Wednesday, August 1, 2007

A Blog Comment

A Google news alert came in today about a new book called A Letter to an Atheist Nation. I did a search for it, but instead found this post here criticizing the Sam Harris book A Letter to a Christian Nation. I couldn't resist responding to it so here is what I wrote:
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Hello, Google led me to your blog and it seems like I am the only atheist to have read this post so I will chime in here.

I found a few points to disagree with you in your review of Sam's book. Here we go:

1. You say books like Deuteronomy and Leviticus are irrelevant to the modern Christian life. I think the question Sam is raising is how could a loving god ever promote such barbaric rules in the first place? If Yahweh is perfect, how could he change his mind? It also seems like you are choosing to interpret the word "fulfill" in a non-standard way. To me the plain reading is Jesus came to support those laws. Finally a large portion of Christians still view laws from the Old Testament as very important and use it in support of their anti-homosexual agenda, and idolatry of the ten commandments.

2. Please give a link to your Dawkins quote. I can't find it. From the following article:

http://richarddawkins.net/article,473,Lets-Hope-Its-A-Lasting-Vogue,Richard-Dawkins

He did say, "Yet I believe I am correct that not a single one of the 535 members of Congress will admit to the fact. A good many have got to be lying, and who can blame them?"

I would hate to accuse you of fabricating a direct quote, so a link would be appreciated.

3. I'm not sure what to make of your criticism of science changing. That is the whole point of science's built-in self correcting system. And I think Christianity has changed a lot during the past 2000 years. For example modern Christians no longer have slaves, persecute Jews, or burn witches. But as Sam Harris has stated, is this thanks to the religion itself, or outside secular influences?

4. Your quote from 1 Timothy 1:9-11 seems to come from the NIV version of the Bible. The KJV says "menstealers", which are probably those slave traders that kidnap people to sell. Again this is Sam's point, you are cherry picking one dubious quote. You have to admit that the New Testament as a whole is not making any effort to stop slavery.

5. What do you think about your friend's quote about Gandhi?

6. I find it odd that you claim scientific theories like the Big Bang or evolution take faith. I don't have any faith in the Big Bang. There is evidence for it so it seems reasonable, but I am open to future correction. As a skeptic I have to judge each claim based on the evidence for it, and I choose not to believe anything based on faith.

7. Why do you want to believe in two impossible things? I'm not really sure what the point is of your last sentence.

Now to comment on the comments above:

To Joe: I am not going to disagree that some atheists are arrogant jerks. You can find bad apples in any bunch. As you are well aware there are plenty of bad apples among Christians as well. (See those Phelps people protesting at military funerals with posters saying "God Hates Fags". However, don't take criticism for "bashing". I think we should have the right to question all claims and religious ideas should not be exempt from questioning.

I'm not sure what you mean by God not being fair. Isn't fairness a part of justice? Shouldn't a perfect god be perfectly just? If you believe our legal systems have grown out of the moral law written in our hearts by Yahweh, then you should agree that the punishment should fit the crime. Purse snatchers don't get hanged and serial killers don't get fined $100.

To Max: As others have said, if atheism is a faith, then not collecting stamps is a hobby. Atheism is nothing more than the disbelief in god(s). No faith is involved. Does it take faith not to believe in unicorns or fairies? Atheism is the default position. The theist makes a positive claim and must provide evidence to support it. Either you agree and become a theist or you disagree and remain an atheist. Keep in mind I am talking about general atheism as a synonym for non-theism. There are strong atheist who do make positive claims saying no gods exist for which your argument might hold. However I am not one of those atheists and I have not met many so I think they are a minority in the atheist community. Even Dawkins rates himself a "6" on his scale of belief where "1" is a complete 100% sure theist, and a "7" is a complete 100% sure atheist. For most scientists belief is spread on a spectrum from highly likely to highly unlikely.

To Mark: I agree, many atheists are obsessed with god(s). I am one of them. I enjoy discussing theology and different possibilities of existence. These are big questions and it is natural to be curious about them. I certainly don't hate the idea of a god. I think it would be great if a god existed, but I just don't see the evidence for the kind of god described in the Christian religion. I am not sure why you need a god to be humble though. There are plenty of people out there smarter and more able than I so I can certainly be humble about that.

You also said atheists don't like being told what to believe, but isn't that true for anyone? Do you want to be told to believe in Allah or Buddha? Everyone wants to find truth their own way.

Most atheists just want to live in a free society where everyone can believe whatever they like as long as those beliefs don't hurt other people. We are not trying to take away your bibles or churches. However in a public forum such as the Internet expect your views to be challenged. These discussion are not persecution or hate filled attacks. At least, they are not supposed to be, but remember the Internet is full of fanatics of all flavors!

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I edited one grammatical typo since copying my comment to my blog here, but there are probably more!

14 comments:

J. K. Jones said...

That Atheist Guy,

Interesting discussion. I will try to find a copy of Sam Harris’ book. Sorry that I cannot follow all of the ideas yet.

“I think the question Sam is raising is how could a loving god ever promoted such barbaric rules in the first place?”

I am not sure which laws you would regard as barbaric. There are injunctions against many things that happen to be illegal in this country right now.

The issues usually involve some form of the idea that we can expect mercy. Since mercy is required by our expectation, all laws and promised justice in the Bible must be merciful. However, why should we expect mercy from God? We do not earn mercy and grace; they are freely given as a gift.

“If Yahweh is perfect, how could he change his mind?”

God does not change His mind. He does change His actions toward finite creatures who sin against Him. He must do this. If He did not, he would in fact change His nature to become a God who tolerated evil. His moral law does not change from one testament to the next, although His ceremonial law does. The moral law is an expression of God’s nature, and He cannot change.

“…seems to come from the NIV version of the Bible. The KJV says "menstealers"…”

Why does it bother you that modern translations differ from the KJV? Also, have you taken the time to investigate what Christians like William Wilberforce and John Newton did to alleviate the slave trade in England? (http://www.beliefnet.com/story/212/story_21215_1.html) They must have found the injunction somewhere, as both were Bible believers. You can find some similar history from the US too. (http://www.religioustolerance.org/chr_slav2.htm) The most reasonable position is that Christians have been found on both sides of the issue, and arguments from both sides must be studied. Please do not pick on side and ignore the other.

“As a skeptic I have to judge each claim based on the evidence for it, and I choose not to believe anything based on faith.”

Good. We agree. I wonder if you have studied the arguments put forth by Christians that prove God’s existence. I would be glad to discuss a few of them if you would like.

Please keep in mind that I come from the old-fashioned version of Christianity that sees us all, from Charles Manson to Mahatma Gandhi, as sinners who deserve only God’s wrath and punishment. God’s standard is perfection. God’s grace, earned for us by Christ’s life and sacrifice, is the only hope any of us has.

“I am not sure why you need a god to be humble though. There are plenty of people out there smarter and more able than I so I can certainly be humble about that.”

The question is: why should a person with an atheist worldview value humility over pride? What is the basis for morality in that view of the world?

“Most atheists just want to live in a free society where everyone can believe whatever they like as long as those beliefs don't hurt other people.”

Agreed. You might find it interesting to know that both of us would affirm a separation of church and state. We old-fashioned Baptists had a lot to do with the formation of that idea in this country.

“However in a public forum such as the Internet expect your views to be challenged.”

It sounds like, if you do want to have an online discussion, we can at least agree that truth is something that can be know and communicated. As such, it is valuable enough to argue over.

that atheist guy said...

Hi J.K. Thanks for the comments.

You wrote:

"I am not sure which laws you would regard as barbaric. There are injunctions against many things that happen to be illegal in this country right now."

One example is Deuteronomy 17:2-5 and Deuteronomy 13:5-10 where we are told to stone people who worship other gods. Or Deuteronomy 22:13-21 which says to stone women who aren't virgins on their wedding night. Etc.

"The issues usually involve some form of the idea that we can expect mercy."

I'm not really sure how we expect mercy. If someone commits a crime they should expect reasonable punishment.

"God does not change His mind. He does change His actions toward finite creatures who sin against Him."

But do you think it is good to stone people who worship other gods? Even if Yahweh has changed his actions since the Old Testament he still gave that rule at some point and I don't think it is an ethical rule at any time in history.

"He must do this. If He did not, he would in fact change His nature to become a God who tolerated evil. His moral law does not change from one testament to the next, although His ceremonial law does. The moral law is an expression of God's nature, and He cannot change."

I don't see how stoning people can be seen as a ceremonial law.

"Why does it bother you that modern translations differ from the KJV?"

Oh I'm not saying the KJV is superior, but I have read many criticisms of the NIV because it edits out contradictions from the original text. I'm certainly no biblical scholar. My main point was that I found it strange that the blog author suggested 1 Timothy 1:9-11 showed Yahweh did not approve of slavery.

"Also, have you taken the time to investigate what Christians like William Wilberforce and John Newton did to alleviate the slave trade in England? (http://www.beliefnet.com/story/212/story_21215_1.html) They must have found the injunction somewhere, as both were Bible believers. You can find some similar history from the US too. (http://www.religioustolerance.org/chr_slav2.htm) The most reasonable position is that Christians have been found on both sides of the issue, and arguments from both sides must be studied. Please do not pick on side and ignore the other."

I know there were many Christian abolitionists, but there were just as many Christian slave owners. The main idea is that the Bible does not explicitly say slavery is wrong and should be outlawed. If not, why not? Slaves would not have had to wait 2000 years to be free if one of the commandments said outright "Thou Shalt not own people."

"Good. We agree. I wonder if you have studied the arguments put forth by Christians that prove God's existence. I would be glad to discuss a few of them if you would like. "

I have read various literature, but I haven't seen anything close to proving a god's existence, let alone the Christian god Yahweh.

"Please keep in mind that I come from the old-fashioned version of Christianity that sees us all, from Charles Manson to Mahatma Gandhi, as sinners who deserve only God's wrath and punishment. God's standard is perfection. God's grace, earned for us by Christ's life and sacrifice, is the only hope any of us has."

I understand, but I disagree with that doctrine. I don't think humans are born sinners. I don't understand the logic of original sin, or how a blood sacrifice could redeem other people.

"The question is: why should a person with an atheist worldview value humility over pride? What is the basis for morality in that view of the world?"

I believe basic human nature values certain personal qualities over others. I think it is universal in every culture to get annoyed at arrogant braggarts. Perhaps you see such universal ethical codes as evidence of Yahweh's moral law, but I see it as evidence of our common evolutionary origins and basic ethical make up.

"Agreed. You might find it interesting to know that both of us would affirm a separation of church and state. We old-fashioned Baptists had a lot to do with the formation of that idea in this country."

Sounds good to me!

"It sounds like, if you do want to have an online discussion, we can at least agree that truth is something that can be know and communicated. As such, it is valuable enough to argue over. "

Yes, I do believe, as Mulder said in the X-Files, the truth is out there! I am certainly not a postmodern relativist.

J. K. Jones said...

There is a lot of ground to cover in the comment above. Here goes.

“I don't see how stoning people can be seen as a ceremonial law.”

I should have pointed out that the federal laws (laws for the governing of Israel as a nation) are abrogated as well as the ceremonial laws. Sorry.

“If someone commits a crime they should expect reasonable punishment … Even if Yahweh has changed his actions since the Old Testament he still gave that rule at some point and I don't think it is an ethical rule at any time in history.”

Right, but what is reasonable for someone who sins against the greatest and best of all beings in the universe: God? The very God whose laws you find unreasonable defines reasonable punishment. The reality is that we all deserve to die. For the wages of sin is death … (Romans 6:23). Jesus was quite clear about this in Luke 13: 1-9, a part of which says, “…unless you repent, you will all likewise perish."

Another way of looking at this that R. C. Sproul points out is that the original list of capital offences was given in Genesis 2:17: “…for in the day you will eat of [the tree of the knowledge of good and evil] you will surely die.” All sin is so defined as worthy of death. The fact that any of us are around is evidence of mercy. The fact that any of us continues to live is evidence of mercy.

“I have read many criticisms of the NIV because it edits out contradictions from the original text.”

I am not a fan of the thought for thought theory the NIV uses. I prefer the “word for word” approach of the English Standard Version. [By the way, the whole text of the ESV is available at http://www.gnpcb.org/esv/share/services/ for free.] I am not, however, aware of any contradictions, purposely edited out or otherwise.

“The main idea is that the Bible does not explicitly say slavery is wrong and should be outlawed.”

My point is that many Christians throughout history have believed the Bible was clear in its denunciation of slavery. It could well be that their interpretations are right.

1 Timothy 1:9-11 disapproves of the thing necessary for chattel slavery (as opposed to forms of indentured servitude) to exist. How can the Bible disapprove of a necessary condition for slavery and not disapprove of slavery itself? There are other verses to cite and discuss if you wish.

“I have read various literature, but I haven't seen anything close to proving a god's existence, let alone the Christian god Yahweh.”

I refer to:

the cosmological argument (argument from first cause) as stated by Norman L. Geisler,

the teleological argument (the argument from purpose) as stated by John H. Gerstner,

the ontological argument (the argument from necessary being) as stated by R. C. Sproul,

and the transcendental argument (the argument from universal, inviolate laws; another form of the teleological argument) as stated by John M. Frame.

We can take each in turn if you like. I also refer to particular statements of those arguments, not the arguments in general.

“I don't think humans are born sinners. I don't understand the logic of original sin, or how a blood sacrifice could redeem other people.”

The issue of original sin and our interpretation of it is secondary. The fact of sin in all of our lives is the real reason to discuss Christ’s sacrifice. It’s not so much the bleeding and dying as it is the suffering of God’s wrath on behalf of sinners. God’s holiness and justice require a penalty for sin. God, in His mercy and love, provided a payment for that penalty in the life and death of Jesus Christ.

Faith is trusting in what Christ did for us. When we have faith, we are credited with His perfect life and He is credited with our sin. He suffers for our sin, and we can be forgiven. I do not see the illogic, but I can not explain the reason why He did it.

God, Whose being is the basis for morality and logic, defines what a blood sacrifice can do. I am glad He decided to punish Jesus on our behalf. He did not have to. He does not owe us mercy or grace.

“Perhaps you see such universal ethical codes as evidence of Yahweh's moral law, but I see it as evidence of our common evolutionary origins and basic ethical make up.”

It sounds as if we agree that there are universal ethical codes, but I am not exactly sure. I see these universal moral laws as being valid only in a universe that was designed for moral living by an outside intelligence with intention, in short: a person. I also see other universal laws, like the laws of logic or the laws of mathematics or the basic uniformity of nature, as being valid only in a universe that was designed for knowledge by an outside intelligence who intended them to be.

“Yes, I do believe, as Mulder said in the X-Files, the truth is out there! I am certainly not a postmodern relativist.”

Then I would be curious to understand how you know truth. How do you know what you know? I am wanting to know more about your theory of epistemology (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epistemology).

I look forward to your response.

that atheist guy said...

OK, lets get started! Again, what you wrote in quotes.

"Right, but what is reasonable for someone who sins against the greatest and best of all beings in the universe: God?"

I don't follow that line of reasoning. As an analogy I imagine two hypothetical countries ruled by two dictators. One dictator is wise, kind and just, the other is a psychopathic tyrant who deserves no respect. Both countries have laws which punish murder. Why should I expect a harsher punishment for breaking the law of the good dictator? Why should that punishment increase the better the dictator is?

"The very God whose laws you find unreasonable defines reasonable punishment. The reality is that we all deserve to die. For the wages of sin is death … (Romans 6:23). Jesus was quite clear about this in Luke 13: 1-9, a part of which says, “…unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.""

I understand you believe these Bible passages are true, but I don't believe they are anything more than ancient laws and myths.

On a side note, I have to say that I will often change my level of argument. My base level is to see the Bible as a book of stories like any other book. Why should I believe these stories are true? There are other old stories from the Greek and Arab cultures, other myths other ideas of possible gods, so the first step would be to show these particular stories are true.

The second level is just a hypothetical stage for certain discussions where I assume the Bible is true. This level is where I would debate various Bible verses and what Yahweh might mean by them etc. Since I am no expert on the Bible, I don't spend much time at this level! However I may try to enter it at some points in this discussion for the sake of argument.

"Another way of looking at this that R. C. Sproul points out is that the original list of capital offences was given in Genesis 2:17: “…for in the day you will eat of [the tree of the knowledge of good and evil] you will surely die.” All sin is so defined as worthy of death. The fact that any of us are around is evidence of mercy. The fact that any of us continues to live is evidence of mercy."

Do you believe in a literal Adam and Eve in a literal Garden of Eden?

First, I don't see any reason to believe these events actually happened. Why would Yahweh punish Adam and Eve for eating from this tree? Why should the children of Adam and Eve suffer for their parents crime (if it is one)? I think anyone would find the idea of locking up a child conceived through rape to be a bizarre proposal. Is the baby a rapist because his father was?

"I am not a fan of the thought for thought theory the NIV uses. I prefer the “word for word” approach of the English Standard Version. [By the way, the whole text of the ESV is available at http://www.gnpcb.org/esv/share/services/ for free.] I am not, however, aware of any contradictions, purposely edited out or otherwise."

I don't really want to delve too deeply in this area, because I am not qualified. Here is one example. There are others. I understand that these can be viewed as correcting scribal errors, but I think it is wrong to assume we know for sure which version is correct. I see the ESV version you linked to has a footnote which is better than nothing I guess!

(KJV) Jehoiachin was eight years old when he began to reign... II Chronicles 36:9
(KJV) Jehoiachin was eighteen years old when he began to reign... II Kings 24:8

(NIV) Jehoiachin was eighteen years old when he became king... II Chronicles 36:9

There's also this essay. I'm sure there are other essays that respond to it, but again I don't have the time or knowledge to go so deep.

http://www.infidels.org/library/magazines/tsr/1994/1/1voice94.html

Personally my ideal bible would be the KJV with extensive footnotes, because I see that one has having a great deal of historical and literary merit. I realise there are many flaws in the KJV, but that is where good footnotes would be useful.

"My point is that many Christians throughout history have believed the Bible was clear in its denunciation of slavery. It could well be that their interpretations are right."

That could very well be the case, but that is the danger with things that can be interpreted. I think there would have been less suffering overall if a clear commandment was made. Throughout history there have been a great deal of Christians who thought the Bible did not prohibit slavery, yet there are probably almost no Christians who thought the Bible did not prohibit murder.

"the cosmological argument (argument from first cause) as stated by Norman L. Geisler, "

Maybe there was a first cause, and maybe there wasn't. If there was I don't see why it would necessarily have to be a god, let alone Yahweh himself. However we do see uncaused events all the time in the quantum world.

"the teleological argument (the argument from purpose) as stated by John H. Gerstner, "

I think this is also known as the argument from design? I rather not get into an argument about evolution, but looking at the "fine-tuning" argument and the ideas of the laws of physics being seemingly designed for life there are many possibilities. Maybe there are a whole family of universes with different constants, and some have life and some don't. Maybe we will find a new theory of physics that will explain why things have to be the way they are. Maybe there is something like a god that started the universe, but it's nothing like Yahweh or anything we could possibly imagine. Who knows?

"the ontological argument (the argument from necessary being) as stated by R. C. Sproul, "

That is now out of my depth. There is a lot here:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ontological_argument

I see that Hume, who is a little better a philosophy than me (sarcasm!) didn't buy it. (I hate to rely on authority though!)

But even if it did work, it seems to only show a higher power exists. How can we possibly say anything about the nature of that power besides it's greater than anything else?

"and the transcendental argument (the argument from universal, inviolate laws; another form of the teleological argument) as stated by John M. Frame. "

Wow, I really don't understand this one. Maybe you could rephrase it in simpler terms?
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transcendental_argument_for_the_existence_of_God

"We can take each in turn if you like. I also refer to particular statements of those arguments, not the arguments in general."

So I probably missed something. If you want to link or copy those particular forms I'll take a look.

"The issue of original sin and our interpretation of it is secondary. The fact of sin in all of our lives is the real reason to discuss Christ’s sacrifice. It’s not so much the bleeding and dying as it is the suffering of God’s wrath on behalf of sinners. God’s holiness and justice require a penalty for sin. God, in His mercy and love, provided a payment for that penalty in the life and death of Jesus Christ."

Again, I don't follow the argument. I don't see the fact of sin in all of our lives.

Why does Yahweh's holiness and justice require a penalty? (Could you also define "holiness"?)

For example, why do we punish a criminal for committing murder? First he has hurt other people, so we don't want him to do it again. We do this by removing him from society and hopefully "fixing" him through rehabilitation. This also serves as a deterrent to other people doing the same crime. I don't see those functions being realized through Yahweh's system of punishment in Hell.

Also I don't see how the death of Jesus pays for someone's crime. If someone killed someone you loved, would you be satisfied to have a complete stranger killed in the murderer's place? It doesn't make sense to me.

"Faith is trusting in what Christ did for us. When we have faith, we are credited with His perfect life and He is credited with our sin. He suffers for our sin, and we can be forgiven. I do not see the illogic, but I can not explain the reason why He did it."

Again I can't make such a leap of faith to believe this story is true. The two main reasons are I see no evidence beyond a book of stories about these events, and I find the stories themselves to be illogical.

Why is faith or belief in these stories considered a good thing to be rewarded? I don't understand that. What is so important about belief? If Yahweh wants us to believe these stories why doesn't he show us they are true by performing obvious miracles today? I think the usual reply to that question is that such miracles would remove the need for faith. But again, why is faith important? I mean we do have the Bible, which some people do see as good evidence. Why isn't the Bible itself seen as "giving too much away"? I mean, do we really need 4 gospels? Aren't the extra 3 making that leap of faith too short and not worthy enough for reward?

To say it from another angle, imagine I created a person. Maybe I did it through the usual way, or maybe I'm some future scientists who made a clone, or even a thinking robot, it doesn't matter. Lets call this creation my son. I send my son off to live his life away from me. In this hypothetical situation, what would I personally hope for this son? I would hope that he did good things, lived a happy life, and made other people happy. Do I care if he knows about me? Sure it would be nice, but I don't see his belief in my existence as some necessary requirement. Why would I punish him for not believing in me?

"God, Whose being is the basis for morality and logic, defines what a blood sacrifice can do. I am glad He decided to punish Jesus on our behalf. He did not have to. He does not owe us mercy or grace."

Again I understand in the context of the story Yahweh defines what is what, but I think I said enough above to show why I find it strange.

"It sounds as if we agree that there are universal ethical codes, but I am not exactly sure. I see these universal moral laws as being valid only in a universe that was designed for moral living by an outside intelligence with intention, in short: a person. I also see other universal laws, like the laws of logic or the laws of mathematics or the basic uniformity of nature, as being valid only in a universe that was designed for knowledge by an outside intelligence who intended them to be."

I suspect there are universal ethical codes, but I think they are fuzzier than such things as gravity or geometry. I mean killing is wrong, but is it always wrong? Even in the context of the Bible there are not hard moral laws with no exceptions. For example, don't kill people... unless they are witches, or its a death penalty, or...

I think in your last sentence there you are angling at the transcendental argument you referred to above which I don't understand very well. Again, I don't see how an outside intelligence is required to make these patterns of nature valid. But even if they did, how do you know that intelligence is Yahweh? Why not Allah, or some deistic god?

"Then I would be curious to understand how you know truth. How do you know what you know? I am wanting to know more about your theory of epistemology (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epistemology)."

That is a very hard question. The basic answer is that I don't know anything really, but certain beliefs I have, I label as "knowledge" if they pass a certain threshold of probability. For example, I am now having a subjective experience of colors, sounds, and other feelings. I see a red apple. Does the apple exist? Well the impression does, but I could be a brain in a vat, yadda yadda yadda. However for the sake of living my daily life I assume there is an outside world. So I "know" the apple exists. I experience other things in my life. I see things, I read about other things. How do I know what is true, or at least deserves the label of "knowledge"? Well, I just have to go case by case.

Does George Bush exist? Well I haven't seen him personally, but there are enough photos, videos and other hard evidence that he does, so I say I "know" he does. How about George Washington? There is certainly less evidence for him than Bush, but it isn't crazy to believe he did exist. How about Robin Hood? Well, now I'm not sure. I don't think there is any real evidence he did besides word of mouth stories. However he could have. I would never say I know he existed, I wouldn't even say I believe he existed. I guess I'm an agnostic about Robin Hood!

Now there are other entities like Jesus, Mohammad, various Saints, etc. Did they exist? Maybe, maybe not. But unlike Robin Hood there are fantastic magical stories which surround them. Why should I believe these stories? We hear magical stories today about people around the world. (Such as various Indian yogis who supposedly levitate and have other powers.) Do we believe these stories? Is there any evidence?

I think Carl Sagan's quote sums it up nicely: "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence." I always tell the same story. Imagine someone told me they saw a dog in the park. Do I believe them? Why not? I've seen dogs in parks too. Maybe this guy is my friend and I have reason to trust him. But what if he said he saw a talking dog in the park? I wouldn't believe even a friend, unless they had some very hard evidence. At least video! And even then in the 21st century world of computer graphics and other f/x I would be skeptical.

I think that's about it for today. Thanks for your time!

J. K. Jones said...

You have said allot. Thanks for taking the time.

It will be a few days before I respond. I will be out of town visiting a sick family member for a few days, but I plan to come back.

that atheist guy said...

No problem, take your time. Family is certainly more important than debating on the Web! I hope he or she is OK.

L P Cruz said...

hmmm, I was an atheist once.

LPC

J. K. Jones said...

Thanks for your concern. I really apreciate that. I ended up with some free time...

“... One dictator is wise, kind and just, the other is a psychopathic tyrant who deserves no respect … Why should that punishment increase the better the dictator is?”

Most people believe that a crime’s severity increases according to the innocence of the person the crime is committed against. It is more wrong to murder a baby that it is to murder an adult. God is the most innocent being in the universe.

Most people believe that it is more wrong to rebel against someone who has legitimate authority over them than someone who does not. An evil dictator would not have legitimate authority. The evil dictator’s laws would often be unjust, and rebellion would be morally required.

The Perfect Law-giver who is holy (separate from sin and different from us), whose laws are perfect (the absolute standard of good and evil, based on the nature of God Himself), and whose judgment is infallible (without error caused by lack of knowledge or lack of intelligence) requires a penalty to be paid for crimes against His law.

I would really like to know how an atheist justifies that one dictator is more evil than the other. Doesn’t that require an absolute standard of morality that does not change from person to person or culture to culture? How is that standard justified?

“...I understand you believe these Bible passages are true, but I don't believe...”

I was really just arguing the internal consistency of Christianity.

“Do you believe in a literal Adam and Eve in a literal Garden of Eden?”

Yes. In view of the overwhelming evidence that this story was true, wouldn’t reasonable person?
Some evidence is given at http://www.4truth.net/site/c.hiKXLbPNLrF/b.786347/k.BD6D/Bible.htm

“Why should the children of Adam and Eve suffer for their parents crime (if it is one)?”

I would really like to settle the issue of our personal sins first. We are directly responsible for them. Adam and Eve, if they died for their own sins, would not have given rise to the human race. This is discussed briefly at: http://www.carm.org/questions/adamsin.htm

“I don't really want to delve too deeply in this area, because I am not qualified.”

I am not a scholar, either. I do not pretend to be an expert. My degree is in Industrial Engineering, for goodness sake.

”... II Chronicles 36:9 … II Kings 24:8…”

My first reaction is: what central doctrine of the Christian faith rests on the age of Jehoiachin when he became king?

My second is: http://www.fredsbibletalk.com/fb005.html

Beyond that, I would refer you to these sites for discussion of alleged contradictions in the Bible:

http://www.bible.org/page.php?page_id=1183 (You might also like their translation, the NET. I hear the footnotes are very extensive.)

http://www.tektonics.org/index2.html

http://www.carm.org/

“Personally my ideal bible would be the KJV with extensive footnotes…”

There were footnotes in the original King James, if I remember right. You can find a copy with a google search of “1769 King James Version with Strong's numbers and footnotes.”

You would also find that the New King James Version has footnotes that are even more specific. They even give information on which textual family the alternatives are from. The preface contains a good short discussion of the three different textual families. Here’s the url:

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

“… that is the danger with things that can be interpreted. I think there would have been less suffering overall if a clear commandment was made.”

In my opinion, slavery is clearly designated as evil. Besides, many sinners like me justify their actions in many ways. A sinner who really wanted to sin against a direct command could justify it by deliberate miss-interpretation; anything can be read into when one has an agenda. He could also try to show that the situation the rule addresses does not apply to him. I have used both off these justifications in the past, and I had to repent of them. I am sure I will have to repent of more in the future when I am made aware of them. Does that fit your experience?

“Maybe there was a first cause, and maybe there wasn't. If there was I don't see why it would necessarily have to be a god, let alone Yahweh himself.”

The objective of the argument is to show that something has been here forever. Other arguments establish more about what the thing that has been here forever is like.

“However we do see uncaused events all the time in the quantum world.”

Please define “event.” I want to know how an “event” differs from an “effect.” I am not a quantum physicist, but I sense sometimes that they are using a leap of faith to cover their ignorance of real causes on some of this.

“I think this is also known as the argument from design?”

Not exactly. It is really more the argument from purpose. Things that show progression to an organized end demonstrate something behind them with intelligence and intention. A personal being is required for this.

“Maybe we will find a new theory of physics that will explain why things have to be the way they are.”

Is that statement evidence of a blind leap of faith, trusting in physics to provide explanations?

“I see that Hume ...didn't buy it.”

Hume didn’t address Sproul’s form of the argument. Nor Geisler’s for that matter.

“… it seems to only show a higher power exists. How can we possibly say anything about the nature of that power besides it's greater than anything else?”

It has the power of being in and of itself. It also has the power to create this universe.

“If you want to link or copy those particular forms I'll take a look.”
For the sake of time, I would like to refer you to my own statements on my blog. They contain links to the real experts, too many links to reproduce here.

http://jkjonesthinks.blogspot.com/search/label/Cosmological%20Argument

http://jkjonesthinks.blogspot.com/search/label/Teleological%20Argument

http://jkjonesthinks.blogspot.com/search/label/Presuppositionalism

“I don't see the fact of sin in all of our lives. “

It might help to know that a perfect Law-giver must, by definition, require perfection in keeping His laws. It’s almost an axiom that “nobody’s perfect.” Beyond that, I can readily admit that I often do things that I know are wrong. That admission makes me a sinner.

“Why does Yahweh's holiness and justice require a penalty? (Could you also define "holiness"?)"

Holiness is God’s difference from us, particularly with respect to His being without sin. Sproul explains it with the old table prayer: “God is great. God is good…” It’s His greatness and goodness.

A just judge must punish sin when it is brought before him.

“… why do we punish a criminal for committing murder? … We do this by removing him from society and hopefully "fixing" him through rehabilitation. This also serves as a deterrent to other people doing the same crime. I don't see those functions being realized through Yahweh's system of punishment in Hell.”

You are assuming that people in hell would change their natures, that they would want to be rehabilitated. That is not the case. They will not cease their sin and rebellion, so they are punished until they change, and they never change.

“Also I don't see how the death of Jesus pays for someone's crime. If someone killed someone you loved, would you be satisfied to have a complete stranger killed in the murderer's place?”

For an unrepentant sinner to be loved by a Holy God, the sin must be paid for. Since the unrepentant sinner will not repent on his own, an infinite penalty (one that goes on forever) must be paid. Christ is a man who could die. He is also God in human form who could suffer infinitely. He suffered that penalty and made God’s love possible.

There is also the requirement for us to be without sin to stand in God’s presence. We must be just to live before God’s face. Christ’s perfect life is credited to our account as well. It’s a double exchange. We get Christ’s righteousness, and He gets our punishment. Now those who have faith have nothing that comes between them and fellowship with a Holy God.

I don’t know all of the details, much like the aforementioned quantum physicist. I just know that God says it works.

“Again I can't make such a leap of faith to believe this story is true.”

Christianity does not require a leap of faith against reason. It is the most reasonable way to approach life.

“Why is faith or belief in these stories considered a good thing to be rewarded?”

It’s not. Faith is not a work which can be rewarded. When you throw a life-preserver to a drowning man, he is not a hero because he caught the life-preserver. Also, faith itself, like all other aspects of salvation, is a gift from God. No one should be rewarded for accepting a gift.

“If Yahweh wants us to believe these stories why doesn't he show us they are true by performing obvious miracles today?”

Faith is the most reasonable response to the evidence for Christianity. It is not opposed to reason. We go back to the person who wants to justify his own actions. Even in the face of a miracle, he will hold out for a naturalistic explanation because belief would interfere with his plan for his life. I was like that before God called me to Christ. I have no room to brag or hold myself up as better than someone else. All I did was receive a gift God offered.

“… Do I care if he knows about me? Sure it would be nice, but I don't see his belief in my existence as some necessary requirement.”

To stay within your story, he knows all along who his father is, he just doesn’t want to acknowledge him or follow his instructions. He is an openly rebellious child. He does not acknowledge his father because to do so would mean changing his ways.

“Why would I punish him for not believing in me?”

Without God’s favor to us, we suppress our belief in Him to justify our evil actions. These actions require the penalty, not just the unbelief that makes them justifiable in a man’s eyes.

"Even in the context of the Bible there are not hard moral laws with no exceptions. For example, don't kill people... unless they are witches, or its a death penalty, or...”

I think the idea in the Bible is that particular moral laws fit particular situations. Different absolutes apply from one situation to the next.

They are fuzzy sometimes. I think often it is because sinners like me do not want to see the truth, and justify it away.

“… how do you know that intelligence is Yahweh? Why not Allah, or some deistic god?”

The short answer is that these other concepts of god change from one situation to the next. A changing being cannot be the ground of unchanging laws.

“… I don't know anything really, but certain beliefs I have, I label as "knowledge" if they pass a certain threshold of probability…”

You know something, or you would not be putting forth arguments. You know you exist or you wouldn’t be arguing or thinking. You know that logic applies to reality, or you wouldn’t be trying to understand our conversation with logic.

By the way, the basic uniformity of nature, that things in the future will happen as they have in the past, is a requirement for any kind of knowledge based on probability.

I know the future will be basically consistent with the past with respect to physical laws because the God who upholds those laws does not change. Hume, and others since him, did not have that assurance and did not reach the conclusion that we could know the future from the past. Hume's skepticism is a dangerous ally!

“… I am now having a subjective experience of colors, sounds, and other feelings. I see a red apple. Does the apple exist? …”

I know the outside world exists because I know God made it because He told me so in the Bible. I don’t have to wonder. You might find this paper of interest:

http://thirdmill.org/files/reformedperspectives/hall_of_frame/HOF.Hale.Derrida%20and%20VanTil.6.30.04.html

“However for the sake of living my daily life I assume there is an outside world.”t other things. How do I know what is true, or at least deserves the label of "knowledge"? Well, I just have to go case by case.”

That’s a good common-sense approach to life. In my view of the world, I can know the truth because God reveals it to me in the Bible.

“I think Carl Sagan's quote sums it up nicely: "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence." I always tell the same story...”

That’s a great story. You might be surprised to know that I agree with you and Sagan. The difference is that I see God’s existence as extraordinary evidence. He created this world, holds it together, and gave His messengers the power to do miracles to show their message was true.

And you are right to be skeptical of modern media. It scares me sometimes what we can do with computers.

This is a long comment, and I don’t want to keep writing comments on your blog unless you welcome them. Just let me know.

that atheist guy said...

I don't mind continuing this discussion thread here. As long as Blogger aka. Google doesn't choke on it I will keep going. I had to keep some of my stuff in to make the comments clear, so watch out for double quotes. "" means I wrote it. Let's get started:

"Most people believe that a crime’s severity increases according to the innocence of the person the crime is committed against. It is more wrong to murder a baby that it is to murder an adult. God is the most innocent being in the universe."

I can see a bit how that could be true, but I have two problems with it. First I don't see how a criminal act is a sin against Yahweh. In the imaginary country I wrote about, if I steal from someone the crime is against that victim, not the dictator of the country. I know from your perspective, Yahweh created all things so he kind of "owns" everything, but we have to assume that is true from the beginning, which is exactly the proposition under debate. My second problem is that I'm not sure the innocence of the victim should affect the punishment of the crime. I don't think our legal system, at least on the books, punishes murderers of children more than murderers of adults. (I could be wrong.) It is hard to see this point clearly since we value babies and children so much! Maybe a better example is stealing. Do you really deserve less punishment for stealing from someone who sometimes lies, than stealing from someone who is always honest?

"Most people believe that it is more wrong to rebel against someone who has legitimate authority over them than someone who does not. An evil dictator would not have legitimate authority. The evil dictator’s laws would often be unjust, and rebellion would be morally required."

OK, but rebelling is one thing, and crimes between the citizens of this imaginary country are another. My original point was that crimes among the citizens should not be punished differently based on the relative "goodness" of the ruler.

"The Perfect Law-giver who is holy (separate from sin and different from us), whose laws are perfect (the absolute standard of good and evil, based on the nature of God Himself), and whose judgment is infallible (without error caused by lack of knowledge or lack of intelligence) requires a penalty to be paid for crimes against His law."

I don't see why this perfect law giver would require a penalty. Secondly, I don't see the laws of the Bible as perfect. I believe stoning to be barbaric in any culture in any time.

"I would really like to know how an atheist justifies that one dictator is more evil than the other. Doesn’t that require an absolute standard of morality that does not change from person to person or culture to culture? How is that standard justified?"

I think in a previous comment I talked about people having a built in code of ethics, which I believe has grown out of millions of years of evolution. I believe murder is wrong because that is what is coded in my DNA. I feel it like I sense sugar being sweet. I can no more believe sugar to be bitter than I could believe murder to be good. This idea certainly doesn't rule out the idea of a god. There are a trillions of stars in the universe, and possibly many have life. Perhaps all life that evolves into social intelligent beings will converge to the same ethical standard.

This universal code might be as fundamental as the laws of geometry. Dividing a circles circumference by it's diameter gives the number pi. Assuming the existence of a creator god, did this god make pi? Could he have made pi a different number? (These are questions raised in Carl Sagan's novel Contact.) So having an advanced social creature who thinks murder is good might be like having a circle whose circumference and diameter ratio is 2! ie. impossible.

Another comment is that I doubt the Jewish people didn't know murder and stealing wasn't bad before they got the 10 commandments.

"Yes. In view of the overwhelming evidence that this story was true, wouldn’t reasonable person?
Some evidence is given at http://www.4truth.net/site/c.hiKXLbPNLrF/b.786347/k.BD6D/Bible.htm"

You were answering my question about Adam and Eve. I think we would disagree on the overwhelming evidence. I don't have time to read that link thoroughly, and again I rather not get into a discussion about evolution here. (If you want to, maybe e-mail would be better.)

However I find the story of Adam and Eve to be mythical. I don't think a viable human population can come from two individuals. I know there is a lot of historical fact in the Bible, but it is obvious to me that most of Genesis is mythical like the old Greek stories about Zeus and Hercules.

"I would really like to settle the issue of our personal sins first. We are directly responsible for them. Adam and Eve, if they died for their own sins, would not have given rise to the human race. This is discussed briefly at: http://www.carm.org/questions/adamsin.htm"

OK, I looked at the link. Are you a Calvinist, or a Arminianist?

If you believe Adam's act caused all human's to have a sinful nature, how do you reconcile that with free will? Is it a person's fault they are born with a tendency to sin? Did Adam have free will? Is his free will different from the free will of his descendents who inherited this "sinful nature"?

Stepping back, I find the whole model hard to believe. That is, the idea that a perfect loving deity would create a world full of creatures that he knows would fail his tests, and then punish them.

"Beyond that, I would refer you to these sites for discussion of alleged contradictions in the Bible: "

Thanks for the links. I know there is a whole world of apologetics out there, but I rather not get bogged down into debating different verses. I guess my general comment would be this: Why does a perfect book require so many mental gymnastics to make sense of all these apparent contradictions? In my mind a perfect book would be error free even in appearance without deep rationalization.

"In my opinion, slavery is clearly designated as evil. Besides, many sinners like me justify their actions in many ways. A sinner who really wanted to sin against a direct command could justify it by deliberate miss-interpretation; anything can be read into when one has an agenda. He could also try to show that the situation the rule addresses does not apply to him. I have used both off these justifications in the past, and I had to repent of them. I am sure I will have to repent of more in the future when I am made aware of them. Does that fit your experience?"

Regarding slavery this chart of Bible verses tells me that it isn't clear:
http://skepticsannotatedbible.com/interp/slavery.html

As for your last question, I'm not sure what to say since I haven't used the Bible to guide my life, I don't repent. If I hurt someone I will try to make up for it and seek their forgiveness.

"The objective of the argument is to show that something has been here forever. Other arguments establish more about what the thing that has been here forever is like."

I don't see how you could show something has been here forever.

"Please define “event.” I want to know how an “event” differs from an “effect.” I am not a quantum physicist, but I sense sometimes that they are using a leap of faith to cover their ignorance of real causes on some of this."

One example is radioactive decay. Scientists can predict the decay curve of uranium for example. However if you are looking at a single uranium atom, there is no way to tell when it will decay. The only thing you can say is the probability it will decay in the next time segment. Quantum Mechanics says that (and I don't understand it nearly enough) that we can't predict when the atom will decay, not because we lack the accuracy or knowledge of it's inner state, but it is actually unpredictable in principle.

Einstein did not like this, and thought there were "hidden variables" which determined when the decay would occur. (A minority of scientists still think that might be the case.)

Again, I'm not saying this is definite fact. Scientists are still working on it, and things might change. Personally I find the idea of an uncaused event/effect to be absurd. However I also find the idea of an endless chain of cause and effect going into the past also to be absurd.

Contemplating the actual core question here: Why is there something rather than nothing? fills me with a kind of vertigo. I don't find gods to be a satisfying answer to these questions.

"Not exactly. It is really more the argument from purpose. Things that show progression to an organized end demonstrate something behind them with intelligence and intention. A personal being is required for this."

Are you talking about development of life? If so, (as you might guess) I don't see the requirement for a personal being there.

"“Maybe we will find a new theory of physics that will explain why things have to be the way they are.”"

"Is that statement evidence of a blind leap of faith, trusting in physics to provide explanations? "

I just said "maybe". I have no idea. I trust physics as far as the evidence goes. I don't know if science will have all the "answers". Maybe people will never know some things. However, I don't see any way to learn new things besides the scientific method. I don't think that is faith. Of course if someone has a better method to gain knowledge they will have to demonstrate how it works.

"Hume didn’t address Sproul’s form of the argument. Nor Geisler’s for that matter."

I looked at one of your links below, and I found your quote from Sproul, basically saying: "it is illogical and inconceivable that you can have something coming out of nothing." OK, I agree with that. But how does that show a god is the cause of the universe? And even if it did, how does it tell you anything about the nature of this entity beyond "first cause"?

"“… it seems to only show a higher power exists. How can we possibly say anything about the nature of that power besides it's greater than anything else?”"

"It has the power of being in and of itself. It also has the power to create this universe."

OK, but where do you go from there?

But I still have a problem before that, because why can't I say the universe has the "power" of being in and of itself? If you can imagine a god which exists forever without first cause, why can't a universe exists forever without cause?

How do you know deism, pantheism, or panenetheism, aren't true?

"http://jkjonesthinks.blogspot.com/search/label/Teleological%20Argument"

From that link, you quote Frame: "Apologists have often noted that we could not know the world at all unless it had been designed for knowledge. If the world were nothing but matter, motion, time, and chance, we would have no reason to think that the ideas in our heads told us anything about the real world."

I don't see how those assertions follow. Why couldn't we know the world unless it had been designed? That isn't clear to me. I don't agree with his second sentence at all. He is just making an assertion without backing it up.

"http://jkjonesthinks.blogspot.com/search/label/Presuppositionalism"

I think that link went to the same post.

"It might help to know that a perfect Law-giver must, by definition, require perfection in keeping His laws. It’s almost an axiom that “nobody’s perfect.” Beyond that, I can readily admit that I often do things that I know are wrong. That admission makes me a sinner."

I don't see how a perfect law-giver must be definition require perfection. What does it mean to be a perfect law-giver? I think it means all the laws would be non-contradictory, consistent, error-free, and just. What is the evidence that Yahweh is a perfect law giver?

If we assume Yahweh is such a perfect law giver, why would he require imperfect beings to be perfect?

"“… why do we punish a criminal for committing murder? … We do this by removing him from society and hopefully "fixing" him through rehabilitation. This also serves as a deterrent to other people doing the same crime. I don't see those functions being realized through Yahweh's system of punishment in Hell.”"

"You are assuming that people in hell would change their natures, that they would want to be rehabilitated. That is not the case. They will not cease their sin and rebellion, so they are punished until they change, and they never change."

Then I don't see the purpose of punishment in hell. What function does it serve? If punishment isn't serving the purpose of deterrence, prevention and rehabilitation, then it is nothing more then revenge. In fact, at least going by the standard views of Hell, it isn't even punishment. It is torture. I think most people agree that torture is not a just punishment.

You are also assuming they will never change. Why not?

I don't understand how Christians can imagine themselves happy in Heaven while people are being tortured in Hell. I don't even think Hitler deserves a year of constant torture, let alone an eternity. I find the idea sadistic.

I think what Aquinas wrote is sickening: 'Wherefore in order that the happiness of the saints may be more delightful to them and that they may render more copious thanks to God for it, they are allowed to see perfectly the sufferings of the damned.' http://www.newadvent.org/summa/5094.htm

"For an unrepentant sinner to be loved by a Holy God, the sin must be paid for.
Since the unrepentant sinner will not repent on his own, an infinite penalty (one that goes on forever) must be paid. Christ is a man who could die. He is also God in human form who could suffer infinitely. He suffered that penalty and made God’s love possible."

I'm sorry, but that just makes no sense to me. If someone steals money from someone else, the criminal must pay it back and receive some kind of punishment like jail time, a fine etc. Punishing a third person does not pay for the crime in any way. Punishing the ruler of the country doesn't pay for the crime either.

It also doesn't make sense that Yahweh would punish himself so that he could love his own creation. If my son breaks someone's window with a baseball, slapping myself in the face doesn't pay for anything or change my anger towards my son over the incident, or my continuing love for him.

"There is also the requirement for us to be without sin to stand in God’s presence. We must be just to live before God’s face. Christ’s perfect life is credited to our account as well. It’s a double exchange. We get Christ’s righteousness, and He gets our punishment. Now those who have faith have nothing that comes between them and fellowship with a Holy God."

My comment applies here as well. I don't see how Yahweh in the form of Jesus can "credit" our account through his suffering.

Why does believing this story (what I think you mean by "faith") automatically "credit your account" in this way?

"I don’t know all of the details, much like the aforementioned quantum physicist. I just know that God says it works."

I certainly don't know the details about quantum mechanics, but I know engineers use QM to build lasers and computer chips. I don't have any such hard working evidence for these stories of the Bible.

I find it interesting you say you "know" that God says it works. How do you know? A muslim would say he knows Allah says to follow the five pillars of Islam. I assume you believe the muslim is mistaken. The muslim would also think you are mistaken about the divinity of Jesus.

"“Again I can't make such a leap of faith to believe this story is true.”"

"Christianity does not require a leap of faith against reason. It is the most reasonable way to approach life."

But do you acknowledge some kind of faith is required? Above you wrote, "Now those who have faith have nothing that comes between them and fellowship with a Holy God." How do you get that faith? I think the first assertion that needs to be accepted as true is that the Bible is written/inspired by the god Yahweh. I think that is the first step right? That is the step I see no reason to take. I have no evidence this book is any different from any other religious book, like the Koran or Hindu vedas, etc.

"It’s not. Faith is not a work which can be rewarded. When you throw a life-preserver to a drowning man, he is not a hero because he caught the life-preserver. Also, faith itself, like all other aspects of salvation, is a gift from God. No one should be rewarded for accepting a gift."

So are you saying this gift requires no work whatsoever? Even the drowning man must reach out and grab it, or at least hold on. I'm trying to understand exactly what you mean. It sounds like the ability to believe the Bible is true (faith) is given as a gift by Yahweh to people. If people don't have this ability (the gift) they will go to Hell. It is hard to get away from the idea of a reward.

How is a child born into a deeply religious muslim family in the middle east supposed to receive this gift?

"Faith is the most reasonable response to the evidence for Christianity. It is not opposed to reason. We go back to the person who wants to justify his own actions. Even in the face of a miracle, he will hold out for a naturalistic explanation because belief would interfere with his plan for his life. I was like that before God called me to Christ. I have no room to brag or hold myself up as better than someone else. All I did was receive a gift God offered."

Maybe it was reasonable for you! But the majority of people in the world are not Christian. As you can tell from this discussion, I don't see the evidence. What is told to me as evidence I either find nonsensical, obscure, or not "hard".

If the evidence was clear and reasonable, I would expect Christianity to spread as fast as trigonometry. Every school child in every culture agrees that Pythagorean theorem is true, because it can be proven. Instead we have not only a huge variety of religions, we have a huge variety of Christian sects. The Pope says Protestants are bound for Hell. Is he wrong? How do you know for sure?

"To stay within your story, he knows all along who his father is, he just doesn’t want to acknowledge him or follow his instructions. He is an openly rebellious child. He does not acknowledge his father because to do so would mean changing his ways."

I imagine some tribal people living in the Amazon jungle with little contact to the outside world. How are these people "rebelling" against Yahweh? They have never heard of him.

My analogy imagined my creation (son/clone/robot/whatever) living apart from me with no knowledge of my existence. Why would I want him to believe in me? Why would I punish him for not believing I existed?

Personally I am not disbelieving in Christianity because if I did it would "cramp my style". I disbelieve it because I don't see the evidence.

"Without God’s favor to us, we suppress our belief in Him to justify our evil actions. These actions require the penalty, not just the unbelief that makes them justifiable in a man’s eyes."

I'm sorry, I'm having trouble understanding that sentence. Could you rephrase it?

"I think the idea in the Bible is that particular moral laws fit particular situations. Different absolutes apply from one situation to the next."

I'm not sure I would call that an absolute though. Is murder always wrong? What if some terrorist was about to set of a nuclear bomb in a city, I think we would all agree that it would be OK for an FBI agent to shoot the terrorist before he can set off the bomb. Saying, 'murder is wrong, depending on the situation.' is not an absolute. Our legal system has different degrees of murder.

"“… how do you know that intelligence is Yahweh? Why not Allah, or some deistic god?”"

"The short answer is that these other concepts of god change from one situation to the next. A changing being cannot be the ground of unchanging laws."

I don't know what you mean that they change. How so?

What are these unchanging laws?

"You know something, or you would not be putting forth arguments. You know you exist or you wouldn’t be arguing or thinking. You know that logic applies to reality, or you wouldn’t be trying to understand our conversation with logic. "

I know that thoughts and sensory impressions exists. These entities seem to center around a "self". I think that is the only thing I can say for sure I know 100%. I don't know for sure that the computer I am typing on actually exists, because how do I know I'm not a brain in a vat dreaming the world?

OK, I'm 99.99999% sure this computer exists outside of me, but there's always that tiny chance that I am being fooled.

"By the way, the basic uniformity of nature, that things in the future will happen as they have in the past, is a requirement for any kind of knowledge based on probability. "

I agree with that.

"I know the future will be basically consistent with the past with respect to physical laws because the God who upholds those laws does not change. Hume, and others since him, did not have that assurance and did not reach the conclusion that we could know the future from the past. Hume's skepticism is a dangerous ally!"

I would say, "I expect the future will be basically consistent with the past with respect to physical laws because that is what has happened so far"! Ie. it's a good bet.

On a side note, I don't see how Yahweh can't change. Does he think? Make choices? Make plans? Have emotions? In the Bible we read about Yahweh doing things. How can actions be made in a temporal world without change? It is impossible for anyone to think a thought or move a muscle without experience a change internally. With no change there would be no firing neurons, or any movement at all. You would be frozen.

Maybe you are basing this assertion on something in the Bible. But again all of this is very circular. You claim this god has certain qualities. How do you know? Because this book says so. How do you know the book is true? Because this god wrote it. How do you know? Because the book says so...

"I know the outside world exists because I know God made it because He told me so in the Bible. I don’t have to wonder. You might find this paper of interest:

http://thirdmill.org/files/reformedperspectives/hall_of_frame/HOF.Hale.Derrida%20and%20VanTil.6.30.04.html"

That is too much to read at the moment.

How do you know you aren't a brain in a vat? All your life including memories of reading the Bible might be from electrical impulses fired into the vat by some mad alien scientist. Sure it sounds silly, but there is no way to rule it out. I find it odd that you can't even wonder at the possibility. I'm not saying I believe such an idea.

"That’s a great story. You might be surprised to know that I agree with you and Sagan. The difference is that I see God’s existence as extraordinary evidence. He created this world, holds it together, and gave His messengers the power to do miracles to show their message was true."

I guess we disagree on what to consider extraordinary evidence. I haven't seen any miracles. I've read about miracles happening to all kinds of people in all kinds of religions. My friend in college saw amazing things, but he was schizophrenic so why should I believe his visions were true?

Why aren't you a Mormon? The book of Mormon has sworn testimony that it is true.

"And you are right to be skeptical of modern media. It scares me sometimes what we can do with computers."

Why aren't you also skeptical of ancient writings? What's the difference?

Phew, I'm tired!

that atheist guy said...

"L P Cruz said...
hmmm, I was an atheist once."

I think everyone is born an atheist, so you might as well say "I was a baby once."

I'll write a post about that right now.

Richard R said...

"if atheism is a faith, then not collecting stamps is a hobby"

Nice... I've gotta use that one sometime!

J. K. Jones said...

I’m tired too. I will stay with only two basic topics: God’s existence and the gospel (how a person can be in right standing with God).

I am not conceding the other points raised. My effort has been to show the internal consistency of Christianity, and to do that requires taking the Bible to be true even though I have not given complete arguments for it.

God’s Existence

“I don't see how you could show something has been here forever.”

The universe as it exists now is either self-created, uncreated / eternal, or created by someone or something that is eternal.

The universe can not be self-created because then it would have to exist before it existed in order to create itself. That is manifestly illogical.

The universe cannot be eternal because everything we see in the universe is changing with respect to its being. It is coming and going out of existence, so to speak. If it is changing with respect to its being, it cannot be eternal.

We are left with the universe coming from something that has always existed. Something, or someone, has always been here. It is self-existent; it has the power of being in itself. It is also powerful enough to create the universe. It is eternal and all-powerful with respect to what it created.

If you want that thing to be the universe, it would have to be a part of the universe that does not change. That part would have to be eternal and all-powerful. It would be the thing that holds the universe in existence right now. We still have something or someone eternal and powerful. (Aquinas put together another form of argument based on that idea.)

All this argument shows is that there is something eternal and powerful which exists. Is that what you meant when you said, “Personally I find the idea of an uncaused event/effect to be absurd. However I also find the idea of an endless chain of cause and effect going into the past also to be absurd?” If the endless chain is absurd, then we have another argument for an eternal, powerful being. This is the kalam form of the cosmological argument, but I have discussed that in an earlier comment.

I don’t think there is an event which can be logically distinguished from an effect in the philosophical sense. Quantum physics has not come up with an uncaused effect. Even if it did, the effect would still be described using universal laws of logic, and we have discussed those elsewhere.

“…how do I know I'm not a brain in a vat dreaming the world?”

If all of reality is some form of an illusion, you must account for the illusion. The illusion is either self-created, eternal or created by an eternal being… We are back to the discussion above. Also, you have a thinking process that you use to evaluate the illusion. That must be accounted for as well.

“…I believe murder is wrong because that is what is coded in my DNA…”

Then how do you avoid the conclusion that everything you think or do is encoded in your DNA? This makes rational thought, as defined by most, impossible because we do not know that our programmed response agrees with reality. We also have no reason to argue about anything because it would just be my DNA and yours not lining up. God had to design the entire process of knowledge (from our senses to our thought) and our process of communication (from our body to the laws of logic) for rational thought to be viable.

“…Assuming the existence of a creator god, did this god make pi? Could he have made pi a different number?... having an advanced social creature who thinks murder is good might be like having a circle whose circumference and diameter ratio is 2!...”

Pi will not change in this universe because the unchanging God who created this universe created pi and keeps it from changing. Geometry is the way God thinks, and He will always think that way. Mathematical laws are universal and unchanging, and they require a universal, unchanging ground.

The moral law would not change from one creature to the next for the same reasons. If the moral law is based on DNA, which mutates, or opinion, which varies from one person to the other, it would not be unchanging.

God is unchanging with respect to being, not with respect to actions. He interacts with His creation and His creatures, but His existence, thought process, and view of morality never change. The unchanging nature of God guaranties the unchanging nature of logic, uniformity of nature, and the moral law written on our hearts.

“…Are you talking about development of life? If so, (as you might guess) I don't see the requirement for a personal being there.”

The development of life is a process that leads to an organized end: the continuance of life. This process requires someone with intelligence and intent to design it. This is one form of the teleological argument. There are other examples of processes that lead to organized ends in our universe (knowledge, evolution separate from bio-generation, and cell reproduction are examples).

Now we have a personality that has always existed, is super-intelligent, is super-powerful and displays intention. This fits the Christian notion of God quite well.

“Why aren't you also skeptical of ancient writings? What's the difference?”

We also have to discuss Jesus. There is no other religious leader like Him. He showed up on earth claiming to be God, doing things contrary to the normal operation of the universe(things only God could do), and giving us the facts in the Bible I have been discussing. The best evidence for His person is the evidence for the resurrection. Here’s an address: http://www.4truth.net/site/c.hiKXLbPNLrF/b.786345/k.CE52/Jesus.htm

The Gospel

“…I don't see how a criminal act is a sin against Yahweh…”

Sin is any want of conformity to or transgression of the law of God. It is rebellion against an authority. It is, therefore, sin against the authority.

God sets the requirement as perfection. We do not get to water it down because of our own preferences.

We do not get to set the penalty based on our conceptions of how things are to be. God sets the penalty. I was attempting earlier to show that your story and your stipulations did not lead to the conclusion you had hoped.

“…people having a built in code of ethics… This universal code might be as fundamental as the laws of geometry…”

Exactly. You are even implying that the requirements are consistent from one culture to the next. We have a built in code of ethics that we do not follow. Therefore, whether we have heard about Jesus Christ or not, we sin against a known law. We are responsible for our sin.

“OK, I looked at the link. Are you a Calvinist, or a [Arminian]?”

Neither label applies to me as they are traditionally defined. If pushed all the way to the wall, I am a Calvinist, but defining what that means takes about 200 pages. Basically I believe that God saved me from my sins and the penalty required for them without any help from me.

“I don't see how Yahweh in the form of Jesus can "credit" our account through his suffering.”

The God who defines the law defines how sins against it can be atoned for. I know this to be the case because that is what Jesus, the God-man, said.

“…So are you saying this gift requires no work whatsoever?...”

Exactly! We are saved, if at all, by what Jesus Christ does for us, not what we do for ourselves. Even our best works fall short of the perfection God’s law requires.

Faith goes beyond just believing facts. It moves into the area of trust. Trusting that Christ earned salvation makes the exchange discussed above happen. It’s ceasing to trust in what I do and trusting what He did. Salvation is a free gift that is merely received. A gift is not earned or deserved.

What of those who have never heard? First, that does not apply to you because you have heard. Second, they have the revelation of God in creation and the knowledge of his law, which is innate. They sin against a know law and rebel against a know ruler.

“Personally I am not disbelieving in Christianity because if I did it would "cramp my style". I disbelieve it because I don't see the evidence.”

At some level, I think you know full well that Christianity is true. I think you were born that way, but that you suppressed that knowledge. The evidence given is objectively demonstrative.

I am now going to leave off our discussion on this thread. This is, after all, your blog, and you should have the last word.

I will pray for you and yours. I also invite you to come by my blog again anytime.

B said...

"What of those who have never heard? First, that does not apply to you because you have heard. Second, they have the revelation of God in creation and the knowledge of his law, which is innate. They sin against a know law and rebel against a know ruler."

I'm sorry but I have to throw my two cents in relating to this comment. So, let's take Pre-Columbian America for example. There's no denying people were here for a long time before European Discovery (Mayan Temples, Manchu Picchu, Giant Olmec heads should be enough proof there). These people had never heard of Jesus, God, or anything relating to Christianity. How are they supposed to innately know the word of God? I mean no offense, but how does "Oh look at my pretty rain forest", the existence of which you seem to be claiming should reveal the nature of god to people, explain to the Mayans or Olmecs or Aztecs that some guy in a land across an ocean, which they had never traversed, died on some wood contraption for their "sins"? (Remember what is a sin in one culture may be explicitly endorsed in another). It's a completely illogical idea. Anyways, if creation did reveal God's word to people, there would be no need for missionaries.

that atheist guy said...

Hi J. K.,

OK, I guess this is winding down. I really was suffering from a lack of sleep when I wrote my last comment, so I hope I didn't come across as too gruff or anything. Anyway, lets dig in!

"I am not conceding the other points raised. My effort has been to show the internal consistency of Christianity, and to do that requires taking the Bible to be true even though I have not given complete arguments for it."

Fair enough. It is certainly hard to argue about these broad and deep topics in this format. (The Internet is strewn with the huge flame wars of debates in many topics, not just religion.) The back-and-forth comments have a low bandwidth and tend to balloon out in scope. OK, that's enough meta-commentary!

"The universe as it exists now is either self-created, uncreated / eternal, or created by someone or something that is eternal."

I agree with the first two. As for the third I would question how we could have any knowledge of something separate from the universe, or if we could tell it actually was separate at all. I also wonder if their are other options our puny brains can't come up with!

"The universe can not be self-created because then it would have to exist before it existed in order to create itself. That is manifestly illogical."

Yes, I agree for the most part. But I could also see that might be thinking too "4-dimensionally". Did you see the Terminator movies? In that story it is implied that the terminator (or it's boss, Skynet) created itself through a time travel loop. If the universe is looped around in higher space or time dimensions maybe it could create itself because terms like "before" become meaningless.

Most people have imagined higher spacial dimensions, but an example of a higher time dimension is Rudy Rucker's "paratime". I read about that here:
http://www.rudyrucker.com/lifebox/

There is plenty of room for a god or gods existing in these higher dimensions, so I am not ruling out anything! I really have no idea. As I said I don't have much beef with deism, pantheism, panentheism, etc. All of these are interesting ideas, I just don't understand how people can invest positive belief in a particular god model, be it Christianity or Pantheism, with no good evidence. The only reason I seem to argue with Christianity more than pantheism is that Christianity makes so many truth claims. It's so detailed!

"The universe cannot be eternal because everything we see in the universe is changing with respect to its being. It is coming and going out of existence, so to speak. If it is changing with respect to its being, it cannot be eternal."

I don't really understand what you mean here. I would need some specific examples of the universe changing with respect to its being. But I do agree with you at some level, that the idea of an eternal universe seems absurd. How could it possible just keep going back and back forever? (Ie. the old "turtles all the way down" idea.) But as I said before, the idea of an eternal god is equally baffling so it doesn't help solve the problem for me.

"We are left with the universe coming from something that has always existed. Something, or someone, has always been here. It is self-existent; it has the power of being in itself. It is also powerful enough to create the universe. It is eternal and all-powerful with respect to what it created."

Maybe yes, maybe no. Maybe you are right, but this eternal thing isn't a god, but a little seed which evolved into the cosmos. (I'm not talking about the supposed singularity before the big bang, but something more fundamental.) As I said before, I could maybe follow you down that path to the point of something existing outside (whatever that means) the universe which is eternal and created the universe, but I can't go any further to make any claims to know its nature. I can't make the jump from "mysterious eternal thing" to "Yahweh", or any other particular god model.

"If you want that thing to be the universe, it would have to be a part of the universe that does not change. That part would have to be eternal and all-powerful. It would be the thing that holds the universe in existence right now. We still have something or someone eternal and powerful. (Aquinas put together another form of argument based on that idea.)"

I'm not sure why it has to be "all powerful". It could be something simple that evolved into something more complex. An acorn doesn't have to hold up the oak tree, but it does grow into one.

"All this argument shows is that there is something eternal and powerful which exists. Is that what you meant when you said, “Personally I find the idea of an uncaused event/effect to be absurd. However I also find the idea of an endless chain of cause and effect going into the past also to be absurd?” If the endless chain is absurd, then we have another argument for an eternal, powerful being. This is the kalam form of the cosmological argument, but I have discussed that in an earlier comment. "

I guess to sum up, I could imagine an eternal "thing", but I don't agree it necessarily has to be powerful or "being" in the sense of a conscious agent.

"I don’t think there is an event which can be logically distinguished from an effect in the philosophical sense. Quantum physics has not come up with an uncaused effect. Even if it did, the effect would still be described using universal laws of logic, and we have discussed those elsewhere."

I'm not really sure what you mean here. I don't see much difference between "event" and "effect" (so I think we agree?). Whether QM actually shows uncaused effects might be better debated between actual quantum physicists since its beyond my undergraduate education. From what I read, the radioactive decay of nuclei really is a random uncaused event (or effect.) But they could be wrong! Who knows?

"If all of reality is some form of an illusion, you must account for the illusion. The illusion is either self-created, eternal or created by an eternal being… We are back to the discussion above. Also, you have a thinking process that you use to evaluate the illusion. That must be accounted for as well."

I agree, but the real outside world that is holding your brain in a vat (or running the computer simulation) might be completely different from the illusory world in your mind. The entities that have created your simulation might have made up all the worlds religions as part of their virtual reality.

"“…I believe murder is wrong because that is what is coded in my DNA…”"
"Then how do you avoid the conclusion that everything you think or do is encoded in your DNA? This makes rational thought, as defined by most, impossible because we do not know that our programmed response agrees with reality. We also have no reason to argue about anything because it would just be my DNA and yours not lining up. God had to design the entire process of knowledge (from our senses to our thought) and our process of communication (from our body to the laws of logic) for rational thought to be viable."

I didn't go that far. I suspect that my feeling of right and wrong is coded in my DNA somehow, just as I said my sensing of sugar as sweet. I don't think the DNA is controlling all aspects of my though process. Obviously the brain grows out of DNA somehow, and we do have certain instincts coded in our DNA. For example, check out the various trolley problems:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trolley_problem

Here we see people in many cultures with innate aversions to physically killing someone to save others, but not for flipping switches which save others by killing one person. (It's hard to explain briefly, but you can check out the link there.) These ethical codes are somehow hard wired in us.

But the brain is also an open ended system that can learn and solve problems. As a crude analogy, your computer is also hard wired to run certain kinds of programs, but that doesn't necessarily limit it's potential to accomplish many things.

Since this is probably the last post in our thread here, I am reluctant to bring up another topic, but I can't resist asking about how you view the brain. I assume you believe in an immaterial soul, but how do you reconcile that idea with the physical brain and all its neurons. What do you think the functions of neurons are? How do you deal with stories about brain injuries which destroy people's memories, or change their personality? Surgeons operating on conscious patients can induce random feelings (like hearing music, tasting ice cream) by probing various areas of the brain.

Another can of worms here is the whole concept of free will. I probably don't believe in the kind of free will that you do.

"Pi will not change in this universe because the unchanging God who created this universe created pi and keeps it from changing. Geometry is the way God thinks, and He will always think that way. Mathematical laws are universal and unchanging, and they require a universal, unchanging ground."

Could Yahweh make pi a different number? I'm not sure if mathematics need a universal unchanging ground, or if they did, why it would have to be a god. On a side note this part of our discussion reminded me of this quote by Kepler, 'Geometry, which before the origin of things was coeternal with the divine mind and is God himself (for what could there be in God which would not be God himself?), supplied God with patterns for the creation of the world, and passed over to Man along with the image of God.'

"The moral law would not change from one creature to the next for the same reasons. If the moral law is based on DNA, which mutates, or opinion, which varies from one person to the other, it would not be unchanging."

Not if through the evolution of social beings our DNA is approaching this ideal moral law. Maybe something like this:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strange_attractor

As our minds and culture evolves we might be trying to approach this ideal. Just as our engineers try to approach the ideal of the perfect circle when they build wheels, etc.

But hey, I could be wrong!

"God is unchanging with respect to being, not with respect to actions. He interacts with His creation and His creatures, but His existence, thought process, and view of morality never change. The unchanging nature of God guaranties the unchanging nature of logic, uniformity of nature, and the moral law written on our hearts."

I guess I can't imagine how something could have thoughts without changing. What does it mean to have thoughts? It means molecules are moving around in our brain. Something has to move, ie. change.

"“…Are you talking about development of life? If so, (as you might guess) I don't see the requirement for a personal being there.”"
"The development of life is a process that leads to an organized end: the continuance of life. This process requires someone with intelligence and intent to design it. This is one form of the teleological argument. There are other examples of processes that lead to organized ends in our universe (knowledge, evolution separate from bio-generation, and cell reproduction are examples)."

I can't see why this process requires someone with intelligence. I find the various theories for biogenesis to be quite satisfying. The idea of an intelligent designer, although a possibility, isn't satisfying because then we have to find out what designed it.

"Now we have a personality that has always existed, is super-intelligent, is super-powerful and displays intention. This fits the Christian notion of God quite well."

As you can see, I could not follow you to that conclusion. However even if I was to give you the idea of an eternal, super intelligent, powerful, etc. god, how do we know it is Yahweh, and not Allah, or Brahman or something unrelated to any of our world's religion.

If there is such a being, I would put all my money on that last option, since none of the world's religions in all their scriptures ever came close to the scientific knowledge we have now. If some prophet in the deep past actually said, "the True God has told me the Earth is round, orbiting a star in a galaxy of a 100 billion other stars, in a universe of 100 billion galaxies. Also time is relative, and light is a particle and a wave..." etc. Now that would be amazing and good evidence this bronze age prophet was on to something.

"“Why aren't you also skeptical of ancient writings? What's the difference?”"
"We also have to discuss Jesus. There is no other religious leader like Him. He showed up on earth claiming to be God, doing things contrary to the normal operation of the universe(things only God could do), and giving us the facts in the Bible I have been discussing."

First we have to find out if the stories in the Bible are true. Maybe Jesus existed, maybe he didn't. Maybe he was nothing like the stories about him in the Bible. I'm not sure Jesus is unique in a special way since every leader is unique. There hasn't been any other religious leader like Mohammad or Buddha either!

"The best evidence for His person is the evidence for the resurrection. Here’s an address: http://www.4truth.net/site/c.hiKXLbPNLrF/b.786345/k.CE52/Jesus.htm"

I've read some of that before, as you can guess, I wasn't convinced. Here's the first hit on Google searching for "did Jesus exist":

http://nobeliefs.com/exist.htm

There are scholars arguing about these things on both sides, and it is out of my league. Basically I don't see the extraordinary evidence for the claims made about Jesus.

"Sin is any want of conformity to or transgression of the law of God. It is rebellion against an authority. It is, therefore, sin against the authority."

I'm not sure what "want of conformity" means. But I think I understand the basic idea, assuming such a god exists.

"God sets the requirement as perfection. We do not get to water it down because of our own preferences."

I asked before why would a god make perfection a requirement of the being he made imperfect? It's like me punishing a square peg that I made square, for not going in the round hole I also made.

"We do not get to set the penalty based on our conceptions of how things are to be. God sets the penalty. I was attempting earlier to show that your story and your stipulations did not lead to the conclusion you had hoped."

I'm not sure it did, but I hope you can understand the problems I have with the system you outline.

"Exactly. You are even implying that the requirements are consistent from one culture to the next. We have a built in code of ethics that we do not follow. Therefore, whether we have heard about Jesus Christ or not, we sin against a known law. We are responsible for our sin."

That's fine, but how do you know the true system isn't the Karma of Hinduism?

"“I don't see how Yahweh in the form of Jesus can "credit" our account through his suffering.”"
"The God who defines the law defines how sins against it can be atoned for. I know this to be the case because that is what Jesus, the God-man, said."

As you could see from my comments above, I don't see why we should believe that Jesus said what he was claimed to have said. Or if it is true. I think you would take the same stance to other prophets, like the Mormon's Joseph Smith.

"“…So are you saying this gift requires no work whatsoever?...”"
"Exactly! We are saved, if at all, by what Jesus Christ does for us, not what we do for ourselves. Even our best works fall short of the perfection God’s law requires."

Sounds good! But others have told me I have to actually believe it to be saved. The act of believing is an act that seems required. Related to this idea is an interesting interview I heard with Carlton Pearson on the radio. He claims to have had a revelation that Jesus saved everyone from Hell, ie. Hell is now closed. Most of his church abandoned him, but he started again. How do you know he isn't right? Maybe he received a true revelation? More here:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carlton_Pearson

"Faith goes beyond just believing facts. It moves into the area of trust. Trusting that Christ earned salvation makes the exchange discussed above happen. It’s ceasing to trust in what I do and trusting what He did. Salvation is a free gift that is merely received. A gift is not earned or deserved."

I still have to do the act of trust. As you can see from this long discussion, my mind doesn't work that way.

"What of those who have never heard? First, that does not apply to you because you have heard. Second, they have the revelation of God in creation and the knowledge of his law, which is innate. They sin against a know law and rebel against a know ruler."

I think B commented on this already, and I agree mostly with that. As for me I am reminded of this joke:

Eskimo: "If I did not know about God and sin, would I go to hell?"
Missionary: "No, not if you did not know."
Eskimo: "Then why did you tell me?"

"At some level, I think you know full well that Christianity is true. I think you were born that way, but that you suppressed that knowledge. The evidence given is objectively demonstrative."

I certainly can't make any claims on any unconscious knowledge I may or may not have. (It being unconscious and all!) However, I could also say the same to you: At some level, I think you know full well that Christianity is false. I think you were born that way, but that you suppressed that knowledge. The evidence give is objectively demonstrative! Sorry to be cheeky! ;-)

"I am now going to leave off our discussion on this thread. This is, after all, your blog, and you should have the last word. "

I understand. It takes time to write these replies. But I have found it interesting and I do thank you again for the time and energy you put in to writing your comments. I'm sure I've said many new things that you would like to reply to. If you rather not inflate this blog post to any longer size, feel free to e-mail me. (I think you can find the e-mail address through the profile link in the upper right.)

"I will pray for you and yours. I also invite you to come by my blog again anytime."

Well, as you might imagine I don't do much praying, but I do wish you all the best as well, thanks. I'll put your blog on my RSS feed and take a peek now and then.

Until next time!
:-)