Another religionist emails me, accusing me of reading only my own writings

The emails—most either annoying or downright pompous, keep coming in, inspired by my piece at The Conversation on the incompatibility of science and faith. With over 100,000 views and over 750 comments, that piece has legs—legs that have apparently kicked some believers in the tuchas. The email below, both annoying and pompous, came from a gentleman (and I use the term loosely) whose name will be omitted to protect the arrogant and delusional.

I will, however, let him know that I’ve posted it, and I’ll crowdsource the reply to you folks. I have a few comments (flush left); the email I got is indented.

And while I like readers to call me “Jerry” on this site, I don’t appreciate people I don’t know, who are about to take me to task, calling me by my first name. It’s patronizing.

Jerry

Would you agree there is only one truth, therefore there can be only one God for any legitimate faith to exist?  Even though it was 2000 years ago, there were witnesses to the resurrection of Jesus.  Is the witnessing of an event a fact or just faith?  Of course we were not there to personally witness that event but there are many events that we believe are true even though we weren’t there.

Answer: The question of “is there only one truth” isn’t clear even for science, as some questions, particularly those involving quantum mechanics, have multiple true answers. For example, is an electron a wave or a particle?

But when you get into nonexistent beings, then the answer to the first question is “no”. Hindus, for example, certainly consider their faith to be legitimate, yet has many gods. And even if there were just one deity (Muslims consider Allah to be identical to the Christian and Jewish god), the answer then depends on what you mean by “legitimate”. I suppose the writer thinks that there can be only one “legitimate” faith in the sense of being “a faith all of whose contentions are true.” But in that case Christianity is not “legitimate” because it depends on statements like the six-day Genesis creation and the existence of Adam and Eve as our literal ancestors—claims that have been scientifically disproven.

I suppose people have considered in detail what one means by a “true” faith, but for Christianity the minimum would be the beliefs that Jesus existed, was the son of God/God himself, was crucified, resurrected, and now will give us all eternal life. Plus he’s coming back!

This guy claims that there’s good evidence for the “truth” of Christianity because he takes the Bible as true. That, of course, is the sole source of “witnesses,” yet we also know of the contradictions in even the accounts of the Resurrection. Which “witness” is correct? (The gospels were of course written decades after Jesus’s supposed death, and not by witnesses at all.)

Personally, I’m skeptical of accounts that aren’t well attested by multiple independent accounts by contemporaries. I’m not even that sure that Socrates existed! But I’m even less sure that someone on whom Jesus was based existed, for there is only one account in history, and that’s all in the Bible, complete with contradictory accounts of Jesus’s life and death.

The chap goes on:

The belief in evolution requires great faith to believe something can grow out of nothing.  Most mathematical scientists are not atheists when they study the probabilities regarding evolution and creationism.  And mathematics are true scientific facts and not just speculation or theories.

Three comments. I don’t accept evolution based on faith; I accept it based on evidence. I don’t know how life began, but I do know that it originated about 4 billion years ago, that all living species descended from one ancient common ancestor, and that things evolved and branched, often via natural selection.  Finally, mathematics does not comprise “true scientific facts”, as the writer should know, and we don’t have any calculations showing that life could not have originated from non-life or that evolution could not have occurred.

But wait! There’s more!

You might benefit from reading something besides your own writings.  The Case For Faith by Lee Stroble would be a good place to start.

Actually, the author’s name is Lee Strobel; get your names right, dude!

Of course I read more than my own writings. I read tons of theology, plus the Bible and the Qur’an (and some of the Book of Mormon) for Faith versus Fact. I’m absolutely sure I know a lot more about theology and religion than this benighted chap knows about evolution. It’s odd that believers don’t think they have to study evolution or science in detail before criticizing me for not knowing enough theology! If you say that you have to have studied both to pronounce on the incompatibility of science and religion, well, I’ve done my job and almost none of my critics have.

Good luck in your search for God.  He knows where you are.  I hope you figure out where He is before you must face the real truth.

If there is a God, I’ll repeat what Bertrand Russell said when asked what, as an atheist, what he’d say to God if Russell died and found out he was wrong: “Not enough evidence, God! Not enough evidence!” I’m sure God would forgive me, him being loving and omniscient and stuff.

As for this guy, I have contempt not for his belief, but for his certainty and his willingness to lecture me on why I should share his personal superstitions.

Feel free to respond to this person, and I’ll email him the link to this post and the comments.

Note added at 6 pm Chicago time: I’ve sent the link to this believer.

179 Comments

  1. DrBrydon
    Posted January 1, 2019 at 10:10 am | Permalink

    Following David Hume, the claim that there was a son of god, who was resurrected after being killed, requires more than just hearsay evidence and the testimony of anonymous authors, whom we can’t questions. The same is true for all the other miracles attributed to Jesus. If the bible is evidence, it is no better evidence than the myths of the Greeks, Norse, or Hindus. The likelihood, in fact, is that they are all fictitious.

  2. Serendipitydawg
    Posted January 1, 2019 at 10:21 am | Permalink

    Good luck in your search for God. He knows where you are.

    Which one?

    ‘He’ made us in his own image, so he must have atheistic tendencies. Facetious, I know, but people like you bring out the worst in me.

    • David Coxill
      Posted January 1, 2019 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

      I didn’t realise the Doc was looking for a god .

      “But wait! There’s more!”

      Reminds me of the presenters on the shopping channels when they are trying to flog something .

      • Serendipitydawg
        Posted January 1, 2019 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

        I didn’t realise the Doc was looking for a god

        Like all of us, he keeps an eye open… nothing so far 😀

      • Mark
        Posted January 1, 2019 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

        Would you like fries with God?

        • Achrachno
          Posted January 1, 2019 at 6:06 pm | Permalink

          “Would you like fries with God?”

          No thanks. The fries would overpower the flavor of “God” since “he” has no discernible qualities.

          • gravelinspector-Aidan
            Posted January 1, 2019 at 7:11 pm | Permalink

            Neither qualities nor values.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted January 1, 2019 at 5:03 pm | Permalink

      ‘He knows where you live’. Nice threat, eh?

      Not that PCC was searching for G*d anyway. However, given G*d’s long list of documented atrocities, maybe Interpol should be…

      cr

    • Filippo
      Posted January 1, 2019 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

      “Good luck in your search for God. He knows where you are.”

      Steve Allen once said, “He [God] knows where I am.” That is, show Yourself to me, and I’ll seriously consider the likelihood of Your existence.

    • Posted January 2, 2019 at 3:59 am | Permalink

      If God knows where I am, why is it that I’m supposed to search for him? It would be easier for him to come to me.

    • Wunold
      Posted January 4, 2019 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

      Which one?

      That is my usual reply when someone asks me if I believe in god. Sometimes I provide a number of candites to choose from: Zeus, Thor, Baal, Quetzalcoatl …

      If they reply “the one true god”, I ask if they mean Amun-Ra.

  3. Diana MacPherson
    Posted January 1, 2019 at 10:24 am | Permalink

    The veiled threat at the end is always the kicker and revealing that perhaps he believes because of Pascal’s Wager.

    • Serendipitydawg
      Posted January 1, 2019 at 10:33 am | Permalink

      Indeed; however, when you rock up in front of Odin trying to explain that your combat was more of the metaphorical kind in service of a some beardy guy…

      • steve oberski
        Posted January 1, 2019 at 5:26 pm | Permalink

        My God Has A Hammer, Your God Was Nailed To A Cross. Any Questions?

        • darrelle
          Posted January 2, 2019 at 10:45 am | Permalink

          🙂

        • Serendipitydawg
          Posted January 2, 2019 at 11:34 am | Permalink

          😀

          This reminds me of an online cartoon from the early days of the web… so long ago that I can’t remember its name (the curse of advancing years).

    • rickflick
      Posted January 1, 2019 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

      I usually assume it’s grim, petty, vindictiveness.

      • Diane G
        Posted January 1, 2019 at 6:09 pm | Permalink

        So Christian of them.

  4. Andy Lowry
    Posted January 1, 2019 at 10:27 am | Permalink

    Perhaps the writer is unaware that there are religions that have no deities, e.g. Taoism and some varieties of Buddhism.

    • Serendipitydawg
      Posted January 1, 2019 at 10:38 am | Permalink

      I think in writer’s mind you would be guilty of confusing superstition with religion.

    • Posted January 1, 2019 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

      The writer seems unaware that there are other religions, period.

      • neil
        Posted January 1, 2019 at 5:07 pm | Permalink

        no,they understand that there are other religions; *wrong* religions…

        • gravelinspector-Aidan
          Posted January 1, 2019 at 7:23 pm | Permalink

          That would be all religions apart from the one that his (? probably, but I’d need some evidence on the point) parents injected into him. When these people brook “no other religion”, they really do mean no other religion. If it has more than one believer, then the possibility of heterodoxy exists, and that cannot be permitted.
          And, to quote someone, the end is a right-handed man fighting a left-handed man over the shattered ruins of the Earth.

    • steve oberski
      Posted January 1, 2019 at 5:32 pm | Permalink

      A religion without gods is like a prison without walls. *

      * Not original to me but I don’t recall and can’t find the attribution.

      • Posted January 1, 2019 at 5:47 pm | Permalink

        Great quote!

      • Nicolaas Stempels
        Posted January 1, 2019 at 10:00 pm | Permalink

        Real pity you can’t find the source, it is brilliant.

  5. BobTerrace
    Posted January 1, 2019 at 10:28 am | Permalink

    People like this guy has no problem with stating his position without producing even one single fact but questions your position even though you back up what you say with evidence.

    Logic and common sense eludes them.

  6. Historian
    Posted January 1, 2019 at 10:39 am | Permalink

    One must be very careful in invoking so-called witnesses to supposed historical events, especially if such testimony is about events that took place decades earlier. The case of Abraham Lincoln is a good example. What can we take as accurate regarding descriptions of Lincoln’s early years, especially since he talked very little about them? The answer is that William Herndon, Lincoln’s former law partner, took upon himself the task of writing a Lincoln biography shortly after the president’s death. Herndon toured the country interviewing people who knew Lincoln when he was young. Thus, this testimony was about events that had taken place 30 or 40 years previously. Through a combination of the passage of time, personal biases, and the natural tendency of people to exaggerate their relationship with a famous person, such testimony must be viewed as suspect. In other words, the quest to discover the “real” Lincoln of his youth is probably futile. In the case of Jesus, such “witness” testimony must be viewed as worthless.

    Historian Josh Zeitz has an interesting article in Politico on how Herndon wrote his Lincoln biography.

    https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2015/04/abraham-lincoln-william-herndon-116985?paginate=false

    • Posted January 1, 2019 at 11:27 am | Permalink

      I do wonder about the historicality of some of those larger-than-life ancient Greeks. I am relatively sure that Socrates existed because of the writings of his students Plato and Xenophon, even though they are somewhat conflicting. Now Pythagorus of Samos is a another matter. He could have been the invented founder of a semi-religious number cult. Knowledge of the eponymous theorem predates his time, and there is no evidence Pythagorus actually proved it as claimed. All writings about Pythagorus came after his suposed death, in most cases long after.

      Of course, you are the Historian and will correct me if I’m wrong. 🙂

    • Robert Bray
      Posted January 1, 2019 at 11:46 am | Permalink

      Ah, Historian! I must demur. At least since David Donald’s ‘Abraham Lincoln’ (1985), every major Lincoln biography has taken Herndon’s research seriously as the most reliable treatment of Lincoln’s youth and early adulthood. These several biographies include Michael Burlingame’s 2-vol., highly documented, cradle-to-grave ‘Abraham Lincoln,’ which is widely regarded as definitive. And one must not omit mention of the wonderful editorial work done over the past three decades by Douglas Wilson and Rodney Davis, who first produced a fine edition of ‘Herndon’s Informants’ and followed this with one of ‘Herndon’s Lincoln’ (which, by the way, was finally written for the original publication [1889] by Jesse Weik from Herndon’s materials).

      Even the Ann Rutledge story once again has credible currency today. This is especially ironic in the case of David Donald, who had thought to debunk it, once for all, as a sentimental legend unworthy of any serious historian in his first book, ‘Lincoln’s Herndon’ (1948)–a work so unkind to Herndon as to be scurrilous, leaving Lincoln studies much in need of a new biography of William Henry Herndon. At any rate, in view of the ongoing work on Herndon by the late John Y. Simon and Wilson and Davis, by 1985 Donald was obligated to accept the Rutledge story he once derided as at least plausible.

      • Historian
        Posted January 1, 2019 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

        “Ah, Historian! I must demur. At least since David Donald’s ‘Abraham Lincoln’ (1985), every major Lincoln biography has taken Herndon’s research seriously as the most reliable treatment of Lincoln’s youth and early adulthood.”

        Most reliable does not necessarily mean very reliable. I was using Lincoln as a general example that any testimony that is about events decades in the past must always be suspect. Certainly, this is the situation in court cases. Herndon may have been scrupulous and much of what his informants said may be largely true, but we cannot say to what degree. Maybe Lincoln did have some sort of relationship with Ann Rutledge, but as to its details only Lincoln could have told us and he did not do so as far as I know. And even if he did tell us, we cannot be sure how the testimony may have been distorted. Maybe some sort of historical Jesus did exist, but that hardly means that his life conformed to that which is described in the bible.

        By necessity, biographers are often limited in their sources that deal with certain aspects of their subjects’ lives. As a result, they fill in the blanks with reasonable inferences, which may or may not conform to what actually happened. Nobody can know for sure. This is particularly true when testimony takes place decades after the actual events.

        In my study history I have tended to shy away from biographies. I have been more interested in what historical characters said and did as they affected events. So, taking Lincoln as an example, I am not particularly interested in the extent that he split rails as a youth. I am more interested in how his views on slavery affected his actions as president. How he developed this views is not of particular importance. It may be interesting to know that on a boat trip to New Orleans he was disturbed by seeing shackled slaves and this influenced his view of slavery, but in understanding the course of American history, it is nothing but a factoid. What he did when in a position of power is what counts.

        • Robert Bray
          Posted January 1, 2019 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

          And in my study (and writing) of literature I have shied away from ‘hard history’ in favor of biography. Since I’ve already driven us far off the track of the thread, let’s leave it at this: we’re two black bodies orbiting the same black star called knowledge. I only dimly perceive it: it’s black.

          • Historian
            Posted January 1, 2019 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

            Yes, we can leave it at that. We have different approaches to understanding the past and gaining knowledge. I trust that both are evidence based.

            • neil
              Posted January 1, 2019 at 5:09 pm | Permalink

              Which is the one where Abe kills all those vampires?

    • David Coxill
      Posted January 1, 2019 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

      A black car and caravan visits a neighbour a few times a year ,on the side it says 515 people saw JC rise from the dead .

      • Mark R.
        Posted January 1, 2019 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

        I think more people have seen Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

  7. Posted January 1, 2019 at 10:41 am | Permalink

    My response to this gentleman:

    I remember feeling the way you do. I remember the ways that I felt clever, because my mind — fueled with information from the Bible and other Christian sources — was so adept at making my position rational. I remember debating people, and saying almost exactly what you said in your note to Jerry. Over and over again, for years. I remember avoiding non-Christian writings, outside of school, on science and philosophy and the like. I remember feeling triumphant and pleased when the writings of someone who had been considered a public atheist were construed as showing evidence of faith. I remember repeating those tidbits to others. I remember dismissing any argument or position that didn’t support my God, because it was so easy. Evidence of this or that? Obviously the devil wants to mislead people. Smarty pants academics who dismiss God? The Bible says that unless you become like a child, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. I had only to know the talking points of evolution to make my case. Eventually, curiosity set in. Too many people who knew more about biology than I did found my ideas foolish. Too many things happened in my life that made me scratch my head and wonder where God was. What I tell you now is the absolute truth: I started shopping for books about evolution, just to see. I ordered Why Evolution is True. I read it, and it changed my life. It blew my mind wide open. I have since, if you don’t mind the reference, put away childish things. I learned a great deal in the ensuing years. I look back with some embarrassment at my smug certainty, at my terribly uninformed and really very shallow arguments. I have come to understand that scientists love life. They are joyful and intrigued and fascinated by complexities of life. They read everything–religious texts, philosophy. But they have something that I didn’t have then, and understanding of the whole picture, not just their own corner of it.

    • mikeyc
      Posted January 1, 2019 at 10:48 am | Permalink

      very nicely put.

      • Claudia Baker
        Posted January 1, 2019 at 10:52 am | Permalink

        +1

    • Mark Sturtevant
      Posted January 1, 2019 at 10:58 am | Permalink

      This is the most valuable perspective of all! ++1!

    • rickflick
      Posted January 1, 2019 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

      Thank goodness for your curiosity. I worry that there are many who lack it.

      • Posted January 1, 2019 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

        In my experience, raised by evangelicals and having spent much of my adult life trying to maintain that belief system in myself, Christianity is designed to keep its adherents ignorant. Everything is viewed with suspicion. My parents taught me that scientists valued false knowledge over God. That the pursuit of understanding outside of Christianity was a form of arrogance. Reading about evolution was dangerous, because the devil would use your curiosity to plant seeds of doubt and you might lose your way. Rejecting God is dangerous. These are perfectly intelligent people, for the most part, but they have been indoctrinated into a system that views scientific education with suspicion. Sadly, normal human curiously is suppressed. You believe that a spirit is spying on you all the time. Your very doubtful thoughts are being monitored. This keeps many Christians stunted. It’s too bad. Why Evolution is True was such a powerful book for me. I’d love to buy it for my mother, but she wouldn’t read it.

        • rickflick
          Posted January 1, 2019 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

          “…she wouldn’t read it. ”
          That’s sad.

        • rickflick
          Posted January 1, 2019 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

          Religion is accused, justly, of having many bad effects. It has been said to “poison everything”. But, perhaps this is an example of it’s worst feature – cultivating ignorance. I’m glad that you succeeded in overcoming the forces in your family and culture. Welcome to reality.

          • Posted January 1, 2019 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

            It was such a relief. You don’t realize how much you have denied yourself until you walk away from it. Not immoral things, like most Christians would like to assume. Wonderful things, like learning without bias, without an agenda to refer to every time you hear something that doesn’t jive. My parents were members of Benny Hinn’s church in Orlando for years, until he moved west. Even now she makes excuses for him. “Everyone makes mistakes. He’s sincere. He loves God. I pray for him.” When you have decided already, almost nothing will convince you. My moment came when my dad died of a treatable illness because he didn’t go to a doctor. My parents prayed instead, anointed his head with oil every night. My mother said, “God numbers everyone’s days. If it hadn’t been sepsis, he would have had a heart attack or a boulder could have fallen out of the sky ” No self-reflection, no second guessing faith alone, no sense of responsibility. The book I read after reading WEIT was God Is Not Great. My whole life has changed for the better.

        • GBJames
          Posted January 1, 2019 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

          That’s depressing. But I’m very happy you escaped, watsonburch.

        • Serendipitydawg
          Posted January 1, 2019 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

          That the pursuit of understanding outside of Christianity was a form of arrogance. Reading about evolution was dangerous, because the devil would use your curiosity to plant seeds of doubt and you might lose your way. Rejecting God is dangerous.

          Classic cult behaviour that survives into the ‘mainstream’… no big surprise, but sad for those caught inside. Glad you are out here with us 🙂

        • gravelinspector-Aidan
          Posted January 1, 2019 at 7:34 pm | Permalink

          Christianity is designed to keep its adherents ignorant.

          That is a characteristic of religions. Christianity is not unique in this respect. Actually, it’s probably not unique in any respects, another common characteristic of religions.

    • dabertini
      Posted January 1, 2019 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

      Fist pumping stuff!

    • Posted January 1, 2019 at 6:06 pm | Permalink

      Excellent!

      /@

    • Posted January 1, 2019 at 7:39 pm | Permalink

      What is most admirable here in your history is that you were able to change your mind. That is actually rather rare in all areas. Religion, politics, culture. All of those “tribes” hold on to people.

      • Posted January 1, 2019 at 8:05 pm | Permalink

        Very true. It is a humbling experience, realizing that you have been so wrong about something so important. A lot of people don’t realize that many Christians–the serious ones–believe that atheists are under Satan’s control. They are viewed as dangerous to be around, like they carry a virus. That’s why so many parents send their kids to Christian colleges. They know that their kids will begin to think differently as soon as they get new information. Christianity is no different from any other controlling religion in that respect. But this is why the US is so far behind in acceptance of evolution. We have a mountain to climb, so I don’t mind speaking out sometimes, even though it is humbling to admit that I was once so willfully ignorant.

        • Serendipitydawg
          Posted January 2, 2019 at 8:52 am | Permalink

          … even though it is humbling to admit that I was once so willfully ignorant.

          I would substitute pride there. It sounds like your entire upbringing was geared to making another unthinking believer, so not ending up like that is quite an achievment.

    • darrelle
      Posted January 2, 2019 at 10:52 am | Permalink

      Very impressive. It is a fairly exceptional person that can do what you’ve done.

  8. mikeyc
    Posted January 1, 2019 at 10:42 am | Permalink

    With the exception of the error about “one truth” and therefore one god, the first paragraph was a reasonable argument that Dr PCC(e) easily rebutted.

    But then he leads the next paragraph with

    The belief in evolution requires great faith to believe something can grow out of nothing.

    Which physicist was it who said; “That’s not even wrong”? In one sentence he reveals both a profound ignorance about evolution and that he is deeply proud of it. We’ve seen this all before, a thousand times.

    Since the idea is for us to respond to this guy, here’s one to that nonsense; We accept that life has evolved because the evidence supports it and using that evidence we have elucidated many of the mechanisms by which life evolves and these comprise the Theory of Evolution. Although we don’t (and can’t precisely) know how life originated, none of the physics, chemistry or biology predicts that it arose out of “nothing”; that is a claim made by scientifically ignorant people.

  9. Posted January 1, 2019 at 10:47 am | Permalink

    Re “I suppose people have considered in detail what one means by a “true” faith, but for Christianity the minimum would be the beliefs that Jesus existed, was the son of God/God himself, was crucified, resurrected, and now will give us all eternal life. Plus he’s coming back!”

    So, if I am a minimalist Christian, then I also have to explain how it is that a god, who is immortal can sacrifice himself (he cannot) in other than a mummery. He also needs to explain why his god chose a human sacrifice as the atonement when he has already banned human sacrifice (see Ezekiel 20) and also how that works. The “saving” is conditional based upon whether one believes Jesus is god? WTF?

    Also, the “original sin” was a curse from Yahweh, uttered using words. Why does he need magic (a blood sacrifice) to undo a curse that only took words to create? Is “he” not all-powerful?

    I think there is more to this idea of “to call oneself a minimalist, one must believe …” than what you state.

    And btw, you had an excellent 2018, so I am looking forward to your 2019. One puzzlement is you have this thing about ducks … yet you eat them in restaurants all of the time. Compartmentalization, they name is Jerry! Happy birthday, btw!

    • Posted January 1, 2019 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

      … the “original sin” was a curse from Yahweh, uttered using words. Why does he need magic (a blood sacrifice) to undo a curse that only took words to create?

      In the original version of christianity — Paul’s — Yahweh was a lesser, malevolent, “creator” god, who made this imperfect world. The higher, benevolent God sent his son down to earth for just a few hours, taking the appearance of a mortal, tricking the Archons (worldly rulers), who served the creator god, into killing the son. His death served as a ransom to free all our eternal sparks from this ‘prison planet’, ascend to the highest heaven and enjoy eternal pleroma with the higher god.

      The current version of christianity with, inter alia, salvation from sin & bodily resurrection, is a gross perversion of the original, and the true history of christianity’s origins has been suppressed by a mountain of lies.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted January 1, 2019 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

        Omigods, that (Paul’s version) is really… creative.

        Are we sure Paul wasn’t reincarnated as L Ron Hubbard?

        cr

        • Posted January 1, 2019 at 6:18 pm | Permalink

          Well, it’s all fantasy, but I find that one more appealing than the alternative: that the jealous, mercurial, genocidal SOB thunder god of the OT is somehow also the all-loving sole deity of the universe, eager to redeem mankind from the curse He laid upon us following His entrapment of Adam & Eve.

      • Steve Pollard
        Posted January 2, 2019 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

        Isn’t that Marcionism?

        • Posted January 2, 2019 at 2:47 pm | Permalink

          Yes. Marcion was the #1 Paul fanboi.

          • Steve Pollard
            Posted January 2, 2019 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

            Or vice versa…

    • Posted January 1, 2019 at 5:50 pm | Permalink

      The comment about ducks is not appreciated. It’s rude. I guess I’m supposed to hate every individual of a species I eat.

      Would you like it better if I didn’t take care of the mallards on Botany Pond and ate duck all the time? Less hypocrisy, you know. . .

    • Publilius
      Posted January 1, 2019 at 8:38 pm | Permalink

      Yes, back when I was young and argued with Christians, I often brought up the “why so magical” question. If the Christian god is the supreme ruler of the universe, why couldn’t he just announce a new program? “From now on, you are not responsible for Adam’s sin.” Instead it’s “I decreed that all of Adam’s descendants are damned for his sin, and I demand a blood atonement for sin. But here’s a sneaky way around it. I’ll send myself down to earth in human form. Then when you kill him, you’ll be released from Adam’s sin.” WTF?

    • Posted January 2, 2019 at 4:12 am | Permalink

      My country no longer has the death penalty. It was finally abolished for treason in 1998 although nobody has been executed since the early sixties.

      Prior to 1998, had anybody been sentenced to death, the monarch had the power to pardon the offender or at least commute the sentence to life in prison. However, if she did so, it was definitely not necessary for her to put up one of her own children in place of the person pardoned, however much some people think it might be the best use of Prince Charles.

      If the Queen can let somebody off without killing her children, why can’t God?

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted January 2, 2019 at 4:41 am | Permalink

        That was a long lead-up to your final line! 😎

        But I agree, since G*d can do anything s/he/it wants, the whole Jesus business was totally unnecessary.

        cr

      • Diane G
        Posted January 3, 2019 at 1:46 am | Permalink

        Lol re Charles! 😀

  10. Claudia Baker
    Posted January 1, 2019 at 10:49 am | Permalink

    Ah, the old “you’ll find out when you die” fallacy. How convenient that this goddy person will never have to face up to his delusion, since he’ll be dead.

    We don’t need no facts or evidence. ‘Cause Jesus!

  11. Mark Sturtevant
    Posted January 1, 2019 at 10:52 am | Permalink

    I would add that you demonstrably know far more about Christianity than does this person. As he made several errors in that subject alone.

    • Brujo Feo
      Posted January 1, 2019 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

      Mark beat me to it, but I also ran into a speed bump here: “I’m absolutely sure I know a lot more about theology and religion than this benighted chap knows about evolution.”

      I’m pretty sure that you know more about not just Christianity than your correspondent does, but about the wider field of theology and religion, based upon your sentence before the quoted one. Why would the writer have any need to study religion or theology, once he had already found the One True God?

  12. littleboybrew
    Posted January 1, 2019 at 10:55 am | Permalink

    I want to believe what is true; the letter writer wants to believe he is going to heaven after he dies. I am sure his belief gives him great comfort. Unfortunately once you step onto the path of accepting false beliefs then it becomes so easy for one to think vaccines are bad, the earth is flat, or Donald Trump is the solution to our problems.

    • Posted January 2, 2019 at 4:15 am | Permalink

      I want to believe I’ll go to heaven after I die. I want to believe, if I buy a lottery ticket I’m going to win a million pounds. I want to believe Arsenal are going to win the Premiership this year.

      The trick is to understand that wanting something doesn’t make it true.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted January 2, 2019 at 4:52 am | Permalink

        I wouldn’t want to go to heaven after I die. Eternal life would soon get unutterably boring, I think. Unless I was also gifted with Alzheimers… (cue bad-taste joke about only ever needing one whodunnit)

        It is a quandary though. What form of existence could any Heaven take that wouldn’t become vitiatingly tedious quite quickly?

        cr

        • Posted January 2, 2019 at 7:49 am | Permalink

          It’s heaven and it’s God. There’s no way it would be boring. God would make sure of that.

        • Colin
          Posted January 2, 2019 at 8:17 am | Permalink

          “Millions long for immortality who don’t know what to do with themselves on a rainy Sunday afternoon.” (Susan Ertz)

        • rickflick
          Posted January 2, 2019 at 9:09 am | Permalink

          Christopher Hitchens noted that occupants of heaven would be forced to eternally worship the dictator. It’s worse than North Korea. At least the North Koreans get to escape through death.

        • Robert Bray
          Posted January 2, 2019 at 9:55 am | Permalink

          Magnificent poem on just this musing: Wallace Stevens’ ‘Sunday Morning.’

      • Steve Pollard
        Posted January 2, 2019 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

        Arsenal??

        I’m reminded of the apocryphal exchange:

        “Tell me, do you enjoy watching football?”
        “No, not really, I’m an Arsenal supporter”.

        Sorry!

  13. alexandra Moffat
    Posted January 1, 2019 at 11:00 am | Permalink

    Dependence on certainty is a sort of weakness, seems to me. Be brave, whoever you are who wrote Dr Coyne, and allow for a universe where we don’t have to know everything (which doesn’t preclude trying to learn more) and that’s OK. See Feynman below. Comforting words for me who admires the late RF so much. I am 90 years and not about to stop requiring evidence for stuff. Also, Sagan’s writings should be read before banking on a capricious, evidence-free god(s).

    “You see, one thing is, I can live with doubt, and uncertainty, and not knowing. I think it’s much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers which might be wrong. I have approximate answers and possible beliefs and different degrees of certainty about different things. But I’m not absolutely sure of anything, and there are many things I don’t know anything about, such as whether it means anything to ask why we’re here, and what the question might mean. I might think about it a little bit; if I can’t figure it out, then I go onto something else. But I don’t have to know an answer. I don’t feel frightened by not knowing things, by being lost in the mysterious universe without having any purpose, which is the way it really is, as far as I can tell — possibly. It doesn’t frighten me. [smiles]”
    Richard Feynman

  14. Randall Schenck
    Posted January 1, 2019 at 11:04 am | Permalink

    The really sad thing in this argument is a guy who believes he has to completely write off science and evolution because of his religion. Staying dumb over 2000 years of faith is truly a waste. I assume you know what faith is — belief without evidence. Ask the police about those eye witnesses.

  15. Posted January 1, 2019 at 11:11 am | Permalink

    Where in life has anyone ever found something coming from nothing? Yet many Believers relie on this non-fact to get their whole argument for god started. Logic does not force us to believe that way in the past nothing existed; in fact, logic, common experience AND evolution suggests quite the opposite is true.

    • A C Harper
      Posted January 1, 2019 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

      …and also set themselves up for the rebuttal:
      “If something cannot come from nothing, what came before God?”

      Be cause if God was a Prime Mover, existing without cause, then obviously something can come from nothing. However this whole creator/creation narrative may be just word games.

      The supposition that knowing requires a knower is based on a linguistic and not existential rule, as becomes obvious when we consider that raining needs no rainer and clouding no clouder.
      ~ Alan Watts; Tao: The Watercourse Way (1975)

  16. Colin
    Posted January 1, 2019 at 11:12 am | Permalink

    All this mental midget has to do is Google “Lee Strobel Debunked” and look at the myriad results.

    • Geoff Toscano
      Posted January 2, 2019 at 2:10 am | Permalink

      Yes, quoting Lee Strobel as an authority is never wise.

  17. Samedi
    Posted January 1, 2019 at 11:13 am | Permalink

    It is fascinating how similar religious and Intersectionalist/SJW/Postmodernist arguments are. Their common enemy is empirical science. The religious person calls belief in science “faith” as a way to discredit it. Just as the SJW types try to discredit science as a “social construct”, tool of the patriarchy, or other nonsense. The reason they do this is clear: once you have dispensed with empirical evidence as a standard you are free to believe anything you want and no-one can claim your dogmas are mistaken. This poisoning the well inoculates them against any empirically-based criticism.

    • Sastra
      Posted January 1, 2019 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

      For many Christians, leveling all beliefs places everyone on the level of ignorant children. Children must believe an authority;God is that authority.

      That’s why those like this letter writer tend to say faith = trust: it all reduces to who and what you place your “trust” in. You can trust your own flawed reason, or you can trust God.

      • darrelle
        Posted January 2, 2019 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

        It seems as if many religious believers employ a tactic of asserting that their opponent is morally bad so that they can then dismiss any argument, claim or belief their opponent may make simply based on that. That person is bad so whatever they are saying is wrong and possibly subversive. Contrived argument from morality.

        A common added twist is that the believer expresses tolerance or even compassion for the poor bad person. Love the person not the sin, or something like that.

        • GBJames
          Posted January 2, 2019 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

          “Love the person not the sin, or something like that.”

          Of course, we’ve got something similar… “People deserve respect, ideas do not.” 😉

          • darrelle
            Posted January 2, 2019 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

            Yes, and in and of themselves they are pretty good sentiments. But loving the sinner doesn’t preclude them from still dismissing their ideas because they are sinners. And it is good for the believers’ “optics.” It portrays them as being especially morally good at the same time that they are basing their assessment of the “sinner’s” argument on their assertion that the sinner is morally bad (rather than actually addressing the argument).

            • GBJames
              Posted January 2, 2019 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

              I think it is pretty symmetrical. Except for “sinner morally bad” substitute “believer unfortunately deluded”.

              • darrelle
                Posted January 2, 2019 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

                I didn’t intend the sentiment “love the sinner not the sin” to be the focus of my comment but, yes, I agree it is pretty much congruent with “people deserve respect, ideas do not” in all respects. For example, in both cases, religious and secular, people can and do express them disingenuously.

              • GBJames
                Posted January 2, 2019 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

                Agreed. It wasn’t your main point.

  18. GBJames
    Posted January 1, 2019 at 11:14 am | Permalink

    sub

  19. Jon Gallant
    Posted January 1, 2019 at 11:16 am | Permalink

    In the belief system of the Northwest coast Indians, animal, plants, and mountains could all talk at an earlier time. Then, a figure called “Raven” or “The Changer” came through and changed everything to the way it is now.
    We know all this is true, of course, because animals, plants, and mountains all witnessed these events—before they stopped talking. In the course of his activities, Raven also created the human species from a hairball on his chest. It is most disappointing that proponents of Religion leave out this belief system, just as plausible and more attractive than its Judeo-Christian counterpart, from their usual inventory of “different ways of knowing”.

    • Posted January 1, 2019 at 6:27 pm | Permalink

      Raven also created the human species from a hairball on his chest.

      That one is plausible.

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted January 1, 2019 at 7:45 pm | Permalink

        Doesn’t the existence of a hairball imply the prior existence of Ceiling Cat?

  20. Posted January 1, 2019 at 11:19 am | Permalink

    “Even though it was 2000 years ago, there were witnesses to the resurrection of Jesus.”

    Well, there were witnesses to the Joseph Smith’s Golden Tablets. Why aren’t you a Mormon?

    Your arguments presuppose that the Bible is true. Have you actually read the Bible? It’s filled with contradictions and inconsistencies. How about a bit more reading: “Who Wrote the Bible” by Richard Friedman and “Misquoting Jesus” by Bart Ehrman are good sources about the Old and New Testaments respectively.

    As for evolution: it’s not even worth discussing with you until you know what it is. Hint: It makes no claims about the origin of life or the origin of the universe.

    • Posted January 1, 2019 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

      And they signed an affidavit, so it’s gotta be true.

    • Achrachno
      Posted January 1, 2019 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

      “Have you actually read the Bible?”

      In my experience most Bible believers (c. 60%?) have never read the Bible all the way through. Not even once. Even reading all the way through Genesis is too much for a lot of them. They’ve read little snippets here and there that some preacher has quoted to them or that someone else has referenced. They don’t actually read the Bible for understanding.

      Very few of them (<5% I'm sure) have ever read Darwin's "Origin" all the way through. They don't know what they supposedly believe and they don't know that they oppose. I'm confident that Jerry's correspondent has not read Darwin though he's the sort that may have read the Bible.

  21. Roo
    Posted January 1, 2019 at 11:54 am | Permalink

    I feel like this argument gets used a lot. Essentially it boils down to:

    – We have to have at least some level of faith in almost everything (for example, we infer that the sun will rise tomorrow and the laws of physics will continue to exist as usual, but having not verified this firsthand, there is a small seed of ‘faith’ involved when planning our day.)

    – Because we have to have faith in almost everything, the religion of that particular person is justified on faith.

    The obvious problem being that if you don’t factor in *degrees of faith, you can make the same argument about any religion, as I think every major religion (and certainly plenty of guru types) involves witnesses or proposed historical witnesses who are supposed to have witnessed these events firsthand. You could also make it about a variety of mythological creatures (I once started reading a Graham Hancock book, thinking it was about an esoteric-but-plausible theory about how cave art and early psychedelics / spiritual experiences were linked. Then it took a sharp detour into super weird territory, but before I stopped reading I did get the gist that there are apparently many, many historical reports of people being kidnapped by fairies and various supernatural creatures, not to mention aliens in modern times.)

    I think the best evidence Christians can put forward to attest to their belief, if that’s what they’re committed to doing, is showing that it does something in 2019. Verifying what exactly happened 2000 years ago is likely impossible. If people who pray to Christ *now* all become examples of shining joy and love, then yes, I would certainly consider that worth considering, even if I would remain agnostic about what specifically it meant. I think one’s best bet on spiritual matters is to track down good people (whatever that word means to you) wherever they exist and see what they have in common. (On that front, I see how making one’s life mission to become Christ-like may well be beneficial – I am hard pressed to think of a person that I thought was really a good role model or shining example who I would more or less describe as ‘aimless’. I think strong dedication and purpose do seem to have a positive impact on people. Making empirical claims is different, but I think it is fine for people to be ‘Christians’ in the sense that they ‘want to be like Christ’.)

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted January 1, 2019 at 5:39 pm | Permalink

      I think you make a good point about ‘faith’. I have faith that science is generally correct and that, to grab one random fact for example, bats navigate by echolocation. Because biologists say so and they should know (I’ve never heard a bat ‘pinging’ for myself).

      Now I could (I presume) look into it further and review the evidence to the best of my ability but – since the question is not vital to me and time is limited – I prefer to take it ‘on faith’. Like ten thousand other scientific facts or theories.

      Just as I have faith that my car will start (it usually does) and that the designers have built adequate strength into the gearbox that it doesn’t strip a gear halfway to my destination.
      I also have faith in my driving ability (but I still wear a seat belt).

      ‘Faith’ in this context does not require any supernatural component. It won’t stretch to encompass an absurdity. I don’t have faith that my car will start if I left the lights on all night. I suppose my ‘faith’ would be better defined as ‘a very strong balance of probabilities’. That’s enough to get me through my day. This is NOT the ‘faith’ of religion, as much as it may suit religionists on occasion to blur the distinction.

      cr

      • Posted January 1, 2019 at 6:17 pm | Permalink

        Yes; this is ubiquitous. As I recently replied to someone on Twitter:

        “Trust and faith are synonymous.” This is disingenuous. “Faith” has a spectrum of meanings, from belief ŵo evidence (cf. Kierkegaard) to trust or confidence based on evidence and reason.

        /@

        • Roo
          Posted January 1, 2019 at 8:04 pm | Permalink

          Well, to give you something of a believer’s perspective (at least mine, at one point in time, although of course I can’t speak for everyone) to a believer it might feel like having ‘faith’ that Sumerians existed. The average person certainly hasn’t researched Sumer or excavated any artifacts for themselves, but the truth of a place called Sumer is taught in school and generally agreed upon and if someone came up to you and said “Sumer didn’t exist, that’s just what they want you to believe!” you’d probably think they were a wackadoo. Again, having been there at one point in time, I think that’s something of an important point in that this may be how atheists sound to people raised in places where a given religion is a ubiquitous norm. I think it falls more under “faith based on trusted and, under most circumstances, has-been-proven reliable authority” vs. “faith without evidence” – the way one has ‘faith’ in their doctor without having studied medicine, for example. If the adults in your life generally did right by you and taught you what you know to get by in the world, you more or less go with what they say and don’t worry too much about it. I think atheism debates only come up as frequently as they do in this time and place due to our society being so clearly ideologically diverse, and yet tribalism being so counter-productive at a time when huge numbers of people routinely need to work together on all sorts of projects. This rules out homogenous ideology or simply breaking off into ideological tribes in a way that I suspect didn’t arise so much in human history.

      • Roo
        Posted January 1, 2019 at 7:46 pm | Permalink

        Yeah, I don’t watch a lot of theist / atheist debates anymore but when I did, I noticed this is a point that gets brought up a lot.

    • Nicolaas Stempels
      Posted January 1, 2019 at 11:45 pm | Permalink

      I’d call the ‘faith’ that the sun will rise (in fact it’s the Earth spinning) or ‘faith’ in science, ‘confidence’ rather than ‘faith’.
      Using the word ‘faith’ (ie belief without evidence) in connection with science is obfuscating the difference, which probably is the intention in the first place.

      • Posted January 2, 2019 at 12:39 am | Permalink

        Exactly that!

        /@

      • Roo
        Posted January 2, 2019 at 1:43 am | Permalink

        I think it’s a semantic quibble, but I prefer “*degrees of faith”. I infer that the sun will rise tomorrow because it has always done so in the past, but, it’s entirely possible that some catastrophic, solar system annihilating event is on the way that I am not aware of at the moment. I have evidence that the sun rose *today, I will not have evidence that it rose tomorrow until it actually happens. Whether you want to use the word ‘faith’ or ‘speculation’, I don’t have actual evidence of said event *yet, I only have a hypothesis based on past events. Similarly, various religions have hypotheses about things – and I do think it’s fair to say that there is a degree of speculation involved in any event that has not already been witnessed firsthand. It’s sort of like a court of law – if the jury could be whisked away to witness said events firsthand (and also be given perfect perception to judge what they were witnessing,) we would have no need for standards of evidence. Of course this is not the case, however, and so we work by degrees of confidence, not categorical differences (i.e., if one person makes an accusation without corroboration we don’t say it is “faith based”, we say it is “uncorroborated”).

        • Nicolaas Stempels
          Posted January 2, 2019 at 6:42 am | Permalink

          I agree it might be a semantic quibble, but I’m still confident the Earth will continue to rotate in the near future, I would not like to call that ‘Faith’.
          In fact, the Earth’s rotation is slowing, 400 million years ago we had 400 days in a year, so it is not even a really insignificant slowing.
          Still, I find the distinction between ‘confidence’ a belief based on empiricism and deduction (evidence), and ‘faith’, a belief not based on evidence or wafer-thin evidence at best, a useful one.

          • rickflick
            Posted January 2, 2019 at 9:35 am | Permalink

            The religious use of the term faith includes the notion that you shouldn’t even care what the truth is. If presented with evidence you might be wrong, you are required to ignore it and double down. This is not rational behavior.

            • Roo
              Posted January 2, 2019 at 11:03 am | Permalink

              I agree that when faith is used in that particular sense, it means something different (I’m speaking specifically to the way I’ve heard it used in debates). A better catchall term might be ‘belief’.

              As an exercise in empathy, I do think it’s an interesting exercise to attempt to take a mental inventory of what one believes without any direct evidence, knowledge, understanding, etc. Pretty much all of history and much of science fall into this category for me – I have not been on archeological digs or in labs or scrutinizing journal articles on the vast majority of topics. This would be impossible. Some huge percentage of what I ‘know’, in the modern world, is just something that someone told me that everyone agrees is true, because time-wise, it really couldn’t work any other way.

              I remember when I was living out of state for the first time after college, I was living with a friend from my hometown. I was talking about Easter activities for a group of kids and knew that some of them were Jewish, so I was like “I think decorating eggs and spring themed activities are probably ok but obviously we won’t do any crafts with crosses and stuff.” She had zero idea what I was talking about (why a Jewish person wouldn’t generally make crafts involving the cross,) and made a fuss that I was being rude when I acted shocked, like I was being some snobby brainiac who looked down on people who didn’t have Trivial Pursuit level knowledge of life. In some places religious beliefs are as across-the-board confirmed as historical beliefs, so saying you wouldn’t make a cross would be like saying you wouldn’t make a Native American craft because you don’t believe Native Americans existed.

      • ThyroidPlanet
        Posted January 2, 2019 at 2:22 am | Permalink

        Good point

        It’s illustrative to consider the reverse case : confidence in Jesus, confidence in the expected outcome of praying, and so on. It’s almost deliberately supposed to be not just faith, but a conviction that what you’re doing in a religion is unlikely to work – but you must do it anyway- because of faith… circular reasoning inside circular reasoning…

  22. FB
    Posted January 1, 2019 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

    I don’t believe that God exists, but even if He does, I’m pretty sure He has nothing to do with the moron in the Bible or the Qur’an.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted January 1, 2019 at 7:49 pm | Permalink

      I feel that the Noodly Appendage has touched you. Ramen!

  23. Posted January 1, 2019 at 12:16 pm | Permalink

    Jerry
    Would you agree there is only one truth, therefore there can be only one God for any legitimate faith to exist?

    That smells of obscurantism. Nobody is uncertain about what “Mount Everest exists” means. It points to a terrain, a “thing” with a somewhat fuzzy definition, that has certain properties human observers can agree are “true” about that thing. Any and all complications of language, mental representation, reference, truth, fuzzy categories, reality, map—territory relation occur with Mount Everest, too.

    And yet, everyone has a good idea what the statement means. But Christians, ridiculous as they are, are either dumb, obtuse, or somwhow cognitively impaired when it comes to the existence of god, and his properties. If god’s nature is somehow totally different that we can, in fact, not really talk about it in a coherent manner, I’d prefer if the religiously-afflicted just shut up about it. Don’t bother!

    Even though it was 2000 years ago, there were witnesses to the resurrection of Jesus. Is the witnessing of an event a fact or just faith? Of course we were not there to personally witness that event but there are many events that we believe are true even though we weren’t there.

    That’s nonsense, of course. When Alice says she has an uncle who flew around the moon, then the only fact is that Alice made an assertion that she (apparently) believes her uncle once flew around the moon.

    There are countless possibilities, all of which are more likely. The uncle made it up, Alice believes it. She dreamed her uncle told her that. She lied. She has false memories of her uncle flying around moon. She has a mental condition that convinced her that her uncle did it. The uncle has a mental condition, but Alice believes it. Or she knows he has a mental condition, but doesn’t care whether it is true. A third person floated the idea, and both Alice and her uncle, independent of each other, embrace the story and so on.

    Making it worse, there is also the well-known relationship between plausibility of assertions and the degree they require “faith”. I’ve been on planes that fly. I can have “faith” that the next one does, too, and even bet my life that I’ll arrive safely. But for gods or people rising from the dead, then flying into the clouds — that requires a mental deficit of some kind to believe.

    • A C Harper
      Posted January 1, 2019 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

      “There are countless possibilities, all of which are more likely.”

      Alice’s uncle passed around the blue cheese at a family meal… and the story grew with inaccurate repetition.

      • Serendipitydawg
        Posted January 1, 2019 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

        No Alice, they definitely weren’t field mushrooms.

      • Achrachno
        Posted January 1, 2019 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

        Sweet cheeses!

  24. Roger
    Posted January 1, 2019 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

    The name-drop of Lee Strobel is… entertaining. I suggest the good sir should hang out with atheists more so as not to look so silly in the future.

    • Nicolaas Stempels
      Posted January 2, 2019 at 6:48 am | Permalink

      I guess that for this great light you’ll have to spell it out more clearly: most of us, including dr Jerry Coyne, are well aware of Mr Strobel’s ‘exploits’. Mr Strobel has been debunked again and again, at nauseam.

  25. Nell Whiteside
    Posted January 1, 2019 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

    If I remember correctly, David Bohm said that, “Insight changes the brain.”

    Imagine if all the ignoramuses(?) who write to you would actually attempt to understand the basics of evolution? Perhaps this insight would change their brains so that they could then appreciate another view of our exquisitely interesting world?

    On the other hand, being religious might inhibit the possibility of insight.

  26. Posted January 1, 2019 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

    “… there were witnesses to the resurrection of Jesus.”

    No.

    Here’s what passes for eyewitness accounts —

    Paul
    1 Corinthians claims Christ appeared (in this order) to: Cephas; “The Twelve”; “above five hundred brethren at once”; James; “all the apostles”; Paul.

    The list is a bit confused. Cephas (Peter) was one of The Twelve, who were known as ’the apostles’, as was James, despite official church obfuscation. Also, one of The Twelve, Judas, killed himself before the resurrection. Who all the [other/] apostles are, or the 500, is anybody’s guess.

    More damning is that Christ appeared to Paul in a vision. If Paul includes his ‘appearance’ in this list, he may well be indicating the other 514+ were visions (a.k.a., hallucinations) as well.

    Further, the passage containing this witness list is widely believed to be an interpolation. Nine lines (quite a lot for a 1st Century letter), a complete non sequitur, falling between:

    … by which also ye are saved, if ye hold fast the word which I preached unto you, except ye believed in vain.

    and

    Now if Christ is preached that he hath been raised from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? …. [A]nd if Christ hath not been raised, then is our preaching vain, your faith also is vain.

    The Gospels – The Tomb

    Per Mark 16:6, “the women” found Jesus’ tomb empty, save for a magical young man sitting inside, who told them Jesus was not there.

    Luke 24:4-6 has two men “in dazzling clothing” say the same.

    Matthew 28:2-6 features an angel telling the women Jesus is not in the tomb, but in 28:9 Jesus drops in on the disciples.

    John 20:1ff claims it was Peter and Mary who went to the tomb, finding only burial cloths — and two angels telling them Jesus wasn’t there. Jesus however, punks the angels and immediately appears to Mary, though she initially mistakes him for the gardener.

    The Gospels – Galilee

    Mark 16:14 has Jesus manifest himself at a meal to The Eleven (less Judas.) But everything after Mark 16:8 is a late addition. So either the original author forgot to include the most important event evah, or somebody made this up.

    Matthew 28:16 has Jesus meet up with The Eleven at a designated rendezvous, a mountain top. Which corroborates with Mark 16:14 if we assume it was a picnic lunch.

    Luke 24:13ff adds a chance meeting with Jesus on the road to Emmaus, by “two of them”, one named “Clopas”, the other unidentified.

    John is clearly making shit up.

    Even if all of these statements weren’t maddeningly vague and contradictory, (not to mention larded with supernatural elements), we have no clue as to the identity of the persons relating these alleged eyewitness accounts, no provenance for the documents that contain them, which appeared de novo in the 2nd Century, and are themselves demonstrably rife with interpolations and falsifications.

    • Achrachno
      Posted January 1, 2019 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

      As I may have said here before “above five hundred brethren at once” is not evidence of more than one person believing something. We have the (dubious) claim of one person, not that of 500. When the Xian’s bring in the whole 500 to be interviewed, then we’ll have something to take seriously.

      • Posted January 1, 2019 at 4:30 pm | Permalink

        Exactly. Someone claiming to be Paul writing in the 50’s — in a manuscript produced at least 150 years later with no known provenance — claiming “Christ” appeared to 500 unidentified people in some unidentified time at some unidentified location.

        NB: 1 Cor. is considered an “authentic” pauline epistle. Yet it was part of a set of ten first produced c. AD 150, three or four of which are considered forgeries by a consensus of biblical scholars, while other theologians & philologists have made compelling arguments that all ten are either forged or patchworks of disparate material, including late interpolations.

        This does even come close to passing muster for persuasive evidence.

        • Nicolaas Stempels
          Posted January 2, 2019 at 6:56 am | Permalink

          Moreover, Paul contends that all his knowledge came from revelation, he was no eyewitness, and never met Jesus in the flesh.
          The Gospels were written much later indeed and cannot possibly be considered eye witnesses (the latter being unreliable to start with anyway), hearsay at best.
          I would add that no contemporary source ever mentions Jesus or Christ.
          Would the Romans, sticklers for records, not have noticed, say, that triumphant entry into Jerusalem, or the dozens of saints resurrecting? All the contemporary chroniclers remain mum.

          • Posted January 2, 2019 at 10:45 am | Permalink

            The five alleged historical records forJesus’ existence are either 2nd Century references to followers of Christus/Chrestus — we also have contemporary references to followers of Jove — or highly suspect passages that show the signs of interpolation or fabrication out of whole cloth, and which passed unmentioned by patristic writers until the 4th Century.

            • Nicolaas Stempels
              Posted January 2, 2019 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

              The fabrication refers to the first passage in Josephus, I presume? Yes, that is generally accepted by all scholars to be either a later insertion, or at least to have been doctored. The second one just mentions James is a brother of Jesus, ie a Christian. It is important to note that even Josephus was not a contemporary. He is thought to have been born in 47 CE.
              Tacitus clearly mentions ‘what the Cristans are saying’ and did not consult archives, since he calls Pilate a ‘procurator’ (the name in Tacitus’ time) and not ‘prefect’ the title at the time of Pilate himself and the purported Jesus.

              • Posted January 2, 2019 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

                The consensus in the past on the TF was: interpolation in its entirety (Even Harnack thought so.) Recent decades have seen a shift toward accepting an authentic core with Christian additions (cf. Steve Mason, et al.)

                Earl Doherty and Luis Feldmen have shown that the TF vocabulary is not consistent with Josephus’, but is found throughout Eusebius. Also, Origen, a century before Eusebius, cites from Josephus but seem unaware of the TF.

                The second Josephus passage mentions “… the brother of Jesus, called Christ, whose name was James…” That is awkward phrasing. Some mythicists argue this is some random James who was actually the brother of newly- appointed high priest Jesus ben Damneus, mentioned a few lines later. I disagree, as: 1) the trial & execution of this James is identical to that of James the Just (a.k.a., ‘the brother of the Lord’) in Hegesippus & the Pseudo-Clementines; 2) James the Just was an ebionite at odds with the Pharisee faction of which Jesus ben Damneus was a member; 3) it’s inconsistent with Josephus’ formulaic convention when introducing new personages. My hunch is, a scribe or reader correctly identified the James in Josephus as James the Just, and added a marginal note which was later incorporated into the text by a copyist (a common phenomenon).

    • ThyroidPlanet
      Posted January 1, 2019 at 5:56 pm | Permalink

      Thanks for digging these references up.

      It’s interesting to read them and think about how the Bible has an undeniably different air than any other fiction. I imagine there was no other fiction it was competing with? And what about when these words were first written down? Don’t know. But how Christianity caught on as well as it did, and is frequently passed off as acceptable to non-religious readers as “a historical text” – I think has a lot to do with there being very little else to read for that “audience”.

      • ThyroidPlanet
        Posted January 1, 2019 at 5:58 pm | Permalink

        … oof – proofreading.

        The _Bible_ being acceptable.

        The “audience” being the victims of the Bible in the origins of Christianity.

      • Posted January 1, 2019 at 6:24 pm | Permalink

        The four canonical gospels are asserted to be largely historical; the many, very similar apocryphal gospels, fiction. When one steps back and looks without bias, the gospels most resemble allegorical exegesis on OT scripture.

      • Roo
        Posted January 2, 2019 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

        I think it had a lot to do with Rome, yes? Weren’t they the ones who insisted on unifying many local religions under Christianity, albeit with some flexibility on local norms and customs? I think there were a ton of individual tribal gods and religions up to around that point.

    • Posted January 2, 2019 at 8:12 am | Permalink

      The young man in Mark was not described as magical, unless you consider the ability to make robes white in the era before biological detergents some kind of miracle.

      The traditional ending of Mark is clearly a précis of the endings of all the other gospels, so it seems obvious to me that somebody familiar with all four gospels tacked it on at a later date.

      The three other resurrection stories all have different time lines and events. I think they all made stuff up around the central idea of the resurrection.

      Also, for completeness, you missed out what Acts has to say about the resurrected Jesus, which is quite a lot, but also in conflict with the gospels, including Luke which is alleged to have been written by the same author.

      • Posted January 2, 2019 at 10:12 am | Permalink

        I consider getting whites truly white in today’s laundry something of a miracle. Eradicate lint and I’d believe in God again.

        I meant ‘magical’ in the sense of ‘appearing inside a miraculously unsealed tomb, with preternatural knowledge as to the whereabouts of the missing, reanimated corpse.’

        The argument for accepting the long ending of GMark is, surprise surprise, how well it corroborates with the other gospels’ versions.

        I often omit Acts from the discussion. It reads like a Ken Russell script.

    • Robert Bray
      Posted January 3, 2019 at 10:10 am | Permalink

      It is also on point to note that the ‘earliest Gospel,’ Mark, originally ended at 16: 8, with the women fleeing in fear from an empty tomb. Resurrection? Lara Croft before her time? Mistaken necropolis address?

      Or what have you?

      In any case, with apologies to the Zombies:

      ‘Please don’t bother tryin’ to find him: he’s not there.’

      • Posted January 3, 2019 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

        Well no one told me about Emmaus, what could I do

  27. Posted January 1, 2019 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

    A few things…

    “The Case for Faith” is surely an oxymoron. (Or an oxymormon?) I would have thought that the special value attributed to faith rests in the absence for or irrelevance of supporting evidence.

    But okay, the correspondent thinks that the divinity of Jesus is not a matter of faith, but of fact. He accepts statements in the Bible as valid historical evidence, despite their obvious flimsiness. Okay, fine — his choice.

    But then he rejects the evidence for evolution, despite there being immeasurably more evidence for that than for the divinity of Jesus.

    He is applying a double standard here of extraordinary proportions.

  28. Joe Bussen
    Posted January 1, 2019 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

    Sean Carroll’s latest, The Big Picture, addresses: can something arise from nothing?, why is there something rather than nothing?, and similar questions. Suggest our communicant read it and get back to us.

  29. Posted January 1, 2019 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

    The smug little world of the faithful, this is a person who has stopped personal inquiry. Is satisfied for a complete lifetime of numbness, and so fully immersed, let him/her drown in it.
    No harm done to the primate except a perpetuated shrinking to banality of thought and reason.
    Indeed, there is no need for them to do otherwise, their god has got them covered.

  30. Posted January 1, 2019 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

    Typical utterance of religious proselytiser:
    “Jesus loves you!”

    Meaning: Abandon rational thinking and become the slave and sycophant of a mythical super being, for ever.

    Subtext: Or else a terrible fate awaits (the first statement is really a threat).

    Conclusion:
    Yep, sounds like a good deal?

    rz

  31. Randall Schenck
    Posted January 1, 2019 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

    Have to throw this in – If you actually thought Prof. Coyne only read what he wrote, you obviously never read one of his books. So absurd it must be a bad joke and surely a very stupid one.

    • Nicolaas Stempels
      Posted January 2, 2019 at 10:31 am | Permalink

      ‘absurd’ is the operative term indeed.

  32. Mark R.
    Posted January 1, 2019 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

    Arrogance is a common denominator among the faithful. The fact that people like this emailer ‘knows’ the omniscient creator of the universe loves, pays close attention to, and will keep him forever alive in heaven after death is grotesquely arrogant.

    And who could be more arrogant than the pope? A person who thinks himself the infallible mouthpiece of God is arrogance personified, bordering on insane.

    And what about the billions destined to burn in eternal flame? Wouldn’t ‘knowing’ something like this cause extreme distress and/or depression? What kind of person happily passes through life knowing that the majority of humans who have lived, are living, and will live in the future are all ending up in a perverse form of eternal suffering?

    The whole business is a poisonous sham, sickening the minds of millions.

  33. Barbara Radcliff
    Posted January 1, 2019 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

    In short, this ‘gentleman’ (to quote Professor Coyne), is an arrogant git!

  34. Posted January 1, 2019 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

    The only answer to writings of that sort that comes to my mind is, “Oh you can right? How cute!”

  35. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted January 1, 2019 at 4:52 pm | Permalink

    Of faiths that claim there is only ‘one true God’, then logically only a maximum of one of those can be correct (or of course they can all be wrong). A pretty arrogant claim, really, when one considers it.

    Faiths that don’t claim exclusivity (e.g Hinduism) obviously don’t face this problem, as PCC notes.

    ‘There is only one truth’ is sort of correct, for limited values of ‘true’. I would prefer to say that there is only one set of true facts. (‘Alternative facts’ is total BS). The truth encompasses all relevant facts. However different people’s version of the ‘truth’ may include different collections of those facts, or place different emphasis on them, to suit their worldview. I start getting nervous when people talk about ‘the truth’.

    cr

    • Serendipitydawg
      Posted January 3, 2019 at 5:31 am | Permalink

      Of faiths that claim there is only ‘one true God’, then logically only a maximum of one of those can be correct…

      This paricularly amuses me with the Church of England; they like to get together with other religions to present a united ‘all religions together’ vibe without considering the deeper implications of what they believe. I suspect if anyone asked the Muslim leaders, for example, what would happen to the archbishop of Canterbury when he dies they would certainly respond ‘burn in hell’.

      • Diane G
        Posted January 3, 2019 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

        Yes, any kind of ecumenical/latitudinarian display always amuses me. Seems to only emphasize that somewhere, deep down, they’re really not sure about the existence of the supernatural, so they have to resort to argumentum ad populum.

  36. Mark R.
    Posted January 1, 2019 at 4:58 pm | Permalink

    Do readers remember the Jesus challenge that Ben Goren wrote up a number of years ago? His premise was that Jesus never existed and asked readers to try and debunk his claim. There was more detail than that, but I remember it received hundreds of comments and no one gave a convincing argument that Jesus historically existed. Ever since then, I’ve considered Jesus a myth.

      • Mark R.
        Posted January 1, 2019 at 10:41 pm | Permalink

        YES, thanks! And two more comments would have reached 666. LOL! No more comments allowed or I’d add two. I went down the rabbit hole for awhile just now…man. That post should be put into book-form.

    • Geoff Toscano
      Posted January 2, 2019 at 2:27 am | Permalink

      I don’t find Ben Goren’s post terribly compelling, mainly because it begins with having to define Jesus. The problem is that if there is evidence for a historical Jesus (which I think is meagre but perhaps just sufficient) then it emerges from an examination of the evidence. Goren’s post is almost religious in its opening, in that it requires a definition prior to the evidence, perhaps to make it appear (somewhat disingenuously) similar to John Loftus’ ‘Outsider Test for Faith’.

      Even so, it’s a good attempt and much more reasonable than attempts to justify a divine Jesus.

  37. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted January 1, 2019 at 5:36 pm | Permalink

    I’ll take this part :

    J.A. Coyne :”And while I like readers to call me “Jerry” on this site, I don’t appreciate people I don’t know, who are about to take me to task, calling me by my first name. It’s patronizing.”

    This is a weaker point, but I see this patronizing tone as a tool that authorities in religion have used for at least centuries, to scold and shame those inferior members of the congregation into keeping the religion going.

    • Diane G
      Posted January 2, 2019 at 12:58 am | Permalink

      Reminds me of a debate that took place several years ago between an evolutionary biologist and a creationist, here in Kalamazoo. The latter kept referring to “good ol’ Charley Darwin.”

  38. Ray Little
    Posted January 1, 2019 at 6:15 pm | Permalink

    The conflict with science is hard on the religious. They can’t deny the validity of science (unless they want to walk everywhere and die young), so they have to say there’s no conflict, when there so clearly is. But the voluntary disassociation of ideas gives them practice for when they want to deny climate change, or vote for Tr*mp.

    • Curt Nelson
      Posted January 2, 2019 at 6:52 am | Permalink

      This is the problem with religion and what makes me want to shove my atheism down throats: being religious makes you believe what you want to believe not what is true, which really fowls up a democracy.

      • Diane G
        Posted January 3, 2019 at 1:51 am | Permalink

        Birds have nothing to do with it!

        • darrelle
          Posted January 3, 2019 at 7:41 am | Permalink

          🙂

        • Curt Nelson
          Posted January 3, 2019 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

          Right, I fouled it up.

  39. Posted January 1, 2019 at 6:19 pm | Permalink

    Though virgin birth is at least a theoretical possibility, offspring produced by such parthenogenesis must be genetically identical to the parent. Accordingly, could this guy explain how Jesus acquired his Y chromosome?
    But of course, all you need to get over such problems faith.

    • Richard
      Posted January 2, 2019 at 3:50 am | Permalink

      What Y chromosome? Surely you know that Jesus H Christ’s middle initial stands for Haploid?

  40. Posted January 1, 2019 at 6:21 pm | Permalink

    Correction of careless error in previous comment:
    But of course, all you need to get over such problems is faith.

  41. Ken Kukec
    Posted January 1, 2019 at 6:37 pm | Permalink

    “Even though it was 2000 years ago, there were witnesses to the resurrection of Jesus.”

    Whenever I hear an argument like that, I’m inclined to ask the person spouting it to imagine that, when JFK was assassinated, there had been no contemporary television or newspaper or magazine coverage, no Zapruder film, only word of mouth filtering out from Dallas. And to imagine further that only now, over a half century after the assassination itself, were there stories first starting to circulate, bearing the names of people who had been around at the time — call them the gospels of Sorensen and Schlesinger and Manchester and White (even though those men were long dead before the stories bearing their names actually emerged) — supposedly relating eyewitness accounts of what happened that day.

    How much credence would they put in those stories? Chrissake, even with all the contemporary video and written accounts, some people still can’t seem to sort through all the bullshit myths that surround what actually happened in Dealey Plaza on that day in November 1963.

    • Posted January 1, 2019 at 7:34 pm | Permalink

      You’ve clearly not read “Rush to Judgment” by Mark Lane

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted January 2, 2019 at 12:10 am | Permalink

        That would be the analogue to the Gnostic gospels discovered at the Nag Hammadi library, in our little allegory here.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted January 2, 2019 at 12:10 am | Permalink

        That would be the analogue to the Gnostic gospels discovered at the Nag Hammadi library, in our little allegory here.

    • Neil Wolfe
      Posted January 1, 2019 at 9:14 pm | Permalink

      How do you say “back and to the left” in Aramaic?

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted January 2, 2019 at 12:12 am | Permalink

        It translates as “the sermon on the Grassy Knoll.” 🙂

  42. kelskye
    Posted January 1, 2019 at 8:54 pm | Permalink

    I’ve decided a good sanity check for surviving 2019 is to walk away when anyone denounces basic science. Those people aren’t worth wasting effort on.

  43. Posted January 1, 2019 at 10:37 pm | Permalink

    “Good luck in your search for God. He knows where you are. I hope you figure out where He is before you must face the real truth.”

    I figure that if I do face a God after I die, I’ll tell it, “You sure fooled me!” And if it even half as good as rumored to me, it’ll chuckle along with me.

  44. Nicolaas Stempels
    Posted January 2, 2019 at 10:49 am | Permalink

    As a small detail about the ‘historical accuracy’ of the Gospels I would like to highlight a story that is transparently taken from older scripture (Robert Price has many more), one that has had such nefarious consequences in later ages.
    The story about the choice the Jewish populace is supposed to have made in choosing between Jesus and Bar Abbas (lit.: ‘son of the father’).
    It is a clear reference to the practice of scape-goating (Yom Kippur): one goat was charged with all the sins of Israel, and released into the wild, while the innocent, pure goat was sacrificed.
    Not only is it a transparent retelling, there is no way a strict and notoriously harsh (even to Roman standards) Roman prefect would ever have asked the opinion of the subjected population, and he would even less have ‘washed his hands in innocence’, completely out of character.
    The story is clearly made up: it never happened.

  45. Posted January 3, 2019 at 3:29 am | Permalink

    “Mathematics are true scientific facts,” are they? The guy needs to read about the connection between the “ultraviolet catastrophe” and the origin of quantum mechanics.

  46. timhoverd
    Posted January 3, 2019 at 3:54 am | Permalink

    “For example, is an electron a wave or a particle?”

    Your correspondent is clearly wrong about most things, but it’s not the case that an electron _is_ a wave or _is_ a particle. It can just be regarded as behaving like one or the other in some circumstances.

    I remember an undergraduate lecture many years ago where a fellow student wearily put his hand up and said “so, just what is an electron”. “Ah”, said the lecturer, also wearily. “An electron is a wave function moving in a multidimensional phase space. I’m not sure what it means either.” And so we moved back to the lecture on Somerfeld’s free electron model.

    • Posted January 3, 2019 at 4:23 am | Permalink

      An electron is a particular wave.

      /@

      • rickflick
        Posted January 3, 2019 at 5:55 am | Permalink

        Which wave in particular? 😎

        • darrelle
          Posted January 3, 2019 at 7:43 am | Permalink

          That one . . ., right there.

  47. Posted January 9, 2019 at 9:08 pm | Permalink

    Evolution is change, if you don’t believe in change then you can’t believe that world around you exists.

    Also, truth is ever changing with new discoveries we come across. To say you know the “real truth,” is just rude and out right insulting to people who have spent decades performing studies just to try and find a new discovery.

    And to assume that a writer, a writer of all people! Doesn’t read anything other than their own writings is a rude thing to say too. If anything I’d say your blog looks way better then mine and I’ve picked a book here and there too.


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