6 difficulties atheists encounter.

Atheists often like to give the impression that they hold the rights to reason and rational dialogue because they reject the existence of God. Don’t be fooled by them. Atheism is an irrational conclusion on many levels.

1. The atheist must suppress the demands of logic:

He is like the man who finds an encyclopedia lying in the woods and refuses to believe it is the product of intelligent design. Everything about the book suggests intelligent cause. But, if he accepted such a possibility, he might be forced to conclude that living creatures composed of millions of DNA-controlled cells (each cell containing the amount of information in an encyclopedia) have an intelligent cause. His bias against God will not allow him to accept this.

2. The atheist has to believe in miracles without believing in God:

Why? Well, one law that nature seems to obey is this: whatever begins to exist is caused to exist. The atheist knows that the universe began to exist and since the universe is, according to the atheist, all there is, the very existence of the universe seems to be a colossal violation of the laws of nature (i.e., a miracle). It’s hard to believe in miracles without God. (Note: As for the question: “Who created God?” It would be like asking, “What does blue smell like?” The categorical cross over is irrational).

3. The atheist must suppress claims of morality:

How do we move from the “is” of the natural world to the “ought” of ethics? Naturalism doesn’t inspire confidence that we really have duties and that we ought to be virtuous.

The atheist is not logically able to promote any quality as morally superior to another. To make such claims would require an absolute standard of goodness and duty. The atheist can offer his preferences, but he has no basis for claims of moral superiority for them. The moment an atheist proclaims peace as better than war, or love better than hate, he must answer the “Says Whom?” question. If morality is not established by a transcendent source of authority to whom all people must answer, it cannot be more than alternative choices of personal preference. The atheist is stuck believing that morality has no real claim on you or anyone else.

4. The atheist must conclude that evil is an illusion:

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, 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. How hard it would be to think of murderers as merely having bad manners.

5. The atheist must deny validity to historical evidence:

If he accepted the standard rules for testing the truth claims of historical documents, he would be forced to accept the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. The account of Jesus’ resurrection is strongly validated by standard rules for judging historical accuracy. The extensive manuscript evidence of eyewitnesses to the resurrection is presented in an unbiased, authentic manner. It is the atheist’s anti-supernatural bias that keeps him from allowing history to prove anything.

6. The atheist must admit that human beings are not importantly different from other animals:

According to the atheist, we are simply the result of blind chance operating on the primordial ooze, and differing from animals by only a few genes. Yet, the wonders of human achievement and the moral dignity we ascribe to human beings just do not fit with the claim that we are no different than the animals. The realities of human creativity, love, reason, and moral value seem to indicate that humans are creatures uniquely made in the image of God.

Conclusion:

The atheist’s problem with belief in God is not an absence of evidence but suppression of it. Many atheists hold their views as much or more on the basis of such wish fulfillment than on the basis of any reasoning or evidence. See: I hope there is no God

“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools” (Romans 1:20-22).

Steve Cornell

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28 Responses to 6 difficulties atheists encounter.

  1. Joe Brooks says:

    I have a theory about a key aspect of the dogma of atheists and liberal
    Christians that link the two groups in their relationship with God. These
    two groups, in my opinion, approach the question of God in reverse.

    Nonbelievers and liberal or “progressive” Christians tend to base their
    entire belief system around an issue, or a feeling, about something that
    they actual value more than they value the existence of God and/or His
    nature. So often these two types of people and their attitude towards God
    overlap with some variant of the following declaration: I can’t believe in
    a God who won’t let me (or someone I know) do X! With “x” being a
    preconceived judgment of right and wrong based on beliefs that the
    individual brings to the table before they even take up the issue of God.

    So, if a person has a heartfelt conviction that , for example,
    homosexuality is okay, then the statement becomes something like: I
    can’t/won’t believe in a God who won’t let me, or someone I know, express
    my love how I want and with whom I want! Similarly, a liberal Christian
    with liberal views of homosexuality will either simply disregard the
    scriptural condemnation or will beat and strangle the text until it says
    whatever they want it to say.

    The fallacy with the atheist’s position is something of a straw man.
    True enough, God is a god of love, but real love, not the man-made,
    pseudo-love that they have created in order to justify any human behavior
    that they may decide its okay to indulge in. Essentially, the atheist’s
    position is to say, “I want what I want and if God says otherwise, I will
    usurp his throne and exile Him”.

    The liberal Christian takes the tact of accepting God in a piecemeal
    fashion and taking it upon himself to improve upon God’s work as he sees
    fit. He tells God that he will accept Him in areas of agreement and
    disregard Him in any areas of conflict. It is God who must change, not the
    believer. As such, the liberal Christian deems himself worthy to co-manage
    the universe with God.

    But, ultimately, these two groups have one thing in common; they
    start with themselves and create the universe from their own ideas of right
    and wrong. Then, and only then, do they squeeze God into whatever room is
    left.

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  3. Anthony says:

    Good post. Thanks for that. I am so glad I am not an atheist. They have so little hope. Without hope in God knowing that after this life there is something better what is there to live for? Nothing but self pleasure that doesnt bring real joy. I am so glad I am able to serve God in my home church. I have something to look forward to. I have a reason to go through each day. Revelation 4:11 (KJV)
    Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.

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  6. Keith says:

    1) This is just the teleological argument (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Teleological_argument), it’s been around forever (with its most recent incarnation as part of Intelligent design), there are a variety of refutations.

    2) This is just the cosmological argument (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cosmological_argument), it’s been around forever, there are a variety of refutations. Saying god doesn’t need a cause is simply “special pleading” — there is no logical reason that god should be exempt from the initial statement that “whatever exists has a cause”.

    3) This is just “you can’t be good without god”, and people are good without god all the time: countries like Sweden or Denmark are less religious than the US with less crime, and the US prison population is more religious than the general population, not less.
    Note that believers demonstrably have their own morality apart from god. US Christians are unlikely to stone their children for advocating a different religion as commanded by god in Deuteronomy 13. That tells us that believers use their own moral codes to decide which commandments of god they will follow, and which they’ll ignore. A detailed discussion can be found at http://richarddawkins.net/articles/642408-as-atheists-know-you-can-be-good-without-god.

    • To say, “This is just…” is not serious engagement. It comes off as an avoidance of specific counter points with a condescending (just) and a generalized reference to “a variety of refutations.” This is simply not sufficient for those in pursuit of reasonable dialogue. Now (under your 2nd point) you offer a specific in suggesting that. “there is no logical reason that god should be exempt from the initial statement that “whatever exists has a cause.” Asking “Who created God?” appears to be the “gotcha” that causes the “whatever exists has a cause” argument to tumble. Since something cannot come from nothing (the line goes), if God is a something, He must have a cause. And if God was caused or created, he does not meet the logically necessary qualifications to be God. This line of reasoning would imply that there cannot be a God who is the designer of all things because a similar accounting would have to be made for his existence. This is a somewhat widely held logical mistake that sounds terribly rational until one realizes that it violates a principle of categorical crossover. It would not be too much different from me asking what blue smells like. See here for further explanation: https://thinkpoint.wordpress.com/2010/10/28/who-created-god/

      As to the third point, you encounter immediate logical issues when you say, “people are good without god all the time.” Says whom? On the basis of what? These are worthy questions for anyone who raises moral standards others must follow (something that happens wherever laws and policies are formed for the governed. As to the Old Testament examples, why do you think Christians today are obligated to OT rule? The NT makes it clear that they are not unless such mandate is repeated in the NT. If you want to ask why such commands were ever given to anyone, that is a different question worthy of response. And I must admit that it intrigues me to see how often atheists offer Sweden or Denmark as examples of morality. How much do you really know about these places?

  7. Keith says:

    4) I don’t see any difference between this and (3), same answer.

    5) The resurrection of Jesus is highly suspect, and the fact that many early Christian sects rejected the whole notion of a physical resurrection should give any Christian pause: if those closest to the event didn’t believe in a physical resurrection, why should we? Additionally, the claims of Jesus’ resurrection are invariably based on the Bible, which is undeniably riddled with errors and inconsistencies, was written in many times at many places, and then subsequently edited for several hundred years. Finally, note that we don’t have hundreds of eyewitnesses to the event: we have one report claiming there were hundreds of eyewitnesses. I could write down that a thousand people saw me transform into a unicorn, but would you believe that?

    6) Admitting human beings are evolved from animals, and largely the same as other animals, causes me no problem at all, as an atheist. Are we “importantly different” from other animals? Depends on what you mean by “important”. We have an amazing chunk of brain, called the prefrontal cortex, that most animals lack, and it allows us to evaluate “evidence”. And, there is no evidence at all (none, nada, zip), that there was anything supernatural involved in our evolution. To argue that the existence of creativity, love, reason and moral values implies a creator is just wishful thinking.

  8. Keith says:

    1) I intended no condescension. The reason I say “this is just…” is because they aren’t interesting arguments. There’s no reason to engage in them, they’re the christian equivalent of an atheist saying “Why can’t god build a rock he can’t lift? Got you!”). If you can add more information or knowledge, or a new point-of-view, to either argument, well, I’m fascinated, but you’re coming pretty late to that particular party.

    2) Your statement that god isn’t in the category of things that are created or caused is sufficient to avoid the “first mover” requirement for an infinite regress of gods creating gods (it’s the same “out” that Aristotle used, it’s not new), but it relies on my agreement there is a god and that god is eternal. You have no evidence this is the case, you’ve simply defined “god” as “infinite and eternal” to avoid a problem. In other words, the response you’re really making to the question “Why doesn’t god need a creator?” is “I am defining god as something that needs no creator.”

    3) People are good without god: I thought this was reasonably uncontentious, I should have been more detailed. Zuckerman’s “Society without God: What the Least Religious Nations Can Tell Us About Contentment” is probably the best full-length reference, but there are numerous studies and social indices available on the web that support this hypothesis. In short, there are countries with high rates of atheism that have higher rates of happiness, ethics and social function than the US. It’s clear, as clarity in these things go, that atheism does not reduce societal ethics or happiness. If you want something more anecdotal, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, Christians make up 80% of the American population and 80% of the prison population; atheists make up 8% of the American population, and only 0.2% of the prison population. You Christians are some bad, bad people.

    4) Christians are obligated to OT rule:

    Matthew 5:17
    Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. 19 Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

    Luke 16:17
    It is easier for heaven and earth to disappear than for the least stroke of a pen to drop out of the Law.

    2 Timothy 3:16
    All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God[a] may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

    To my specific comment with respect to Deuteronomy, Jesus was equally specific in Matthew 15:4-7: For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother’ and ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.’ 5 But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is ‘devoted to God,’ 6 they are not to ‘honor their father or mother’ with it. Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition.

    Or, even simpler, John 14:15: “If you love me, keep my commandments.”

    When atheists point this out, the usual response is “That’s NOT what they meant, they meant something entirely different.” And that response would carry weight if any two people could actually agree on what the bible says. It is easily arguable Christians are bound to OT law (no shellfish for you!), and further, that some of the most influential thinkers of your religion believed and acted on that fact.

    • Once again, you’re simply manuevering around the points by claiming they’re boring or old, and long ago debunked. I am not interested in adding more until I see substantive responses to what is presented. My response regarding the God needing a cause was simply based on you raising it. In this way, you assumed God and I responded. If you want to back it up and say there is no God, I think you realize that you must make the case for the claim, not me. The notion that the “evidence” is with the atheist position is silly without a well-reasoned case against God. You certainly won’t find anything close to that in the writings of men like Dawkins, Harris and other popular level atheists of the militant stripe. David B. Hart has more than adequately proven this much.

      As for Zuckerman’s book “Society without God” I assume you read it but doubt you’re aware of all the problems with the bias nature of his research. For a short accessible piece, see: http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2009/february/13.57.html

      In arguing a “better without God” case, perhaps you also realize that far more violence has been perpetrated on the world in the 20th century from atheistic, secular regimes than any religious inspired violence. Even today, the intolerance and bigotry that flows from the political left (who hate evangelical Christians while claiming tolerance as their virtue) is reaching new levels as the months go by. And the sheer hypocrisy reached an all time high when they screamed about Rush L. statements without harshly judging their own camp or many equally horrific slurs against women. All to say, that claims to morality are silly from either camp. The TRUE christian claim is that we are all sinners in need of grace from a merciful creator. Accepting this truth does not make one more righteous than others but forgiven. But wait, why are we even having a discussion about “right and wrong”? What could we possibly mean by such categories? How do we determine them?

      To be honest, you seem bright enough to discern the inadequacy of your anecdotal narrative about prison. I am not sure you even know what an authentic claim to be Christian should look like. As to the OT, I am a little surprised that you would quote scripture at me and then posture so that your use of scripture could not be deemed wrong. And the old “there are just too many interpretations” isn’t arguing anything at all.

  9. Keith says:

    (1) Making a case for “no god” is pretty straight-forward: there’s no evidence god exists. And by “evidence” I mean “evidence”, not argument from authority, not personal experience, “evidence”, you know that stuff we all demand for everything else in our lives that isn’t god.

    And no, I do not realize the burden of proof is on the atheist; the burden of proof is always on the one making a claim: you make a huge (huge!) claim that god not only exists, but he loves you and talks to you. For me to distinguish this claim from belief in Zeus or aliens, I need evidence. It makes no sense to claim atheists must prove god doesn’t exist. Imagine the following conversation:

    “I have superpowers!”
    “No you don’t! Prove it!”
    “No, no, you have to prove I don’t have superpowers!”

    Makes no sense. You want to make incredible claims, I am ready to believe you. If you can prove them.

    (2) Thank you for the Zuckerman reference, I had not seen that. Bias is not mentioned in that article, though, did you have another reference in mind?

    The author seems most concerned that Scandinavians don’t feel the need for religion. The interesting phrases are “He confuses a contented life with a good life”, and “If people are content but no longer care about transcendent meaning and purpose or life beyond death, that’s not a sign of greatness but tragic forgetfulness.” Obviously, I’d disagree.

    (3) I shouldn’t have said “better without god”, that’s not what I meant. A better phrasing would perhaps have been “largely the same without god”. Believing in god does not necessarily lead to good actions, just as not believing in god does not necessarily lead to good actions. There are bad atheists, and bad religious people. Religion obviously acts as a moral compass for some people (in which case there’s an argument from utility to make), but the lack of religion does not necessarily lead to societal breakdown.

    (4) Are you seriously playing the “persecuted minority” card? It must be awful to live in a country where only 80% of the people claim your religion. Maybe someday an avowed Christian might even be able to run for public office and be elected president. Or… dare we think it… it might happen for 250 years in a row. Maybe Christian holidays could become national holidays! Maybe Christian prayers could be read in schools! Maybe Christians would legally be allowed to hold public office! Maybe Christian myths could be chiseled into stone in front of our governmental offices! (Nah, that would never happen. 🙂

    (5) My point was it’s impossible to deem any use of scripture “wrong”.

    Anything can be found in the Bible if you look for it: pro-slavery, anti-slavery, pro-feminism, anti-feminism, pro-anything, anti-anything.

    Did you know that abortion wasn’t “wrong” in this country until fairly recently? Protestant women were getting abortions for 200 years, and it wasn’t a big deal. Around 1968, the bible completely changed its view on whether or not abortion is wrong. (http://www.patheos.com/blogs/slacktivist/2012/02/18/the-biblical-view-thats-younger-than-the-happy-meal/)

    Are you saying the “too many interpretations” argument is boring, or old, or long ago debunked? If so, I’m going to have to claim that you’re simply maneuvering around the point.

    There are too many interpretations, Steve, and they don’t differ in minor ways, they differ in huge, substantial truth claims. Sam Harris covered this ground as well as anyone:

    “It was even possible for the most venerated patriarchs of the Church, like St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas, to conclude that heretics should be tortured (Augustine) or killed (Aquinas). Martin Luther and John Calvin advocated the wholesale murder of heretics, apostates, Jews, and witches. You are, of course, free to interpret the Bible differently—though isn’t it amazing that you have succeeded in discerning the true teachings of Christianity, while the most influential thinkers in the history of your faith failed?”

  10. There is no intelligent designer behind the complexities of the human body. I realize that we would never think that way about anything else. Art, technology, architecture, but the rationality of intelligent design ends with human designers. The burden of proof clearly rests on the one who makes such an irrational denial. It’s not enough to say an intelligent designer doesn’t exist.

    After handling this one, you’ll need to address the problem of evil and the problem of goodness. These are plainly difficult for one’s who deny the possibility of objective claims to evil and good. You just can’t go around making truth claims about good and evil unless you’re prepared to show why others must be held to your claims over other claims. But to claim superiority is exceptionally irrational.

    Sometimes I am asked why I believe in Christianity and follow the Bible. Although I am well-aware of arguments against both, I cannot find an alternative worldview that corresponds with reality as comprehensively as Christianity.

    This doesn’t mean I find everything easy to understand and explain. Life is complicated (painfully so, at times) and parts of the Bible are difficult to comprehend. Some passages are written in cryptic prose; other parts are hard to absorb emotionally. Some of what is written is just beyond the reach of finite minds. But none of this necessarily calls into question the truthfulness of a text.

    I am comfortable acknowledging truths that are beyond my intellectual reach as long as they do not contradict what I know to be true. This is not an excuse for anything but a necessary admission people must make no matter their worldview.

    But I feel compelled to ask, “What way of seeing things corresponds most with reality and does not contradict what I clearly know to be true?” Or, asked differently, “What seems most plausible in light of what we see and know about humanity, the observable world and its history?

    I believe a Christian worldview offers the most logically consistent and plausibly realistic understanding of life and the world. It simply does the best job explaining the world we encounter each day. And it offers the best explanatory frame for the most extensive range of evidence in the world and in the human spirit.

    It speaks in deeply satisfying ways to shared human intuitions about meaningful and hopeful existence. It also specifically addresses universal human needs regarding matters like forgiveness and peace.

    I realize that some people struggle with the Bible because of the strange things they find in it. But while there are some strange parts, it overwhelmingly corresponds with the reality of the world. The first chapter begins in a way that fits well with reality as we read of a Creator who is said to be responsible for all the things that we see around us. Since something cannot come from nothing, it makes sense that an intelligent Creator is behind everything.

  11. Keith says:

    Steve, we need to merge our conversational threads!

    There is abundant evidence, at least with respect to the natural world, that no intelligent designer was needed. (And to be clear, nobody yet knows how life started. I anticipate we’ll eventually figure it out, and once again, no intelligent designer will be required, but I don’t believe that’s settled fact yet. Regardless, once life started, we understand the naturalistic processes in sufficient detail to confidently assert no intelligent designer is required to explain the biological processes of our world.)

    There’s nothing irrational about denying intelligent design, and the science on it is settled. If I had to pick a “proof”, I’d say that I don’t believe in ID because of the sheer, epic, awfulness of the design. Eyes that don’t see, whales with legs, humans with tails, the human DNA that’s “junk DNA”, just along for the ride. Over and over in nature, we see exactly what we’d expect to see as a result of random mutations over millions of years. If god designed this mess, he’s a terrible designer.

    An explanation for the problems of evil and goodness in the world is also my argument. With evolution and random mutation of our brains, just like our physical bodies, the current dysfunction is exactly what we should expect: our brains work no better than our bodies. As someone once said: “The human brain evolved to catch medium-to-slow moving animals on the savannah, which makes it obvious why the ethics of abortion, slavery and genocide proved challenging.”

    Why should this explanation be supported over other claims? Because it’s the simplest explanation matching the evidence. This hypothesis explains the facts of the natural world fairly well, although there are many things it doesn’t explain about the world. That’s where our explanations are either incomplete or wrong. But… adding god, or unicorns, to the explanation doesn’t make our ability to explain the world any better, which is why we don’t add them.

    The problem that I have with your worldview is that it’s not self-correcting. Your worldview has no way to improve or clarify over time. You “clearly” know some things to be true, and those things are not subject to correction. The reason science works so well is simple: we found a way to reliably separate the good ideas from the bad ideas. Religion has never managed to do that, and in religion there’s no way to definitively say “this is a good idea”, or “this is a bad idea”, and it’s settled. Sure, bad ideas we thought settled surface every now and again in science, but it’s relatively easy to go back and say “this is a bad idea, and we can prove it” (or maybe we find out we made a mistake and it’s a good idea after all). Science doesn’t spend energy arguing if the earth is flat, we’ve settled that argument, and it’s a “bad” idea.

    Religion doesn’t have that. You are having the exact same arguments you were having 5,000 years ago. I submit to you that if you can’t solve a problem once and for all after 5,000 years of arguing, you should give up — you either don’t have the right tools or the problem as stated cannot be solved.

    When you say the bible corresponds to the reality of the world, what you’re really saying is “my interpretation of the bible corresponds to my worldview”, which isn’t especially shocking. Of course your interpretation of the bible corresponds to your worldview, the surprise would be if it didn’t.

    As we don’t all share the same worldview, we don’t share the same biblical interpretations, and that’s where we get into trouble. I could sit with you tomorrow and say “slavery is a good idea, and here are all the OT verses that support slavery”. You can’t say I’m “wrong”, all you can say is that my scriptural exegesis and spiritual intuitions don’t match yours. Your belief that “good” is defined by god gets you into trouble, because nobody can say definitively what god’s position is on anything at all.

    That’s why religion is in exactly the same state it was 5,000 years ago, with thousands of sects squabbling over which sacred texts are “right”. You and I can agree the great thinkers of your religion have advocated horrendous crimes and the genocide of entire peoples. In other words, their interpretations matched their worldview, just like yours does. If the smartest people in the history of your religion can’t get biblical interpretation right, what chance do you and I have?

  12. Keith says:

    Ran across something today that’s tangential, but related: as of 2009, North Carolina, Arkansas, Maryland, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas don’t allow atheists to hold public office. And Christians say we’re intolerant of their views.

  13. Keith says:

    Thank you for the reference — I’m about a third through, and I wanted to follow up with a question. Where is the value of Hart’s book relative to our discussion?

    Hart’s book is interesting and a good read, but if he’s making any argument that Christianity is true, it’s an argument from utility (belief in Jesus/Christianity leads to good outcomes, so we should believe, regardless of its truth or falsity). Hart is clear he’s not arguing the Christian faith is true; early on he says “In a larger sense, moreover, nothing I argue below — even if all of it is granted — implies that the Christian vision of reality is true.”

    My difficulty with Christianity is there is no evidence any of it is true, and Hart isn’t helping me with that.

  14. Keith says:

    Something Hart says in “Atheists Delusion” bugged me enough that I went back and found it.

    He says “If the analogy fails in any respect, it is only that Christianity expressly forbids the various evils that have been done by Christians …”.

    I honestly can’t figure out how to read that other than as entirely ignorant of history, and Hart is the exact opposite of that. Is Hart actually saying that Christianity explicitly forbids witch-burning, and somehow Christianity’s leaders just missed it somehow?

  15. Greg says:

    It appears so, although I haven’t read Hart’s book. For those in power in medieval times, Christianity was often seen as a moral/spiritual measuring stick against which those accused of witchcraft simply didn’t measure up, and were therefore killed. There is no denying that, just the same as I cannot deny the atrocities done in such events as the Crusades in the name of Christ.

    Please understand here that their actions are contrary to Jesus’ teachings, and thus are themselves as evil as the alleged witchcraft they were trying to stamp out. Lennox, Craig and others all make the same point: there is great modern shame of the terrible actions done by those in the past in the name of Christ.

    So, to answer your point: “somehow Christianity’s leaders just missed it somehow?” Yes, apparently, they did. Yet that does not change Christ’s explicit instructions to use no violence. The crimes committed by those in His name do not diminish the law they were breaking.

    • Keith says:

      Christ’s instructions to use no violence are at the least inconsistent. Matthew 10:34 (“I did not come to bring peace but a sword”), or John 15:6 (“If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned”), are obvious examples, not to mention Christ using violence himself, in the temple story of Matthew 21.

      If Christ had followed John 15:6 with “By the way, that’s just an analogy, you’re not supposed to actually burn anybody”, you’d have an argument. But “explicit” means “leaving no room for confusion or doubt”, and Christ’s words don’t even come close to meeting that requirement.

      • Aaron Sullivan says:

        Christ said YOU are to use no violence. Doesn’t mean that the Judging God can not use violence. To a much lesser degree; I can tell my son he is to young to drink beer but that doesn’t mean I can’t. But similar to my son, you put yourself at the same level as God.

      • Keith says:

        Aaron, 1 John 2:6 says “He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.”

        See? Inconsistent.

  16. Keith says:

    You say “contrary to Jesus’ teachings”, and note Christ’s explicit commands against violence.

    The problem is Jesus’ wasn’t consistent. Note: Matthew 10:34 “Do not think I that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword”; Matthew 12:32 “… whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come”; John 15:6 “If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.”

    Sam Harris said it well in The End of Faith: “Whether we want to interpret Jesus metaphorically is, of course, our business. The problem with scripture, however, is that many of its possible interpretations (including most of the literal ones) can be used to justify atrocities in the defense of the faith.

    And here’s what I find most significant in this: the Christian view is the bible is god speaking on the record, knowing these statements are going to be used by his followers to justify murder and torture on a huge scale. Knowing all that, he didn’t insert a parenthetical “When I said sword, I was speaking metaphorically. You shouldn’t actually kill anyone.”

    How do you understand the fact that an all-knowing, loving god, writing down instructions to his followers for the next few thousand years, didn’t leave us with clarity on the whole witch-burning thing?

    • Aaron Sullivan says:

      after reading your replies I’m left with unanswered questions. In regards to right or wrong, you still haven’t answered “according to whom?”. In regards to creation not being “correct” and therefor could not be created by a perfect God… Compared to what? Do you have a more perfect balanced universe to speak of? In regards to “life” being created of itself or by a creator; why have scientists not been able to create life from what life has seemingly already given all the tools to accomplish? If “life” can start in some cesspool with all the laws of entropy baring down on it and the cesspool seems to be able to counter the laws of thermodynamics over and over again…. why can’t scientist even bring life to the same elements in a controlled environment to this day… just once? Give life! Breath it into something that has none… please…

      Of all my atheist friends we have but one thing in common. We wish to be God of our own world. We want to be the authority of what is right and what is wrong. But humbly I have to agree with Father Cavanaugh in “Rudy”. … “there is a God and i’m not Him” and having accepted that observation I can’t help but seek Him and His ways out as being both better than me and mine. Rather than trying to find where man has gone wrong in doing this throughout the ages, try doing it right on your own and not disparage those who wish to do the same.

      • Great line: “there is a God and i’m not Him”

      • Keith says:

        > “In regards to right or wrong, you still haven’t answered “according to whom?””

        According to myself, of course… like everyone else.

        This is a common point theists raise, that outside god there can be no absolute morality. And they’re absolutely correct: without god there is no absolute morality.

        The obvious rebuttal is that we’re all in the same situation. A few supporting facts:

        (1) The Bible is a fairly recent document. There are systems of law preceding Christianity by millenia. (“Give food to eat, beer to drink, grant what is requested, provide for and treat with honor. […] Do not speak ill, speak only good.”, Babylonia, 220BCE.) If murder was “wrong” long before Moses came down from the mountain, what evidence is there that god is the author of any morality?

        (2) Animals exhibit moral behaviors such as empathy, cooperation, fairness and reciprocity — while those behaviors are limited, they offer clear evidence that no god endowed humans uniquely, or, at least, if he did, he endowed some animals with remarkably similar behaviors.

        (3) The Bible is far from a guide to moral behavior. It’s trivial to list (from either the Old or New Testaments), precepts offensive to any ethical modern. From slavery to genocide, the Bible gets it wrong, and usually gets it wrong on direct command from the highest authority.

        (4) Finally, if the Bible were a reasonable guide to moral behavior, the Christian religion would not be so obviously responsive to culture. Consider the Southern Baptist Convention was formed in 1845 over the issue of slavery; most evangelical leaders were pro-choice until at least mid-1970’s; the historic leaders of the Christian faith wholly supported witch-burning and genocide. If god is the author of absolute morality, as advertised, why is Christian morality so obviously politically and culturally defined? Historically, Christians are as moral as the culture in which they appear, which makes any claim of access to “absolute morality” laughable.

        > “Do you have a more perfect balanced universe to speak of?

        No, I don’t. Why is the fact there is no better universe of which we’re aware relevant to the point?

        > In regards to “life” being created of itself or by a creator; why have scientists not been able to create life from what life has seemingly already given all the tools to accomplish?

        This is just pure appeal to “god of the gaps”.

        Neil deGrasse Tyson covered this as well as anybody:
        Does it mean, if you don’t understand something, and the community of physicists don’t understand it, that means God did it? Is that how you want to play this game? Because if it is, here’s a list of things in the past that the physicists at the time didn’t understand. If that’s how you want to invoke your evidence for God, then God is an ever-receding pocket of scientific ignorance that’s getting smaller and smaller and smaller as time moves on – so just be ready for that to happen, if that’s how you want to come at the problem.

      • Keith says:

        > Rather than trying to find where man has gone wrong in doing this throughout the ages, try doing it right on your own and not disparage those who wish to do the same.

        I understand your point, and it deserves an answer. I’ve heard it lot, usually phrased as “Why are you atheists so angry!?”, or “Why do you care what other people believe?”

        If you want to understand why we’re angry, why we care what you believe, there’s a video by Greta Christina entitled “Why Are You Atheists So Angry” that offers a far better and lengthier answer than I can provide.

        But speaking for myself, I’m angry, and I care, because theists act on their beliefs in ways that harm me, harm people I care about, and harm society as a whole. When your beliefs prevent stem-cell medical research (two cells are a human being), cause people to die from AIDs (condoms are against God’s will), cause you to deny evolution and global-warming (creation took 7 literal days, 6,000 years ago), cause women to die during childbirth (no abortion, even for an ectopic pregnancy), and deny the rights of other human beings (women must be subservient to men, homosexuals are contrary to God’s plan), then I have to care about what you believe.

      • Aaron Sullivan says:

        To the contrary the Torah and other books like Job predate Babylonia and the fact that Moses received written rules that may have been understood as right and wrong prior to himself receiving them as written commandments it does not negate the authority to claim them it simply means they were finally claimed.

        As for slavery and genocide. I could certainly make the argument that we are all slaves to one degree or another. The Bible is addressing eternity and making a judgment as to your purpose in eternity based on a measured time. First the qualifications for eternity were the law in the old testament and then replaced by faith in the only person to achieve fulfillment of that law in the new testament.
        I can make the same argument as to why the Bible is on the right side of genocide. Natural selection (with out God) would certainly argue differently. Genocide to a believer of an authoritative power would at the least have something to make a plea to for justice where as an atheist would celebrate natural selection as … well survival of the fittest.

        And if we’re are going to talk about “god of the gaps”… I’d be happy to discuss String theory or Higgs boson. My point is.. you make the same mistake that all prideful arrogant people make… you think you can do better than God. There is a joke I heard once. A man shakes his fist at the Heavens and yells out “you got it all wrong” and God simply states… well if you can do better go right ahead. As to which the man stoops down and begins to mold a pile of dirt into a ball and God says in retort. “Hey buddy get your own dirt”.

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