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Saturday, December 13, 2008

An Atheist Christmas Letter from Don Baker

An Atheist Christmas Letter

Don Baker
Posted: December 16, 2006
From the Atheist Community of Austin

As I write this, I'm thinking about what I'll put in my holiday letter this year. It has been a few years since I sent a letter, or even holiday cards. As a relatively new atheist, I've become rather frustrated at so much of the holiday nonsense and by the time this part of the year rolls around, I've just overdosed on it. While some of the holiday cheer is good, there is so much spin and packaging of ancient myths that it's hard for a rationalist like me not to feel under siege.

My first instinct is to fight back a bit and play iconoclast. The truth is important, after all. Yet, I feel some guilt trampling on people's often well meant holiday spirit in the only communication that most of my distant friends will receive from me all year. So I've figured out a compromise. I'm writing this little essay saying some of the things I wanted to say about the holidays from an atheist perspective. I've made it open to all, so perhaps more people will know the atheist perspective on Christmas. My private holiday correspondence will point to this essay with an appropriate disclaimer.

The Reason for the Season?

The first thing that needs to be addressed is the reason for the season. To properly answer the question, you have to go back a few tens of thousands of years to a time when human cultures were making the transition from being nomadic to adopting an agricultural economy. Humans at the time lacked a proper understanding of the solar system and the motions of the bodies within it. As a result, humans deified the sun and the moon as they were so obviously important to their success. The moon is important to nomadic tribes as the full moon provides light that aids in night time hunts. Worshiping the moon was seen as a way to improve the hunt and ultimately, the survival of the tribe.

With a shift to agriculture, the sun is clearly more dominant because the sun makes the crops grow. Winter must have been an especially scary time as the waning daylight meant that man had to survive for a while living on what was stored and what could be scavenged. To ease this angst, early astronomers tracked the movement of the sun and watched for the time when the days stopped shortening and began lengthening again. This yearly astronomical event is known as the winter solstice. It was difficult for early man to measure exactly, but they knew to watch for it. And they knew what it meant--the eventual return of longer days when their lives would not be so difficult. Not surprisingly, religions centered on the sun have rituals near the time of the solstice and most have resurrection myths connected to the coming renewal of spring. These simple religions were an attempt to make meaning of a cosmic and important phenomenon of the cycles of the seasons.

So, while axial tilt of the earth is the true reason for the season, we can also feel a connection with our more primal human reaction to the season, which is a sense of hope and renewal for the coming year. We can do this honestly, understanding the movement of the planets and their emotional effect on us. These are the real reasons for celebrations this time of year. These are the things that I personally try to connect to this time of year. I feel it is part of my connection to my humanity and to the planet I call home.

Atheists don't generally celebrate holidays in the original sense of the word: holy days. Gatherings of atheists this time of year generally give more than a nod to the winter solstice, but there are no rituals. On the surface, this might seem to be a shallow and nerdy response to what others may feel is the real significance of the Christmas season. In truth, it's the other way around. The meaning of the season existed aeons before any of today's religions took root. For a better understanding of these topics, I refer the reader to the works of Joseph Campbell who wrote extensively about the mythological themes that cross religions and their origins in our collective humanity.

Birth of Jesus

Christianity is the dominant religion in our culture and Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus, Christianity's central figure on December 25th. There is so much mythology surrounding the nativity that it would take at least a book to fully unravel. A good compact source of information is The Christmas Story: an Overview of Christian Belief. Many of these myths are uncritically repeated this time of year. I'll hit on a few of the facts that everyone should know--especially people who call themselves followers of Christ.

The only first person "eye witness" account of Christ anywhere in existence is the Apostle Paul's encounter with Christ as a spirit-being out the desert. All other accounts of Jesus/Christ are just lore from oral tradition. We know today that a large number of people have visual and auditory hallucinations, so there is no strong reason to believe Paul encountered anything supernatural.

Paul was quite convinced that Christ never existed in the flesh. He considered humans to be essentially dirty and as such the human form was completely unsuitable for a god man. The first few centuries of Christianity saw a great debate about whether Christ ever existed in human form. Eventually, the side that argued for human form won out. They needed a human form to bolster the idea that Jesus suffered on the cross for our collective original sin, linking Christ to some of the main and accepted themes of Judaism. Paul knew nothing of these ideas, as they were invented later; nor did he know of most of the key events in Jesus "life" on earth for the same reason. Paul was quite sure that the crucifixion occurred in a spiritual plane, disconnected from events on Earth. Since Christians don't believe Paul's conception of Christ, they obviously think he was a liar. If he was a liar, then why should they believe anything at all about Christ, since there are no other primary sources of information?

Indeed, much of the lore surrounding Jesus was pulled in from various places. The notion of Jesus being a human from Galilee (and simultaneously Bethlehem) was probably based on a composite of a number of real people and imagined deities. Lore surrounding a divine Christ was borrowed from Mithraism, Attisism, and a host of other religions that were mixing together in the great melting pot of the Roman Empire when the legend appeared. The Jesus mythology and the Christ mythology were also eventually merged, having been previously separate. A person has to search very hard for any facet of Jesus/Christ lore that was not borrowed from earlier mythologies. These facts, combined with the 30 or so missing years of Jesus documented life would make any thinking person doubt that any part of the story is factual.

Early Christianity had a big problem on its hands. Paul had preached about the return of Christ and was quite clear that it was to be during the lifetime of his disciples. See The Lowdown on God's Showdown. He even urged the faithful to stop having children as it would just complicate their lives during the transition that was about to occur! As far as we know, Christ never came back, making Paul a bona fide liar and Jesus a false messiah. Paul even said at one point that lying was a good thing if it aggrandized God (Romans 3:7)... or was that condemning lying? It's not so clear, but Martin Luther, the founder of Protestantism, expanded on the first interpretation. The problem of Christ's non-return is still a festering sore on Christianity. It has not been resolved, but the faithful don't care about the fatal flaws of their religion; they have faith. I call it gullibility.

To distract the faithful from the festering problem of a non-returning Christ, a miraculous birth story was invented long after his "death". The story has been embellished heavily over the years to become what we now call the nativity story. Even the original story has its problems however. Some of the confabulators worked very hard to tie Jesus' blood line back to King David, with whom the God character had made a covenant in earlier scriptures that his descendents would rule forever. Unfortunately, even the Bible tells us that David's line had stopped ruling a long time before Jesus was even thought about. God was therefore a proven liar (or a myth) and they realized it. To try to bandage this fatal wound, the story tellers worked very hard to have Jesus born in Bethlehem, which they thought they could spin as fulfilling the prophecy in the Old Testament. One problem with this is that the "prophecy" was about an earlier king (Immanuel), so the prophecy was unrelated to Jesus. (No magic here. The prediction was conveniently coined after the event occurred and attributed to an earlier time. It's like "predicting" today that World War II will occur, and then claiming the prediction took place in the earlier 1814.) Another problem is that Jesus had to have a human biological father for this prophecy to be about him. (According to the Bible, females contribute nothing.) That is the only way he could have David's blood. To drive this point home, there is a lineage from David to Jesus in the Bible. To drive the point home even more, there also is a second, conflicting lineage from David to Jesus in the Bible. If one is good, two different ones must be better! Both of these are in complete contradiction with the idea that Jesus is born of a virgin, the foundational miracle of Christianity. That myth has its roots in a Biblical transcription error where "young woman" was mistranslated to "virgin". There are probably a hundred more problems with the nativity story. I hope these facts give the reader an idea of how silly the whole thing is.

As part of the birth story, they chose late December as the date of Jesus birth so that the Catholic Church could begin co-opting the Roman Saturnalia Festival, from which we get our traditions of holiday merriment, having a big meal, and gift giving. Easter was likewise co-opted from pagan spring fertility festivals from which we get bunnies and eggs, both fertility symbols. The whole nativity story was fabricated to hoodwink more people into a growing religion. To their credit, the invention of Mary was a stroke of genius that "worked miracles" for marketing Christianity.

In case anyone is wondering why atheists have a condescending attitude toward Christians it is because very often atheists know more about Christianity than the believers. We are consistently amazed that anyone believes these ridiculous religious claims. People believe, unfortunately, because they are ignorant. Anyone relying on a church for their source of information about Christianity will be systematically misinformed. People who know the truth aren't generally converts. It is the faithful that pay the incomes of the ministers. So, they perpetuate myths among the gullible in order to eat and have power over them. They tell people that faith (gullibility) is a virtue so as to flatter the believers and perpetuate their positions.

Atheists get criticized for being humbugs about Christmas. According to some sources, we're even fighting some sort of war over it. Many of us do consider ourselves at war with ignorance and the thuggery that often goes along with it. Myths are not harmless and gullibility is not a virtue. Nothing good has ever come of them. Bergen Evans hit it on the head when he wrote in A Tale of a Tub, "For in the last analysis all tyranny rests on fraud, on getting someone to accept false assumptions, and any man who for one moment abandons or suspends the questioning spirit has for that moment betrayed humanity." Now let's look at the effects of myths and gullibility.

Peace and Good Will

One of the nicest wishes that I get in Christmas and holiday cards is the wish of peace on Earth and good will toward men. Good stuff. Very often, however, that message has been associated with some Christian image, such as the three Magi (who never existed) making their trek to see the child savoir. The implication is that somehow those sentiments have something to do with Christianity. Again, the more a person knows about Christianity, the more he might think the association is a lame attempt to improve Christianity's image--to put lipstick on the pig.

As for peace, the most horrible wars and atrocities have had religion at their core. A person who believes he is acting based on the righteousness of God will eagerly suspend human compassion. Gott mit uns. Non-believers are rationalized to be not worthy of compassion because God hates them, they lack souls, or they're supposedly working for some equally ridiculous competing supernatural concern. Religion is largely impervious to reason and it generally takes a long time for sanity to prevail.

Judaism, Islam, and Christianity are called the Abrahamic religions. They all worship one and the same tribal god of Abraham. Yahweh, God, Jehovah, and Allah are all names for the same god. You might think all of these religions are on the same side, but you'd be wrong. The various sects of these religions have been killing each-other since their beginning. Even today, most of the tension in the Middle East has at its roots the ancient religious conflicts between sects under the same god. This god's believers have aptly demonstrated that He is incompatible with peace. Likewise, I cannot square the idea of Jesus being called "the prince of peace" when so many millions of people have been killed in his name. This appellation shows an amazing amount of ignorance combined with a lack of sympathy for the victims.

As for "good will toward men," I have my doubts as well. Much of the killing in the name of God has been in concert with some equally horrible persecution. Christianity has been behind witch burnings, the Inquisition, pogroms, and many other ills. The Abrahamic religions have always subjugated women. Gays are demonized to raise money by religious demagogues. The Bible has been used to justify slavery. It does so unabashedly. There is no mention of pedophilia in the Bible, but incest with your daughter seems to be allowed. The Catholic Church has effectively run a pedophile ring for decades while none of the organizers have been brought to trial.

What good has come from our religious war with the "axis of evil"? Has our messiah president done a single good thing while he has been in power? Thanks to the "values voters," we are now known worldwide as a country that supports torture. Christians (Catholics especially) seem to think that torture is a good thing. After all, God does it, so it must be good. I've even had a well meaning Christian "friend" come to my home and threaten me with torture so that I would do the "right thing" in his eyes and believe in his nonsensical religion. Part of me wonders whether such people are just sadists looking for a way of justifying their twisted mindset. They have no evidence for their God and, at the same time, they think it's the epitome of good to torture a person for all eternity for the finite "crime" of not believing.

Many religious people have a charitable nature and do good works, but is it really charity when you expect a payout? For Christians, charity will help ensure one's reward of perpetual orgasm. Do the math. When you factor in the infinite benefit that religious people gain from "charity" work, you have to wonder why they don't give away all their belongings and wander the streets as Jesus said was the path to salvation. Christians' actions belie their claims of belief.

When the tsunami hit the Indian Ocean in December of 2004, most American's prayed. For believers, God either sought to kill those 500,000 people or He didn't care enough about them to prevent the earthquake that led to the event. Either way, directly helping these people is in direct conflict with God's obvious wishes and may jeopardize one's ticket to Heaven. So many believers chose to pray instead of providing real help. This is just another way that belief sabotages philanthropy. Of course, many religious groups were on the march after the event. Most were motivated to gain converts. Those lost interest when they couldn't proselytize to the victims. Again, who is benefiting? Where is the good will?

Science and technology have done far more philanthropy than all religions combined. In contrast, religions generally sabotage science. Religions are famous for destroying libraries, burning books, and murdering the authors that they wanted to suppress. Nearly all of our medical knowledge was gained over the objection of religion. Religions are still at it today actively sabotaging stem cell research and the teaching of evolution, the foundation of biology. While Norman Borlaug was using his knowledge of biology and evolution to create cereal grains that are credited with feeding billions of people, Mother Teresa was collecting millions of dollars for her missionary work that sadistically perpetuated the suffering of those under her care. She is quoted as saying, "I think it is very beautiful for the poor to accept their lot, to share it with the passion of Christ. I think the world is being much helped by the suffering of the poor people." Much of the money she collected from this travesty of compassion went to the Catholic Church, who repaid her with a fast track to sainthood by way of a bogus "miracle." Most of her work was geared at increasing the poverty in India through promotion of higher birth rates.

Peace and goodwill derive from compassion and respect for one's fellow man, taking responsibility for one's actions, and the knowledge to make good decisions. These are the virtues that most atheists embrace under the name of Humanism or Secular Humanism. Ignorance and power trades with gods are incompatible with peace and good will. Religions are not above marketing themselves as good things, though and hiding the facts to the contrary. Caveat emptor.

Commercialism

I do agree with many of the religious people that the holidays have become far too commercialized. I have little new to say here except that capitalism is America's true religion and the holidays are something of a religious holiday for it, as well, with Santa as its shill. The primary capitalist myth seems to be that buying things is the path to happiness. It's just another holiday myth that needs to be debunked.
Santa Claus

Speaking of Santa, it's clear that he's is just a training mechanism for children to become Christians. Both are based on the idea that you should be good to others in order to receive a reward from some omniscient supernatural being. It's all about hedonism gleaned from Big Brother. When children lose their innocence about Santa Claus, they are then indoctrinated into the "real" belief which is a good bit darker than the training wheels mythology. If you're not good, you don't get coal in your stocking--you get cinders as your feet. I guess it is fear that keeps people awake in church.

What's Left?

When you remove all of the fluff and crap from the holidays, you're not left with very much. Hope and renewal remain. A person can still feel love for his fellow man, despite mankind's limitations. One can embrace some of the fun and joyous traditions. The holiday nights are a nice change from the dreariness of winter. And the tradition of writing holiday letters isn't a bad one either. It's easy to get separated from those who have impacted you and your life. It's good to reconnect with them.

Happy solstice!
(In 2008 solstice will be the 21st of December -Alan)
Peace and good will toward man through reason!
And if you believe, believe responsibly.

77 comments:

  1. I did a quick skim of this (about a minute or less) and then decided not to continue reading. It amazes me that someone can call themselves a "rationalist", and then write an article full of uninformed speculation, without references. The irony is incredible.

    For example, Paul was convinced that Christ never existed in the flesh? A huge statement there, yet the auther gives NO justification for that belief. No bible verses, no evidence to support his claim whatsoever. Just a massive claim without any proof- ironically, this is exactly what "rationalists" accuse Christians of. The mind boggles.

    But wait, there's more.

    "In case anyone is wondering why atheists have a condescending attitude toward Christians it is because very often atheists know more about Christianity than the believers."

    And this is directly after making HUGE claims about Christianity without any references or solid evidence. Just speculation. Incredible. I do respect the Sydney atheists, as I've been visiting this blog for a while and enjoying interaction with you guys, but I'll start to lose that respect if you post stuff like this load of speculative trash.

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  2. Trav,

    It is a letter and a long one at that :) If he were writing an essay I might be more inclined to agree with you.
    But how about you hit Don where it hurts with some references of your own. Nothing fancy just some links

    I am sure he would be more than appreciative to be corrected if he's got anything wrong. Indeed Matt D who's president of the ACA was talking about the very issue of making claims about Christianity without knowing what you are eally talking about.

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  3. Trav,

    Don Barker's "Christ never existed in the flesh" is a reference to Philippians 3:20 "For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ:" (King James Version). Note that Philippians is considered as an authentic Pauline by almost everyone. Much has been discussed about this passage in the Biblical literature, please check it out...

    I tend to agree somewhat with Barker's comment about atheists knowing more. Atheists have usually read literature for and against Christianity. Christians tend to read only pro-Christian literature and Bible studies do not include critical evaluation of the claims made. Also last three ordained ministers I have talked knew nothing about Mithraism, nor have read the Book of Mormon...

    With all due respect last time we interacted on this blog (post "Which makes more sense; Atheism or Christianity?" October 14, 2008) I had to correct you about the incorrect Christians myths you were advocating. I find that generally Christians do no know much about Christianity.

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  4. Sean,

    The burden of proof is on the author. If he wants to make big claims such as the ones he's making, I want evidence.

    - Which bible verses or history can show that Paul thought Christ never existed in the flesh?

    - If Paul believed Christ was never alive in the flesh, then why would he go on and suffer stoning and death for Christ (as attested to by numerous sources outside the bible)?

    - If he did believe Christ was never alive in the flesh but just a spirit, and then died for the cause, how does this affect his theology- that we should follow Christ and worship him?

    Peter, your statement about atheists knowing more about Christianity is absolute garbage. Want to give me some statistics to verify your claim?

    I think you're sadly mistaken, because there's a balance that you're not missing- namely, many Christians also know a lot more about atheism than many atheists. There are thoughtful Christians and there are blind believing Christians, just like there are thoughtful atheists and there are atheists who know nothing about anything.

    I looked up our posts from October. If you think you "corrected the Christian myths: I was "perpetuating" then you're sadly mistaken. You made some baseless claims which I failed to respond to, presumably because I was too busy, didnt see them, or couldn't be bothered. If you'd like to continue the discussion, please do so.

    For example, in your last post in response to mine, in October, you claimed:

    "texts were constantly changed, and we do not have reliable extra biblical info about any of the events."

    Very untrue. We have extra biblical sources to verify things such as:

    -Jesus crucifixion (recorded in the gospels). Recorded by Suetonius, Josephus, Tacitus, Mera Bar Serpion (sp?), Lucian.

    - The deaths and suffering of Paul and other early disciples and early Christians(recorded in Acts). Recorded by early church fathers such as Polycarp at the end of the first century AD. In al probability, these early church fathers knew the earliest disciples and were taught by them.

    So really, the crucial elements of the Christian story- Jesus dying on a cross, early followers are verified elsewhere.

    "Modern scholars know that at the most seven of the letters are were written by Paul."

    Wrong. At LEAST six to seven were written by Paul. The others scholars debate over, but six or seven is the bare minimum. Possible up to 12 or 14.

    Back to the "letter" by the atheist deuchebag:


    "This is just another way that belief sabotages philanthropy."

    Absolute crap. He ought to be called out for making such ridiculous statements.

    It's also an offensive statement, I'd even say, for someone like me who strongly believes in charitable giving and philanthropy, and whose motivation for such is largely based on the life of Jesus and his precedent of helping "the least of these".

    Research by Barna(sp?) (Highly reputable market researchers/pollsters) showed that religious people donate much more to charity than Non religious people in the US, regardless of their political persuasion?

    From here: http://www.barna.org/FlexPage.aspx?Page=BarnaUpdateNarrow&BarnaUpdateID=272

    "One of the most significant differences between active-faith and no-faith Americans is the cultural disengagement and sense of independence exhibited by atheists and agnostics in many areas of life. They are less likely than active-faith Americans to be registered to vote (78% versus 89%), to volunteer to help a non-church-related non-profit (20% versus 30%), to describe themselves as "active in the community" (41% versus 68%), and to personally help or serve a homeless or poor person (41% versus 61%). They are also more likely to be registered to vote as an independent or with a non-mainstream political party.

    One of the outcomes of this profile - and one of the least favorable points of comparison for atheist and agnostic adults - is the paltry amount of money they donate to charitable causes. The typical no-faith American donated just $200 in 2006, which is more than seven times less than the amount contributed by the prototypical active-faith adult ($1500). Even when church-based giving is subtracted from the equation, active-faith adults donated twice as many dollars last year as did atheists and agnostics. In fact, while just 7% of active-faith adults failed to contribute any personal funds in 2006, that compares with 22% among the no-faith adults. "

    The author of this "letter", is clearly a moronic tool, with no regard for the facts at hand, but instead a desire to spread misinformation and hatred towards religious people and Christianity in general. Sorry, but that's the only fair conclusion someone could draw from this diatribe.

    Another huge statement below. This time he's taking aim at one of the greatest heroes of the 20th century:

    "Mother Teresa was collecting millions of dollars for her missionary work that sadistically perpetuated the suffering of those under her care."

    She is quoted as saying, "I think it is very beautiful for the poor to accept their lot, to share it with the passion of Christ. I think the world is being much helped by the suffering of the poor people."

    This quote has absolutely no relation to the baseless claim he made in the previous sentence.

    For some reason, Mother Theresa spent her entire life helping the poor in India, and yet her aim was to "increase poverty in India". Yes she clearly was a horrible person. Perpetuating poverty was her aim. Again, genius work by this self proclaimed "rationalist". He should be called out for what he is- a hater.

    "As for peace, the most horrible wars and atrocities have had religion at their core."

    Yeah, like all those atheistic regimes of the 20th century- Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot.

    Christians sure are horrible in comparison! Did you know there were 7 abortion clinic bombings in the 80's and 90's? Sure provides a good basis for comparison to the hundreds of millions of deaths by the above regimes, all whom aimed to drive out religion.

    " A person who believes he is acting based on the righteousness of God will eagerly suspend human compassion"

    And a person who believes there is no God believes there is no one bigger than him. No one looking over his shoulder.

    "Science and technology have done far more philanthropy than all religions combined. In contrast, religions generally sabotage science. "

    Like Newton, a bible believing Christian and the greatest scientist ever. Or Francis Collins, the head of the human genome project. I wish those darned Christians would stop impeding our scientific progress!

    "Peace and goodwill derive from compassion and respect for one's fellow man, taking responsibility for one's actions, and the knowledge to make good decisions. These are the virtues that most atheists embrace under the name of Humanism or Secular Humanism."

    Yet, they fail to act on this virtuous compassion, as shown by the research quoted above.

    This guy is a fair dinkum disgrace. Don't try and defend this moron. This "Christmas letter" is nothing but a hateful rant.

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  5. What a wonderful letter from Don Baker, I will give a copy to my children and friends. It is always interesting to see the comments of believers such as Trav. It is obviously a kick in the guts. Really his only response is to become very nasty (such a good Christian boy). But when faith is brought into question the reaction is always predictable. By his response, the letter has rattled him. Trav will be on his knees in church this Sunday and I'll bet he won't mention to the flock the language and hate he has expressed here.

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  6. I agree with John's comment. Trav, you have shown your true colours here. You're comments are full of vituperative bile!! Merry Christmyth to you and yours!

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  7. Hi Trav,

    Let me point to the directions where you can find answers to some of your questions, and correct some of your statements.

    Trav asked:
    "If Paul believed Christ was never alive in the flesh, then why would he go on and suffer stoning and death for Christ? If he did believe Christ was never alive in the flesh but just a spirit, and then died for the cause, how does this affect his theology- that we should follow Christ and worship him?"

    Read about Gnosticism and Gospel of Marcion. Marcion for example had a large following.

    Trav said:
    "Peter, your statement about atheists knowing more about Christianity is absolute garbage. Want to give me some statistics to verify your claim?"

    I just gave my opinion based on talking to Christians and going to Bible studies and I rarely meet Christians who has read a book by atheist philosopher. Have you read one?

    Trav wrote:
    Very untrue [that Bible texts were constantly changed]. We have extra biblical sources to verify things such as:
    -Jesus crucifixion (recorded in the gospels). Recorded by Suetonius, Josephus, Tacitus, Mera Bar Serpion (sp?), Lucian.


    Not true. Suetonius did not write about crucifixion. Josephus passage is late forgery, we have several versions of that passage. Tacitus did not write about crucifixion. Mera Bar Serpion [Mara Bar-Serapion?] did not even mention Jesus. Lucian of Samosata wrote around 165 AD when Gospels were in wide circulation. Next time check your claims and provide a quote.


    Trav wrote:
    "The deaths and suffering of Paul and other early disciples and early Christians(recorded in Acts). Recorded by early church fathers such as Polycarp at the end of the first century AD. In al probability, these early church fathers knew the earliest disciples and were taught by them. "

    Not true. Polycarp wrote in the second century. Then you give us your conclusion based on wrong assumptions.

    Trav wrote:
    So really, the crucial elements of the Christian story- Jesus dying on a cross, early followers are verified elsewhere.

    Not true. Where are those verified? So far you have only offered misinformation.

    Trav wrote:
    "At LEAST six to seven were written by Paul. The others scholars debate over, but six or seven is the bare minimum. Possible up to 12 or 14."

    Not true. You can find biblical scholars who have an opinion even the those seven are "not authentic". This is based on the fact that some of the verses contradict each other. Dr Price was mentioned here before, check his writings about pauline letters


    Trav quoted out of context:
    "This is just another way that belief sabotages philanthropy."

    The full quote was:
    "So many believers chose to pray instead of providing real help. This is just another way that belief sabotages philanthropy."

    Don Barker's other point was that Christians often do charity to win converts. Note that studies show more secular countries give more to foreign aid that religious countries. Also the three largest philanthropists of all time were not religious.

    Regarding Mother Teresa, please read about here methods of reducing individual suffering of the terminally ill patients compared to for example protestant charities in Calcutta. When I lived in Calcutta and talked to protestant charity workers their stories confirmed the view Hitchens for example had.


    Trav wrote:
    "...atheistic regimes of the 20th century- Hitler..."

    Not true. Please do some basic research

    Trav wrote:
    "Did you know there were 7 abortion clinic bombings in the 80's and 90's?"
    Not true. Please do some basic research
    for example:
    religioustolerance.org/abo_viol.htm

    Trav wrote:
    Sure provides a good basis for comparison to the hundreds of millions of deaths by the above regimes, all whom aimed to drive out religion.

    Not true: Hitler, Stalin & Pol Pot did not kill "hundreds of millions of deaths". To my recollection WWII was started by Catholics Mussolini and Hitler and self appointed God on earth (Emperor in Japan)


    The list of your non sense claims just go on and on, and I don't want to go through all of them. I'm sure you are a nice guy, but you have not read much about Christianity or history. Please do some research before making so many baseless claims.

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  8. Trav,

    Thanks for your response and for ignoring my point. Dan is writing a letter and as I have already stated it is a long one already. He is writing information in a particular form for a particular response and for a particular audience.
    If he were writing a paper or essay I would expect citation from him to back up his claims.
    Mind you, you do exactly as he does, making claims but providing no evidence so - glass, house, stone.

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  9. OK, just checked these replies.

    We speak a different language, obviously. The misinformation being peddled by atheist haters such as Don Baker is bad enough, but the worst thing is there are people like you guys who actually take him seriously.

    Peter, you'll have to wait a while for a response. Now that you're asking me to provide a quote and a reference for any of the truthful statements I make, it'll take me longer to dig up the required references. If that's the standard you want to set then please also follow the same standards yourself.

    Sean, the fact that is it a letter doesn't give him the right to make up baseless claims. Or, actually I guess it does, he has the right to make whatever claims he wishes, I just object when you guys pretend like there's any truth in what he's saying.

    Btw, I'm not hating. I just called him a tool and a deuschebag. Considering the comments he's making (eg: Religious belief sabotages philanthropy) he deserves more than ridicule!

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  10. Here's a few questions that I'd love to hear your responses to. Feel free not to answer, but I am interested in what you guys have to say.

    - What was the Nazi party's attitude towards public displays of religious belief, and freedom of religion?

    - What did key Nazi figures believe about religion?

    - Peter, which studies show that secular countried give more to foreign aid than religious countries, and which secular/religious countries specifically are we referring to?

    - Which should Christians have to read books by atheist philosophers? Does this make them uninformed and closed minded if they don't?

    ReplyDelete
  11. Trav,

    Where have you eviscerated his claims? The one and only link that you have is to a Christian Marketing firm.

    All I am saying about the letter is that it is polemic in nature and I would not expect citations in such a form.

    But then go ahead and put words in my mouth " yes the letter form allows him to make baseless claims".

    You don't back up any of your claims nor do you attack any of Dan Barker's with evidence.

    Then you switch the topic to send us off on some wild goose chase to answer some of your questions. Very hamfisted msdirection.

    You almost dare us to answer you and I guess if we don't you'll think you have gained some credibility, that you have stumped those darn atheists.

    Come on Trav, you've been a Christian for some time no? Get your game up to scratch have the evidence at your finger tips. If Dan's claims are so wildly wrong it should be easy.

    Now you've called Dan Barker a hater, a tool and then said that we are worse - lol.

    I hate to say it but there is a tool here and it's not Dan.

    And if we really upset you so much leave.

    Awaiting your witty rejoinder.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Hi Guys! I have been reading your blog for a while now and always enjoy the conversations. I am a Christian, and I would like to apologise for how poorly the church has represented itself and Jesus. The result is that very often secular organisations/people do look more ‘moral’ than we do. There are a few things though that I want to comment on regarding Don’s letter.

    1 – I too am frustrated by a lot of what goes on at Christmas!

    2 – Christianity does not claim Jesus was born on the 25th of Dec. We have indeed taken over a date that was a pagan festival, and it would appear that it is now again very much a pagan festival!

    3 – The statement “Paul was quite convinced that Christ never existed in the flesh” is very had to assert. Even with the ref given in the comments to Phil 3:20 (which does not state that Christ never existed in the flesh). In fact, in Phil 2:8 Paul says about Jesus, “And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.” Paul obviously believed that Jesus died a physical death (in human form), which means he would have had to have a physical body.

    4 – I think Paul did believe Jesus was going to return very soon. But Paul never says anywhere when he expected Jesus to return. Jesus himself said that no one except the Father knew when the day would come, so I do not think this is a problem for Christianity. I am still waiting!

    5 – To me, Don’s letter shows a lack of understanding of Christianity. That’s ok, because it is a lack of understanding that many people in the church have – so we are probably to blame! This is seen in his statement, “Many religious people have a charitable nature and do good works, but is it really charity when you expect a payout?” Christianity has nothing to do with doing good things so we get the “perpetual orgasm” (sounds exhausting). Rather, Christianity is about God first accepting us, and then how this reality in our lives changes us to want to love others. This is probably best summarised in 1 John 4:19 –“We love, because he first loved us.”
    6 – I think Don has picked up on the most important thing about Christmas with his statement “It's easy to get separated from those who have impacted you and your life. It's good to reconnect with them.” Christmas is all about relationships. I guess I just believe that our ability to really love those around us is improved if we understand God’s love for us (please note I did not just say you guys cannot love...I am sure you can and do!).
    Cheers...Dave

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  13. Hey peoples,

    Good reply by Dave there.

    I'm a groomsman in a wedding this week. I have plans all week so you won't be hearing much from me. I'll just post short replies if I get a chance. For now, just a brief response to some of Peter's statements:


    "Tacitus did not write about crucifixion.

    Tacitus wrote, in his work Annals:

    "Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilate."

    Extreme penalty in those days was, of course crucifixion.

    "Mera Bar Serpion [Mara Bar-Serapion?] did not even mention Jesus."

    Mera Bar serapion wrote in a letter to his son:

    "Or [what advantage came to] the Jews by the murder of their Wise King, seeing that from that very time their kingdom was driven away from them?"

    The assumption being that wise king refered to Jesus, who was after all, known as "King of the Jews" in the bible.

    "Lucian of Samosata wrote around 165 AD when Gospels were in wide circulation."

    Your point?

    Lucian wrote, in his work The Death of Peregrine:

    "The Christians, you know, worship a man to this day--the distinguished personage who introduced their novel rites, and was crucified on that account."

    Also Josephus wrote:

    "When Pilate, upon hearing him accused by men of the highest standing amongst us, had condemned him to be crucified...."

    And yes, there is doubt about the authenticity of Josephus writings. I'm not sure if this particular passage was in question or not.

    However, most scholars agree that Josephus wrote about Jesus and Christianity, just not using the exact words he used. This is because in his writings, he basically states that Jesus rose from the dead after three days and is a "doer of wonderful works".

    The scholarly consensus is that he mentioned Jesus and Christians, just in slightly more historical, less glowing terms from a Jewish perspective.

    In addition of all of this, the crufixion is also recorded in all four gospels.

    So, the cruxifixion of Jesus was referenced by numerous extra biblical sources and all four gospels. John Dominic Crossan, co founder of the Jesus seminar writes:

    "That he was crucified is as sure as anything historical can ever be."

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  14. Also, allow me to respond to regarding Nazi party and my claim that it was an "atheistic regime".

    Peter wrote:

    "Trav wrote:
    "...atheistic regimes of the 20th century- Hitler..."

    Not true. Please do some basic research"


    From this wiki page about Nazism and religion:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nazism_and_Religion#Nazi_Attitudes_towards_Christianity

    "Nazi party leaders viewed Christianity and National Socialism as competing world views (even though some Christians did not see a conflict) and Hitler planned to eliminate the Christian churches after securing control of his European empire"

    The page also goes into much more detail about this so check it out.

    Anotheer quote:

    "From the mid 1930's, anti-Christian elements within the Nazi party became more prominent - they were restrained by Hitler who thought religion would die by its self as science advanced. Nevertheless the Party began to suppress religious teaching, closed religious youth movements and excluded religious instruction from the Hitler Youth. The public collection of money for religious charities was forbidden. In 1937 all confessing church seminaries and teaching was banned."

    Now, if a government plans to eliminate Christian churches, and takes measures to restrict religious belief, then they are an atheistic party, because their goals and aims are in line with atheism.

    Atheism is the belief in no God. Therefore a government which actively discourages citizens from worshipping God is atheistic in it's nature.

    Therefore my point stands- the Nazi party was an atheistic regime.

    In context of my overall argument, my overall point was that Christian violence pales into comparison compared to that of the Nazi party and other similar regimes.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Before anyone else has a chance to get in, as a Christian I would like to disagree with my Christian brother Trav! (A cheer goes up amongst the Atheists...)

    I see no point in trying to determine who has done the most good or the most evil in the name of Atheism or Jesus/the Church/God. I believe the truth is that both are guilty of evil, and both have demonstrated good.
    As I mentioned in my earlier comment, many in the church and outside of the church think Christianity is about doing good to earn our reward. This is religion, but not true Christianity (although many Christians are confused regarding this issue, possibly including Mother Teresa).

    Christianity is belief in the God who knew we could not earn our reward (as Hitler, and even Mother Teresa prove – the old girl was not perfect...) – but he chose to love us anyway (Romans 5:5, “For while we were still sinners, at the right time Christ died for us.”).

    So please, what is the point of trying to prove who does or did the most wrong? All of us are guilty at some level.

    (Nice work with the historical quotes Trav...right with you with those!)

    Dave

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  16. Hey Dave,

    Yeah I agree- in one sense it is kind of stupid to sit here and compare wars and the motivations for wars. However, I was simply responding to this claim by Don baker:

    "As for peace, the most horrible wars and atrocities have had religion at their core."

    So I was just saying basically, no, Hitler and other dictators with atheistic goals have actually been responsible for the worst atrocities of the past century, not religion.

    Back to Peter...

    Peter wrote:

    "
    Trav quoted out of context:
    "This is just another way that belief sabotages philanthropy."

    The full quote was:
    "So many believers chose to pray instead of providing real help. This is just another way that belief sabotages philanthropy."

    Either way, he is implying that for one reason or another, religious belief sabotages philanthropy. However, research clearly shows that the opposite is true.

    In addition to the previous research I quoted from Barna (btw Sean, I've heard that they are highly reputable. D Souza quoted them in a debate and Shermer never questioned him on it, thats the only context I've seen it in. if you disagree please explain why), here's some extra stuff I just googled and found:

    From here:

    http://www.hoover.org/publications/policyreview/3447051.html

    "The differences in charity between secular and religious people are dramatic. Religious people are 25 percentage points more likely than secularists to donate money (91 percent to 66 percent) and 23 points more likely to volunteer time (67 percent to 44 percent)."

    So that's two seperate sources, both showing that religious people are MUCH more charitable than secular people. Sort of puts Baker's claims to shame, don't they? Meanwhile, neither you guys or him have provided any references to back up his claims.

    So, in context of the discussion, my point is this: Religious belief ASSISTS philanthropy, it does NOT sabotage it.

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  17. Dan said this:

    So many believers chose to pray instead of providing real help. This is just another way that belief sabotages philanthropy. Of course, many religious groups were on the march after the event. Most were motivated to gain converts. Those lost interest when they couldn't proselytize to the victims. Again, who is benefiting? Where is the good will?

    To which Trav responded with:

    "The differences in charity between secular and religious people are dramatic. Religious people are 25 percentage points more likely than secularists to donate money (91 percent to 66 percent) and 23 points more likely to volunteer time (67 percent to 44 percent)."

    An interesting set of statistics that ignores Dan's specific examples.

    ReplyDelete
  18. What am I supposed to respond with Sean?

    It was a ridiculous comment so I replied to his overall contention within which that particular statement was made.

    The implication behind saying "This is ANOTHER WAY that religious belief sabotages philanthropy" is thjat religious belief sabotages philanthropy in a number of ways. That is the overall idea he's peddling with that comment, and thats what I responded to. I've already explained that!.

    I don't have time to respond to every single line of his letter, which I have also already explained.

    In terms of specifics, it's obvious that the opposite is true. If you pray about something, it causes you to meditate upon and deeply consider the issue. If anything, this also ENCOURAGES philanthropy.

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  19. Trav he was refering to a particular example that of the Tsunami. You could have found some evidence to the contrary surrounding that issue, no?

    I don't expect you to pick apart everything he says line by line. But I would appreciated a well presented rebuttal of the arguments he puts forward.

    ReplyDelete
  20. So, you expect me to respond to this:

    "Most were motivated to gain converts. Those lost interest when they couldn't proselytize to the victims."

    Those are statements which I can't rebut on their own. I'm not sure how I'd even go about finding any information on this!

    However, I have clearly showed that religious belief assists philanthropy, and quoted two seperate researchers who have shown that religious people are far more charitable than non religious with their time and their money. So I think it's fair to say that I've added a "well presented rebutall" to his overall argument. The facts speak for themselves.

    I also pointed out, in my last response, how ridiculous and absurd it is to claim that meditating and praying about something would increase the chances of them doing nothing about it.

    The statement itself doesn't follow. Does he think atheists are more likely to help out, due to the fact that they do NOT pray about it or meditate over the situation!?!?

    ReplyDelete
  21. Hi guys!

    Gotta stick up for Trav on this one. You see Gott mit uns, as seen on the belt buckles of the Wehrmacht, means 'there is no god'.

    Trust me. I have a degree in German.

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  22. Oops!

    Please disregard that comment... it seems 'Gott mit uns' in fact means... GOD WITH US.

    Seriously. Hitler was a Catholic all his life and prayers were said in Church on his birthday until his death. Although the regime has its issues with the Church institutions, Hitler's Nazis were never, ever an atheistic regime.

    Frankly, I'm disgusted at the continuous attempts by Christians to pin the Holocaust on atheism. It is a disgraceful distortion of the truth, an apparantly recurring theme.

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  23. I think there is a problem with contrasting atheism and religion. They are not opposites. Atheism and theism do not cause one to go out and commit attrocities or great works of compassion and good. I think our problems lie with dangerous ideologies

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  24. Oh, right. So Hitler was a Catholic all his life.

    I see.

    It seems rather strange to me that a true Catholic would say...

    " The heaviest blow that ever struck humanity was the coming of Christianity."

    Or....

    "The deliberate lie in the matter of religion was introduced into the world by Christianity...."

    Or....

    "I shall never come personally to terms with the Christian lie"

    (From this book:

    http://www.amazon.com/Hitlers-Table-Talk-Adolf-Hitler/dp/1929631057/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1229307355&sr=8-2

    I will continue to reference every single claim I make..in adherence to the strict new standards required by Peter on this blog! You guys seem intent on questioning every claim, therefore I will reference every claim...).

    It would also seem strange that a Catholic would rewrite Christmas carols about himself, in place of Jesus.

    (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nazism_and_Religion#Nazi_Attitudes_towards_Christianity)

    And as mentioned previously, it would also seem strange that a Catholic would run a political party whose actions included banning church seminaries and whose aim was to rid the state of religion.

    ReplyDelete
  25. I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


    Susan

    http://www.car-insurance-choices.com

    ReplyDelete
  26. Trav,

    Checkout the other wiki article link to the one you selectively quote from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adolf_Hitler%27s_religious_beliefs

    He appears to have been more of a deist believing in a supreme power, a creator, he was opposed to state atheism.

    I will agree he was anti-christian (privately) on the evidence I have read he saw christianity as a threat to his power. At different times he appears to have used religion to manipulate his people (predominently christian).

    So no, not an atheistic regime.

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  27. Trav,
    So we agree that Tacitus, Mara Bar-Serapion and Suetonius did not write about Crusifixion.

    Trav wrote:
    "The assumption being that wise king refered to Jesus, who was after all, known as "King of the Jews" in the bible."

    There was no Bible when Mara Bar-Serapion wrote it and there are better candidates than Jesus for this passage.


    Trav wrote:
    Your point? [about] "Lucian of Samosata wrote around 165 AD when Gospels were in wide circulation."

    If today you write about Sherlock Holmes or Joseph Smith that hardly counts as real evidence of their actions.

    Trav wrote:
    And yes, there is doubt about the authenticity of Josephus writings. I'm not sure if this particular passage was in question or not.

    see: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Josephus_on_Jesus

    Trav wrote:
    "The scholarly consensus is that... [about Josephus]"

    Not so. There is no consensus.

    Trav wrote:
    "cruxifixion of Jesus was referenced by numerous extra biblical sources"

    So far you have claimed doubtful Josephus and Lucian of Samosata's writings in 165 AD. You need to come up with more [and more reliable] if you claim "numerious". BTW Acts 5:30 and Justin Martyr claimed that Jesus was nailed to a tree.


    Trav wrote:
    "Therefore my point stands the Nazi party was an atheistic regime"

    This is just Christian non sense. Wikipedia is a great source, but please read the primary source about Hitler. Please read Mein Kampf. It will tell you his views of Christianity and Jews. For example:
    I believe to-day that my conduct is in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator. In standing guard against the Jew I am defending the handiwork of the Lord. (Volume 2, Chapter 2).

    Atheistic regime do not organise Christian celebrations, put churches in their coins, make all solders to wear "God" on their uniform, embed priests in their army... Not to mention plenty of Catholic priest supported Hitler.

    Trav wrote:
    Christian violence pales into comparison compared to that of the Nazi party.

    Please read some history, it is full of Christians (Queen Victoria, Leopold II...) and popes with large body counts.

    Trav asked:
    "What was the Nazi party's attitude towards public displays of religious belief, and freedom of religion?"

    Every Solder word "God with us" so it was ok to display Christian message. There was no freedom of religion of course.

    Trav asked:
    What did key Nazi figures believe about religion?

    Please read Mein Kampf. Hitler mentions and explains his relationship with God there more that fifty times.

    Trav asked:
    Which [Why?] should Christians have to read books by atheist philosophers? Does this make them uninformed and closed minded if they don't?

    Reading all sides of the issue gives you broader perspective, but if you don't it does not necessary mean you are closed minded.


    Foreign aid and religiosity:
    www.its.caltech.edu/~kai/foreignaid.html
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion_in_Europe

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  28. Hi again guys.

    Thanks Trav for acknowledging my comments...the statement "As for peace, the most horrible wars and atrocities have had religion at their core" is not correct, I agree. Perhaps the most horrible wars and attrocities have had religion as an excuse, but the core of religion is human nature. As I said earlier...religion is not true Christianity. And so this argument seems to be finding something to blame human nature on, Christianity or Atheism. Why not blame it on sex, drugs or rock'n'roll? My parents would have!

    I am assuming that the lack of response to my first comment (except Trav, even though he is very busy!) means that people accept that Don, or Dan, as Sean prefers to call him (!) has failed to understand Paul and Christianity (just trying to take some of the heat away from Trav here!).

    Dave

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  29. Oh how embarassment :)

    Getting confused with Dan Barker

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  30. Hi Dave,

    Thanks for you thoughful comments, I agree with your sentiments. I agree that "all of us are guilty at some level"; both religious and secular nations have done and are still doing great harm to others. I think some of the horrible wars and atrocities have had religion at their core, but great many have not. So I agree with you and Trav on this one...

    The problem with skeptics see with Paul's "authentic" seven letters is that even those contradict each other (for example 1 Corinthians 15:3 vs Galatians 1:11-12). Some historians have suggested that there were multiple authors of the Paul's letters we have today. (Maybe some "Pauls" believed in human Jesus, others in spirit Jesus). I'm undecided on this...

    ReplyDelete
  31. Dave,

    Busy as well. Mate sorry for not responding to you.

    I think we might agree on some general points but will get back to you later

    ReplyDelete
  32. Yep, thanks for "taking some of the heat off" Dave! :-). I agree entirely about religions being hijacked and used an an excuse for violence etc etc.

    I have read all these replies, just am very busy. This groomsman is in demand, last minute wedding preps. Thankfully I'm a kind and generous soul who is offering to help (not to mention most of the other groomsmen live much further away than I!).

    Will reply sometime in the next week or two if I get a chance.

    But, for now:

    - Peter, Mein Kampf was written when...1920's..early 1930's maybe...? Can't remember... but it was definitely long before the quotes I listed from 1941.

    - tacitus mentioned "extreme penalty". As I said, this referred to crucifixion.

    - "God with us". Which God- Hitler? After all, he seemed to think HE was the messiah.

    - Josephus: No Exact consensus, however the majority of scholars believe he DID mention Jesus and Christianity. Therefore, a very early hostile reference to Jesus.

    ReplyDelete
  33. Trav wrote:
    I will continue to reference every single claim I make..in adherence to the strict new standards required by Peter on this blog! You guys seem intent on questioning every claim, therefore I will reference every claim.

    I don't think there is any strict standard and I'm not an admin on this blog. I ask for a reference when people get their claims an order of magnitude wrong to their advantage ("hundreds of millions of deaths by the above regimes" or "Did you know there were 7 abortion clinic bombings in the 80's and 90's") or misquote people ("Jesus crucifixion (recorded in the gospels... Recorded by Suetonius, ..., Tacitus, Mera Bar Serpion") because I know they will not find a reference and hopefully will make them look for the truth.

    The other thing I recommend is to go to the primary source, not quote third hand books, when possible. If you claim Joseph Smith's opinions, please quote his work first. Then you can introduce a contradictory views preferable from the roughly neutral source. Quoting Christian apologist view on Stalin is not that valuable, but atheist quotes about Stalin gives you more mileage.

    ReplyDelete
  34. Dave,

    It's my opinion that dogmatic, unthinking and repressive ideologies that can be easily by hijacked or manipulted by small groups or even individuals and cause considerable damage are the chief problem. In this sense Religions can be blamed for that damage as they facilitate it.

    If we examine the Albigensian Crusade, the first and only carried out on european soil against other christians, it had the sanction of the RCC, the blessing of the pope.

    There were other motivators, the greed of the nobles but essentially the Pope wanted the heresy of the Cathars stamped out.

    Now if we turn to Communism under Stalin you have the same thing a repressive regime that quashes the individual, freedom of speech, creates fear amongst the populace.

    ReplyDelete
  35. Thanks for the attention - I am feeling loved!

    Peter, you said, "The problem skeptics see with Paul's "authentic" seven letters is that even those contradict each other (for example 1 Corinthians 15:3 vs Galatians 1:11-12)."

    I had a look at these verses and I do not see how they contradict each other. Perhaps I am missing something. Could you elaborate for me please?

    Sean, I agree with your last comment. Human history is a sad record of what has been done in the name of religion, as well as other ideologies. You would think that we would learn!

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  36. Dave,
    The question is from where did Paul got his information.

    1 Corinthians 15:3 "...which I also received (paralambanō)..."
    Galatians 1:12 "...I neither received (paralambanō) it of man.."

    paralambanō refers to an oral transmission from an other person (tradition).

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  37. Trav wrote:
    Mein Kampf was written when...1920's..early 1930's maybe...? Can't remember... but it was definitely long before the quotes I listed from 1941.

    So? Hitler outlay his plan in Main Kampf and implemented it once he got to the power.

    Trav wrote:
    tacitus mentioned "extreme penalty". As I said, this referred to crucifixion.

    You are overstating your claim. "extreme penalty" could have been any kind of torture+death. Maybe there were several opinions about Jesus' death (Gospels/Josephus? vs Acts/Justin Martyr) and Tacitus was not sure what to write...

    Trav wrote:
    "God with us". Which God- Hitler? After all, he seemed to think HE was the messiah

    Please read Mein Kampf. (and God and messiah are different things)

    Trav wrote:
    the majority of scholars believe [Josephus] DID mention Jesus and Christianity. Therefore, a very early hostile reference to Jesus.

    A logical fallacy. If majority believe in something it does not follow that it is true.

    ReplyDelete
  38. Thanks Peter, that helps me understand the issue.

    It certainly does look like a contradiction, but I think Paul’s thinking is able to be explained.

    The Galatians ref clearly states that he did not receive this message from man – and he didn’t. He did however, receive it (and orally) from God, or more accurately, God’s Son, Jesus. We see this in the story of Paul (Saul’s) conversion in Acts 9, and when Paul refers to his time spent in the desert, and Don even alludes to it in his letter when he says, “the Apostle Paul's encounter with Christ as a spirit-being out the desert”.

    In the Cor ref, Paul simply states that he has received this message (orally), but does not say from whom, as Paul has already made clear in the beginning of the letter where he has been given the Gospel (1 Cor 17, 1 Cor 2:10 & 13, and 1 Cor 9:1 – an Apostle was someone instructed by Christ).

    For me, I accept what Paul says about Jesus, I do not consider him a liar, and I am a Christian. Don suggests that this is impossible! I realise you might have other contradictions (I think you said you have), but I have not found a contradiction in his teaching that could not be reconciled. You can feel free to challenge me on that!

    I appreciate very much that you have obviously taken time to look at the Bible, and that you have some understanding of the original language of the NT (I am very impressed!).

    I do wonder though, if Don has looked into what Christians believe as much as you? To me his letter suggests a lot of misunderstandings, though I am sure, as I said earlier, that the church itself is also to blame for much this!

    Dave

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  39. [i]italics test[/i]

    ReplyDelete
  40. Peter wrote:

    [i]So? Hitler outlay his plan in Main Kampf and implemented it once he got to the power.[i]

    Yep, well he did a real job of implementing all those plans around his Catholic beliefs, didn't he? Like, you know, banning churches and stuff....

    "Peter:

    You are overstating your claim. "extreme penalty" could have been any kind of torture+death."

    Ok then...What's your suggestion...?

    "Maybe there were several opinions about Jesus' death (Gospels/Josephus? vs Acts/Justin Martyr) and Tacitus was not sure what to write..."

    That's pure speculation. By far the most likely thing is that he was referring to crucifixion.



    "Trav wrote:
    the majority of scholars believe [Josephus] DID mention Jesus and Christianity. Therefore, a very early hostile reference to Jesus.

    A logical fallacy. If majority believe in something it does not follow that it is true."

    Correct. However, I'm just following what the experts tell me. The biggest expert in the world on Josephus, who catalogued most of the scholarly writings on Josephus between 1937 and 1980, was asked for a rough estimate of how many scholars accept Testimonuum Flavuum (sp?) in one form or another. His response? On a ratio of at least 3 to 1, possibly as much as 5 to 1, accept it. So in other words, 75% to 90% of scholars accept the writing in one form or another (ie: There are two versions, both mention Jesus in some form). Remembering that there are only 3 sentences in any serious dispute.

    (from footnotes, Case for the resurrection of Jesus, Habermas and Licona)

    Now, Ok, it doesn't necessarily "logically follow" that the majority of scholars are correct. I'm not sure if this has anything to do with "logic". All it means is that the balance of experts accept the writings, so there are obviously good reasons for that (which I can list if you like), and we can be fairly sure that this was an extremely early, and hostile/non christian historical reference to Jesus and Christianity.

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  41. Dave,

    Thanks for the kind words. I understand that a good Christian apologist can some how explain away all possible biblical contradiction (like the classic; what were the last words of Jesus) and at the same time pick apart book of Mormon pointing out the contractions in their beliefs. But then again a good Mormon apologist can defend any possible contradiction in their beliefs...

    Dave wrote:
    In the [1 Corinthians 15:3], Paul simply states that he has received this message (orally), but does not say from whom...

    I think it clear that Paul talks about oral tradition from other people. Paul uses apokalyptō/sis when he talks about information for God/Jesus (1 Cor 2:10, Gal 1:12), but when he talks about information from oral tradition from other people he uses paralambanō (1 Cor 15:3, Gal 1:12). Strong's dictionary supports this view. Now I don't think Paul is a liar, more likely someone added 1 Cor 15:3-11 later to the text. Mark at least did not know those passages when he wrote his Gospel.

    Dave wrote:
    I do wonder though, if Don has looked into what Christians believe as much as you?

    Don is an experienced atheist radio personality, but Christianity has so many different beliefs, traditions and faces that when you describe one type others can claim that it is a misinterpretation. I think one does not necessarily need have to look in to really deep in a particular religion to dismiss it. I have rarely met a Christian who has read even three non-Christians holy books, but they all reject all other thousands of religions.

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  42. "But then again a good Mormon apologist can defend any possible contradiction in their beliefs..."

    I'm sure there are Mormon apologists who defend their beliefs. However, their claims do not stand up under scrutiny.

    Remember that early Christians Paul (former Christian enemy), and James (former Jewish Skeptic) had an experience with the risen Jesus and became church leaders who suffered martyrdom for their faith. Stephen was also martyred and so were other disciples.

    However, in the case of the Mormon witnesses, there were two groups of early witnesses. “The three witnesses" then the "eight witnesses". The first 3 witnesses all left the mormon church during Joseph Smith's lifetime. And 3 of the others also ended up LEAVING the mormon church! So 6 of the 11 Mormon witnesses left the Mormon church at one point or another. Some of them then returned. Most of these witnesses were also already related to each other, which also brings their testimony into massive question.

    (read more here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Book_of_Mormon_witnesses)

    Compare this to the witnesses to Jesus- they had every reason to leave and give up their faith, but they all stood strong and endured great suffering to proclaim their beliefs.

    There’s no comparison. One group of witnesses was far more reliable than the other, and their lives showed it.

    "Mark at least did not know those passages when he wrote his Gospel."

    Where's your evidence for this claim?

    Also, re 1 corinthians being interpolated, Kenneth Humphreys pointed this out in his debate with Gary Habermas. Habermas replied by saying that Price is the only scholar in the world who believes this. Even Richard Carrier does not believe 1 corinthians 15 is an interpolation.

    I haven't studied the area much yet. When I do, I'll find out why this is the case, I'm sure. And I'll add my comments to the debate. For now, I'll just point out that scholars disagree with his position.(ie: People who actually study the text and know how to analyse this stuff, unlike us armchair experts)

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  43. Guys,

    Thanks for all the great feedback.

    I'll leave a few links as more food for thought.

    Paul's understanding of Christ is very different from that of the Gospels and modern Christianity. See Why I Don't Buy the Resurrection Story.

    On philanthropy, I'm aware of the Barna study. How much of that "charity" went to perpetuate Christianity? Money given by individuals is nickles and dimes compared to the compounding impact of science and technology. How many diseases has religion cured? How many diseases would have been cured today if it were not for religion sabotaging science? Integral calculus was invented over 2000 years ago, but lost because the only surviving manuscript was used as a prayer book. What riches were lost in the Library of Alexandria? See episode #379 of the Atheist Experience for more on the relative merits of science and religion. EFFECTIVE philanthropy requires an understanding of the world as it really is--not some fantasy.

    As for Hitler, don't forget the large influence of Martin Luther's antisemitism had on him. Compare the events of Kristallnacht with the text of Martin Luther's On the Jews and their Lies. Hitler adored Martin Luther and Krystalnacht was something of a tribute to Martin Luther. It even started on Martin Luther's birthday. See Atheist Experience episode #489 for more. Also, Hitler was aided and abetted by a nation of believers. The holy ghost clearly intended the extermination of the Jews.

    Again, thanks for the comments.

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  44. "EFFECTIVE philanthropy requires an understanding of the world as it really is--not some fantasy."

    Effective philanthropy has to begin with...well, being philanthropic. How effective can atheists possibly be, when they're giving less than half of what Christians are!?

    "On philanthropy, I'm aware of the Barna study. How much of that "charity" went to perpetuate Christianity? "

    This question leads me to question whether you're actually familiar with the Barna study at all. In fact, you definitely aren't.

    The study clearly showed that Christians are more philanthropic in NON church related activities:

    Christians are more likely to:

    "to volunteer to help a non-church-related non-profit (20% versus 30%), to describe themselves as "active in the community" (41% versus 68%), and to personally help or serve a homeless or poor person (41% versus 61%)."

    (From my above post where I provided the link to the Barna research).

    So, the infamous Mr D Baker has shown up here to defend his ill informed and offensive comments about Christians, atheists and philanthropy. And I've again shown him to be...well, ill informed.

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  45. Our infamous illinformed atheist friend asked:

    "On philanthropy, I'm aware of the Barna study. How much of that "charity" went to perpetuate Christianity?

    And here is the reply from the Barna research, which I had already quoted:

    "Even when church-based giving is subtracted from the equation, active-faith adults donated twice as many dollars last year as did atheists and agnostics. In fact, while just 7% of active-faith adults failed to contribute any personal funds in 2006, that compares with 22% among the no-faith adults. "

    Please Baker, do your bloody research!

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  46. "How many diseases has religion cured? How many diseases would have been cured today if it were not for religion sabotaging science?"

    Most of the greatest scientists of the past 500 years have been Christians. Many of them were motivated to do their science by the belief that they were investigating the wonderful ways of the beautiful world their creator God made for them to enjoy.

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  47. Trav,

    I'm glad you have started to take time to look at these issues and planned to study more. I hope you keep an open mind. And you are right that I speculated about Tacitus (I did start the sentence with the word "Maybe"), but my point was the he did not mention crucifixion like you claimed. You are also right that I am in minority about 1 Cor 15. I don't claim to an expert on that, but I have studied both sides of that issue. Again if someone will present a good case for its authenticity I am happy to change my mind. Josephus on Jesus is a long (off) topic, so if you have a blog please write about it and start a new discussion (even on a internet forum). I'll be happy to comment on that.


    Trav wrote:
    "I'm sure there are Mormon apologists who defend their beliefs. However, their claims do not stand up under scrutiny."

    This is a typical Christian view. But I have shown you at least ten times in this discussion how completely wrong your Christianity related knowledge/beliefs are, yet you have not acknowledged that your views were wrong and still claim that at least Mormon "claims do not stand up under scrutiny". And who were these so called "witnesses to Jesus", who had every reason to leave and give up their faith? Maybe you can tell us about them, at least we have good record of the Mormon witnesses.


    Trav wrote:
    Where's your evidence for [Mark at least did not know those passages when he wrote his Gospel]?

    The whole Christianity is based on Jesus' resurrection. Mark never wrote about post mortem appearances. If Mark had know about post mortem appearances related Jesus' resurrection he surely would have written about them. If you have a compelling reason why Mark left it out, I am happy to change my mind on that.

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  48. This is a typical Christian view. But I have shown you at least ten times in this discussion how completely wrong your Christianity related knowledge/beliefs are, yet you have not acknowledged that your views were wrong and still claim that at least Mormon "claims do not stand up under scrutiny".

    By the way, how do I add italics? It'd really assist in keeping my posts clearer....

    Perhaps you're being a bit harsh, I don't think I've been wrong about as many things as you claim. However you're right, I have been wrong on a few minor issues- like claiming Suetonius mentioned crucifixion for example.


    "And who were these so called "witnesses to Jesus", who had every reason to leave and give up their faith? Maybe you can tell us about them, at least we have good record of the Mormon witnesses."

    There's the disciples firstly.

    But, of particular interest are James and Paul. Paul was a former Christian persecutor, who became a Christian, going on to be the first Christian missionary, and as you know- the main developer of Christian theology. He was willing to suffer for his beliefs, which is attested to by extra biblical sources.

    James was a former skeptic. The brother of Jesus, he was a hardcore legalist Jew-type, who didn't accept Jesus till after the resurrection. He also went onto suffer persecution and lead the church.

    Virtually all scholars agree that these two are valid witnesses, and that they suddenly changed after believing they had an experience of one sort or another with the risen Jesus.

    The main reasons for this, as far as I'm aware, are: The early dating of Paul's writings, the nonbiblical mentions of both James and Paul, and the embarassment factor in the case of James. What do I mean by that last one? Principle of embarrassment in historicity- it would've been embarassing to the early church that Jesus own brother was a nonbeliever during his ministry and it would've raised serious questions, so it was unlikely to be made up.


    Trav wrote:
    Where's your evidence for [Mark at least did not know those passages when he wrote his Gospel]?

    "The whole Christianity is based on Jesus' resurrection. Mark never wrote about post mortem appearances. If Mark had know about post mortem appearances related Jesus' resurrection he surely would have written about them. If you have a compelling reason why Mark left it out, I am happy to change my mind on that."

    I haven't looked into this question much. I'd noticed it before, and just thought that Paul mentions Jesus resurrection and the crucial nature of it in writings much earlier, so it's not that important whether it's in Mark or not.

    This may add to the discussion:

    Most scholars, including most evangelicals hold that the final verses of Mark are not part of the original text, they still hold that Mark knows of the post mortem appearances of Jesus. He predicts Jesus resurrection 5 times (8:31, 9:9, 31; 10:32-34, 14:28). In addition, Mark reports the testimony of the angel (16:5-7), which includes the resurrection, empty tomb and appearance of Jesus in Galilee. Notice that Mark see this as fulfillment of 14:28. Furthermore, reference to Peter in 16:7 may be the appearance reported by the creed in 1 Corinthians 15:5 and Luke 24:34.

    The majority of scholars hold that the omission of the actual appearances was an intentional literary device employed by Mark, although a good number hold that the original ending has been lost.

    (From footnote 30, Chapter 3, Case for the Resurrection of Jesus, Habermas/Licona)

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  49. Trav,

    Can you point out any examples of Christian charity where the giver harmed their chances of getting to heaven? That is, can you separate Christian philanthropy from buying a ticket to perpetual orgasm?

    I agree that Christians donate more money. The Intelligent Design movement has never been at a lack for money. It's goal is to sabotage education. That's an example of negative philanthropy. Bans on stem cell research are another. How about how Christianity actively stood against any exploration of the human anatomy--they were deathly afraid that the scientists would find there is no soul. Christianity actively sabotaged science at every turn. Think of how much science was created during the middle ages--almost none. Christianity's debt to the world includes several hundred years of science and technology that we would have today if it weren't for Christianity. Because technology builds on itself, that debt is compounding.

    As for Christian scientists, how about Galileo? Would you steal his discoveries for Jesus, too. You mentioned Newton. He wasted years of his brilliant career trying to figure out the bogus crap of alchemy and it's associated mysticism. Think of how much more he could have done without that waste of time.

    I could list thousands of big examples of where faith led directly to harm. All the money in the world wouldn't repay the debt of harm due to faith. Christian philanthropy is just a drop in the ocean.

    One more question for you. If Christians are so philanthropic, do you support the idea that they should pay for the care and upbringing of all the children they trick women into having with their "abstinence only" claptrap, suppression of contraceptives, family planning, etc.? It seems to me it's just a deadbeat religion who creates children (for later indoctrination), but has no intention of providing for them. In what way is that charity?

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  50. Thanks for your reply Peter! I was very impressed with your knowledge of Greek...but I am afraid that your use of Greek in your last comment has not impressed me very much!

    You said, “I think it clear that Paul talks about oral tradition from other people. Paul uses apokalyptō/sis when he talks about information for God/Jesus (1 Cor 2:10, Gal 1:12), but when he talks about information from oral tradition from other people he uses paralambanō (1 Cor 15:3, Gal 1:12). Strong's dictionary supports this view.”

    If this is the case, then why does my Strong’s Dictionary (in the back of my Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance) give no such information? Not only that, apokalypto means ‘revealed’, and is where we get the word apocalyptic from. Yes, this is used in 1 Cor 2:10 to refer to what has been revealed through the Spirit. But! Check out 1 Cor 2:12 where Paul says we have not received a spirit from the world, but a spirit from God. The word used is elabomen...closely related to paralambano. Not only that, but Phillipians 4:9 has a clear reference to paralambano for what the Philippians had received from Paul, but 1 Cor 11:23 uses paralambano to describe what Paul has received from the Lord. It is a very weak argument to suggest that paralambano is only used in ref to what we receive from man, and apokalypto in regards to God. You dictionary may have information about a trend that Paul might follow...but to come to concrete theological conclusions simply from this would be a long stretch which is undermined elsewhere in Scripture.

    Don, thanks for your words and direction when you said, “Paul's understanding of Christ is very different from that of the Gospels and modern Christianity. See Why I Don't Buy the Resurrection Story.” Although the author of this work asserts that Paul never saw Jesus in the flesh (and he rightly says Paul admits this), it is another thing altogether to say that Paul’s belief was that Paul never existed in the flesh, as you have done. I have shown Scripture evidence to the contrary in my first comment, to which no one has responded.

    Finally, to Don and to Peter, I have tried hard not to accuse atheists of anything in my comments. I have been guilty of suggesting that Don has not looked into Christianity very closely. What I object to, (and Peter you yourself in your last comment to me noted this problem) is the lumping of all Christianity into one basket. I have made it clear that I believe the church has been guilty of much, but I have also said (because I follow the teachings of Jesus, not the Popes, or Peter Jensen, or whoever) that true Christianity is not about our works receiving a reward, but rather that God loves and accepts us as we are. No one responded to this either, but Don, your last comment says, “That is, can you separate Christian philanthropy from buying a ticket to perpetual orgasm?” All I can say is that this depends on the heart of the person doing it, and you can certainly not assume that all Christians only give for what they will receive – for this is not the teachings of Christ!

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  51. Sorry, that should be "that Paul’s belief was that Jesus never existed in the flesh"!

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  52. Dave,

    How about Galatians 1:11-12? It's my understanding that Paul thought that human flesh was inherently dirty and therefore a divine being would never take a fully human form.

    I suppose you could argue that Jesus is human just when you're supposed to feel guilty for his pain, but a god when he does miraculous things. I would call that self-serving spin.

    The main point is that the only first person account of the god-man is from Paul, who's experience is more likely explained by an epileptic seizure. He later goes on to claim how Jesus was going to return in the lifetimes of the disciples (and stop having children because it will only complicate the transition). Do you trust Paul? If so, the second coming has already happened (and you missed out). If not, you've thrown away your best evidence for Jesus.

    --Don

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  53. Thanks for the comment Don.

    Not sure what your point is with Gal 1:11-12. I have responded to what Peter said (“The question is from where did Paul got his information.
    1 Corinthians 15:3 "...which I also received (paralambanō)..."
    Galatians 1:12 "...I neither received (paralambanō) it of man.."”)

    Perhaps you are suggesting that Paul is saying Jesus was not a man? He certainly does not state that Jesus is not, but rather, as I mentioned earlier in Phil 2 specifically says that Jesus was in human form.

    Yes, Paul would have seen the ‘flesh’ as inherently dirty, but this is what makes what Jesus did so incredible (Read Phil 2:1-9). God did in Jesus what no Jew expected him to do...even Paul before his conversion...which is why he was on the road to Damascus, to persecute the believers who had suggested such a thing.

    I guess you could use Jesus being human and divine to your own ends...but I prefer to accept the fact that I just do not understand it! I certainly cannot think of how I might have put a “self serving spin” on it.

    You said, “The main point is that the only first person account of the god-man is from Paul...”

    What about John chapter 1 (and 1 John 1)? John knew Jesus very well, is mentioned in the other gospel accounts, and makes it clear that Jesus was God, and was with God, that is the same as God, and yet separate from God the Father.

    You said, “He (Paul) later goes on to claim how Jesus was going to return in the lifetimes of the disciples...”

    I have already responded to this in an earlier comment. Paul never claims to know when, and this is in line with what Jesus said, that no one knows except God the Father. I think it great that Paul thought the return of Jesus (at any moment) was important enough to change your plans and the way you live.

    I have really enjoyed the conversation, but I am wondering if we are moving anywhere. I still have comments about the original post that I think demonstrate a genuine lack of understanding by Don in what he wrote, that have had no response. Obviously you do not have to respond, but just let me know and I will go back to life as normal for me!

    Cheers Dave

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  54. Dave,

    Thanks for looking in to this and sorry to disappoint you. Nice comment in the end about the "heart of a person doing it", but other Christians might challenge you what "true Christianity" is. Catholics are big on this works thing and modern Christians seem to be so far away from the 1st/2nd century Christianity.

    Dave wrote:
    Phillipians 4:9 has a clear reference to paralambano for what the Philippians had received from Paul, but 1 Cor 11:23 uses paralambano to describe what Paul has received from the Lord. It is a very weak argument to suggest that paralambano is only used in ref to what we receive from man

    I think the better translation is "I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you" (KJV). The Greek word apo is can be translated both of and from. Half of the Bibles have "of" half "from". I would think the more likely reading of "paralambanō apo kyrios" is "received [oral tradition] of the Lord".

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  55. How to get italics?

    Please check the instructions below the comment box on the top right hand side.
    (use < > not [ ])

    Note that below your each post is a tiny garbage can and by clicking it you can remove your post (keep a copy of your post if you want to modify your posts later...)

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  56. Thanks for your comments Peter. I am a bit hopeless at the whole computer thing...so thanks for helping me out!

    If I can first respond to your second and third paragraphs in your second last comment.

    Whether Paul has received ‘of’ the Lord or ‘from’ the Lord, the point still stands. It is an assumption to put in the words ‘[oral tradition]’. (Your original point, I believe, was not that it meant ‘oral tradition’, but ‘oral tradition from man’, an even bigger stretch that I have not been able to find evidence of. I do not have a problem with it meaning ‘oral tradition’, because Jesus spoke to Paul.)

    I am not saying this because I am a good apologist who can make black white and white black (something I cannot do)! With all translation there must be assumptions at some level, so please understand that I do not mind you making an assumption, that paralambano means an ‘oral tradition’ (from God). The problem I have is why you want to make this assumption. To prove Paul has contradicted himself? Why? The assumption I want to make is that the Paul who has not contradicted himself on so many theological points would not contradict himself on what is in fact a relatively minor point.

    This brings me back to your first paragraph in your second last comment, and this relates to the heart of a person. Let me elaborate!

    Yes, other Christians do challenge me all the time – some think I am a ‘liberal’ (polite word for heretic!). But the church is full of people filled with pride, hate and selfishness. These characteristics go well with religion – just look at the Pharisees in the NT. Catholics are big on works (most of them), and many people in the church are a long way from where the early Christians were at. But! Why lump those of us who are not like this in with the whole lot. My experience of Athiests is that some are very angry, some have been very hurt, some (even many!) are very intelligent, some are just out to prove religion wrong at all costs, and some are genuine, loving people who just want to live the life they have now. I cannot talk about you guys in universal terms, it would not be fair, and I believe I have been able to converse thus far without doing so.

    If you want to insist that paralambano is always a reference to oral tradition (even though it really is an exegetical assumption), then fine, but our ability to have a conversation is hampered. What I would encourage you to do is ask yourself why you want to make the assumption you are making. I do not know, nor do I pretend to know. One thing I know is that an exegetical assumption certainly does not prove a point. If I was trying to make a point I would look for more than this to state my case!

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  57. Dave,

    I don't really care if some Paul's verses contract or not, the subject just interested me. This minor point will not prove if Christianity is true or not. If I would argue about contradictions in NT I would go to different verses and topics. I am usually more concern when people make baseless claims and spread misinformation about Christianity and Atheism/ts. Finding the truth is more interesting than defending or debunking something.

    Why Christians often get lumped together is when Peter/Phillip Jensen speaks/writes strong words about gays, atheists or members of other religion I don't hear many Anglicans/Christians opposing that. If you are a member of NSW Anglican Church, you get lumped with your leaders' controversial opinions if you don't speak up against it. I attend one of Peter Jensen's many Churches for Bible study, so I am fairly familiar with their teachings.

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  58. It is good to know where you are coming from Peter. My greatest interest is also pursuing the truth. Perhaps at another time we might have a chance to debate some of the more central verses/topics - I have enjoyed our conversation as you are a gentleman!

    I grew up in the Sydney Anglican scene, and so I have some idea of their teaching. I sometimes challenge some of their less thought out statements on the Sola Panel (Sydney Ang blog...). I think one of the greatest problems in the church is that so many blindly accept what they are told. This is why some Atheists have thought through issues in the Bible more than some Christians! I can assure you though, there are some Christians out there who genuinely want to love good and their fellow man.

    Thanks again...Dave

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  59. Dave,

    I think we agree on a lot more things than we disagree on. It was nice chatting with you. Hopefully we get to discuss an other interesting topic again. Cheers.. Peter


    Trav,

    Sorry If I sounded too harsh. Talk to you again soon...

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  60. Don Baker. Dear me...

    I'm not sure whether there's much point continuing with this. You're embarrassing yourself here- you keep backsliding time and time again. Your argument would have to be the one of the worst types of argument around. "Hey, if my argument was different to the argument I started with, I might actually have a point".

    Well, no, you still don't have a point.

    Let's recap our discussion. You started off claiming that "religious belief sabotages philanthropy" in "many ways". I pointed out that, no, Christians are FAR more philanthropic than athiests, by quoting two seperate studies which show this.

    Then you claimed to be familiar with the Barna research, and asked "How much of that "charity" went to perpetuate Christianity?"

    This showed that you were not familiar with the Barna research at all, because Christians still more than DOUBLE the giving of atheists, EVEN WHEN church related giving is taken out of the equation.

    Now you're trying to claim that despite the fact that Christians give more than twice as much as atheists, somehow this still isn't evidence enough, because you need me to provide you with examples of where the giver "harmed their chances of getting to heaven". And much like the rest of your post, your opening question makes no sense. According to the bible, whether or not a Christian gets to heaven does not depend on how much they give to charity at all. I believe Dave has already covered this point in his reply.

    You then started talking about intelligent design, without giving any real indication of how it relates to the subject. I'm not sure that supporting intelligent design constitutes Christianity, especially given two of the biggest current proponents of intelligent design are a self proclaimed Agnostic Jew (D. Berlinski) and a philosophy professor who is a self proclaimed atheist (Bradley Monton, about to release the booked titled An atheist on intelligent design, or similar).

    Then you get back to the science discussion. Galileo, I suggest you read Chapter 1 or 2 of John Lennox's God's Undertaker. That whole debacle has been grossly distorted, and Lennox's book will give you a more balance view which actually accurately looks at the historical sources involved.

    Then you complain about Newton "wasting years" looking into myth. First, where's your evidence? Secondly, even if he did, what's your point? I can easily counter that by pointing out that Newton would never have had a "brilliant career" had it not been for his belief in God anyway.

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  61. What?

    Did you just say John Lennox

    The talking egg?

    He's my favourite. After McGrath, of course (he used to be an atheist).

    Seriously, though. Lennox?

    God actually started science, by encouraging human beings to name the animals at the beginning of Genesis, which is what we call taxonomy.

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  62. Trav,

    You're pointing out how Christians donate a lot of money to save their own souls (not really charity). Here in the US, the various Christian "charities" used their tax free money to spread lies and emotionally manipulate voters in the state of California in order to take away the (California) constitutional rights of gays. I've given you a large number of examples where Christian "charity" did harm. That is the OPPOSITE of philanthropy. As they say, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

    I think most Christians would view ID as some sort of worthy "educational" cause and it sucks up large amounts of Christian "charity" money. Read the "wedge document" to learn about the religious purpose behind ID. I've never heard of the people you're mentioning. What about the main ID people: Wells, Dembski, and Behe? Wells dedicated his life to God AND the destruction of the theory of evolution. I'm sure those others are just tokens so that people like you can claim it's not about religion.

    The Catholic church molesting children IS NOT charity, though the religion calls itself that. So much of that money goes to silence the victims. God clearly loves watching children be molested and Christians are happy to pay the bill for the show. All of that money flows tax free for the greater glory of God and ripping off non-believers.

    I'm saying the net "charity" of Christianity is very negative--especially when you take into account how religion has actively sabotaged science and technology. The only technology I can think that Christianity has advanced is the torture devices they created in the middle ages.

    You then go on to try to steal credit from scientists who are educated in the process of science and working their field making scientific discoveries because some portion of their brain clings to their childhood indoctrination. Why not credit their work as scientists and not their irrelevant belief in Santa Claus? You do know that intelligence is negatively correlated with religious belief, don't you? Do you have any examples of non-scientist religious nuts giving us revealed truth that turned out to be factual and changing the world in a positive way? (And don't say "Jesus" because more people have been killed in his name than helped.)

    I asked you how many diseases have been cured by Christianity or any other religious belief? None. How many cures have been inhibited by religious belief: any having to do with the anatomy of the body, genetics (evolution), and psychology--which is to say most. They are still actively interfering based on bogus "bioethics" related to nonexistent souls.

    I asked you how Christianity intends to fund the children it causes to exist. I didn't see an answer. They should all receive proper care, nutrition and eduction. This is not a small amount that Christianity is robbing from others.

    Oh, I get it: You want Christianity to take credit for the good things, but when it comes to responsibility, it's time to run!

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  63. Dave,

    My comment about 1 Gal was evidence that Paul didn't believe that Jesus was flesh and blood in his vision. Paul directly says his vision was not that of a human. I also claimed that Paul would not have thought Jesus to be human as flesh is inherently dirty/sinful. You seemed to agree.

    These points were addressing Trav's question of evidence for Paul's belief that Jesus never existed in the flesh. I admit my case isn't airtight, but I think it's just as good as any Christian apologetic.

    You claimed that Christianity isn't about getting a "perpetual orgasm". I suppose it's also about avoiding eternal torture, too. Without heaven, hell, and the souls that will be getting infinite punishment or reward, there is no point to Christianity at all. It's all about doing the right things to get that reward--either in this lifetime or the next. The rest is just (finite) window dressing.

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  64. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  65. Hi Don! I just wanted to comment on your statement,

    “You claimed that Christianity isn't about getting a "perpetual orgasm". I suppose it's also about avoiding eternal torture, too. Without heaven, hell, and the souls that will be getting infinite punishment or reward, there is no point to Christianity at all. It's all about doing the right things to get that reward--either in this lifetime or the next. The rest is just (finite) window dressing.”

    I certainly do not blame you for thinking this is all Christianity is about. Many people in the church do not see beyond this, and a big part of our hope in Jesus is the future. But! I would suggest that you read 1 John 4:7-21 (again?) to gain another perspective of Christianity that has to do with the here and now. Simply, we have been loved by God, and this love changes us to be better equipped to love others, even our enemies (1 John 4:19).

    The problem is that many Christians still see God as the big bogey man who is going to get them, and this hampers any hope of us loving God, or growing in our love for others (1 John 4:18). (Please note that I do not think love is finite, nor is it window dressing. Love is real, here and now, and able to change us and those we love well into eternity). This is just one perspective of Christianity that you (and also many Christians) appear to have failed to recognise. In fact, if you believe that Christianity is simply about eternal punishment or perpetual orgasm, then you do not understand what Christianity is about.

    I have read some atheist’s writings who say Christianity (along with all religions) are harmful. I agree that religion has done more harm than good, but as I have tried to explain, being a follower of Jesus (as described and explained in the NT) is a means by which we grow in love. This, I cannot see the harm in!

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  66. Don, I was not going to respond to your comment,

    “My comment about 1 Gal was evidence that Paul didn't believe that Jesus was flesh and blood in his vision. Paul directly says his vision was not that of a human. I also claimed that Paul would not have thought Jesus to be human as flesh is inherently dirty/sinful. You seemed to agree.”

    But I changed my mind! I agreed with you that Paul would have seen the flesh as inheritantly sinful/dirty. I think I would prefer to change the words sinful/dirty to the word ‘weak’. This lines up with Jesus’ words to the disciples in the garden (“The spirit is willing, but the body is weak”), and also Paul’s words in Romans 7.

    But I have not agreed with you that Paul then thought that because of this Jesus did not have a bodily form, in fact I have given scriptural references to the contrary which you have continued to ignore (as well as other scriptural ref to the God/man). The point of what I said is that Jesus was in bodily form, but did not succumb to the weakness of the body. He was also fully God in human form, and so Paul is also right to say he did not receive his info from a man, as Jesus is more than simply ‘a man’.

    Don, I assume you are a very busy man, but this debate is frustrating in the sense that you do not appear to be reading all of it (not closely anyway). If you would like to assert that “I admit my case isn't airtight, but I think it's just as good as any Christian apologetic.”, then please respond to the Christian apologetic that has been offered in this debate, because you have not responded to it. Otherwise, all you offer is your opinion (which is fine), but this is then not a conversation or a debate or even a discussion, but simply your soapbox!

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  67. Dave Happy- Ad Hominem.

    Don, two things:

    1. Don't join together two lines of discussion here which are clearly separate (despite your efforts to join them). Philanthropy (charitable donations) is a seperate subject to science and technology.

    2. Now, philanthropy. The vast majority of aid organisations are either explicitly Christian or were started by Christians are are now officially not, in the interests of political correctness and inclusivity. Are you going to try and claim that most aid organisations are doing "negative philanthropy"!? Your definition of negative is flawed anyway, and based on your own biases and philosophical presuppositions.

    As far as I can see, you claim to give "many examples", yet you've only mentioned intelligent design and California Gay rights. Both are very much debateable but I won't waste my valuable time doing so, mainly because your entire contention is flawed so it's easier for me to just point that out- If you want to claim "many" examples...go on, I'm waiting. Then to prove your point, you'll need to List those many examples and then explain to me how they prove that the total "negative" outweighs the positive, even despite the fact that the millions of Christians donate more than twice as much as atheists on a per head basis.

    Oh and thirdly, stop blaming "Christianity" for everything under the sun. Before you say "Christianity" is to blame for something one more time, provide a clear definition of what Christianity actually is- I haven't seen you do so yet.

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  68. Peter

    "Finding the truth is more interesting than defending or debunking something."

    I agree. And I'd suggest that the truth of Christianity, if it can be found, is to be found in the resurrection of Jesus. Rather than the intricacies of whether or not two passages contradict themselves if interpreted in one way or another etc etc. It's good to see you recognise this.

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  69. Trav,

    A lot of religious people are defending the faith they first stumble upon without ever really understanding it or studying any thousands of other live religions.

    Most of your "facts" on this blog are heavily biased toward Christianity. If you want to become a Christian apologist please study widely and do a lot of fact checking from at least neutral sources. People dismiss apologists quickly if they don't get their facts straight and you will not represent your faith well by spreading misinformation. If you want to find real facts you will have to put your apologist hat aside for a while and study other religions, non-religion, history, archeology, psychology, science, philosophy etc. for a long time to get a good overview of the all the view points. Extreme bias towards one religion will probably not give you a good result. Once you have a well rounded view it is easier to try to find the truth (or understand the it is hard to find).

    Regarding resurrection. A lot of people claim the truth of the resurrection after reading McDowell and Strobel type of books, but if you really want to know the resurrection story you need years of study of ancient religions, other resurrection stories, myths, early Christianity, ANE culture, history etc. You also need to understand why atheists, Muslims or people of other religions reject it. For example why atheists reject William Lane Craig's and Gary Habermas' popular defenses. Because so much discussion has gone to that subject I would recommend steer away from that debate until an extensive study.

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  70. Trav, I freely and cheerfully admit that my argument was ad hominem. I have absolutely no time for Lennox and his idiocy.

    If you insist on a rational rebuttal of his claim that god invented taxonomy in the Garden of Eden (and Lennox is sometimes not a creationist, I hasten to add), I would ask for some evidence from outside the Genesis fairy-tale.

    Good little rationalist that I am, I offer you Carolus Linneas as a more credible originator of alpha taxonomy.

    Now, remind me why you think I should take John Lennox seriously ever again?

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  71. I never made any claim that you should take any claim that anyone made about taxonomy seriously. You keep mentioning taxonomy in unrelated discussions, I have no idea why!

    Are you asking me to accept a non sequitur like this? John Lennox made a claim (Note: I'm not necessarily conceding this, I haven't even looked at any links you posted) that is wrong, therefore we shouldn't accept anything he says?

    Yet, quite a rational claim.

    Peter, I'm not convinced that anyone needs to do "years of study" to understand the resurrection story. It's a fairly simple story with a fairly simple message, and a good historical basis.

    You obviously disagree, but unless you elaborate on why, I can't really accept or dismiss (or even consider) your claims.

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  72. Trav,

    If you think the resurrection story is a simple one you can always do a self test. Can you name other ancient near east bodily resurrected god-men and tell what were their relation to Christianity? Can you name serveral non-Biblical religions (belief systems) that believed that something miraculous happens three days after the death and what were their relation to Christianity? Can you name other religions which had weeping/searching (embarrassment?) women going look for their [saviour-]god and what were their relation to Christianity? All your primary sources should of course be ancient not modern mythists. No need to answer here, but if you are not familiar with above questions you might not fully appreciate the Jesus' resurrection story.

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  73. I'm assuming you may be referring to Osiris, Adonis etc etc.

    Yes, I've heard of those stories.

    In fact, I was watching a short debate last night between Gary Habermas and Tim Callahan. Callahan could not name one piece of evidence which clearly showed a resurrection story which predates Jesus.

    But even if you could, it's a still a huge stretch to jump from there, to claiming that Jesus resurrection was a complete myth based on those prior stories.

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  74. Trav,

    Philanthropy is the betterment of mankind. Technology has been the main source of human philanthropy. Technology is the fruit of science and reason, both of which have been actively suppressed by religions. If you don't think technology is philanthropic, I'll make you a deal. I'll live my entire lifetime without religion and you live a month without any technology whatsoever. You can keep your charitable giving-with-strings-attached and I'll keep pretty much everything else. Deal?

    Religion, by the way, is focused on promotion and worship of (make believe) gods, which is often at odds with the benefit of humanity. You cannot serve two masters. What is your faith number? Mine is zero.

    As far as charitable giving, you're measuring the coins changing hands and I'm measuring the overall impact. I'm saying whatever money is being spent is squandered. I've already given you credit for good intentions.

    Take a look at this study. (You will need to click on the links net to the graph to change it.) Notice how religious belief (and presumably charitable giving in those countries) is POSITIVELY correlated with a variety of objectively measured social ills: murder, suicide, STDs, abortion, teen pregnancy, infant mortality, etc. I understand that secular countries also score very high on happiness scales.

    As far as other examples of negative philanthropy, I've mentioned:


    - All of technology, which you are anxious to dismiss because it kills your case

    - Calculus

    - Medicine (If you're over 35, you are alive despite religion)

    - the Library of Alexandria

    - Hitler's influence of Martin Luther's antisemitism. Antisemitism was part and parcel of Christianity for centuries

    - The fact that Christian philanthropy isn't given freely but in part as a mechanism to help the "giver" in the next life. This alone DISQUALIFIES most of Christian philanthropy

    - The oppression of the middle ages at the hands of religion

    - Newton wasting his time on religious-based alchemy

    - Bans on stem cell research

    - Treating women like (Christian) baby factories

    - Contraceptive suppression and misinformation -- an admission by religious nuts that their god cannot make humans

    - active suppression of gay rights

    - suppression of the teaching of evolution by ID proponents when evolution has contributed more to the benefit of mankind than religion ever will

    - The Catholic church's decades-long running pedophile ring with NONE of the ringleaders brought to justice. That alone should make people aware how evil Christianity is. Why can't Christianity clean its house? If your god exists, he must LOVE watching boys be screwed by priests. Sick.

    = Torture devices in the middle ages invented to convince people to convert to their evil religion

    - Religion has actively sabotaged our understanding of mental illness (I mentioned this briefly)

    So I did give many examples. Do you need more?? You've answered almost none of them, dismissing some of them as "debatable". What an amazing bunch of crap. You epitomize what I find so distasteful about Christianity. You ultimately don't give a shit about how your religion has harmed the world or feel any sense of responsibility for it. Your ego and your need to "market" the crap is far more important. You are happy to sell out your fellow man for the fantasy of your own perpetual orgasm. I consider you a traitor to humanity, like so many of your brethren.

    As for blaming Christianity. if a bunch of people calling themselves Christians groups together to do something based on their belief system, I think I'm justified in calling that a Christian effort. The fact that there are 20,000 Christian denominations and they can't agree on basic premises is not my problem. It's just evidence that Christianity is incoherent nonsense. When one group screws up, the other groups just blame the sect or pretend everything is ok. There is absolutely no mechanism to clean house. God certainly isn't doing it. The holy ghost is going along with the evil. Nothing fails like prayer. Yet when it's time to claim credit (as in the Barna study) or perpetrate some act of thuggery, Christians are all about ecumenicism.

    If your church isn't teaching you about Christianity's evil history, then your church is lying to you to get your money. Duh. The question is whether you want to be a dupe or wake up to the facts.

    I think this will be my last response to you. Perhaps you can try to take some responsibility for your beliefs.

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  75. Dave,

    You are right that I was remiss in not responding to your earlier postings.

    In one of your first postings, you said:

    3 – The statement “Paul was quite convinced that Christ never existed in the flesh” is very had to assert. Even with the ref given in the comments to Phil 3:20 (which does not state that Christ never existed in the flesh). In fact, in Phil 2:8 Paul says about Jesus, “And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.” Paul obviously believed that Jesus died a physical death (in human form), which means he would have had to have a physical body.

    The greater context of Phil 2:6-8 is that Paul is saying that Jesus is was a god in the likeness of a man. This means to me that Paul thought his essential nature was god-like and that he was merely dressed up as a human. I think this supports my case, actually.

    According to Paul, as you have pointed out, he is/was supposedly able to experience death, but is Jesus dead? Not according to Christians. Temporary "death" of a god is not a sacrifice.

    It seems to me that if Paul thought Jesus was human, he would be dead now and there would not be much point to Christianity. Since there is a claim he's a god, then I have trouble empathizing with the sacrifices of gods. Do you feel sorry for Prometheus or Sisyphus?

    I'll give you that my original statement was a bit too strong. I'll see about correcting it on the ACA web site (the original).

    On the subject of whether Paul's a liar, consider the article The Lowdown on God's Showdown which talks about Paul's comments in 1 Cor, (quoted in the article). See especially footnote [5]. Paul thought Jesus was going to return so soon that having children would only complicate things. Are you a father? If so, then you implicitly believe Paul's a liar.

    Another great quote from Paul is Romans 3:7 "For if the truth of God hath more abounded through my lie unto his glory; why yet am I also judged as a sinner?" While the context renders the meaning a little ambiguous, Martin Luther picked up on it and expanded it: "What harm would it do, if a man told a good strong lie for the sake of the good and for the Christian church? [...] a lie out of necessity, a useful lie, a helpful lie, such lies would not be against God, he would accept them."

    The creationists here in the US are fond of saying that Darwin was a racist, therefore evolution is inherently racist. By that "logic" Protestantism is inherently false because its author admitted that he was happy to lie for god.

    Cheers.

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  76. Don,

    That's fine- you don't need to reply to me anymore. I have no desire to reply anymore either, since, as I pointed out already, your whole argument has constantly shifted since the beginning.

    If you want to argue a point, fine, argue it, but don't make one point and then try and pretend like you were arguing something else, after I've shown that you were obviously way off the mark (eg: Your massive misinterpretation of the Barna research- in that ). You're just a hater- pointing out all the things that "christianity" has supposedly done wrong, without paying any attention to all the good which has resulted from "Christianity".

    I just googled "definition of philanthropy", and wiki was the first page that came up. I'll just paste the definition in here, so that next time you get into a big debate about it, you'll actually know what you're talking about:

    "Philanthropy is the act of donating money, goods, services, time and/or effort to support a socially beneficial cause, with a defined objective and with no financial or material reward to the donor."

    I notice that your definition completely bypassed the whole giving money and time thing, which is a key tenet of the definition. This of course allows you to conveniently dismiss all the research which measures such things and shows that Christians come way ahead of atheists in those measures.

    And, dear me, you keep going on and on and on and on and on and on about some supposed link between religion and science, as if "religion" (again...whatever that is) has been the cause of all the world's evils and lack of scientific progress, when nothing could be further from the truth.

    I've been ignoring this point of yours, mainly because you didn't establish the link between this and your "philanthropy" point (The only point I've been arguing from the start). Finally you've established this link, justifying a mixing of the two discussions by finally explaining your warped and incorrect definition of philanthropy, which you didn't properly spell out until now, and is patently misleading and false anyway.

    But regardless of all of that, I wonder if the following people would agree with you on this point?

    - Isaac Newton

    - Louie Pastuer

    - Georges Lemaître

    - Galileo

    What do these guys have in common? All were Christians, and all were responsible for some of the greatest scientific discoveries of the past few hundred years.

    Find out more here:

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

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  77. Hi Don, thanks for the comment and sorry for the delay getting back to you. I think we are the last two standing, so not sure about the point in going much further...but what the heck!

    You have said, ”Paul was quite convinced that Christ never existed in the flesh.”
    You have now said, ”This means to me that Paul thought his essential nature was god-like and that he was merely dressed up as a human.”
    But, how can Paul think Jesus was ”merely dressed up as a human” when you have insisted that Paul ”considered humans to be essentially dirty and as such the human form was completely unsuitable for a god man?”?

    I believe the Biblical picture of who Jesus is, is that he is the fullness of God in human form, even though the flesh was considered weak (rather than dirty). Not sure, but I think we now agree on this?

    I am not going to address the whole question about whether or not Jesus died, and god sacrifices, for two reasons. One, I am not sure what your issue is! And two, this is a very late stage of the discussion to bring in a new topic, so perhaps another time?

    I read the Lowdown on God’s Showdown. In it I could not find any Biblical statement that contradicted what I have said already (twice before), that Paul did not know when Jesus would return, and that this fits Jesus’ own statement that no one except the Father knows. Yes, he lived as though it would happen any day, and any true follower of Jesus today should also live the same way. I cannot hope to deal with half the stuff in that essay in this forum but would say the following briefly.

    Footnote 5, the ref to Augustine...come on, he was all weird about sex anyway. He was convinced that sex was only for having kids, so what would you expect him to say in response to Paul? Of course he will agree with him!

    1 Cor7:29-31 is certainly Paul’s suggestion that desperate times call for desperate measures, and he encourages people to stay un married and childless – so they have less concerns. But in verse 28 (conveniently missed in the quotes) Paul says “But if you marry, you have not sinned, and if a betrothed woman marries, she has not sinned.” In other words – it is not that big a deal, just some good advice.

    Finally, Romans 3:7 is a ripper! I certainly do not agree with everything Luther said, and with this one, Luther has been very unhelpful. You yourself admit that the verse can be taken a couple of ways, a statement more accurate than Luther’s! For starters, Paul does not believe that good will come from what is not true. Consider 1 Cor 13:6, 2 Cor 6:2-13, Ephesians 4:15 and 2 Thes 2:9-10. Paul is very much for the truth, not lies. So what does Romans 3:7 mean? Paul is simply trying to debunk the idea that just because our falseness proves how true God is, it is not an excuse to be false. This is why in verse 8 Paul says, “And why not do evil that good may come? - as some people slanderously charge us with saying. Their condemnation is just!”

    Hope this helps! Dave

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