Monday, January 17, 2011

"God Exists" and "The Bible Is True"

Following is a synopsis of some responses to a viewer mail we received from “Aaron.” I gave up hope that Aaron would be able to go very deeply into a dialog about his own beliefs, but felt it was worth recording for the edification of blog readers.

Hello Aaron:

This may be my last reply, because you demonstrate a level of understanding of the history and reality of your own religion and holy book that really requires a “Bible and Christian History 101” course, not a few letters from an association volunteer. And even though I am involved in Austin with an Educational Foundation, I’m not here to spoon-feed you a semester’s worth of information you could easily find online if you honestly even wanted to know how your Bible came to exist. I suggest you start here and follow the links to educate yourself on at least the basic facts about your own holy book:

There have been many versions of it—including many “final” versions of it. And today there are in fact at least three “orthodox” Bible versions that are accepted in mainstream Christianity; and these are not all based upon the same set of base manuscripts for their content. When you say “The Bible,” then, you are using a word that refers to at least three different widely used anthologies of early Christian writings that are all considered “THE” holy Bible by different, large groups of people who all call themselves “Christians.”

>The Bible was written by Moses - who yes, was a shepherd

There is no compelling evidence that Moses even existed, let alone that he wrote any part of the Bible. We have wildly exaggerated tales about him, mostly in Jewish mythology, but nothing to confirm this was ever a real man, any more than a figure like Paul Bunyon.

The idea Moses wrote the first five books of the Old Testament is a Jewish myth. Christian Bible scholars know this. May I ask where you obtained this information and who told you this was true? Further, can I ask you why you believed it without researching it yourself? Many Bibles today come with Translator’s notes which would tell you—right there inside your Bible—that we don’t have the identity of the author of the Pentateuch—the first five books that Moses is said to have authored.
“Modern biblical scholars see no signs of Mosaic authorship, but indications of much later writing”

>but also by a doctor/historian (luke)

Again, this is not a valid claim. It is not known who authored the gospel of Luke. It’s just an old church traditional tale:

> and a guy who was a master of Jewish law (Paul).

Again, some books are attributed to Paul. But authorship assignment still requires speculation. There is no “fact” of who wrote the books within the Bible. But it is an undisputed reality that whatever is in there now is a revision of whatever was originally composed (which we no longer have).

Whoever is feeding you your information is unreliable and/or lying to you. Go to a Bible shop and open up the first page of each book in a NIV. You will see a page that tells you who the authors are *suspected* to be (if there is even a suspected author) and whether those assignments are based on scholarly guesses or just old religious traditions. What you will not find is anything conclusive to identify authorship to any high degree of certainty. And what you will not find is any credible Bible scholar who has studied these texts—believer in god or not—claiming they know who the authors actually are.

>Why would guys like Peter put embarrassing things about themselves in book where they’re just trying to gain followers (Jesus calls Peter “Satan,” peter deneies Christ). If you’re tyring to lie to build a following, you don’t do that.

Can you demonstrate Peter authored any book of the Bible and explain how you can be sure he did?

More importantly, when did I claim to know what anyone’s motives were for authoring 2,000-year-old letters? I have no idea what motives some anonymous author had 2,000 years ago for writing a letter—and I am sure you don’t, either. More importantly though, whatever was originally written is now gone. What we have now are altered texts that are no longer representative of the original writings.

I don’t know if you’re inclined to read more. I had been giving you very brief replies. My thinking was that if you couldn’t even recognize your own reasoning was absurd (in my examples of how you reasoned about Gremlins vs. god), I wasn’t sure a lengthy and densely informational response would be of any use to you (and would just waste my time). That said, I did put together a response to you, but mainly to post to our blog for the benefit of others who might actually be inclined to learn from it. However, if my assessment of you is incorrect, and you can follow the information below, here it is for your edification, broken down into three (hopefully easy-to-digest) parts.

1. Your support for your belief using “you can’t prove it’s not true” is irrational. And here is why:
You asserted god exists and the Bible is true; and you challenged someone who does not believe god exists and the Bible is true by asking if the claims “god exists” and “the Bible is true” could be disproved. However, you admitted you could not disprove gremlins exist; and when you admitted that, you acknowledged only that “maybe” they exist, but you “don’t know” (meaning you aren’t committed to saying if they do or do not exist).

But as someone who did not believe gremlins exist, who admitted he could not prove they do not exist, if your argument (i.e., I believe god exists because that claim cannot be disproved) is convincing, why do you not now believe gremlins do exist? Until you say it is true that gremlins exist, you are not a person who believes gremlins exist. That is you are still a nonbeliever in the existence of gremlins. Your position is merely it is possible they could exist, not that you believe they, in fact, do.

If you do not find an inability to prove gremlins do not exist to be a convincing argument for their existence, why did you use that same line of argumentation with me for your god, repeatedly? If even you demonstrate you don’t accept it as compelling--what on Earth made you think anyone else would find it compelling?

2. “The Bible is true” does not make sense based on my understanding of the word “true.”
“True” as I understand it, generally means “correlating to demonstrable reality.” So, when you say “the Bible is true,” I assume you mean that if we examine all of the best evidence for things claimed in the Bible, it will show a consistent positive correlation to what the Bible claims about reality. Since this is not the case, I don’t know how you’re using “true.” Here are two examples of what I mean, one addressing extra-Biblical reality, and one addressing internal Biblical reality.

Example 1: Extra-Biblical example:
You asserted not that evolution is false, but that you believe god was the catalyst for evolution. If you aren’t disputing evolution, then we can say that, in fact, we agree the Bible is not true in the case of Genesis and the account of how humans came to exist on Earth. According to the Bible, man popped fully formed and already communicating using language. And ultimately this same first human was wearing clothing and using agriculture--straight from his magical beginnings from dirt.

If we look at what evolutionary biologists put forward as the model of human evolution, then the Bible is not “true.” There is fossil evidence, DNA, and beyond biological evolution, a demonstrable history of how and when human agriculture is first evidenced compared to how long humans had existed previously in nomadic or hunter-gatherer cultures. Additionally we can tell from excavations approximately when people began to fashion tools (and by proxy when the idea of “manufacturing” things, such as clothing, may have been introduced), and there is simply no evidence to support that the earliest humans would have been “truthfully” represented by the Genesis account. All of the evidence appears, in fact, not to correlate to that account as “true.”

Example 2: Internal Biblical Example:
The New Testament passage (Gospel of) John 7:53-8:11 is as good an example as any. As an atheist, I have no objection to agreeing that the men and women who are hired to translate the best modern translations of the Bible are qualified people for the job. They are expert at reading and interpreting ancient languages that the average person wouldn’t begin to have a clue about. Additionally, they are devoted specifically to the texts used within the Bible. These are men and women who have devoted significant portions of their lives and careers to the Biblical manuscripts specifically. And I accept them as “expert” when it comes to claims about those manuscripts.

In the NASB and NIV versions of the Bible (both reputable translations), if any person takes an interest in doing so, they have a wealth of input from these experts, literally, at their fingertips. There are marginal notes, footnotes, endnotes, etc., right on the pages where the text appears. Anyone can see what the translators have to say about the texts Christians are reading in their Bibles. And I can’t imagine anyone claiming the people inserting these notes are not qualified to giving the best opinions of what the best and most current data demonstrates about what is “true” about these texts.

Throughout the pages, there are many insertions of notes that alert the reader that the text is in question or is disputed. It will alert you that this or that verse here says X, but in some other available manuscripts it does not say X (or says Y instead).

I chose John 7:53-8:11, because it is probably one of the most famous stories in the Bible about Jesus. It is the story of the adulterous woman--who is brought before Jesus for judgment. He there puts forward the famous line “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” This has become a very popular story with Christians.

Yet, according to the translators’ notes, it isn’t included in the oldest and most reliable manuscripts. They say outright and boldly, right on the pages of the NASB, that the story was added to the text later. These are translators who have a vested interest in the production and sale of Bibles being a successful industry. They have no cause to undermine their source of income by claiming “it’s a fake!” And yet, that’s what they’re saying if you are someone who accepts this book as “true.” If any group had a reason to lie or be biased about the Bible including reliable content, it would be people who work in the Bible-selling industry, selling to people who, like you, want very badly to believe it is “true”--and yet they’re telling you (and me) it’s not.

So, the best and most reliable evidence, considered by the best experts in the field, with no reason for bias against the text, does not align with your claim “the Bible is true.” And you can see this yourself--as any Christian who is interested can also--just by opening a good Bible translation that includes translator notes.

So, I have no idea what you mean when you say “the Bible is true.” I see no evidence that it should not be considered to include lies, errors, falsehoods--whatever you want to call them—basically statements that do not correlate with the best evidence we have to judge against in reality.

3. Your claim “god exists” is so far a meaningless statement, to which I cannot respond—since it makes no sense as you have stated it.
So far you haven’t really explained what this claim means. I don’t know what you’re calling god, so I have no idea what to say about whether it exists or not. But for example, I accept the existence of many things—books, water, chairs, even oxygen (which can be demonstrated using balloons and fire, and many other methods). To me, “exist” is a word we use to assert that a particular item manifests in some way in demonstrable, material reality.

This is why it’s interesting that you said only that “gremlins may exist” after admitting you could not disprove them. If I were to go into a classroom of 10-year-olds and ask them if gremlins exist, they would inform me gremlins are fairytale, mythical creatures that do not, in fact, exist. Their assessment has nothing to do with gremlins having been disproved. It would be a statement of the extreme lack of evidence for the existence of gremlins. In other words, the people who assert gremlins cause machines to malfunction, have never been able to produce a demonstration of what they’re talking about. This leads the reasonable 10-year-old to assert that gremlins do not exist. That is, their manifestation within reality so far cannot be discerned from nothing.

So, we have two bins. One labeled “nonexistent” and one labeled “existence.” Everything starts off in the “nonexistent” bin. And once it unambiguously manifests in reality in some way—either on its own, like the sun, or by some demonstration, like oxygen--it goes into the bin of “existence.” What we don’t do is put items into the “existence” bin BEFORE they are demonstrated to exist or before they manifest self-evidently in some measurable fashion.

Interestingly, a 10-year-old gets this, but you are so unwilling to admit your argument “you can’t prove it doesn’t exist, ergo it’s reasonable to accept that it does” is a fail, that you have demonstrated you will even dishonestly assert you can’t really say gremlins don’t exist—even though you and I both know that if you were honest, you’d admit you don’t give a second thought to asserting gremlins are myths. A 10-year-old is not only more reasonable than you, then, but also more honest.

My question to you is whether this thing—whatever it is you’re calling god—”exists,” in that it demonstrates a manifestation in reality that we can discuss. Or whether it is indiscernible from nothing? And if it’s no different than nothing, I can’t agree that “nothing exists.” And I can’t really examine what we’re supposed to be talking about in such a case—and I can’t see how you could, either? I have no data points to confirm to even begin a dialog with you about it. When you have some manifestation or demonstration, come back and we’ll have “something” to talk about (rather than “nothing”).

Thanks for writing.



I’m sorry to say that after this exchange Aaron replied that he’d rather believe in god and be wrong, than not believe. That’s right, he threw Pascal’s Wager at me, after all this trouble I went to jotting down these notes. But knowing it would go to use at the blog allowed me to avoid feelings of futility and disappointment.

When I replied that Pascal’s Wager is a fail, but that he’d have to research it to find out why, he sent back a fairly large cut-and paste-apologist’s Web site content that asserted Pascal’s Wager was a fail because god demands devotion and real belief, not just someone playing a part.

I congratulated him on finding one reason Pascal’s Wager fails, and gave him a few others as a bonus point for having looked it up at all. Then alerted him that copying and pasting without giving credit to a source is plagiarism, because it’s like trying to claim someone else’s ideas as your own. He had asked me if maybe Matt would write back to him. I told him Matt is copied on all the tv e-list correspondences, but that his probability of a reply from Matt was quite low for two reasons:

1. He’d already said he’d rather believe and be wrong. If someone asserts they don’t care if they believe falsehoods, what is the point of anyone arguing with them about the their beliefs? I can’t imagine a greater waste of time to enter into.

2. The last copy-and-paste note (paragraphs and paragraphs of material) was indicative of a problem we often see with some mail correspondence. We ask people to contact us to discuss what they believe and why they believe it. Sending us reams and reams of what someone else believes for us to rebut is senseless. If they can’t explain what they believe and support what they believe, providing their own reasons, then maybe they’re not ready to assert it as their belief? If the person who wrote the content Aaron had stripped and sent to us wanted to challenge us about his beliefs, he’s welcome to do so. But nobody on our list is interested in arguing with random apologists’ web content through Aaron’s endless relays. What an easy conversation that would be from Aarson’s perspective? He wouldn’t have to think or type or explain anything—just copy and paste while we spend time crafting thoughtful responses using our actual reasoning.

To summarize: Nobody on our list is interested in a one-sided waste of our time.


  1. lol... enjoyed the info ... i did know there were many translations out there, but didn't know how many and other stuff ....
    But it kinda sounds like you just scolded an 8 year old (you know since 10 year olds are smarter, mental age and all)

  2. What a huge reply to someone who won't listen. I always try to avoid giving a lecture to theists in discussions. It is pointless to invest time and energy in educating someone who doesn't want to be educated.

    On the other hand, like you said, posting it on the forum provides a nice reference for anyone getting to the same point in a discussion as you did, Tracie. That doesn't make it completely useless.

  3. When will you realize that pascal's wager really is atheists' kryptonite!

  4. I like the existent/non-existent bin analogy Tracie. Very clear and concise. I have never really understood the whole "the bible says embarrassing things so it must be true" argument. It is like assuming that nobody could actually make mistakes or be dishonest therefore if it appears they are doing so they must in actuality be doing something clever and tricky.

    Or like that scene in The Princess Bride where they fellow is trying to deduce which cup the poison is in.

    "But Paul knows that I know that him putting an embarrassing passage in the bible would make me think that it is actually true, therefore he would be a fool to do so"

    ... or something

  5. Is this a common result with theist e-mail conversations? A careful, thoughtful, rational and logical response does not let the theist get to the point they were hoping for, so they decide to abandon logic, reason, and evidence entirely?

    I am struck with the image of someone upending a chess board to avoid losing, which really only deceives the person doing it. Any onlookers know exactly what really happened.

    I only hope that the arguments slowly sink in over time, and once Aaron is ready to allow the possibility that there is no good reason to believe, they can have some effect. I do not suppose anyone gives as honest a reason as "I believe in god because the adults I respected as a child told me he was real, and as an adult I am still afraid of the consequences of disobeying them or admitting that they might have been wrong."

    I did enjoy the parts about biblical authorship. It is a subject I have never had the patience to study myself. Thank you for the post.

  6. This guy's dopiness make me feel embarrassed to be named Aaron.

  7. @John:

    Yes, it is a common result. Generally it is expressed as "Well, that's where my faith comes in." This means "I'm done trying to rationally defend this--at this point I just can't. So, I plug in faith [believe it anyway]...and that makes it work [for me]."

    They don't hear "I can't rationally defend this, but believe it anyway," because to them the label faith has been so heavily endowed as "a virtuous" state/action. So, they see this as a _good_ explanation for continuing to believe even after the evidence has stopped supporting their assertions. But it's no explanation at all. It's just a restatement of the fact: You keep on believing even though the evidence stopped supporting your assertions is what faith MEANS, not what faith EXPLAINS.

    It's no better than asserting, "Well, that's where my gullibility comes in." Same statement, different words.

  8. Thanks for the post Tracie. It may have been lost on Aaron but it was a good bit of information for the atheists who read the blog. I didn't know a lot of the stuff you wrote about biblical authors and I especially enjoyed the existence/nonexistence bin analogy. I hear the "you can't prove God doesn't exist" argument way too often.

  9. Faith can be a troublesome word because it has such positive connotations associated with it, even in everyday language. Like "leap of faith", "keep the faith", "have faith in me","in good faith" etc, ect. It makes equivocation of the word a pretty powerful tool. Sometimes I wonder if we should stop arguing for the literal meaning of the word faith and simply use another. Instead of using their own chosen word, simply use credulous or something. Something that makes clear the intent behind the word when we use it without as much cultural baggage. *shrug*

  10. "...Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

    Matt 17:20

    I have yet to find a theist who can move anything by saying these magic words - I suppose that means they really didn't have as much faith as they claimed.

  11. @ChaosSong

    My mother gave me that line when I was like 12.

    So what did I do? I stood in my livingroom, staring off at some mountains, straining and grunting, trying to move them around.

    Obviously, it didn't work.

    But here's the thing. I didn't think to myself, "Gee wilikers, I must be doing something wrong." I thought to myself, "This is stupid. It doesn't work. She must not have meant it."

  12. Trace a few random thoughts of the email.

    A lot of christian's believe god requires a special exemption(pleading) to the non evidence argument because god is god and there is nothing higher plus the large amount of believer's serve as an irrevocable testament to his existence so it must be true.

    The reader probably uses a 'subjective truth' because most christian's I've talked with believe there is no objective truth to reality yet they fail to realize their vehicle wouldn't go down the road if that was true. A few have even commonly argued with me further their vehicle goes down the road because of the laws of god. I could just picture bumper sticker's "God Powered" instead of the more scary, "God is my co-pilot."

    A lot of christian's are "playing to get into heaven" because they live in fear of going to hell. - Pascal's Wager

    Faith is the default trump card christian's like to use when in losing arguments with atheist's.

  13. @JT

    It's a darn shame isn't it? Think of how much easier deep earth mining would be!

  14. Thanks for going through the effort. Useful information and another good chance to practice the art of majestic face-palming at the poor religious person.

  15. A correction above. As to say, most christian's I've talked with believe there is no objective truth except for god. All other human experiences other then god are subjective truths.

  16. A good free source of religious studies from Yale:

  17. 2. “The Bible is true” does not make sense based on my understanding of the word “true.”
    “True” as I understand it, generally means “correlating to demonstrable reality.” So, when you say “the Bible is true,” I assume you mean that if we examine all of the best evidence for things claimed in the Bible, it will show a consistent positive correlation to what the Bible claims about reality. Since this is not the case, I don’t know how you’re using "true".

    This is very well written. I don't think I've seen anyone point out the inconsistencies with those type of statements quite so well.

  18. Honest:

    I know you're just playing Christian's advocate, but here would be my replies:

    >A lot of christian's believe god requires a special exemption(pleading) to the non evidence argument because god is god and there is nothing higher

    I don't see how this exempts them from demonstrating what they mean by "exist" and "god"? If their god doesn't manifest, how is anyone supposed to know what they're calling god or have a conversation with them about it? It doesn't matter what they think about it. Where are they getting their data? If from a source like "The Bible," the question becomes, how did they determine it the claims in that book correlate to reality if they can't demonstrate a god manifesting in reality? There has to be "something" mapping to "god" or there's literally "nothing" mapping to god. If I can't examine their god, I can't validate their claims (and more importantly--neither can they). They can claim all day that it's higher, lower, wears a white tutu, is bigger than a bread box--it's irrelevant if we have no way to verify the claims.

    >plus the large amount of believer's serve as an irrevocable testament to his existence so it must be true.

    Argument from Popularity fallacy. Fail. He'd get to research that as well.

    >A lot of christian's are "playing to get into heaven" because they live in fear of going to hell. - Pascal's Wager

    Fortunately, he sent me content to an apologist's page he agreed with (after I told him Pascal was a fail), who explained god doesn't accept pretenders. So, he agreed Pascal failed after he bothered to look it up, but agreed still based on his assumption of an existent god. Ironically, then, Pascal fails even to a theist in this case, once he looks it up.

    >Faith is the default trump card christian's like to use when in losing arguments with atheist's.

    Except that it doesn't trump, it fails. It's no different than saying, "Oh yeah? Well, I have gullibility." Faith is just belief. If they say "I have faith even if I can't demonstrate it," they're just saying "I believe it even if I have no reason." The may feel they've trumped someone, but the moment you get the "faith" response extracted from them, you've gotten them to admit they believe for no reason but that they believe. That's not an explanation or justification. It's meaningless. "I believe because I believe." That doesn't actually explain your belief--it's just an assertion that you believe and can't offer any justification. Saying gullibility is a virtue doesn't make their appeal to it any more noble.

    >there is no objective truth except for god. All other human experiences other then god are subjective truths.

    Isn't their experience of god filtered through their human experience and understanding? So how can they trust their subjective experience in one case, but not others--especially since there are such a massive amount of conflicting claims from sincere believers?

    I'd say that nothing is more subjective than asserting attributes about a thing that can't be objectively verified. It's all "you" in that case.

  19. Well done! I think deep down it's not even Pascal's wager that keeps them in the flock. They just want to be part of the flock. It's a comfort, even if it means believing (or faking a belief in) something insanely unlikely.

    Sometimes I think the best we can do is back them into that corner of admitting that they believe because they just want to. We do them a favor by rebutting the bullshit and getting them to be honest with themselves.

    I tried to be a believer, and despite smiling and nodding like the other people in church, in the end I decided I didn't really want to be a fake believer. Fake believers don't get to sleep late on Sunday morning. (Real believers would presumably wake up in a sweat having dreamt about going to hell for missing church)

  20. Man I hate arguments of Biblical some editions of D&D manuals, many of the internal definitions, plots and rules are either outright fabrications or mind-boggling contradictions, and you don't even need to crack open a Bart Ehrman book to figure that one out, though 'Misquoting Jesus' is a fascinating read.

  21. Tracie, when you told Aaron "that if you couldn’t even recognize your own reasoning was absurd", it reminded me of a couple of things I found online recently, particularly the school of thought known as absurdism.

    In which it says, " 'The Absurd' refers to the conflict between the human tendency to seek inherent meaning in life and the human inability to find any." While I don't agree with everything in the article, I did find some interesting ideas, especially in reference to Jeremiah's post and the term "leap of faith," which apparently evolved from some of Kierkegaard's early works. How someone can recognize "The Absurd" in their actions or beliefs, but then actively ignore it.

    There is even a simple chart comparing, atheistic existentialism, theistic existentialism, absurdism, and nihilism, where I might possible send the next person I hear say an atheist believes in nothing.

    I think I am getting off topic a little, but I will leave one last thought. After doing research and taking time to respond to the claims of a theist, only to have them show that they considered nothing, are steadfast in their ideas, and still choose to believe because of faith, I am usually left with the feeling that they are closed minded, stubborn, etc. It makes me wonder what a theist thinks when it is the other way around, and they think they have made a great case. Sorry, just rambling.

  22. @Michael

    I dispute your blasphemy against D&D. AD&D 2nd Edition is clearly divinely inspired. I suppose you are going to refer me to "Misquoting Gygax" to try and sway me from my beliefs. So good night to you good sir! May Ed Greenwood have mercy on your soul.

  23. When I called out a theist for plagiarising their "answer" to my post on a discussion thread - I even replied to the points the other person had (badly) made, just to show that there was nothing to avoid discussing for me - she immediately jumped into projection. She said that she doubted that I was coming up with my posts completely on my own. In other words, they have crippled their conversational decency and honesty to the point that they no longer even expect such discourse from anyone else.
    As I was talking to several people on that thread, they came up with all sorts of statements to confront me. One was "just shut up" and another was "you also posted at HuffPo a few times, therefore I can make fun of your opinion".
    If that's the level of discourse "the other side" is comfortable with, I really don't know how to deal with these people. I wish we could just send them all back to elementary school to learn some basic conversation, research and debating skills and ethics.
    I'd find it a simple thing to shrug it off if my brain didn't keep telling me that one of these people offsets my vote in the next election. Ugh.

  24. On deeper consideration, I think this kind of correspondence is not a waste of time at all. Even if it wasn't posted on the blog, despite Aaron refusing to accept rational discourse or be convinced of anything new by the end of it, this most definitely helped spread the idea that there are atheists out there who have reached their lack of belief through careful examination. Aaron now has an experience with a skeptical atheist, which I expect he will share with other theists, making the propaganda of "atheists just want to ignore morality" etc. a little weaker.

    Cutting him off at the cut and paste stage was only prudent though. There are only so many hours in the day. Time to just link him to the iron chariots wiki.

  25. When arguing with the seriously deluded the topic of logical fallacies, comes up repeatedly. The rogues over at the Skeptic's Guide to the Universe have posted and defined their list of a top 20. A review might make some of them easier to recognize.

    I think we may be a little overly optimistic about the effectiveness of a reasoned argument
    when used to change what is largely an emotional point of view. Reason is only powerful when used on reasonable people.

  26. Regarding "The" bible, you could also have hit him with Bart Ehrman's lecture about the problems with copying and translating ancient text.

    I found it to be a very good presentation and very informative.

  27. @Jeremiah -- You dare invoke Greenwood!? So it is to be Holy War...I call upon all followers of the one true faith, D&D Version 3.0 (not those 3.5 cultists) to condemn you and your blasphemous "THACO"! Roll...for...initiative!

  28. I love, love, love this post. Tracie, you basically gave a Bible 101 lesson to a Christian. It is something that never ceases to amaze me: how poorly educated they are about the book they consider holy.

  29. What i hate about theist arguments, are those that any religion can use to "prove", any gods, just by changing the god name, like:

    "My god X, created the world, and the evidence its my holy book", or, "My god heal sick people, and this its evidence".

    Even if you point out, that this argument can be made to any gods, they just says: "no,no,no, my god its true, the others are false".

    At least Aaron, made clear that he dont have any evidence for it, maybe this is the begining of critical thinking, admiting you dont have any higher grounds for your claims...or not.

  30. @John K
    While I agree that these discussions are helpful I think that your assessment is a little off. I have never had an instance where I argued a theist down, and then had them acknowledge points or express consideration (except for weak theists, but those rarely make the effort to argue). I find it very unlikely that he would return to his safe zone and then admit "defeat".

    In my experience, the best we can hope for in these circumstances is that the seed of doubt will be placed. Theists have a remarkable ability to rationalize any inconsistency away; even if the method of rationalization flies in the face of facts and reason.

  31. God damn, Tracie Harris, it is inspiring to watch you do your thing! I said it before, and your post corroborates that contention: "You have an ability to win an argument, and you do so with much intellectual and academic prowess." I can relate to the frustration you experience in debating certain Theists. While my arguments, as compared to your's, may appear to be conducted at the 6th grade level, it, too, bothers me when, in making argument with certain theists, my most salient points often get dismissed as if they had never been advanced. I'm beginning to believe that theists have a special selectivity valve in their inner ears -- comforting auditory stimuli get routed from the ear directly to the brain, and disconcerting auditory messages get valved directly out the opposing ear. Of course, I have no evidence for the actual existence of this valve within the ears of Theists. It just brings me comfort to believe that it exists, and so I will simply continue to believe so!!!

  32. @Daemon6

    I was thinking more along the lines of breaking down the common "angry, just want to ignore the moral rules" stereotype. I have no illusion that he will admit defeat any time soon.

    He jumped in, got way more logical arguments than he was prepared to deal with, and even had to fall back to "I would rather believe and be wrong". That in itself is a certain admission of "defeat". I can't help but think that at some level he must have thought, wow, these people have really thought a lot about this stuff.

    It is mostly conjecture, but I am glad to have representatives like tracieh chipping away at what the theists like to say atheist positions are with sound arguments. It may not have the gratifying result of instant de-conversion, but doing things like this do make progress.

  33. @Michael Nam, Jeremiah
    There's no need for a war, can't you just agree that you're both heretics for not playing Risus?

  34. @Ithonicfury -- oy this is rapidly turning into the Thirty Years' War!!!

  35. Dungeons? Dragons? Pshaw.

    It's Spawn of Fashan or it's nothing.

  36. What the fuck has dungeons and dragons have to do with Tracie Harris's blog, you fucking mental midgets?

  37. @Peter: It's "Harris'" not "Harris's" ... don't add an extra 's' when indicating the possessive of a proper noun that ends with 's', especially when attempting to deride someone else as a "fucking mental midget". Learning proper grammar will certainly help you on your way to greater reading comprehension, and I wish you all the best in that endeavor.

    Which brings me to your question. It's true that some of us became a little derailed in the overall thread, but my first posting that set off the harmless fun was definitely pertinent ... something you would have picked up had you scrolled up slightly higher.

  38. Woah, we may have finally found our example of a dick atheist.

  39. @Michael Nam Though it pains me to come to the aid of someone who refers to others as "mental midgets" without just cause, the skeptic in me has to follow the evidence and inform you that adding a 's or just a ' to proper nouns ending in s are both correct.

  40. This is exactly why I have begun to put less and less effort into my dialogues. You go and you push and you give and you take and then you get to that point where you see the sentence begin with "Well, I just believe" and you know you're done.

    At that point you either bow out or stick around for a futile exchange that often degrades into ad hominems.

  41. the problem with theists is that they assumed that everything within their domain is right.... and everything outside it is wrong.

  42. I used to argue incessantly with believers, especially those using the word TRUTH in error. I have over the years come to the point where single sentences are all I care to generate anymore. Like, "That is a lie", or "Absolutely no evidence - you fail". I don't know if this is any help. But that being said, I stand in admiration of the effort that went into this blog and trying to deal with somebody who may be ill equipped to understand reason itself.


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