Monthly Archives: June 2010

Answering Caleb on “Inherited Religion?”

In the previous post, I answered some of the comment flames on my post titled “Inherited Religion?” This post has generated so many flames that required more involved answers than I can give in the comments section, so I’ve had to answer them on the blog. This is part two of three. I’m leaving the last thread of comments to Mike the Geocreationist since it’s his thought experiment.

On to Caleb:

You tick me off. First off, your logic is so circular that you should be getting dizzy. You claim the bible as your source of all truth, yet the proof outside of its claims are few and vague. Even Paul’s testimonies of his experience on the road to Damascus don’t agree, so shall you chalk this up to the fact that he’s human? Wait… I thought the bible was inerrant? You “refute” our anti-biblical arguements but that by no means proves us wrong, it’s just your (per)version of the truth. You’re so arrogant in your belief that you’re obviously right that you fail to properly respond to MANY critiques and quesions of us skeptics other than nitpicking at semantics and using terminology that indicates that we must be morons.

I agree with Loftus that religion is largely a geographical/cultural phenominon. If you’re born in the middle east, you’re most likely Muslim, due to the theocratic rule of many countries. If you’re born in the southern and bible belt of the U.S., you’re probably some form of fundamentalist christian. If you’re born in India you’re most likely Hindu. If you’re born in the Philippines or South America then you’re most likely a die-hard Catholic.

I don’t know how you live with yourself. Your cognitive dissonance must be off the charts. Calvinism is crap. I can find any scripture in the bible to support my (per)version of my chosen faith. Humans were NOT meant live out of such fear of the unknown, which is ultimately what all most major religions use to continue spreading their cancer. It’s an abusive relationship. It says “believe in me and obey me and love me or else you will suffer unending eternal torment.” Heck, nobody can even get a straight answer to what this omnipotent and omniscient being desires, it’s all interpretation… and you need to be a historian, theologin, linguist, entymologist, philosopher and sadomasochist to have a good grasp on the bible and its message… which is kill everybody who is against Jehovah… no wait… it’s lovingly kill everybody… no wait… it’s love everybody but shun those who are against Jehovah… no wait… it’s just love everybody and have faith in jesus… no wait… it’s repent or you’ll be thrown into the lake of fire…

FEAR FEAR FEAR OF THE UNKNOWN!!!! RUN AWAY!!!! BE AFRAID!!!! This thing that we can’t see or hear (unless you’re insane) or touch or taste or smell is going to make you writhe in eternal pain and everlasting torment unlesss you worship it and follow its vague and confusing message!!!

Insanity. Total irrational insanity. My rant here is done.

First off, welcome back. I didn’t think you were still reading my blog. Hopefully you’ve noticed that I actually have been much nicer to people, even those who disagree with me. Yes, that’s your advice I took. My readership has been building ever since. So I owe you a major Thank You, even though I was reluctant to take the advice.

On to your post. Of course I tick you off. In order for many skeptical arguments against religion to work well, this religion-inherited-by-geography argument has to be true. Otherwise, there would be little reason to question the belief. Especially if there were one world religion.

Paul’s disagreeing testimonies of his conversion experience on the Damascus road are all in the same book, written by the same author. If he were making up what was said, then the testimonies would agree 100%. But since they don’t, that means Luke reported what was actually said.

When you tell a story, I highly doubt that you tell it the same way each time. You probably mix up details because your memory isn’t perfect. Same thing here. The Bible is infallible only insofar as what was said or what happened, whichever is being recorded. Look carefully at those stories again, and I think you’ll find that two of them are reporting what Paul said to a group of people, not a second or third redundant account of what actually happened.

I’ve already responded to your second paragraph, but obviously not to your satisfaction. Again, I’ll state the purpose of my previous post: geographically inherited religion is a mechanism by which God effects predestination. So we are seeing, with geographically inherited religion, exactly what we’d expect to see if the Bible were true.

Your third paragraph is a lot of empty rhetoric. Why is it so hard for many to believe that God will punish people for refusing him? He has offered an easy salvation–by the sacrifice of his Son, he will remit the sins of those who place their faith in the Cross. Yet most of mankind–including you–have rejected this simple truth. We are deserving of hell not just for unbelief, but for the numerous other sins we commit on a daily basis. Unbelief is really the icing on the cake of our own doom.

You have always had a difficult time dealing with progressive revelation, even when I first pointed it out to you in December of 2009, as I recall. But, the fact of it remains. God reveals a fuller picture of himself and of the entire conception of earth, humanity, and the ontology of sin as the Bible progresses. You have to look at the entirety of the Bible, not just a few verses, to get a picture of God and his relationship to humanity.

Twice in this comment you make a reference to the fact that this is my (per)version of the truth. Saying this presumes that there is a real truth. This, of course, is a central tenet of Christianity–that God is the ultimate reality, the ultimate truth, and apart from him there is no other. Jesus says that he is the “way, the truth, and the life” (Jn 14:6).

If I’m perverting the truth, then what is the truth, and how do we know it?

Comments on “Inherited Religion?”

The comment section on my post titled “Inherited Religion?” is positively ablaze with flames. None of the retorts actually cover my answer to the objection I raised on inherited religion, which is simply that it is another mechanism by which God can predestine his elect. Thoughtful theological or philosophical rebuttals using Scripture would have been welcomed, but what I got is the empty rhetoric of skeptics and atheists.

Let’s take a look at some of the responses and see if we can sort this out. First up, these two from Stoo:

Wait, predestine his elect? So he’s already decided who’s saved and who’s going to burn? Or am I misinterpreting?

Oh this is some calvinism thing, right? Kind of depressing. You’d think god would at least want all of his creations to be saved, even if it doesn’t work out like that.

Yes, Stoo, this is “some Calvinism thing.” Although I started to pull away from Calvinism some time back, I have since returned to the fold of the so-called Young, Restless and Reformed (or, as I prefer, New Calvinism) movement. Other than my brief flirtation with Arminian theology, I have been pretty consistent as a Calvinist in all my writing. I have a series on it in the Articles tab.

So, yes, it is God who determines if you’re saved or otherwise, not you. I’m sorry if I ruined your misguided sense of individuality and your “I’m-the-master-of-my-own-destiny” feeling of arrogant pride.

Agnostic Bruce Gerencser, host of the blog NW Ohio Skeptics, has this to say:

Ah yes, The Bible says so, so you are wrong argument. (an argument we must accept by faith since there is no rational proof of Corey’s claim)

It is self-evident to all who are willing to see it, that most people adopt the religion of their tribe. (family, social group) People believe what those before them believed until confronted with beliefs/truth/evidence that challenges their tribal religion.

In Calvinism everything is settled. God has predetermined everything, including the fact that I am writing this comment. Thank you God. :) (and I was a Calvinistic Baptist pastor)

I surely hope that Corey is not going to try and argue against John’s book with the Bible. If so………it shall indeed be a wasted exercise. But, Hey maybe it will drive up this site’s visitor count.

I never forwarded the argument that “The Bible says so, so you are wrong.” I agreed that Loftus was right, and showed that it is consistent with the Bible. I also completely agreed with the fact that most people adopt the religion of their parents or culture. It was central to the point of my post. What I have simply said is that such a claim is not a valid argument against the truth claims of any religion.

I have never, at least no place that I’m aware of, said that God predetermines everything positively. There are some things he predetermines negatively, which means they arise naturally as a consequence of that which he has decreed. So the whole of God’s plan looks less like a completed novel and more like the text of a Dungeons & Dragons adventure. Pardon introducing an example of something seen as evil by most Christians, but it is perfectly consistent with what I’m trying to say.

A D&D adventure sets the scene up by explaining what the players see, and then accounts for a few possible scenarios in the Dungeon Master’s notes. The resolution of the scene is left to the player characters. So God sets our lives up, but expects us to live them out. His blueprint for so doing is the Bible, but we obviously don’t follow that very well. Some things don’t go according to plan, but this never trumps or circumvents God’s will. He still accomplishes all he sets out to do.

This post started getting way, way too long. So I will answer the other skeptics in future posts.

Inherited Religion?

John W. Loftus is all about error. It’s sad and funny at the same time. This time, he’s on about a typical atheist talking point: the fact that religion is inherited from the culture.

Of course, this does nothing to impugn the credibility of a particular religion. Truth is still truth. The argument isn’t an attack on the truth claims of Christianity. Instead, it seeks to use human nature against religion. It is not in dispute that we inherit beliefs unquestioningly from our parents and culture. Likewise, there is no dispute that we like to feel special and good. But how does this argue against any particular religion?

Loftus has this to say:

Why do they [Christians] think they are privileged to be born in the right time and place when others are not? If there is a God why would he privilege them like this? Why? It’s the natural tendency we humans have for thinking we’re special, that’s why. All ancient societies built temples to their gods which they thought were located directly on the center of the world. This thinking is still being embraced by Christians in many ways for they claim their geographical religion is where God has revealed himself and can be known. (source)

People tend to inherit the religion of their parents. Big whop. Does that mean we are privileged? Let’s see what the Bible has to say about it:

  • All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. But there are some of you who do not believe. This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father. (Jn 6:37, 44, 64-65)
  • And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed. (Acts 13:48)
  • And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. (Rom 8:28-29, the so-called Golden Chain of Redemption)
  • So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. (Rom 9:16)
  • Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. (Eph 1:3-6)
  • In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. (Eph 1:11-12)
  • Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. (1 Peter 1:3-5)

So, since God can determine everything about us (he foreknows us, Rom 8:29, see also Ps 139), it stands to reason that the place and time of our birth is under his control as well. That would mean geographically inherited religion is nothing less than a mechanism by which God can predestine his elect.

Another One Bites the Dust

Yet another credentialed Evangelical Christian has left the fold. As usual, he has started a blog ranting against his former faith. This particular entry seems to have the attention of the atheist blogosphere, and with good reason. Our former Christian brother (or sister) has hit many of the hot buttons that atheists just love to hear! The references to Fred Phelps are particularly juicy for the atheists out there–they take every opportunity to compare mainstream Christianity to Fred Phelps. Read the rest of this entry

Delusion?

I’m discussing John Loftus’s book The Christian Delusion here, and I’m looking at the Why Won’t God Heal Amputees and God is Imaginary websites here. All three seem to think that religion (Christianity in particular) is a complete delusion.

Now, Ex-Christian.net is weighing in on the issue here. Comment #7 reads:

You know, when the most powerful being in the Universe, omnipotent creator-of-all actually acknowledges your existence with some little “miracle”, or imagined form of “feedback” (usually through feelings) it can be a tremendous boost to many people’s fragile ego.

What’s interesting, is the very people who claim they have received “petty” miracles from God are usually angry when asked how they feel about other people being ignored, left to die, suffer, or go without justice (who may have also prayed faithfully) yet God is granting you “petty” little wishes concerning health, finance, even a new car/truck.

WWGHA covers the same class of argument that Franko47 has brought up in chapter 10. Basically, the argument runs something like this:

One hundred people go off to war. All pray that they will come back home alive. Ninety-eight of them are killed in combat, while two survive. The two who survive come home and spread the word that their prayers saved them, and credit God with their survival.

When faced with this situation, atheists point out that Christians talk extensively about the two who survived, while completely ignoring the other 98 who were killed. The atheist reasons that the Christian is cold, callous, and uncaring. The Christian is looking so hard for evidence of God, that he is ignoring human suffering in order to find it.

Interesting though the thought experiment may be, it doesn’t prove anything about the nature of God. Although I concede that it is callous and uncaring to brush off the 98 who died and only focus on the two who survived simply because it conflicts with the idea of an all-good God who is in control of everything. This does prove something about what a long way we Christians have to go in order to line up with Christ’s teaching and God’s expectations for our lives.

But that’s hardly news. Anyone who knows Christian theology knows that we can’t claim to be perfect. Only one can make that claim.

What I’m more interested in here is that many atheists (Franko47 among them, apparently) consider this little thought experiment a compelling case against God. I don’t see why it would be. It proves nothing about the nature of God.

What is a miracle? Browsing definitions online, the common thread among all of them is that a miracle is a special or unique occurrence, surpassing all explanation. To be considered a miracle, the event must be unique by definition. So if 100 soldiers went to war, prayed to survive, and they all did, where’s the miracle? What is special or unique?

In order to be special or unique, an event must be against the odds, a rare occurrence. If an event happens, and it isn’t against all odds, and it’s not unique or special in any way, then it’s a commonplace occurrence and doesn’t count as a miracle.

New Material at My Anti-Loftus Site

Finally, after lots of hem-hawing around, I purchased The Christian Delusion: Why Faith Fails by John W. Loftus and company. So far, I’ve read the introduction and wasn’t impressed.

I wasn’t going to do an answer to the introduction, since all Loftus was doing was outlining the themes that will addressed later, as well as riding some of his favorite hobby horses (“Christianity has been refuted in every generation; they just re-invent the faith!” and “Modern Christians would be tried by the historic Inquisition for heresy!”). But there were two points worthy of addressing: Loftus misused Alvin Plantinga’s argument that Christianity is a properly basic belief, and he quoted a sound bite from William Lane Craig that doesn’t do justice to Craig’s full beliefs on how the Holy Spirit interacts with actual evidence for the Christian faith.

So, my thoughts on the introduction can be found here. Look for chapter one to be reviewed soon!

God: Self-Serving or Narcissistic for Judgment?

Usually, when I become aware of a new blog that has a post which I think requires an apologetic answer, I try to familiarize myself with it through the About page. Well, Fence Talk doesn’t have one of those. I had to go to another blog to find out what this one was about, and it was described as a “group blog with posts on parenting, Hollywood, social issues, nutrition, and more…” Sort of like The View, only on WordPress instead of TV.

The author of this post, who goes by Skinny Sushi, identifies herself as an agnostic. She and her husband were both raised Mormon, but for various reasons have walked away from the church. It seems that her primary reasons have to do with God’s judgment:

And any God who might be out there… wouldn’t he/she/it be rather pleased I’ve lived a good life and been kind to others?  There’s just something about the notion of an all powerful being who will punish me for not believing despite the quality of my life that seems a little… self serving?  Narcissistic?

In regard to the first point, Paul addressed this in the second chapter of Romans:

For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus. (Rom 2:14-16)

So Sushi is right. People who do the Law without the Law are their own Law. No need for any divine intervention there. And, many people are good for goodness sake–without the Law. Read the rest of this entry

Changing the Religious Landscape

Paul Kurtz

In a tribute to Paul Kurtz, John W. Loftus can’t resist throwing in some shameless self-promotion. He says of his book The Christian Delusion that it is “helping to significantly change the religious landscape.” I have a Google Alert set up for that book. And I’m not getting many hits. At all. Most hits just contain the words “Christian” and “delusion” together in the same article. The only reviews are atheist. I know of two upcoming Christian reviews, one by Randal Rauser and the other by Jason Berggren. I think that J.P. Holding is going to do a refutation for an upcoming E-Block Newsletter and I’m planning on doing one on this site.

Four apologists, and the rest of the faith community seems to be ignoring this work. Way to change the religious landscape!

Deuteronomy 6:16 Illustrated

Deut 6:16 Illustrated by Mark

Mark from Proud Atheists takes the cake with the following display of unbridled stupidity:

I have filled a glass of water and it is sitting on the countertop in my kitchen. If any Christians would like to pray to Jesus and ask him to change the water into wine, feel free to do so.

If the glass of water turns into wine, I will not only become a believer in Christ, but I will eat dog shit sandwiches for one day (a minimum of 3). How long is this challenge? I am allowing 48 hours for you to prove your faith and strength of your mythical beliefs.

First, I would just like to say, that it would be hilarious if someone broke into his house and replaced the water with wine while he slept.

As much as I would like to see video of Mark eating dog poop sandwiches, the very fact that he mentions he will do this betrays how likely he thinks the water-wine conversion is. His predisposition is already negative going into the little “test” that he has manufactured. A positive result–the water actually turning into wine–is probably going to matter little to someone with the atheist “A” tattooed on his shoulder. He’s already picked a side.

Check here for more information on why God doesn’t make personal appearances to people. It doesn’t do any good! People really will see whatever they want to see.

Dan Phillips Tells It Like It Is

Dan Phillips from Pyromanics has an excellent post on why people deconvert from Christianity. I had similar thoughts rattling around in my head for quite some time, but never bothered to put pen to paper to get the thoughts out.

It is an unmistakable pattern in most deconversion stories that I’ve read that the author is usually attempting to justify some sin or sin-pattern within his or her life when the deconversion is made. Phillips lays this out pretty plainly in his post.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Thank God for Dan Phillips!