What is below is a response to a friend. You’ll be able to piece together the argument based on my responses.
I believe we’re all honest individuals. I engage in this conversation to illustrate the counter-arguments so there’s not giant cultural divides. You may think i’m an atheist. I’m not. I’m an honest person who doubts the understandings of ancient desert-locked shepherds who’s world view was based on 100’s of miles instead of a global multicultural picture of humanity. If anything ever were observably attributed to the supernatural, much of what was presented would be GREAT points, but since the advent of modern science, the invention of the camera and video, not one thing has been attributed to the supernatural, or a verifiable miracle documented.
As to your assertion about god acting upon the natural world from outside time and space, If a being doesn’t act in time, or upon space (or matter), it’s a non-event.
You also have to explain how a complex conscious being comes into complexity out of nothingness. This is generally the argument from complexity that theists assert—ie., that our existence can’t arise from nothingness. This argumet applies to a complex conscious deity too. Just because we don’t know what came before the big bang, (yet) does it mean “insert bible. ”
Look, i’m open to “miracles”, so it’s not simply a matter of believing. Or, even having faith. I’d love to see evidence of the supernatural happening in a church—If any place had the potential, it’d be there.
well…, so much for that: http://www.christianpost.com/news/child-drowns-in-baptismal-pool-of-indianapolis-church-70141/
The assertion that the multitudes of anonymous ancient biblical authors had some kind of knowledge about the nature of reality that somehow trumps the past 200 years of modern science, is laughable. When you focus more on asserting that unverifiable biblical miracles and resurrections are “true” when they are truly just literary claims that are un-observed by science and biology, you present arguments that are easily refuted by basic science and you miss the opportunity to share the good things Jesus has to offer to the conversation.
The beauty of understanding the multiple branches of science and world religion and how they reflect the overall study of anthropology is that you find out that we all share an ability to speak veritable truths. It’s not about being our own god(s). Especially since belief in a singular god is not even an ubiquitous human experience.
When i can appeal to that observable fact, my “beliefs” are irrelevant. I’m open to there being a singular being, but i’ve not seen much in nature that doesn’t coexist with something else.
From here, I present my rebuttals. I make 13 points + sub-points based on the quoted assertions and in many cases towards the latter half, i’ll use the bible to back my points.
1. 95% of the founding fathers were of a Christian or higher being faith…
I acknowledged that, however all of them didn’t unanimously believe in the bible and specifically the Christian god. I’m pretty sure that’s about par for the course, especially 200+ years ago. But, this is a good opportunity to illustrate another example where a majority setting breeds the same sense of mitigation of other beliefs who may be dissenters and hiding themselves from the face of mob mentality—How do attitudes like this proffer inclusion? Do you think this is a healthy environment in the education system?
Let’s remember that it’s behind the veil of religious faith that our country’s religious fought to the death using the bible to defend the practice of slavery. Also note that the bible and Jesus say nothing to abolish the practice of human slavery. The bible actually condones human slavery and gives us directions.
Understanding the multitudes of human suffering that have transgressed across humanity because of slavery, there are serious theological issues inherent to that point.
Let’s also look at biblical values gone horribly wrong via Manifest Destiny. The idea of manifest destiny fueled the movement that god compels us take land based on divine providence which lead to the almost complete decimation of the entire race of Native Americans. Just like the crusades, the inquisition, the witch trials, the hanging of who knows how many for blasphemy, apostasy, demonic possession, and the implementation of Christianity by Rome, these examples illustrate that most major jumps in the presence of Christianity through various populations have been by mechanism of fear and by force in many cases.
2. “the constitution, mentions God or higher being, 5 times…”
God, higher being, and/or creator appear nowhere in the Constitution. Here’s a link in which you can do a search from top to bottom using the find field.
The notable exception (which i mentioned) is found in the Signatory section, Article VII, where the date is written thusly: “Seventeenth Day of September in the Year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and Eighty seven”. The use of the word “Lord” here is not a religious reference, however. This was a common way of expressing the date, in both religious and secular contexts.
3.”the founding fathers were genius in their bill of rights and letters and writings…”
Yes, let’s appeal to their writings. (this one is for fun)
None of the founding fathers believed in theocratic states. The foundation of democracy is powered by the consent of the people (E. Pluribus Unum) and not by their collective and subjective personal religious beliefs. Our constitution begins with “We the people” and does not invoke God in any sense. The constitution’s authority is based on the idea that “governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed” which is contrary to the biblical concept of rule by divine authority. If the founding fathers used their religious beliefs to craft our founding documents, that’s great and all, but that doesn’t mean turn public schools into a religious circus.
4.”because they were trying to protect a people from the government, not protecting the government from the people being religious in the public square or workplace…
I don’t disagree. This is a freedom we all enjoy. But, the founding fathers were inclined to craft a government completely separate from the church allowing citizens to support the religion of their choice, or none at all.
5.”except that you think that because a teacher prays on a school campus that that school is sanctioning a religion, excluding all types of people, and harming the minds of minors…”
This is a false argument as i support your right to pray, but this is antithetical to what was taking place at Chestatee HS when the complaint was made. Regardless, this is shifting the argument from what the complaint is and how the courts have ruled on these exact situations.
Here’s a pastor’s take on the whole thing.
6.”the clauses are so that nothing will infringe upon the free exercise of religion, but what you, or not you per se, are trying to do is exactly that!”
No. The courts observing Separation of church and state” is a helpful shorthand that describes the effect of the Establishment Clause. The Establishment Clause, and most of the Bill of Rights, is binding against the states via the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment. There is a large body of case law on the Establishment Clause as I’ve provided (multiple times now) with all the cases cited delineating the line between church and state that are an observance to equality for all. In a plural culture, this line will most likely continue to advance. Even if the delineation isn’t always clear, students and teachers as individuals have religious rights in school, but schools themselves must maintain a “strict and lofty neutrality as to religion” and that’s how our courts have ruled. You can argue with me if you want, but the case laws are established.
The courts have used Jefferson’s letter to the Danbury Baptists as the deciding factor in the separation of church and state issue.
“Gentlemen, The affectionate sentiments of esteem and approbation which you are so good as to express towards me, on behalf of the Danbury Baptist association, give me the highest satisfaction. My duties dictate a faithful and zealous pursuit of the interests of my constituents, & in proportion as they are persuaded of my fidelity to those duties, the discharge of them becomes more and more pleasing.
Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” thus building a wall of separation between Church & State. Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore to man all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties.
I reciprocate your kind prayers for the protection & blessing of the common father and creator of man, and tender you for yourselves & your religious association, assurances of my high respect & esteem.
Thomas Jefferson, Jan. 1. 1802.”
Also, to the note that ‘separation of church and state’ that i regularly see does not appear in our founding documents…, well, Christians should stop using the word ‘trinity.’ ‘Trinity’ appears nowhere in the Bible. Neither does Rapture, Second Coming, Original Sin, Omniscience, Omnipresence, Supernatural,Transcendence, Afterlife, Deity, Divinity, Theology, Monotheism, Missionary, Immaculate Conception, Christmas, Christianity, Evangelical, Fundamentalist, Transubstantiation, Moral, Morality, Ethics, Apostasy and Monogamy.
Did you REALLY mention “prophecies” and talk about America’s “smart meter” in the same rebuttal?
Prophecies are a culturally and personally subjective phenonmenon. Subjective interpretations of a singular book from a specific time period that has no relevance to non-christian cultures, or any evidence of relevance in modern plural cultures, is a hell of a leap to say over 300 biblical prophecies have come true. The same subjectivity is applied to Nostradamus’s “prophecies” and people’s subjective interpretation of either source neither proves nor disproves their validity.
That said, I need only appeal to one biblical prophecy to disprove all prophecies:
Matt 24:34 I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.
Mark 13:30 I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.
Luke 21:32 I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.
The context of these passages describes the end times and the second coming.
“But in those days, following that distress, “’the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’ “At that time people will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And he will send his angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens. Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that it is near, right at the door. Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.
! ! —> 20 centuries later and we’re still here. <— ! !
Let’s remember the bible speaks of talking snakes, talking bushes, 900 year old people which there is zero paleontogical evidence, an inbred population that the entire field of genetics, in conjunction with the Human Genome Project (headed by a Christian, Francis Collins) disagree with the bible on that point. The bible speaks of a flooded earth that is not verified by any geologist, archaeologist, paleontologist, or botanist (Trees that out-date the “flood”), along with a person living in a great fish for 3 days (lol), a magical boat ride that fit all the world’s population of animals on a vessel 1/4 the size of Titanic (a real boat which held only 3000 real people) , two conflicting creation narratives in which one creation narrative places the plants on earth before the sun is even in the sky to power photosynthesis, assertions of a flat earth (in multiple places), and a warning of all the plagues of the bible being cast upon you for knowing more than what is claimed in the bible.
If there’s any hindrance to Americas education system, it’s mainly attributed to the dysfunction of bureaucracy compiled with religious fundamentalists holding science education back because of their religious sensitivities.
You can visit the National Center for Science Education site and Facebook page and see how many anti-science bills right-wing religious politicians continually try to push through. It’s as scary as it is entertaining.
7. “Culture is changing in America and we have more humanist/secular people put into the places making law and the people, me included, get what we vote in. “
And there’s good reason for it. The politicization of religion is one of the GIANT reasons and it started when fundamentalist religion got married to the Republican party in the days of Robertson/Falwell. It worked very well for them for quite some time but now is jumping up to bite them. Many of the younger generation despise right wing politics, and losing them politically has resulted in also losing them religiously.
The fastest growing religious faith in the United States is collectively labeled the “Nones,” otherwise known as “spiritual but not religious” who spurn organized religion in favor of non-defined skepticism about faith. About two-thirds of Nones say they are former believers. The trend is very much that Americans raised in Christian households are shunning the religion of their parents.
Gay rights is another big item. In today’s world, most younger people are personally acquainted with gay people, and know damn well there isn’t any “gay agenda”, that gays are zero threat to the country, that homosexuality isn’t a “choice”, and that allowing them civil marriage or to die for their country in the military hurts no one. Denying civil marriage to gay people is nothing but INSTITUTIONALIZED BIGOTRY, and the youth of today recognize institutionalized bigotry as evil.
Another reason is the ANTI-INTELLECTUALISM of FUNDAMENTALIST religion. The assault on science by the Christian right has played out and the far Christian right has lost and continues to lose. Too many people understand that every bit of progress in the real world has been based on science and knowledge, and not on faith.
Evolution is evidence supported fact. If you’re still a detractor of evolution, let me introduce you to the Clergy Letter Project that is a compilation of over 13,000 active, living clergy from multiple faiths (mainly Christian) who understand evolution: http://www.theclergyletterproject.org/
For intellectual honesty, the list of 500 outlier “scientists” from the Discovery Institute and Ken Ham’s field day of crazy over at Answers in Genesis who apparently failed basic reading comprehension:
The modernity of the 21st century is here despite those who want to drag it back to the Dark Ages when the church and the government were one.
8. “instead of teaching love one another, don’t steal, don’t kill, blessed is the man who finds wisdom, the man who gains understanding…”
Love does not need to be taught because it’s something that is practiced. Empathy and altruism precede love and love is not owned by any particular prophet or religion. You loved your family and other people before you were taught what love is or you even understood religious teachings. AND, we can observe as sentient beings that stealing and killing causes harm and/or pain to others. You don’t need religion or Jesus to understand that. If you can’t determine right from wrong, you lack empathy, not religion.
From here, this conversation gets kinda muddy because you’re basing your argument on faith-based claims.
9. ‘im right, you’re wrong’ stance.”
“I say ‘sort of’ because, its not me. it isn’t an ‘I’ it is Jesus is right and nothing else compares.”
Are you mitigating the spiritual experiences of all other individuals who identify with existing faiths again? smh. wow. Did you know there are more people in the world who are not Christian than who are? Christians make up 30% of the 7 billiion people in the world.
9b. “Christianity isn’t ‘technically’ a religion, it is just Jesus.”
It is. To say it isn’t a religion is a cop out. From its beginnings, Christianity has been an apostolic, missionary faith based on Jesus’ exhortation to “go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19-20) and is reinforced by declarations such as i noted previously that are based on conversion and not inclusion:
Luke 19:27 “But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them–bring them here and kill them in front of me!”
MATTHEW 10:33 “But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.”
JOHN 15:5-6 5. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.
10. “im right and you’re wrong’ is usually measured on emotional and psychological benefits that almost every religion or other groups provide. Go try them out and see which one makes you feel nice and warm inside, any will do if that’s all its about. All religions and even atheism claim truths but can those truths be verified? christianity is different because it all rests on Jesus. it crosses culture, borders, and races.”
Really? No. it’s not. If science practiced what “felt good” and didn’t have other intellectually honest observers and peer-reviewers to refute bad science, we’d have a whole host of problems with technology primarily, and basic observations gone horribly wrong across psychology, anthropology, art history, and natural history. Of note, what feels good to the other 1.3 billion people who are not Christian has zero to do with Jesus in the bible. I would ask, why is it non-faith and the rise of secularism and Buddhism are the go-to options for those who leave the Christian faith? Is it a feel good thing ya think?
Either way, you’re kinda leaning on the transcendence argument again here regarding Jesus. If transcendence via god’s word through the old testament to Jesus and the new testament “crosses culture, borders, and races” then each and every unrelated geographically disassociated culture across the world would have written exact copies of the bible and identified Jesus as the son of God without having ever come in contact with Christianity.
Where do you see this is a reality in separate geographical cultures?
We only need to appeal to the reality of the geography of a culturally diverse planet to illustrate the fallacy committed here and this has nothing to do with free will as the free-will argument removes any culpability from an omniscient creator responsible for a planet who’s religious and non-religious adherents arose concurrently.
The Christian God is defined as a personal being who knows everything. According to Christians, humans have free will. In order to have free will, you must have more than one option, each of which is avoidable. This means that before you make a choice, there must be a period of potential: you cannot know the future. Even if you think you can predict your decision, if you claim to have free will, you must admit the potential (if not the desire) to change your mind before the decision is final. A being who knows everything can have no state of “uncertainty.” It knows your choices in advance. This means that you have no potential to avoid choices and therefore lack free will. Free will argument refuted.
11. “take away the building, the money, the tenets, the preacher, all of it, it is still there, jesus. its a spiritual connection or relationship with an alive person. When you are connected with this person then his Word becomes alive. There’s a reason why they call it a living word.”
Is this not the same exact experience that is had through any literature or poetry such as the works of Thoreau, Frost, Whitman, Poe, Mark Twain, or even Newton or Einstein? They live in our hearts and minds when we read their words and their words/stories will still remain unchanged in another 2000 years.
12. “jesus made amazing claims “
He didn’t actually. Biblical authors did. Which we know to be multiple anonymous scribes. We know that Jesus didn’t write any of the bible and we know around AD 50, as late as a full generation after his death and up through AD 150, that a number of documents circulate among churches including epistles, gospel accounts, memoirs, prophecies, homilies, and collections of teachings that lead to the books of the new testament. All of this was pulled to together at the Council of Nicaea around 325 AD. This is backed by the dead sea scrolls which originate about this same time. How any reasonable person educated in literature, or even the history of the bible rests a logical observation of a person’s death at year 0 of the Gregorian calendar and documents compiled 300+ years later as “perfect” or “unchanged” is simply a failure to reason logically about the time period we’re referring to.
13. “no other religious leader or non religious person has died in full view of thousands of people and trained military men, had a guarded tomb, and then appeared to more than 500 people at the same time after his death. His resurrection is an account that we can examine, investigate, and conclude if it did or did not happen. [sic] supernatural…, roll eyes…, won’t understand…”
The supernatural is not a matter of belief. It’s a matter of evidence. A book that attempts proves it’s own assertions when the authors of the new testament had a copy of the old testament handy to create linear narratives is an easy task when peer review, intellectual honesty, and modern science didn’t. even. exist.
Jesus predicts that he will be “in the heart of the earth” for three days and three nights. If by this he meant that he would be in the tomb for three days and three nights, then either he was mistaken or the gospels are in error. According to the gospels (this is one of the few things they all seem to agree on), Jesus was in the tomb for only one day and two nights. Matthew 12:40
Biblical scholars who start with a pre-suppositional positions when analyzing these texts commit the fallacy of confirmation bias, appeals to authority, circular reasoning, and appeals to faith which are not based on observable or repeatable evidence.
We can look at biblical contradictions about the tomb as evidence against your point here.
Would the Romans have guarded Jesus’ tomb?
The gospels disagree on what happened.
Matthew 27:62-66 – A guard is stationed outside the tomb the day after Jesus’ burial
Mark, Luke, John – No guard is mentioned. In Mark and Luke, the women who approach the tomb do not appear to expect to see any guards
When Did the Women Visit the Tomb?
Whoever visited and however many there were, it’s not clear when they arrived.
Mark 16:2 – They arrive after sunrise
Matthew 28:1 – They arrive at about dawn
Luke 24:1 – It is early dawn when they arrive
John 20:1 – It is dark when they arrive
Whom did the women see at the tomb?
answer 1. An angel:
Matthew 28:2 And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it.
answer 2. A young man:
Mark 16:5 And entering into the sepulchre, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a long white garment; and they were affrighted.
answer 3. Two men:
Luke 24:4 And it came to pass, as they were much perplexed thereabout, behold, two men stood by them in shining garments.
answer 4. Two angels:
John 20:12 And seeth two angels in white sitting, the one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain.
How many came to see him at the tomb?
The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulchre.
Matthew 28:1 As it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre.
Mark 16:1 And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him.
Five or more people:
Luke 24:1, 10 Now upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came unto the sepulchre, bringing the spices which they had prepared, and certain others with them. It was Mary Magdalene and Joanna, and Mary the mother of James, and other women that were with them, which told these things unto the apostles.
further discrepancies here:
Also, what about the amazing event at Matthew 27:52 during the resurrection: “And behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth shook and the rocks were split. 52 The tombs were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; 53 and coming out of the tombs after His resurrection they entered the holy city and appeared to many.…”
Why did no other contemporary biblical author write about this FANTASTICAL event of the old testament saints rising if it was seen by “many” ??? Seriously, what happened to all of those guys at the end of this party? Where’s that book? and why is it only documented by one line in the entire bible? Talk about a supernatural event worth documenting. There should be like 500 different books about this event from a variety of witnesses.
Below is a list of writers and historians who lived supposedly around the time of Josephus and Tacitus who Christian apologists always refer to, but all of these authors didn’t even live during the time of Jesus. Some of the below writers were explicitly interested in writing about the Jews and none of these guys mention him?
Appian Petronius, Arrian Phaedrus, Aulus Gellius Philo-Judaeus, Columella Phlegon, Damis Pliny the Elder, Dio Chrysostom Pliny the Younger, Dion Pruseus Plutarch, Epictetus Pompon Mela, Favorinus Ptolemy, Florus Lucius Quintilian, Hermogones Quintius Curtius, Josephus Seneca, Justus of Tiberius Silius Italicus, Juvenal Statius, Lucanus Suetonius, Lucian Tacitus, Lysias Theon of Smyran, Martial Valerius Flaccus, Paterculus Valerius Maximus.
Somehow Jesus was a carpenter who left behind no archaeological evidence, caused major political and societal upheaval, rose from the dead and yet none of these writers bother to mention that?
These inconsistencies can hardly be relied on as factual accounts. At this point we’re not having a conversation based on evidence or facts, but simply a conversation based on conjecture because of ancient literary claims.
When any source makes a claim about the supernatural, it becomes a matter of science. Conveniently all examples of the supernatural are non-existent in contemporary times. Even across all of physics. In the marketplace of world ideas, everything is subject to scrutiny—Even faith claims. Scrutiny of the religious writings of ancient authors isn’t persecution or a denial of god(s)… It’s simply acknowledgement of reality looking at a multicultural planet in which there will always be geographically separate cultures with varying beliefs.
If we want to speak about truths, I’m all for truth, but let’s be honest about the nature of reality firstly and appeal to reality experienced by all cultures versus appealing to a singular piece of ancient literature that has it’s fair share of observable problems.
Feel free to comment.