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Thursday, October 30, 2008

I Am Identifying As Agnostic?

Agnostic: The Atheists' Four-Letter Word
At the Texas Freethought Convention, Terry McDonald (chairman of DFW Metroplex Atheists) took a polling of people in the room on labels for their beliefs, first if they identified by it and then if they did not identify by it:
  • Agnostic
  • Freethinker
  • Atheist
  • Bright
  • Humanist
The only two labels which had votes against it were agnostic and bright. I found it particularly interesting that agnostic was voted against, given that most atheists I've ever met are agnostics. Agnostic has gotten a bad wrap in atheist circles, I have observed. The only thing worse than calling yourself religious to an atheist is to call yourself an agnostic.

A better label
He concluded the survey by asking if anyone identified by something else. The representative from CFI raised his hand and responded "skeptic." No one had any problems with that. People seemed to approve of it. It definitely didn't get the dirty reactions that agnostic did.

This reinforced something I have been thinking for a while now. Should I call myself an atheist over agnostic? Perhaps I should represent myself as agnostic instead of atheist. Perhaps all of us should.

A meaningless label
What does being an atheist entail? Nothing, except that you don't believe any gods exist. Does it tell you why you don't believe? Does it tell you how you approach the question? Does it tell you anything?

If you label yourself as a skeptic, though, what does that tell you? It tells you why you don't believe. It tells you how you approach the issue. It's a very good label. As such, I would use it as my view on religion.

A broader application
However, skepticism doesn't really apply to your view on the existence of gods beyond religion. I disbelieve religions because they fail with every application of skeptical inquiry. Skeptical inquiry is just the method by which we assess claims through critical thought.

The essence of agnosticism, though, is that the truth value of certain claims cannot be assessed. I don't believe any religions are true because I am a skeptic; in other words, they collapse under critical examination. I don't believe in any gods because I am an agnostic; in other words, the claim that a "god exists" is one which I cannot even begin to assess.

Why should I identify as atheist?
Yes, I'm an atheist because I have no belief. It doesn't say anything about my disbelief, though. Why not use agnostic for my views on theism and skeptic on my views on religion? I certainly wouldn't describe my view on alien abductions as anabductionist; I would describe it as skeptic. Furthermore, I wouldn't describe my view on the general existence of aliens as analienist; I would describe it as agnostic.

Conclusion
Should I now describe myself as an agnostic? Or, perhaps, an agnostic skeptic?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Presuppositions Don't Require Extraordinary Evidence!

I googled extraordinary claims and you'll never guess what popped up as a top result A Christian apologetics website:



CARM. Humor.

I was googling it for a t-shirt I'm designing. The link that made it to #2 is an article on CARM about it. The author starts off saying how much he agrees with it:
The statement is self explanatory; if someone makes an extraordinary claim, there better be extraordinary evidence to back it up. If, for example, someone made the claim that an alien race has made contact with earth, we would need sufficient evidence to verify the claim, such as an alien space craft, or an actual alien. The extraordinary claim would need extraordinary evidence.
My thoughts as I'm reading it were wondering why a Christian site would have this. It became clear in the next paragraph:
Personally, except for a few qualifications, I agree with the sentiment of the statement "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence." Those qualifications follow. (emphasis added)
Ah! He agrees with the statement, as long as there is an asterisk at the end. And the asterisk? For the special case of the extraordinary claims he believes without extraordinary evidence. His first argument (and the one after which I stopped reading) was trying to argue from presupposition:
In Jesus' resurrection, for example, Christians presuppose that God exists and that He could easily have raised Jesus from the dead. The evidence of fulfilled prophecy, eyewitness records, and changed lives of the disciples is enough to convince many people who believe in God that Jesus rose from the dead. This is a logical conclusion based on the presupposition and the evidence.
Atheists, on the other hand, would negate the resurrection by default since their presupposition that there is no God1 would require that God involvement cannot occur. Therefore, for an atheist the extraordinary evidence would have to be "exceptionally" extraordinary in order to overcome his atheistic presuppositions. (emphasis added)
Oh, I see now! I would accept the evidence for Jesus' resurrection without extraordinary evidence if I would first accept the existence of a personal God without extraordinary evidence. This is an amazing feat of rationalization the author is doing. Take his introductory example of aliens. Could you imagine who this author would argue against the maxim of "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence" if he believed in alien abductions?
"Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence" is an excellent maxim to live by. It introduces a healthy level of skepticism when assessing claims. I do have to make a note, though, that a qualification is needed for presupposition.

I presuppose that aliens are visiting Earth. Therefore, when I'm confronted with observations of lights in the sky, grainy photographs on the Internet, and much anecdotal evidence about being abducted by aliens, this is enough to convince those people who believe aliens are visiting Earth that aliens are also abducting people. This is a logical conclusion based on the presupposition and the evidence.

But you, you skeptics! You have a skeptic presupposition that aliens are not visiting Earth! So, you are negating this claim by default. Therefore, the skeptic requires "exceptionally" extraordinary evidence in order to overcome his skeptic presuppositions.
Is there any difference? I would accept the same evidence you do of Jesus if you would first introduce the extraordinary evidence of a personal God. you can't just presuppose the existence of a personal God to circumvent the requirement of extraordinary evidence for the extraordinary claims you are making. You can't do it any more than alien conspiracy theorists can presuppose that aliens are visiting Earth to circumvent the extraordinary evidence needed for their claims.

Freethought Convention Reflection

Question with boldness even the existence of a god; because if there be one, he must more approve the homage of reason than that of blind-folded fear. -- Thomas Jefferson

"Hey, the first raffling is coming up in ten minutes. Those autographed Daniel Dennet books look sexy. Let's go get some tickets," she says, as we are waiting in our seats having just heard Blair Scott of the American Atheists Alabama speak. As we walk to the front to buy some tickets, we approach Matt Dillahunty. With a sword in a hand that he had been carrying, he is speaking with the event's organizer. Matt raises the sword above his head, leans his head back, opens his mouth and slides it down. With it swallowed, he bends over taking care to keep his spine straight.

We proceed to buy our raffle tickets. "Are you familiar with Guy P. Harrison and Daniel Dennet?" the attendant asks. Smiling, "Of course we do." We buy six tickets and head back to our seats.

As I pass by Matt again, I turn to my friend and marvel "Here we are attending an event of interesting lectures and we see someone swallow a sword!" She is silent for a few moments and remarks "You really believed that? My skeptic sensor went off."


The Texas Freethought Convention was enjoyable. We heard from:
  • Joe Zamecki
  • Zach Moore, North Texas Church of Freethought
  • Matt Dillahunty, President of Atheist Community of Austin and host of The Atheist Experience
  • Blair Scott, American Atheists Alabama
  • Kathleen Johnson, Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers
  • Terry McDonald, Chairman of Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex Atheists
  • Clare Wuellner, CFI Austin & Secular Family Network
  • Geoff Henley, author of Beyond Reasonable Doubt: A Lawyer's Case for Disbelief in God
The speakers were all very informative and dynamic. I particularly enjoyed Geoff's presentation. He argued we should approach others who are in our fields and professions and apply concepts and standards in our fields to their religious beliefs. For him, he related the claim of God's existence to the plaintiff in a trial and our position as the defendants: the onus is not on us to disprove his existence; the onus is on them to prove his existence beyond a reasonable doubt. When they make their claim, all we need to do is create reasonable doubt. He made many more comparisons, such as relating Pascal's Wager to a contract of adhesion. I didn't buy a book there, but it's on my list now.

My main, and MAJOR, criticism of the event is the schedule. It was such that after every speaker/even there was 15-30 minutes of downtime. Further, most speakers didn't even use their full 30 minutes, so we wound up having at least 20-25 minutes between each event with nothing to do. It was great in the beginning as it gave us a chance to check out the booths, speak to people, and network. A third of the way through, though, I had met everyone and looked at everything.

I suspect many others did too as people began leaving in large numbers after the fourth hour. They accomplished in nine hours what should have been done in no more than six.

I forgive them this, though, as it was the first convention and these types of problems are to be expected. The speakers were good and the event was nice exposure to people. In the future I would recommend have speakers present in 2-3 blocks, and then allow for 30-45 minutes of networking between each. Also, for one of the breaks allow about an hour for a meal break.

All-in-all though, it was a really good experience. The only big problem was the schedule, so without that I would describe it as fantastic. I look forward to next year, anticipate an even greater pool of speakers, and hope for a better schedule.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Texas Freethought Convention

Sorry for the lack of updates recently. I'll make it up to you this week :-) I've been spending the past week working on several events. And now (one of the) fruits of my labor:

I will be attending the Texas Freethought Convention tomorrow... err... today, down in Austin. Perhaps I'll meet some of you there.

Since I need to be up by seven and seeing as how it's 3, I should probably turn in. But alas, I still have CDs to burn, ATMs to hit up, and reading selections to make.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Brittany: How Much Should Jesus Have Suffered?

In The People vs Joe the Plumber earlier this week, I looked at Ray's claim that the indication that God has high standards of justice is his severe punishment for even minor infractions (e.g. infinite torture for one lie).

In the second part of the post I looked at the claim that Jesus "paid the fine" with his death so that God could "legally dismiss the case." I pointed out that the "fine" is eternal torture and Jesus only suffered brief torture and then death. I noted that that is hardly "paying the fine."

One of the regular commenters here, Brittany, has finally returned and she had a few things to say regarding this post which I thought was worthy of a full post:

God's Standard of Justice
"By Ray's flawed logic, the greater the punishment, the greater the justice. I can't cite any figures, but for the crime of burglary of some small store I would think a just punishment would be a year or two in prison."

Yet what you and I would consider "just" is actually loaded with sin. Our standards of judgement are not pure, and are not right. God's justice is righteousness, and He cleanses out ALL sin.
I don't think this addresses the point I was making in that Ray's logic is flawed. He's making the argument that since the punishment is so severe, that indicates God's high standard.

To Brittany's point, though, what you're arguing is basically that whatever God does is just. (If I'm mistaken, please correct me.) Justice is defined by whatever God does. If this is the case, then any analogy to man's laws or standards (which is my point) is fundamentally flawed. Examine three main components of God's "justice":

* Every crime, no matter what it is, receives a punishment of eternal, infinite torture.
* Even if you were to live a perfect life, you would still receive a punishment of eternal, infinite torture as being born is a crime punishable by death; the sins of the parent are visited upon the child.
* The only -- only -- unforgivable crime is not believing in God. Did you murder, rape, or steal? That's perfectly forgivable as long as you believe in God.

I am not judging these, I am simply pointing these out. Are these his standards? If so, you are asserting that these are the highest standards for the mere fact that they are God's standards. If this is your assertion there is no way for me to argue the justness of them. I could just as easily define whatever I say to be just and there would be no way for you to argue with me as it would be my assertion. I am defining "just" as whatever I do. You are defining "just" as whatever God does.

Man's Standard of Justice
The point of my original post, though, is that God's "standards" are so different from ours that any analogy between ours and his is fundamentally flawed. That's why all of Ray's courtroom analogies where God is the judge and Jesus is the fine-payer are nonsensical. Our standards compared to his are:

* The punishment of a crime depends on the nature and degree of the crime. We do not give liars (perjurers) the same punishment as murderers. We do not give people who run a stop sign the same punishment as rapists.
* If you life a perfect life you will receive no punishment because the crimes of the parent are not visited upon the child.
* There are no forgivable crimes. A crime is a crime and if you are convicted, you will do the time.

What Would Constitute Jesus' Payment of Our Fine?
"I wonder what constitutes "paying the fine"? The punishment is infinite torture, but Jesus was only subjected to temporary torture (and not nearly as bad) and was then put to death. "

I wander, even if Jesus was subject to torture/death for a million years would that be enough to satisfy you? It seems that you are missing the main point though...Yes Jesus did die for mankinds sin...yet He rose from the dead and defeated death/sin. That is the main point...Jesus defeated the sin of the world...He saved ALL of mankind from death.
That's a good question. Well, a million years would not be good enough. The starting point has to be infinite torture. So, if Jesus were tortured eternally, would that be enough to satisfy me? In the realm of Christianity mythology, yes. If Jesus were really paying our fine, I would expect the fine he paid to be the fine levied against us. But I would have a second objection, then, as the numbers don't add up. So, Jesus paid my fine by being tortured eternally -- okay. Now what about you? Jesus paid my fine; why should his payment count twice as much in order to cover you? This is Ray's analogy and it doesn't make sense.

It Ain't Easy to Believe & Follow
He gave all mankind eternal life, all He asked in return is that you and I believe in Him and follow His ways. He never said it would be easy.
I agree that it is not easy for what he is asking. How am I supposed to believe in him when his own story doesn't make sense? To even begin to consider believing Christianity, I would expect it to at least make sense. As it stands, Christianity makes only a little more sense than Mormonism and a lot less than Judaism.

Free Yourself From Sin
I hope and pray that you recognize the sin in your life, and recognize that the only way to free yourself from that sin is in Christ. Accept Him, and not lean on your own understanding, because man's knowledge is nothing compared to Almighty God's knowledge and wisdom.
I recognize that I have a lot of "sin" in my life (as defined by Christianity). I also recognize, though, that Christians sin just as much. If I accept Christ, what would change? I probably wouldn't blaspheme as much, but from what I gather from Christians I see, I would still have a bunch of sin. Being Christian doesn't make you perfect. I'm sure you recognize this too and so what you meant by "free yourself from that sin" is that accepting Christ will remove your responsibility of that sin.

So, as I see it, both you and I sin. We both have sin in our lives. The only difference is that when I die I will be held responsible for that sin whereas you will not because you believed in God. Further beyond that, though, I will be punished for my life which contained sin whereas you will be rewarded for your life which contained sin merely because you believed in God. Is that correct?


If so, I have a follow-up question. If not, I'd like clarification.

More Lies From Expelled: Who's #1?

While checking out Beliefnet, I saw this advertisement they had for Expelled:



Sorry Ben Stein. Faith loses out to facts once again as Religulous is the #1 documentary of 2008.

Religulous, while opening is about half as many theaters as Expelled, surpassed Expelled in two weeks of being out. Even thought it's only been out for a few weeks, it has already grossed almost two million dollars more than Expelled (even though it's in half the theaters).

Furthermore, it's been even better received by critics with 70% Fresh rating compared to Expelled's 8% Rotten rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

The Case Against Beliefnet: Bill Maher's Fundamentalism

I started a series on Religulous posts starting with a criticism of the quotes Maher uses in the film. I discovered Steven Waldman over at Beliefnet started a Case Against Religulous series, beginning with his own criticism of the quotes. I posted a criticism on his criticism of the quotes, as he tried to blow them out of proportion as Maher's "thesis." Until now I couldn't continue following Waldman's blog as I could not access it (for whatever reason).

Waldman writes a short entry on Maher's "fundamentalism":

Maher declares at the outset that he's just a reasonable man who seeks to raise the status of "doubt." While religion sells a silly/dangerous "invisible product," he says, "my product is doubt."

But by the end he declares, with fervor that would make Jimmy Swaggert proud, "Religion must die if mankind is to live." There is no doubt, no shades of gray. There are no examples of religion ever doing anything good, ever. He casts his opponents as not merely mistaken but grotesque and dangerous to your very existence.

Maher's product is not doubt. [...]

What an amazing fallacy. I saw Religulous on October 3 when it first came out; I can't help but wonder what film Waldman saw when I read his reviews and statements. I did not see a film about how there are certainly no gods. In fact, I didn't hear any arguments against the existence of gods in general (perhaps because Bill Maher is not an atheist and indeed believes there is a God).

The fallacy in Mr. Waldman's post is a straw man. He starts off discussing Maher's doubt concerning the nature of God, the afterlife, etc, and then shifts this into a statement of how there are "no examples of religion ever doing anything good, ever." He shifts Maher's statement concerning the doubt of the nature of God to Maher's non-doubt concerning religion. Religion and theism are not the same thing.

The point of the film was not that religion does no good. In fact, I never heard that mentioned at all. The point of the film was the silliness of religion and its negative impact on rational thought and society.

Waldman ends the post on a rather bizarre note:

Maher's product is not doubt. It's certainty -- a black-and-white world view that demonizes religion in the same way that some religious fundamentalists demonize those who differ from them.

Maher is a secular fundamentalist.
Again, Maher wasn't discussing his doubt about the effects of religion; he was discussing his doubt concerning the nature of God. The oddness of the concluding note, though, is his labeling of Maher as a secular fundamentalist. What exactly is secular fundamentalism? What dogma and tenets does Maher take fundamentally? Religious fundamentalists take their holy texts to be infallible in morals and faith and take them literally.

Secularism means without religion or not connected to anything religious. How exactly do you go about being fundamental about that?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

I'm Suing Ray Comfort

And unlike Patrick, I have a legitimate claim: copyright infringement.

Ray Comfort has announced he has written a bible for atheists. I have already completed a bible for atheists:



This lengthy 344 page bible covers every belief of atheism. If Ray's atheist bible is an accurate text on beliefs in atheism, it will be word-for-word identical to my unpublished text. A lawsuit will be filed once his is published, unless it's a straw man or completely irrelevant.

I have uploaded my completed atheist bible for free download:

http://disco-igno.godlesscreation.com/THE_ATHEIST_BIBLE.doc

I will close with a quote from page 187:
-- The Atheist Bible, pg 187
Very powerful, I know. It's even more inspiring in print:


Questions an Atheist Can Answer

So, Ray seems to think he has a list of ten questions atheists can't answer. This atheist can, though. Observe:

1. What was in the beginning?
Nothing

2. How will life on earth end?
The Flying Spaghetti Monster will boil the universe in a bowl of spaghetti sauce.

3. What happens after death?
Those who were one with His Noodliness will receive the most spectacular paperclip (which we can't even imagine) that we will have to play with for all eternity. Those who weren't will be subjected to watching a Ray Comfort floss for all eternity.

4. What is the purpose of existence?
To be touched by his noodley appendage.

5. Why there is order in all of creation?
The Flying Spaghetti Monster made it so.

6. Why there is morality in every civilization?
They fear the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

7. Why does every civilization believe in a Creator?
The Flying Spaghetti Monster is obvious.

8. Why does every sane person have a conscience, even when it is not dictated by society?
I suppose the question is, why doesn't every person have a conscience? And why does society influence the conscience and values of the person? (Answer to both these questions: The Flying Spaghetti Monster)

9. How did nothing create everything?
Nothing created the Flying Spaghetti Monster, and then the Flying Spaghetti Monster created everything. Isn't it obvious?

10. Which came first--the chicken or the egg?
Neither. Nothing came first, then the Flying Spaghetti Monster came second, then a mountain, then a tree, then a midget, then the egg, and finally the chicken.

Monday, October 20, 2008

I Just Won £1,000,000!

Oh wow, look what I just received!
Dear Winner,

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To claim your prize it is important that you Contact the bellow officer sending Her your informations:

Name: Mrs. Carol Morgan
Email: carolmorgandep@yahoo.se
Tell: +44-703-199-5723
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Send Her the bellow details for verifications.
Oh wow! I'm so lucky! I didn't even enter!

Now, to reply and send her all my details "bellow" for "verifications"...

The People vs Joe the Plumber

Ray Comfort has argued that God has a high standard of righteousness and justice. To support this claim, he points out that lying gets a death sentence, he considers hate to be murder, and lust to be adultery:
He knows that God's standard of righteousness is so high that the crime of lying demands the death sentence, and that He considers hatred of another human being to be murder. [...] If you lust after another human being, God considers you to be an adulterer. That's the height of His moral standard, and that will be the standard of judgment on Judgment Day.
First, allow me to tutor you on your religion, Ray. God's penalty for lying isn't death, it's infinite torture. Further, the mere fact that you were born is punishable by infinite torture, according to original sin.

But how warped is Ray's logic in this post? He points to God considering hate to be murder and lust to be adultery to be markers of his high moral standard. Where, exactly, is the logic in that? Shall I consider someone touching my hand to be rape? That seems to be a pretty high moral standard, then. Or, I could one-up God and consider mere dislike of a person to be murder.

JT-1, God-0.

But there's a second discomforting line of argument Ray appeals to. He takes punishment of lies with infinite torture to be a high standard of justice. By Ray's flawed logic, the greater the punishment, the greater the justice. I can't cite any figures, but for the crime of burglary of some small store I would think a just punishment would be a year or two in prison. If the judge instead sentences the person to 10 years, is that a higher standard of justice? How about life in prison? Or, wait, how about death? Or, better yet, how about unending torture for the rest of that person's life?

Yes, that's a very high standard of justice. If I were a judge, that's what I would adopt for that sort of burglary. In fact, I would adopt it for every case that comes before me.

Stole a car? Unending, life-long torture!
DUI? Unending, life-long torture!
Stole a pumpkin? Unending, life-long torture!
Stole a pencil? Unending, life-long torture!

But wait! Now that I have my high standard of justice like God, I now need a high standard of mercy:
He was manifest in the flesh and suffered for us, so that we could be free from the demands of Eternal Justice. His was a "vicarious" sacrifice. He paid the fine so that God could legally dismiss our case.
I wonder what constitutes "paying the fine"? The punishment is infinite torture, but Jesus was only subjected to temporary torture (and not nearly as bad) and was then put to death. So, he hardly paid the fine.

So, to constitute a high standard of mercy, I need to set up my court so that one person can "pay" a reduced "fine" and then anyone who comes before me can appeal to that. I will have Bob taken out back, tortured for thirty minutes, and then put to death. Now, whenever you come before, all you have to do is invoke Bob's name.

The People vs Joe the Plumber
Me, the Judge: It says here that you raped a child, is that correct?
Joe the Plumber: Yes.
Me, the Judge: Did you do it?
Joe, the Plumber: Yes, along with a lot of other things.
Me, the Judge: Alright, do you have anything else to say before I impose the sentence of unending, life-long torture?
Joe, the Plumber: Yes.
Me, the Judge: Speak and be heard.
Joe, the Plumber: Bob.
Me, the Judge: Case legally dismissed!

The end.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Christian Response #B-1: Daily Prayer

Submitted by: Brittany
Summary of Challenge:
Pray for five minutes, daily, for a month.
Status as of Oct. 18: Accepted


As readers will be familiar with, I have an open request to Christians to convince me of their faith. I am not offering this request to show why I don't believe; I am offering it because I genuinely want to be convinced that it is true -- but only if it is true. If Christianity is true, then that's something I definitely want to know.

Brittany, a regular reader here, has given me a challenge on this request. Her submission is as follows:
I've been trying to find the proof of God's existence(besides the obvious, which I have found that many non-believers will not accept) that many non-believers seem to want/need beore they accept Christ.

[...]

Therefore I have a proposition for you JT, and any other atheist/nonbeliever:

Would you take 5 minutes of every day, for a month (give or take 30 days) and talk to God. Yeah I know you don't believe in Him, but could just try. [...]
She says she thinks I may find it childish, but what if I find that I'm wrong? I had the following questions for her:
I'm willing to pray daily for a month, and I'll be sincere in the prayers, too. I have a few questions first, though.

* What should I pray about?
* When should I pray?
* Where should I pray?
* Is there anything I need to pray?
* Do I need to read when I pray?

I want to be sure I do it correctly. I don't want to spend over two hours in a month's time only to find out I wasn't praying correctly. Also, should it not work, I don't want to be told that I didn't do it correctly. So, any advice you have, I'd like to hear it.

I do have a pertinent question, though. Ray has stated, categorically, that God won't listen to atheists' prayers. So, why should I even bother trying?
Finally, she has replied:
"* What should I pray about?"

You seem to have alot of questions about Christianity, heaven, hell, sin, proof that God even exists, etc. So why not start from the beginning. Just talk to Him, from my experience He has always listened.

"* When should I pray?"

Whenever the urge hits you. Christianity is not like the Islamic faith. We don't have certain times in the day where we have to pray. I personally talk to God throughout my entire day, where ever or with whatever I am doing.

"* Where should I pray?"

Anywhere. As I stated earlier I talk with God where ever I am; either it be outside at the grocery store, etc.

"* Is there anything I need to pray?"

You can pray about anything you want; as long as it is not evil. Just remember that while God listens to your prayers sometimes His answers to your prayers will be No. God knows what is best for you and if what you pray for is not in His plan for your life, He will not allow it.

"* Do I need to read when I pray?"

I assume that you mean reading the Bible. In my experience, I have found that after talking to God, I find the answers to my questions in the Bible. Remember that the Bible is the main way God talks to His people.

"I do have a pertinent question, though. Ray has stated, categorically, that God won't listen to atheists' prayers.

I beleive that what Ray was trying to say is that those who specifically talk with God with a PRIDEful heart will not be answered by God. You previously mentioned that you would be sincere in your talk with God, so ray's statement would not apply to you.
While I did pray often when I was younger, I will try it again now. I have no intentions of just going through the motions; that would be a waste of two and a half hours of my life. I'll give it my sincerest attempt. So, if I come away unconvinced of the Christian God, I don't want to be told it was because I wasn't being honest. If you're a Christian and you have any advice or feedback about an atheist praying to God, please comment.

I accept the challenge and I will pray daily for a month.

Schisms Within Atheism

MrFreeThinker writes in response to a post about the many denominations of Christianity:
What about allthe different type of atheism? Weak atheism ,strong atheism , Agnostic Atheism , naturalistic atheism. There are so many divisions within atheism too.
Actually, there are only two types of atheism: non-theism (weak atheism), and anti-theism (strong atheism). The other two aren't types of atheism. There are certain philosophies and ideologies you can take towards atheism, such as naturalism or skepticism, but they aren't types of atheism. Some atheists may also embrace certain types of philosophies or ideologies, such as humanism and agnosticism, but still, these aren't types of atheism.

Theism is the belief a god exists. Religion incorporates theism and there are so many different types of beliefs concerning a god. Atheism is not having a belief that a god exists; how can there be many different types of non-beliefs concerning gods? But further, the divisions within Christianity are concerning the different beliefs regarding one particular god.

The main problem, though, this statement suffers from is its analysis of atheism as a religion, as this was in response to pointing out how many different types of Christianity there are.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

John McCain's Consultant is Ray Comfort

GermanMike over at the Raytractors speculates that the reason Ray fights so hard for Christianity is because he would be out of a high-paying job. He wonders what job Ray would have if Christianity came to an end.

Come on now. Isn't it obvious that Ray Comfort already has another job: acting as a political advisor to John McCain? When you analyze the McCain-Palin campaign, it becomes indubitable.

Ray Comfort is the world's foremost expert on taking quotes out of context. Do you remember the "lipstick on a pig" incident? That has Ray's patented quote mining techniques written all over it.

Ray once quoted Richard Dawkins in support of intelligent design. Palin recently quoted Madeleine Albright as supporting her. Do you fail to see his fingerprints?

Ray Comfort's strategy against atheism is to claim atheists will eat your babies and lust after your wife as they have no reason to be moral. He promoted Expelled's claimed tie between evolutionary theory and the Holocaust as support. Obama knew Bill Ayers who did some things when Obama was eight years old. Isn't it obvious? Obama is a terrorist! He's palling around with them! If you elect Obama, he will nuke America.

Ray Comfort surrounds himself with supporters who call atheists evil, wicked, foul, foolish, stupid, arrogant liars. McCain surrounds himself with supporters who call Obama a baby-killing, Arab, Muslim terrorist.

Oh, and let's not forget the contribution of Ray's preference of know-nothing sidekicks to McCain's VP pick!




Isn't it exceedingly obvious now?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Evolving Baby Computers

I'm currently making my way through another one of Michael Shermer's books, Why Darwin Matters. In his discussion of Paley's watchmaker argument, it reminds me of the modern analogies creationists use. My favorite is the intricacies of the computer (I think this is also one of Hovind's favorite). It's also argued that from within the computer you can only assess whatever else in inside the computer and nothing that is without; the analogy being to humans inside the universe assessing what's outside the universe (God).

I've always found the comparison to a computer especially interesting both as an atheist and as a computer scientist. I've always thought of the computer as more of an argument for evolution rather than against it. You can find all your favorite creationist arguments in a computer.

Evolution of the Computer
Something that is common among creationists, or merely those who don't understand evolution, is viewing humans as the end result of evolution and then asking the question: How did natural selection know what to select to get us here? They use this as an opportunity to posit a creator-designer.

But no one looks at a computer and says "How did the computer designers know how to get to the current, powerful modern computer which is capable of tackling today's problems?" And they certainly don't then posit the existence of a computer designer who came up with the modern computer ex nihilo. Of course there was no end goal for the evolution of the computer, nor is today's computer the "end" or the "goal."

Computers started out with the concept of Babbage's Analytical Machine which gave rise to Hollerith's tabulating machine. This was a very primitive machine, but it was the beginning. From there, the computer slowly "evolved" with adjustments and modifications being made to it. There isn't just one type of computer line, either, as there are branches (such as in modern times a PC, game console, cell phone, etc).

How did they know to get to the modern computer? They didn't. It was done by gradual progress and the environment imposed the conditions in which computers succeeded or failed. Some computers today are heavy on the processing side for tasks which require analysis of volumes of data whereas other computers are heavy on rendering hardware (such as video for gaming).

Slow, gradual changes gave rise to the modern computer through a bottom-up process. No "intelligent designer" was needed with the "end" result in mind to create it top-down or ex nihilo.

Irreducible Complexity
I know what you computer-creationists are saying. But JT, thou fool, you fail to realize that some components are irreducibly complex. Well, you've got me there. Remove one electrical bus or circuit and the computer fails to function. You got me there! The modern computer must have been conceived in its entirity in the mind of one designer.

The Mind-Body (err, Processor-Circuit) Problem
This is a puzzle I like to put forward to people. How does the computer know what to do? How does it know when we put in some sort of command like "print" that it sends an action to the printer? The programming you say.

Yes, but how does it know how to interpret the programming? The programming is translated into machine language you say. Ah, yes, but how does it know how to relate that language into an action? How does it know when its sent some command like, say, 10001111011010 that it knows to direct the internal, physical processes to print?

It raises an interesting question. Before we can input any data (such as programming) it must first know how to understand it. In order for it to understand our data or programming, it must have the programming or functioning to do it. But how can this possibly arise? How can we go from linking a bunch of circuits together and conducting electricity through them to the computer starting up, understanding a program, running it, and processing data? Shall we posit the existence of a computer-soul?

Computers Disprove Sexual Reproduction
I always marvel at how creationists can take a manufactured object, hypothetically apply biological processes to it, and, when the processes fail, conclude the biological processes can't work for biological objects either. The common manner is using manufactured objects as proof against evolution.

Ho! If you can use a manufactured object, fail to realize its lack of biological mechanisms (such as those necessary for evolution), and then conclude a biological process is false, then so can I.

Observe the computer. It's a lot like a human -- in fact, "computers" is what humans used to be called who computed numbers. The computer has a brain like humans, it has a way to cool itself when it heats up (cooling unit vs pores), it requires energy to operate, it can accomplish a wide array of tasks, etc. It also has several openings on it, just like a human. Some holes only allow things in, some holes only allow things out, some holes allow things to go in or out, and some people try to put things in holes which are only meant to have things go out.

Just like humans, too, computers have male and female parts. But what happens when you connect one computer's male part to another computer's female part? Does it produce a baby computer? No! Nothing happens! So, we should then conclude that when one human's male part is connected to another human's female part, no baby will be produced. If a biological process doesn't manifest itself in manufactured objects, why should we expect it to manifest in biological objects?

Monday, October 13, 2008

Been Schooled In Science?

By science we understand the knowledge of facts to be meant, and not speculative theories on the meaning of such facts. Only too often are such theories in the minds of some confounded with the knowledge of facts -- real science. -- Paul S. L. Johnson, Creation (p165)

SGU #168 discussed, at one point, with PZ Myers that students aren't receiving the basic tenets of science, such as what is it, how do we know what we know, fundamental concepts, etc.

Reflecting back, I never learned anything like that in high school (or before that). That's really saying something, too, since I went to one of the the top ranked schools in the country. My education included a year of biology and three intensive years of chemistry. Oddly enough, I also had a theory of knowledge class which only dealt with philosophical questions, but never touched on science.

In fact, it is only through the reading and studying on my own time that I learned these things, especially through atheist and skeptic discussions.

Something we see often with the anti-evolution crowd are arguments that arise from this ignorance. For example, in one comment to The Raytractors, one fundamentalist Christian writes:
It is wrong to teach evolution in schools because it is not a fact but a theory.
We can't attribute this as a lack of eduction; we must attribute this to a failure of education. I was never taught the difference. I think I had always thought that a law is just a proven theory. Describing germs or gravity as theories would have sounded very peculiar to me.

The first time I ever learned anything basic about science was in a physics class my senior year in college -- rather, a physics lab. But this was only because the lab centered around recreating the original experiments used to discover certain properties and then trying to discover them ourselves with a conclusion. And still, the only thing basic I was presented was that science is wholly comprised of "provisional truths." Nothing beyond that.

How do we expect to ever win against the scientific illiterate if we aren't teaching basic science literacy at the middle- and high- school levels? It's like teaching kids how to analyze a novel without teachings the basics of theme, tone, etc.

With an eduction built upon an ignorance of basic science, why should we be surprised when people post things like "you weren't there" or "evolution isn't a fact, it's just a theory" or "science has been wrong before"?

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Being Unfair and Balanced

Several weeks ago I prepared a presentation for my atheist group on religion and science in the 2008 election. At the time I had decided not to vote.

I know that many active atheists, certainly those in my group, are liberals and really behind Obama. I wanted to have plenty to say on Obama regarding religion and science. My naive goal was to approach it in a fair-and-balanced manner. After doing the research, I would have had to compromise my presentation to be both fair and balanced between the two.

You cannot be both fair and balanced unless the nature of the situation is one wherein both sides merit equal representation. Otherwise, you necessarily sacrifice one at the cost of the other. In my presentation, it would have been unfair to have balanced criticism of bringing religion into the political arena on both sides. Yes, Obama has made some nasty remarks, but that pales in comparison to the multitude of detestable, loathsome remarks McCain has made regarding religion and science. To have balanced the criticism would have rendered the presentation unfair.

Being fair and balanced is not a virtuous principle.

Is Bill Maher an Atheist? No.

Ray has somewhat eased off of his usual #1 hits (such as "atheists don't exist" and the "theory tale of evolution") and instead switched gears to anecdotes which all conclude that atheists should convert (not to mention an increase in censorship of detractor comments).

I thought I would venture out a little with some coverage of Bill Maher, in light of his new film (as I have already done here and here). Firstly, Bill Maher is my favorite comedian. I only agree with maybe half of what he discusses, but that has nothing to do with his comedy. I laugh just as much when he criticizes what I believe -- to be fair, though, he's much funnier as a stand-up than a talk show host.

With the release of Religulous, he has been the subject of critical discussion from Christian, atheist, and skeptic forums alike.

For Christians, he has brought criticism of religion under the spotlight yet again with a feature-length film of him visiting various places simply asking questions. Personally, I found nothing in the film as controversial as many of the things he has said on Real Time (especially regarding Catholicism).

For atheists, he has argued the straw man of how "atheism" has the same certainty you find in religion that God doesn't exist. Adrian Hayter suggests writing him an open letter clarifying what atheism is. While I like the idea since it will be publicly available as a source of clarification for Maher supporters and detractors alike on the film, I'm doubtful it will have any effect on Maher himself. I don't think Maher is interested in anything further than criticizing religion.

For skeptics, he serves as an interesting example of how skeptical thought can be so hit-and-miss. Maher has excellent criticisms of religion in terms of the lack of skeptical thinking by believers. He also addresses other irrational claims such as 9/11 Truth and many conspiracy theories. He doesn't seem to arrive at these positions through skepticism, though, as he himself partakes in many conspiracy theories, most notably Big Pharma and the anti-vaccinationist crowd.


From most of the discussions I have heard, most recently on SGU #166, Maher is usually described as an atheist. I don't think he is, though. He has described himself as an agnostic and an apatheist -- the former regarding knowledge and the latter regarding interest. I have heard him several times mention something about a higher power, such as 2002 interview with The AV Club: (Question: Is there a God?)
I think there is. We did a show last night about God and religion with Dave Foley, who I love, and we were arguing against this one woman who had a book called I Like Being Catholic. Someone said, "Oh, boy, a lot of atheists on this panel." I said, "I'm not an atheist. There's a really big difference between an atheist and someone who just doesn't believe in religion. Religion to me is a bureaucracy between man and God that I don't need. But I'm not an atheist, no." I believe there's some force. If you want to call it God... I don't believe God is a single parent who writes books. I think that the people who think God wrote a book called The Bible are just childish. Religion is so childish. What they're fighting about in the Middle East, it's so childish. These myths, these silly little stories that they believe in fundamentally, that they take over this little space in Jerusalem where one guy flew up to heaven—no, no, this guy performed a sacrifice here a thousand million years ago. It's like, "Who cares? What does that have to do with spirituality, where you're really trying to get, as a human being and as a soul moving in the universe?" But I do believe in a God, yes.
He firmly rejects any sort of personal god as well as attributes of god. He is very anti-religious, but it seems he simply rejects that any sort of religion has answers regarding the god question.

Does this make me appreciate Maher any less? No. As I have stated a few times before, my concern is also with religion itself, not with the general existence of a god. I think his statement above of there being a really big difference between an atheist and someone who just doesn't believe in religion was very well put.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Crashing Economy and Biblical Prophecy

So, Ray has been heavy into the doom-and-gloom of Biblical prophecy and eschatology. Dan the Debunker turned up in an alert on Ray Comfort as he comments on Ray's latest bit of nonsense:
Allow me to parrot Ray today. What if you all start to see the Bible come true? Would you acknowledge it? Would you understand that you have been wrong all along?
I liked what Kaitlyn posted on the matter:
I don't know what passages Ray is referring to, but if the Bible did predict that a country called the United States would have a financial crisis due to the home-lending / mortgage business in the year 2008, I think it's time to reevaluate our position on the Bible.
Exactly, if it predicted it, I would begin to re-evaluate it as it would be some extra evidence in favor of it. But why should I accept the vague, incoherent ramblings of Revelations over, say, the incoherent ramblings of Nostradamus? Jefferson had a similar thought concerning this book:
It is between fifty and sixty years since I read it, and I then considered it merely the ravings of a maniac, no more worthy nor capable of explanation than the incoherences of our own nightly dreams. … what has no meaning admits no explanation.
Exactly. What has no meaning admits no explanation. Ray's attempts to get the current events to fit into the Bible are as inane as those attempts to get the current events to fit into Nostradamus' works.

The posts of Ray and Dan, though, highlight the truly unsettling quality about many Christians I see who accept all of the New Testament: their glee over the destruction of the world. Oh, there's a "world-wide economic meltdown"! Hooray! The end times, and Jesus, are near!

The prospect of destruction is only appealing to fanatics: those fanatically-bent on evil and those fanatically-bent on religion. (The two are not mutually exclusive.)

Thursday, October 9, 2008

I Voted!

As promised.

Who Killed the Baby? Mr. Condom!

People often ask me why I'm so passionate about the subject of contraception. I explain that a few years ago someone told me that two people were going to have sex -- and they were going to use a condom. I was horrified at what I heard. I frantically rushed to my car and sped to the place of coitus.

I rushed in and found the open condom wrapper. I begged the woman, Fran, not to put the condom on him. She smiled at me and said, "Don't worry, I'm not going to. I told myself that if some crazy man whom I don't know bursts in here then I wouldn't use the condom." I headed home, condom in hand, knowing I had done the right thing.

Two years later while I was in the park, I saw a beautiful little girl playing in the grass; it was Fran's child. It really hammered home the issue that we're dealing with when it comes to contraception. If I hadn't confiscated the condom, the little girl wouldn't be alive today.

Do remember that the solution to this isn't just to protest; although, that is a good start. We need to prevent people altogether from using contraception. Write your congressman to help prevent the dissemination of condoms in Africa. If you know your friends are going to have sex, urge them not to use "protection." That sort of protection is the same kind of "protection" the Nazis in Germany used to protect themselves from Jews existing. Using condoms makes you a Nazi.


In the next post on the immorality of apathy: abstinence. This vile practice eliminates untold millions and millions of citizens. I would never... ever... vote for a politician who advocates killing babies before they even get in the womb. Down with contraception. Down with abstinence.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Intolerable Dissent

Usually Ray's arguments are so crazy that I wouldn't even think about calling them the typical arguments of Christians. His post today is an exception to that rule.
"I don’t accept that [God sends all non-Christians to Hell]. It seems unfair to me that it is exclusive."
"You mean that Jesus said that He was the only way to God?"
"Yes."
"Do you think that Christianity is 'intolerant?'"
"Yes, I do."
"So you are being intolerant of Christianity? You are doing what you are accusing Christianity of doing. Being intolerant."
"No, no, not at all. I was just wondering..."
This is a good example of the typical concept of "tolerance" I see espoused by many Christians -- especially liberal ones. How exactly is Joe doing what Christianity is doing? Christianity is sending every non-Christian to Hell and torturing them for all eternity for not believing Jesus was a god. Joe is simply pointing out that that seems unfair.

It seems anytime you criticize or even just disagree (as Joe did in this example) you are labeled as intolerant. What does qualify for tolerance then? It seems the only way to qualify for being tolerant is to agree. For if you disagree, you are being intolerant.
Me: Hey Mr. Racist, it seems unfair that you only lynch black people.
Racist: You mean that I'm only lynching non-whites simply because they aren't white?
Me: Yes.
Racist: Oh, so you are being intolerant of me!
It seems to me that in order to be intolerant you must not be tolerating someone or something:
tolerate (v): to allow the existence, presence, practice, or act of without prohibition or hindrance; permit.
The Christian concept of Hell is clearly intolerant: God is going to mercilessly torture everyone who isn't a Christian simply for not being a Christian. Note that the statement is that Christianity is intolerant. If a person believes this to be true, that doesn't make that Christian intolerant.

Many atheists are now speaking out against religion. We criticize the irrationality often involved, we reject faith as a legitimate way of knowing, and argue to remove the oppressive laws and stigma against atheists. In doing so, we're called intolerant. How does this possibly qualify as intolerance as it's being used in this case?

If that is intolerance, then all disagreements and debates are intolerant. I watched the Presidential debate last night and McCain was clearly intolerant of Obama and Obama was clearly intolerant of McCain. Well, at least by the same standard that intolerance is being applied towards atheists. McCain was criticizing Obama and his policies and arguing against both of them. Obama was doing the same in turn. Clearly, then, they are being intolerant.

This is to make "intolerance" a meaningless term as its applicability has been made so broad that it has no applicability whatsoever.

Intolerance can only come in the form of prohibiting the existence, presence, or act of something. When Christians pass laws that atheists cannot hold public office, the Christians are being intolerant of atheists. When atheists criticize Christians passing laws that atheists cannot hold public office, we are dissenting.

Dissent and criticism are not forms of intolerance.

The Case Against the Case Against Religulous

I have previously published my criticism of Religulous for its inappropriate use of Founders' quotes to support their secular, even anti-religious (and anti-Clerical) views. Beliefnet seems to think the misuse of those quotes is an adequate case against Religulous:
In the beginning of the movie, he offers this quote from our second president, John Adams: "This would be the best of all possible worlds, if there were no religion in it." Wow. That certainly provides stunning support for Maher's thesis. Did Adams really mean that?
He goes on to show it in its true context, which does not support the view of Adams being anti-religious. This is the only point in Steven Waldman's "The Case Against Religulous."

While I share in the criticism of using these quotes (I think it is the result of laziness rather than dishonesty), I question it as the basis of a case against the film.

He notes that the out-of-context quotes provides "stunning support for Maher's thesis." What exactly is Maher's thesis? I watched the film and it most certainly was not that the Founders were anti-religious. If Maher's thesis were that the Founders were anti-religious, and that that is the point of the film, then the criticism of this quote is indeed a strong basis for a case against Religulous.

The anti-Christian views of the Founders were a minor point later in the film where he quotes Frankling, Adams, and Jefferson. My criticism stems from the misleading nature of the quotes, not the message itself. But even if the Founders were devout Christians (which they weren't), how does this incorrect argument for a minor point amount to a discrediting of the film?

It doesn't.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Supporting Kay Hagan

The story is making the rounds on Daylight Atheism and The Friendly Atheist of the anti-atheist smear campaign Elizabeth Dole is running against Kay Hagan, a Democratic candidate running for the US Senate.

I don't know anything of Hagan's politics, but I made a donation to her campaign as I don't want Ms. Dole to win by filthily promoting anti-atheist bigotry.

You can donate to Hagan's campaign to show your support, even if it is only $5-$10.

Paul S. L. Johnson's Creation

While my mother knows that I am an atheist, my father does not, for reasons previously discussed. While I was visiting earlier this year, he handed me the second volume in Epiphany Studies in the Scriptures written by Paul S. L. Johnson. The topic of the book is "Creation" where he attempts to give a scientific look at the process and result of creation. My father knows I have a keen interest in science and have become increasingly knowledgeable in various subjects. As such, he gave it to me to read, not only to interest me but also so that I will let him know how the science standards up to the times.

I think I will use this opportunity to disclose my support of evolutionary theory to him. The beginning of the last chapter, "Evolution: Not the Creative Method," goes:
We will devote the last chapter of our book to a consideration of evolution, which is falsely, we believe, held by an ever decreasing number of scientists to be the method of creation.
My father has told me on a number of occasions that scientists have "flocked away" from evolution and the big bang. I now know where he learned that.

The discussion begins by breaking evolution down in the five "various schools of evolution": (paraphrased)
1. "atheistic materialistic evolutionists": the universe, plants, and animals produced themselves by a series of transmutations.
2. "spontaneous-generation evolutionsts": God created matter and its forces, and then the animals and plants developed themselves from the matter.
3. "Darwinian evolutionists": God creater matter, its forces, and the first few lifeforms. They "developed themselves" from there.
4. The same as above, except they believe man isn't a result of evolution. Rather, evolution created everything and then God created man.
5. God created everything, beginning with a "kind" of every plant and animal, and then those kinds deteriorated into the many species.
I decided to begin my discussion on this chapter. The first five pages attempt to show that evolution is impossible because, had man existed for even 100,000 years, assuming a constant population growth of .5% would result in 4.66 billion billion people alive today. This is my first exposure with creationist math. Where did the .5% come from? Apparently out of his ass, as the population growth between 1000 and 1800 is under 1.5%. He apparently calculated it by the difference of the population now and that immediately after the Flood.

Therefore, I think his argument more disproves the Bible than it does evolution. The argument was genuinely baffling.

Stargate SG-1 & Atheism, Pt 2

In my first post on Stargate SG-1 and atheism, I explored the connections between the over all show and religious topics. I have been watching the series again from Season One and have two episodes left of the last season. I thought I would make a second part delving further into the last arc of the show: the Ori. The Ori, if you recall, were a race of humans who evolved to the point where they could shed their bodies, exist as pure energy, and live on a "higher plane of existence" (called "ascension").

The Ori were once part of a race of humans called the Alterans. The Alterans lived in a distant galaxy and were very advanced; the most advanced race to have ever existed. A philosophical divide grew within the Alterans: one whom we now call the Ancients and one whom we now call the Ori. These two groups became more and more opposed. The Ancients pursued science and rational thought while the Ori became more and more fervent in their religion. At one point, they broke altogether and became enemies.

The Ancients, being committed to freethought, were absolutely opposed to violating anyone's free will. This was not the case with the Ori, who were fierce in their religious convictions and not above killing the Ancients. They began to amass an army against the Ancients. The Ancients were philosophically and morally opposed to killing or even interefering with others' choices. As such, they chose to conceal their level of scientific progress so as not to exacerbate the situation with the Ori.

One of the Ancients devised a weapon, The Ark of Truth, which makes anyone who looks into it brainwashed. The purpose of devising it was to counter the lies the Ori spread to get people to submit to their religion. Use of this weapon, though, would violate their followers' free will and, as such, they agreed not to use it. Instead, they built an advanced spaceship and set sail.


The Ancients and Ori both eventually ascend. The philosophical differences they had as humans continue even into their ascension. The Ancients, being dedicated to scientific thought and philosophical principles, have a strict non-interventionist policy with the lower realm. They feel they have no right to play God with the lower realms. As the pacifists they are, they will not even intervene in self-defense; preservation of free will is the highest moral law for them.

The Ori do not share this. Their religious convictions have led them to a sense of entitlement as it were over the lower realms. They feel as higher beings they have a greater truth than those on the lower realm. As such, they command all humans to submit to their religion, Origin. By believing in the Ori, the Ori harness the power of their followers.

The Ori cannot stand the Ancients who are dedicated to science and do not submit to their religious convictions. As such, the Ori are still bent on destroying the Ancients. Once they learn of the humans in the Milky Way Galaxy -- the Ancients having been shielding our existence from the Ori -- they begin to amass an army of followers to conquer the Milky Way by spreading Origin.

Even though the Ancients know that the Ori's ultimate purpose is to destroy them by harnessing the power of the believers in the Milky Way, the Ancients refuse to intervene. Even though Origin is a lie, they refuse to violate the free will of those who wish to follow.


The religious criticism in the last two seasons of Stargate SG-1 does not go unappreciated. The ultimate moral of the arc is that of rational thought versus dogma. There is a strong emphasis on not forcing someone else to believe and promoting critical thinking over blind submission.

There is a second aspect which is explored in all this: killing people for what they believe. The Ancients represent one extreme of the spectrum in that they will never kill anyone for what they believe nor influence what anyone else believes, not even when that belief is damaging to the individual or will inform aggressive actions against others.

The humans from Earth represent somewhat of what Sam Harris advocates. They attempt to always reason logically with Origin followers about what they believe. They won't forcibly prevent someone from believing in Origin. There comes a point, though, where they recognize it may be ethical to kill someone for what they believe -- the sentiment from The End of Faith which is so frequently quoted out of context. Origin teaches that the unbelievers are wicked and must be given the opportunity to convert. If they refuse, it is your duty to put the infidel to death.

With Origin holders having this belief, it is a fine line the humans from Earth consider: when is it ethical to kill someone merely for what he believes?

Monday, October 6, 2008

The Expelled Nutters at Blockbuster.com

While I was adding a few choice blasphemous entries to my Blockbuster Queue, such as Blasphemy the Movie and Saved!, I decided to stop by the page for Expelled and see what kind of reviews it had from members. I have yet to see the film as I'm waiting for it to come out on DVD. It seems the conspiracy theorist fans of Expelled are conspiracy theorists through and through.

Note that Expelled will not be released until October 21 of this month. Blockbuster allows you to "Save" (as opposed to "Add") movies to your Queue which have yet to be released. That way, as soon as the movie is released, it will "Add" it to your Queue.

The loony Expelled fans, though, blithely skip over this merry little fact as they advance their conspiracy theory of how Blockbuster is being run by a secret atheist group which is trying to silence Expelled by preventing them from being able to add it to their queues:
but blockbuster doesn't carry it. Is Blockbuster being politically correct?

Why is Blockbuster boycotting this film?

If you look at the reviews, they are all pretty much 5 stars, yet on the description it is rated as 2 stars. And it is not available even in the future? Do we have an Atheist running Blockbuster? Just asking.

I would highly recommend this to my family and friends. Great insight to whats going on behind the scenes and an eye opener of how our freedom as Americans is quietly being squelched and others views and non-beliefs are being forced upon us. See it! It will make a difference on how you view alot of things! Question I'm asking now is "WHY ISN"T BLOCKBUSTER MAKING THIS AVAILABLE FOR ONLINE RENTAL? Has someone already squelched your freedom?

There are so many obscure movies available, and I also have about 20 movies in my queue that are not yet available. But, for some reason I can't get this one. [...] I'd really like to see it to see why the entertainment industry hates it so much

isn't it also funny how you can easily find movies that support a lie, such as inconvenient truth or Fahrenheit 9/11. but a movie that challenges a lie, like Expelled is censored and not available. i will now be seriously examining whether or not i continue with Blockbuster. if it is true that this movie is available on Netfix i will probably cancel and move. PAY ATTENTION BLOCKBUSTER IF YOU DON'T BELIEVE IN A GOD STOP TRYING TO BE ONE.

Why can't I save it in my queue!?!?!? WE DEMAND this MOVIE!!!

Ben Stein is just asking questions and everyone is up in arms. Even Blockbuster is afraid to rent it!

Too bad places like Blockbuster are far too liberal to allow any factual views to be heard. They should offer this movie and it's wrong that they don't.

Why can I not get this one? It is a recent movies that was like by alot of people. Ben Stein been on TV alot. Is Blockbuster afraid?

Is Blockbuster controlled by liberal media activists against common sense, or Americans? come on Blockbuster, don't make me use Netflix!!

What do you (Blockbuster) have against this movie? Are you afraid you will be expelled or just exposed?

I am disappointed and disheartened that Blockbuster is not carrying Expelled. My family and I did not get an opportunity to see this movie in the theaters; we heard it was great and we were looking forward to using our Blockbuster membership to watch it. It's hard to believe that Blockbuster eagerly advertises and rents the trash that most R rated movies are, but censors a thought provoking and brilliantly scripted movie like Expelled. My family and I will be cancelling our Blockbuster membership.

Netflix has this movie listed, with picture and a 4-1/2 star rating. Maybe Blockbuster doesn't want those of us who are actually interested and want to see this movie to patronize their stores or service. It's evident they do not wish to support this film.

Im disappointted in blockbuster :\ ithought they were above this.

Gay and lesbian movies are just fine, but Expelled is a threat and must be boycotted. Does it ever seem as though those that claim to be 'open minded' are the same ones that seek to control the media and everyone's thoughts? I think so.

Write to Blockbuster and demand this movie!! Pathetic that they would rent Michael Moore garbage but ban this movie from us. Political agenda nonsense!

Seems very odd to me that all the members rated this film four or five stars, and the site rates it a 2 1/2. Watch this movie with your lib friends and get some conversation going. It is absolutely amazing and will make you take a different look at our liberal arts colleges.
My favorite is the one telling Blockbuster that they need to stop trying to be a god just because they don't believe in one.

Oh, and there were several which were accusing Blockbuster of rigging the rating. The only reviews left are 5-star ones with nutter comments about Blockbuster censoring creationism and conspiring to expel Expelled. Again, the fact that you can easily rate movies without leaving a review is entirely lost on them -- which is rather surprising seeing as how you can rate movies on just about every page of the site.

They weren't all nutters, though. Well, at least not Blockbuster-conspiring-with-atheists nutters:

As scientists we need to be unbiased. Hence actually be willing to listen to various options. This movie brings forth many questions, and makes you think. It is sad that so many stern scientists keep their heads in the sand like ostriches when it cmes to alternate explanations. They speak of open mindedness, but that means others must be open to their closed minded views. Anyway, great movie check it out, and keep your mind open.

Just saw it. I loved it. The clips of humor were clever. I am glad to see someone question the THEORY that so many take as fact. Theory means n rules and techniques: the body of rules, ideas, principles, and techniques that applies to a particular subject, especially when seen as distinct from actual practice economic theories speculation: abstract thought or contemplation idea formed by speculation: an idea of or belief about something arrived at through speculation or conjecture She believed in the theory that you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.

So many of you claim to be open-minded -- -- prove it by watching this provocative & entertaining account of the controversy surrounding Darwinism (evolutionary theory). I think Ben did a great job of unearthing some of the gross hypocrisy of the scientific-nazis of our current era. I learned a great deal -- I look forward to sharing the video with my children.
Okay, that last one was rather scary.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Quotes in Religulous: A Criticism

There have been two occasions I have counted on Real Time With Bill Maher where Maher has used a popular, misattributed quote (probably unintentionally). One occasion was quoting Einstein as saying something about bees disappearing resulting in the collapse of society and the other I cannot recall.

At one point in Religulous, he quotes three of the Founders as having scorn for Christianity. One such quote came from Thomas Jefferson:
Christianity is the most perverted system that ever shone on man.
I suspected this wasn't the first time I had seen this quote, but, nonetheless, I knew it must be falsely attributed to Jefferson. This quote which appeared in Religulous is a bogus quote. It has not, to date, been found in any of his writings.

Jefferson had quite the affinity for the teachings of Christ (minus all the bogus supernatural and miraculous claims). As such, he edited the New Testament to glean such ludicrousies out; which Religulous correctly explained. So, when Jefferson speaks on being a Christian or Christianity, he often doesn't refer to the church or its teachings as "Christianity," unless he explicitly states it. Otherwise, it would be confused with the teachings of Christ, which he did not despise.

Jefferson confirms this in a letter:
No doctrines of [Jesus] lead to schism. It is the speculations of crazy theologists which have made a Babel of a religion the most moral and sublime ever preached to man, and calculated to heal, and not to create differences. These religious animosities I impute to those who call themselves his ministers, and who engraft their casuistries on the stock of his simple precepts. I am sometimes more angry with them than is authorised by the blessed charities which he preached.
It's clear his gripe is with Christians and not with Christ. The Jefferson Encyclopedia cites the following as the possible basis of this misattributed quote:
[A] short time elapsed after the death of the great reformer of the Jewish religion before his principles were departed from by those who professed to be his special servants, & perverted into an engine for enslaving mankind, and aggrandizing their oppressors in church & state: that the purest system of morals ever before preached to man has been adulterated & sophisticated, by artificial constructions, into a mere contrivance to filch wealth & power to themselves, that rational men not being able to swallow their impious heresies, in order to force them down their throats, they raise the hue & cry of infidelity, while themselves are the greatest obstacles to the advancement of the real doctrines of Jesus, and do in fact constitute the real Anti-Christ.
Don't let his affinity for Christ mislead you into thinking he's a believer of the New Testament and simply rejects the Church's teachings (such as the Jehovah's Witnesses). He liked the teachings attributed to Christ, but did not like all the fantastic supernatural, divine content (which is why The Jefferson Bible came about). Many Christians like to quote mine Jefferson where he speaks highly of Christ and his teachings as evidence he was a Christian. In fact, in one passage Jefferson actually calls himself a Christian:
I, too, have made a wee-little book from the same materials, which I call the Philosophy of Jesus; it is a paradigma of his doctrines, made by cutting the texts out of the book, and arranging them on the pages of d blank book, in a certain order of time or subject. A more beautiful or precious morsel of ethics I have never seen; it is a document in proof that I am a real Christian, that is to say, a disciple of the doctrines of Jesus, very different from the Platonists, who call me infidel and themselves Christians and preachers of the gospel, while they draw all their characteristic dogmas from what its author never said nor saw. They have compounded from the heathen mysteries a system beyond the comprehension of man, of which the great reformer of the vicious ethics and deism of the Jews, were he to return on earth, would not recognize one feature.
You can actually search for "'i am a real christian' jefferson" and you'll find many Christian sites quote mine this. He is speaking on his revision of the New Testament, though, and is clearly indicating that. If one is to claim Jefferson is a real Christian and we are to define "Christian" as what Jefferson believed, then everyone alive today who calls themselves a Christian are false Christians. They are as close to Jefferson's version of a Christian as I am to Ray's version of a Christian.

This post went off on a bit of a tangent, but I think his use of the Founders' quotes is going to be heavily attacked by critics of the film. There were much better quotes to use and from many different Founders. I found the quotes that he did use from all three were poor selections and misleading.

To conclude on a poignant quote:
Millions of innocent men, women and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined and imprisoned. What has been the effect of this coercion? To make one half the world fools and the other half hypocrites. -- Jefferson
Oh, wait a minute. That doesn't sound quite as I remember it...

EDIT -- 4/06/2009
Before commenting about what a dumb Christian I am, you should do yourself the favor of reading my subsequent posts on Religulous/Bill Maher and realize that you can constructively criticize that which you side with. Hold nothing sacred.

The Case Against the Case Against Religulous
Is Bill Maher an Atheist? No.
The Case Against Beliefnet: Bill Maher's Fundamentalism

Response to MrFreethinker #A-1: Jesus' Resurrection

Hey MrFreeThinker,

These are my preliminary questions regarding your submission to convince me of Christianity. You have submitted an argument for the resurrection of Jesus. Again, these are preliminary questions to get some extra information and explanation before I fully evaluate the argument. Most of my questions are simply regarding your sources.

When you reply to these, could you please number each of your responses respective to how I have numbered them here?

A) How did Jesus get out of the tomb and what evidence do you have for it? If I understand the story correctly, he was resurrected as a man and appeared before people. How, then, did his body leave the tomb?

B) You cite that 98% of historians accept facts 1, 3, 4, and 5. Who are these historians (i.e. is their field relevant to this discussion) and where do you get this figure? For the question about who these historians are, it's often the tactic, I've found, of creationists to appeal to authorities who have no authority in the field. For example, in the Discovery Institute's list of scientists who disagree with Darwin, they have listed someone with only a PhD in agricultural economics.[1] I am not accusing you of this; I'm only explaining the question.

C) You cite that 75% of historians accept "fact" 2. Assuming that these historians have relevant credentials and that the same historians polled above are the same ones polled here, why the stark discrepancy? Fact #2 is that the tomb is empty -- a pretty big claim. Why, if they accept that there is sufficient evidence to support claims 1, 3, 4, and 5, do they not accept that there is sufficient evidence to support claim 2?

D) As a note of the statistics, I would expect to see high figures for them. Those who take up as scholars on the New Testament would, ostensibly, most be Christians and would, therefore, agree with these claims. This isn't an argument against the claims (as the claims may still stand on their own); it's just an argument against the appeal to authority. For example, I would expect to see a high level of acceptance among scholars on the Qur'an that Muhammed ascended to Heaven and/or that his followers believed he did.

E) For the first claim, you mention the "other 3 gospels" as sources in passing. Could you give chapters and verses (so as only to assess your arguments)?

F) You mention the following sources in your argument:

[Source] [Times mentioned] [Claims]
Luke 5 1,2,3
Matthew 5 1,2,3
John 4 1,2,3
Corinthians 3 1,2,3
Mark 3 1,2,3
Acts 2 3,4
Galatians 2 2,4
Josephus 2 1,5
Justin Martyr 1 2
Lucian 1 1
Tacitus 1 1
Tertullian 1 2

So, most of the claims find their support in five books of the Bible. I need to know the weight of these sources before I can consider their content as evidence. As such, I'd like to know, for my consideration:

i) Why should I accept these books of Bible as evidence of a historical event?
ii) Are they reliable?
iii) How are their integrity? Were they contemporary accounts?
iv) Are the authors authenticated?
v) If they are accurate accounts of what happened, why are there so many contradictions and discrepancies between them?
vi) Why shouldn't I discount these sources due to the above contradictions and discrepancies?


G) You cite Josephus as an extrabiblical support, and you note that it is disputed among scholars. Why should I accept this, then?

H) You mention that the empty tomb is attested to by all four Gospels. Could you cite the chapters and verses?

I) Under "Enemy Attestation" you seem to address the Stolen Body Hypothesis as evidence the tomb was empty. What contemporary Jews made this argument? And, if they made the argument, were they explaining why the tomb was empty, or were they assuming the tomb was empty for the sake of argument? You advance Matthew's account of the Jews bribing the guards for a cover-up; is this mentioned in any other account?

J) On the same topic: a recurring theme in your argument is "why would they lie?" Why, then, would the Jews bribe the guards to cover it up? You argue that if Christians were making this claim, surely the Jews would go check the tomb. If the tomb truly was empty, then the Jews would have found it empty. Further, the only explanation is that Jesus had been resurrected (since the guards wouldn't have moved the body). Assuming all of this, then, why would the Jews commit this mass cover-up and lie?

K) You cite three of the Gospels and Acts as evidence in claim three but give no reference. Further, why, if these are accounts I should accept as reliable, does this third claim not appear in one of the Gospels?

L) You cite several "early church fathers" as corroborating that the apostles claim that they saw the resurrected Jesus; where did they corroborate it?

M) You give sources for Peter and Paul dying for their beliefs. Could you give an online resource so that I can read the accounts myself?

N) You state that no one ever dies for a lie -- this is untrue. If I start a cult and claim that I have spoken to God and if they all commit suicide they will ascend to a higher plane of existence -- this is a lie. If I gain followers, they believe me, and kill themselves, they have died for a lie. This is a documented scenario. It is better stated that no one willingly dies for something they believe is false (which, even then, there are conceivable scenarios where there are exceptions).

O) What skeptics make the claims indicated in the third claim? (I want to know if they are legitimate or straw men.)

P) I have sitting on my shelf the Gnostic Gospels (including the Gospel of Mary, Thomas, Truth, and Philip). If I accept the other books as evidence, why shouldn't I consider these as evidence? Why don't you consider these as evidence?


[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Scientific_Dissent_From_Darwinism#Affiliations_and_credentials

Christian Response #A-1: Jesus' Resurrection

As mentioned, MrFreeThinker has accepted my challenge to Christians to convince me of Christianity. I am posting below his original submission for preservation. The original can be found here.

I will evaluate the submission in posts to come and what I think about it. I invite everyone else to post or comment on it as they please.


PREFACE

I have recently taken it upon myself to respond to a challenge here for Christians.

“What reason is there to believe in the authenticity of the Bible, its message, and/or Christianity?”

My post will be focusing on the Resurrection of Jesus as a historical event.

Before I actually address this issue I will explain what I will not be doing and what I will attempt to do and what responses I will not accept lest I be misunderstood.

What I will be doing

  1. I will be using facts accepted by the majority of historians (at least 75%) and that are multiply attested.
  2. I will be using historical criteria like the criterion of embarrassment , earlyness and multiple attestation to lend credence to these facts

What I will not be doing

  1. I am not “using the bible to prove the bible” or appealing to the inerrancy of scripture. I do not argue,” the bible says so -so it was true.”I just appeal to the gospels and epistles of Paul as normal ancient documents and biographies.
  2. I am not using just “the bible as a source”. The New testament documents were a group of ancient documents by different writers.They can be used as multiple attestation.The epistles of Paul and Gospels are different sources

Responses I will not accept

  1. “The resurrection is false and can never happen because resurrections don’t happen”- Don’t question-beg naturalism in your answers.
  2. “Jesus never existed”-This is a fringe and outdated position held by a group of German philosophers in the 18th century and popularised by uncredentialed popular writers like Earl Doherty and Acharya S. No serious historian takes these writers and their Jesus myth thesis seriously.
  3. “The accounts are contradictory so they cannot be used”-Wrong. Even if the accounts of the resurrection were contradictory- historians use cntradictory sources all the time. A good example would be the usage of Polybius and Livy’s accounts of Hannibal’s crossing .

SUBMISSION

I am sure many readers are familiar with the minimal facts approach used by a certain historian called Gary Habermas (to which I am indebted to for this post). I will be using his material .

The minimal facts approach takes facts accepted by the majority of scholars[1] and multiply attested.

The Facts are:-

1. Jesus died by crucifixion
2. The tomb was empty
3. Jesus’ disciples were disheartened after he was dead.However they had experiences that led them to believe that Jesus had physically risen from the dead and appeared to them.Thwy were so convinced they suffered and some were martyred for their belief.
4. Paul ,who was a persecutor of Jesus had an experience that led him to convert and believe in the risen Jesus
5. James, the skeptical brother of Jesus, suddenly converted to Christianity.

Fact 1-The crucifixion

We begin with the crucifixion. The crucifixion is multiply attested in and outside the Bible. It is attested by Paul:

(1 Corinthians 1:23) but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles,

Mark’s Passion Source (I will provide evidence for the existence of a pre Markan passion source if it is challenged by the negative)

(Mark 15:23-24)

and the other 3 gospels

And for extrabiblical attestation we have:

Flavius Josephus[2]

(Antiquities 18.3.3) And when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross

Cornelius Tacitus

(Annals 15.44) Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus

Lucian of Samosata

The Christians, you know, worship a man to this day–the distinguished personage who introduced their novel rites, and was crucified on that account.Lucian of Samosata, The Death of Peregrine 11-13 (, 49)

The evidence is so strong that even John Dominic Crossan of the Jesus Seminar( the most liberal group in historical Jesus studies today) concedes that the crucifixion is an undisputed fact of history .

Fact 2-The empty tomb

This facts is agreed on by 75% of historians. There are many lines of the evidence for the empty tomb.The first is that it is attested to in all 4 gospels. Before I present the other evidence let me discuss the 1 Corinthians 15 creed. There is a gap between the start of Christianity and the first written documents of the New testament. The way historians bridge this gap period is examining the oral creeds that are found in the New testament. Creeds were meant to pass along important information in a manner that would make the information easy to memorize. These creeds would have been recited by Christian communities prior to them being put in written from in the New testament. In the places in the New testament where creed are cited- we can see the syntax and flow of the sentence in Greek written and changes in language. One of the creeds cited in the New testament is the 1 Corinthians 15 creed.

3 For I passed on to you as of first importance what I also received - that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, 4 and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day according to the scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.

1 Corinthians 15:3-5

The phrases Paul uses “I passed on to you…what I also received” were used a way of passing oral tradition is rabbinical literature.Linguistic factors also indicate the creed was probaly translated from Aramaic.The use of non-Pauline words coupled with the Aramaic leads most scholars to believe Paul received the creed from Peter and James in the Jerusalem church during his visit (in Galatians1- 2). If ths is the case- Paul most likely received the creed around 33-35CE( within 5 years of the crucifixion) from 2 eyewitnesses. Even the liberal Jesus seminar concedes that the creed was probaly formulated n the early 30’sCE.

The Early evidence

The creed clearly says Jesus was buried, and rose. (The word used here in Greek anastasis strongly indicates a physical rising from the dead as seen in its usage in the Septuagaint ,Greek literature and the New testament itself).If Paul says Jesus had physically risen after he was buried-the logical implication would be that his body was no longer in the tomb. The 1 Corinthians 15 creed provides early attestation (within 5 years) of the empty tomb

Enemy Attestation

This is common sense- but it is used in historical methodology too. If your enemy admits something- it is more likely to be true.The fact that the tomb was empty is admitted even by enemies of Christianity. Matthew records that the Jews paid some to say that the disciples had stolen the body (28:12-13). Justin Martyr and Tertullian record the same

So the polemic goes like this:
Jews: The disciples stole the body!
Christians: No, the guards would have prevented that!
Jews: The guards fell asleep!
Christians: You bribed them to say that!

The Jewish polemic presupposes the fact that the tomb was empty. This would not be the case if the tomb was still occupied.

Testimony of women and the criterion of embarassment

The first witnesses of the empty tomb were women, as recorded in all four Gospels . Were the narratives madeup, it is unlikely the made-up testimony would have included women, and certainly not as the primary witnesses to the empty tomb, since women were looked down upon in the cultures of that time.Even Luke 24:11 admits the disciples had a hard time believing the women.The best explaination is that the gospels were just faithfully recording what happened.

The Jerusalem Factor

Jerusalem is the place where Jesus was publicly executed on the Roman cross. It is there that He was buried, and there that His resurrection was first proclaimed.Imagine the early disciples telling the Jews that their master who had been shamefully executed had been risen and his tomb was empty.A group of Jews go check it out and find the tomb to be occupied. Christianity would be crushed. Christainity could not have spread in Jerusalem if the tomb was still occupied.

Fact 3:The appearances

The appearances are attested in the early 1 Corinthians 15 creed. They are also recorded in the gospels of Matthew , Luke and John. Testimony is also found in the speeches of the aposles in the book of Acts.

The testimony of the early church fathers( Polycarp, Clement of Rome, Ignatious of Antioch) agrees that the apostles claimed to have seen the resurrected Christ. In many cases, these early church fathers knew the apostles themselves, or knew someone close to the apostles.This can be taken as historically certain.

Some skeptic might conjecture that the apostles were lying. However this is unlikely as the disciples were wiling to be martyred[ 3] for their beliefs. No-one knowingly and willingly dies for a lie.(Note that a comparison with Muslims matyrs would be unwarranted as I never claimed their beliefs were true because of their persecution.I claimed that they were sincere in there beliefs because of their persecution.)

Another theory skeptics will propound is that the appearances were hallucinations.I will address this theory more fully in another post- but I will point out that had the disciples hallucinated -they would not interpret it to be physical experiences of the kind the New testament claims but visions. The hallucination theory also does not account for the fact that Paul and James , who were skeptics and did not want ot see Jesus- did see him.

Fact 4:-Conversion of Paul

22 But I was personally unknown to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. 23 They were only hearing, “The one who once persecuted us is now proclaiming the good news of the faith he once tried to destroy.”Galatians 1:22-23

Paul’s conversion is attested in his own letters and in Acts.Paul was converted not as a neutral observer, but as an enemy of Christ. What’s more, his conversion was not the result of his friends trying their best to convince him of Christianity, but of what he believed to be a personal encounter with the risen Christ.

Fact 5-the conversion of James

The gospels record that James was skeptical of Jesus during his ministry( this fits under the criterion of embarrassment as it was embarrassing in 1st century Jerusalem for a rabbi’s family to reject his teaching) . However later became Christian after the appearance of thew risen Christ. He was a skeptic.But he eventually was martyred for his strong faith (Josephus(Antiquities 20:200),Hegesippus).

So in summary there are 5 facts. As with all good historical situations we look at theories and see which has the greatest explanatory power. I contend that the resurrection is the best explanation for these 5 facts. The tomb was empty because Jesus was risen and James, Paul and the disciples saw Jesus because he was really there. The documentation for this is in the New testament. Other naturalistic theories fail to account for all of the facts. Once we conclude that Jesus rose from the dead- the most parsimonious explanation is his own deity.

The counter-challenge- Provide a different theory that provides a superior explaination for all the facts and provide documentation for this theory.

For further reading check out “The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus” by Gary Habermas and Mike Lincona.

A video series by Veritas48 and KabaneTheChristian is availible here

[1]Facts 1 and 3-5 are accepted almost unanimously(over 98%) by historians. Facts 2 is accepted by 75% of historians.The figures come from gary Habermas’ survey of more than 1400 scholarly articles on the historical Jesus that were written in English, German and French.

http://www.garyhabermas.com/articles/J_Study_Historical_Jesus_3-2_2005/J_Study_Historical_Jesus_3-2_2005.htm

[2]Some scholars question the authenticity of parts of the Testimonium Flavianum.However according to a study done by Louis Feldman- most Josephan scholars will accept the passge as authentic with some minor embellishments.The Tacitus passage is undisputedly authentic.

[3]Clement of Rome indicates that Peter and Paul suffered and died for their beliefs. Ignatius of Antioch, who was also most likely personally acquainted with the apostles reports that the apostles were unafraid of martyrdom in his letter to Smyra, and Polycarp reports in his letter to the Philippians that Paul and all of the apostles suffered. Dionysis of Corinth also reports, (as cited by Eusebius in book 2, chapter 25, verse 8 of Ecclesiastical history) Tertullain reports in Scorpiace chapter 15, and Origen in Contra Celsum .