59 Comments

  1. Hi everybody

    One could be born in any religion or without a religion. It is beyond one to decide where to be born. Wherever one is born; that starts one’s journey to find the truth. The tools make easy for one to do a job. It is therefore important for one first to find a tool that gives equal opportunity to every religion to search.

    Using a tool and then making a comparative study of religions to find which one is the most truthful religion is therefore most reasonable and rational.

    I give here a principle of comparative study of religions which was suggested by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad- the Promised Messiah 1835-1908 in an essay that was read in a Conference of Great Religions held at
    Lahore in 1896; and was later published in a book form titled “The Philosophy of the Teachings of Islam” translated in many languages of the world. I give below the principle and its explanation in his words:

    “It is necessary that a claim and the reasons in support of it must be set forth from a revealed book”

    “I consider it essential that everyone who follows a book, believing it to be revealed, should base his exposition upon that book and should not so extend the scope of his advocacy of his faith as if he is compiling a new book.
    As it is my purpose today to establish the merits of the Holy Quran and to demonstrate its excellence, it is incumbent upon me not to state anything which is not comprehended in the Quran and to set forth everything on the basis of its verses and in accord with their meaning and that which might be inferred from them, so that those attending the Conference should encounter no difficulty in carrying out a comparison between the teachings of different religions.”

    Mirza Ghulam Ahmad adhered to this principle and answered the five important questions set by the moderators of the Conference:

    1. The physical, moral and spiritual states of man
    2. The state of man after death.
    3. The object of man’s life and the means to its attainment.
    4. The operation of the practical ordinances of the Law in this life and the next.
    5. Sources of Divine knowledge.

    One could access the following link to read the book available online freely:

    http://www.alislam.org/library/books/Philosophy-of-Teachings-of-Islam.pdf

    The Atheists/Agnostics/Skeptics don’t have a book to follow. They extol science to find answers to all the questions in the world. Although the questions don’t fall within the scope of science and would overburden it; yet they are open to answer with the condition that the quote some standards text book of science for the claims to the answers as also to the reasons given specifying the discipline of science that legitimately deals with it.

    Islam fulfills the above Criteria; other revealed religions would find either claims or reasons in their books; not both of them, I think.

    The Atheists/Agnostics/Skeptics would find none.

  2. Hi paarsurrey, how are you going?

    You have built this comment around the statement that to know God, we need a revealed book. What you say raises three questions in my mind:

    1. Must God reveal himself through a book? Could he ever do it some other way?
    2. How do we know which book is the truest revelation of God?
    3. How would you propose to discuss these things? If, for example, you simply quoted the Koran and I quoted the Bible, we would get nowhere. So how else can we discuss?

    Thanks.

  3. The conundrum begins with:
    “My god is better than your god.”
    Which moves to:
    My revealed text is more godly that your revealed text.”
    Which moves to:
    ”We have more copies of our revealed text than you.”
    Which becomes:
    My religious experts are better at interpretation than your religious experts.”
    Which moves to:
    My definition of a religious expert is better than your definition of a religious expert.”
    Which moves to…

    Damn..where were we?
    Which leads to lame platitudes after zero understanding has been reached, where not an inch has been given, where both sides are as intransigent as ever.
    Hearing is not the problem, of course. However, there are none so deaf as those that wont listen..right?

  4. @unkleE :MAR 21, 2014 @ 03:22:18
    Quote : “Hi paarsurrey, how are you going?
    You have built this comment around the statement that to know God, we need a revealed book. What you say raises three questions in my mind:
    1. Must God reveal himself through a book? Could he ever do it some other way?
    2. How do we know which book is the truest revelation of God?
    3. How would you propose to discuss these things? If, for example, you simply quoted the Koran and I quoted the Bible, we would get nowhere. So how else can we discuss?

    Thanks.” Unquote

    Paarsurrey says:

    Hi friend

    I am fine.

    “The statement that to know God, we need a revealed book”

    I think I did not literally make that statement. Well, I don’t object if one has got that understanding from the post.

    unkleE : “to know God, we need a revealed book”

    Paarsurrey: To know God and as to how his attributes work; His Word is most useful for that purpose. I think you also agree with me on this point.

    Don’t you?

    I try to answer to your other questions below:

    1. unkleE :“Must God reveal himself through a book?

    Paarsurrey: I think you agree that God revealed Himself on Moses and Jesus; and a Jew or Christian cannot deny that.

    Perhaps you want to know from me as to why He did manifest in this way.

    Since the One-True-God (Allah Yahweh Ahura-Mazda Parmeshawara Eshawara) is only attributive; He is not a physical or spiritual being that we could see Him with our physical eyes; though we can see his attributes working behind everything in Nature, in silence.

    Yet it has always been primarily His communication or Converse through which He had manifested to human beings. Hence the importance of the spoken Word of Revelation which is verbal when revealed and also secured in writing, in the book form, is the most important source of guidance that leads to Him; it can never be over-emphasized.

    Nature manifests Him silently but the Word speaks of Him loudly.

    unkleE : “Could he ever do it some other way?”

    Paarsurrey: Yes; He could manifest Himself in diverse ways; and nobody could limit the ways of his manifestations; yet He cannot be limited by anybody or forced by anybody to change His ways:

    [35:44] …………………………….. But thou wilt never find any change in the way of Allah; nor wilt thou ever find any alteration in the way of Allah.

    http://www.alislam.org/quran/search2/showChapter.php?submitCh=Read+from+verse%3A&ch=35&verse=43

    For one; all truthful revelation from the One-True-God is to be believed; be it of the past, present and or future; be it on Buddha, Krishna, Zoroaster, Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad etc; all is to be believed; being from the same source of one God.

    2. unkleE: How do we know which book is the truest revelation of God?

    a. By comparative study

    b. And the reasonable inner-evidence of the Word Revealed according to the attributes of the One-True-God. We could do that; not at all difficult to discern.

    3. unkleE: How would you propose to discuss these things? If, for example, you simply quoted the Koran and I quoted the Bible, we would get nowhere.

    Paarsurrey: I think you have observed me quoting from the revelations of Moses, Jesus and Muhammad in this connection; I don’t think it will pose a problem even now.

    These quotes should not depict simply the authority of God; but the reason/wisdom content in the same must reflect the attribute of God being All-Wise. The quotes must therefore be full of evident reason and wisdom. The gist of the reason must exist there.

    It is not a perfect Book if it needs external reasons to be provided; that portion which is devoid of reason must not be from Him.

    Nobody is entitled to put words into God’s mouth; He is all-knowing.

    Does it help?

    What is your thinking on your three questions?

  5. Hi paarsurrey,

    You quoted the statement ““It is necessary that a claim and the reasons in support of it must be set forth from a revealed book”” so I assumed that you believed that.

    I think it is one of the ways God reveals himself, but there are other ways, so I think we agree there.

    But my main point was that if we discuss the revelations we each believe in, how can we draw any conclusions? How can we say the truth in any book is “evident” unless we already have some truth outside the books by which to judge their truth. We would need some criteria by which to make our comparisons. I was using historical and scientific learning, but you seemed not to accept those. So I can’t see how we can discuss.

  6. @unkleE :MAR 26, 2014 @ 06:54:25
    “if we discuss the revelations we each believe in, how can we draw any conclusions? ”

    I think I said that I believe all truthful Word revealed from the One-True-God on His prophets messengers; I even mentioned names of some of them.

    I don’t see any problem.

    “unless we already have some truth outside the books by which to judge their truth”

    If the revelation is truthful; it would have inner truthful evidences also.

    “We would need some criteria by which to make our comparisons”

    I mentioned reasonable criteria.

    “I was using historical and scientific learning”

    People write history differently; it is not 100% correct. There was a period when there existed no written history; Truth existed even then.

    Science is only a child of the yesterday and works in the things physical and material; Religion guides in ethical, moral and spiritual realms; both work in different spheres. Science cannot prove or disprove important subjects of religion like existence of God.

    This is what I think; others could think differently

    Regards

  7. Hi, I am from Melbourne.
    Please find an essay based on an in depth summary consideration of all of the latest scholarship re the presumed “evidence” of whether Saint Jesus of Galilee was a real person or not:
    http://www.dabase.org/up-5-1.htm
    Plus another essay by the same author re the hidden esoteric meaning of the life & teaching of Saint Jesus of Galilee
    http://www.aboutadidam.org/articles/secret_identity/beyond_hidden.html

    Why does everything have to turn out to be Christian?
    Especially as we now live in a quantum world where everyone and everything is instantaneously inter-connected, and where everyone with their multi-various religious and tribal identities are effectively living face-to-face in a very small boat in very rough seas.
    See for instance http://www.dabase.org/p3family.htm

  8. Hi John,

    Thanks for reading. I am from Sydney but I have just returned from a few days in Melbourne. At the moment you have better weather than we have! 🙁

    Can you outline please “all of the latest scholarship” on which your references are based – i.e. which historical scholars is it based on?

    Thanks.

  9. News Alert: Scientists have proven the Bible False

    And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years: 15 And let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth: and it was so. 16 And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also. –the Bible

    The ancient Hebrews and therefore the early Christians believed that above the earth, God had created a “firmament” or domed ceiling, upon which he hung the sun, moon, stars, and planets. Heaven was directly above this “ceiling”.

    Let’s now look at the story of the Ascension of Jesus:

    When he (Jesus) had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. 11 They said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” -The Bible

    If you lived in the first century AD and believed that heaven was just on the other side of the firmament or “ceiling” above the earth, then it would be very consistent with your worldview to believe that if Jesus was going to return to heaven, all he had to do was to ascend past the clouds and he would soon reach the “ceiling” of the firmament, to which are hung the planets, the sun, and moon, and he then would pierce the firmament to enter heaven. And if one can look up and see the planets and stars, then these heavenly objects must be within a day’s travel time. You would know this by common sense: if you can see a mountain in the distance, chances are you can reach it in a day’s time. So believing that Jesus could ascend to heaven, at a speed slow enough for his disciples to watch him ascend into the clouds, would be completely consistent with this world view.

    The problem for the Bible, and for Christians who believe that the Bible is the inspired, inerrant word of the Creator, is that this worldview has been proven absolutely false by modern science. There is no firmament. Jesus could not have reached the outer reaches of the universe to enter heaven moving at a speed at which humans could watch him ascend. Scientists have demonstrated that for a rocket or space ship to reach the next closest galaxy to our own, the Andromeda Galaxy, it would take two million LIGHT YEARS to get there!

    Unless Jesus entered a tractor beam once he got into the clouds, a tractor beam that “beamed him up” to heaven like Captain Kirk would regularly do on Star Trek…Jesus…at this very moment…is in outer space, putting along, somewhere between earth and the Andromeda Galaxy. Bombshell! Jesus hasn’t made it to heaven yet! Jesus is not sitting at the right hand of God the Father as the Bible claims.

    Thus, scientists have proven the Bible false.

    Trust science, my friends, not the scientifically ignorant superstitions and legends of ancient peoples, nor their holy books, full of preposterous supernatural claims.

  10. Hi Gary, thanks for reading and commenting, But I hate to disappoint you, but scientists have proved nothing of the sort. I don’t believe the Bible is inerrant, but even if I did the science you allude to is no threat to that view. You see, you are not the first to think of this. CS Lewis, an expert in ancient literature and language, had this to say more than 70 years ago (I have bolded the parts most relevant here):

    Theology certainly shares with poetry the use of metaphorical or symbolical language. The first Person of the Trinity is not the Father of the Second in a physical sense. The Second Person did not come “down” to earth in the same sense as a parachutist, nor reascend into the sky like a balloon, nor did he literally sit at the right hand of the Father. Why, then, does Christianity talk as if all these things did happen? The agnostic thinks that it does so because those who founded it were quite naively ignorant and believed all these statements literally …….

    What did the early Christians believe? Did they believe that God really has a material palace in the sky and that he received his Son in a decorated state chair placed a little to the right of his own? — or did they not? The answer is that the alternative we are offering them was probably never present to their minds at all. As soon as it was present, we know quite well which side of the fence they came down. As soon as the issue of anthropomorphism was explicitly before the Church in, I think, the second century, anthropomorphism was condemned. The Church knew the answer (that God has no body and therefore couldn’t sit in a chair) as soon as it knew the question. But till the question was raised, of course, people believed neither the one answer nor the other. There is no more tiresome error in the history of thought than to try to sort our ancestors on to this or that side of a distinction which was not in their minds at all. You are asking a question to which no answer exists.

    It is very probable that most (almost certainly not all) of the first generation of Christians never thought of their faith without anthropomorphic imagery, and that they were not explicitly conscious, as a modern would be, that it was mere imagery. But this does not in the least mean that the essence of their belief was concerned with details about a celestial throne room. That was not what they valued, or what they were prepared to die for. Any one of them who went to Alexandria and got a philosophical education would have recognised the imagery at once for what it was, and would not have felt that his belief had been altered in any way that mattered.

    You can read the entire paper, Is Theology Poetry? online, and I think you would find it useful and interesting.

    If you want to read the Bible (or any other piece of literature) to mock it or misunderstand it, you can always do so. But those who try to read it thoughtfully and taking account of the culture and history behind it probably won’t be impressed by what we see as rather silly accusations, I’m sorry.

  11. So are you saying that the Bible’s supernatural claim of an Ascension (the levitation of a human body into outer space) should be believed as metaphorical, but, the Bible’s supernatural claim that a first century Jewish prophet’s decomposing corpse was reanimated by an invisible god, walked out of his grave with a superman-like body that could walk through locked doors, appear and disappear to followers, and sit down to eat a broiled fish lunch with his buddies—should be accepted as a real, historical event??

  12. Hi Gary, no I’m not saying that at all. Have you read the ascension accounts lately?

    Luke 24:51: “While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven.”
    Acts 1:9: “After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.”

    You’ll notice straightaway that there’s no mention of “outer space” in either of these accounts, and certainly nothing like “outer reaches of the universe to enter heaven”. Luke (the writer in both cases) simply says “he left them”, he was “taken up” and “a cloud hid him”. The end result was he returned to God in heaven. Luke’s account is sober and simple. The only metaphorical thing in it, as the CS Lewis quote indicates, is the idea that upwards movement was necessary to get to heaven. So you have been exaggerating, and it is hard to take those exaggerated comments seriously.

    Likewise the resurrection accounts are generally literal and I find them believable and historical.

  13. When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. 11 They said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” –the first chapter of Acts

    I don’t see your point.

    Of course the author of Luke and Acts didn’t talk about outer space. He believed there was a canopy over the earth, a firmament. However, the simple reading of the text indicates that heaven is upward above the earth and that Jesus ascended to get there. The text also says that the disciples watched Jesus “as he was going”.

    Bottom line: If heaven is up, beyond the firmament as many verses in Genesis, Job, and other OT books claim, and Jesus was going up to it slower than the speed of light…Jesus ain’t there yet!!

    I get the feeling that you are a believer in the modern concept that Heaven and Hell are in another “dimension”. If so, you have no biblical basis for believing this other than the unease of being trapped in a corner over the literal reading of your ancient holy book.

  14. “I don’t see your point.”

    It should be quite clear. You don’t think Jesus went into space, I don’t think he did, no-one of that day did, and I’d be very surprised if anyone did today. But you extrapolate way beyond what people actually think so you can mock and misrepresent things. Do you think such an approach presents your scepticism in a good light?

    “you have no biblical basis for believing this”

    It may be a surprise to you, but not everything I believe has a “Biblical basis”. I accept what the historians and the language experts say, and what scientists say in their areas of expertise. So although the Bible somewhere (I’m told) says that the circumference of a circle is 3 times the diameter, I accept this is an approximation and that the more accurate answer is pi. So here I think Jesus ascended for a short distance to make clear that he was returning to his father, and then a cloud covered him and he was gone to another “world”. That’s not too hard to understand or imagine.

    You have a strange way of interacting with people Gary. If I met someone I disagreed with and wanted to point out where I thought they were wrong, I would try to understand what they thought first (not assume silly things about them that turn out to be wrong), then I’d try to engage thoughtfully with their views. That way I’d hope they’d at least appreciate the thought I’d put into things and consider what I had to say. Why not try that approach with me?

  15. So you do believe that heaven is in another dimension. Please demonstrate evidence that any Christian believed this concept at anytime prior to the Enlightenment.

  16. I found this article on a Christian website. I’d be interested in your opinion on it:

    “The question is asked, Where is Heaven located? I can only say that somewhere in the spacious and infinite arena above this world is a place where God is and this is Heaven. The Bible speaks of ‘coming up into heaven’ (Rev 4:1) and of Christ being ‘taken up from you into heaven’ (Acts 1:11). From these Bible verses we know that Heaven is in an upward direction and not on the surface of this earth. It is above and outside of this earth, away in space.

    “But that causes another question to arise, Which way is up? Since our universe is always spinning the direction of up is changing. The direction and location of Heaven is plainly given in the words of Isaiah concerning the fall of Lucifer. Listen to the boastful words of Lucifer as recorded in Isaiah 14: ‘I will ascend into heaven’ (v 13). Heaven is in an upward direction. ‘I will exalt my throne above the stars of God’ (v13). Heaven is beyond the other planets and above the stars. ‘I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north’ (v 14), or as the RSV renders it ‘in the far north.’ Heaven is in the northern area of the sky.

    “Another very interesting portion of the Bible is Psalm 75 where we read these words: ‘When I shall receive the congregation I will judge uprightly…For promotion cometh neither from the east, nor from the west, nor from the south. But God is the judge’ (75:2,6,7). Here we have the implication that the throne of God, where He judges the congregation is in the north since it is not in the east, the west, nor in the south as stated in verse six.

    “And let us be quick to realize that north is in the same direction from every point on our earth. It is the same from Africa as it is in America. It is the same from England as it is in Europe. North is always up everywhere on this earth. And get this, astronomers having directed their telescopes to the northern area of the sky have discovered an empty space, where there are no stars. It is like a tunnel in the sky beyond which there seems to be another Milky Way. All of this Biblical and scientific evidence that Heaven is in the northern area of the sky reminds me of the words of Job who said: ‘He stretcheth out the north over the empty place’ (Job 26:7) and Ezekiel who declared regarding the glory of Jehovah: ‘And I looked, and behold, a whirlwind came out of the north’ (Eze 1:4).

    “So there you have some of the facts regarding Heaven. It is a real place. It is in an upward direction. It is beyond the stars, the clouds, and other planets. It is located in the northern area of the sky. It is known as the ‘Heaven of heavens.'”

    Gary: Jesus himself said that he was going to build mansions for believers in Heaven, so heaven to Jesus was a real, material place.

  17. “So you do believe that heaven is in another dimension. Please demonstrate evidence that any Christian believed this concept at anytime prior to the Enlightenment.”

    Hi Gary. Judging by your comments here, you are a persistent and reasonably polite guy, but I wonder if you read what I write. Did you read the CS Lewis quote? Did you read where I said: “not everything I believe has a “Biblical basis”. I accept what the historians and the language experts say, and what scientists say”?

    So I have no difficulty with the fact that the ancient Israelites had a different concept of the world to what we know today to be true. I have no difficulty that the first century Jews had a different concept to we do today. People can have truthful ideas wrapped up in ancient “science”. If you can understand that is what I think, you will see that your focus ton this matter is missing the point.

    And of course the scientists in a hundred years time will probably have different concepts to what we have today – we are so smug that we know it all, but it is unlikely that we do – remember, quantum physics is not much more than a century old! But if science comes up with some discoveries that change some aspects of science, that won’t make everything we think today wrong.

    “I found this article on a Christian website. I’d be interested in your opinion on it:”

    I was slightly amazed. They didn’t seem to see that these two statements were contradictory: “Which way is up? Since our universe is always spinning the direction of up is changing.” and “Heaven is in the northern area of the sky.” For of course the north of the earth hasn’t always pointed in the same direction in space exactly.

    “Jesus himself said that he was going to build mansions for believers in Heaven, so heaven to Jesus was a real, material place.”

    Did he? How do you know that? I actually think heaven is a “real, material place”, just not part of the present space-time universe, but I’m interested in how you know what Jesus meant by this.

  18. John 14:2

    2 In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.

    It is certainly possible that Jesus was speaking metaphorically here, but my question for you is: If you can’t take Jesus’ word literally here, how can you take his world literally in ANY passage of the Bible??

    This is the problem I see with conservative Christianity: The verses in the Bible that we are told we should read literally continue to dwindle in number with each new scientific discovery: A six day Creation is metaphorical. A world wide Flood is metaphorical. An exodus of two million Hebrews from Egypt (that lacks any archaeological evidence) was metaphorical. An actual “ascension” is metaphorical. How long do we need to wait to finally hear conservative Christians state that the Resurrection was only metaphorical?

  19. I posted this brief article on my blog today:

    I am amazed at how far conservative Christians are willing to go to hold onto their belief in the historicity of the supernatural claims of the Bible in spite of scientific evidence to the contrary. Here is one example:

    Science has shown that the universe is massive and that to travel to the nearest galaxy to our own, the Andromeda Galaxy, would take two million light years to get there. So how do conservative Christians explain the Bible passages regarding the ascension of Jesus in which it is said that Jesus ascended to heaven at a speed slow enough for his disciples to see him go? If Jesus ascended to heaven at a speed slower than the speed of light…he hasn’t even made it to the Andromeda Galaxy yet!

    So how does a conservative Christian resolve this discrepancy between the literal reading of the Bible and science.

    From the Conservative Christian Revisionist Bible:

    The Ascension of Jesus

    9 After saying this, he (Jesus) was taken up into a cloud while they were watching, and they could no longer see him because once he entered into the cloud, he twitched his nose, and was immediately teleported into another dimension, the dimension of God, otherwise known as Heaven, which isn’t really “up”. It is all around us, but Jesus went “up” just to make sure that his thick skulled disciples knew that he had really left them. 10 As they strained to see him rising into heaven, two white-robed men suddenly stood among them. 11 “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why are you standing here staring into heaven? Jesus has been taken from you and teleported into another dimension that you cannot see with the naked eye, but a dimension that is all around us, but someday he will return from heaven in the same way you saw him go: he will descend from a cloud…even though Heaven isn’t really “up”, but he wants his disciples on earth to know for sure that he is coming from Heaven…which isn’t really up…but…it makes for a more dramatic entrance than just “popping in” from another dimension.”
    –Acts 1:6-11

  20. “It is certainly possible that Jesus was speaking metaphorically here, but my question for you is: If you can’t take Jesus’ word literally here, how can you take his world literally in ANY passage of the Bible??”

    Hi Gary, you are still misunderstanding. I didn’t anywhere say we should take John 14:2 as “metaphorical”. You surely realise that there are many different ways we can take things, not just “literal” or “metaphorical”.

    Your statement was that Jesus saw heaven as a “real material place”. Now I could have asked you to define each of those words, but in the context (you were talking about Jesus ascending through space to some other part of the universe), I took you to be saying Jesus saw heaven as a location in this space-time universe. If you meant something different, please define your terms and I will respond again.

    But Jesus could have meant many things:

    1. A place on earth.
    2. A place somewhere else in the universe.
    3. A place in a renewed universe.
    4. A physical place in some other dimension.
    5. A non-physical place.

    Now you didn’t discuss why you rejected some of these and accepted the one you did, that’s why I asked you how you knew. I’ll ask you again – how do you know what Jesus meant?

    You seem to have problem separating the essentials from the unimportant details.

    In the case of the ascension, the important thing is that Jesus was going back to his father (who doesn’t live in the universe because he created it and was living somewhere else before he created it). Exactly how he went there wasn’t and isn’t important.

    In the case of Jesus’ statement about heaven, the important thing was Jesus was reassuring his disciples he wasn’t leaving them forever, but they would see him again where he was going (i.e. back to God). Exactly where that is and what is its nature isn’t really important.

    You also seem to have a problem understanding that truth is truth wherever it is found. I have already said I accept science and history as well as the Bible. So the way we know truth will be based on all our knowledge. We will know (when we need to know it) whether parts of the Bible are literal or metaphorical using all the knowledge we have, plus the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit. Please read this blog post to understand this better.

    “An actual “ascension” is metaphorical. How long do we need to wait to finally hear conservative Christians state that the Resurrection was only metaphorical?”

    If you believe this, than that is your choice. But that is not what I have been saying, for I have several times said the opposite. Please read this clearly. The ascension was real, but the idea that heaven is in the sky is not real (I believe). The resurrection was real. No-one could read the Bible sensibly and get any other impression.

    I have to say I think it is no wonder you gave up your christian faith. It couldn’t have been a faith based on a good understanding of the Bible. So may I offer you the opportunity to think again? There is a much stronger basis for christian belief than you seem to be aware of. Why not discuss that? I am happy to do that with you. Thanks.

  21. My dear friend,

    If someone wants to believe a supernatural claim badly enough, he will create every imaginable rationalization to convince himself of the veracity of that claim. The manner in which you have rationalized support for the supernatural claim that a first century man levitated into the clouds is no different from the rationalizations Muslims use to believe that Mohammad flew on a winged horse to Jerusalem.

    No one can disprove the existence of leprechauns, unicorns, fairies and flying prophets. Believe them if you wish. But to tell the rest of us that there is EVIDENCE for these supernatural beliefs is nonsense.

  22. Something’s odd about the Ascension story. Why would Jesus slowly ascend into the clouds on his way to Heaven when we know from other passages in the Bible that Jesus is perfectly capable of teleporting?

    As they came near the village (Emmaus) to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. 29 But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So he went in to stay with them. 30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight.
    -Luke 24:28-35

    While they were telling these things, He Himself stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be to you.” 37 But they were startled and frightened and thought that they were seeing a spirit. 38 And He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?

    -Luke 24:36-38

    So if Jesus has the ability to teleport from one place to another instantaneously, why would he bother to ascend into the sky to go back to Heaven, traveling at such a slow speed that his disciples could watch him go? Why would Jesus do that?

    If your answer is that he needed to demonstrate his return to Heaven in a dramatic fashion so that his disciples would believe him, I have a question for you? Just how dense are Galilean fishermen??

    These eleven guys had:

    -seen the Spirit of God land on Jesus’ head and a voice from heaven say in a loud voice for all to hear, “THIS IS MY SON…!”
    -seen Jesus feed five thousand and then three thousand people with just a few fish and a couple loaves of bread.
    -seen Jesus walk on water.
    -seen Jesus give orders to the wind and the sea and the wind and sea obeyed immediately.
    -seen Jesus cast out such powerful demons that they took possession of 2,000 pigs that stampeded into a local lake to drown.
    -seen Jesus raise people from the dead.
    -seen Jesus cure the blind, lame, and lepers of incurable diseases.
    -seen and felt two great earthquakes.
    -seen the sky go dark for three hours.
    -seen dead people walk out of their earthquake-shattered graves to chat with family and acquaintances.
    -seen Jesus come back from the dead.
    -touched Jesus’ resurrected body, sword wound and nail prints included.
    -seen Jesus appear to 500 brethren at the same time and in the same place.
    -eaten a broiled fish lunch with a resurrected, walking/talking, dead man…

    …and you are telling me that these guys still needed one more supernatural “show” to finally convince them that Jesus was God???

    Give me a break!

    This story is a blatant fabrication to “sell” the new religion. It is a legend, created by superstitious, easily gullible, uneducated, Galilean peasants and fishermen to convert others to their new belief system.

    The only reason the author of Acts (and Luke) has Jesus ascend to Heaven is that ascending is much more dramatic than simply disappearing/teleporting. This is mythology, folks. It is no different than the Muslim belief that Mohammad flew on a winged horse to Jerusalem. These claims are not based on historical facts. They are myths!

  23. We continue to speak past one another, my friend, and here is why:

    I look at the evidence and form a hypothesis/conclusion. You start with a conclusion and interpret the evidence to fit that conclusion.

    We will never come to an agreement.

  24. “You start with a conclusion and interpret the evidence to fit that conclusion.”

    Hi Gary, I think in just about every comment you have said something about me that you have no way of knowing and is in fact a misunderstanding. This is the case here. When a person resorts to this sort of comment, without any apparent awareness that the same could be true of them, you know they have no further argument left. So thanks for the compliment.

    “The manner in which you have rationalized support for the supernatural claim that a first century man levitated into the clouds is no different from the rationalizations Muslims use to believe that Mohammad flew on a winged horse to Jerusalem.”

    Again, I’m sorry but you completely misunderstand. I haven’t actually offered any support for this claim, just explained how all your comments misunderstood the situation. If you want to know what I think about it, here it is.

    1. There is good evidence for the basic historical truth of the gospels (see Are the gospels historical, but there would be few historians who would say the ascension of jesus was a historical fact. Equally few would say it wasn’t a historical fact. I would think most would say it is something that a historian cannot comment on.

    2. I accept that, and wouldn’t claim it is something a person should believe on the basis of history. But there are many things that a person should believe on the basis of history, whether they are a christian or now (see Jesus in history.

    3. On the basis of these things, it is reasonable to believe that Jesus was the son of God. Some people are not willing or able to draw that conclusion, but I do.

    4. because I believe Jesus was the son of God, I am willing to accept other surprising things about him which are recorded, including the ascension. I don’t need any rationalisations to do this, it is based on trust in Jesus and his biographers, based on the evidence of the best secular historians.

    So I have answered your questions about the ascension from this basis, which is reasonable, and (to me) persuasive.

    Now let me offer you a friendly challenge. Would you explain to me in a similar way to how I have explained my view here, how you decide jesus wasn’t the son of God using the conclusions of good historians?

    Thanks.

  25. I read your article on Was Jesus God? It contains many, many assumptions, my friend.

    1. When you use the word “historian”, what you really mean is “Bible scholar”. The majority of Bible scholars are Christian believers. So the fact that the majority of Bible scholars believe that Jesus believed he was God is like saying that the majority of Catholic scholars believe that the pope is the vicar of Christ and the successor to Peter…therefore, the pope must be both.

    2. You assume that the Gospels were written by eyewitnesses and record real, historical events. We have no way to know this. Maybe they were, and maybe they weren’t. However, since they contain numerous fantastical supernatural claims, the probability that these supernatural events happened are no greater than the supernatural claims of very other religion on the earth. Could they have happened? Yes. Did they probably happen? Most likely not.

    3. Jesus never clearly refers to himself as the “Son of God” in the Synoptics, but only in John, the last of the gospels written. This claim is therefore more likely to be legendary embellishment than historical fact. If Jesus declares himself the “Son of God” time and time again in John, but yet seems to hide his identity in Mark, most likely someone is inventing details.

    4. Can you find any statement by Jesus himself where he declares himself to be the Creator of the world, even in John? The author of John may claim it in chapter one, but does JESUS say it?

    5. But even if Jesus did declare himself to be God, how is this any evidence that he actually was? Thousands of mentally ill persons have claimed to be God, does that mean they were?

  26. Hi Gary, thanks for reading that page. Unfortunately, you seem to have misread it. I have therefore bolded a number of questions that I’d be interested to see you answer please.

    “When you use the word “historian”, what you really mean is “Bible scholar”. The majority of Bible scholars are Christian believers. So the fact that the majority of Bible scholars believe that Jesus believed he was God …”

    1. Can you point to any place in that article where I said that “the majority of Bible scholars believe that Jesus believed he was God …”? If you read it carefully I never ever said that! In fact I said: “Not all scholars will accept Jesus’ divinity as a fact of history, but using the facts they do accept a case can be built”

    2. You say that most Bible scholars are christian believers? Which of the scholars I quoted in that page do you object to?

    “You assume that the Gospels were written by eyewitnesses and record real, historical events”

    3. I’m sorry, but this too is wrong. Can you point to anywhere that I made that assumption? On that page I specifically drew on “the facts which most historians accept”.

    “Did they probably happen? Most likely not.”

    4. Which scholars are you basing your statement that the events in the gospel most probably didn’t happen?

    “Jesus never clearly refers to himself as the “Son of God” in the Synoptics”

    5. Can you point t anywhere in that page where i said that Jesus claimed in the synoptics that he was “the son of God”? Check back and you’ll find that I didn’t. The closest I went is to quote Matthew 11:27 (where he calls himself “the Son”), and Mark 12:1-9 (where he infers this).

    So Gary, 5 questions. I’ll be interested to see your answers. Thanks.

  27. Please define your term “historian” and specify who these people are.

    Please demonstrate that there are any facts about Jesus that historians agree upon other than that he probably existed and that he probably was executed by crucifixion by the Romans at the request of the Jews. If you can present any other facts about the life and deeds of Jesus other than those two, I will be very surprised.

    One of the biggest claims by conservative Christians is that the majority of historians believe that there was an empty tomb. If you believe this (I don’t know if you do) please list your source for this claim.

  28. Hey Gary, before we go on, it would be good to finalise what we have just been discussing. Would you mind answering the five questions I asked please. If you made a mistake about any of the statements I queried, its OK to admit that. If you think you were right, it would be good to see why you think so.

    Then I wil answer the three questions you have asked me. Thanks.

  29. If I misquoted you, friend, I apologize.

    Bottom line: We have two very different views of reality. We will NEVER come to an agreement unless we first agree on what constitutes reality. My reality is defined by the scientific method. In this world of reality, the supernatural is not entertained (or feared). In your world view, your internal feelings and intuition of personal revelation and the religious writings of an ancient middle eastern people dictates your reality.

    I ask your readers: Which reality do you want to live by? A world governed by science and reason or a world governed by invisible ghosts and ghouls. Its your choice.

    Peace.

  30. Hey, UnkleE, I see you post on Nate’s “Finding Truth” blog. I left a comment about you there below a couple of your comments. I hope you will take it as a compliment. I didn’t meant as an insult:

    UnkleE reminds me a lot of my former pastor. Very intelligent. Formidable in debate. Very educated…but…still views reality through the worldview that good ghosts and bad ghosts govern every aspect of our universe, and, at this very moment, these invisible beings are engaged in an epic struggle for control of our brains (“souls”).

    Unkle E and my former pastor are supernaturalists. We ex-Christian atheists and agnostics are naturalists; we reject the supernatural and the many superstitions associated with it. Unkle E and my former pastor may be talented debaters, but they can never prove the reality of the supernatural, just as we cannot disprove its existence.

    But let’s not forget their agenda: to drag us back into a world of ghosts and ghouls. And let’s not forget ours: to lead these misguided “souls” out of the darkness of ancient superstitions.

  31. “If I misquoted you, friend, I apologize.”

    Hi Gary, thanks for that. But I wasn’t trying to get an apology, but to resolve the issues we were discussing. You have made a lot of comments about what you think I believe and suggested that your way of deciding was evidence based whereas mine was not. But I have indicated a number of places where the facts are different to what you say. If you are truly evidence based, you will either show me where my understanding of the facts is wrong, or else change your views to conform to the facts.

    So I have offered expert views, you have offered no evidence, so it seems it is you who “start with a conclusion and interpret the evidence to fit that conclusion”.

    Now to your 3 questions ….

    “Please define your term “historian” and specify who these people are.”

    A historian is a person with qualifications and experience in historical study, demonstrated by their position in a reputable academic or similar institution, their record of publication in peer reviewed journals and academic book publishers, and who have the respect of their fellow historians. Every scholar I quote meets those criteria.

    “Please demonstrate that there are any facts about Jesus that historians agree upon other than that he probably existed and that he probably was executed by crucifixion by the Romans at the request of the Jews. If you can present any other facts about the life and deeds of Jesus other than those two, I will be very surprised.”

    Prepare to be surprised.

    One of the most respected NT historians of the past half century is EP Sanders. Here is his statement on Jesus (from The Historical Figure of Jesus, p10-11):

    “I shall first offer a list of statements about Jesus that meet two standards: they are almost beyond dispute; and they belong to the framework of his life, and especially of his public career. (A list of everything that we know about Jesus would be appreciably longer.)

    Jesus was born c 4 BCE near the time of the death of Herod the Great;
    he spent his childhood and early adult years in Nazareth, a Galilean village;
    he was baptised by John the Baptist;
    he called disciples;
    he taught in the towns, villages and countryside of Galilee (apparently not the cities);
    he preached ‘the kingdom of God’;
    about the year 30 he went to Jerusalem for Passover;
    he created a disturbance in the Temple area;
    he had a final meal with the disciples;
    he was arrested and interrogated by Jewish authorities, specifically the high priest;
    he was executed on the orders of the Roman prefect, Pontius Pilate.”

    And no, he is not a christian. And most historians I have read would accept what Sanders says here, for these facts are indeed “almost beyond dispute”.

    “One of the biggest claims by conservative Christians is that the majority of historians believe that there was an empty tomb. If you believe this (I don’t know if you do) please list your source for this claim.”

    The source is Gary Habermas, who in 2006 referenced every relatively recent scholarly paper he could find on the topic of the resurrection (1400 in all), and found that “Of these scholars, approximately 75% favor one or more of these arguments for the empty tomb, while approximately 25% think that one or more arguments oppose it. Thus, while far from being unanimously held by critical scholars, it may surprise some that those who embrace the empty tomb as a historical fact still comprise a fairly strong majority.”

    In a more recent paper (2012) (bottom of page 22), he says a survey of 3400 scholarly papers shows “between two-thirds and three-quarters of the critical scholars who comment on this matter favor the tomb being empty for other than natural reasons”.

    “Hey, UnkleE, I see you post on Nate’s “Finding Truth” blog. I left a comment about you there below a couple of your comments. I hope you will take it as a compliment. I didn’t meant as an insult:”

    Thanks. I am not worried about being insulted, but I do think the phrase ” ghosts and ghouls” totally ruins any argument you have. If anyone wants to be taken seriously they need to act seriously and this is not a serious comment

    May I suggest that this is time to take stock. You have offered a number of comments without any historical references or evidence, you haven’t responded to the evidence that I have offered, and you have chosen a few times to make insults rather than arguments. I suggest it is time to stop unless you are willing to leave the insults behind and honestly engage with what the scholars say.

    What do you say?

  32. If I were going to discuss the latest findings in astronomy I wouldn’t quote someone from the first half of the twentieth century as my source. EP Sanders is out of date.

    Yes, I am aware of Habermas’ study. Unless things have changed, Habermas has refused to release his data to be evaluated by others. Therefore he is asking us to take his word that 75% of historians agree that the tomb was empty. That is like a Muslim scholar saying that 75% of historians agree that Mohammad flew on a winged horse to Jerusalem—but refuses to allow anyone to review his data.

    Fishy.

  33. “If I were going to discuss the latest findings in astronomy I wouldn’t quote someone from the first half of the twentieth century as my source. EP Sanders is out of date.”

    I’m sorry Gary, but this is a Fail. You accuse me of putting belief before evidence, but at least I offer evidence. You continue not to. When you resort to poisoning the well fallacy, you know you have failed.

    Besides which, Sanders isn’t from “the first half of the twentieth century”his book is dated 1996, less than 20 years ago.

    “Habermas has refused to release his data to be evaluated by others.”

    Where did you hear this? It is nonsense. His “data” is available to everyone – it is simply all the papers that have been written on the subject. None of that is secret – it’s all public.

    I think it is time to stop. You are resorting more and more to avoiding the facts by whatever idea enters your head. I don’t really want to waste my time if this is all you are going to do. Thanks for reading.

  34. A valiant effort Gary but in the end completely pointless. There is absolutely nothing that anyone can say that would ever sway him from his position that there is one TRUE religion (Christianity), there is one TRUE God (Jesus) and if you don’t agree with that, you’re just wrong. You can ask questions and point out flaws in his thinking but it’s pointless. He’s ALWAYS right. NO MATTER WHAT. There’s nothing you can do about that unfortunately, except hope that other people who view the conversation see his methodology and recognize the disingenuine way he engages in dialogue. He has no absolutely no intentions to change his position no matter what evidence or argument is presented to him. Talking to UnkleE is literally like talking to a brick wall.

  35. Hi Ashley, thanks for reading and commenting, even if your comments were uncomplimentary. Have you visited often, and have you read much? Do you think you know me well?

    Do you think that if there is a two way conversation which continue without agreement, then one person is obstinate but the other isn’t? How do you decide which one is which?

    Interested in your response.

  36. Do I know you well? No I would not say that. However, do I know people who think and talk and argue like you on matters concerning God? Yes. Very well. One need only peruse the comments/responses to Gary in this post, your comments and responses to Jamez in the Probability of God post and your comments/responses to Ryucoo in the Healing Miracles post (which was really concerning the Probability of God test) to discern the pattern. They are all virtually the same. You make your assertions, someone either asks questions or points out the flaws/fallacies in your thinking,method and approach and the posts devolve into the same thing every time. You disagree, they are mistaken, they misunderstand, they don’t have any evidence, it’s time to stop. This is the end result of every single conversation that you have with people with whom you disagree. Just in your one conversation with Ryucoo in May of 2014 where he points out the potential flaws and logical inconsistencies of your test, I counted 21 instances of you saying to him that he’s mistaken, misunderstands you and doesn’t have any evidence for his views. Not once, in any of the conversations I have read through, have I ever seen you acknowledge any point that anyone has ever made regarding the validity of your assertions, arguments and evidence you present. NOT ONCE. Your probability of god test really is flawless, there really is evidence for a divine creator, there really is evidence for healing miracles and so on and so forth. Isn’t that amazing?! You’re never wrong! Only the people who disagree with you are wrong. There’s always something that they misunderstand, that you can’t define the terms properly of, haven’t taken into account or are simply mistaken about. Every time. That’s a strange co-incidence wouldn’t you say? Or….maybe not?
    It’s a pattern UnkleE and it’s as predictable as the seasons. You can set your watch to it.

  37. Hi Ashley, thanks for returning and explaining your reactions a little more. I appreciate that. Essentially you accuse me of thinking I am never wrong, of never acknowledging the points anyone else makes.

    I am not offended by any that you say, but I don’t think that is a true understanding of who I am. So I wonder whether you are interested in discussing this matter? I am going to have a go, by asking you a few questions please.

    1. Where in your comments to me have you acknowledged any of the points I have made? Where have you expressed any doubts that you are wrong?

    2. If two people have a discussion where they initially disagree, several outcomes are possible. One or the other might convince the other on a certain point and they concede that point, or neither concede any points and they both continue to disagree. With my conversation with Gary, we continued to disagree. So can you explain, please, how my disagreeing with him was me thinking I am never wrong and never acknowledging the points he made, but the same wasn’t equally true of him?

    I also pointed out a number of things Gary said that were factually wrong (e.g. the date of EP Sanders’ book, and a bunch of places where he made incorrect statements about what I had said) and I gave a whole bunch of references to support claims I made, something he almost never did. He never admitted any of those mistakes. Can you point to where I am wrong in any of that?

    3. Looking at the discussion with Jamez that you refer to, I note that you didn’t mention that I started by saying: “It wasn’t easy to construct it to give good answers …. It is quite possible that my little test is poorly conceived and executed …. Thanks for your input. I thought it was an interesting question, and gave me both some amusement and some head scratching.” Where in those statements do you see unwillingness to consider another viewpoint and discuss in a friendly open-minded way? And the same as with Gary, how is my disagreeing with him thinking I am never wrong and never acknowledging the points he made, but the same wasn’t equally true of him?

    I’m not sure which post you’re referring to with Ryucoo, so I’ll leave that until later. if you are willing to begin a discussion by answering those three questions, something useful may come of it. Thanks.

  38. Ashley, is there any particular reason why you’re focusing so much on patterns and character? You’re free to do so, but it is an approach that is extremely liable to psychological biases like the fundamental attribution error and it cannot decide between truth or falsehood.

  39. UnkleE,

    To answer your questions

    1) I haven’t made any statements to be wrong about. You’re the one claiming your probability of god test is an accurate one. You’re the one claiming to know that healing miracles occur. You’re the one doing the asserting, not me. I (and Jamez and Ryucoo) are saying that we don’t believe you and that your “evidence” is unconvincing and that your logic is faulty. I have nothing to be wrong about.
    2) Your disagreeing with Gary is just one of a very long list in a predictable pattern. The evidence that you present is always 100% accurate and anyone who views it with any kind of skepticism or suspicion is either mistaken or misunderstanding you. This happens EVERY SINGLE TIME you disagree with someone. You don’t have to take my word for it. Go back and read through all of the conversations that you’ve had with Jamez, Gary and Ryucoo. The end result is always the same. Your evidence is always correct and they are mistaken. ALWAYS.
    3) This is some classic quote mining – from your own words no less! Why do we repost that entire initial statement to him don’t we? “It is quite possible that my little test is poorly conceived and executed, BUT IT DOESN’T SEEM THAT YOUR EXAMPLE DEMONSTRATES THAT (emphasis mine), even if I enter into the spirit of it and analyse it.
    In other words, it could be that your test is wrong, but nothing Jamez said convinced you of that. So before you even begin to have the dialogue with him, you outright state that you don’t think his viewpoint is worth considering. That would be the part “in those statements that I see unwillingness to consider another viewpoint and discuss in a friendly open-minded way.” The discussion continues and every single objection that Jamez brings up is dismissed as mistaken and every analogy is incorrect. And where do we end up? Why right where we started of course! There are no flaws in your test and Jamez objections are based on a mistaken understanding and “Perhaps the test reveals more about the truth than he thinks!!!???”
    You’re right and he’s wrong.
    I’m sensing a pattern here…….
    “And the same as with Gary, how is my disagreeing with him thinking I am never wrong and never acknowledging the points he made, but the same wasn’t equally true of him?”
    Because you’re the one who made the test UnkleE, you’re the one who’s claiming to know that miraculous healing is possible UnkleE. Not Gary, not Jamez, not Ryucoo – YOU. They’re not claiming anything. They are expressing doubt and skepticism at the arguments and evidence you have presented. You dismiss all of it. Every single time, without exception. I don’t know if any of them have a website or a blog or not but if they did, and they claimed to know for certain that god doesn’t exist, that miraculous healing never occurs, etc, and they dismissed all criticisms of their arguments and evidences in the same manner that you do, then I would criticize them in the same manner I am criticizing you.
    For some reason, I have this sneaking suspicion that your next post to me is going to be a detailed critique of my words and how I am mistaken, how I am misunderstanding you, how I have misrepresented the tone or context of the conversations, etc….ultimately leading to a dismissal of everything I have said. And by suspicion, I mean I am 100% positive that is what you are going to say to me. There’s no other way for this conversation to end, because that’s how all conversations end when someone doesn’t agree with you. Your methods are never erroneous. It’s always the other person who is mistaken or misunderstanding, never you. Like I said in my first statement, I can set my watch to it.

  40. Hi Ashley,

    Thanks for replying again, and continuing the conversation. May I ask you a few more questions please?

    You say “I haven’t made any statements to be wrong about.” What about these …?

    “You disagree, they are mistaken, they misunderstand, they don’t have any evidence, it’s time to stop.”
    “Not once, in any of the conversations I have read through, have I ever seen you acknowledge any point that anyone has ever made regarding the validity of your assertions, arguments and evidence you present. NOT ONCE.”
    “It’s a pattern UnkleE and it’s as predictable as the seasons. You can set your watch to it.”
    “This happens EVERY SINGLE TIME you disagree with someone.”
    “I am 100% positive that is what you are going to say to me. There’s no other way for this conversation to end, because that’s how all conversations end when someone doesn’t agree with you.”

    1. I would say that’s a bunch of statements that you could be right about, or you could be wrong about, wouldn’t you? So, do you think you were right in making these statements, or not? Could you be wrong?

    2. You comment on my “claiming to know miraculous healing is possible”. What do you think about that? Do you think it is possible or impossible?

    3. You said: “Because you’re the one who made the test UnkleE, you’re the one who’s claiming to know that miraculous healing is possible UnkleE. Not Gary, not Jamez, not Ryucoo – YOU. They’re not claiming anything.”

    Here are some statements by Gary:

    “News Alert: Scientists have proven the Bible False”
    “heaven to Jesus was a real, material place.”
    “I am amazed at how far conservative Christians are willing to go to hold onto their belief in the historicity of the supernatural claims of the Bible in spite of scientific evidence to the contrary.”
    “If someone wants to believe a supernatural claim badly enough, he will create every imaginable rationalization to convince himself of the veracity of that claim.”
    ” to tell the rest of us that there is EVIDENCE for these supernatural beliefs is nonsense.”
    “This story is a blatant fabrication to “sell” the new religion. It is a legend, created by superstitious, easily gullible, uneducated, Galilean peasants and fishermen to convert others to their new belief system.”
    “I look at the evidence and form a hypothesis/conclusion. You start with a conclusion and interpret the evidence to fit that conclusion.”
    ” In your world view, your internal feelings and intuition of personal revelation and the religious writings of an ancient middle eastern people dictates your reality.”
    “UnkleE …. views reality through the worldview that good ghosts and bad ghosts govern every aspect of our universe, and, at this very moment, these invisible beings are engaged in an epic struggle for control of our brains (“souls”). … But let’s not forget their agenda: to drag us back into a world of ghosts and ghouls.”

    Now do you really think they aren’t a lot of claims, about the world, about the Bible and about me?

    So may I ask you again, if I was “thinking I am never wrong and never acknowledging the points he made”, how are his responses here different?

    4. Finally, Gary said: “I wouldn’t quote someone from the first half of the twentieth century as my source. EP Sanders is out of date.” But you can see that Gary was in fact mistaken, Sanders’ book was published in 1996. So since he was shown to be wrong on a simple factual matter, do you not think he should be criticised for never admitting he was wrong?

    Let me conclude by saying, contrary to what you seem to think, I do not feel certainty about any of this, and I am quite willing to discuss alternate viewpoints. I simply respond to the things people say, you as much as them. If you wanted to have a less adversarial discussion, why not try me? Thanks.

  41. “1. I would say that’s a bunch of statements that you could be right about, or you could be wrong about, wouldn’t you? So, do you think you were right in making these statements, or not? Could you be wrong?”
    All one needs to do, is go through the evidence that comes from your own hand. You don’t have to take my word for it. Disagree. Mistaken. Misunderstand. Stop. I don’t know how in the world you managed to summon the courage to argue with me about this. You simply need to go back and look at the conversations. Read them and see for yourself. The pattern is real. I’m not making this up out of thin air. At least, I am certain that I am not, but maybe I am? I’ve referred to the relevant conversations that I have read through as my evidence that the pattern is real. However, you are right in that I could very well be wrong about all of this UnkleE. and all of this is simply in my head. To jolt me back into reality, perhaps you could point to a conversation or one part of a conversation where you take into consideration something that someone has said and changed your viewpoint. Like say that maybe your probability of god test is based on a logical fallacy or contains some other error or something of that nature? And that because you realized it was based on an error, you reworked the test so that it no longer contains the error. But you don’t do that. You say “Yeah, maybe I am wrong, but I don’t think anything you have said has convinced me of that”.
    Furthermore, when I was said that I have nothing to be wrong about, I was referring to the main claims that you make on your website – specifically the probability of god test, the miraculous healing, etc. In those regards, I am not making any counter-claims in that I know for certain you are wrong. I am simply expressing doubt. I doubt that your probability of god test is accurate and I doubt that you have evidence that miraculous healing occurs. Do I know for certain that you are wrong? NO.

    2. “You comment on my “claiming to know miraculous healing is possible”. What do you think about that? Do you think it is possible or impossible?” I think it is possible that miraculous healing occurs. The evidence and argument you have presented is not persuasive enough for me to think that you know that god performs miracles and heals people. It appears to me to be nothing more than random chance and as-of-yet unexplained phenomenon. For example, if god can heal one person miraculously, why doesn’t he just heal them all? Why do only a fraction of 1% of people get miraculously healed while the overwhelming majority don’t? You see UnkleE? Claims like yours (that god miraculously heals people), rather than provide answers, only raise more questions. I could go on, but I prefer not to. You have already determined that all of these unexplained healings are the result of divine intervention and are quite content with that. If that provides you with the answers you are looking for, and it makes you happy, that’s all that really matters. I don’t see any need for you to convince me of that. Do you? Unless of course you are convinced you’re right and I am wrong?

    3. This is a tu quoque argument. Every single thing that Gary has said could be absolutely incorrect. That still does not change the fact that you dismiss every single criticism directed your way. Scrambling around to point out that Gary may or may not be as stubborn and entrenched in his views as you are, is not going to accomplish anything. Refer to answer 1. Disagree. Mistaken. Misunderstand. Stop. I think it would be absolutely amazing that both of you could never be mistaken about anything. Statistically, it would be extremely unlikely that he didn’t point out at least one flaw in your thinking and reasoning. Pointing out that he doesn’t acknowledge his mistakes when you point them out, does not change the fact that you do not acknowledge your mistakes when he points them out. I have yet to see you do so. While you usually start your sentence with “Yes, I could be mistaken about that…”, you immediately follow it up with “but I don’t think you have discovered a flaw in my thinking”. And it turns out to be the case 100% of the time. No one has ever been able to discover a flaw or logical fallacy in your reasoning that would result in you making some kind of amendment to a statement or post.

    “Let me conclude by saying, contrary to what you seem to think, I do not feel certainty about any of this, and I am quite willing to discuss alternate viewpoints.”

    You might be able to fool yourself into thinking that UnkleE, but the reality is, nothing could be further from the truth. While you do put on the appearance of being willing to discuss things, your dialogues are dishonest and disingenuous. Even when presented with something as simple as the evidence of the patterns that your conversations devolve into, rather than go back and look through it and see for yourself, you start questioning MY sincerity and whether or not I could be wrong. Have you actually gone back and read through those conversations UnkleE? Did you not see the pattern? Do they not all end the same way? Is THIS conversation not going the same way?!?!?!

  42. Hi Ashley, thanks again for answering my questions. You certainly are expressing some strong opinions, and I’m sorry to have provoked that. I really am not the way you say, but I don’t suppose anything I say will convince you of that. So having asked some questions, allow me to respond.

    “I don’t know how in the world you managed to summon the courage to argue with me about this.”

    Well here’s the interesting thing. I haven’t really argued with you about what you said about me. Look back and see. I have hardly defended myself. I haven’t tried to argue you are wrong about me. Instead I have asked you questions about what you think, and what you think of what Gary said.

    So let me make it clear. I haven’t admitted I was wrong about anything because I don’t think anyone has shown me I was wrong. If I didn’t believe the things I write are right, I wouldn’t write them.

    What I have tried to do is show that you and Gary have made many, many statements which I disagree with. I didn’t accuse either of you of always thinking you are right, there being a pattern here, etc. I thought some of Gary’s comments were somewhat silly and some were demonstrably wrong (particularly several things he assumed about me), but I didn’t make the sort of strong statements to him that you have repeated several times about me. Instead I tried to show him where he was wrong. He didn’t accept that, so we stopped discussing.

    So let me put a very simple hypothesis to you. It has two parts.

    1. I write stuff I think is right, and I don’t stop believing it when people disagree but don’t give me what seem to me to be good reasons to change. I assume you and Gary do the same.
    2. Both of us are behaving the same way. The simple fact is that we disagree about what is true.

    I like to be a friendly guy, even under provocation. I understand that people have strong feelings about these things. So when Gary’s very first words are “News Alert: Scientists have proven the Bible False” I don’t get upset at what seems like a silly comment, I respond in as friendly a manner as I can, while still answering his comment. I think I maybe could have been friendlier, but I was trying not to react to some accusing statements.

    Likewise with you. You have made a whole heap of accusing and quite damning comments about me, repeated several times. I understand you feel upset or angry or something. But I try to respond in a friendly manner, to thank you for responding, to ask you further questions, never to impugn your integrity like you have impugned mine. I really want to be friendly. I still do. If I have said anything the justifies your feelings towards me, I am sorry.

    So where to from here? I suggest two possibilities.

    1. If you want to continue in an adversarial discussion, please pick out any one comment I have made on this post or discussion which you think is factually wrong, and which I should have admitted I was wrong, and let’s discuss it. Then we can see if your accusation about my never admitting I am wrong is because you cannot show I am wrong, or because I cannot admit I am wrong.

    2. Or, if you are willing to put aside this adversarial approach, pick any topic you would like and let’s discuss it like two friends rather than two enemies.

    What do you say?

  43. Excellent idea UnkleE! I choose option 2. The topic? The pattern that your conversations devolve into when you disagree with someone. You cool with that?

    I will ask you some very simple questions and if you can give me honest answers, we can continue the conversation. Deal? I’m not trying to trick you or trap you, nor am I asking rhetorical questions. These are softballs. I’m lobbing them in and you should be able to knock them right out of the park.

    Question 1) Did you actually go back and look at the conversations you had with the 3 individuals I mentioned?
    (See? Straight forward, very easy to answer – you either did or you didn’t)
    Question 2) If your answer to question 1 is no, why not? That’s the reason I made the post in the first place – to show you the pattern that your conversations devolve into. If you haven’t done so, can you please do so now? There’s no point in continuing this conversation if you don’t even want to look at the evidence I present (your own writings) is there?
    Question 3) Now that you have gone back and looked at them did you notice that every single one of them ends up the same way? Did you notice that every single objection that all 3 of those people raised are a result NOT of some error on YOUR part, but because of some mistake or misunderstanding on THEIR part? Did you notice the PATTERN UnkleE?

    That’s it dude! That’s all I wanted to discuss. I look forward to hearing from you

  44. Hi Ashley, I’m glad you chose option 2, and I’m cool with your topic. I presume the questions go both ways?

    1. I did look back at the conversation with Gary and Jamez, but like I said, I wasn’t sure where to find the conversation with Ryucoo and I couldn’t find it in a search, so I didn’t look at that. I didn’t read every word of the conversation, but I certainly reviewed what I wrote to see if I had been rude or obstinate.

    2. N/A

    3. I did notice a pattern, and it was on BOTH sides of the discussion. Neither side thought they were wrong.

    So now it’s my turn to ask you 3 questions ….

    Question 1) Now can you go back through your discussion with me please, and Gary’s, and tell me anywhere that either of you conceded that any objection I raised was an error on your part and not mine?

    Question 2) Can you show me evidence please of one factual matter where you believe I was factually wrong?

    Question 3) How can you tell the difference between these two possibilities? (a) I refuse to admit I’m wrong because I’m [add your choice of negative adjectives about me]? (b) I write what I believe is correct and so far neither you nor Gary have offered any compelling evidence or reason for me to change. What criteria do you use to tell the difference?

    I think those are simple questions with simple answers. I look forward to your answers and a further set of questions from you. Thanks.

  45. UnkleE,

    1) Since you’re the one doing the asserting UnkleE (for example, proclaiming to know that miraculous healing occurs), you’re the one that has the proving to do UnkleE, not me. I’m not making any counter claims of my own, I am only refuting yours. There is nothing for you to object to, because I haven’t made any counter claims of my own. For example, I have NOT made the counter claim that I know for certain that miraculous healing do occur, because for all I know, they very well might occur. All I have done is cast doubt on the evidence and argument that you present to substantiate your claim that miraculous healing occur. Do you know the concept behind the Burden of Proof? Let me explain. You make a claim on your blog. You say that God heals people via miracles. I then read your claim, examine your evidence and then point out what I think are the flaws in your logic and that your evidence is only anecdotal and circumstantial. The biggest one, that anyone can clearly see when they read your claim, is that you don’t have anything that would even remotely resemble a controlled, repeatable, verifiable, falsifiable experiment. Does this mean for certain that I know that you are wrong? NO, IT DOES NOT. Does this mean I know for certain that miraculous healing do not occur? NO, IT DOES NOT.
    You then dismiss that critique and continue to assert that god does heal people via miracles because you say I haven’t “offered any compelling evidence or reason for you to change”.
    THAT’S the pattern I was referring to UnkleE. No one ever seems to be able to give you compelling reasons to change anything you’ve ever written. EVER. Every time someone points out what they think is some kind of flaw in your thinking or the weakness of your evidence, you dismiss it because you don’t think the critique is valid and you continue making your assertions.
    But this would be much easier if you told me what claim I made that you raised an objection to, that I dismissed and continued to assert as true.

    2) No I can’t because I have no way of knowing for certain that you are wrong with the claims that you have made. As I said in the previous answer, I have no way of knowing for certain that you are factually wrong about a claim such as god heals people via miracles. The argument you make and the evidence you present do not convince me you are right (hence my objections), but I have no way of knowing for certain that you are factually wrong. To put it succinctly, I am merely skeptical that you know for certain that god heals people via miracles.

    3) I must say this is an incredibly bizarre question. There is no possible way I could ever discern any reasons as to why you never admit that you are wrong and in any event, what does it matter? The end result is always the same – you’re never wrong. Why would you require me to categorize the reasons why you never admit that you’re wrong? So to answer your question, I can’t tell the difference between the 2 possibilities and therefore I don’t have any criteria for discerning the difference between the 2.
    I will point out however, that I don’t think it’s humanly possible for you to be correct 100% of the time. You don’t find it incredibly amazing that no one has ever been able to convince you that you write what you believe to be correct, and no one has ever been able to present any evidence or make an argument that would make you re-consider what you’ve written? Not one single person has ever been able to point out a flaw in your logic or thinking or noticed that you’ve made a fundamental error in judgement? No one? EVER? At least, I haven’t seen one yet, but that could be because I haven’t read through your entire website. If you could point me to an entry that you posted, in which someone pointed out a potential mistake in your presentation that caused you to go back and re-write your entry or make some other change, that would be excellent.

    So I will try to keep the rest of this brief.

    1) You make claims on your site that god heals people miraculously. What evidence would one have to present or what argument would one have to make that would make you reconsider that god doesn’t heal people and that these apparently miraculous healings are the result of some other natural, as-of-yet unexplained phenomenon? Or would make you say “I don’t know” when asked why this person made such a miraculous recovery. In other words, how could we falsify your claim?

    2) If god does indeed miraculously heal people, why doesn’t he heal everyone? Why is there only a fraction of a percent of people who are healed this way while the overwhelming majority are not healed?

    3) Why wouldn’t god miraculously heal people who have AIDS or other diseases for which modern medicine has no cure?

  46. Thank you for putting together such an excellent chart of various religions.

    I am a congregational humanist, who happens to be an atheist with a strong. Catholic background. I am not interested in getting you to become another atheist. My issue with religion is with coercion in the realm of belief. That coercion includes demanding that other people follow the mandates of a supernatural being, as interpreted by people who claim the authority, power, and right to do so. Thomas Paine made the claim that anyone who denies the rights of another in freedom to decide what to believe, robs himself of that same right. You cannot change your mind under that system. This would, therefore, mean that your choice was not a free one.

    I really have grown weary of people attacking each other over their beliefs or lack of belief. I must confess that I am way in over my head and that, when I read what others write, I have come to the conclusion that this is the human condition.

    I heard an awesome TED talk about blindness. It turns out that the blind really can lead the blind. They use echo-location. It is a skill that takes practice. I don’t believe that science can ever give us anything but good tools and that there are always parameters to what those tools can do. You cannot measure temperature with a yardstick. Nor can you hear the sound of your voice echo in a way that lets you feel connected to a real world, if your words are merely the ticking of an unwinding celestial clock. You would get precise information using the data from the ticking clock. You could use logic to interpret it. But speaking in a way that lets there be an echo, or a response is being open to discovering a world.

  47. Hi Ashley, it seems that your answers were (in brief): 1. No. 2. No. 3. No. (each with explanations) Thanks for that.

    My answers this time are as follows.

    1. Firstly, I don’t say that miraculous healings definitely happen as this question and other of your comments seems to infer. For example, on my main summary page on healing, I conclude: “something unusual has occurred”. I then outline how different people might interpret that conclusion. Perhaps you should read that page to see for yourself.

    I think there is a prima facie case for divine healing when many unusual recoveries occur after prayer for healing, more than occur when such prayer is absent (as far as we know). So falsification requires that not to be the case.

    Another way to falsify is to examine documentation of apparent healings (say those at Lourdes investigated by the medical commission) and provide a naturalistic or medical explanation for them.

    2. You would have to ask God that, I don’t know. The only thoughts I can offer are (i) not everyone asks, and (ii) he knows more than us and does things differently than we’d expect.

    3. God does sometimes heal people of things modern medicine can’t heal. This story and this story show patients recovering after the medical teams had pronounced them dead, but then they were prayed for. I wish he’d heal more people too.

    Now my 3 questions back to you:

    You answered no to each of my previous questions, meaning you have said that (1) there was nowhere that you admitted an error, (2) you had no evidence of a factual error I had made, and (3) you couldn’t tell whether I didn’t admit mistakes because I’m a bloody-minded person (my words) or because neither you nor Gary had offered any evidence of an error on my part. That appears to mean that yo have no reason to criticise me as you have been doing. So I want to introduce you to a hypothetical friend of mine, a Greek mate of mine named Socrates. He will ask the 3 questions on my behalf.

    Socrates: Hi Ashley, nice to meet you. I am a neutral observer here. Since you started commenting on this page, Google Analytics informs us that 41 different people have visited this page and they have spent an average of 8 minutes here, so they presumably have read this discussion. I want you to address me as a representative of them, rather than address unkleE with your answers to my questions. Each of us are looking to unkleE as a christian and you as a critic to see who presents the best case. And we judge the best case by the evidence people offer. So here are my three questions please:

    1) Do you agree that evidence is the best way to show a statement you make is true, or do you think we should be convinced without you offering evidence?

    2) You have accused unkleE of never admitting he’s wrong, but you have just said you cannot offer evidence of (a) anywhere that you have admitted you were wrong either, nor of (b) anywhere he was factually wrong. Can you explain to me then please any evidence that his behaviour is different to yours in this matter?

    3) You have admitted that you cannot know what unkleE is thinking and that you cannot distinguish whether he doesn’t admit he’s wrong because that is his character or because you haven’t shown him to be wrong (see my Q2). So what justification (i.e. evidence) can you offer for criticising him so strongly?

    Remember, in answering these questions, I want you to see yourself as not arguing with unkleE, but as trying to convince those of us watching the discussion that you are justified in what you have said. Thanks.

  48. Hi Daniel, it is very nice to “meet” you. I’ll come halfway towards you and I won’t try to convince you to become a christian either! We can both relax. 🙂

    I am intrigued by the term “congregational humanist”. Can you explain that to me please?

    “My issue with religion is with coercion in the realm of belief. “

    You won’t get any argument with me here. I think religion is at its worst when allied with the power of the state, just as atheism has been at its worst when allied with the state. I believe coercion and imposition of christian belief or values are quite contrary to what Jesus was on about.

    “I really have grown weary of people attacking each other over their beliefs or lack of belief”

    I agree here too. If you mean physical attack, I am very opposed to that. Jesus said we are to pray for our enemies, not attack them.

    If you are referring to argument, on my About page I say: “I …. prefer to connect with people of different beliefs rather than argue with them.” I don’t always live up to that, but I try. But sometimes it is difficult to avoid argument. Take the discussion with Ashley for example. I keep trying to lower the temperature and be courteous and friendly, but I can only do so much.

    “I heard an awesome TED talk about blindness.”

    That is fascinating (as is almost every TED talk I have listened to). I would be interested to hear more about why you mentioned it here – especially your last comment: “speaking in a way that lets there be an echo, or a response is being open to discovering a world”.

    I think I would really enjoy conversing with you more if you had time and interest. Thanks.

  49. Dear UnkleE pretending to be Socrates

    1) Yes I agree that evidence is the only way to determine that something is definitely true. UncleE offers none. He has no controlled, repeatable, falsifiable experiments that have been peer reviewed. He offers only anecdotal testimony and arguments based on logical fallacies. I am not required to offer evidence that UnkleE is definitely wrong. I know that Socrates would never commit such a Burden of Proof logical fallacy and that it is UnkleE pretending to be Socrates doing so. I have also pointed this out to him 3 or 4 times in the course of this conversation. It does not appear to be sinking in.

    2) My being unable to offer evidence of me never being wrong is both irrelevant and illogical. I am not the one doing the asserting, UnkleE is. Even if there was evidence of me never dmitting I was wrong, it does not change the fact 1 iota that UnkleE never admits he was wrong. I have pointed this logical fallacy of Tu Quoque out to him 3 or 4 times now. Again, I realize that Socrates would never commit such a fallacy and that is it UnkleE doing so in Socrates name. This too, appears not to be sinking in. I cannot explain that he is factually wrong because even if he was, he would never admit it. This is very easy to prove. Simply go through any conversation he has ever had with anyone. He has never admitted that he was wrong. EVER. Even if he was factually wrong, or I only thought he was factually wrong but couldn’t prove it, wouldn’t matter because he still wouldn’t admit it. The end result is always the same. To date, his batting average is 100%. I don’t see how this can be humanly possible.

    3) My being unable to distinguish why he never admits that he is wrong (because he is either stubborn or is in fact never wrong) is irrelevant. The end result is always the same. He is never wrong. Furthermore, the reason I cannot distinguish the difference is because I cannot read his mind. I cannot read anyone’s mind. No one can read anyone’s mind. If I could, I would be able to know when being stubborn and dishonest (knowing he was wrong but refusing to admit to it) and could show him. That would require me to first convince him that I could read his mind. That is why I told him it was an insanely bizarre question. Only a complete mad man would ask such a ridiculous question. In any event, the fact of the matter is that he never admits he is wrong. I observe and state that it is extremely, highly improbable that he is never wrong. I don’t think its possible for a human being to be correct 100% of the time. I don’t think its possible for the people who critique his work to be wrong 100% of the time. That is why “I criticize him so strongly”

    UnkleE,
    Thank you for proving my point that I originally set out to prove. No matter what, you are always right. You have already admitted it: “I did notice a pattern, and it was on BOTH sides of the discussion. Neither side thought they were wrong.”
    Gary refused to admit he was wrong. YOU refused to admit you were wrong. That was my whole point to begin with. You pointing out that you are no different than Gary in that regard, doesn’t change the fact that you don’t ever think you are wrong. Thank you for your time.

  50. Hi Ashley, it’s a pity you didn’t ask at the beginning “do you think anything you have said here is wrong?” and I could have told you “no I don’t think anything I wrote here is wrong”. It is no secret. I write what I believe is true …. as did Gary (I presume) …. and as do you I presume.

    Just one other comment. “I believe God exists.” is a proposition. So is “I think unkleE will never admit he is wrong.”

    If I want anyone to believe the first, I should offer evidence, which I do. Not necessarily “controlled, repeatable, falsifiable experiments that have been peer reviewed” (though I have included many of them on this website), for that is what is required for science, and we are not doing science here. In court, there is a different standard of evidence, in government policy there is another different standard of evidence, and so also in life. It is an arguable proposition what is the correct standard of evidence for believing in God, and discussing that may have been a whole lot more useful than arguing about my integrity.

    And so if you want to demonstrate the truth of your proposition you also need evidence, again, not necessarily “controlled, repeatable, falsifiable experiments that have been peer reviewed” but something appropriate. So you have a burden of proof just as I do, except you offered nothing.

    So I will continue to write what I believe is true, and I will be open to suggestions about how I could improve it, and I will listen to good evidence and reasoned arguments against what I say. You are very welcome to return and comment any time, but instead of making personal allegations, it would be nice if you came as a friend and offered constructive ideas.

    Thanks you for visiting, and for engaging. Next time perhaps we may have a more productive time. Best wishes.

  51. So this is the part where you tell me that we disagree on everything, everything that I have said to date is mistaken or based on a misunderstanding on my part, that I am only making personal allegations rather than offering evidence and that we should now stop this conversation.
    You could not have done a better job of proving my point for me. Disagree, mistaken, misunderstanding, stop.
    The pattern continues.
    I have finished setting my watch now.

  52. Hi Ashley,

    You have said it so I don’t have to say anything. 🙂

    It is a pity. I suggested in option 2 we discuss in a friendly manner. I had said all I wanted to say, so I had made up my mind prior to your previous comment that I would try to go back to the friendliness, and my 3 questions were going to be asking you to tell me (1) what you believe, (2) what you are working at or studying, and (3) what are your interests. I would much rather get to know someone than have the sort of discussion we are having.

    That option is still open to you.

    But now I must make a confession and astound you by admitting I was wrong – but not I guess in the way you wanted me to say (or didn’t want me to say perhaps). I am now sorry I had all that discussion. That sort of picky discussion is not at all what I like to do, and I could predict the end from the beginning (same as you, I just didn’t say it).

    I wish now I’d simply said that of course I think I’m right unless and until someone offers me some reason to think otherwise – which happens often enough, but rarely in these sorts of discussions unfortunately. Then we could have talked about something else, or at any rate, not all the stuff we said,

    Would have saved both of us a lot of time, and you a certain amount of aggro I guess. But I had hoped engaging in conversation would be more polite and more productive. But I was wrong, and now I’m sorry. C’est la vie!

    So if you’d like to take up the friendliness offer and talk like normal human beings, I’m still here, but if not. I’ll wish you the best and say farewell.

  53. Hello Eric, 

    I would not call ourselves, at the Ethical Humanist Society of Philadelphia, a “substitute church”,  because that makes me think of “nonfat half and half”,  which contains neither milk nor cream,  as a substitute for real half and half.  Congregational humanists believe that being part of a community,   which we have responsibility for and which has a right to make demands upon us, is essential to being fully human.  We are not “humanists who congregate”.  We are humanists BECAUSE we congregate.

    We do have singing and a Sunday Platform. We do have coffee afterwards,  followed by a “talkback” where we chat with the speaker. We spend lots of time promoting social and environmental causes.

    Don’t despair about the state of Christianity in America. While in a minority,  there are wonderful churches all over our country where they consider it their responsibility to do the hard work of respecting people they don’t really agree with or like very much,  and where they strive to care about other people AS THEY ARE.  Many of them are quite good at it.  While I do not share their theology,  I am often left feeling very humble when I look at the good they do in the world.  I guarantee that you would have no trouble finding congregations of christians in America full of positive and caring people who believe in loving the poor and are horrified at those who sneer at them in the name of Jesus,  while patting themselves on the backs for their holiness,  as manifested by thier collection of nice worldly possessions.  

    I often talk to Catholics who are upset with their faith. Pope Francis looks like he is going back to the christianity of Pope Paul VI and away from the overt fascism of his three predecessors.  I advise questioning catholics to go to a campus ministry or to the local Jesuit Mission.  They will find good people who don’t pretend to have all the answers.  “I don’t know.” is an honest answer and we should not be ashamed to say it.  

    There are two distinct variants of catholicism in America: one,  typically the diocesian churches,  for the superficial and unsophisticated, and one for the thinking people. They are almost distinct religions.  

    My son is in a Quaker school. They believe that the light of God exists in everyone.  They say that,  if we cannot find it there, we should not question the other person,  rather,  we should look to better developing our own power of discernment.  BTW,  even as an atheist, I would not dispute a thin theory of God that stopped there.  

    As to the comments on your site,  they are quite polite compared to what we see all too often. I,  personally, am trying to change.  I used to think that I had to keep arguing until I got the other person to change his or her mind.  It hasn’t born much fruit.  One definition of ignorance is repeating something that hasn’t worked the last hundred times I did it.  Nietzsche’s “Geneology of Morals” is where he argues that there are those who find happiness in their own lives and exeprience and there are those who are characterized by rancor,  or “resentiment” towards precisely such people.  He called it “the slave revolt of morality”,  and painted over the three judaic religions with an overbroad brush with that criticism.  Putting others down to find joy in our own lives is to infect ourselves with a horrible,  and contageous,  disease of the spirit.  I am working hard to recover from it,  but have a long way to go.

    While I could raise objections to much of what you said in your well written defense of your faith,  I don’t see what is to be gained. There is much room for me to leave the path you set out because you went down dichotomous paths where you argued “if you believe “x”,  then “y” and,  more often than not,  I didn’t believe “x”.  There is room to chat about that later.  Essentially,  I reject reductionism, while many leading atheist do not.  My empirical experience of a strawberry smoothie is not an experience of a collection of molecules.  It is a token of an altogether different type. 

    Furthermore,  logic is overrated.  I have studied it formally and the claim that logic and rules of evidence can bring well meaning and intelligent people to agreement is a claim that abjectly fails to save the phenomena.  The world of our experience may be explained by science and logic,  but explaining a strawberry smoothie is nothing at all like drinking one.  We get into all kinds of trouble when we forget that.

    If you understand my drift,  you know that there is something important that the religious people are saying to us nonbelievers that many of us are not hearing.  I do hear you.

    Daniel Hoffman

  54. Hi Daniel, it is interesting to hear all that. Yes I know there are good churches in the US and in Australia, though you and I might have some different criteria on that. When I was younger I was evangelical (not as hard lie as evangelical in the US I would think, and certainly not prosperity oriented), and as I’ve grown older I’ve picked up more on the care and serving and social justice side, but without dropping the other. So I would be looking for both. I have friends who are Mennonites and Quakers, so I know a little about both of those churches. I know little about Catholicism beyond the obvious, but do like this Pope.

    It is interesting that you sing in your meeting. It seems to be a universal human characteristic. What do you sing?

    Yes, I have certainly been on sites that were far ruder than people are here. But that isn’t a standard I am prepared to settle for. I understand how it is for some atheists (I used to be a bit the same). They see my stuff and they are kind of offended because they know that there’s no evidence for christianity so I must be a charlatan. So they open their comments with a bang and it goes downhill. I struggle to know how best to respond, but it is rare that critics can soften their stance and treat me like they would treat a friend who was a christian.

    And yes, argument and logic are not generally effective – we are all too human! But, yes, it is good to learn from someone else. At the very least we can see how other people see us, and try to present better. And since I am interested in evidence and arguments, I appreciate people who have something to offer in those regards.

    Thanks for commenting, I am enjoying learning about what you think.

  55. Just an extra comment. I don’t know how deliberate this was, but I was pleased to see your comment: “you went down dichotomous paths where you argued “if you believe “x”, then “y””. Sometimes I express a strong opinion, but other times as you have noted, I try to leave final conclusions a little open – after all, I can’t make anyone’s decisions for them. This pleased me because, as you’ll know if you’ve read this whole discussion, I am sometimes accused of doing something quite the opposite, I don’t expect everyone to agree with me, but I do hope readers will see I have tried to be reasonably fair. Thanks.

  56. I did read the entire set of arguments you made and read this whole discussion before posting. I think you were fair, which is not to say I agree with you. By my lights, I celebrate and am grateful for the half-full glass and feel that the empty part can be lamented by others.

    I assume the readers of this thread have read and understood the implications of Shroedinger’s cat essay. I actually apply this in practical life.

    An unfortunate fact of life is that there are researchers who have given us good reasons to conclude that as many as one in twenty-five people would pass a test to demonstrate sociopathy. The implications of this cannot be overstated. I use Shroedinger to screen for it in people I deal with. Here’s what I do:

    A person does something they shouldn’t have done and, when I confront them about it, instead of accepting that they shouldn’t have done that and committing to doing better the next time, they become outraged that I would question their integrity and put me in a position that I have to chose between their complete innocence, and MY error, or an extreme version of my original accusation. They want me to make an “all or nothing” call. I don’t. I assign it a probabilistic value between zero and one. With a sociopath, there will be more occasions of that sort. I add them together.

    When we look around the world at the horrific things happening to good people, I see sociopaths getting the rest of us into their fights. Eric, my goal is clear, and I want to make it explicit. People who care about each other need to stick together and not give in to people who don’t.

    I am in way over my head and the magnitude of the task sometimes makes me feel like I am going to drown.

    (Gross story alert!) When I was in the US Navy, it was probably 1978 or so, I was on watch in heavy weather. Everyone was seasick and I wound up at the helm with the sounds of the quatermaster and officer of the deck retching into the same trashcan, as the other vomit-filled can was bouncing around the bridge. I was sick too, but it occurred to me that there was nobody else left to take the helm if I let go. I found somehing inside myself to hang in there because I could not leave the ship without a helmsman in a heavy storm. Giving in to the negativity and drowning in self-pity is a luxury we cannot afford.

    There is a truth that some people of faith see clearly, and most atheists do not. I saw a post on Facebook where a muslim person put up an illustration of a fish that said: “A person without God is like a fish without water.” My fellow atheists pounced in ways that I have done in the past and am highly competent at doing now. They missed the point. You don’t; and neither do I. Humans, as humans, live in a world of meaning that may be able to be EXPLAINED in scientific terms, but, when you take away all meaning from a human, that human suffocates and becomes something else.

    I took the effort to reach out to you, Eric, because I read between the lines of what you wrote and clearly could see that you are trying to fill the pool faster than it drains. What is valuable to me is not how you undertake it, or even percieve it, rather that you are trying to do it.

  57. Hi Daniel, thanks for your kind thoughts. I appreciate everything you have said. Yes we don’t agree on everything, but we agree on half.

    Many christians only emphasise belief in Jesus and going to heaven. Most humanists emphasise doing good on earth. As a christian, I believe in both, so we have a lot in common.

    And I do know what you mean about meaning and science. Some people, including many scientists, believe science is the great hope for humanity and the only way to know truth, but some surveys I have seen suggest many (perhaps most) people in western countries like your and mine are worried about how scientists sometimes seem to dehumanise people and forget that we are more than bundles of physical matter. As CS Lewis said once (in a different context), the scientists may say accurately what we are made of, but they often miss who we actually are. Because science cannot detect consciousness and free will, they say we don’t have it, rather than allowing our experience of consciousness and free will tell us that science can’t tell us everything and misses a lot out.

  58. I’d just like to pass on another way to help spread the gospel and it’s simply this:-

    Include a link to an online gospel tract (e.g. http://www.freecartoontract.com/animation) as part of your email signature.

    An email signature is a piece of customizable HTML or text that most email programs will allow you to add to all your outgoing emails. For example, it commonly contains name and contact details – but it could also (of course) contain a link to a gospel tract.

    For example, it might say something like, “p.s. you might like this gospel cartoon …” or “p.s. have you seen this?”.

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