My new Republic post on Hart and Douthat is up

As I’ve always claimed, I learn more from the commenters at this site than they learn from me. When I put up a post like Monday’s piece on Ross Douthat and David Bentley Hart’s views of God and religion, I pay attention to the readers’ comments, seeing whether I’ve made a misstep, been unclear, or missed some good points.

So let me offer the readers some kudos for the rewritten version of that post which just appeared in The New Republic under the title, “Religious believers’ favorite new book is a failed argument for God.” It’s been tightened and clarified, and my beef with Hart (and Douthat) is now disseminated more widely.  If you wish, go over to the site and give it a click, or perhaps engage in some discussion. It still delights me that such a prominent venue is willing to promulgate fairly explicit secular points of view.

I’m not sure I’m going to post a full review of Hart’s book here, as my comments are long and complicated, but I’ve begun pointing out its weaknesses, and will try to continue that by presenting and analyzing a few of Hart’s quotes over the next week. Suffice it to say now that this is NOT the book that you need to come to address if you’re to be a credible atheist. You’ve already encountered the main arguments before. They are these:

1. God is an ineffable Ground of Being who is neither anthropomorphic nor refutable by any empirical observations. He is the creator of all things, the sustainer of all things, and is immanent in everything. In fact, he could be considered to BE consciousness, bliss, and rationality.

2. Despite that, there is palpable evidence for God—in our consciousness (which, according to Hart, defies and will always defy scientific explanation), in our rationality and appreciation of beauty (also inexplicable by science), and in the fact that something exists instead of nothing. Hart gussies up these God-of-the-gaps arguments with fancy modern language, but, despite his denial of Gappism, that’s what his arguments boil down to.  And he’s also incorrect in denying that he’s not presenting evidence for God, but only clarifying the conception of God common to all religions. In fact, most of the book comprises the evidence for God that, says Hart, is so palpable in this world that you’d have to be deranged to remain an atheist.

If you’ve read Karen Armstrong and her apophatic theology (which says stuff about God despite claiming that you can’t say anything about God), you needn’t read Hart.

63 Comments

  1. gbjames
    Posted April 16, 2014 at 11:59 am | Permalink

    … an ineffible Ground of Being?

    • Posted April 16, 2014 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

      Oh, intercourse the effing GoB!

      b&

    • Posted April 16, 2014 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

      A typo, now fixed.

      Thanks.

      • Gregory Kusnick
        Posted April 16, 2014 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

        I suspect there’s also one too many negations in “he’s also incorrect in denying that he’s not presenting evidence for God”.

    • moleatthecounter
      Posted April 16, 2014 at 4:18 pm | Permalink

      Whenever I read this ‘Ground of Being’ phrase, I think not about a omniscient mythical deity, but about coffee. But that’s the way my mind works I guess… Always focussing on the big questions.

  2. Posted April 16, 2014 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

    One of the major reasons I believe in God is the book, “Evidence of the Afterlife: The Science of Near-Death Experiences”.

    • Gregory Kusnick
      Posted April 16, 2014 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

      I haven’t read that particular book, but if you think NDEs are a good reason to believe in God, you should take at look at the opposing view from people who don’t have a prior commitment to supernaturalism. These search results are a good place to start.

      • Posted April 17, 2014 at 5:11 am | Permalink

        Thanks, Gregory. I’ll view them. Regarding the book I’ve recommended, it’s written by a scientist. It’s quite persuasive.

        • Gregory Kusnick
          Posted April 17, 2014 at 10:05 am | Permalink

          Jeffery Long, who wrote that book, is not a brain scientist. He’s a radiation oncologist, i.e. a cancer doctor.

          • Posted April 17, 2014 at 11:01 am | Permalink

            It remains a persuasive book he has written.

            • tomh
              Posted April 17, 2014 at 11:14 am | Permalink

              Only persuasive to those that lean towards supernatural explanations for unknown effects. He makes the giant leap from people having near-death experiences, to asserting that this is proof of an afterlife. And that it is somehow proof that consciousness can exist without a body or brain. It seems to me that some evidence, beyond anecdotal stories, would be necessary.

              • Posted April 17, 2014 at 11:16 am | Permalink

                You’ve read the entire book?

              • Gregory Kusnick
                Posted April 17, 2014 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

                Tyler: I have not read Long’s book, but I’ve read reviews of it on Amazon and elsewhere, and I’ve visited Long’s NDERF website.

                My conclusion is that there’s no real science here. The survey data on which the book is based appears to be little more than unsubstantiated anecdotes submitted to the website by self-selected NDE survivors. And there doesn’t appear to be any serious attempt to engage with the large body of skeptical work on the subject.

                Also, it’s a bad sign when the home page of an allegedly scientific research foundation sports a banner saying “Welcome to the wondrous spiritual journey!”

                Among the positive reviews on Amazon, I see a lot that say things like “This book confirms what I always wanted to believe.” I don’t see any that say “I was a skeptic but this book changed my mind.”

                So pardon me if I remain unpersuaded.

            • tomh
              Posted April 17, 2014 at 11:51 am | Permalink

              What did you find so persuasive about it?

            • tomh
              Posted April 17, 2014 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

              Sorry, I didn’t see your question – I read it when it first came out, about 5 years ago, and found it singularly unpersuasive. Although it’s touted as a scientific study, it was simply a collection of personal anecdotes, which I thought had a lot in common with alien abduction stories. His conclusion, that these stories somehow proved an afterlife, and more, sounded like a giant leap of faith. But that was my reaction – you obviously felt differently.

              • Posted April 17, 2014 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

                Yes, I did. For an example of what I found persuasive, consider the people who were born blind, yet they can see during their NDE. Also, consider the commonalities of the NDE experiences that transcend culture, etc.

                Beyond the book, what is your explanation for people who claim to have seen a ghost? Are you claiming that not one of those millions upon millions of stories are true?

                How about mediums who conduct sessions with people and can name facts about their lives which simply could not have been known by the medium prior to the session?

              • Gregory Kusnick
                Posted April 17, 2014 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

                How do you know they could see? All we know is that they reported being able to see. Even if those reports are honest and accurate recollections, and not after-the-fact confabulations, all that tells us is that you don’t necessarily need functional vision to experience visual imagery while unconscious. It doesn’t mean anything miraculous happened.

                Regarding cross-cultural commonalities, people of all cultures have the same kind of brain and experience the same kinds of symptoms when it malfunctions. Again, no miracle needed to explain that.

                For the rest of it, ghosts and mediums and so on, which is more likely: (a) that miracles happen, or (b) that people exaggerate, embellish, misremember, get confused, see things that aren’t there, engage in wishful thinking, and so on? We have plenty of solid, repeatable evidence for (b). We have no convincing evidence for (a). And piling up a lot of unconvincing anecdotes does not make them convincing.

            • tomh
              Posted April 17, 2014 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

              @ Tyler

              what is your explanation for people who claim to have seen a ghost? Are you claiming that not one of those millions upon millions of stories are true?

              Yes, I am.

              How about mediums who conduct sessions with people and can name facts about their lives which simply could not have been known by the medium prior to the session?

              Magicians have been fooling people with these tricks for centuries. Look into ‘Cold Reading’. Not a single medium or psychic’s claims have ever stood up to unbiased tests. Over a thousand people have applied for Randi’s One Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge but no one has ever succeeded.

              • Tyler
                Posted April 18, 2014 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

                I believe that some of the millions, possibly billions, of ghost stories told by humans are true. I think more highly of my fellow man than to believe that every single one of those stories is false.

                I’ll now make a David Hart-like argument: the existence of love is an excellent reason to believe in a creator. Love is so wonderful, so beautiful that it has to have been created by a loving being who loves us, who indeed is love.

              • Gregory Kusnick
                Posted April 18, 2014 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

                Tyler: There are millions of people who believe Barack Obama was born in Kenya. Could every single one of them be wrong? Actually, yes they could.

                Either ghosts exist or they don’t. If they do, then where are they? Why do we have only unreliable anecdotes about them, and no solid evidence? If they don’t, then all of the millions of people who claim to have seen one must be wrong. That’s not to say they’re lying. No doubt many of them really believe they saw a ghost, and are giving an honest account of their experience as they understood it. That doesn’t mean their understanding is correct.

                As for your love argument, it’s not even wrong. You could use the same “logic” to argue that God is a bacon cheeseburger.

                And you’re moving the goalposts. First NDEs were the unbeatable, knockdown argument for God. Then it was millions of ghost stories. Now it’s love. Soon you’ll be at the ineffable Ground of Being where the unintelligible merges with the uninteresting. So I think I’ll get off here.

              • gbjames
                Posted April 18, 2014 at 5:41 pm | Permalink

                “I believe that some of the millions, possibly billions, of ghost stories told by humans are true.”

                I believe pigs live in trees.

              • Tyler
                Posted April 18, 2014 at 6:18 pm | Permalink

                When I said “billions,” it was a stretch. Let’s move on, please. Your comment reflects poorly only on you. It was condescending and it added absolutely nothing to this discussion. I will respond to not one more of your comments, and you can save the “I’m glad you won’t be responding to one more of my comments!”

                Let’s try to be intelligent here, folks. You’re not speaking with a right-wing extremist. I am an extremely intelligent graduate of one of the most elite universities on this planet. I have not insulted your intelligence. Please do not insult mine.

                If you want to civilly discuss the possible existence of God, I will engage. If I receive one more rude remark, I’m out of here.

              • Posted April 18, 2014 at 6:26 pm | Permalink

                Your arrogance in bragging about your “extreme intelligence” is insupportable. The bacon cheeseburger comment was absolutely on the mark, and yet you’re not intelligent enough to see the parallel.

              • gbjames
                Posted April 18, 2014 at 7:14 pm | Permalink

                Tyler, I’m not insulting your intelligence, you are. You seem to think that asserting that ghost stories are true is some sort of convincing argument. It isn’t. It’s not an argument at all. It is as silly as belief in arboreal swine (which I can tell you with complete conviction are extremely loving creatures; that, alone, is ample proof of their existence).

    • Posted April 16, 2014 at 9:41 pm | Permalink

      NDEs are fascinating, and more research should be done on this subject, but there are indications that it is a neurological effect from oxygen deprivation. Just look in Wikipedia, for example. There are also several NDE stories out there where the patient has been caught embellishing and adding to their story. All the signs of unreliability are there, but of course you will not hear of that from sources with an agenda.
      Seriously. Always favor natural causes over wild, unsupported supernatural causes. The latter has a 0% track record, when tested honestly.

  3. Barry Lyons
    Posted April 16, 2014 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

    Tomfoolery indeed! I’m really getting tired of these jokers. Sigh.

  4. Sastra
    Posted April 16, 2014 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

    Theism has always had a love/hate relationship with rationality. On the one hand God’s existence was supposed to be clear to anyone with common sense, obvious from both the evidence of the world and our own intuitions. We not only know that God exists ‘deep down’ — we know it on top, too. Atheism requires conscious rebellion and twists of normal ways of thinking because Metaphysical Naturalism is unnatural. There is more wisdom in the simple trusting faith of a small child who sees God plainly in the beauty of every flower than in the sophistry of all those sophisticates who try to reason away from God.

    And yet … at the same time … God’s existence is mysterious, mystical, unknowable, ineffable, and an irrational matter of faith. Believing in God is now a hard thing to do. We have to look beyond, above, and behind the empirical evidence of the world and sense the Higher Truths of metaphysics. In this view atheism is simplistic and childish, as if God’s existence has to be plain and natural.No, a sincere study and honest scholarship coupled with an openness to experience leads sophisticates towards an increasingly elite form of knowledge and understanding.

    Isn’t it lovely that believers don’t have to choose which path to take? When it looks like they’ve fixed on one — you’ll find elements of the other. Either way it’s reasonable to believe in God — even when belief in God is nonrational or even irrational. That’s the main take-away point.

    • JBlilie
      Posted April 16, 2014 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

      Nicely summarized.

    • Kevin
      Posted April 16, 2014 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

      They like to take whatever they can from science and they have yet to give anything back.

      It is incredulous how many people tell me that dark energy and/or dark matter is god. Or that consciousness and love are clear representations or evidence for god. Pick anything that is not fully rectified in a sophomore college text book, and it is justification for their faith-cause.

  5. moarscienceplz
    Posted April 16, 2014 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

    I REALLY wish these god-botherers would circle their wagons and agree amongst themselves whatever the heck they are believing in BEFORE they come tell us poor ignorant atheists what we are doing wrong.

    • Chris
      Posted April 16, 2014 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

      Doubleplus one.

      And it’s something that your everyday believers and apologists just seem unable to get.

      The only thing worse than this is when they do understand that there is a problem: arguments that are so vague as to be meaningless. I wonder where this has recently been spotted?

    • Kevin
      Posted April 16, 2014 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

      Indeed. In fact, I’ve stated in the past that I’ll convert to a religion just as soon as all religions decide with 100% agreement on the status of the bacon cheeseburger.

      • moarscienceplz
        Posted April 16, 2014 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

        If i were a Jew, I’d insist on keeping bacon cheeseburgers non-kosher. Forbidden food tastes so much better!

      • Posted April 17, 2014 at 10:01 am | Permalink

        Gonna be hard – the opposite view of Judaism and Islam is found (apparently) on one island in the Pacific, where eating pork is a traditional sacred duty, IIRC.

    • Marella
      Posted April 16, 2014 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

      Soooo never going to happen.

      “consciousness, bliss, and rationality”

      You can call these things “god” if you want, but there’s no way they created the goddam universe! Make up your frigging mind!

  6. michaelfugate
    Posted April 16, 2014 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

    In a dialogue between Richard Norman and David Hart that was linked by a commenter on an earlier post – Hart includes the good works done by believers as proof of his god. He doesn’t deny that nonbelievers can be good, but just that believers are overwhelmingly represented in work among the poor and sick. A cynic might conclude that is where one is more likely to get converts…

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted April 17, 2014 at 4:06 am | Permalink

      Hart includes the good works done by believers as proof of his god.

      I’ve never got that one. Aren’t the good works of [group of people] proof of that group of people having individually decided to do something good? And that’s it. Occam’s Razor slices another argument to ribbons.

      • Posted April 17, 2014 at 10:04 am | Permalink

        There’s a movie scene I saw somewhere – I don’t even remember the movie – where one character asks a Christian where are the miracles that found his faith, and the Christian gestures towards the huddled and starving in a soup kitchen or the like. He then says, “that these people are fed”. I could only help but think of the “When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why they are poor, they call me a communist.” line, though.

    • Posted April 17, 2014 at 8:01 am | Permalink

      Hart includes the good works done by believers as proof of his god.

      By that logic, the Crusades, the Inquisition, the Conquistadors, the Holocaust, and so much more is therefore proof that his god is every bit the ultimate evil foe of humanity as it’s portrayed as in the Bible.

      I can accept that logic, but why should I consider Hart anything other than my mortal enemy?

      Wait — let me guess. The Crusaders and the Inquisitors and so on weren’t really Christians as far as Hart is concerned, right?

      b&

    • Bruce Gorton
      Posted April 17, 2014 at 11:10 am | Permalink

      Consider the following:

      1: There are documented cases of atheists trying to help, and being rebuffed by charities on the grounds that they didn’t want to annoy their religious benefactors.

      One can hardly blame atheists for not being charitable, when the religious don’t allow atheists to be.

      2: When atheists do help, more often than not they don’t make such a huge deal about being atheists.

      Unlike theists, we have some empathy and thus we don’t believe a disaster area is the right time or place to start an argument over our views.

      To point to the beloved dying grandmother gambit – it takes a theist to try and convert a family during a time when their grandmother is dying.

      3: The primary opposition to reforms that actually reduce issues involving poverty and illness are religious institutions.

      The Catholic Church for example is basically a cancer on the world health sector – taking over secular hospitals and then undermining the healthcare provided in them (EG: refusing abortions, sometimes even at the cost of the life of the mother.)

      The take-over is never accompanied by actual funding, they take just as much in the way of funding from governments as private institutions and actually do less pro-bono work. The so-called evil capitalists are actually more charitable than them.

      In short, when we seriously look at the work amongst the sick and the poor – frankly I am not too sure one shouldn’t count that against religion.

  7. Marella
    Posted April 16, 2014 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

    I have read Karen Armstrong’s “History of God” and that is enough sophisticated theology for me. Well written, interesting, and ultimately pointless. God exists but we can know nothing about him, was the message. How we can know he exists was less obvious. I was thoroughly confused by the end, I really thought Karen must be an atheist since I can’t see any point in believing in a god you know NOTHING about.

  8. tomh
    Posted April 16, 2014 at 4:26 pm | Permalink

    Professor, I do believe you’ve beaten them into submission over at The New Republic. There’s not even anyone there to argue with.

    By the way, Barbara Ehrenreich’s new book, Living With a Wild God; A Nonbeliever’s Search for the Truth About Everything, is reviewed in the New York Times. It appears to focus on more of her mystical experiences as a youngster.

    • John Scanlon, FCD
      Posted April 19, 2014 at 6:03 am | Permalink

      Late 1960s, early ’70s? There was a lot of quite affordable mystical experience going around back then.

  9. Posted April 17, 2014 at 12:54 am | Permalink

    Dear Jerry, how would you respond to someone saying (as I have had someone say to me) that “There is no right or wrong in the world. Truth is relative.” (with regards to my statement that religion is based on falsehoods and faith, whereas atheism looks at the world through evidence to uncover truth).

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted April 17, 2014 at 4:28 am | Permalink

      how would you respond to someone saying (as I have had someone say to me) that “There is no right or wrong in the world. Truth is relative.

      My response would be to take that person to the top of a cliff, then make the proposition to them that “it is true that there is a gravitational force which will accelerate things downwards”. Then invite them to jump off and experimentally demonstrate the truth of their proposition that truth is relative. (You can construct alternative scenarios involving, for example, high voltage substations if you don’t have any convenient high places.)
      The point of science is that it has empirically established a basis of facts, “truths” if you want, which are not relative to one’s point of view. There is a larger body of science where there is dispute or uncertainty about the truth of the matter (for example, every oil well that I drill is a simultaneous test of multiple hypotheses concerning the arrangement of rocks underground, and their state of charge with hydrocarbons), and that leads to the seeming confusion of competing hypotheses coming from different researchers (same situation on the well, having two part-owners to a well who disagree about the interpretation of the data that I collect for them) ; however, that disagreement about what the truth is doesn’t mean that there isn’t actually a truth out there to be known.

  10. KP
    Posted April 17, 2014 at 3:25 am | Permalink

    I’m on vacation and have dug into Hart a little more. Still only 100 pages in and it is insufferable. I didn’t read your NR piece our your original post yet because I still hold out hope of finishing it so I can say I’ve read some “Sophisticated Theology.” It is disrespectful to science, which Hart clearly wants to convert into straw men and bludgeon them with all of the woo ridden metaphysics he can cram into his mile long sentences. If your NR review says something to that effect, you’ve made no misstep whatsoever.

  11. Posted April 17, 2014 at 6:01 am | Permalink

    The “appreciation of beauty” argument puzzles me. If it really comes from some kind of higher Ineffable Ground of Being/Big Kahuna, how is it possible for beauty to be in the eye of the beholder?

    Canons of beauty vary wildly, and although I’m sure most people would agree that a fiery sunset is lovely, there is a lot of disagreement about the aesthetic value of bodily rotundity, rainy days, sharks, cities and caterwauling newborns. Appreciation of beauty also depends heavily on the proper amount of neurotransmitters: I’ve known many depressed people who could find beauty in nothing whatsoever for long, unhappy stretches. Is “God” another name for serotonin, then, in this new enlightened theology?

    Beauty is clearly not an absolute; it is an idiosyncratic emotional response to a given set of characteristics. How could such a response, not that different from several other chemically- and/or genetically-defined responses, be used as any kind of proof for an Ineffable Creator?

  12. DiscoveredJoys
    Posted April 17, 2014 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

    If “consciousness, bliss, and rationality” is down to a ground of being God, what explains unconsciousness, despair, and ignorance?

    • gbjames
      Posted April 17, 2014 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

      I’m guessing the opposite of the GOB.

      Maybe the Water or Air of Being? Or maybe the Ground of Not Being?

      I’m sure we can get a Deepity Generator to provide a useful phrase.

  13. Posted April 17, 2014 at 11:26 pm | Permalink

    Mr Bentley Hart’s attempt to enlighten us upon the nature of his gods amounts to not so much a description, but more of a strategy. The strategy is necessary because the gods of the bible are subject to both scrutiny and incredulity, and have worn away to nothing.
    The strategy is to refer to gods that are so abstract that they are able to exist only in the mind of Mr Hart, but not in the mind of anyone else. Such a strategy brings with it a delicious touch of comedy in that Bentley Hart is ‘allowed’ to discuss the attributes of his gods; he spends a whole lot of paper doing so, but then halts any further discussion by claiming that his gods are beyond discussion. Good try!

    But there is more; he is obliged to combat both internal and external doubts. His gods are designed to obviate his own personal tendencies to atheism. We know he has doubts. Why else would he put distance between himself and the gods of the bible that walked in gardens, announced pregnancy to Mary, and talked through burning bushes, and hovered behind the back of Abraham?
    And more. There is the problem of many disputing religions that seem to cancel each other, and of the fact that even among Christians themselves, those who by religious dogma are certain of reincarnation are approximately one person in three thousand. You cannot overcome those objections by supposing that the ‘Ground of Being’ applies equally to Hanuman the monkey-god, or Ganesh the elephant god. And do you expect your strict and vindictive god to overlook the Christian laxness in not killing those who pick-up sticks on the Sabbath?

    And besides, of he claims that evidence for his gods is so palpable, why is it that those most easily convinced of his supposed evidence are the uneducated and backward, while those least convinced are the educated and intelligent? Not what you’d expect of convincing evidence! Hill-Billy Christianity is real. It is the only explanation for the very many hostile, miss-spelt and semi-literate letters addressed to scientists and academics.

    The Bentley Hart gods are presented, not by explanation, but rather by a dis-explanation; offered excruciatingly abstractly, as if to avoid naming anything that can be seized-upon and examined by way of evidence. The explanation are coy and impalpable; like the military explanations for killing women and children, ‘Collateral Damage’. Perhaps Bentley Hart’s gods are ‘collateral gods’, accidently caught-up in the onward rush of the greatest project of all, the intellectual exploration of the universe, its contents and its processes.

    Many like myself are fierce believers in Freedom of Religion, and it comes hard upon us to be called ‘deranged’ for not falling for collateral gods. We do not ride the Turnip-Truck of Belief, and should not be condemned for not getting aboard.

  14. Tyler
    Posted April 18, 2014 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

    Gregory Kusnick,

    I will cease conversing with you if your incivility continues. You’re not religious, but I hope you believe in kindness.

    I am not moving the goalposts. I simply chose to bring up another reason why I believe in God.

    Have you ever seen the show “Long Island Medium”? How do you explain the fact that this woman runs into people in public and brings up things about them that she could not have known before meeting them. What is an intelligent explanation for that?

    • Posted April 18, 2014 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

      Okay, if you’re asking atheists for explanations, it’s your turn. Why does a loving, omnipotent, and omniscient God allow children to die of cancer. Canb’t he prevent tumors? How do you comport the existence of those natural evils with a God who can prevent them.

      How do you explain them? What is an intelligent explanation for that? And don’t tell me that God’s ways are mysterious, because if you don’t know his ways, you don’t know he exists.

      • Tyler
        Posted April 18, 2014 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

        “If you don’t know his ways, you don’t know he exists” is a logical fallacy.

        Regarding suffering, I don’t know why God allows it. I do not know.

        • Posted April 18, 2014 at 6:23 pm | Permalink

          Then don’t ask questions to the people here. The reason there is suffering is that there is no benevolent god.

          And there’s no logical fallacy at all. Your evidence for god is nonexistent, consisting of love. You are arrogant and I recommend that you go to other sites where your kind of fantasy is countenanced or approved.

        • Posted April 18, 2014 at 8:58 pm | Permalink

          Tyler, never mind all the cancer and tsunamis and what-not.

          What I want to know is why Jesus never calls 9-1-1.

          When one of his official agents is raping a child in Jesus’s name, is Jesus unaware of the fact? If so, he’s blindingly ignorant, not omniscient.

          Is Jesus incapable of calling 9-1-1? Then he’s utterly impotent. Even a young child with a cellphone can call 9-1-1.

          Or is Jesus aware and capable, but has some other reason for his inaction? Then he is an accomplice, as guilty as the rapist. He is evil, not benevolent. Again, even a young child has the moral conscience enough to call 9-1-1 in such a situation.

          “It’s a mystery” isn’t an acceptable answer, any more than it would be if the priest’s bishop walked in on the rape in progress and did nothing. Something which, apparently, has also happened.

          Indeed, Jesus’s only salvation is his purely fictional nature….

          Cheers,

          b&

    • Gregory Kusnick
      Posted April 18, 2014 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

      The “unintelligible” remark was aimed at Hart, not at you. Sorry if that wasn’t clear.

      I do believe in kindness, but I don’t think it entails giving bad arguments a free pass.

      • Tyler
        Posted April 18, 2014 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

        You need to reread your entire comment if you think there was nothing insulting and rude about it. Maybe you should just get off here and reconsider how to treat people with an opinion different from your own.

        It is quite possible to challenge an argument respectfully.

        • Benjamin O'Donnell
          Posted April 20, 2014 at 7:15 pm | Permalink

          “[C]hallenge an argument respectfully.”

          Respectful to whom or what?

          *People* deserve respect; ideas and beliefs deserve *criticism*.

          That’s how we work out what’s true and beautiful and good – by shooting down all that is false and ugly and dangerous with the most searching and ruthless criticism we can muster, including mockery, satire and ridicule.

    • tomh
      Posted April 18, 2014 at 5:26 pm | Permalink

      Tyler wrote:

      “Have you ever seen the show “Long Island Medium”? How do you explain the fact that this woman runs into people in public and brings up things about them that she could not have known before meeting them. What is an intelligent explanation for that?”

      Did you read the link I gave you on “Cold Readings?” That’s her main gimmick. Anyone can learn to do it, with a little practice you too can astound your friends and neighbors with your psychic abilities. For a more detailed dissection of her show, see this article by James Randi, a man who has exposed hundreds of frauds.

      “I believe that some of the millions, possibly billions, of ghost stories told by humans are true. I think more highly of my fellow man than to believe that every single one of those stories is false. “

      Billions? That seems like a stretch. Regardless, millions of Americans believe UFOs have visited Earth and tens of thousands claim to have been abducted and returned. Does that mean some of them are true? Unwitnessed and unreproducible personal stories are not convincing evidence, let alone proof that anything is true. And those kinds of stories are what Jeffrey Long’s book is based on.

      • Tyler
        Posted April 18, 2014 at 5:50 pm | Permalink

        Tom,

        I read Randi’s article. Does he have any strong supporting evidence she’s a fraud? The questions he quoted her asking are misrepresentative of most of her questions.

        • tomh
          Posted April 18, 2014 at 7:01 pm | Permalink

          @tyler

          ” Does he have any strong supporting evidence she’s a fraud?”

          Well, I consider it strong evidence that others can duplicate exactly what she does without claiming supernatural powers. Magicians have been doing it since Houdini’s time, early in the 20th century. Randi carries on that tradition – there are a lot of magicians today that can duplicate her act.

        • tomh
          Posted April 18, 2014 at 8:26 pm | Permalink

          @ Tyler

          It would be easy enough for the Long Island Medium to prove her psychic abilities if she dared. Simply put people she doesn’t know in another room and have the psychic tell you facts about them. No visual clues, no leading questions, just paranormal ability at work. No psychic has ever done it and none will ever attempt it. Without the tricks of the trade that they depend on, they would be exposed for the frauds they are. Including the flashy Long Island Medium.


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