Atheists Contradict themselves

 

“Atheism is the most daring of all dogmas, for it is the assertion of a universal negative” (G.K. Chesterton).

Under the leadership of militant atheists like Dawkins, Harris and Hitchens, a new wave of radical atheism is pounding the streets. But look carefully because their writings are full of self-contradictory arguments. One thing that is especially striking is how (in a strange way) these atheist indirectly validate belief with the intensity of their unbelief.

In “Uncomfortable Unbelief,” Wilfred M. McClay suggested that, “Unbelief would be untenable without the moral and metaphysical capital created and banked by the belief it displaced.” He asked, “Can there be unbelief without religion, or without a religious point of view that is being negated? After all, our understanding of ourselves as secular is undergirded by a powerful conviction that ‘we have come to be that way through overcoming and rising out of earlier modes of belief.’”

“In other words, we have liberated ourselves. Will not God and theism therefore remain a necessary reference point? It may be possible to imagine a society in which the idea of God would not even have been a discarded image, never having been on offer at all. But such a society would clearly be very different from the one we actually inhabit, or any we are likely to experience in the foreseeable future. Part of the passion animating the new atheists is their sense of themselves as ‘having overcome’ the foolish and destructive irrationalities of the past. Without that sense, their passion—and perhaps the cogency of their project itself—recedes.”

Another really strange and inherently self-contradictory emphasis can be found in Christopher Hitchens’ book, “god is not Great” (as in books from Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins). These authors are full of moral appraisals (often using the most fundamentalistic tones) and readers are somehow obliged to see things through their moral grids. I continuously felt the urge to ask why these atheists so strongly believed that their moral conclusions are superior. Although they typically avoid this question by changing the subject, thoughtful readers will not be tricked. While vehemently denying God (especially the Christian version), they write as if an absolute standard of goodness and duty exists–one they have special access to and we are obliged to accept on their word (unless we wish to remain irrational idiots). They want to tell us that such a standard is possible without God but they don’t offer a well-reasoned explanation for how this could be. They just impose it on us with repeated tones of moral superiority.

At this point the question, “Who are you to impose your morality on me?” becomes fair game. How is your opinion superior to another? On what basis am I obliged to yield to your rules? Isn’t it fair after all to suggest that without God all moral conclusions are merely subjective human opinions without any binding authority beyond what people or cultures attribute to them?

Why is peace better than war or love better than hate? If I claim one to be superior, does that make it right? If I get enough people to agree with me, does this make it true for all people? Are moral issues settled by what increases happiness or decreases suffering? If so, whose happiness? Is some view of human flourishing the measure to use? If so, whose view? (And, why am I even asking these kinds of questions?)

Reading these authors, I continually found myself asking, “Says whom?” Although they don’t seem to get it, their statements about right and wrong are simply alternative choices without moral superiority. If they were logically consistent, they would encourage their readers to suppress all notions of moral superiority—something they are clearly unwilling to do.

In fact, rather interestingly these men assume a moral framework that implies higher understandings of morality and humanity — a strange thing for an atheist to assert! But even more fascinating is how consistently (and illogically) they borrow assumptions from theism to argue against it. They love to reject things in the Bible considered by them to be inhumane and then expect us to assume some basis for their moral conclusions without providing it for us. Worse yet, they use biblical categories of morality to reject the Bible. 

It would be far more consistent for them to admit that evil is merely an illusion made up by humans. For there to be objective evil, there must also be some objective standard of right and wrong. But if the physical universe is all there is (as they firmly believe), there can be no such standard. How could arrangements of matter and energy make judgments about good and evil true? So, there are no real evils, just violations of human customs or conventions. But are they ready to think of murderers as merely having bad manners? Of course not!

These atheists (and their disciples) must also (if they do not wish to be self-contradictory) admit that human beings are not importantly different from other animals or the material world in general. Consistent with their views, humans are simply the result of blind chance operating on some primordial ooze, and differing from animals by only a few genes. Yet, here is where the beauty and wonders of human achievement, along with the moral dignity we ascribe to human beings (acts of benevolence and heroism) cannot fit with the claim that we are no different from animals. The conclusion that humans are creatures uniquely made in the image of the benevolent and righteous God offers a better version of reality.

And the Bible these men reject speaks openly of both evil and benevolence. One does not need to upgrade her view of the world when reading scripture. No rose colored glasses needed. Yet the scripture offers a larger and more satisfying frame of reference for understanding the complexities of the world. It reveals a world God prescribed (the goodness and innocence of Eden); one he permitted (the violence and rebellion of Cain) and a world he will providentially make new (the new heavens and earth).

Steve Cornell


Senior pastor


Millersville Bible Church


58 West Frederick St


Millersville, PA. 17551

See also;

I hope there is no God:

Not easy to be an Atheist: 8 Reasons


80 thoughts on “Atheists Contradict themselves

  1. soulbiscuit says:

    For there to be evil, there must also be some real, objective standard of right and wrong. But if the physical universe is all there is (as they believe), there can be no such standard.

    Why? What do the two have to do with each other? How does objective morality follow from the existence of the supernatural, and how does the lack of same follow from a purely physical universe? I don’t follow your reasoning.

    Besides which you’re right, most atheists don’t believe in objective morality. (The only exception I can think of would be Objectivists, the followers of Ayn Rand.) So what? You’ve erected a false dichotomoy: either objective morality, or no morality. What you’re forgetting is that most people don’t obey the law out of fear of God. They obey the law out of fear of punishment by the system, out of fear of betraying their friends and loved ones, and for plenty of other perfectly secular reasons.

    The argument that atheists can have no basis for morality is bankrupt, and absurd.

  2. Ah yes, but this is not my argument. They are just not being honest about their basis. I think it ironic and absurd that atheists like Dawkins, Harris and Hitchens engage such strong moral opposition to decry other moral appraisals. Especially since a consistent atheist position is that morality is a man-made measure and therefore all merely opinion without superiority except what people attribute to it for there own purposes. How dare they imply that the bible or any other view is inferior to their own—this is a statement and a question.

    SC

    • You misunderstand. Atheism is not a position. It proposes nothing. It is simply the answer “no” to the question “do you believe there is a god?” It is nothing more than that. So there is no comparing the position of Christianity (for example) to atheism because atheism has no positions.

      • I am a person. I did not chose atheism as a label. That is all it is a label describing that we do not believe in fairy tales, Santa Claus, invisible imaginary evil deities in the sky. “A” stands no. Theism for the belief in nonsense. We who do not believe in nonsense, do not feel the need to produce a bible, stating how we deal with adulterers, homosexuals, naughty children and mobs of angry rapists. Adulterers we divorce, we do not stone to death. Homosexuals we deal with as we would any other human. Again we do not kill, or stone to death. Naughty children we punish, we do not stone to death. Mobs of angry rapists we call the cops and defend the group until they show up. We do not give our innocent virgin daughters to be raped by a mob. Maybe you need a new label for your forehead so you will be easily recognized. Especially since that is what you believe. Half-wit, slow, stupid, un-intelligently designed, and etc. Old and new testaments are full of nonsense. The word of God is perfect. Right? The bible is not perfect. There is no god. :)

  3. We state that morality derived from a book, any book, is inferior to a thought out and contemplated morality.

    Just as a reported experience – a letter from a friend describing the Parthenon – is less valuable than the experience of seeing it.

    All morality is subjective. Even Biblical morality.

    The problem that Biblical morality has is “Which one?” There are so many interpretaions of the system, each individual either eccpting another’s interpretation or making their own.

    The claim of ultimate moral authority derived from a book is fatally flawed and falls at the first post!

  4. You offer classic examples of the self-contradiction. Let me take line by line.

    You say:
    We state that morality derived from a book, any book, is inferior to a thought out and contemplated morality.

    Response:
    What’s the difference? Could it be thought out and written in a book? And, most importantly, “says whom?” Because you say it does that make it right?

    You say:
    Just as a reported experience – a letter from a friend describing the Parthenon – is less valuable than the experience of seeing it.

    Response:
    Does saying this make it right? According to who? Do you reject all reported data from history because you were not there? What about court evidence based on documents?

    You say:
    All morality is subjective. Even Biblical morality.

    Response:
    Is this statement by you also subjective? If so why make it? It weighs in at nothing.

    You say:
    The problem that Biblical morality has is “Which one?” There are so many interpretaions of the system, each individual either eccpting another’s interpretation or making their own.

    Response:
    Give examples. It’s easy to say this to reject biblical truth.

    You say:
    The claim of ultimate moral authority derived from a book is fatally flawed and falls at the first post!

    Response:
    Should we ALL accept this because you declared it to be? Or, are there other reasons? Is your claim here subjective and fatally flawed also?

    Too many contradictions for reasoned arguments!

    SC

  5. Morality needs to be thought out by the individual, not “received.” That’s part of the definition of a moral action. Blindly following a set of rules without thinking isn’t moral activity. Obeying authority isn’t moral either. There’s a fundamental difference in our understanding of what morality is. Now the difficult part begins. having said what it isn’t we have to define what it is. Care to take a go at this?
    Can morality be thought out and written in a book? Yes. But that is just one person’s or group’s moral thinking. It’s an opinion and just because they say it does not that make it moral. Note also that there is a difference between what is right” and what is “moral” so the statement “Does saying this make it right? According to who?” is a non sequitur.
    Reported data from history and court evidence based on documents are evidential materials and can influence moral choices but personal experience is more important. That’s why we have juries and judges.
    When I say “All morality is subjective. Even Biblical morality.” I am making a subjective statement but it’s in response to statements that say that biblically based statements are not subjective.
    You say:
The problem that Biblical morality has is “Which one?” There are so many interpretations of the system, each individual either accepting another’s interpretation or making their own.
    Response:
Give examples. It’s easy to say this to reject biblical truth.
    The difference in the acceptability of contraception according to Catholic, Baptist, Mormon, teaching? Similarly of the acceptability of the death penalty, divorce, infant baptism… need I go on?
    You say:
The claim of ultimate moral authority derived from a book is fatally flawed and falls at the first post!
    Response:
Should we ALL accept this because you declared it to be? Or, are there other reasons? Is your claim here subjective and fatally flawed also?
    No? where do you get this idea from. I though we were arguing in a logical fashion. You just jumped over the gates.

  6. I find it interesting that you didn’t even bother to click the link to see to what I was referring. Blind faith? :-D

    I’m not talking about Bible translations; I’m talking about additions, deletions and revisions of not only words and verses but entire books.

    “The world’s oldest known Christian Bible goes online Monday — but the 1,600-year-old text doesn’t match the one you’ll find in churches today.

    Discovered in a monastery in the Sinai desert in Egypt more than 160 years ago, the handwritten Codex Sinaiticus includes two books that are not part of the official New Testament and at least seven books that are not in the Old Testament.

    The New Testament books are in a different order, and include numerous handwritten corrections — some made as much as 800 years after the texts were written, according to scholars who worked on the project of putting the Bible online. The changes range from the alteration of a single letter to the insertion of whole sentences.

    And some familiar — very important — passages are missing, including verses dealing with the resurrection of Jesus, they said.”

    How is it that the divine Word of God has evolved over the years? How can this be your absolute moral code?

    Mixter

  7. Your arguments have been dealt with. Morality has a basis that is objective in some senses – our distaste for killing children is instinctive, and based on evolutionary impulses. Oh, right. You don’t believe that. My mistake.

    The point is that there are certain ideas and things that we are taught are bad – with or without religious backing. Thankfully, my parents were nice enough to not tell me not to lie to them because ‘God was watching’ but because it’d hurt them, and hurting someone you care for is a bad thing. Or the Golden Rule in the Bible – it makes LOGICAL sense, and isn’t entirely based on some fictional entity in the sky.

  8. First of all. You are a fool. Any morality that is derived from a higher authority and not reasoned out subjectively is merely following orders from a capricious overlord. To say that something is wrong because God says so is to rid the things of right and wrong and simply label it as something forbidden by God. To say something is wrong because it is detrimental to society, or harmful to an individual is to truly understand what morality means, and to reason out what is right or wrong on such a basis is to remove the need for God’s opinion (for that is all it is) on the matter.

    Humans are not long on this earth and morality was not present before higher primates evolved. As such, God has nothing to bring to the matter except a human-envisioned ‘moral’ structure that is flawed, bigoted and wholly immoral for the most part.

    Stop wasting your time and your life as a pastor and actually do something constructive for society. This is the only life you are going to get. Stop being stupid about it.

    • I am not sure where to begin in assessing your response. First, name calling (Why am I getting use to this from militant atheists?). Unpack “fool” for me. You speak with such moral authority. Where do you get it from? Isn’t it just your opinion without any binding obligation on others? You work off of huge assumptions without arguments to validate them. How do you know where and when so called “morality” began? Higher primates evolved into what? THe same thing they evolve into today? Frankly, animals have tended toward better behavior than humans—just study the history of wars and atrocities of purely of secular regimes. You use words like “reason”, “right,” “wrong”—explain these terms. Who are you to suggest such categories. Are you the judge of detrimental to society stuff or did hitler or Stalin get it right? If they were wrong, says who? You have a lot of explaining to do and I just touched the surface.

  9. While asking “Says who?” to most generally pre-conceived notions is admirable, you are making the fool out of yourself that I mentioned previously.

    By examining modern animal species, which mimic rather closely animal species that existed LONG before humanity ever did, we can clearly see that morality is not something that animals generally concern themselves with. As such, we can easily contend that morality is a solely human conception.

    I am not the sole arbiter of what is detrimental to society, however, since I am a member of society, and I have a say in such a society, as does everyone else, my views can contribute to the definition of what is or is not detrimental to society. That is generally how society works.

    And no, I will not explain “reason”, “right” or “wrong”. If you wish to get into a semantic mud-slinging contest, you can forget about it.

    As for name-calling, I was calling you a name, I was commenting on the degree of intellect you used when composing this blog post, based on my observations of your meaning and intent. It is purely a subjective opinion, but it is not blind name-calling.

    Also, I do not speak with moral authority, that would be fool hardy, as I do not believe in such a concept. I do however, argue from the authority of my moral compass, neither foolhardy, nor arrogant, since I have reasoned out my morals views based on societal norms and trends, and my own personal, subjective ideals. I have not, however, derived my morals from an ancient book (one so full of drivel and inanities that it is nearly impossible to see past it to the actual beauty of the literature itself), thereby overriding my own innate, evolved moral sensibilities, which is apparently what you have done, if I have not completely misread your position.

    And yes, you are correct, my moral structure is just my opinion without any binding obligation on others. However, since I am a willing member of society, my moral structure impacts everyone around me and becomes a binding obligation.

    Also, you say that I work off huge assumptions without arguments to validate them. WRONG. First of all, you do not know me, my arguments or my thought processes well enough to make such an all-encompassing statement, thereby making your assertion apply to you, and not me, amusingly enough. Secondly, I have actually backed up arguments. All you have done is bring up tired examples of ‘secular immorality’ which is not relevant to our discussion and challenged most of what I have said with a “Says who?” or a “Where did you get that from?” which is not constructive.

    • You deny what you establish and commit the self-excepting fallacy. You are also much more a product of culture than you admit. List your moral convictions and we’ll consider their source. Your militant un or non belief begs quite a number of questions. For example, consider that, ‘Unbelief would be untenable without the moral and metaphysical capital created and banked by the belief it displaced.”

      “Can there be unbelief without religion, or without a religious point of view that is being negated? After all, our understanding of ourselves as secular is undergirded by a powerful conviction that ‘we have come to be that way through overcoming and rising out of earlier modes of belief.’”
      “In other words, we have liberated ourselves. Will not God and theism therefore remain a necessary reference point? It may be possible to imagine a society in which the idea of God would not even have been a discarded image, never having been on offer at all. But such a society would clearly be very different from the one we actually inhabit, or any we are likely to experience in the foreseeable future. Part of the passion animating the new atheists is their sense of themselves as “having overcome” the foolish and destructive irrationalities of the past. Without that sense, their passion—and perhaps the cogency of their project itself—r ecedes.” (From: “Uncomfortable Unbelief” by Wilfred M. McClay).

      • Unbelief? Are you kidding? That is possibly the dumbest thing stated ever! So lets get this straight. You think if I do not believe in pink vampire trolls that stalk infant bunnies. That my unbelief creates pink vampire trolls that stalk infant bunnies, because it needs something to displace. So now you believe in pink vampire trolls that stalk infant bunnies. That is your logic. Wow. I never realized how much power my unbelief had.

        Unbelief? What a STUPID word to choose, use and say. Your definition of how unbelief works is pretty special too. Now you magically think God is real because some one does not believe.

        I have news for you. I unbelief in a world full of Christians that rape, kill, murder, commit domestic violence, commit adultery. I unbelief in Ministers, Pastors and Priests that are pedophiles. I unbelief that religious people hate fags and suicide bomb innocent people. I unbelief in a world full of completely stupid people that worship fictitious fairy tales from ignorant desert people. I unbelief in people so full of fear, that they need heaven to make it through the day. I unbelief in a world full of infantile adults, that need Hell to make them do the right thing.(Which shows they were never good people in the first place.) I unbelief in moronic Christians that bring up Hitler, while forgetting he was raised Catholic and died a Christian. I unbelief in Christians that think Stalin is the poster child for Atheists. I unbelief in Christians that forget about ALL the atrocities committed in the name of their God. I unbelief in Christians that are SOOOO FUCKING STUPID, they do not even know the real names of their Gods.(Need Help?) I unbelief in Christians that are dumb enough to pray to their jealous God by using the wrong name. I unbelief in Christians that think a name of a God changes. @:-D

        Look at the power I wield!

        My unbelief caused it all to be displaced.

        So now that is the world I live in.

        Lucky me….?

        Response to NoGuyintheSky:

        OK, that was cute but cute won’t cut it for well-reasoned discussion. For one who “doesn’t believe” you become quite exercised by suggestions of flawed logic. If you’re analysis is right (and not just cute), guys like Dawkins are crazier than I thought. My beliefs are based on substantiated logic not wish fulfillment. I believe the universe and humans are the product of intelligent design. Any other belief/thinking is just silly and irrational. But one’s belief or unbelief does not in itself validate anything. There must be well-reasoned logic and solid evidence. Really—easter bunnies and such—you can do better than that.
        Reply

  10. Joe Hargrave says:

    I’m so sorry I missed out on this, but I was only linked to it just now.

    Pastor Cornell, I agree with what you have written. And it is true that atheism as such implies no moral code – atheists can be capitalists or communists, nihilists or secular humanists.

    In fact it really is secular humanism that we are dealing with most of the time, with the militant atheists, or what Cardinal Henri de Lubac criticized as “Atheistic Humanism”.

    A lot of atheists these days are so entranced by what they believe the hard sciences have revealed to them about morality that they have completely neglected the rather embarrassing shipwreck of post-modern philosophy since Nietzsche’s devastating expose of the bankruptcy of secular humanism.

    Honest secular humanists know that science cannot overcome the “ought/is” dilemma, and cannot find any objective basis for moral knowledge. It doesn’t matter one bit if our “distaste for child murder” is somehow genetically programmed – some people do it, many people throughout history have done it, it is obviously something we can choose or not choose, and probably has a great deal more to do with culture and shared values than it ever did with genetics. Whole societies used to murder all their deformed children. But only one religion had followers that, in defiance of all others in its midst, said NO to such abominable practices.

    Atheists CAN be good, and this was never the point in dispute. Our argument is that they do not have a good reason for believing the things that they believe to be good, actually are good. The criteria they use to judge sound belief – reason, logic, evidence – are all completely absent. There is no empirical evidence for goodness, and there never will be.

    I prefer irrational good to rational evil, so an atheist that does good is better than anyone who does evil, regardless of the reason. The point is that for an atheist, belief in the good is belief without evidence, and it seems to undermine all of the arguments that atheists typically make against religious believers. Just because one has gotten rid of God, does not mean that one has gotten rid of faith. And if one is going to keep faith, it seems better to keep faith in God then in the righteousness of our own limited, subjective experiences.

    Again, one more time – no evolutionary theory of morality can ever give an account of the origin of goodness or evil. We are not bound to our genes, no matter what role they may play in shaping us; morality exists ONLY because we have choice.

    • Arawn says:

      I find it rather intriguing that post-modern philosophy was somehow scuttled by Nietzsche, even though he predated it. But never mind that. It doesn’t matter.

      Science does overcome the ought/is dilemma, just not in a way that is filled with dogma. We ought to brush our teeth twice a day or more often or whatever. If we don’t, we risk a certain amount of damage to our teeth. Cause, and effect. A proper one-to-one relation with some variability – but this is also based on what you eat, etc. All there, all determinable. Unlike God.

      The point is, God doesn’t give us a choice, so to speak. Not really. We are faced with hellfire and what not if we break the word of the lord. We are constantly told to believe in an idea of ‘good’. But think about this.

      A good Hindu from India cannot eat cows. A better Hindu from India won’t eat any meat. The Jews and Muslims will eat a certain meat ritually, but neither shall eat pork. Christians don’t have any such limitation, but a good Catholic better eat that communion wafer and consider it the body of Christ. How is ANY of this good? It’s just beliefs without any objective basis, either.

      If you can’t use rationality, logic and evidence to conceive of what is something you’d want to do or not want to do, then taking recourse to what someone tells you to do is worse. Rational evil is not all that different from irrational good – rational evil is usually petty, self-centred behaviour and doesn’t really hurt anyone. Irrational ‘good’ often causes suicide bombers.

      Morality isn’t all that it is trumped up to be, nor is ‘good’ universal or actually a positive thing. We all need to find our own lines and own models of behaviour within the context and environment, socio-cultural or otherwise, so that we can behave a certain way. There are aberrations in every side, but religion often PROMOTES what would be ‘anti-moral’ behaviour. Which is why there’s a problem.

      Again, one more time – no religion can tell you about good or evil either. Except make grandiose statements in the air. There is no absolute. We are not bound to our religions, or bound to our laws, or anything. But we keep laws and you promulgate religion because it does something for you. Well, for some it does more – it makes them want to kill you and every last Christian alive. And this sort of amoral and ‘bad’ behaviour is ‘good’ by their standards. Of course we have choice, but our choice is funneled through a set of filters of thought. Religion is one of the malfunctioning ones.

  11. Joe Hargrave says:

    No, what Nietzsche scuttled was secular humanism; post-modernism is the disaster that resulted from it. Sorry if I wasn’t clear on that point.

    “Science does overcome the ought/is dilemma. We ought to brush our teeth twice a day or more often or whatever. If we don’t, we risk a certain amount of damage to our teeth. Cause, and effect.”

    Ok, is/ought is not the same as cause and effect. You don’t understand the dilemma. We are talking about a moral “ought”, an obligation. The fact of tooth rot does not create a moral obligation to brush one’s teeth. Take away your “if”, and you are left with a senseless statement.

    Now we may all have an interest in preventing tooth rot, but when we are talking about how we relate to others, it becomes a much different story. There is no biological imperative from which you can derive an “ought” – it will always come with an “if”, an “if” that no one is obligated to accept. “If you want to avoid tooth rot”, fine, one “ought” – but if I’m not interested in avoiding tooth rot, you’re left with nothing. Replace “tooth rot” with any number of horrific yet possibly gratifying acts.

    It isn’t that you must believe in order to not commit these acts – it isn’t magic. Belief is simply the only grounds upon which we can claim they are wrong. Maybe you should wiki or look at the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry on the ought-is problem.

    “The point is, God doesn’t give us a choice, so to speak. Not really. We are faced with hellfire and what not if we break the word of the lord.”

    There is always a choice. God doesn’t control your mind. You are not on strings. Moreover, I think too many people have incorrect view of judgment and repentance. Most people will not end up in hell – it is really only for people who consciously and wholly believe in, and reject, God. Few will go directly into God’s presence, i.e. heaven. Most will go to what is called Purgatory – a place where, as the name suggests, we are purged of our sins. This is for our own good, for to be in the presence of perfect goodness with the stain of sin on our souls would be a worse torment than hell, a matter of “cause and effect” you might say.

    ” Irrational ‘good’ often causes suicide bombers.”

    Really? I was talking about secularists who give to charity. It seems rather ridiculous – why would you want to waste hard earned money on others when life is short and no one cares? The vast majority of people will be forgotten forever – what they do doesn’t matter in the slightest. If God doesn’t care, no one cares.

    The suicide bomber on the other hand is motivated by a number of factors – there more than a billion Muslims but only a few suicide bombers. There is politics, there is history, poverty, etc.

    “Morality isn’t all that it is trumped up to be, nor is ‘good’ universal or actually a positive thing. We all need to find our own lines and own models of behaviour within the context and environment, socio-cultural or otherwise, so that we can behave a certain way.”

    Yes, replace the word “good” with “positive” – it means the same thing, and you still don’t have an objective, scientific way of discerning it. How do you know what is “positive”? We don’t “need” to do anything in an indifferent universe. Again, this is your “if” problem – yes, “if” you desire x, y, z, you should do a, b, c – but this assumes that we must all be on board with your “if”. The “if” is a choice – I don’t have to agree with you on x, y, and z, and so I can say to hell with your a, b, and c.

    “There is no absolute. We are not bound to our religions, or bound to our laws, or anything.”

    Ok, well, I’m glad we agree. In your worldview, no one is bound to anything. Good luck promulgating that.

    • Morgan says:

      “It seems rather ridiculous – why would you want to waste hard earned money on others when life is short and no one cares? The vast majority of people will be forgotten forever – what they do doesn’t matter in the slightest. If God doesn’t care, no one cares.”

      Because life is short and no-one cares. Because God doesn’t care. Because if there is no God to care about humankind, we are the only people who can care about each other.
      Because if there is no God to help us, then we have to help each other.

      Because without a God, we are alone as a species, and the only way we can combat that loneliness is to come together and support each other, because we will get no support from him.

      Because as long as I believe that someone else will do something about it, I don’t have to face up to the problems that exist in the world. If I believe that God does not exist and/or does not care, and that he isn’t going to come along and make things better, who is there to make things better but me and my fellow humans?

      What we can do is maybe tiny, and fallible, and soon forgotten, but if it’s all we – or anyone – can do, why not do it? If God were going to come along and fix things, or even care that they were broken – what would be the point of our little human efforts and our little human caring? They would be insignificant in comparison. But if there is no God, there is nothing greater than our little efforts – they’re the best anyone’s going to get.

      Life is short and no-one cares – so you have to care, if you want anyone to. Care what you do and what other people do, and within your small human capacity, do your best to be useful, and to remember and care about others’ contributions.

      If there is no God there is no-one to do it but us.

  12. Arawn says:

    Firstly, what you don’t understand is that ought/is IS about cause and effect. Even morality is about cause and effect. Certain ideas and values are based on instinctive understandings and/or cultural imperatives that are far removed from religion. Religion has no monopoly on morality – just, it seems, a shared monopoly on self righteousness with the politicians.

    The ought/is dilemma is actually a curious one, especially because you’ve gotten hold of the wrong end of the stick when you ask me to look it up on wikipedia to understand it. The point I’m trying to make here with regard to it is that in a world and in societies, there is no conceivable way to have a universal ought, or any ought that can, in fact, be understood to be capable of wide appreciation. Religion also seems to have an if attached to it, and you seem to speak quite disarmingly about the same threats that religion contains to discourage the behaviour you want discouraged as immoral. So, on the one hand, you say religion is the only thing that keeps people in line, and on the other you say that don’t worry, not too many people will go to jail, and thus are telling us that religion doesn’t really carry that much of a threat – unless I’m an atheist! So if I do the right thing my entire life, lead a moral existence, do good to my neigbhbour but reject god, I get hell. But a sinner who ‘believes’ and confesses and gets absolution goes to heaven.

    Sounds incredibly moral, just and fair to me – not.

    As for charity, it makes people feel good – I feel good when I give to someone who needs it, I feel good to give gifts to someone on their birthday and have them appreciate it. Charity IS rational, as long as the satisfaction you derive from it is higher than the cost of the money you give up. Also, the marginal utility of money for well off people is significantly lower – they can afford to give a lot, like Bill and Melinda Gates.

    What truly amazes me here is that in the course of your own little post you’ve contradicted yourself. Ironic, then, that the Pastor sought to point out contradictions in atheism. You say that the word of God is not absolute, in that we have choice in terms of submitting to it or not. In other words, you agree that we do have free will. But free will DOES mean not being bound to anything. Which is true for everyone, religious or otherwise. And your sarcastic riposte at the end is rather wasted, because in the course of what you’ve said, you’ve agreed that we are not bound to God’s word, but that our minds are free to choose.

    So good luck promulgating that, yourself.

    I was reading your blog (“Non Nobis”) and see that you’ve expressed this set of opinions before. You’ve also asked how it can be said that rape and murder is morally wrong. I think that’s clear enough (though I understand the confusion over this and do sympathise with you if people have called you crazy for asking the right, and pertinent question) – morality works on certain principles that needn’t come from God. They could come from the human psyche or conscience. People do feel guilty, and taking another life does take a toll on them. The force of the law, not divine retribution, is a collective way to force obedience. And it is because the collective will is understood to be against such action. Our consciences develop, in part instinctively and in part through learning social values around us. It is about cause and effect – you cause harm to others, and it comes back to cause you harm. As often as possible, of course. The only thing about religion that separates it from this system is ostensible absolutism – if you do it, you will get caught in the ‘afterlife’. But there’s no evidence of that. It’s a belief. LIKE the belief that murder is wrong. Such belief doesn’t have to be based on anything. That’s a principle you’ll espouse, anyway.

    We aren’t all on board with an ‘if’ that you seek to ascribe to religious humanity. Your religion as a whole ostensibly has an ‘if’. But you’d be lying if you attempted to portray any human group of any sizable number to be so homogenous. Everyone has different desires, and different ways of getting to them. We don’t have to agree (we clearly don’t, and I’m glad for it) and we needn’t agree on morality. There are different interpretations, sects, and what not for every religion. So please spare me the ‘we must all be aboard for the ‘if’ – that isn’t true for any group, and religion doesn’t change that framework.

  13. Joe Hargrave says:

    Moral questions have nothing to do with cause and effect – I don’t know where you are getting this from. Let’s try again, shall we? You can say a causes, has the effect of, b, but it has nothing to do at all with why one ought to do it. That depends only on what is good and evil.

    Now, once again, you have horribly misread, as many do. You say that I claim,

    “You say religion is the only thing that keeps people in line”

    I MAKE NO SUCH CLAIM. I put it in caps because it needs to be said loudly. That is not my argument. What I say, what you would know if you read carefully instead of assuming that I’m just inserting the stock answers you might be used to, is that it is only through a belief in God we can know right and wrong.

    Knowledge and action are not identical things. You don’t have to know how food keeps your body going in order to eat. You just eat. And you don’t necessarily have to know where morality comes from in order to be moral.

    So, I’m not making the argument that a person “needs religion” in order to do good, only that God is the only possible condition for the existence of moral truth independent of our subjective experience. That’s all. I’ll go back to what you said earlier:

    “The point I’m trying to make here with regard to it is that in a world and in societies, there is no conceivable way to have a universal ought”

    It is only possible through God. Without God there is no moral truth, period, the end. It is, as you say, not universal but relative, arbitrary, and mutable. No one is bound to do anything.

    “Religion also seems to have an if attached to it”

    But it doesn’t. “Religion” establishes that certain things are good in and of themselves, intrinsically good – that they should be done regardless of the consequences. I should give to charity even if it makes me feel bad, because it is intrinsically good. I shouldn’t murder people even if it makes me feel good, because it is intrinsically evil. Now, of course, there is more to it than a mere assertion; there are reasons why some things are intrinsically good or evil, but we don’t need to get into those here.

    And of course different religions posit different things – the point is that God is the necessary condition for ANYTHING to be intrinsically good. Belief in God is not = to religion X. It is only when we assent to a reasonable belief in God that we can even begin to discuss moral truth. Eventually we may end up at a particular religious conception, but to get from belief in nothing to belief in a particular religion leaps over a number of important steps. It’s like watching the beginning and the end of a movie – of course it wouldn’t appear to make much sense if you watched it that way.

    “morality works on certain principles that needn’t come from God”

    What you are really talking about here is how human behavior works. I agree, that requires no explanation that relies on divine intervention. The issue here is moral truth, not behavior. Explaining why people do what they do isn’t the same as explaining why what they do is right or wrong. Do you see the difference?

    ” LIKE the belief that murder is wrong. Such belief doesn’t have to be based on anything. ”

    Then it isn’t true! That’s the point. There’s no evidence, there’s no data, there’s no experiment. You believe it on faith alone, and you have no argument against the person who believes the exact opposite. That’s the only point here. You and others routinely criticize the religious for “belief without evidence” when that is precisely what you hold in each and every moral precept.

    If you would stop these games and admit your own degree of faith, then you might see that it is more and not less reasonable to accept God and embark on your own journey to discover what he wants of you, of us. Faith is inescapable and unavoidable, and I maintain that faith in God is a much better starting point than, what, faith in one’s personal whims?

    As for my supposed contradiction, what are you talking about? I don’t understand the objection. There is no contradiction between free will, which is a property of human beings, and a moral law. We are not bound to behavior but bound to the consequences, to the moral judgment of God; in an indifferent universe there is no judgment. We might be judged by our peers, but then again, we might not. Chances are we won’t.

    And before you say it, yes, the reality of a final moral judgment seems like a pretty big “if”; but the reality of this judgment is not what motivates the behavior of a person who has truly come to understand and love God. The “if” becomes meaningless and irrelevant, for we are doing good out of a love of goodness, and not a fear of judgement.

    Even a secularist, an atheist can do this, I am only saying, the faith they have in their own conception and acts of goodness is just weaker and in my view sillier than the faith of a believer. A reasonable case for the existence of God can be made (not a proof, mind you, but a reasonable argument, there is a difference you realize), but no reasonable case can be made for the arbitrarily chosen morals of an atheist.

    • ryan says:

      i think you getting the words fatih and opinion confused. or faith and moral stance. people’s moral code comes from experiernce and upbringing. unlike god, its actually something you can experience. you don’t need faith. faith is meant for stuff that seems like it doesn’t exist. when you say “arbitrarily chosen morals” you sounds like you think athiest pick what they think is moral and immoral out of a hat. i doubt you think that. but i believe thats how you meant it to sound.

      “Even a secularist, an atheist can do this, I am only saying, the faith they have in their own conception and acts of goodness is just weaker and in my view sillier than the faith of a believer” that statement is based solely on authority. the authority that your book is the perfect word of god. and i’ve got to tell you. i think the jurys still out on that one.

      and maybe there is a god. but who said he’s good. maybe he’s evil or indifferent. i saw a tv show just the otheir day about a holy relic in europe that sick people were going too. and you should have seen all the nasty, confounding, heartbreaking little dieases that this ultimate arbiter or morality has come up with. little children with elephantitis. or that diease that makes them look 90 years old. young men and women crippled in wheelchairs dying of M.S. all of them with tears in there eyes,praying for someone to help them. there’s no good answer for why a loving, good god would create diseases like these. ecspeically ones that hurt the young. and many of these poor people out there in the world are the wrong religion. so when they die the pain doesn’t stop. its just getting started. god knew that it was a 12 year girls fate to be born in china. get leukemia. die and go to hell. and he created her anyway. that doesn’t sound very moral to me. anyone that believes that hell is the right punishment for unbelief or the wrong belief is not a moral person or a moral god. i think we need to look somewhere else for whats right.

    • amieres says:

      “Without God there is no moral truth, period, the end.”

      You’re trying to define an absolute (moral truth) with another absolute (God). None of which exist.
      Just as there is no god, there’s also no ‘moral truth’.

      “It is, as you say, not universal but relative, arbitrary, and mutable. No one is bound to do anything”

      Moral frameworks are certainly mutable (and some of it may seem arbitrary), they are constantly changing throughout history, and across cultures. It happens even within religions. But It doesn’t follow that no one is bound to anything. We all have our own set of beliefs and principles of what is wrong and right. We all are bound to our own morality, acquired from our fathers, our culture, our society, our learnings and our discernment. They mostly coincide (in the bigger parts) with the morals of the people we interact with and that allows us to get along most of the time.

      “Faith is inescapable and unavoidable, and I maintain that faith in God is a much better starting point than, what, faith in one’s personal whims?”

      Faith seems to be the crux of your argument. You seem to equate faith with belief and we need to differentiate them. You can believe something is true even if you don’t have any evidence or enough evidence to support it, and that is ok. But to have faith in something means to believe in the absence of evidence and even against all evidence. The difference lies that when you believe in something you’re still open to change your belief if enough evidence is presented but faith implies being closed to that possibility. In that sense not only faith is not ‘inescapable and unavoidable’ but it should be avoided and escaped by rational people. I’m sorry to say but faith is not a virtue, is a defect.

      Morality is hardly based on ‘personal whims’ they are based on your culture, education, society, experience and your own discernment. That is the case wether you believe in god or not, anyway.

      You seem to make the argument that if you want to be guided by an absolute morality (moral truth as you put it) you have to believe in god otherwise your morality would not be absolute. I agree. But I believe you should first decide if there is a god and only then decide to follow it’s moral code. Unfortunately, even if you decided that there is a god and that you’ll follow it’s moral code, you won’t find anywhere this ‘moral truth’. You’ll discover, that morals change and shift over time, that there are many sets of ‘moral truths’ to pick and choose from, all of them abscribed to god (even within the same religion).

    • Morgan says:

      What if I make my evidence for “murder is bad” the fact that I know I wouldn’t like to be murdered? Admittedly it’s only one data point, but it establishes that for at least one out of six billion people, being murdered is an undesirable outcome. If I then assume until they tell me otherwise that other people don’t want to be murdered either, then I can say “murder is bad” on some evidence.
      One data point I can be certain of isn’t very much, but it’s better than the zero data points backing up a theistic view. “Murder is bad because God says so” relies on the existence of God and his having provably said so, neither of which has ever been satisfactorily proved to me. “Murder is bad because I wouldn’t want to be murdered” rests on my personal views, yes, but I’m at least fairly sure I exist and don’t want to be stabbed.

      It’s even clearer-cut with some other moral issues. Take rape. The very definition of rape is that it is a sexual violation of someone against their will. So saying “you shouldn’t rape people because people don’t want to be raped” is based on “people don’t want to be raped”, which is true by definition – if they want it to happen, it’s not rape. So that seems to me to be a pretty secure basis for saying one shouldn’t rape people. That follows much more solidly than “This book says that some invisible and undetectable being says rape is bad, so you shouldn’t rape people”.
      (Bad example in another way, though, since the Judeo-Christian God seems quite happy with rape a lot of the time)

      “Treat other people as you’d like to be treated (unless they tell you they’d like to be treated differently)” seems to me to be a perfectly justifiable basis for morality – if you wouldn’t like something to happen to you, it’s hardly “blind” faith to assume other people don’t want it to happen to them either (unless they tell you they do) – it’s use of the only solid data available to you.

      • I realize that even if my understanding of morality based on God were true, implementing it in society is a different matter. I am responding to the inconsistency of writers like Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens, etc… thundering at people with such moral judgments while at the same time rejecting any basis for absolute morality. Again, as with many who have responded here, it gives away the game.

        It looks like this: “We reject all notions of a God (but our deepest hostilities are reserved for Christian versions because it’s politically correct to do this). And we are SO ANGRY at the obvious growth and spread of religion on the globe (when our agenda to use actual biological evolution to spread philosophical naturalism (disguised as science) should have convinced these dimwits to get over their religious non-sense). So from our new Mount Sinai we will thunder forth our own commandments against religion.”

        Even the tone of their writings gives the game away! But their tone is based on their emotional outrage and anger. This leads them into a quagmire of illogical argumentation. This is the point I am making.

        Now, as to other bases for morality, Yes, the golden rule taught by Jesus is solid: “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 7:21) (replicated in different form by many religions)

  14. NoGuyintheSky says:

    @Joe – Really a reasonable case? lol Give it.

    “no reasonable case can be made for the arbitrarily chosen morals of an atheist.” Really. Is that how you think? You think it is all arbitrary. Maybe that is why your mind is still stuck in the middle ages. That is why you don’t get it and you still believe in a fairy god father in the sky.

  15. ryan says:

    maybe your right. maybe some concepts of morality would be simpler if there was a god. but that has nothing to do with whether there is a god or not. are you saying we shouldn’t worry about if god exist or not. it just better for the world to believe? because ive only got one life. and you don’t have to worry about me hurting anybody or inferring with there lives. so i don’t think im just going to phone in my intellectual journey through life. i can’t think of a more wasted life then that. unless im misrepresenting you views. do you have some evidence to back up these authority derived claims? evidence about this authority figure?

  16. Jackie says:

    If you liken Dawkins to militism, what do you liken Osama Bin Laden to? Or are they one and the same in your mind? If your answer is yes, you have lost all of your arguement on the merit of being a lunatic. I myself am a Muslims and strongly believe in my Diety, Afterlife, etc. But you won’t find me calling Dawkin a militant. Religion and faith are a personal matter, better left alone inside the confines of one’s doors and walls.

    • It appears evident that you have either not read Dawkins on this subject or that you are willing to give him a special exception. THe militancy of his tone has been pointed to by many reviewers (even Atheists who feel he is giving atheism a bad reputation). And, if “Religion and faith are a personal matter, better left alone inside the confines of one’s doors and walls,” does this include Dawkins religion of atheism? Or, does he get a pass for writing and speaking publicly about it?

      • ryan says:

        lets talk about the bible if you want to bring up militancy. it says right in the book over and over that if you don’t except what it says your going to spend enternity being torchered in a firey abyss. i don’t even richard dawkins would go that far. i think most of dawkins militant stances towards religion centers on things like how religious belief effects science education. how cathalic teachings about not using condoms is causing hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people to needlessly suffer and die in africa. how bigotry towards homosexuals is disguised as some righteous belief. if these probelms weren’t so prevasive i doubt he or any atheist would care to much which gods people prayed to or whether prayed at all.

      • This is a bit of projection. Is it what you want to hear Dawkins saying? And if you are a true Muslim, you probably don’t want to go after the Bible (or the catholic church for that matter) on militancy, homosexuality or for further discussion, treatment of women. You have enough “in house” work to do. As to the matter of hell, I agree with C. S. Lewis: “The final state of the sinner is the horrible enslavement of the freedom he desired.” See also: Busload from hell: http://thinkpoint.wordpress.com/2007/04/07/busload-from-hell/

        So Dawkins views on the matters you point out are the “right” views that he gets the pass to preach on?

      • ryan says:

        i think your getting me and the muslim guy who commented before me confused. im atheist. so you think no belief are wrong belief is a sin that should be punished by hell?

      • ryan says:

        the bus load to hell writting is pretty damn underwhelming. there is no good explanation for why a loving god would create people who live for under a 100 years, and then send then to hell for enterity for what they did in those 80 years or so. its just horrible. and thats all there is to it. nothing anyone could ever do could come close to being as bad as inventing a place like hell.

      • ryan says:

        only someone without a ounce of compassion in there heart.. only someone that hates people can believe that hell isn’t immoral and wrong. your a sick person if your noting crying a river of tears for all those poor souls. if i knew it was true. i’d give up my existance and the existance of everyone who ever lived so there torcher could stop.were not just talking about a bunch of hitlers here. im talking about good people that just didn’t believe or the region they lived in was a diffrent religion. i see you like the word evil alot. hell is a evil idea.

  17. JT says:

    Ah, contradict themselves. Then you use examples of how they contradict your view of god.

    I thought there would be substance or meaning here to someone other than a true believer such as yourself.

    What a waste of time.

  18. Corey says:

    Steve Cornell wrote:

    “they write as if an absolute standard of goodness and duty exists–one they have special access to and we are obliged to accept on their word (unless we wish to remain irrational idiots)”

    —-

    Sounds a hell of a lot like Christianity to me. The pope and his minions are those with the “special access” to God and if you just do what they tell you, you can have access to God and Heaven. Make sure you come to this building once per week and subject yourself to the WORD of GOD and believe in him and you can earn your ticket to Paradise. But ONLY if you believe what we believe.

    Yeah, right. Sure.

    There used to be a point in human history when no gods or religions existed. ZERO. There was no “superiority” of thought or belief. There were just human beings, learning how to survive, learning about each other, learning about themselves and this planet. Gods and religions were unnecessary then, and they are unnecessary today.

    Should it then be no surprise that as humanity eventually created gods (HUNDREDS of them) over thousands of years, they also cast them aside like so much garbage? How many people worship the Roman or Greek gods in the 21st Century??

    If those once all-powerful, all-knowing gods who had been worshiped for centuries could be so easily discarded as having been MADE UP or false, then what makes any believer today think that their current god(s) are any different?

      • Corey says:

        “Jesus Christ is the amazing, logic defying exception.”

        Defying logic is what most religions are based upon. Faith despite the facts, as it were.

        And I take it from this statement that you have some sort of personal relationship with your Lord and Savior. One that amazingly, defies logic.

        And sure I’m angry. Angry that people perpetuate a dangerous myth to explain away the destructive behavior of the flawed human animal.

        I’ve seen plenty of discarded human lives to know that “it’s God’s plan/will” is really nothing more than a story people of faith tell themselves to cope with the fact that human beings are a brutal, evil, sadistic and cruel species. The phrase is always used in defiance of logic, and of the facts.

        Any faith, created by a god or a man, that claims to understand why “good/innocent” people suffer as being part of some higher mystery that only one such as the Creator Himself could possibly fathom, is really not faith at all. It’s fear. Fear that the truth is that God does not have a plan at all, or that God really isn’t punishing the wicked, or possibly, that some evil will be done to them. Or even, way down deep inside where no one else can see, the fear that God doesn’t exist at all, and we actually have to live and work and cooperate with other humans to survive.

        When the veil of “logic defying” explanations for horrible human behavior are removed, we are left with facing ourselves as a species and what it means, truly means, to be human.

        Of course, being human has it’s limitations, but religion wants to offer us a way out. We can be relieved of our suffering and our flawed and sinful human lives. God will forgive us (apparently for being flawed humans, which He intentionally made us as. How’s that for logic defying?) and take us into final rest with His eternal and everlasting love.

        God made us so He can love us forever when we’re dead. And many of us, a lot sooner than others.

        Some master plan.

  19. Mike says:

    When is the constant pushing and bullying of Christianity going to be considered militant? Christians are very combative. When was the last time an atheist tried to pass a law to take away a Christians rights? Yet we live in a society that is willing to trample ours. If Christianity was so loving and peaceful, why can’t gays marry in all states? Christians that are less than moral are the reason that is holding it back.

    FYI – Militant is a label used by “Christians” to try and shut us up, and/or diminish our opinions.

    Really what part of what Richard says is false? I have heard him speak many times and I have never heard him lie or deliberately mislead an audience. I have witnessed many Christians lie and deny just to help promote their cause of Christianity. Cause is really too loose a term. Cult or business is better.

    If God gives you your morals. Essentially you have relinquished all thought on the subject of morals. What standard could you use to determine if God is morally perfect? You don’t have a standard to base anything on Gods morals. Can you have an opinion on Gods morals? No. You do not have a moral standard. You have some other standard. Your moral standard is based on nothing more than an ancient text.

    As an atheist I can use logic, reason, common sense and experience to form my morals. I have a moral standard.

    Morality doesn’t mean anything to you other than what God says is right, and what God says is wrong. How do you know these are truly right? You don’t because you have forfeited your right to think. They are God’s morals, not yours.

    Have you wondered why nobody wrote about Jesus for 70 yrs after his death and when they did. They placed him in a town that didn’t exist until after he was supposed to be dead. Since this was all Godly inspired…why aren’t the gospels compatible? I would think an omniscient deity wouldn’t need fact check in a document. He did have a few years to get his fable straight. Things like a mythical census. He could have(being omnipotent and all) made Caesar really have one. Do you really comprehend omniscience? If you do, why do you still believe?

    • If you have any doubts about how much Dawkins and his fellow atheists got wrong (on almost every subject) read: “Atheist Delusions: The Christian Revolution and Its Fashionable Enemies” by David Bentley Hart (warning, it’s not light reading so don’t (how did you put it), “forfeit your right to think.” Hart must be the most feared critic of these fellows. His brilliant, evenhanded and gracious exposure of a pompous and platitudinous methodology and blatant errors of every kind is staggering. His book is perhaps the best available critique of so-called “New Atheism.”

      P.S. You also have your historical information about Jesus and the New Testament documents wrong.

  20. Mike says:

    Pointing me to a book I will look at, is not the same as answering my question.

    Nazareth did not exist until after his supposed death.

    There was no census. We have documents from that time period. It is not not there and definitely would have been based solely on how ridiculous it would be.

    The gospels get almost nothing right. Even the most important fictitious miracle in there. The death and resurrection. Do I need to look up all of them for you…it is your bible and you should know these. Who was at the tomb? Jesus present or not? Who talked to him etc…Basic journalism. These were all witnesses right? It is not the same as witnessing a car crash. They were there to see him/his tomb.

    They had more than a few literate men during the time he was supposed to exist. Not one jotted anything down.

    Where is the problem. Those are all facts?

    • I am just not sure where you have come up with the notions related to the historical integrity of the New Testament. This has been so overwhelmingly established through every means of testing historical validity that it is hard for me to imagine that you could hold to such strange notions about Nazareth, the census, the dating of NT materail, etc…

      On a more popular and accessible level, you could read Lee Strobles “A Case for Christ” http://www.leestrobel.com/ or on a more scholastic level, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony by Richard Bauckham.

  21. Mike says:

    I liked this reviewer of the book you suggested.

    “As a longtime student in Western civilization, I have to acknowledge that Hart puts forth the most valiant attempt of defending Christianity that one is likely to encounter these days. Unfortunately, though, throughout his apologia the Christianity that he holds up for our admiration is a fantasy–neither the Christianity of history nor Christianity as it is generally exercised today. Hart goes beyond writing alternative history; he verges on creating an alternative world.

    The most impressive part of this mis-titled book is Hart’s arsenal of sneering invective against “Fashionable Enemies” of Christianity. Breathtaking at times. When he is not dismissing their thinking as “imbecilic,” “callow,” or “vapid,” he attacks the “New Atheists” for their tendency to “ignore, dissemble, or dismiss.” But these verbs describe the very tactics that permeate his alternative view; and, as one who has read most of the books at which Hart spews such disdain, I would add his tendency to exaggerate, misrepresent, and gloss over. ”

    In there Charles Freeman commented. You know the same one Hart yaps about in his book.

    “I have now seen a copy of Hart’s book and see my The Closing of the Western Mind was denounced in Hart’s vitriol. It was clear however, that he had not read my book as he misrepresented my argument. He claimed that i had written that Christianity destroyed pagan wisdom while I had actually argued that there were two schools of pagan philosophy, followers of Plato or Aristotle and that the Christians had integrated Platonism but crushed Aristoteleianism. I thought of writing a review but Hart makes so many unsupported generalisations (that is the major problem, the lack of plausible evidence) throughout his book that I simply did not know where to start. ”

    Hart does not seem like a reliable source. I am sure you picked him because he agreed with you. I will check out the other book mentioned. So in that, I am glad you mentioned Hart.

  22. Boko999 says:

    ” I continuously felt the urge to ask why these atheists so strongly believed that their moral conclusions are superior. Although they typically avoid this question by changing the subject, thoughtful readers will not be tricked.”

    I’d be interested to know how these atheists so cleverly changed the subject off your unasked question.

    I quit reading shortly after your nonsense above. Calling you a fool is being generous.

      • Mike says:

        OK. So saying something is unsatisfactory is not the same as giving an example. I have those books in paper back or audio on my ipod. Some both. While you are at it, you should read the Moral Landscape by Sam Harris. I high recommend it.

        Stop asserting they are wrong and prove something….lets have at least a direct quote, not taken out of context that is wrong. Something linked or referenced by page in a book.

      • Start with this:

        Darwin’s Rottweiler and the Public Understanding of Scientism: This devastating article exposes 11 logical fallacies committed by Richard Dawkins in his books
        http://arn.org/docs/williams/pw_dawkinsfallacies.htm

        Then: The Delusions of Richard Dawkins by Professor Peter Harrison (Oxford)
        A critique of The God Delusion by Oxford Professor Peter Harrison http://www.journeyonline.com.au/printView.php?articleId=977

        Also:
        http://www.faithandthecity.org/issues/social/articles/The-Dawkins-Delusion.shtml

        Then:

      • Mike says:

        Peter Harrison – Makes mistakes all through his review. Ad Hominem is what he specializes in. Wanting Dawkins to write/interview/read etc is not a real position. It sounds more like Peter should have written a book.

        “Another instance of Dawkins’ old-fashioned nineteenth-century perspective is his blind faith in atheistic humanism. ‘If only we did not believe in God, the world would be a wonderful place’, is his simplistic nostrum. (John Lennon said it much better in Imagine.) This is just wishful thinking.

        Perhaps it was a credible position before two World Wars, the horrors of Nazism, and the purges of Stalin and Mao.
        These human catastrophes can hardly be attributed to religion.”

        Peter writes this as if it were true. Nazism, Stalinism and Mao were not because a lack of faith. FYI – You can not beat the God out of a person. You can get them to hide their beliefs, but that does not make them rationalize there is no god. All of those were dictators gone crazy.

        I will quote Sam Harris “Faith and the Good Society
        People of faith regularly claim that atheism is responsible for some of the most appalling crimes of the 20th century. Although it is true that the regimes of Hitler, Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot were irreligious to varying degrees, they were not especially rational. In fact, their public pronouncements were little more than litanies of delusion—delusions about race, economics, national identity, the march of history or the moral dangers of intellectualism. In many respects, religion was directly culpable even here. Consider the Holocaust: The anti-Semitism that built the Nazi crematoria brick by brick was a direct inheritance from medieval Christianity. For centuries, religious Germans had viewed the Jews as the worst species of heretics and attributed every societal ill to their continued presence among the faithful. While the hatred of Jews in Germany expressed itself in a predominately secular way, the religious demonization of the Jews of Europe continued. (The Vatican itself perpetuated the blood libel in its newspapers as late as 1914.)

        Auschwitz, the gulag and the killing fields are not examples of what happens when people become too critical of unjustified beliefs; to the contrary, these horrors testify to the dangers of not thinking critically enough about specific secular ideologies. Needless to say, a rational argument against religious faith is not an argument for the blind embrace of atheism as a dogma. The problem that the atheist exposes is none other than the problem of dogma itself—of which every religion has more than its fair share. There is no society in recorded history that ever suffered because its people became too reasonable.”

        I also would add that Hitler was a Catholic. He was a Christian. He believed in Jesus. The men operating the gas chambers were…”Christian”

        Darwin’s Rottweiler and the Public Understanding of Scientism
        This guy I think is better, but he is nitpicking a lot of minor stuff.

        1. Self-Contradiction – He is asserting what Dawkins wants for evidence.
        2. Begging the Question – This is as weak an example as you can get. A real begs would be your belief in God. God it self begs the question. God is true because he says he is true in his bible where he says he is true which proves he must be true. Bege beg beg.
        3. The False Dilemma – He really had less than nothing here.
        4. The Fallacy of Equivocation -nothing here.
        5. The Non Sequitar –again nothing. Stupid opinion.

        I will say of all the books. I did not really like the God Delusion for the simple fact it was intentionally written down to core America or the world. Many of the chapters were very similar and it was boring to slog through to the end, of which I did twice.

        6. Special Pleading (double standard) – More stupid. Did the person that wrote this even comprehend what Dawkins was trying to say? A great part of being intelligent is being able to comprehend something that is not always spelled out as if every word comes with a definition attached.
        7. Wishful Thinking -another very minor infraction. So one has to ask if the author of this understands abiogenesis and the competing theory of…God did it. Because the evidence on that is in and God didn’t do it. Oh unless the bible is not true and God started all life with abiogenesis. DNA pretty much buries the bible, noah, creationism.
        8. The Red Herring – It is hard to call Dawkins on one when the author uses multiple fallacies.
        9. Straw Man Argument – Uh not really a straw man argument. When you read it, it is obvious Dawkins can answer questions and more. Meaning build planes, cell phones, new plastics, solar etc… What has religion ever done for the good of society that was not in its own interest? Or just done?
        10. Ad Hominem – Heh No Ad Hominem. Belief in God is childish.
        11. Poisoning the well – No Dawkins is right there. lol Creationism has had more than a fair chance to prove its self. It was destroyed in court, mainly by a Christian scientist. Evolution is true.

        Conclusion. Out of all Dawkins books. that was the best they could do? Hell I have heard him say things I disagree with. Very poor arguments.

        I went through your first two. That is more than enough.

        Also I checked up on Lee Strobel. You might wanna brush up on what is acceptable evidence. When looking for a person of history, less evidence is required when stakes are low. When trying to pawn off a figure as a walking zombie messiah. Stakes are high and requirements even higher. There are not contemporary eye witnesses to Jesus that wrote about him. The closest are 7 plus decades past. So pretty much the bible was to believed the people played phone call for 70+ years with a detailed history in the hundred and hundreds of pages of text. Uh really? Maybe you should check out Bart Erhman too. So even when they finally wrote all this down. They kept screwing it up, because guess what. It is hard to copy text from scroll to another. The you add in deliberate text changes…because more Christian honesty. They wanted Jesus to be more like their beliefs. Then throw in additions and shazammm. You have a bible that absolutely would be unrecognizable to any that started playing the phone game in the first place.

  23. Well, this is why you should read Hart for yourself. People can project anything they want to support their notions (especially well worn “the views of history” arguments used by the reviewer. Notice he didn’t give examples. The notion that “Christians had integrated Platonism but crushed Aristoteleianism” is strange. I don’t even know what he is trying to project onto the “Christians”

  24. The Harris quote is so typical. Stretch the facts as much as possible to indict religion. The violence of the 20th century (interestingly the most progressive and yet most violent century of human history) was perpetrated overwhelmingly by secular regimes who merely used elements of religion to serve their evil purposes. When you start with assumptions, it’s too easy to force the data to match the assumptions. Harris, Dawkins and Hitchens do this all the time.

    When Harris says, “The problem that the atheist exposes is none other than the problem of dogma itself—of which every religion has more than its fair share.” This is my point! These guys are incredibly dogmatic —as with many of those who have responded to me in this post. So if dogma is the problem, why be so dogmatic in exposing it? Crazy stuff!

    All too familiar with Bart Erhman.

    • Mike says:

      Basically it points out atheism had nothing to do with those atrocities. If anything those regimes acted to much like a religion. Having an inquisition for those that were not in lock step. Just like…Christianity did and Islam now.

      The difference here is you are trying to associate these atheists with crazy dictators. Today is is all about reasoning, being rational and those regimes were not to much of that. They were a lack of reasoning and being rational.

  25. Tank says:

    11 “This is what the LORD says: ‘Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity upon you. Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you, and he will lie with your wives in broad daylight. 12 You did it in secret, but I will do this thing in broad daylight before all Israel.’ ”

    13 Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD.”
    Nathan replied, “The LORD has taken away your sin. You are not going to die. 14 But because by doing this you have made the enemies of the LORD show utter contempt, [e] the son born to you will die.”

    Your god having two women raped and a child killed because of what one man did, do you think this is moral?

    • I am sure that we would prefer a perfect world where nothing bad happened to anyone. But your “issue” works off a presuppositional framework that makes you the judge and God the recipient of your judgements. If the full narrative of the bible is the accurate picture of how things work, God being merciful to any rebellious creatures in any way is the really confusing part. Judgments against rebellious creatures from a righteous God make sense. Mercy is amazing. But you cannot see this because you in your preferred autonomy, you reserve the right to be God’s judge.

      “Human life is not the way it’s supposed to be. And so…the world’s great thinkers often diagnose the human predicament and prescribe various remedies for it. They diagnose oppression and prescribe justice. They diagnose the conformism of bad faith and prescribe the freedom of authentic choice. A few look at the world, fall into a depression, and put their prescription pad away. Christians think that the usual diagnoses and prescriptions catch part of the truth, but that they do not get to the bottom of it. The real human predicament, as Scripture reveals, is that inexplicably, irrationally, we all keep living our lives against what’s good for us. In what can only be called the mystery of iniquity, human beings from the time of Adam and Eve (and, before them, a certain number of angelic beings) have so often chosen to live against God, against each other, and against God’s world. We live even against ourselves.”

      “Near the beginning of our history, we human beings broke the harmony of paradise and began to live against our ultimate good. We once had a choice. We now have a near-compulsion—at least, that’s what we have without the grace of God to set us free. Over the centuries we humans have ironed in this near-compulsion, with the result that each new generation enters a world that has long ago lost its Eden, a world that is now half-ruined by the billions of bad choices and millions of old habits congealed into thousands of cultures across all the ages. In this world even saints discover, in exasperation, that whenever they want to do right “evil lies close at hand” (Romans 7:21). We are conceived and born in sin. This is a way of stating the doctrine of original sin, that is, that the corruption and guilt of our first parents have run right down the generations, tainting us all” (C. Plantinga Jr. Not The Way It’s Supposed to Be).

      “Unlike other worldviews that I had considered, I never felt the God of the Bible was asking me to put on rose-colored glasses. Even the heroes of the Bible were described unsparingly in appalling moral failures—lies, sexual aberrations and murders. I did not have to give up the honesty and realism that I had valued. Cynicism claimed that the world— both inside and outside of our heads—was profoundly broken and bent. I realized that the Christian faith had been saying this for two-thousand years, and Judaism for longer than that.”

      Scripture teaches us to allow for a world God prescribed (the goodness and innocence of Eden); one He permitted (the violence and rebellion of Cain) and a world He will providentially make new (the new heavens and earth).

      • Mike says:

        “Even the heroes of the Bible were described unsparingly in appalling moral failures—lies, sexual aberrations and murders.”

        Yahweh would be the most unsparingly in appalling moral failure in the bible. You did not answer Tank’s question(Your god having two women raped and a child killed because of what one man did, do you think this is moral?)

        You answer with talk of original sin. Do you believe we can from the genetic code of just two? If you literally believe in original sin. How do you explain an omniscient being knowingly placing the tree of knowledge with in reach of two beings newly created, without knowledge of right and wrong. They had not sinned yet. God knew that the snake would deceive them(omniscience) and allowed it. If we all are condemned by the actions of a sin. The sin was his. A morally bankrupt God cause pain and suffering. He created evil for by willfully creating a situation humans would fail. It is absolutely no different than leaving a young child in a house with an older kid with bad intentions. If there was a sin, then Yahweh holds the weight of that sin.

        Alas it is just a fable and there is no sin on anyone.

      • Morgan says:

        So, if David is the sinner, a righteous God punishing him makes sense. But he isn’t the one being raped and murdered. His wives and his son are suffering for his sin.

        You can counter that they probably had sins of their own, but those aren’t the ones they’re being punished for, they’re being punished for his.

        As Mike said, you didn’t answer Tank’s question. Explain the justice of that situation in a way that doesn’t necessitate viewing a sinner’s relatives as insentient chattel – because that is the only way I can see that hurting them can be seen as punishment only to him. If they are individual human beings, then you need to justify God’s hurting them by something they did wrong, if your God is at all just.

  26. The Christian says, I believe in:

    1. Creation – It answers the question of origin: Where did we come from? It explains the good that I see in the world.

    2. Fall – It answers the question of evil. It explains the wrong and suffering that dominates the world (see: Romans 3:10, 23; 5:12; Mark 7:21-23).

    “Certainly nothing offends us more rudely than this doctrine [of original sin], and yet without this mystery…we are incomprehensible to ourselves. Blaise Pascal

    “The first and most fundamental element of any worldview is the way it answers the questions of origins—where the universe came from and how human life began. The second element is the way it explains the human dilemma. Why is there war and suffering, disease and death? These questions are particularly pressing for the Christian worldview, for if we believe that the universe came from the hand of a wise and good Creator, how do we explain the presence of evil?”

    If God is both all-loving and all-powerful, why doesn’t he use his power to stop suffering and injustice?

    “No question poses a more formidable stumbling block to the Christian faith than this, and no question is more difficult for Christians to answer. Yet the biblical worldview does have an answer, and it accounts for universal human experience better than any other belief system. Scripture teaches that God created the universe and created us in his image, created us to be holy and to live by his commands. Yet God loved us so much that he imparted to us the unique dignity of being free moral agents—creatures with the ability to make choices, to choose either good or evil. To provide an arena in which to exercise that freedom, God placed one moral restriction on our first ancestors: He forbade them to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.”

    “The original humans, Adam and Eve, exercised their free choice and chose to do what God had commanded them not to do, and they rejected his way of life and goodness, opening the world to death and evil. The theological term for this catastrophe is the Fall.”

    “In short, the Bible places responsibility for sin, which opened the floodgates to evil, squarely on the human race—starting with Adam and Eve, but continuing on in our own moral choices. In that original choice to disobey God, human nature became morally distorted and bent so that from then on humanity has had a natural inclination to do wrong. This is the foundation of the doctrine that theologians call original sin, and it haunts humanity to this day.”

    “And since humans were granted dominion over nature, the Fall also had cosmic consequences as nature began to bring forth “thorns and thistles,” becoming a source of toil, hardship, and suffering. In the words of theologian Edward Oakes, we are “born into a world where rebellion against God has already taken place and the drift of it sweeps us along.”

    “The problem with this answer is not that people find it unclear but that they find it unpalatable. It implicates each one of us in the twisted and broken state of creation.”

    “But if the source of disorder and suffering is not sin, then where do these problems come from? Enlightenment thinkers concluded that they must be the product of the environment: of ignorance, poverty, or other undesirable social conditions; and that all it takes to create an ideal society is to create a better environment: improve education, enhance economic conditions, and reengineer social structures. Given the right conditions, human perfectibility has no limits. And so was born the modern utopian impulse.”

    the “enlightened” worldview has proven to be utterly irrational and unlivable. The denial of our sinful nature, and the utopian myth it breeds, leads not to beneficial social experiments but to tyranny. The confidence that humans are perfectible provides a justification for trying to make them perfect…no matter what it takes. And with God out of the picture, those in power are not accountable to any higher authority. They can use any means necessary, no matter how brutal or coercive, to remold people to fit their notion of the perfect society.”

    “Nonbelievers must be made to see that they are in an intolerable dilemma. On one hand, we all implicitly hope to live in a society where divine authority is respected, where we don’t have to be afraid of being cheated, robbed, or murdered. Yet at the same time, many of us don’t want to submit to that divine authority ourselves; we don’t want to recognize an external, transcendent source of moral truth that restricts our own behavior. That would be a blow to human pride and self-centeredness, and a denial that choice is our ultimate right, that we are morally autonomous. What’s worse, it would mean that when we fail to live up to that transcendent truth, we are in the very uncomfortable position of having not only to admit guilt before the divine tribunal but also to accept the consequences. This is the price we pay for accepting the Christian answer. And yet the price for rejecting it is much higher. When morality is reduced to personal preferences and when no one can be held morally accountable, society quickly falls into disorder.”

    “Then, when social anarchy becomes widespread in any nation, its citizens become prime candidates for a totalitarian-style leader (or leader class) to step in and offer to fix everything. Sadly, by that time many people are so sick of the anarchy and chaos that they readily exchange their freedom for the restoration of social order—even under an iron fist. The Germans did exactly this in the 1930s when they welcomed Hitler; so did the Italians, eagerly following Mussolini, who promised to make the trains run on time.”

    “We must ask people to face the stark choice: either a worldview that maintains that we are inherently good or a worldview that acknowledges a transcendent standard and our accountability before a holy God for our sin. The first choice eventually leads to moral anarchy and opens the door to tyranny; the second choice makes possible an ordered and morally responsible society” (C. Colson).

    A way out:

    The Creator, Lawgiver and Judge—The Master of our fate and Captain of our soul—is also the Redeemer, “There is no God apart from me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none but me. “Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other.” (Isaiah 45:21-22).

  27. DRA says:

    I’m guessing this is an American site, so intellectually impoverished is poor old ‘Thinkpoint’. The ignorance and arrogance of people like him would be funny if his religion wasn’t so incidiously dangerous

    I’m outa here.

    • The tone of your response betrays the arrogance of thinking yourself superior. And the condescending view of Americans only validates the superficiality of your engagement. More troubling is your use of sarcastic ridicule in place of informed discussion. If this is your form of intellectual superiority, save your pity for yourself. Why do I continue to encounter people who would rather lower themselves to name calling than substantive debate? I think I might know why.

      • Scott taylor says:

        “The conclusion that humans are creatures uniquely made in the image of the benevolent and righteous God offers a better version of reality.”

        So your argument is that it’s true because you’d like it to be true? How sweet and naive. What a shame your sort of “logic” doesn’t actually work.

  28. To all who responded: I am interested in exposing the inconsistency of writers like Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens, etc… thundering at people with such high moral judgments while at the same time rejecting any basis for absolute morality. Again, as with many who have responded, it gives away the game.

    It looks like this: “We reject all notions of a God (but our deepest hostilities are reserved for Christian versions because it’s politically correct to do this). And we are SO ANGRY at the obvious growth and spread of religion on the globe (when our agenda to use actual biological evolution to spread philosophical naturalism (disguised as science) should have convinced these dimwits to get over their religious non-sense). So from our new Mount Sinai we will thunder forth our own commandments against religion.”

    Even the tone of their writings gives the game away! But their tone is based on their emotional outrage and anger. This leads them into a quagmire of illogical argumentation. This is the point I am making.

  29. Sean says:

    First of all i didn’t actually see any points of condradiction in this article. secondly, grouping atheists as a whole is oxymoronic. The point is that we think for ourselves so you can’t group all non-believers together. Morals come from our own knowledge. In my case i know that if i treat everyone else like shit im going to be treated like shit. It’s my want for a happy life and for others to live a happy life that gave me my morals, not the fact that i grew up in a strictly catholic house. The fact is that people are going to be good or evil based on their own self. statistics will show that it doesn’t matter if you are a theist or non-religious, the same people will end up in jail or committing an evil.

    When the bible was written it was written by humans who had morals just like all of us. When i ask christians today about all the killing, slavery, rape, incest, and hatred that God condones they either say its a metaphor or that our morals are changing because times are different. so you see humans do not need a book to understand good and evil, right or wrong.

    Also, next time you write an article about atheist contradictions or whatever topic you choose, be sure to actually give examples of the contradictions.

    • Sean,
      Thanks for responding. What I am saying is that when I read people like Dawkins, Harris and Hitchens, they carry a fundamentalistic tone of self-righteous superiority both in marshaling forth their versions of reality and morality and particularly in their arrogant and condescending belittling of religious viewpoints. I could give MANY examples but what I am talking about permeates their books to the point of becoming a new genre of atheistic literature. There have even been atheists who want to distant themselves from these writers because of their caustic and arrogant tones. When you are renouncing what you consider one form of dogma by using another form, you contradict yourself.

      Now as to the points you raise, God does not condone slavery (as we think of it in American history), rape, and incest. In some cases, God does command killing as a means of judgment and punishment for wrong doing (Genesis 9:6). God also allows corporate responsibility for generational evil. The world we live in is an evil and violent place. That the Bible speaks clearly of this reality is not a problem for me. That it provides hope beyond this reality is welcomed.

  30. Sean says:

    My point was that you cannot group atheists together. Atheism is simply the rejection of any of the biblical gods known to man. Thats not to say that there is no greater being, however if there is it doesn’t seem to want to make his presence known. And the argument for atheism is quite simple actually. I need nothing more than your own contradicting and primitive bible to proove that. What religion comes down to is fear of God and fear to question Gods existense. I lived my early life always wondering why certain things in the bible were the way they are, but wouldnt think much of it in fear that God was listening. In fact i went to a catholic school form pre-school to 10th grade. I grew up in Jerry Falwells back yard and have attended many of his sermons. It is my ability to come to rational conclusions for myself. I was born Christian as most christians are. I didnt get the choice of what to learn untill i was out of school. The fact is that primitive men who still believed the earth was flat and the sun revolved around the Earth needed answers to the unkown questions out there. It is time for people to question their own beliefs and seek their own truth, but untill you are willing to go outside the fairy tale like boundaries of the bible you will never see the truth.

    • I was tracking with you but you also seem to “dump” all Christians into a false mold. I read extensively beyond the boundaries of my beliefs and remain willing to explore any opposing view point. I feel a little knee-jerk reaction coming from your words. What do you mean by “fairy tale like boundaries of the bible”? And, more importantly, what do you mean by “you will never see the truth”? THE TRUTH?

  31. Sean says:

    When i said fairy tale i mean just that. No different than santa clause, zeus, or any other character who is understood to be fictional. I obviously can’t say there is no greater being who created the universe we know today as i can’t tell you with certain scientific facts how it began. However, when reading through the bible, and i have read the entire bible, we can see stories with striking resemblance to older religions or mythologies that today are considered nothing more than a story or fairy tale. read about the egyption god horus for example. the similarity between him and jesus are astounding and quite eye opening, especially when we realize he was born 3000 years before jesus. The bible has so many connections to egyption paganism that it is hard to continue believing once learning such facts. I don’t mean to be hurtfull or mean in any of the statements i make, as i also used to be able to answer everyones questions about God. It was only once i questioned God that i began to realize that he is nothing more than a story. We live in an age where we are allowed to think for ourselves and that is exactly what we need to do. The answers are all out there, but with the boundaries of God we no longer ask the most interesting and important questions because we believe God has all the answers. Its very hard to give up the concept of God because people dont want to believe that we may not actually have a purpose. For some reason the chance to live isn’t enough and the thought of death with no afterlife can be sad and terrifying. However once people are truly thankfull just to be alive and that life is enough, then they will see that we don’t need guidance from a higher being to be happy.

  32. It is an indisputable fact of history that there existed in the first century a man identified as Jesus of Nazareth. We possess detailed accounts of his birth, his life, his contemporaries, and his death. We know when he lived: 5/6 BC through 30/32 BC. We know where he was born: the town of Bethlehem.

    We know where he spent most of his life: in Nazareth of Galilee. We know about many historical figures of the same period of human history. We know of more details surrounding the death of Jesus Christ than any other person in the ancient world. We know of the events leading up to his death: his betrayal, arrest, religious and civil trial. We know what was said to him by the leaders of Israel and Rome, by the crowd – by those who were crucified with him. We know what he said to these people as well as what he said to his followers. We even know the name of an obscure person who carried his cross, and the names of those who assisted in his burial.

    It is undeniably clear that the crucifixion of Christ was the most famous death in history. Scholars debate its significance but they cannot debate that it happened. Yet did this same Jesus who was crucified by Rome rise from the dead?

    The same New Testament that records his death documents his resurrection. It also assures those who believe in him that because he broke the power of death, they will break its power one day. It records Jesus saying, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies.” (John 11:25). Yet, is the resurrection a reliable fact of history?

    The answer to this question largely depends on the historical reliability of the New Testament. Again, scholars do not debate that the gospels document Jesus’ resurrection. But they differ on the meaning and reliability of the record. Is it possible to trust the historical accuracy of the gospel accounts? Among possible answers, two extremes emerge.

    Some simply say, “Of course the New Testament is reliable—it’s inspired of God.” At the other end, radical critics, because of their anti-supernatural bias, dismiss the historical integrity of the gospels. Those who take the first extreme are accused of circular reasoning because they only affirm what is already taught in Scripture. The radical critics are accused of inconsistent application of the standard methods of historical enquiry. They “bow to the pressure of consensus, reiterating what is most academically respectable without ever seriously grappling with unfashionable alternatives” (Craig Blomberg). Between the extremes, a reasonable case can be made for the historical reliability of the New Testament. If the rules that guide standard historical scrutiny are applied to the New Testament, a solid case can be made for its trustworthiness.

    When evaluating the integrity of documents, historians look for internal and external evidence. This would include the following seven considerations:

    1. Eyewitness perspective- Does the author claim to be an eyewitness or that he uses eyewitness sources?

    2. Self-damaging material- Are the heroes of the account only presented in a positive light? When the gospels recorded a woman as the first witness of the resurrection, they risked rejection of the account. In the culture of that time, a woman’s testimony was not considered credible. Why would they risk a potentially damaging detail like this if the account was an intentional fabrication?

    3. Specific and irrelevant material- Authentic documents, unlike fabricated ones, tend to include details that are not necessary to the main story. Falsified accounts tend to generalize.

    4. Reasonable consistency and differences- Are the four gospel accounts consistent on the major points? Minor differences are expected in authentic accounts. If the four gospels were later products of the early church, a greater effort would have been made to iron out all differences.

    5. Features of mythology- C.S. Lewis once said, “…as a literary historian, I am perfectly convinced that whatever else the gospels are, they are not legends. I have read a great deal of legend, and I am quite clear that they are not the same sort of things” (God in the Dock).

    6. Confirmation- Do contemporary documents or archeological finds substantiate or falsify the material?

    7. Character and motivation- Is there anything about the character or motivation of the author that would indicate that he fabricated the material? Would the author’s gain something from their story?

    “The idea of a crucified god really did not make sense in the first century. It’s not a message you make up if you’re going to start a religion in the first century A.D.” (Ben Witherington). We also know that the early disciples suffered great persecution for their message.

    Consistent application of the rules yields a firm case for the reliability of the New Testament documents. The good news is that we have reliable evidence for belief in the resurrection of Jesus. This means we have a strong basis for expecting that those who turn to Jesus for salvation will also be raised from the dead. Jesus said, “I was dead, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I hold the keys that unlock the prison of death and the grave” (Revelation 1:18). Those who trust in him have reliable evidence for believing that they will be freed from the power of death.

    Steve Cornell

  33. The original post by Steve Cornell, “Wisdom for life”,
 is full of what appear to be wilful misinterpretations of the published works of prominent atheists and the beliefs of atheists in general. Statement after statement. Preaching to the silence.

    I would love to see a live debate between Steve Cornell and Dawkins, Harris or Hitchens. How about it?

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