ve never read Mein Kampf.

    Why do so many people care what Hitler believed? If he was a stereotypical psycho he probably believed whatever was convenient for him at the time he believed it.

    What is interesting is the millions of Germans who believed what he was spouting about “god” and “christ” and who marched out and signed up to implement the final solution – backed by their lutheran and catholic anti-semitism. Hitler probably didn’t personally have the stones to do the kind of things that his followers did in his – and christ’s – name. Does someone want to argue not that Hitler was an atheist but rather that the majority of the nazi party were atheists? The buckles didn’t say “Gott mit uns” because that was the slogan of the darwinist eugenicist party or anything…

    And, as I said earlier, good old “atheist” Stalin (the former seminarian) didn’t order massive specifically anti-jew purges because of “atheist anti-semitism” either.

    It’s politically correct to try to blame the whole thing on Hitler, but the nazi moment was just another pogrom in a series of pogroms that are as german as – well, apfel strudeln. They’ve been doing it intermittently since the crusades (and before) and the russians were doing it long before Stalin. And anyone who doesn’t think it wasn’t motivated by christianity and, in many cases, encouraged and applauded by the church, well – you need to read more history.

  332. Atheists never have steady arguements because they argue from a basis of chaos producing order.

    If God were not to exist, then Order was created out of Chaos. On the other hand if the God of the Bible does exist then the design is evident in the DNA of God’s Nature, which without God would quickly descend into Chaos.

  333. I am shocked, shocked by Vox Day. I used to like him–but No Gor? I believe in Gor, therefore it must exist.

  334. Marcus Ranum –

    I feel the need to inform you that you are making a fool of yourself. The things you are saying are pretty silly to someone who has actually read the book. Download the stupid thing for free and at least read a couple of paragraphs. At least you’ll have some actual material to argue against. Right now, you’re just flailing wildly into the air.

  335. @Marcus #347

    So, you respond and say I am wrong, but then by way of rebuttal, you list two examples of exactly what I am referring to. . PEOPLE who take religion the wrong way. The Bible instructs us to take care of the Earth, not sit idly by while others destroy it. We are also taught to be responsible for our own actions. Forget the whole karma thing. That doesn’t work in Christianity. And as for the whole pork thing, while that was not the religion I studied, but those who I know in the religion say that eating pork is just like any other sin. .you mess up, you do it, and you ask for forgiveness. That kids parents were wrong to instill that kind of fear into their child’s head. So again I say, don’t blame the religion, blame the people who interpret it wrongly.

  336. Vox Day: Christian theodicy is only troubling to those who cling to a profoundly unBiblical perspective, which many Christians do.

    Billions, apparently.

    Vox day: Consider checking out chapter 15. It demonstrates that there are no serious Biblical claims to omniscience and why omnipotence is also not a problem given that perspective. Omnibenevolence is irrelevant, being a tautology. I suggest that the Game Designer God concept at least offers a reasonable resolution of the Problem of Evil, although you will surely reject it if you are wedded to the concept of an Omnigod. Which, I readily admit, many people are, despite ample evidence to the contrary from their Holy book.

    I certainly will. However, in the snippets of time that I have online between bits of my life, I can’t promise the time until later.

    In the mean time, I should point out that I’m not wedded to the concept of an “omnigod,” although I have to wonder what the point of worshiping a limited God is.

    If I formulate a response to your book or chapter 15, I’ll definitely let you know.

  337. The Bible instructs us to take care of the Earth, not sit idly by while others destroy it.

    Wait – you’re saying that the bible is something more than a bunch of malarkey assembled by multiple groups of con-men and shamen editing it over the course of centuries? That there’s really actually something in there to take seriously? Ahahaaaahahahahaahahaaaaaa….

    Got any evidence?

    Chad writes:
    I feel the need to inform you that you are making a fool of yourself. The things you are saying are pretty silly to someone who has actually read the book.

    I am willing to take the chance of making a fool of myself.

  338. although I have to wonder what the point of worshiping a limited God is.

    That’s a silly thought… Do you wonder what the point is to loving your extraordinarily limited parents? At what point does a limited God finally warrant worship?

  339. Well there you go, Marcus. Way to go. I’ve made a good point, so you don’t even bother trying to make a good response. If you’re going to argue against something, it would help if you actually read it, and know what you’re arguing against. I’m not asking you to believe. Just make an intelligent response.

  340. In the mean time, I should point out that I’m not wedded to the concept of an “omnigod,” although I have to wonder what the point of worshiping a limited God is.

    Limited, how so? do you claim that if there is a God, who created creatures of free will, that he would not in fact let them have it? I don’t see how this is a limitation in any respect. If I could kill all humanity, with a virus that I could produce and release, and chose not to, would that make me limited in my capabilities to do so?

  341. 220. The Christian worldview is an intellectual system that is internally consistent and explains reality rightly.

    You should really consider explaining this to the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Seventh Day Adventists, Southern Baptists, and Mormons who come to my door, because they all have pretty profoundly different worldviews, yet all consider themselves Christian.

    The Catholics don’t come ringing my doorbell to shove their theology in my face, but they’re different again. As are the Lutherans, Methodists, Pentecostals…

  342. Genesis 2:15, BTW, since I know you’re hanging there waiting for my example/proof.

    ‘The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.’

    Such follows, in other examples, but seeing as Adam was the only man around at the time, and Eden was the entirety of the known Earth at the time, it would probably follow that after he died the rest of us were supposed to keep up the job, with the rest of the Earth. And no, before you ask, I’m not one of those creationists. I’m one who kind of sees the Bible kind of metaphorically. Which isn’t the popular view, but I like it.

  343. O-kay. Am reading the e-Book now; am mildly concerned, as I have detected two possible biases:

    1. The author, admits, pretty much, that he’s a non-denominational Christian. Well, at least he owns up in the Preface…
    2. The author, judging by his tone of voice in his preface, seems set out to excoriate Dawkins, Hitchens and Harris. Now, he says he has a good reason, but…

    I’m not an atheist (liberal Muslim, actually), but I’m beginning to doubt the value of this work as advertised.

    Anyway, onward.

  344. One squanders the gift of life by spending so much of it trying to justify why it is possessed in the first place. They could use the energy for more productive things–say ‘knitting’. If there are ‘absolute truths’, they are irrelevant truths, as the only relevant truths are the relative truths, which are fundamentally personal truths of the mind, most often fashioned–be it consciously or unconsciously–to compensate for emotional limitations, or if you like “structural flaws of the spirit”. No human concept retains its shape when examined from all angles. There are no absolutes.

    There are no spheres.

    There is no spoon.

    Believe in whatever brings you a semblance of peace.

    Choose your own delusion.

    Just live.

  345. Why do people keep on repeating the silly claim that we have to read Vox’s book in order to debate in this thread? Unless I’m mistaken, this thread is in response to The Big Idea, posted above, not the contents of the book itself (at least those not directly addressed in the post). If you look at comment threads for previous Big Idea posts, you’ll see plenty of people talking about the text of the post without having read the book.

  346. Wow, I got 17 pages into it before I nearly squirted my pants laughing. This is funny stuff. It’s typical theist idiocy – attempting to equate belief with non-belief because, after all, non-belief has the word “belief” in it, too. (Yes, I parody). But – seriously – Vox’s argument is that lame. Hello, “New atheism is a fundamentalist jihad” Uh… yeah. No wonder you couldn’t get this crap published.

    This is typical creo garbage. It’s insulting to hear the words “reason” and “rational argument” from someone who starts off with statements of assumption like “I believe in free will” and “our free will is a gift from our creator and he expects us to use it.” Nobody who is willing to leap to such ridiculous assumptions about such important issues (free will? really? given by creator? how? how do you know he wants us to use it? etc) can speak about rationality without having his tongue in his cheek.

    Why do I call it “typical creo garbage”?? Because, from the 30 or so pages I have gagged down so far, and a bit of spot reading here and there, this is just like the creo attacks on darwinism – little endless sniping at big ideas by arrogant airheads who do not understand how to think, trying to poke little tiny holes in great big ideas because they have none of their own. This book is not a detailed refutation of Dawkins or Harris or Hitchens – it’s a collection of pissant nitpicks. If you want to write a great book about how wrong Dawking and Harris and Hitchens are all you need to do is present a solid and concrete case for the existence of god; a case backed by evidence and logic (just please not the circular kind). This reads like “philosophy of the gaps.”

    When Hitchens observes that there’s no evidence of the existence of “god” and that the obvious conclusion would be that man created god not the other way around – the way to refute him is to trump him with god. Of course, you can’t do that.

    Creo crap has gotten cowardly these days. You daren’t advance a thesis of your own because it just gets hammered to bits of absurdity. Instead of nitpicking (“oh, gee, lots of atheists who say they are atheists may not really be atheists so let’s treat atheism as a religion…”) why don’t you explain how it is that, since, so many religions’ holy dogmas contradict eachother directly, you’re sure which one is right? What’s your evidence? Don’t you creotards understand that the same “logic” that convinced you that jebus is lord would have convinced you that shiva is lord if you’d grown up hindo?

    I’ve wasted enough time here. Usually when I wade into some new area of pseudoscience it serves as a chance for me to learn something interesting. But there’s nothing interesting here.

    Have fun,
    mjr.

  347. Well, I’m reading it because it’s free, and I have the free time.

    Oh. Oh, ha ha. You thought I was going to engage debate here? Sorry, I’ve learned my lesson: if a debate must occur, the comments page of a blog is the worst place to do it.

    I am, however, commenting because I’m going off to read something that Scalzi pimped out, and to talk about my initial response to the work he pimped out. I’m sure he’d appreciate it in some way.

    Also, I like the attention. Hey, at least I don’t have a MySpace.

  348. # Simon Owenson 08 Apr 2008 at 10:25 pm
    Why do people keep on repeating the silly claim that we have to read Vox’s book in order to debate in this thread? Unless I’m mistaken, this thread is in response to The Big Idea, posted above, not the contents of the book itself (at least those not directly addressed in the post). If you look at comment threads for previous Big Idea posts, you’ll see plenty of people talking about the text of the post without having read the book.

    Part of the text of the post:

    Now, having been given exactly what they have been requesting – nay, demanding – the atheist response has largely been to stick their collective head in the sand and hope it goes away before the intellectual depantsing of their icons becomes general knowledge.

  349. Nathan, Tooon
    I’ve made a good point, so you don’t even bother trying to make a good response.

    I didn’t see a “good point” from you. Except for “read this steaming pile of bullshit and then you’ll understand.”

    If you’re going to argue against something, it would help if you actually read it

    Read enough. Laughed my ass off. Enough.

  350. No human concept retains its shape when examined from all angles. There are no absolutes.

    I am sure you mean that life and death are not absolutes, and there is no truth in those absolutes?

  351. the atheist response has largely been to stick their collective head in the sand and hope it goes away before the intellectual depantsing of their icons becomes general knowledge.

    What page is the depantsing on? I’ll read that part. Carefully.

    I bet the “depantsing” is word-judo trying to claim that D,D,and H have failed to prove “god” doesn’t exist.

    Are you people really this stupid, or is this a parody?

  352. Many of you have claimed that you will not read anything Vox has written because he has written a column expressing a negative view of women’s sufferage.

    I wonder…

    How do you hold the writings of say… Thomas Jefferson? How about the ancient greek philosophers?

    When it comes to those men… do you read their works and look for wisdom, while filtering out the stuff that doesn’t meet your modern standards? Or do you just assume they are idiots that couldn’t possibly have anything worth while to say because they happen to believe that women shouldn’t be actively involved in the political process?

    I am perfectly willing to examine the writings of those I disagree with. For example… Vox loves soccer. He even coaches a children’s team. This is… in my opinion child abuse. A civilized society would hang a man for such a crime against a child… but still… even so… I read Vox’s columns anyway… because on economics… he can teach you a lot.

    Here’s my advice people… if you want to learn mathmatics… go find a mathmatician… it doesn’t matter if he can spell really well… or if he likes different music than you… or if he holds different religious views than you do. The point is learning math.

  353. You know, I read this blog because I like the owner’s fiction writing and find him interesting to read at times, not for this tripe.

    Mark me down as another person who has lost at least a little respect for our host. Sorry.

  354. Marcus Ranum – I meant for you to read the book to AVOID sounding like a fool. You’ve just done the opposite.

  355. What page is the depantsing on? I’ll read that part. Carefully.

    I bet the “depantsing” is word-judo trying to claim that D,D,and H have failed to prove “god” doesn’t exist.

    Are you people really this stupid, or is this a parody?

    Marcus Ranum

    You are the parody, moron.
    Its not about proving or disproving the non-existence of God, its about showing that some atheists have no rational arguments. It also shows that some do. You are not apparently one of them.
    .

  356. 398:

    The short version of my ‘personal’ answer (given that I gave up writing philosophy texts with college and a loss of a fair portion of my sanity):

    That one doesn’t count.

    It has also occurred to me that I should have had the good sense not to comment in the first place, as I am now cloudy on its intended purpose, if any.

    Such is my way.

  357. Mark me down as another person who has lost at least a little respect for our host. Sorry.

    Thanks for telling me that I’ll mark it down on my list.

  358. It has also occurred to me that I should have had the good sense not to comment in the first place, as I am now cloudy on its intended purpose, if any.

    I hope it helps you to know that I don’t blame you personally. I mean, how can anyo0ne keep up with it all.

  359. Marcus Ranum: What page is the depantsing on? I’ll read that part. Carefully.

    I bet the “depantsing” is word-judo trying to claim that D,D,and H have failed to prove “god” doesn’t exist.

    Although it will make no difference to you since you’ve already made your mind up before hearing the argument (thanks to your vast rationality), your request is specifically answered starting on page 152.*

    *WARNING: It requires being able to follow a linear line of thought.

  360. @407: “Mark me down as another person who has lost at least a little respect for our host. Sorry.”

    Um, I don’t know if Scalzi should be held responsible for the behavior of people who decide to comment on his blog.

    I mean, after all, it’s People On The Internet. We’re not exactly known for being Mensa-eligible people.

  361. Actually Nate, I’m merely suspicious when someone claims that women don’t write hard science fiction because they can’t hack the science involved while a working female physicist is president of the SFWA, they don’t have a strong grasp of reality or logic.

    Note to Vox: I am not claiming that Catherine Asaro writes hard science fiction – merely that if she does not, it’s plainly not because the science is too hard for her.

    Chad #393 – I believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty. Maker of Heaven and Earth, of all things seen and unseen. I believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only son of God. Eternally begotten of the Father. Begotten, not made. Of one being with the Father. God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God. Through him all things were made. For us and for our salvation he came down from Heaven and was made man. He was crucified under Potius Pilate, suffered death, and was buried. On the third day he rose again, in accordance with the scriptures. He ascended into Heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end. We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of Life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son. With them he is worshipped and glorified. He has spoken through the prophets. We believe in one holy, catholic and apostolic Church. We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins. We look for the resurrection of the dead and the life in the world to come. Amen.

    From memory – the Episcopal version (no filioque, same substance), do I get a prize?

    The JW’s do not accept it – I don’t think the LDS church does, though I could be wrong. I can pretty well guarantee you that the Southern Baptists and Catholics view the interpretation of the words so differently that calling their takes the “same world view” would be stretching the point like rubber. The whole “born again” thing, is kind of problematic, for example (one baptism, remember?). Any church that takes a Calvanistic view of their theology has a very different view of the world than one that follows Luther, even if they both accept the Creed. Etc. etc.

  362. Tapetum wrote: Any church that takes a Calvanistic view of their theology has a very different view of the world than one that follows Luther, even if they both accept the Creed. Etc. etc.

    Given that they all accept the creed, your initial point becomes moot.

  363. Although it will make no difference to you since you’ve already made your mind up before hearing the argument (thanks to your vast rationality), your request is specifically answered starting on page 152.*

    Oh, the part about wars and this and that? Never mind the fact that Vox completely omitted to mention The Boxer Rebellion (such sloppy ‘scholarship’) – I’m actually totally unconcerned about those arguments and I think it’s silly of Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens to make them. All that need be said is that “one death over an imaginary sky-god is too many” and that’s sufficient, isn’t it?

    And, by the way, it’s perfectly reasonable to have your “mind made up” before hearing an argument. I am not “open-minded” about the space shuttle in my microwave oven; until I see evidence or reason to think it might be there, I am not going to waste a second worrying about it. Or are you saying that all propositions – however absurd – should be granted equal credence alongside propositions for which there is actual evidence? After we’ve dispensed with that then we can argue about the degree to which the evidence is convincing.. But, actually, I’m not “closed minded” – I’m extremely narrow minded. I’m even willing to admit the possibility that there is a god. It’s just, from the 2,000+ year complete lack of scientific evidence, I’m thinking there are no big breakthroughs likely to come along real soon…

    zeno writes:
    Its not about proving or disproving the non-existence of God, its about showing that some atheists have no rational arguments.

    Exactly what I meant. So some atheists have non-rational arguments. That doesn’t make this book important or interesting (I think some of Dawkins’ writing is too froo froo and Harris is boringly humanistic) (Whereas I think Hitchens serves up just the right heaping spoonful of ridicule and contempt) – just because your enemy is wrong about a few things doesn’t make you right about anything at all.

    I’m up to about page 60 and this is really just a horribly badly written piece of garbage. I’m waiting for the good part so I’ll jump to the “depantsing” at page 152.

  364. # Tapetum

    That is another version, of the Nicene creed, while you cannot expect me to be swapping spit with these people, nor be ecumenical with them, I would say they have much more truth than you ever possessed.

  365. # Tapetum

    That is another version, of the Nicene creed, while you cannot expect me to be swapping spit with these people, nor be ecumenical with them, I would say they have much more truth than you ever possessed…

  366. Marcus Ranum wrote: Or are you saying that all propositions – however absurd – should be granted equal credence alongside propositions for which there is actual evidence?

    God is nowhere near the level of absurdity of the multi-verse theory. Your vast irrationality shows itself yet again by equating God with a space ship in your microwave, as if countless billions of humans over the millenia have believed both on equal grounds.

    “one death over an imaginary sky-god is too many”

    The operational word in the sentence is ‘imaginary’.

  367. “Actually Nate, I’m merely suspicious when someone claims that women don’t write hard science fiction because they can’t hack the science involved while a working female physicist is president of the SFWA, they don’t have a strong grasp of reality or logic.”

    I’m sorry.. the SFWA is not exactly a big time organization and my google-fu is letting me down. The results I get are indicating a male was president in 2007. The only chick president I’ve found was named sharon something or other… and she spent most of her life working a secretary. Could you be so kind as to share the name of the current president? I’m not attacking you here… I simply cannot find it listed.

  368. Hey, Marcus you dillweed (you seem to like the insults).

    First @355 You say Hitchens made an argument against god existing.

    I always get upset when an author is so intellectually dishonest that he tries to dismiss other writers as if nobody else has read them — and that we’ll just nod like bobbleheads and go “0h. Right. Vox says Hitch doesn’t argue against god’s existence.”

    I’ve read most of the “new atheist” books many times (something that, based on your stellar performance here I won’t be doing with your book) and many of them make devastating arguments against the existence of god. Perhaps they don’t make them in bloviated pseudo-logic like you appear to enjoy, but the simplest and most devastating takedowns don’t need it.

    Hitchen’s book repeats (in several places) the simple observation that, without proof of god’s existence, and with the god of the fables being such a ridiculous creature, it’s obvious that he was made by man and not the other way around.

    Then in 373 you back off and claim he doesn’t need to make an argument.

    You moron. He doesn’t have to make an argument against the existence of “god.” Furthermore, assuming that something does not exist, until you’re presented evidence that it does exist, is common sense.

    Can you explain to me why the burden of proof of existence of “god” has morphed into Hitchens’ needing to prove a negative?

    Which is it? Did Hitchens make a devastating argument against god’s existence, or doesn’t he have to? Doesn’t really matter as you’re wrong either way. I read god is not Great, (quite liked it actually). Though he asserted that god doesn’t exist several times, he never put forward an argument supporting that position.

    Hitchen’s put the burden of proof squarely on his own shoulders by writing a book proselytizing the opposite position.

    If a christian (or any other religious flavor you prefer) comes to you and tries to win brownie points with their god by attempting to convert you, then he is required to prove to your satisfaction his claims. But turnabout is fairplay. If you go to a christian (or write a book intended for a mass audience) claiming there is no god and that religious people should stop believeing in one because it’s causing all kinds of harm, you’re going to actually have to provide some proof for what you say.

    I’m agnostic and hold no particular brief for any faith-based belief (and yes athiests are included in that rubric for me), but I’m going to hold you all to the same line.

    As long as you don’t bother me with whatever your belif is, we’ll get along just fine. But if you do, be ready to back it up. If you believe in god and want me to as well, be prepared to produce god on the spot. If you can’t, keep walking. If you disbelieve in god and want me to as well, be prepared to prove it just as decisively. And none of that whining about not being able to prove a negative. You should’ve thought of that before you bothered me with it.

    Being the wonderful human being I am, I’ll help you out though. If you can either take me back to before the universe began and show me it starting without any divine interference, or take me outside the bounds of the universe now and show me no one’s there, I’ll accept that as proof. See, you have two ways you can prove it. The godder’s only have one.

  369. Stretchy Underwear: I would say they have much more truth than you ever possessed…

    Interesting. I haven’t said word one about what I personally do or do not believe theologically speaking. I merely stated, with evidence, that the “Christian worldview” is not unitary – not even close – with supporting evidence.

    Anything you interpret about what I believe about God is exactly that – your interpretation.

  370. Nate, the president in question was several years back. Her name was Catherine Asaro. It was my first introduction to VD and it left a rather lasting impression.

  371. Tapetum – Why in the world are you demanding that all Christian worldview must be unitary? As long as we have a basic agreement (Nicene Creed), why do you think it must follow that every other opinion on anything must also be in agreement? If an Episcopalian likes creamy peanut butter and a Presbyterian likes chunky, it doesn’t discount Christianity.

  372. Chad writes:
    God is nowhere near the level of absurdity of the multi-verse theory.

    I agree. I am not a cosmologist and I don’t ascribe to any of the crazier new theoretical constructs like strings and multiverses, none of which have been proven to exist.

    And your point was… ? What?

    Yes – “god” like the multiverse theory, is a “theory” with no supporting evidence of any kind. Unlike the multiverse theory, though, the “god” “theory” has the failing that it tries to explain many many things – often badly and incompletely. Based on that I’d say you’re right that it’s “nowhere near as absurd” – it’s vastly more absurd.

    Did you have some evidence to present for your “god”?

    Your vast irrationality shows itself yet again by equating God with a space ship in your microwave

    I wasn’t trying to equate “god” with a spaceship in my microwave; I was simply using that as an example of a ridiculous idea for argument’s sake. Although I will say they seem equally likely based on the available evidence (zero compared to zero…)

    It makes Marcus cry when you call me “irrational.” I hate it when morons try to hurt my feelings. Don’t you understand I don’t have any feelings?

    as if countless billions of humans over the millenia have believed both on equal grounds.

    Hahhahahahaha!! That’s deliciously dumb!!! A bad idea is a better bad idea if more people believed in it??

    I am guessing that you then think that the fact that billions of people believed for thousands of years that colds were caused by gods and demons and stuff makes that a better theory than that they are caused by viruses After all, more believers good! Right? Idiot.

    “one death over an imaginary sky-god is too many”
    The operational word in the sentence is ‘imaginary’.

    Well, you’d have to be a pretty dumb sap to believe in something as important as a “god” without any convincing evidence. So why don’t you tell us what evidence convinced you?

  373. Tapetum
    You do realize that Catherine Asaro is not, and never has been a working physicist right? You do realize that having a degree in a particular field and working in that field are not the same thing?

    For crying out loud.. the woman is a ballet teacher. Having a physics degree doesn’t make you a physicist.

    Vox knows that women are capable of doing hard science. He knows women that do it.

    The point is… the women that are capable are not the women writing sci-fi. The women masqurading as sci-fi authors today are (for the most part) harlequin novelists stealing their settings from the geeks they remember from high school.

    now… I’m a stay-at-home dad married to an anesthesiologist. Go on and tell me how my views are caused by my fear smart women.

  374. Rigel Kent:
    Which is it? Did Hitchens make a devastating argument against god’s existence, or doesn’t he have to? Doesn’t really matter as you’re wrong either way. I read god is not Great, (quite liked it actually). Though he asserted that god doesn’t exist several times, he never put forward an argument supporting that position.

    Slow bus night, apparently.

    He did and he doesn’t have to say more than simply: “there is insufficient evidence to justify belief” — which he says several times in several ways. The only response a creo can make to that is to present evidence.

    Don’t you understand that an argument from disbelief does not need to “support its position” – if you’re the one claiming there’s a god, it’s your job to support that claim. After all, I could make any ridiculous claim (like the space shuttle in my microwave) and nobody except a complete creotard is going to accept it without some kind of evidence. Of course someone can always say “oh, well, you have the right to believe that” (which is code for “you are a f*ckwit but I won’t confront you on it”) – which is how any rationalist thinks about god – except for the few of us who enjoy laughing at you kids on the slow bus.

  375. Marcus – Enlighten me on your vastly superior explanation of the Goldilocks universe without the God or Multi-Verse theories. Maybe I too will become a believer like yourself.

    Also, I can think of any number of theories that are immediately more plausible than others based on the amount and stature of the people that believe them. I’m not sure what your rant was trying to prove there.

  376. Marcus, here’s an idea, try reading the entire comment I left. Hell just this paragraph will provide a clue as to where you went wrong.

    Hitchen’s put the burden of proof squarely on his own shoulders by writing a book proselytizing the opposite position.

    If a christian (or any other religious flavor you prefer) comes to you and tries to win brownie points with their god by attempting to convert you, then he is required to prove to your satisfaction his claims. But turnabout is fairplay. If you go to a christian (or write a book intended for a mass audience) claiming there is no god and that religious people should stop believeing in one because it’s causing all kinds of harm, you’re going to actually have to provide some proof for what you say.

    Now I know it’s going to be dificult to think about what someone else has said rather than just run off with you’re own preconceived notions of what you think they’ll say, but try real hard. You might even find it rewarding.

  377. “which is how any rationalist thinks about god – except for the few of us who enjoy laughing at you kids on the slow bus.”

    1) all of this is off topic… which is the book… and the book says nothing at all about the existence of God one way or the other.

    2) On the repeated demands for proof… allow me to demonstrate a point… and that point is… no proof exists for anything that is sufficiently out-of-the-ordinary.

    Imagine for a second…God appears to Richard Dawkins. They sit down and have a chat. God explains things… performs miracles… basicly does everything Richard requires to accept that He exists.

    Richard then writes about it.

    Would any of you believe it?

    No. Because you weren’t there. You didn’t see it. You’d assume ol’ Richard lost it… or sold out… or both.

    There is no proof that can satisfy you beyond what you experience first hand. Anything that those of us who have experienced things first hand is completely ignored.

    You wonder why God doesn’t do miracles to convince people?

    Because it doesn’t work.

  378. Rigel Kent writes:
    Hitchen’s put the burden of proof squarely on his own shoulders by writing a book proselytizing the opposite position.

    Yeah, I read your whole comment and laughed myself sick over it. I thought “he can’t be serious” – which is why I didn’t try to respond to the rest of it. It’s probably not the stupidest thing I’ve ever seen – credit for that goes to the redneck I saw try to pry the top off a .22 rimfire with his teeth – but you’re in the dumb sweepstakes and running hard, I gotta say.

    You obviously failed basic logic.

    Hitchens isn’t “proselytizing” a viewpoint. He’s observing that there’s a lack of evidence for the other viewpoint. If you think about it for a second you’ll realize it’s the only way that logic can work because otherwise you’re weighting any ridiculous idea as equal to any other idea. Now, watch closely:
    even if you do that, you have to decide based on the weight of evidence
    Got that??

    So if you say “there is a god” and I say “there is no god” the simple way to resolve it is for you to present evidence there is a god. Because it’s not my problem to prove your position. Logic’s really unfair that way, but the universe is a hard unfair place if you’re stupid.

    If a christian (or any other religious flavor you prefer) comes to you and tries to win brownie points with their god by attempting to convert you, then he is required to prove to your satisfaction his claims.

    Yep.
    By the way, when they do that, my usual question is “why do you believe in god, how are you sure you have the right god, and upon what evidence do you base your claim?”

    But turnabout is fairplay. If you go to a christian (or write a book intended for a mass audience) claiming there is no god and that religious people should stop believeing in one because it’s causing all kinds of harm, you’re going to actually have to provide some proof for what you say.

    WTF?! That’s the dumbest thing I have ever heard of!!! Logic is not about “fair”.

    Let’s try this another way – we can simply invert the sense of your absurd argument. Let’s say I do not “proselytize” a position at all. Suppose I walk up to a creo and simply start asking them to defend their position. At no point do I say “there is no god” — simply asking them to justify, explain, and present evidence. Note, I am not advocating anything – simply questioning their beliefs Are you going to tell me that’s “not playing fair”?? LOL!!

    “So, mister creo, what ‘god’ do you believe in?
    What convinced you that this ‘god’ exists?
    What evidence do you have that supports your belief?”
    etc.

    See how it works? The only way you can construct any kind of stable thought-system is to base it on positive evidence. In fact there’s the (obvious) corollary that you can’t prove a negative. By the way, whenever you’re debating with someone and they ask you to prove a negative – you can tell you’re dealing with a kid from the slow bus.

    Now I know it’s going to be dificult to think about what someone else has said rather than just run off with you’re own preconceived notions of what you think they’ll say, but try real hard. You might even find it rewarding.

    No, I understand perfectly and exactly what you’re saying – and it’s laughable and stupid.

    Maybe now you understand what I’m saying, too. Or do I need to use weally widdle words?

  379. Is it ironic that god and religion are discussed on the internet, on computers?

    The things themselves were created through the use of reason and science, not divine revelation. These things were created through observing the natural world.

    It just seems a little odd.

    Not saying much, just saying.

  380. SNG,
    You stated earlier that,
    The first historical mention of the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, was made by the Christian Father, St. Irenaeus, about the year 190 A.D. The only earlier mention of any of the Gospels was made by Theopholis of Antioch, who mentioned the Gospel of John in 180 A.D. We know for example that 70 is the earliest date that Mark can have been written because it alludes to the destruction of the temple, which happened in 70 AD.
    I found this information from http://www.garyhabermas.com
    Scholars think that they may be able to find allusions to John as early as Christian writings from 97 to 110 AD, namely Clement, Ignatius, and Polycarp. This is incredible, because the Gospel of John was probably only written about 95 AD. Further, Papias, writing about 125 AD, is said to have known John, hearing him speak. A small copy of papyrus with just a few verses from John, known as the Rylands Papyri, dates from about 125 AD. Needless to say, even though there is very little text, this is exceptionally early attestation to this Gospel writing.
    Plus, various sayings of Jesus in the first three (Synoptic) Gospels are definitely preserved in these very early writers–Clement (ca 97 AD), Ignatius (ca 107 AD), & Polycarp (ca 110 AD). This is exceptionally early evidence when we are discussing ancient history.

    You also said:
    There is absolutely nothing to show that these Gospels – the only sources of authority as to the existence of Christ – were written until a hundred and fifty years after the events they pretend to describe.
    I have to disagree with you. The evidence you presented backs up your statement, but it is hardly reflective of the totality of Biblical scholarship as you can see from the above. Also, there are many who have good reasons for dating the book of Acts in the New Testament around 64 AD and that book was a sequel to the gospel of Luke. There are some who feel that the book of Acts was almost certainly written before 67 AD given that it doesn’t mention the death of one of its central figures, Paul. If the book of Mark existed before the book of Luke, as you claim, then its original date would be even earlier. In addition, the accounts from the gospels are corroborated by Paul in his writings in many places, unlike what another poster has said here.
    I would direct you to sites like that of Gary Habermas. He was an atheist who was convinced by evidence of the resurrection. You may know the names of others like Josh McDowell who have similar stories. Many of these men sought to disprove the resurrection and found the evidence would not support that view. I don’t wish to try and recreate their arguments here, but I will quote a section regarding the age of the Gospel accounts. This is from a larger article about the Gospels at http://www.garyhabermas.com/articles/crj_recentperspectives/crj_recentperspectives.htm
    We should note here that the methods used by contemporary biblical scholars are actually borrowed from the approach to ancient texts regularly employed by secular historians. Seldom does one find a complete list of these principles, perhaps due in part to each scholar preferring some of them over others. I will attempt to provide a brief inventory of a number of these rules that are regularly applied to the Gospel material, along with examples of each.

    Although not usually listed as part of the authenticity criteria per se, we will begin with two important principles that are well-recognized by scholars. (1) Early evidence is strongly preferred above later contributions. Even the difference of a decade or two can be crucial. With regard to the historical Jesus, any material between 30 and 50 AD would be exemplary, a time period highly preferred by scholars like those in the Jesus Seminar.[12]

    Reports from such an early date would actually predate the written Gospels. A famous example is the list of Jesus’ resurrection appearances supplied by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:3-8. Most critical scholars think that Paul’s reception of at least the material on which this early creedal statement is based is dated to the 30s AD.[13] Other examples are supplied by the brief creedal statements that many scholars find embedded within the Book of Acts, which Gerald O’Collins dates to the 30s AD.[14] From the so-called “Q” material in the first and third Gospels, another instance is the statement of high Christology found in Matthew 11:27/Luke 10:22.[15] Further, Paul’s earliest epistles date from the 50s AD.
    I can’t post the whole article here, but I would encourage you to read it and check it out. I have studied some of the articles and Dr. Habermas isn’t one to shy away from serious questions. For that matter neither am I.

  381. “So, mister creo, what ‘god’ do you believe in?”

    I’m a Christian.

    “What convinced you that this ‘god’ exists?”

    I communicate with Him frequently. I’ve seen the fruits of His work in my life and the lives of others.

    “What evidence do you have that supports your belief?”

    I need a definition of evidence. The communication and the sensing are enough evidence for me personally… I mean… I’ve seen and felt an orange.. and I know people that see and feel oranges… thus I don’t doubt oranges exist. In fact.. I find the fact that you doubt the existence of God just as insane as I would if you told me you doubt the existence of oranges. I mean.. the vast majority of the world senses something and knows something… but you don’t believe it merely because you haven’t sensed it? Its bloody daft. Its rather like a blind man arguing that colors don’t exist, and requiring proof that they do. How on earth would I convince a blind man that there is something described as “red”? Can I hand him red? Can he taste red? how about smell?

    Yet… we all agree red is a color and red does exist as such.

    I can hand you an orange… because oranges are within my power to control. I cannot however hand you God… because He is not.

  382. Nate writes:
    Imagine for a second…God appears to Richard Dawkins. They sit down and have a chat. God explains things… performs miracles… basicly does everything Richard requires to accept that He exists.

    Richard then writes about it.

    Would any of you believe it?

    Uh, definitely slow-bus night.

    I am absolutely certain that Dawkins wouldn’t be a mega-moron and ask stupid questions like “what’s your favorite color” — more like I’d expect him to ask something like, “what are the 20 digits after the hundred trillionth place of pi?” You know, useful science questions that any supreme being could just rattle off answers for if he wanted to prove he was really supreme. I’m sure Dawkins would ask interesting questions that were confirmable by experiment yet were far advanced past current human knowledge.

    Of course, if Dawkins suddenly started raving about Jebus walking down the road with him and so forth they’d probably assume he’d had a minor stroke (maybe like Paul?) .. But if hundreds of scientists started coming forward with corroborating stories (especially if they had fascinating details like the factors of 2 100,000 digit prime numbers picked by a team of scientists. I mean Jesus could surely factor a couple primes, huh?

    Have you ever noticed that the standards of evidence for supreme being-ness are really really low??? Back in the biblical era Jebus got to skate with tricks that are so lame that Penn and Teller wouldn’t have done them 20 years ago – healing the sick (gosh, fake church faith healers still pull that one!) and changing water to wine (duh!) but nothing really cool. See, Jebus could have just cratered this whole problem by putting 100 digits of pi after the 100,000th decimal right in the sermon on the mount – you know, 2,000 years before computers were invented? That’d impress anyone with a brain. Instead we got stunts that wouldn’t even make it on a game show today and creotards call that “miracles” and evidence of divinity.

    The stupid – it burns.

  383. Folks an example of intellectual cowardice.

    If a christian (or any other religious flavor you prefer) comes to you and tries to win brownie points with their god by attempting to convert you, then he is required to prove to your satisfaction his claims.

    Yep.
    By the way, when they do that, my usual question is “why do you believe in god, how are you sure you have the right god, and upon what evidence do you base your claim?”

    But turnabout is fairplay. If you go to a christian (or write a book intended for a mass audience) claiming there is no god and that religious people should stop believeing in one because it’s causing all kinds of harm, you’re going to actually have to provide some proof for what you say.

    WTF?! That’s the dumbest thing I have ever heard of!!! Logic is not about “fair”.

    When it’s going Marucs’s way, he’s more than happy. But when I expect him to play ball by the same rules as the godder’s, he cries foul and hides behind “logic” as he chooses to define it at the moment.

    And then of course there’s just the flatout lying.

    Hitchens isn’t “proselytizing” a viewpoint.

    The title of the book is God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. Not only is Hitchen’s quite openly proseltysing a viewpoint, but he goes beyond the simple view that there’s no god. He’s saying not only is there no god, but if you believe in god you’re poisioning the world with you’re belief.

    To proselytize means to recruit someone to your cause, and not only is that what Hitchen’s is doing, it’s what all of the “New Athiests” (with the possible exception of Dennett) are doing. Which they have a right to do, but then they need to be willing to back up their case. And not get hysterical (or in this case have someone else get hysterical for them) when asked to do so.

    I heard somewhere a while ago if you look long enough into the abyss, eventually the abyss looks into you. Reading your Marcus re godders and they’re behavior I couldn’t help but think of that.

  384. “what are the 20 digits after the hundred trillionth place of pi?” You know, useful science questions that any supreme being could just rattle off answers for if he wanted to prove he was really supreme”

    You say its short bus night… and you claim that would be sufficient proof?

    Let’s look at that scenario.

    Richard Dawkins comes out and writes a book revealing 20 digits after the hundred trillionth place of pi… when asked how he came about this knowledge… he responds.. “God told me.”

    You’re saying this would make you believe in God?

    No you say… first we’d have to check his calculations…

    So then… you check… and you find out it was confirmed… he was correct. Would you then believe?

    No. You’d set about finding out how he calculated it.

    Here’s an idea… trying thinking about something for more than a few seconds before you type it. If you had really thought about it… you’d have saved me the trouble of typing this.

    You know.. and everyone here knows… that you wouldn’t accept the sudden appearence of advanced scientific knowledge as proof of God’s existence.

  385. “See, Jebus could have just cratered this whole problem by putting 100 digits of pi after the 100,000th decimal right in the sermon on the mount – you know, 2,000 years before computers were invented?”

    Then I suggest you read the Book of Revelation. Study it. Study the imagery… and note that its the exact imagery used in writings hundereds of years before… that hadn’t even been compiled when it was written. Keep in mind that the images are exact… over and over and over again…

    oh… and also… remember that Revelation was written by John… while he was in exile… alone… in a cave on the island of Patmos… with no access to any reference materials to help him.

    If the demonstration of other-wise unexplainable knowledge is all you need to believe… then congratulations… welcome home brother!

  386. Excellent refutation of atheists, Mr Scalzi. In fact, I’m going to put your exact words to use fighting another ridiculous “secular religion”: a-Leprechaunism. Like this:

    “Indeed, the very idea that one’s personal opinion has anything to do with the existence or non-existence of Leprechauns is fundamentally irrational. Whether one contemplates the existence of Leprechauns, Swaziland or string theory, the truth is ultimately whatever it actually happens to be, our current perceptions and ideas notwithstanding. I can’t prove to you that Leprechauns exist. I can’t even prove to you that I exist. And if a Leprechaun elects to manifest and show itself to you in all its radiant begorrah today, you won’t be able to prove to me or anyone else that it did that tomorrow. But if one cannot reasonably reach a rational conclusion on the Leprechaun hypothesis one way or the other, one can certainly put specific arguments based on foundations of purported facts to the test… If the probability of Leprechauns’ existence is very, very small, precisely how small is it and what are the factors by which that probability is calculated?”

    There! That’ll put those faeists in their place!

  387. Nate:

    You do realize that Catherine Asaro is not, and never has been a working physicist right? You do realize that having a degree in a particular field and working in that field are not the same thing?

    Amazing how she managed to publish all these papers then (taken from her website):

    Scientific Papers: Journals

    * More on special relativity and complex speeds, NASA Breakthrough Propulsion Physics Workshop, August 1997
    * “Complex speeds and special relativity,” Catherine Asaro, Am. Jour. Phys. April 1996
    * “Polarization Control of Branching Ratios in Photodissociation”; Catherine Asaro, Paul Brumer, and Moshe Shapiro, Phys. Rev. Let. 60, 1634 (1988)
    * “Bound Vibrational Levels of the Two Lowest Singlet Sigma States of LiF”; Catherine Asaro and A. Dalgarno, Chem. Phys. Let. 118 64 (1985)
    * “Stieltjes-Imaging Calculations of Photodissociation”; C. Asaro and A. Dalgarno, J. Chem. Phys. 78 200 (1983)
    * “Photoexcitation and Ionization in Molecular Oxygen: Theoretical Studies of Electronic Transitions in the Discrete and Continuous Spectral Intervals”; A. Gerwer, C. Asaro, B.V. McKoy, and P.W. Langhoff, J. Chem. Phys. 72 713 (1980) This work also appeared in the conference proceedings “Photoionization of Molecular Oxygen,” P.W. Langoff, A. Gerwer, C. Asaro, and B.V. McKoy, Intl. J. Quant. Chem.: Quant. Chem. Symp. 13, 645 (1979).

    Scientific Papers: Presented

    * “Complex Speeds and Relativity,” Catherine Asaro, Breakthrough Propulsion Physics Workshop, NASA Lewis Research Center, August 12-14, paper presented.
    * Predissociation in Ionic Molecules: Semiclassical Wavepacket Techniques; Catherine Asaro, Jennifer Walker Siders, and A. Dalgarno, Molecular Physics Meeting, Max Planck Institut fýr Astrophysik, 1992
    * Polarization Control of Yields in Photodissociation Reactions; C. Asaro, P. Brumer, and M. Shapiro, Annual Meeting of the Atomic, Molecular and Optical Physics Division of the American Physical Society, 1987
    * Control of Product Yields for Atoms and Ions in the Photodissociation of Lithium Fluoride; Catherine Asaro, Paul Brumer and Moshe Shapiro, Canadian Symposium on Theoretical Chemistry, 1986
    * C. Asaro and A. Dalgarno, Conference on the Dynamics of Molecular Collisions 1985. Final results for LiF photodissociation using a full coupled channel calculation on the two lowest Sigma states. Preliminary results for angular distributions.
    * Catherine Asaro and A. Dalgarno, Gordon Research Conference on Atomic and Molecular Interactions, 1984. Preliminary results for LiF multichannel photodissociation.
    * Catherine Asaro and A. Dalgarno, 187th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society, 1984. Results for vibrational structure of singlet Sigma states in alkali-halide molecules. Discussion of possible resonance structure.
    * Results for Stieltjes-imaging calculations of polyatomic photodissociation with application to triatomic hydrogen; Catherine Asaro and A. Dalgarno, 34th Annual Gaseous Electronics Conference, 1981.

  388. Nate writes:
    “So, mister creo, what ‘god’ do you believe in?”
    I’m a Christian.

    OK, so the god of Abraham. So, implicitly, you are sure that the 837 million Hindus who do not believe in your “god” are wrong. I’m not saying anything simple like that they’re going to hell or whatever – but simply that their version of the creation myth is completely wrong, because it contradicts yours. By the way, they all think you’re wrong…

    But I digress.

    “What convinced you that this ‘god’ exists?”

    I communicate with Him frequently. I’ve seen the fruits of His work in my life and the lives of others.

    I’m guessing that communication is pretty internal and one-way, right? I know it’d be crude for you to ask for stock tips, but maybe he’d factor a big prime number for you, or something.

    Do you have any theory that would allow you to differentiate his works from plain old random chance? One of the important things about theories is the notion of “predictive power” (another way of saying that the theory reveals a cause and effect relationship) I.e.:
    does prayer work predictably for you? Do good things happen to good people? Do bad things happen to bad people? Does any of this appear to be above and beyond chance? Etc.

    I know you’re probably feeling that I’m making fun of you (I am) but these are the kinds of questions that would need reasonably defensible answers in order to be convincing that there was something there. I’m always bitterly amused at the way that the creos nitpick at evolution yet their “theory” can’t even survive introductory scientific assessment.

    “What evidence do you have that supports your belief?”

    I need a definition of evidence.

    Arrgh, well, that’s tough – I’m not very good at definitions. Most definitions would say evidence is observable, empirical, and measurable. Which is another way of saying “it exists” — darned near anything that actually exists can be measured even if only through second-order effects. The Wikipedia definition of “scientific evidence” seems very good to me and it correctly makes the very important point that ones predisposition whether or not to accept evidence depends strongly on ones initial beliefs. (I am not saying that science is guaranteed to accept even good evidence readily – or to reject bad evidence; there have been plenty of failures in that department)

    The communication and the sensing are enough evidence for me personally…

    I hope you understand that, from an outsider’s viewpoint, that doesn’t carry much weight. Because you could just be making it up, or you could be delusional / psychotic.

    I mean… I’ve seen and felt an orange.. and I know people that see and feel oranges… thus I don’t doubt oranges exist.

    Yep. Now, some nihilists claim to doubt the existence of an objective reality (i.e.: oranges are a figment of your imagination and so am I) but if we go there this discussion ends in a whimper. :)

    In fact.. I find the fact that you doubt the existence of God just as insane as I would if you told me you doubt the existence of oranges.

    What if I told you that I feel that you are just as insane as if you told me that you were a grown man and believed in the tooth fairy. By the way, to the 837 million Hindus – you may as well believe in the tooth fairy.

    I mean.. the vast majority of the world senses something and knows something… but you don’t believe it merely because you haven’t sensed it? Its bloody daft.

    As I mentioned to another correspondant earlier – until recently the vast majority of the world knew that colds were caused by humors, demons, god’s anger, witchcraft, or whatever — it took someone figuring out what a “virus” is to start changing that. There are still people out there who cling to their denial that viruses exist. The viruses don’t care. And, the simple answer to anyone who doesn’t believe in viruses is to accept a jab of Ebola – it will provide very personal and observable and convincing evidence.

    Why is it hard to understand that some people deal with the real world? You’re already probably comfortable with the idea that the Amazing Spider man is a comic book character – a myth. And that the tooth fairy is a children’s tale. And that there’s no Santa Claus. You already reject the zillions of weird-ass gods the Hindus believe in, and you probably don’t buy the Muslim’s re-interpretation (outright cribbing, actually) of christianity. In fact, you’re just as atheist as I am except I believe in one less god than you.

    Its rather like a blind man arguing that colors don’t exist, and requiring proof that they do. How on earth would I convince a blind man that there is something described as “red”? Can I hand him red? Can he taste red? how about smell?

    That’s a really really really bad bad bad example. Let me explain. Let’s hypothesize that there is a “red” and we want to convince a blind man that red exists. So I give him 10 objects 5 of which I say are “red” and 5 of which I say are “blue”. The objects are marked on the back so that he can touch them and identify which objects are which. Then I encourage the blind man to spend a couple days walking up to complete strangers and showing them one or two objects, chosen as he sees fit, and asking the strangers, “is this blue or red?”

    How long would that take you to be convinced that there was something called “red” that other people in an extrnal, objective reality, shared as a concept?

    I can hand you an orange… because oranges are within my power to control. I cannot however hand you God… because He is not.

    Careful, that last statement sounds almost like admitting you can’t present any evidence that god exists.

  389. Then I suggest you read the Book of Revelation. Study it. Study the imagery

    I have. I’ve probably read the bible as much or more than many bible bangers. I’ve also read a bunch of the droolings of the Mormons, the Baghvad-Gita, and the obscure Buddhist drivellings. Throw in some scientology (OMG that’s really weapons-grade nonsense!) and – I have to say it all sounds a lot the same to me: bollocks.

    And, now, thanks to this thread, I can add 60 pages of Vox day’s writing to the list.

    So, no, I am not going to waste more time with arguments of the form of “read this tripe until your brain rots and then you’ll understand.”

  390. You know.. and everyone here knows… that you wouldn’t accept the sudden appearence of advanced scientific knowledge as proof of God’s existence.

    Well, there’d have to be another explanation for it – and if all the people offering it as evidence were claiming that it was part of a divine revelation, I eventually would start to wonder.

    I certainly wouldn’t fall to my knees and pray immediately. I’m not an idiot, after all.

  391. Confirmable by experiment…

    Oh, if I had a nickel for every time a ‘science experiment’ went wrong.

    So when did Darwin’s theory become a law, exactly? Do you have any photos of Newton?

    We shan’t mention those poor black folk that were given the Syph by Science. Well, scientists. On purpose.

    And other scientists that struck gun butts into Jewish children’s skulls to test…oh, BS, they just enjoyed doing it. As the Japanese scientists enjoyed testing US POW’s during WW2, with various toxins, and gunfire, and explosive devices.

    Was it God’s job to stop all this, and more? Hey, maybe you forgot the gift of Free Will. He didn’t do it, we did. To ourselves. As assuredly as if we placed the muzzle against our own temples, and pulled the trigger.

    Don’t be mad at your Dad. He still loves you. And He’ll watch you die from stupidity, or whatever, and be sad.

    But you made the choice.

  392. Rigel Kent writes:
    I heard somewhere a while ago if you look long enough into the abyss, eventually the abyss looks into you.

    Quoting Nietzsche in this context is pretty ironic.

    Anyhow, since you appear to be incapable of understanding basic logic I’m just going to write you off as an uneducated fool and stop wasting my time on you.

  393. So when did Darwin’s theory become a law, exactly? Do you have any photos of Newton?

    We shan’t mention those poor black folk that were given the Syph by Science. Well, scientists. On purpose.

    And other scientists that struck gun butts into Jewish children’s skulls to test…oh, BS,

    Spoken like a complete nutbag bible-whomping imbecile.

  394. In reading PZ’s post on this thread, I note that the blog Evangelical Realism is doing a chapter-by-chapter look at TIA, as of today they have 21 posts on this book. Vox Day will not respond to these posts until all of TIA is done, according to the March 19 post.

    (“As I mentioned previously, I’m going to let Evangelical Realism finish his review of TIA before responding to it in its entirety, but since I had a request to respond to one of his more amusing attempts, I shall do so here.”)

    That vox-response-having post, along with relevant links, provides a useful summary of the style and method of both ER and Vox Day.

  395. Well, so far we’ve established that at least one of Vox’s arguments (the fractal) supports rather than refutes Dawkins; at least one of his arguments (the packet sniffers) doesn’t address what Dawkins actually said; and at least one of his arguments (the lack of a strong crane) isn’t central to Dawkins’ point.

    Now personally, I don’t think the arguments in the God Delusion are much cop. Having charged through The Irrational Atheist, however, all I can say from my perspective is that nearly all the counter-arguments in it are at best statistical (Harris’ interpretation of limited data; possibly the wars caused by religion) and at worst irrelevant.

    So I’ve tried to engage with the actual arguments, but remain unconvinced. Also, it seems that this thread has attracted a number of commentators from Vox’ blog – but it looks like they didn’t get the memo that his arguments have nothing to do with religion. Ironic.

  396. We all could just be brains in empty space dreaming forever, but then would anything have meaning?

    in any existance with God we are nothing but the mental play toys of the largest posible “brain in empty space dreaming forever” so again does life have any meaning?

    in an existance without God life and experiance has meaning because it actualy exists outside a mind and will continue after that mind is gone.

    that’s just me, and I could be wrong but life is what you make it and spending time on invisible sky daddies is not my idea of fun

  397. I heard somewhere a while ago if you look long enough into the abyss, eventually the abyss looks into you.

    Quoting Nietzsche in this context is pretty ironic.

    Anyhow, since you appear to be incapable of understanding basic logic I’m just going to write you off as an uneducated fool and stop wasting my time on you.

    Nietzsche, really? I saw it on an episode of Babylon 5. Impressive, them quoting Nietzsche like that.

    Btw when you say I can’t understand basic logic I take it you’re referring to that whole you can’t prove a negative thing. One tiny problem is that’s not actually true. That’s an example of “folk logic” (also called bullshit). One actual law of real logic (as opposed to that stuff you make up to suit your own purposes) is a negative. It’s the law of non-contradiction. This law states that a proposition can’t be both true and untrue. This law can be proven using rules of inference.

    Since any claim can be expressed as a negative because of double negation (proposition a is logically equivalent to not-not proposition a)you could go around proving negatives all day. At the beginning Vox said something truly ridiculous, he said he couldn’t prove he existed. This is obviously wrong. All he’d need to do is find the person he wanted to prove his existence to and walk up and slap him in the face (granted just saying he existed would do the same, but it doesn’t have quite the same dramatic touch). To prove a negative all he’d have to do is say Vox Day doesn’t not exist (which is horrible grammar, but fine as a logical proposition) then smack the person. He then would’ve proven a negative.

    Don’t take my word for it. Tomorrow call a university in your area, ask for someone who teaches logic. Then ask him if it’s actually true you can’t prove a negative. After he has a nice chuckle about this urban myth he’ll explain it for you.

    Well don’t wanna waste anymore of you’re valuable time.

  398. I don’t think that was a very thoughtful post, John. Easy, ambiguous potshots. I’ve read three of the recent atheist books and found one pretty good and justifiable (Dawkins), found one half so (Harris), and found the Hitchens rooted in history, literature, and justification rather than reason.

    I have never seen a convincing proof on god, or even any evidence of the god talked about by most religions. I have never seen a convincing way of calculating probabilities, either — that’s not as quantitative as most people expect, given a dearth of repeatable evidence.

    A bit shallow. You can do better.

  399. Mike B: The book itself is much more detailed, although the arguments aren’t particularly compelling (and get less compelling as the book goes on).

  400. At the beginning Vox said something truly ridiculous, he said he couldn’t prove he existed. This is obviously wrong. All he’d need to do is find the person he wanted to prove his existence to and walk up and slap him in the face (granted just saying he existed would do the same, but it doesn’t have quite the same dramatic touch).

    You would certainly have a powerful case if I had been making a general argument rather than writing an email that I knew would be posted on a website read by people I do not anticipate ever meeting. Let’s apply your logic to the actual context to prove Vox Day exists. Here’s the required declaration: “I exist.”

    Now, given this demonstration that my mere Internet assertion is sufficient to prove existence, I shall prove God exists: “God exists.”

    Do you accept these twin proofs of the existence of both Vox Day and God? Or do you recognize that my previous statement was not ridiculous given the context in which it was made? I submit that the latter is the more rational conclusion.

    Well, so far we’ve established that at least one of Vox’s arguments (the fractal) supports rather than refutes Dawkins; at least one of his arguments (the packet sniffers) doesn’t address what Dawkins actually said; and at least one of his arguments (the lack of a strong crane) isn’t central to Dawkins’ point.

    The fractal doesn’t support Dawkins. On the basis of his informational metric, the fractal only has to ultimately produce more information to be deemed more complex than either the equation or the equation’s programmer. Since it is infinite, it must be more complex. Also, the imperfection of the natural fractals doesn’t change the fact that they still have several levels of complexity, so you improperly ruled them out of bounds.

    Now personally, I don’t think the arguments in the God Delusion are much cop. Having charged through The Irrational Atheist, however, all I can say from my perspective is that nearly all the counter-arguments in it are at best statistical (Harris’ interpretation of limited data; possibly the wars caused by religion) and at worst irrelevant.

    I would think that statistical counter-arguments are quite appropriate when statistical and quantifiable arguments have been made. Again, I note that Harris has conceded several points and also provided an insufficient defense of his central thesis. (My attack on his Extinction Equation and proof by his own metric that science is more dangerous than faith cannot possibly be considered a genetic fallacy, according to the definition of genetic fallacy.)

    So I’ve tried to engage with the actual arguments, but remain unconvinced.

    So, you still buy into the Extinction Equation and the Red State argument? You believe that Dan Dennett has reasonably justified a scientific doxastic division of labor while condemning a moral one? You still believe that religion is a primary cause of war, conflict, and murder, and that the Inquisition is one of the worst tragedies of human history? I doubt it.

    Also, it seems that this thread has attracted a number of commentators from Vox’ blog – but it looks like they didn’t get the memo that his arguments have nothing to do with religion. Ironic.

    They were arguing about things that are tangential to the book’s subject in direct response to many of the comments made here. If you read the related thread on my blog, some of those very commenters were marveling at the determination of many Whatever commenters to focus on topics that are explicitly outside the book’s scope. So, while I disagree with several of your statements, I have to say that your ability to focus on the topic at hand and not go chasing after red herrings is commendable.

    I note that the blog Evangelical Realism is doing a chapter-by-chapter look at TIA, as of today they have 21 posts on this book. Vox Day will not respond to these posts until all of TIA is done, according to the March 19 post.

    No, I won’t, since I’m already in the middle of a chapter-by-chapter debate with Kelly of the Rational Response Squad. I don’t think the chapter-by-chapter thing is very useful unless you’ve read the whole book first, as both ER’s and Kelly’s attacks on things that are dealt with in later chapters tend to demonstrate.

  401. Wow, trust this issue to spawn a shitload of comments.

    I think the problem with the prominent atheists is that you don’t get there without being radically argumentative. Even a whiff of compromise and social complexity loses you momentum.

    I, for example, don’t think the evils of religion are a result of the existence of religion. I think they are the result of the fact that religions are run by people. And people do that kind of thing. any organisation with that much power would have a good chance of ending up the same way, whether or not it includes any sort of imaginary friend.

    That is, in fact, my sole objection to religious organisations, and it is not limited to those organisations. It’s something that applies to the whole of humanity: Power Corrupts.

    Religion, mostly, gives certain people, ie priests, the kind of power I wouldn’t trust my mother with, let alone some guy whose selection criteria are basically “reads the bible a lot and doesn’t have sex with anyone.”

    The taboo against blasphemy extends in almost all religious cases to cover the priests of that religion, who are after all “speaking for god” – that is their role. So questioning them becomes more difficult the higher they are in the hierarchy.

    Religion doesn’t start wars. It can’t – religion isn’t an entity. People USE religion to start wars. I’m not a fan of ANYTHING that gives people yet another excuse to kill each other, which is why I’m not a fan of religion, but it’s by no means the only evil available. It’s not, for example, as bad as racism, which has probably started the same amount of wars, or even more if you count the ones where religious leaders played on racism to incite the mob, and has zero redeeming qualities, unlike religion which is by all accounts a comfort to huge quantities of people who might otherwise find a more destructive opiate.

    In short, I’m not sure why anyone is advocating the destruction of religion. I don’t TRUST it, sure, but the vast religious spectrum throughout history suggests that people are pretty much inevitably going to reinvent it no matter what. So it is probably more USEFUL to deal with it as a social phenomenon than to summon the mob with flaming torches.

  402. This is as good place as any to cap the post; I think we’ve had a substantive discussion overall, but I’m beginning to notice the page chugging as it loads up, and in any event 450+ comments is, I think, enough to get the gist of things.

    That said, I think this is probably the longest mostly civil comment thread on this particular topic in the entire history of the Internet, and I want to thank each of you for making it so. You guys rock.

Comments are closed.