Christianity is the Best Thing that Ever Happened to the World

Sunday Musings

This afternoon, I was reading New York Times best seller Dinesh D’Souza’s What’s So Great about Christianity, and ran across this thought provoking paragraph on page 71:

“In ancient Greece and Rome, human life had very little value. The Spartans left weak children to die on the hillside. Infanticide was common, as it is even today in many parts of the world. Fathers who wanted sons had few qualms about drowning their newborn daughters. Human being were routinely bludgeoned to death or mauled by wild animals in the Roman gladiatorial arena. the greatest of the classical thinkers, from Seneca to Cicero, saw nothing wrong with these practices. Christianity banned them, and Christianity introduced the moral horror we now feel when we hear about them.”

As an undergraduate major in Ancient History with a minor in Greek language at the University of Maryland, I can tell you that D’Souza is spot on in his analysis of ancient Rome and Greece. Most people would be appalled at what they would find under the sanitized-for-modern-sensibilities pictures we often have painted for us of the major thinkers of the ancient world.

But Christ and Christianity changed all that. The Church is flawed and embarrassing to both Christ and many of his followers, but it is still the number one force for good in the world and still contains the gospel which gives hope to all men and women both for this life and the next.

Don’t forget that. And if you need some more encouragement about the winsomeness of a consistent, humble, but confident defense of the gospel, here’s a link that you might want to pass on to every doubting saint and every atheist who is truly seeking the truth that you know. It is the powerful testimony of a former atheist who came to faith, in large part, to reading atheist Richard Dawkins website! It will encourage your faith.


30 thoughts on “Christianity is the Best Thing that Ever Happened to the World

  1. While I concur that the ancient civilizations had a perverse sense of morality, my contention comes from your second assertion – that Christianity “changed all that.”

    I suppose we should define how “Christianity” is being used in this context. Are you referring to ‘Christianity’ as the social construct that is defined by the religion’s history? Or are you referring to ‘Christianity’ as the philosophical world view, in which the Bible is the holy scripture? If you answer the latter, do you hold the Bible to be infallible inerrant word of God?

    Look forward to your response!

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  2. Oscar,
    You don’t say what your “contention” is. Nevertheless, you asked a good question, though I don’t think it is an either/or issue as you have framed it. Still it is a valuable question and one that perhaps I should have anticipated if I had put more than 10 minutes thought into the post. So, “How am I defining Christianity?”

    By “Christianity”, I don’t mean Quran-burning Terry Jones or funeral-defiling Westboro Baptist. These repulsive aberrations have nothing to do with Christ and authentic Christianity derived from his teachings. They are instead a slander on the character of Christ and the nature of the Church. “Christianity” as used in the post, (let’s limit it to that) means the legacy left to the culture/world as a result of the life, teachings, death, burial, resurrection and establishment of followers who propagate his teachings.

    That is not to say that, in the name of Christ, some individuals and churches haven’t done horrific things. But on balance, without the great contributions of Christianity to the world, the world would be in a much sorrier state today, had Christ not been born, lived as he lived, taught what he taught, died the death he died, and risen from the grave with the promise that he would return.

    In answer to your specific question, “Do I hold the Bible to be [the] infallible [and] inerrant word of God?” Yes, personally, I do. But my views on that issue have little to do with the established benefit of Christianity to the world.

    Just one illustration: Northrop Frye, a literary critique, has made the case that much of western literature would have been impossible to write and is impossible to fully appreciate without first the existence of the Bible and an understanding of its contents and themes.

    Hope you can stop by again.

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  3. I purposefully didn’t state my contention simply because I did not want to be arguing against something that was different from what you had in mind.

    I agree that Christianity, as an entire enterprise, has brought much good – especially in the general umbrella of “art”. For example, much music created in the 17th, 18t, and even 19th centuries had a focus on sacred text and has, without a doubt, influenced music today. If we take your literary reference, much of the beauty of Shakespeare would be lost if we did not have an understanding of the teachings of the Bible. “Some rise by sin, and some by virtue fall.” (Measure for Measure)

    While I admit that Christians have become much more progressive within the moral Zeitgeist, this is not to say that much of what we would now consider to be immoral was defended using Christian theology. (i.e. slavery, woman’s suffrage, etc.) Furthermore, one cannot escape the horrible history of Christianity either (the Inquisition, the Crusades, etc.) Also, the reason I asked if you were a Bible literalist is due to my next point: You must admit that the Bible is, perhaps, one of the most immoral books perpetrated on mankind and, what is worse, is passed off as one that should be held to be as a moralistic standard.

    No, I think when looking at the track record, the Christian religion is not as great as one might have it to be. Instead, I would rather put science into the category as “greatest thing that happened to the world.”

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  4. Oscar,
    Glad you came back. Listen, give me some time. I had a phone-frustration day and I’m beat right now. I will try to dialog with you tomorrow. Maybe someone else wants to take the first stab at continuing the conversation.

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    1. Oscar,
      Welcome back. Still having some complicated phone problems that have now messed up my email so this will have to be short for now.

      I appreciate your thumbs up on Christianity’s net positive effect on the arts and literature. In your second paragraph you point out some of the shameful postures and positions taken by Christians, for example, using the Bible to justify slavery for a 140 years leading up to the Civil War. From there you move on to “the horrible history of Christianity” with regard to the Inquisition, the Crusades, etc. …

      The reality is that while those episodes are horrific, damnable, disgusting, and embarrassing they in no way represent the teaching of Christ. Yes, Christians in the name of Christ have tried to defend American slavery on the basis of Bible texts, but they were wrong, clearly wrong on biblical grounds. Exodus 21:16 makes it clear that the form of slavery practiced in the Colonies, Europe, and later the United States, was completely unbiblical and wicked. At the same time, it was Christians like John Newton, the former slave trader, who upon his conversion worked tirelessly along with Christians like William Willberforce and the Clapham sect and many others who eventually worked to end slavery first in Britain and later here in the United States.

      You called me a “Bible literalist.” If by that you mean that I take the Bible to mean what it says, when its genre is properly identified and interpreted, then yes, I am a Bible literalist. I don’t believe that trees clap their hands, or that tongues walk, or that David literally cried so many tears that his bed floated. When Jesus says he is “the door” I don’t look for a knob on his abdomen etc. Metaphors and parables and various figures of speech are usually perspicuous in their context when examined by the fair mind and with a little bit of study, most yield their meaning quickly.

      So no, I don’t have to admit at all the Bible is the “most immoral books perpetrated on mankind.” In fact, I have raised three children on its principles, and they are among the most moral people I know. They are outstanding friends, loyal and hard workers, great lovers of others, great givers of their time and treasure to help others and I can tell you that I would be a most wretched, angry, beast of man where it not for the influence of Christ and the Bible on my life.

      I understand that you “would rather put science into the category as greatest thing that happened to the world.” But that is problematic as well. Science has done some wonderful things, but even modern science would have been wholly impossible where it not for Christianity. Despite the Roman Catholic Church’s embarrassing treatment of Galileo, it was Christianity that gave the emerging science of the enlightenment the worldview of an ordered universe that sent men seeking to understand the heavens that God had created.

      Surely you have read The Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas Kuhn or might I suggest, J.P. Moreland’s Christianity and the Nature of Science: A Philosophical Investigation, or you might go back and read the book that started this post, What’s So Great About Christianity.

      Hope this is helpful. I look forward to more conversation.

      marty

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  5. I’m sorry that you are having phone and e-mail problems. Technology has become a necessary evil in which we are it’s slave. I don’t want you to feel pressured to respond when you have more pressing matters that need to be addressed first.

    “The reality is that while those episodes are horrific, damnable, disgusting, and embarrassing they in no way represent the teaching of Christ.”

    Well, if you mean they did not represent the specific teachings of the Son, Jesus, then you would be technically correct, but this does not deter from the fact that Jesus and God are one and, therefore, Jesus’ teachings would still be subject to the edicts of the O.T. Couple that with the verse, “For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” (Matthew 5:18 KJV), it is inescapable that we cannot simply cast aside the O.T. If you did want to, somehow, separate the O.T. and the N.T. in terms of governance, you would then have to exclude the 10 commandments from your teachings, as well as the widely accepted view amongst conservative Christians of a “justified” or “holy” war seeing as Jesus was one of the most pacifistic characters in all of literature. Indeed, the only sanctions of a justified war are found in the O.T., with Jesus explicitly condemning violence (my mind is failing me at the moment to recall specific passages). There are many more examples, but I don’t want to belabor the point. Of course, I do not even agree with much of the pacifistic nature of Jesus, but this is besides the point. While I am fully aware that the Bible contains moral teachings, every single Christian does not choose to follow the Bible to the hilt. If we continue with slavery, of course the slave-owners were fully justified according to Biblical teachings (btw, I’m not sure what your Exodus 20:16 reference has to do with slavery)! There are many different instances of slavery in the Bible. The one most Christians cite is mere ownership of fellow Jews to pay off debt, but they often cast aside other passages. For instance, the Bible clearly shows that females were ‘spoils of war’:

    “When thou goest forth to war against thine enemies, and the LORD thy God hath delivered them into thine hands, and thou hast taken them captive, And seest among the captives a beautiful woman, and hast a desire unto her, that thou wouldest have her to thy wife; Then thou shalt bring her home to thine house, and she shall shave her head, and pare her nails; And she shall put the raiment of her captivity from off her, and shall remain in thine house, and bewail her father and her mother a full month: and after that thou shalt go in unto her, and be her husband, and she shall be thy wife. And it shall be, if thou have no delight in her, then thou shalt let her go whither she will; but thou shalt not sell her at all for money, thou shalt not make merchandise of her, because thou hast humbled her.” Deuteronomy 21:10-14

    I could continue as there are many verses that highlight my case, but I think you get my point. Of course, one needn’t look far when trying to substantiate the claim that Christians impose their own morality on to the Bible when we simply look at the issue of homosexuality (I have no clue what your stance is on the issue, but that does not ultimately matter). Often cited is Leviticus, “If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.” (20:13) they leave out the last tid-bit (why? I don’t know either.) However, in the same book, we find an inordinate amount of dietary laws that make up the Kosher meal plan, which Christians do not adhere to (Leviticus 11, I believe).

    Concerning your claims that Christianity has aided science, I would have to make a strong assertion that this is false. I have not read the books you offered (college has substantially decreased my time to read for pleasure and, thusly, I am not as literate as I should be. Sorry. Although, I have no doubt that all those books were written by Christians and, from my experience, many of those books are riddled with factual errors), and would not know how their arguments went, but history is quite clear that religion (and Christianity, specifically) has caused the stultification of knowledge time and time again. It is telling that you would cite the Age of Enlightenment, as this was the time where religion was starting to lose it’s theocratic grip on the world. Ironically, it was also those of religious faith that have provided the foundation for what many Christians now consider to be non-science – I am, of course, talking about the Big Bang Theory and Darwinian evolution. Furthermore, while you may claim that many scientists happened to be religious, this in no way implies that it was their religious belief that influenced their scientific contributions, that is a non sequitor and cannot be substantiated. Honestly, on merely the Big Bang theory and evolution alone, I could build an insurmountable case on how Christianity is causing the stultification of scientific education right now.

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  6. Still struggling to get my email account back up and understand my new phone. But here are a couple of bullet points.

    * Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions is the standard and indispensable primer on any discussion of the philosophy of science. Science magazine called it “A landmark in intellectual history.” He taught at MIT and Harvard and there is no evidence that I know of that he was a Christian.

    * J.P. Moreland is a Christian and he is also brilliant. His PhD. is from the University of Southern California where he studied under the philosophy department chair Dallas Willard. He is one of the foremost living thinkers on the philosophy of science and can’t be easily dismissed, “as he is probably a Christian.” Ideas are ideas. And the thought matter of Dr. Moreland’s book is important. The fact that he is a Christian is incidental. An illustration: Ammonia was discovered when a alchemist in the middle ages boiled toadstools in urine. The origin of the discovery does not discount the value of the discovery.

    * You seriously need to get a modern translation of the Bible bro! Lol ; ). Seriously, the KJV is a landmark in literary history and is the basis of some of the most memorable phrases in English literature. Indeed, English as a language is radically transformed through its influence. But there have been so many new discoveries of texts, contexts, and culture that no translation that was done 400 years ago can do full justice to the author’s intention. In addition, the use of words changes over time. “Conversation” as used by the translators of the KJV has a completely different meaning than it does in our day. The modern reader will be led astray if they import their modern understanding of the “conversation” into the biblical text.

    * The import of the Exodus 21:16 passage is that kidnapping (which is how all slaves started their journey away from the place of birth) was condemned in the Bible. A fact that was conveniently overlooked by slave-sellers and owners for their own reasons.

    * Yes, Jesus is identified with God. And he is specifically identified with the God of the Old Testament, the God who revealed himself to the Moses in the burning bush. But in Christian theology, the new covenant represents a new way in God’s dealings with man.

    * on the Big Bang, a great book, you may want to get your hands on is William Lane Craig’s, The Existence of God and the Beginning of the Universe. It contains a very intriguing discussion of the Kalam Cosmological Argument (originally a Moslem argument, I believe) for the existence of God based on the existence of time. I think you might find it very thought provoking.

    Got to go solve my email problem.

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  7. Hi Oscar,

    A few quick thoughts:
    1) On the slavery discussion – 1 Timothy 1:10 clearly cites “enslavers”, that is literally in the original Greek “those who take someone captive in order to sell him into slavery”, in a list of offenses perpetrated by the “lawless and disobedient”. So this New Testament passage clearly says that “those who take someone captive in order to sell him into slavery” are practicing something that is not in line with the Christian faith. It is also necessary to point out the differences in slavery in the Roman world and slavery in the U.S. The differences are many and significant to the entire discussion, but one key difference was that Roman slavery was not race-based whereas American slavery was.

    2) A proper understanding of biblical context, genre and authorial intent are critical to discussions relating to the Bible and the Christian faith. It is not sufficient to simply take a verse out of its context and use it to support one’s own view or agenda. This is precisely the strategy used by those Christians who wrongly supported slavery and those who perpetrated the numerous atrocities cited above.

    3) Scholarly, robust and reasonable books have been written in response to each of the objections you have cited or alluded to above (these are common objections to the Christian faith) and I would encourage you to dedicate time and energy to making sure you are forming your thoughts on these topics based on a balanced diet of views on the issues, which leads me to my fourth and most important comment…

    4) The issues you raise are important and entirely worth pursuing further. I have done so myself over the years and have found that, when presented with a full (non-caricatured) picture of the Bible, these objections hold little water. Although these issues are important and are not to be merely dismissed, they are not of first importance. The questions that are of first importance are:
    a) Did Jesus really rise from the dead?
    b) Did Jesus really say the things attributed to him in the Bible? If so, he is either a liar, a lunatic or the Lord of all. Based on the claims of Jesus, he cannot be labeled simply a good, moral teacher
    The Resurrection of Jesus is the linchpin of the Christian faith; no resurrection, no legitimacy to Christianity. If the resurrection in fact occurred, the implications are multi-faceted, far reaching and of eternal significance…

    I would strongly recommend 2 books and would love to hear your thoughts if you ever find time to read them: The Reason for God by Tim Keller and The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel. I think you will find them both stimulating (yet not obtuse) and challenging to the views you likely have been fed in your education thus far. Lee Strobel is a former journalist for the Chicago Tribune who set out to write a book to support his atheistic views and dispel Christianity once and for all. In the process of doing his research for the book, he realized that the claims of Christianity are incredibly compelling and in fact the best conclusion based on the evidence of history, science and other fields is that Christianity is true.

    I know life in college can be hectic and busy, but I want to encourage you that chasing down, I mean really chasing down and wrestling with the claims of Jesus is of utmost importance and will be the only thing that really matters to you 1,000 years from now.

    “I am the way, and the truth and the life, nobody comes to the Father except through me” – Jesus (John 14:6)

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  8. I did not mean to imply that Christians could not be forthright with their claims and I apologize if I gave that impression. I merely meant to state that many of the Christian apologetic books that I have read, especially pertaining to science, are riddled with factual inaccuracies. For example, I had suggested to me by a fellow blogger to read the “The Greatest Hoax on Earth?” by Dr. Safarti which was a response to “The Greatest Show on Earth” by Richard Dawkins. As I had enjoyed some interesting debates with this blogger, I trusted his judgement and decided to read the book. Much to my disappointment, I couldn’t get passed the first couple of chapters without witnessing gross misunderstandings of the theory of evolution.

    Regarding the Exodus passage, you had previously said 20:16 as opposed to 21:16. After reading the corrected passage, I now understand why you cited it. 🙂

    Having said that, while this passage may condemn this specific type of slavery, I fail to see how this justifies the numerous instances where slavery was enacted by the Israelites. I fail to see how you can consolidate one edict by God while God clearly condones slavery in other passages. Also, I don’t understand your suggestion of getting a new translation. Does your translation take out unsavory passages? If it simply a matter of where your translation corrects mistranslations in the KJV, there are hundreds of examples I could use of immorality in the Bible. I simply chose to restrict my scope to slavery.

    Regarding your New Covenant explanation, the New Covenant was enacted by Jesus (well, not really, as it’s merely a theological framework put on by future theologians to give a general overview of the Bible, but you know what I mean) as a way to replace the Noahatic covenant (and it’s extension by the Davidic covenant) and was merely used to replace a sacrifice of animals with the final sacrifice of Jesus. The Old/New Covenant argument is frequently misused as it only pertains to salvation and not to moral edicts. Of course, there are the other covenential arguments that state that God decided to extend his plan of salvation to all instead of merely the Jewish people, but that doesn’t really have to do with morality either. However, for the sake of argument, suppose that the New Covenant did supersede the old barbaric archaic moral laws. What does this say of the morality and the omniscience of god? One would think that a necessarily moral being would have used the correct set of moral edicts the first go around.

    While I did incorrectly assume the previous authors you mentioned were Christian (although, to be fair, Dinesh D’Souza is Christian), I am acutely aware of the arguments proffered by Craig, as he uses the same contrived five arguments in every single one of his debates. If you want, I could provide you my own refutation of the Kalam argument? I know Dawkins and Barker kind of deal with it in their books, but it is by no means comprehensive. Frankly, I find Dawkins’ attempt at its refutation rather comical lol.

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  9. One other comment: the Bible is not first and foremost a book of morals. It is first and foremost a story of redemption. The story of how the good, omniscient, omnipotent Creator of the universe intervened in history in order to redeem His rebellious creatures based on His own love, mercy and grace. These creatures, who owe everything to their Creator and rightful King, have rebelled and continue to rebel against their God. The just punishment for rebellion against our Creator God and King is death, both physical and spiritual, but God the Son, in His grace and mercy became a human being in order to take on the punishment that rightly belongs to you and me and everyone else who has rebelled against God by rejecting His rightful rule over our lives. This was the greatest act of love imaginable when one considers the pain and suffering Jesus (the Son of God!) endured in the process. The appropriate response to such love and grace is to trust God by putting faith in the person of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, to repent of your sins and to begin a journey of following Jesus.

    I believe many of your objections to the Bible as immoral are based on a misunderstanding of this story and do not properly account for the claim from the Bible that God is Creator and that we are rebellious creatures deserving of death. I believe this is at the root of your objections above and if you disagree with this clear claim of the Bible of course you will view the Bible as immoral because you are forcing your own moral system on a book that has a different basis for its morality.

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  10. @Tony

    While I respect your opinion, I think you may have a grave misapprehension of my understanding of the Bible. To be honest, you had me going. You had me considering that perhaps there was a Christian apologetic that I hadn’t read that had legitimate arguments…and then you cited Lee Strobel and my hopes were dashed. Seriously, I don’t know if I can take you seriously after citing Lee Strobel. At least if you would have cited Craig or Plantiga or even Douglas Wilson (for goodness sake) would I have considered your claims substantial, but seriously, Lee Strobel is barely a rung above Ray Comfort with his special pleading at objectivity with his trite and contrived, “I used to be an atheist” schpeal (Kirk Cameron anyone?)

    I mean did it seem that I had a superficial understanding of theology when I started talking about the numerous covenants within the Bible? Did it seem like I have not considered many theological and philosophical arguments for the existence of a deity when I offered my own refutation of the Kalam argument? I don’t mean to sound pretentious, but you must understand that it insults my intelligence when you tell me that I need to learn theology when you yourself did not even address the issue. You presume to know much about my upbringing when you say such statements as, “I think you will find them both stimulating (yet not obtuse) and challenging to the views you likely have been fed in your education thus far.” Would it surprise you to know that I was a fundamental Baptist until simply a few months ago (I’m 20 and, indeed, in college) and that it was actually upon investigating the purported evidence of Christianity that I became an atheist? Would it surprise you if I said that I am probably aware of most arguments made in favor of a deity and, more specifically, the Christian god? Honestly, I would not mind having an actual debate with you if you think that I have not considered the teachings of Christianity.

    Furthermore, the only response you actually gave was another verse which condemned a form of slavery. I didn’t think I needed to literally cite every passage which condoned acts of slavery, but if you do not address my main contention, I will. Just for ease, I will restate my contention as found in my last reply to Marty:

    “However, for the sake of argument, suppose that the New Covenant did supersede the old barbaric archaic moral laws [which it doesn’t]. What does this say of the morality and the omniscience of god? One would think that a necessarily moral being would have used the correct set of moral edicts the first go around.”

    More to the point, however, can you find me a verse that is able to coalesce the promotion and, indeed, the encouragement of slavery found in the Old Testament with whatever passage you can find condemning slavery? All this is without even stating your gravely ill-advised understanding of slavery in general and especially to how it is portrayed in the Bible. So, please, before you start saying that I need to read Strobel, perhaps you should be the one who actually learns the theology?

    I apologize for coming off as a pontificating pretentious prick in my response, but I don’t take kindly to someone who tells me that I have a superficial understanding of any subject that I am debating, let alone a subject that I clearly demonstrated that I know at least a little about. I have worked hard all my life to remain intellectually honest in all my pursuits and it is a slap in the face when someone says that I am being anything less. I don’t know what your interactions have been with atheists, but you shouldn’t assume that we are all arrogant dunces with the slightest modicum of understanding of your religion. If you want to do statistics, it is actually more likely that an atheist will know more about Christianity than an actual Christian. Knowing this, it takes extreme arrogance to presume that I do not understand your religion.

    Also the whole C.S. Lewis reference (did you think it was a Strobel reference?) of, “…If so, he is either a liar, a lunatic or the Lord of all…” phrase has been adequately dismantled by many secular scholars and it is, frankly, embarrassing that this argument was even proffered.

    “One other comment: the Bible is not first and foremost a book of morals. It is first and foremost a story of redemption.”

    While I would tend to agree with you, if you examine why we are talking about morality and slavery with respect to the original post, you will see why this statement is innocuous.

    “I believe many of your objections to the Bible as immoral are based on a misunderstanding of this story and do not properly account for the claim from the Bible that God is Creator and that we are rebellious creatures deserving of death.”

    And this, ladies and gentleman, is perhaps the single greatest reason why I think that Christianity has perversed the morals of sane reasonable people. It truly takes a warped morality to think that one deserves an everlasting torment over something which we, ultimately, had no control over. Off this single statement could I build a case in opposition to the thesis of the original post.

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  11. Oscar,

    I am sorry to hear that things I wrote were offensive and insulting to you. Nothing I wrote was intended to elicit that type of response in you. I am also sorry to hear that the resources I recommended were insulting to you as you feel you are intellectually superior to Lee Strobel and the content of his book. Have you read the book? I would be curious to know which parts of his book were so grossly inaccurate and subjective as to elicit such offense at its mere recommendation.

    You took great offense based on your opinion that I have gravely misapprehended your understanding of the Bible. You go on to argue that you do understand the Bible based on your background, your prior reading and your use of certain theological language, but based on your conclusions and the arguments/objections you put forth above, I do think you have a fundamental misunderstanding of the Bible. Knowledge does not equal understanding. That is not meant to be an insult, merely my observation based on your objections.

    I guess one of my points was that in order to reject Christianity you don’t have to cite a bunch of verses that support “immoral” practices or pick apart the book of Jonah or take any other variety of approaches that seek to undermine Christianity. It is really more simple and basic than that. If you disagree with the basic assertion of the Bible that “God is Creator and that we are rebellious creatures deserving of death” then of course you are going to view the Bible as immoral and reject Christianity. If you reject this assertion and dismiss it as an impossibility, no matter how many books you read, how many debates you partake in, you aren’t going to find a “legitimate” argument for Christianity.

    Gospel means “good news”, but who needs “good news” if one denies the bad news (which is that we are guilty before God for rebellion and can do nothing on our own to rectify this situation)? Jesus willingly went to the cross because he believed this bad news and knew he was the only solution to our problem. Jesus held this “warped morality”, as you refer to it. All I was trying to point out (and not in any condescending or insulting way) is that your real problem is with Jesus because everything he ever did was toward the goal of providing a solution to our problem, a problem which (if am understanding you) you don’t think is real.

    I just want to reiterate that I am not insulting you or your intelligence, I am sure you are very intelligent and well read. Hope to hear from you again.

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  12. Oh, one other thing I forgot to ask before, why is the Lewis reference “embarrassing”? How has it been “dismantled”?

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  13. Hello Oscar,
    I have been following the discussion here for the past couple days. I am hesitant to jump in at this point because I am interested to read your response to Greazel’s posts from this afternoon first. Perhaps I will add a couple questions I have that I think pertain to Greazel’s last posts. Before my questions, though, let me say that I appreciate the time and thought you have put into this discussion. It is obvious that these issues matter to you and I can tell that you have worked hard to pursue intellectual honesty in these matters. I commend you for that. I appreciate what you have written and how you have wrestled deeply with these important matters because your discussion here has challenged me to think more deeply about what I believe about God, the Bible, Christianity, and your specific objections. For this, thanks.

    Here are a couple of my questions:
    1) First, I am curious to know if removing six letters from Marty’s title would change your response in any way? If instead of writing “Christianity is the Best Thing that Ever Happened to the World,” Marty had written, “Christ is the Best Thing that Ever Happened to the World,” would you still disagree? If so, on what grounds?

    2) Knowing you grew up in a fundamental Baptist context and 3 months ago became an atheist, I am curious to know what have been the significant events in your spiritual journey that contributed to bringing you where you are now? It seems much of your journey to atheism has been a result of your intellectual examinations, but what else has contributed? I know others who grew up in a similar setting and struggled against the harsh rules and implicit teaching that you had to “earn” God’s love and acceptance – Was this your experience at all?

    3) Do you think it is possible to be deeply intellectual and deeply Christian simultaneously or do you view those as mutually exclusive?

    I would love to hear your response after you have a chance to respond to Greazel’s posts.

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  14. Let me begin by apologizing for my earlier response. While I still stand by what I said, I definitely could have been a bit nicer about it. But I took a nap and am right as rain. I have also invited another Christian whom I am having a discussion with, as well, and he brought up Lee Strobel. I hope no one minds. I don’t know if he will join us. SO, let’s get to it:

    @Tony Nord

    Wow. This may get confusing if we continue our conversation for awhile with two Tonys lol.

    “1) First, I am curious to know if removing six letters from Marty’s title would change your response in any way? If instead of writing “Christianity is the Best Thing that Ever Happened to the World,” Marty had written, “Christ is the Best Thing that Ever Happened to the World,” would you still disagree? If so, on what grounds?”

    This is actually an interesting question and I suppose my answer would depend on which perspective we are taking. If we were assuming my world view (that the Christian conception of a deity does not exist), then I would say, yes, Christ has, thus far, been the best thing that happened to the world. I would have to add the addendum, however, that as science advances more and more each day, science will quickly surpass Christ in a secular humanistic world. Now, if we were to assume your world view, that Christ is an actual entity, then I would unapologetically say that the Christ is a deplorable character. I have frequently said that, even if one were to prove to me somehow that Christ existed, I would still refuse to worship. I couldn’t worship someone whom I had absolutely no respect for. I know that might not be a satisfactory answer, but every time I start talking about the (im)morality of the God of the Bible, I tend not to stop lol. However, if you want me to expound, I’ll be happy to.

    “2) Knowing you grew up in a fundamental Baptist context and 3 months ago became an atheist, I am curious to know what have been the significant events in your spiritual journey that contributed to bringing you where you are now? It seems much of your journey to atheism has been a result of your intellectual examinations, but what else has contributed? I know others who grew up in a similar setting and struggled against the harsh rules and implicit teaching that you had to “earn” God’s love and acceptance – Was this your experience at all?

    I actually had a really good upbringing within Christianity. My mother is Pentecostal, but, even from a young age, I never bought in to the doctrines of the denomination. When I was about 16, I decided to become a fundamental Baptist and found a really caring and loving church. I remained a Christian my first two years in college (I was also still pre-med lol). I was doing my devotions and was in 1Peter and eventually came to 1Peter3:15. I realized that, while I knew my theology, I had never really explored the arguments against my beliefs. The rest is history.

    “3) Do you think it is possible to be deeply intellectual and deeply Christian simultaneously or do you view those as mutually exclusive?”

    Of course! Simply because we may not have the same beliefs says nothing about their intellect. The brain is able to compartmentalize quite well(I’ll refer to the brain a lot because I was studying to become a neurosurgeon) and, in most cases, people simply do not employ their reasoning abilities to their belief system, for many reasons. I would never say that those of religious beliefs are not smart (though, I have my doubts about some “Christian apologetics”, which I’ll be addressing later). My best friend is a Christian and he’ll probably end up transforming the healthcare system in Jamaica within the next 15 years. I admire theologians like Craig, Plantiga, Kirkegaard, etc. I think their arguments are misguided, but that’s another issue. Also, I greatly admire Ken Miller.

    @Tony Greazel

    “I am sorry to hear that things I wrote were offensive and insulting to you. Nothing I wrote was intended to elicit that type of response in you. I am also sorry to hear that the resources I recommended were insulting to you as you feel you are intellectually superior to Lee Strobel and the content of his book. Have you read the book? I would be curious to know which parts of his book were so grossly inaccurate and subjective as to elicit such offense at its mere recommendation.”

    See, it’s this fake attempt at humility that I don’t appreciate. I never claimed to be intellectually superior, I was merely stating that the arguments proffered by Strobel, especially, typify the basic misunderstandings of multiple fields of science and philosophy and, what is worse, people believe him because he always starts off with the “I used to be an atheist.” I love exploring arguments that challenge my world view and would, in an instant, change my beliefs if they were proven to be contradictory. I have no time, however, for men like Strobel who take on a fake veneer of objectivity, yet examines the evidence so poorly that it truly boggles the mind that he is so popular. I encourage you to check out this series (http://www.youtube.com/playlist?p=9FD54AE47F50D54B) to see my point. While the series is a bit blunt and there are actually some factual errors in it, for the most part, it honestly analyzes Strobel.

    “You took great offense based on your opinion that I have gravely misapprehended your understanding of the Bible. You go on to argue that you do understand the Bible based on your background, your prior reading and your use of certain theological language, but based on your conclusions and the arguments/objections you put forth above, I do think you have a fundamental misunderstanding of the Bible. Knowledge does not equal understanding. That is not meant to be an insult, merely my observation based on your objections.”

    While I agree with your general premise that knowledge =/= understanding, I feel to see how it is applicable because a) you have not shown to me where I was wrong (you just said I was) and b) you have failed to address my contentions. If you want to continue an honest discussion, then I would ask you to please address the issues and stop dodging the point.

    “I guess one of my points was that in order to reject Christianity you don’t have to cite a bunch of verses that support “immoral” practices or pick apart the book of Jonah or take any other variety of approaches that seek to undermine Christianity. It is really more simple and basic than that. If you disagree with the basic assertion of the Bible that “God is Creator and that we are rebellious creatures deserving of death” then of course you are going to view the Bible as immoral and reject Christianity. If you reject this assertion and dismiss it as an impossibility, no matter how many books you read, how many debates you partake in, you aren’t going to find a “legitimate” argument for Christianity. Gospel means “good news”, but who needs “good news” if one denies the bad news (which is that we are guilty before God for rebellion and can do nothing on our own to rectify this situation)? Jesus willingly went to the cross because he believed this bad news and knew he was the only solution to our problem. Jesus held this “warped morality”, as you refer to it. All I was trying to point out (and not in any condescending or insulting way) is that your real problem is with Jesus because everything he ever did was toward the goal of providing a solution to our problem, a problem which (if am understanding you) you don’t think is real.

    I was really trying to avoid a discussion of the immorality of the Bible because I don’t hold back once I get started, but it seems that the issue cannot be avoided. My response to the “we deserve death” assertion can be found in my next comment. Just allow me some time to gather my thoughts and to write it…

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  15. You, as a Christian, maintain that my eternal future is either one of eternal happiness or eternal torment. There is no middle ground for those who have not heard of your religion. There is no middle ground for those who could not honestly distinguish the difference between your religion and every other religion. In order for me to experience this eternal happiness, you would have me believe in a being in which there is no rational justification to believe in. More precisely, you would have me believe in a being that is internally contradictory (based on the Christian attributions such as omnipotence, omniscience, etc.) You would have me believe in a deity that somehow impregnated a woman, became a man while simultaneously still being three distinct entities, and sacrificed himself/his son for sins that I committed against a god that I did not know existed.

    Let us partake in a little thought experiment. For the sake of argument, let’s say I choose to adhere to these propositions. Let’s say that, when I die, the Lord will greet me saying, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.” If I die and spend an eternity in heaven with the knowledge that there are billions upon billions who are suffering an eternity of torment, I will not be partaking in an eternity of happiness. Instead, what I would be experiencing would be an eternity of anguish, of somber, for those who are afflicted by this incessant tortuous punishment. If the circumstances of heaven are such that they afford me to forget or to not care that my loved ones are suffering so severely, then it will not be me in heaven, it will be but a vacuous shell. It will be a person whom I would, on earth, show a great deal of disgust and contempt for because of his antipathy towards human suffering – it will be something without it’s free will. Finally, if my natural character is such that I need not be changed or manipulated into being comfortable with the fact that so many loving and ethical people are spending an eternity in hell, then perhaps, my dear Christian, I do not deserve heaven.

    You see, salvation, according to the Christian doctrine, is not predicated on anything but simply guessing the correct set of propositions. The probability of you being born into this religion are fairly decent in America, but what of the rest of the world? I do not see how you can morally justify an eternity of hell for those who simply had the bad luck of being born in the wrong country. This probability game becomes even more terrifying if the Calvinists are right and we are predestined. What does this say of the benevolence of your god?

    Let me ask you, how would you have done it? Would you have created a hell or simply allowed the sinner’s souls to cease to exist? Let us examine this facet of God, however. You would have me believe that your God is a necessarily moral being, an omnibenevolent being. Let us examine these claims whilst pondering the case of Elizabeth Fritzl. In case you are unfamiliar with the story or need a brush up, allow me to regale (I will be semi-quoting Hitchens). For two decades, this poor woman was locked away in secret, was raped, beaten, sodomized, and impregnated multiple times. For two decades. By her father. Imagine how she must have begged. Imagine how she must have pleaded. Imagine how she must have cried out to God to save her for twenty years and nothing. Heaven sat back and watched this with indifference (I will be addressing free will later). Now you tell me that this is all justified because it will be paid back in another life? (deviating from Hitchens now) Well, let us us suppose that in her misery she rejected God. Suppose that, one night while crying on whatever the monster allowed her to sleep on, she thought there was no God. How could there be? Are you telling me that God allowed her to suffer that and then followed that by her eventual eternal torture? I don’t see how you can look anyone in the face, tell them this, and be morally and ethically serious.

    This story, however, pales in comparison to the Bible. I’ll just address one story: the story of the Exodus. When Moses told the Pharaoh to let the Israelites do what happened? God intentionally hardened Pharaoh’s heart so that He may inflict His own creation (the Egyptians) with lice, fleas, locusts, famine, hail, darkness. After all this, did God punish Pharaoh? No. He murdered children. He murdered countless children for no other purpose than to demonstrate his own power. Christians hear these stories and don’t even realize how morally repugnant their God is. When God told Abraham to sacrifice his son, Abraham should have said, “NO!” If God were to ever tell me to sacrifice my only son, whom I loved and cherished, if God told me to gut my kid just so I could prove my loyalty to him, I would spit in His proverbial face. What would you do? Be honest.

    But, alas, none of this will matter to you because, as you say, we deserve it! You may claim that all these terrible things happen because men are evil and fallen. This argument doesn’t stand up against even a small attempt at examination and I will demonstrate why. Let me ask you, why doesn’t God reveal Himself to us? Surely you would agree that this revelation would, undoubtedly, save billions of people. Free will? He doesn’t want to impose on our free will? Knowledge does not negate free will. In the case of the fallen angels, they were in His presence and they still chose to reject Him. So, again, I ask, why not reveal Himself? Does he not want to save those billions of people?

    And this last question reveals what should be the Christian’s greatest concern. You don’t know anything about your God. You hope He is loving. With all the contrived arguments Christians try to trap an atheist with, the truth of the matter is that the Christian is in a much more terrible position. You can never know if God just has a cruel sense of humor and He sends the believers to hell and sinners to heaven. You can never know if your God will one day command you to commit mass genocide (Hitler anyone?). The morality of a Christian is non-existent (don’t try to misconstrue my words. I’m not saying your immoral). Your morality is predicated on what you think the morals of God are. This claim to objective morality to which all religious people adhere to is precisely why there will always be conflict in this world. Because you all think you’re right and the sad thing is, you don’t even know if you are. Which begs the question, can a Christian truly know right from wrong? You have no standard for what is right and what is wrong. All you have is God’s standard and you have no way of knowing if God’s standard is right or wrong. If God’s standard were to kill puppies, the Christian would have to accept it. You are better than this. You are better than the teachings of your God.

    I think I’ll leave it at that because I can already feel myself going into objective morality, which will be at least 10 more paragraphs.

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  16. Oscar,

    It is very clear that you have thought much about these things. Unlike most non-Christians, you have actually wrestled with the claims of Christ and the Bible. It is also very clear that the presuppositions that you are operating from are different than those presented in the Bible. Neither your set of presuppositions nor those of the Bible can be “proven” to be true or to be false. I would never claim that the existence of God can be proven using only science and “facts”. However, the existence of the God of the Bible cannot be entirely falsified either, to do so would require an omniscience which no human has. Your views as an atheist require just as much faith as my views as a Christian. It is only the objects of our faiths that differ. You wonder (a la Bertrand Russell) why God doesn’t reveal Himself, but God has revealed Himself many, many times, in many, many different ways. You want Him to reveal Himself to you in the way you want Him to reveal Himself.

    Your last reply is full of comments asking us to consider what we would do if we were God. You repeatedly put yourself in the place of God, passing judgment on Him and His ways. If in fact God is who He claims to be in the Bible (omniscient, omnipotent, etc.), should we not expect that there will be some things which our finite minds cannot comprehend fully? I wonder if you don’t take too lightly the gap that exists between yourself (and all humans) and God.

    I realize I am not giving full answers to all your points, for that I apologize, life is busy, I don’t have time to engage in a full out debate that goes point by point, I am just trying to get to the root of the issues as I see it so as to not waste anyones time. I wish I had hours and days to build argument upon argument to show you exactly how I would support my statements and conclusions. I also wish we could get together for coffee and eliminate the limitations posed by blog communication (tone is not something I have learned how to communicate electronically). Oscar, honestly, I am not taking the time to respond to these posts because I want to win an argument, whether you agree with me or not, I can tell you that the only motivation behind my posts is love. I think it is good that you are wrestling and thinking on these things – continue to do so, but I want to encourage you to not sell yourself short by coming to any conclusions too quickly (one way or another). You (likely) have a lot of life left to be lived, keep thinking, use the brain that God gave you, ask for His help. Thousands of people have wrestled with the exact same issues you voice in your last post – some end up atheists or agnostics, some find satisfying answers and become followers of Jesus, none can “prove” that their view is correct, if they could Christianity would have died a long time ago. One final thing I would want you to consider: genuinely searching for truth requires tremendous humility.

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  17. “You wonder (a la Bertrand Russell) why God doesn’t reveal Himself, but God has revealed Himself many, many times, in many, many different ways. You want Him to reveal Himself to you in the way you want Him to reveal Himself.”

    How exactly has he revealed Himself outside of the Bible?

    “You wonder (a la Bertrand Russell) why God doesn’t reveal Himself, but God has revealed Himself many, many times, in many, many different ways. You want Him to reveal Himself to you in the way you want Him to reveal Himself.”

    This is precisely why I get frustrated frequently when debating those of religion. You purposefully do not question the motivations of your God. The problem with hell, however, is that it is quite clear what the intent is and, therefore, our “understanding” is merely predicated on what is actually said in your holy text. The purpose of hell is to punish with the purpose of correction, the purpose of hell is torture for an eternity. That is all. It is a punishment of which there will be no end and of which there is no chance of being alleviated from such tortuous affliction. So again, I ask you, “Why create hell?”

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  18. Oscar,

    Got my email solved. But now I’m really behind with work projects.

    But there was an idea that you broached that I do want to explore a bit. Awhile back in the thread you tried to make the point that Christians as a group are some of the most immoral people you know. Those weren’t your exact words but that’s a good approximation of your gist. It got me thinking.

    Do you really mean that? Or is this a piece of hyperbole thrown out in frustration? Personally, I don’t get it. Yes, I know so-called Christians that do not represent Christ well. (I’m sure that I don’t sometimes.) But does atheism produce Mother Teresa’s? Does atheism produce Rich Mullins’s (who though he could have been filthy rich, was living on $25,000 a year and poured all of his music royalties into an Indian reservation in Arizona? Does Atheism produce Amy Carmichael’s (started dozens of orphanages all over India and served there without furlough for 58 years? Does atheism produce more admirable, altruistic citizens of the planet than theism and Christianity? I don’t think so.

    We become what we worship and the preponderance of evidence is that atheism, with notable exceptions tends to produce less than safe citizens of the planet. You mentioned the Crusades, an admitted black mark against the Church and Christianity, but I would argue that they happened precisely because the church had lost the Bible and was not being guided by the teachings of Christ. On the other hand, the atheistic societies of China, the Soviet Union killed millions and millions as a direct application of their godless worldview.

    In A.D. 133 Aristeides, a teacher of Philosophy presented a defense of Christianity to the Emperor Hadrian. Here’s his record of what the teaching of Christ was producing:

    “Now the Christians, O King … have the commandments of the Lord Jesus Christ himself engraven on their hearts, and they observe, looking fort he resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. They commit neither adultery nor fornication; nor do they bear false witness. They do not deny a deposit, nor covet other men’s goods; they honor father and mother, and love their neighbors; they give right judgment; and they do not worship idols in the form of man. They do not unto others that which they would not have done unto themselves. They comfort such as wrong them, and make friends of them. They labor to do good to their enemies … As for their servants or handmaids, or their children if any of them has any, they persuade them to become Christians for the love that they have towards them; and when they have become so, they call them without distinction ‘brethren.'”

    They despise not the widow, and grieve not the orphan. He that hath distributeth liberally to him that hath not. If they see a stranger, they bring him under their roof and rejoice over him as if it were their own brother; for they call themselves brethren, not after the flesh, but after the spirit and in God. …

    And if there is among them a man that is poor and needy, and they have not an abundance of necessities, they fast two or three days that they may supply the needy with their necessary food.” cited in John Piper’s A Godward Life, page 303-304.

    Does atheism produce such people? Does atheism aim to produce such people? The church does. People who follow the example of Jesus do. Yes, the church fails, sometimes fails miserably. But the point is, she succeeds far more often than does atheism and atheism doesn’t even aim at the target. Christianity and every church that I have helped to plant over the last 20 years (well over 250 that I have worked with) aims to produce exactly what Atristides told Hadrain. So, my young friend, I will hold on to Christ, even with all the answers I don’t have, because he and the church that he founded is the worlds greatest hope and the best thing that ever happened to the world.

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  19. I think you have misapprehended what I may have said (or tried to say). I would never say that Christians are immoral. Rather, I would say that Christianity has the ability to warp the ‘moral mentality’ of a person. This assessment, however, is mainly founded on the assertion that Christians think that we deserve an eternity of torture, for which there is no purpose but to solely torture (see my above response about the concept of hell).

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  20. One more thing:

    “Does atheism produce such people? Does atheism aim to produce such people?”

    I really don’t like the word ‘atheist’ and you have demonstrated exactly why. ‘Atheism’ does not say anything about how I actually view the world. ‘Atheism’ is a word that merely states a position on one issue and, furthermore, it is not a word which connotes any descriptive power of what I actually believe. It merely describes what I do not believe. There can be atheist materialists, atheist conservatives, atheist libertarians, atheist existentialists, etc. To answer your question: No, my atheism does not say anything on if/how I should display empathy, altruism, etc. Instead, me as a humanist dictates where I stand on that issue. In the same way, that there is no homogeneous Christian, there is no homogeneity within atheism.

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    1. Oscar,
      Just some bullet points of clarification:

      * The point of the KJV illustration is that some (many, but not all) of the supposed difficulties with problem texts are eliminated when we look at modern translations that take into account newer discoveries in linguistics, culture and ANE history.

      * Your last two posts avoid the question. You may not like the word “atheist” and you may be technically correct that atheism only posits what you don’t believe, nevertheless, ideas have consequences. Does atheism as a whole, produce better people? More kind, more loving, more compassionate, more altruistic lifestyles? Does atheism produce Bonhoeffers, and Luthers, and Wesleys, and Booths (Founder of the salvation Army)? Does it produce Martin Luther King Jr.’s, does it produce Billy Grahams, Mother Thersas? How is it that the supposedly immoral belief that some will perish, either in a literal hell or in an eternal anniliation (the meaning of hell is still being debated), produces such compassion for people that Christianity has literally circled the globe with hospitals, orphanages, AIDS clinics, and a hundred other benevoleneces and acts of love for those it seeks to win to Christ? Does atheism produce anything close to even an approximation of this? Again, I don’t think so.

      Even atheist Matthew Paris has admitted that Africa needs God and Christianity. See this article from 2008: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/matthew_parris/article5400568.ece

      * You have tried, unsuccessfully, to make a case that Jesus himself is immoral. The verdict of history is otherwise. Here is a short post from just a few weeks ago that touched on the historical reality: https://chosenrebel.wordpress.com/2011/03/23/who-and-why-did-anyone-follow-jesus/

      My friend, you are in an extreme minority and I urge you to be very careful here. Truth is never determined by a majority vote but when the minority opinion is so small, after so much time and so much examination of his one solitary life, as to be almost microscopic it should give one pause about his position. Psalm 2 is still true. Reverence the Son, lest he be angry. I say this not with condecension but love. I love your generation. I love the potential that you have and pray for your generation all the time. Be careful my new friend. You have been an atheist for all of three months. It would be wise to think more and speak less.

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  21. I don’t think I avoided the question at all. I said that ‘atheism’ proper does not produce better people because, by definition, it doesn’t say anything about how we should live life. Quote:

    “To answer your question: No, my atheism does not say anything on if/how I should display empathy, altruism, etc.”

    However, I would say that there are many atheists who have contributed much to society, even though there has not been a great preponderance of atheists. By category:

    Philosophy

    David Hume
    Bertrand Russell
    Jean-Paul Sartre
    Michel Foucault
    Noam Chomsky
    A.C. Grayling
    Friedrich Nietzche
    etc.

    Science

    Steven Pinker
    Oliver Sacks
    Carl Sagan
    PZ Meyers
    Jerry Coyne
    Julius Axelrod
    Richard Feynman
    Stephen Hawking
    Albert Einstein
    Leonard Susskind
    Neil deGrasse Tyson
    etc.

    Humanism (I will also include celebrities that are great charitable contributers. This will also include names from an assortment of fields, including literature, art, science, etc.)

    Bill Gates (I think he’s an agnostic and not a full-fledged atheist)
    Angelina Jolie
    George Clooney
    Douglas Adams
    Francis Crick
    Kurt Vonnegut
    Umberto Eco
    etc.

    All these names are not even taking into consideration the contributions made in music, literature, entertainment, sports, politics, etc. So, while I say that atheism does not dictate how one lives one life, it is rather arrogant of you to say that atheism, “as a whole, does not produce better people.” To whit: I do not think I have met one atheist who is not a caring and loving person. If I may use myself as an example, as well, I have become much more attuned to the sanctity of life now that I realize that there is no afterlife. While you may think that only Christianity “encircles the world” with it’s charitable nature, you do not factor in that the ratio of humanist atheists to humanist Christians are, more than likely, highly in the atheist favor. I also find it ironic that you mention AIDS clinics (and Billy Graham? Really?), as The Church is perhaps the main reason why there is such a preponderance of the deadly disease in Africa. So, lest I be wrongly accused of dodging your question, again:

    “Does atheism produce anything close to even an approximation of this?” Yes. Given that there are billions upon billions of Christians in the world, statistically speaking, it would be very improbable for there not to be humanist Christians. Given that there are considerably less atheists in the world, it is striking to see how many atheists become humanists. So please, do not insult me and other atheists with this question if you haven’t even bother considering it past what you hear.

    Even still, all this is without even addressing the biggest problem to your claim – Christians are actually, statistically speaking, more immoral than atheists. If we look at the prison population, the self-professed Christians are a staggering majority. In the U.S., the areas with the highest murder rate are in the ‘Bible Belt’. The countries with the highest populations of atheists (i.e. the Scandinavian countries, Japan, etc.) are also the countries with the lowest crime rates.

    “You have tried, unsuccessfully, to make a case that Jesus himself is immoral. “

    Well, again, you say that I do not make a successful case, yet you fail to explain why. I see a pattern emerging amongst yourself as well as Tony G. Secondly, I never said that Jesus was immoral and I don’t know where you got this from. Have you even read I have written? I have specifically and intentionally restricted my ‘immorality’ claims to the teachings of hell and the O.T. Honestly, I really don’t see why we should even bother continuing this conversation if you are going to be misrepresenting my arguments and then still not even saying why these misrepresentations are bad. Furthermore, I don’t think you have actually answered any of my contentions and have, instead, accused me of misunderstanding the passages (without presenting me with how it should be understood) or have said that because I am young in my atheism, I have not considered the subject matter thoroughly. I would give credence to the latter if you would have responded to even one of my contention adequately.

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  22. Oscar,

    I believe this is where Marty may have gotten the idea that you think Jesus is immoral:
    “Now, if we were to assume your world view, that Christ is an actual entity, then I would unapologetically say that the Christ is a deplorable character. I have frequently said that, even if one were to prove to me somehow that Christ existed, I would still refuse to worship. I couldn’t worship someone whom I had absolutely no respect for. “

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  23. I would also be interested to hear your thoughts on what was going on in the minds of the apostles after Jesus’ execution. Why is it that they were willing to die for their faith that Jesus was in fact risen and the Son of God? Why did they go to their executions (13 out of 13 counting Paul) with the Gospel on their lips?

    And (this isn’t meant to be condescending at all, but hard to stress that electronically, I’m not sure if I understand what you were saying, so for clarification) are you honestly saying that you think in 3 months you have adequately thought and read enough to conclude that millions of people including some of the brightest minds in the history of the world are wrong in their belief of the Christian faith? Am I understanding that correctly?

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  24. @Tony G.

    If that is the reason, then I apologize for my ambiguity. It’s sometimes hard for me to remember that all the names (YHWH, Jesus, Christ, Jesus Christ, the Son, the Father, Holy Spirit, etc.) are separate (but not really).

    “I would also be interested to hear your thoughts on what was going on in the minds of the apostles after Jesus’ execution. Why is it that they were willing to die for their faith that Jesus was in fact risen and the Son of God? Why did they go to their executions (13 out of 13 counting Paul) with the Gospel on their lips?”

    Well, let us, for the sake of argument, that the Bible is 100% accurate with regards to historical accounts. This, by the way, is a huge concession given the history of the Bible, but like I said, I will allow it for the sake of this discussion. Dying for a cause is not something that is exclusive to the Christian faith. Just because the apostles believed it to be a cause worth dying for says nothing for the veracity of what they believed. Surely you wouldn’t make this argument for the suicide bombers of the Islamic faith, so why make this argument for the Christian faith?

    “And (this isn’t meant to be condescending at all, but hard to stress that electronically, I’m not sure if I understand what you were saying, so for clarification) are you honestly saying that you think in 3 months you have adequately thought and read enough to conclude that millions of people including some of the brightest minds in the history of the world are wrong in their belief of the Christian faith? Am I understanding that correctly?”

    It’s a fair question, sort of. First, I would like to respond to the “brightest minds in the history of the world” claim. Just because one is smart in one area, does not mean that they were smart in other areas. Newton, whom theists love to cite, also believed in alchemy. One must remember that many of these ‘great minds’ that theists love to cite were also living in the pre-Enlightenment age (which hearkened the advent of science). This is not to disparage the abilities of these mean. It was merely a product of living in a time where they didn’t know as much about the universe as is known now.

    I think you fail to take into account the time where I was wrestling with what I believe. While I may have fully become an atheist three months ago, I had been studying the subject matter for about a year prior. Even with all that I have read, I would never say that I am 100% certain, no one can say that. Even with all that I have read, there is still much more that I have to learn in many subject matters, but I do think I have read enough to make a decision about whether or not the Christian representation of God is accurate.

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  25. I just realized that I didn’t respond to one of your earlier questions regarding how God has revealed Himself other than the Bible. OK, so as a whole, God has revealed Himself in the Bible (obviously, not a view we share). Within the Bible we see many varied accounts of God revealing Himself through sending angels, directly speaking to people, appearing in dreams and visions and as Christians believe, He has most fully revealed Himself in the person of Jesus Christ, so these are many revelations over a span of many years.

    I realize that you don’t agree that the Bible accurately records history (obviously I do believe that, of course taking into consideration authorial intent and genre, etc.). Then there is of course the created order in which God reveals Himself constantly (I could go into a whole discussion of general vs. special revelation but since this is not a formal debate or peer reviewed journal article you will give me the benefit of the doubt that I know more about the topic than one sentence). Also, I have read reports, from numerous sources, of Jesus appearing (both in response to prayers to God to reveal Himself or completely “unsoliticited”) to those in closed countries or unreached peoples communicating the Gospel upon which people have become Christians.

    Then there are the millions of individual Christian testimonies throughout the ages filled with events described as encounters with God. Clearly these are subjective, but nevertheless cannot be dismissed as totally irrelevant. Many of these experiences you will obviously dismiss as coincidence or imaginative, but that is your opinion, which I respect and understand. There are many reasons why I became a Christian as a junior in college, reasons under the category of history, science, philosophy, reason, but I unashamedly admit that experience also played a part in my conversion. God created us as complex beings and He will use every aspect of our humanity to bring us to Himself, He will use whatever means He chooses and He doesn’t shy aware from revealing Himself to us in ways that wouldn’t hold up in a court room or a science lab.

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  26. Also, though I hesitate to recommend further resources given your response my first go around, I will proceed with caution : )

    On the topic of historical accuracy of the Bible, check out The Historical Reliability of the Gospels by Craig Blomberg

    Regarding the brightest minds comment, I don’t disagree with your response. I also though wasn’t just referring to the “big names” like Newton. who are often cited, though there are others that I don’t think fit into the category you put him in (i.e., their belief was a product of their time). I am thinking of people who aren’t the heavy hitters on the historical or scientific stage, but contemporary men like Don Carson (who, as an aside, is definitely the most intelligent person I have ever met). I would be very interested to hear if you have interacted with his works at all.

    I realize it is a huge concession for you regarding the historical accuracy of the Bible, but let’s pretend for the sake of argument a little further: I would never make that argument for the 9/11 bombers, however, there is one HUGE difference between those bombers (or any martyr today for that matter). The difference is this, the apostles went to their executions knowing for sure whether or not they were dying for the truth or for a lie. It was not a matter of faith for them, it was a matter of fact. Sure, martyrs today die for what they believe to be true. The apostles died for an historical event that they either witnessed with their eyes or one they made up. Each one of them knew for certain whether or not Jesus was resurrected from the dead or not. I can think of no other explanation for how all 13 of them lived a poor, persecuted life that ended in execution, except that Jesus was in fact resurrected and appeared to them several times over the 40 days following His resurrection. All of this after they denied, abandoned (except John) and went into hiding upon Jesus’ arrest. How else were these men so transformed in a matter of days but for the resurrection of their leader and His provision of His Holy Spirit?

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  27. With regards to God revealing Himself, I suppose I was more wondering if, in your opinion, God reveals himself in modern times. Though, by your response, I am assuming that you do. My problem with the ‘personal experience’ argument is that there is no way no to distinguish a personal experience amongst the religions. Sai Baba has thousands, perhaps millions, of followers; many claiming to have witnessed miracles performed by him. Yet, I’m sure you would not give credence to these claims. Why do you favor Biblical claims that come from a pre-science era, yet reject modern claims in a time when science is blossoming? Furthermore, when one realizes how susceptible the brain is to hallucination and feelings of euphoria, it becomes quite unconvincing. I will provide a youtube link of a man who freely admits that the only method he uses to for his ‘tricks’ is mainly through interrupting unconscious neuronal functions. Even with this simple methodology, he is able to create effects much like one might consider to be supernatural.

    Unfortunately, most of my readings revolved around philosophy and philosophical arguments and I have not yet had time to explore the wide spectrum of writings with regards to Bible historicity. I’m always open to works that might challenge my world view, but I have grown to become a bit skeptical when a Christian refers me to a book, simply because I find that most of them have gross misinterpretations of really general factual claims.

    If we suppose that the Bible is factually accurate, there is a compelling case with regards to the prophets dying for a cause they would have been witness to – there’s no denying that aspect. However, since I don’t find the claims of the Bible factual, this argument is lost on me.

    There are two parts. Please watch them both:

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    1. Oscar,
      Don’t know if I fall into your “untrustworthy Christian” recommendation black list but I have two short books for your historical research.

      The New Testament Documents: Are they Reliable? by F.F. Bruce —Bruce does not argue for an inerrant New Testament but rather for reasonably accurate reportage of New Testament history. The book is a bit dated, new discoveries would buttress his points, but it is still worth reading.

      The other book is by a scholar of the first order, John Warwick Montgomery, a book by the title of History and Christianity which also examines New Testament historical claims. Montgomery has written over forty books in three different languages (French, English and Latin), is fluent in two or three others and has legal, theological and library research degrees. He is a frequent debater and is devastating as an opponent.

      I think you would be challenged by anything he has written. I am at a conference right now but I will take a look at your video link when I get home. Have a good day.

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