The Raving Theist

Dedicated to Jesus Christ, Now and Forever

A Few Thoughts and Explanations

December 31, 2008 | 216 Comments

I had planned to shutter this blog shortly after the end of this year. The day after the election, with so many of my friends depressed by the outcome, I announced that I would be publicly declaring my conversion to Christianity. Like me, many of them could barely drag themselves out of bed, read the newspaper or turn on the television. I hoped that it would cheer them to see The Raving Atheist go out on a faith-filled note, and encourage them to rise to the challenges posed by the incoming administration. I anticipating closing the blog with a few wrap-up posts, and then returning full-steam to the pro-life efforts that eventually brought me to this good place in my life.

The blog was essentially moribund due to an abandonment of fourteen months. I expected perhaps a dozen goodbye (or good riddance) comments on the conversion post. I did not bother to remove the Basic Assumptions or other trappings of godlessness because it seemed to me that would be like rearranging the furniture on the Titanic. The accompanying picture was selected by downloading the first suitably-sized result arising from a Google Image search for “Christ + Children.” I did not screen it for historical or political correctness because I assumed that the thought behind it would count enough for the handful of readers who would see it.

The deluge of comments and e-mails has persuaded me that some purpose might be served by an extended run of The Raving Theist. I have also been convinced, particularly by Jennifer of Conversion Diary, that sharing the story of my coming to faith might serve some beneficial purpose. It will be a maudlin, rickety, hole-filled, unconvincing narrative, in that respect not much different from the lives we lead in or out of the faith. For now, however, I will address (as time permits) some of the issues that have arisen more persistently in the comments, supplying additional observations where necessary.

(1) Yes, my conversion is real and sincere and heartfelt. It is not a mean atheist hoax or prank. At first I was offended that anyone could suspect me of such monstrous cruelty, but I realize that most people don’t know me well enough to understand how my character would so absolutely preclude such a charade. And having written my share of skeptical posts about the conversion of other atheists, I understand how impossible it would be for anyone who has perused my archives to conclude that I am anything more than fraud.

(2) Notably, there appears to be absolute certainty on both sides of hoax hypothesis. On the religious side the divide is not so significant: the believers who are convinced of my sincerity see my faith as a natural surrender to the truth, while those who think I am faking see it as consistent with the moral character or nastiness of many atheists, or at least those of my (former) ilk. Among the atheists, the divide is a little harder to explain. Those who believe it is a prank simply “know” that no one who has ever achieved their understanding of atheist concepts could ever possibly embrace the opposite conclusion. To them, the fakery is as obvious as that of a person who once believed that 1 + 1 = 2 suddenly renouncing that view in favor of the 1 + 1 = 3 conclusion. So one would think that every hardcore atheist would disbelieve my conversion. Nevertheless, two of the most militant internet atheists, PZ Myers of Pharyngula and Amanda Marcotte of Pandagon are fully convinced of my sincerity and predicted my conversion long ago. What the opposing atheists sides conclude as to each others’ sincerity regarding my sincerity I do not know.

(3) The atheists have justifiably pointed out that I have not supported my new thesis with anything more than a picture and an oath. As noted above, I will in time supply my reasons. I did not do so at first because the announcement was intended as consolation rather than argumentation. Furthermore, the calls for a full and immediate explanation of my beliefs and their justifications are unreasonable. I spent years on the exposition of my atheist views, and as I have noted, atheists disbelieve for a wide variety of reasons, and not all subscribe to the same rationales. I will pontificate at my leisure, in between silly headlines.

(4) Most of your demands for explanations are not so sincere, anyway. I will give you your fun nonetheless.

(5) Some of you are “sad” that I have abandoned my “principles.” What this means I am not sure. I know that when religious people tell you they are “sad,” you say that it is unreasonable to expect you to change yours beliefs to make them happy. So your atheist tears will not move me. Also, I do not know what principles you are referring to. If you are talking about my moral positions, you will have to be more specific about what I have abandoned.

(6) Various believers have expressed concern over the nastiness and obscenities directed at me. I don’t care. I did the same for years (albeit usually with a point somewhere) and am in no position to complain. And if I wanted to, I could out-nasty and out-swear any of them. I have lost my atheism, not my vocabulary. But I don’t want to. I do not even use the D-word anymore unless I am quoting somebody.

(7) I am not deleting the archives or atheist links. There is good mixed in with the bad, and lessons to be learned even from the bad. I will rearrange things so as to feature the links to religious blogs first. I have already added a bunch from those who commented and e-mailed me (click on “links” on the front page and scroll down to the bottom to “Theist Blogs”) If I have missed your blog please e-mail me (either ravingatheist-at-gmail.com or ravingtheist-at-gmail.com is fine).

(8) I believe in God, in the divinity of Jesus Christ our Savior, and that He was born and died for our sins so that we may have eternal life. God bless you all and Happy New Year!

Comments

216 Responses to “A Few Thoughts and Explanations”

  1. jeney
    December 31st, 2008 @ 4:45 pm

    Oh, excellent.  Excellent.

  2. Brian Flemming
    December 31st, 2008 @ 5:09 pm

    Hey, RT. Brian Flemming here. I left a message on your voice mail, but I don’t know if that’s your number any more, since it’s been a while. So what’s up with you these days? Anything new going on? :)

    I’ve always been grateful for your contribution to “The God Who Wasn’t There” DVD. The thoughts you express on the audio track are passionate, well reasoned and often quite funny. Many viewers call that interview a highlight of the DVD.

    So how about we do another audio interview? I’m guessing your position has changed on a few of the issues we talked about, and I’d be very curious to get your new take on them. I could turn the interview into an MP3 and make it available for free.

    Give me a call or email, I’d love to catch up. Oh, and Happy New Year to you, too!

    Best,
    Brian

  3. Chris
    December 31st, 2008 @ 5:11 pm

    TRT, I have to confess that I was (as a Catholic) initially suspect regarding the truth of your conversion… I thought I’d recalled you claiming a “conversion” a few years ago here, and thought it was more of the same. I was certainly pleasantly surprised to find out that I was mistaken.

    All the same, do I get to keep the Godidiot Award of the Week which you graciously bestowed upon me nearly six years ago? I remember it fondly.  :-)

    I do have to say, I’m not *shocked* by your conversion… I always regarded you as someone who was willing to actually have a conversation (i.e. both talk & listen), and given that I think it’s eminently reasonable to be a Christian, there was always a possibility there.

    I look forward to reading your conversion story… I told someone today that atheists’ conversions are among the most intellectually-interesting for me… I”m always interested in how the intellectual objections are resolved.

    Happy New Year, TRT!

  4. James Stephenson
    December 31st, 2008 @ 5:13 pm

    Very happy to hear you are sticking around.

  5. Carla
    December 31st, 2008 @ 5:20 pm

    (8)Amen!! Happy New Year, TRT!!

  6. James Stephenson
    December 31st, 2008 @ 5:21 pm

    This is a comment over at PZs:


    I suspect that we will see with him what we see with most such “conversions”–a marked reduction in meaningful questioning.
    It’s generally a kind of entry “into the fold,” acquiescing to the group’s “answers” and giving up doubts, questions, and well, intellectualism. And I think it’s satisfying to some people.
    And he’s probably getting up in years…
    Glen D’

    How long did it take to bring up the age thing? I knew it. They are all busy convincing themselves that he has lost his mind, or that he was a Christian from the beginning and this conversion is just a big trick.

    It has been said that we are not rational creatures, we are rationalising creatures. Watch it in action at PZs.

  7. UnspeakableyViolentJane
    December 31st, 2008 @ 5:28 pm

    I don’t know how anyone can classify it as rational or irrational as none of us has heard the story yet.

  8. UnspeakableyViolentJane
    December 31st, 2008 @ 5:47 pm

    Obviously,  RT’s disclosure of a working Godometer would silence any claims of irrationality.

  9. Trudy
    December 31st, 2008 @ 6:09 pm

    Hi,

    Thank you for the headlines.  They are really funny.  I do selfishly hope that you will continue to blog, as I would very much like to enjoy your wonderful sense of humour.

    I’m in the ‘natural surrender to the truth’ group.  You were becoming more thoughtful and considerate of others.  You have been willing to live in accordance with the good, and it was obvious that truth mattered to you.

    When someone chooses that what is good, they can not be far from the creator of all that is good.  When someone loves truth, they will be loved by the Author of truth.  And, whatever is done to help ‘the least of my brethern’ is accounted as done to Love Incarnate.

    I’ll look forward to reading your posts.

    God bless,

    Trudy

  10. Beelzebub
    December 31st, 2008 @ 7:25 pm

    Your point about nonplused atheists is well taken, but I think you’re not acknowledging that atheists, like everyone, are quite aware of human fault and foible. People will fall afoul of their own beliefs at every turn, it seems. That’s why genuine adherence to almost any belief is almost automatically given a kind of reverence. It’s my opinion that all types of people purport allegiance to various beliefs for all manner of reasons without any genuine commitment to them. Why might someone do this kind of thing? For a number of reasons. A few: They may simply have been raised in it and feel comfortable in it. They may find it practically useful in financial and social terms. They may even be playing devil’s advocate in a half-belief state. They may find the implications of the alternative viscerally despicable but be at a loss to refute it. IOW they may sacrifice their loyalty to the truth to gain a worldview they find more pleasing. I find this ALL THE TIME in Christian writings. “If we actually believed this way then ____” you fill in the blank. “It’s actually wrong to hate faggots.” “Abortion — at least early term– is okay” “Intermarriage is advisable”
    We often get, on both sides, claims that interest in the atheist/theist argument somehow implies waffling or doubt. Those who are solidly committed to a belief are really not interested in outside objection, not because they are totally secure in it but because they are totally SATISFIED, that is, psychologically and worldly serviced by their belief. These are the people who build walls and ramparts against any opposing argument; they will not engage in discourse, they will not listen.
    All the above is understandable. What ISN’T understandable to the atheist witnessing a conversion, is how a fellow can reconcile the quite materialistic knickknacks of Christianity to any kind of sane previous judgment. How is it that Jesus came back to life? Flew to heaven. How, exactly, do you make sense of the cosmic theomachy that must necessarily be going on above our head RIGHT THIS VERY MOMENT? –that the existence of a demon named Satan informs us, in any way, about our reality? And so on.
    In other words, you’ve got your work cut out. Maybe you should reconsider shutting down.

  11. Paolo
    December 31st, 2008 @ 8:14 pm

    RT, when I came to read these news about you some days ago – following a link on the Curt Jester’s blog – I didn’t know I would be so impressed.
    Three points for my thank you:
    first, many of your previous posts are really intriguing, many amusing, so I have something more worthwhile reading for this holiday;
    second, from your blog I came to know some great persons, and I mean Mrs. Ashli and Mrs. Dawn Eden: enchanté, really!
    third, it’s Christmas, folks! there’s a risk of you meeting God in this life!

    I was an atheist too; my conversion happened 25 years ago, the 19th of December 1983, at about 10:20 pm. I join my celebration with your joy.

    Merry Christmas and Happy (really) new year!

  12. Tenspace
    December 31st, 2008 @ 8:36 pm

    Hey Raving,

    First,  a hearty thank you is due – not only for the Raving Atheist refrigerator magnet you sent me years ago, but also for your original blog, which allowed me to find firm ground and understanding friends when I gave up Judaism all those years ago.

    I’m somewhat of a atypical atheist, in that I am not bothered by other people’s religion, as long as it doesn’t actively intrude on the worldview of their fellow humans, and one doesn’t attempt to bolster their position with lies and misdirection.  Which brings me to a question (and possibly a topic for a future entry to your new blog):  What is your take on spreading the Good News?  A central tenet of your newfound faith is proselytization.  Do you see yourself in an active role, sharing your conversion story with the non-religious, in an effort to bring them to Christianity? 

    I am inclined to side with those who posted above that you never really were an atheist.  For me, anyway, it’s hard to accept such an ancient ritualistic tradition as a foundation for my life, especially now that I can view religion objectively.  As I’ve said before, it’s hard to believe in Oz once you’ve had a peek behind the curtain.

    Good luck, and keep writing.  Your humor makes me laugh – especially the new headlines.  Oh, one other question: I assumed, possibly in error, that since you’re a New York Lawyer, you were a Jew.  Can you share with us, in a future post, a bit about your upbringing?  It may help to put this change of heart in perspective.

  13. Lily
    December 31st, 2008 @ 8:56 pm

    BBub– you left out at least one other plausible explanation for RT’s conversion. He came to believe that the claims of Christianity are true.

    You wrote:  What ISN’T understandable to the atheist witnessing a conversion, is how a fellow can reconcile the quite materialistic knickknacks of Christianity to any kind of sane previous judgment. How is it that Jesus came back to life? Flew to heaven. 

    Do you have a comprehensive explanation of the universe? If not, how do you ground your assumption that the material world is all there is? Science does not do that. Its assumptions are grounded in methodological naturalism. That is, it recognizes that it doesn’t know if there is a supernatural realm. Therefore, it leaves truth claims that reference the supernatural out of its reckoning. It does not, however, say that those claims are  false. They are simply outside its purview.

    It’s funny but your whole post is the typical atheist’s argument which is grounded in naturalism. Essentially, it is an argument from ignorance. As such, it demonstrates nicely the typical mode of thinking of the materialist. Science doesn’t have what y’all consider compelling evidence of the supernatural, so therefore the supernatural doesn’t exist. Of course, such a stance is founded on a logical fallacy but it is yours to take, if you so wish.

    Of course, I could  have saved a lot of my time and yours, if had simply quoted St. Augustine.  “[N]o one believes anything, unless he has first thought that it is to be believed.  . . . if faith is not thought through, it is not faith.”

  14. Beelzebub
    December 31st, 2008 @ 9:54 pm

    Lily,
    If you read your quote of me you’ll see that I’m actually objecting to the Christian tendency to materialize myth. It’s not enough for them to savor the metaphoric significance of virgin birth (which, I’ve been told, my be an artifact of mistranslation). No, the Virgin must have been real and material, the cross must be, the wounds. Catholics must daily reaffirm to themselves a body hanging there on the cross. Some Christians are satisfied with an ephemeral ghostly resurrection, others have Jesus chowing down on junk food. Satan’s machinations are real, our worldly fallen nature is real because there was once a material paradise on Earth, and on and on. _I_ am not an absolute materialist regarding explication of consciousness. I keep an open mind. I acknowledge the merits of notions like Platonic Ideals, etc. In many ways YOU are more of a materialist than I.

  15. Lily
    December 31st, 2008 @ 10:10 pm

    Well, I will happily admit to appreciating the material world. The platonic strain in Christian thought comes from the encounter with Greek philosophy. The Hebrews were unabashedly people who ate, drank, and err… more with gusto.

    There are no Christians who don’t believe in the bodily resurrection of Christ, etc. That is the definition of  “Christian”.  A metaphoric resurrection (and all the rest) have no value. There are lots of myths out there to choose from and lots of legal and illegal ways to dream up even more spectacular ones. We Christians are concerned with what is real.

  16. Pikemann Urge
    December 31st, 2008 @ 11:32 pm

    TRT, well, you had us guessing for quite a while there! I honestly thought this was some kind of bet you made with a Christian friend or associate. Something like:

    1. Pretent to convert
    2. Gauge the reactions from different social groups
    3. Later announce it was a stunt
    4. See what those who insulted you because of (1) have to say
    5. See who your friends really are!

    BTW, Mr. Flemming, good to see you here. Can’t wait for your super-secret project. And HNY!

  17. Beelzebub
    December 31st, 2008 @ 11:34 pm


    There are no Christians who don’t believe in the bodily resurrection of Christ,

    That’s not true; some think it was purely spiritual.

  18. Beelzebub
    December 31st, 2008 @ 11:41 pm

    Some think the Ascension was spiritual as well.  That’s the backup plan if the Talpiot tomb turns out to be legit.  The goalposts have legs.

  19. James H
    January 1st, 2009 @ 12:12 am

    I’m not going to cast aspersions for your change of beliefs.  What you believe is your business and your right.  But I am intensely curious about the how and the why of your shift, and I look forward to reading about your change of heart here.

  20. Eva
    January 1st, 2009 @ 12:15 am

    well, TRA, i’m in the #5 team, but not because of any loss of “principles”, but because i lost YOU. now you belong to a team i do not respect, and i don’t  in great part thanks to you.
    and i thank you for that from the bottom of my heart.
    thanks to you my atheism got a head, and legs.
    thanks to you i came to understand religious hipocrisy when i saw it, when i was too naive or misinformed (or afraid) to look before.
    thanks to you i got the arguments i needed to defend my non-belief, sometimes with very good results.
    thanks to you i had many, many laughs, and not all at he expense of the religious.
    thanks to you i could like myself in my disbelief, and not think of myself as some monster- like we are all told at some point or another that we are.

    thanks to you i’m here, moderating a forum of people i respect, have met, and truly appreciate.

    thanks for this strange, uncommon and unreasonable sadness…

    and goodbye…

  21. Katie
    January 1st, 2009 @ 1:08 am

    As a former atheist and current Catholic convert, I empathize.   It’s a difficult road and I’ve lost friends.  But I have Jesus, and I have the joy of embracing God’s love and mercy, and that more than makes up for it. 

    I empathize with your atheist (former) friends, too.  I know it’s confusing and upsetting to them.  I had a friend or two who went from atheist to Christian while I was still an atheist and it was really bizarre to me.  I understand it, now.

    I look forward to your conversion story.

  22. Jody L.
    January 1st, 2009 @ 4:12 am

    Once upon a time I was an agno-atheist and not very good at it, if there is a goal to aspire to in it. I had problems, and thinking didn’t really solve them. Formal logic certainly didn’t. I am beginning to suspect your conversion story may be very similar to mine and I am curious to learn more. I hope the bitter disappointment of your past readers will become less and that they find contentment where they can. Why not? I choose faith today for myself and realize I’m not very good at it, either. But so far my faith hasn’t required that I be that good at it, just that I try. I got tired of being the boss a long time ago, if you know what I mean.

  23. Beelzebub
    January 1st, 2009 @ 5:36 am
  24. James Stephenson
    January 1st, 2009 @ 6:20 am

    ‘All the above is understandable. What ISN’T understandable to the atheist witnessing a conversion, is how a fellow can reconcile the quite materialistic knickknacks of Christianity to any kind of sane previous judgment. How is it that Jesus came back to life? Flew to heaven. How, exactly, do you make sense of the cosmic theomachy that must necessarily be going on above our head RIGHT THIS VERY MOMENT? –that the existence of a demon named Satan informs us, in any way, about our reality? And so on.
    In other words, you’ve got your work cut out. Maybe you should reconsider shutting down.’

    – Beelzebub

    I get so tired of hearing stuff like this. Christians have been thinking about these things for 2000 years. How many of the great theologians have you actually read? There have been some stunning minds that have applied themselves to understanding such things.

    You give the impression that Christians are vacuous creatures who never actually think through the outrageous implications of their beliefs.

    I get tired because as soon as you convince one Atheist that you have actually thought things through intelligently, another one pops up slinging the same ‘Christians are mindless’ jibe. I suppose this is what the patience bit is for.

  25. James Stephenson
    January 1st, 2009 @ 6:30 am

    ‘I am inclined to side with those who posted above that you never really were an atheist.’

    – Tenspace

    Ah, the ‘no true atheist conversion’ idea.

    ‘….especially now that I can view religion objectively.’

    – Tenspace

    And by inference, no one who is still religious can view religion objectively.

    Who has confirmed that your view of religion is objective? Yourself. What you actually mean to say is that you have simply given up believing and now disbelieve. But you would rather arrogantly inflate this by adding the ‘objective’ label.

    And you talk about having an OZ moment and seeing behind the curtain – what exactly does that mean? When exactly did that happen? Again, you have lost your belief and simply wish to add some narrative to lend more weight to what has happened.

    You no longer believe – you do not now have a infallible view of reality where religion is concerned.

  26. Beelzebub
    January 1st, 2009 @ 6:55 am

    You give the impression that Christians are vacuous creatures who never actually think through the outrageous implications of their beliefs.

    I notice you cleverly omitted an answer. Actually I’d rather hear it from the horse’s mouth. When you decide to hold forth, give me a ring. I can’t very well have a roe with Augustine now can I?

    Tired of it? Of course you’re tired of it. You’d probably like to shut me up, too bad I’m out of crossbow range.

  27. Beelzebub
    January 1st, 2009 @ 7:07 am

    I guess that’s spelled “row,” sorry — argument IOW.

    Give me a reasonable transition from any kind of sane atheist view and believing in virgin birth.   In fact, lets have a laundry list of factoids RT has now bought into:

    — virgin birth
    — reanimation
    — heaven and alternative spatial reality, hell
    — demons and angels
    — transsubstantiation (just for fun)
    — the idea that sin, guilt and responsibility can be abated by blood sacrifice (what exactly does that mean, why, what possible sense is there in worldly actions gratifying an all powerful entity)

    The list is in fact endless, the utter nonsense this character has now seemingly embraced. 

  28. James Stephenson
    January 1st, 2009 @ 7:09 am

    ‘If you read your quote of me you’ll see that I’m actually objecting to the Christian tendency to materialize myth.’
     
    –       Beelzebub
     
    Object away, the overwhelming majority of Christians through history have come to the conclusion that the gospel accounts are reliable historical accounts of real events. We can argue the accuracy, translation etc. forever. You can accept your Bart Ehrmans and others who don’t believe and try to destroy the efficacy of scriptures, but I and many others simply believe it is what it is, as astonishing as it appears. The gospels are reliable and cohesive as far as I am concerned, and they marry up with every experience I have had in my Christian journey.
     
    ‘It’s not enough for them to savor the metaphoric significance of virgin birth (which, I’ve been told, may be an artifact of mistranslation).’
     
    –       Beelzebub
     
    The mistranslation applies to the Old Testament as far as I can tell. The virgin birth is not related to us with just a single word. It is part of the narrative, that  Joseph was going to quietly split from Mary etc… Disbelieve that story if you wish, but it doesn’t hinge on one word. I’m sure you can find many scholars to back you up and say this event never happened, just as you can find people who can ‘prove’ that Jesus never actually existed, or that if he did he was never crucified but got married and had kids.
     
    ‘…others have Jesus chowing down on junk food.)
     
    –       Beelzebub
     
    A typical atheist ploy. Use of language to ridicule biblical events. How they love their ‘sky daddies’ etc.  I always thought it said something about the strength of an argument when you have to resort to such tactics. Yes, of course it is very easy to find the image of Jesus sitting to chow down on a Big Mac.
     
    ‘our worldly fallen nature is real because…’
     
    –       Beelzebub
     
    The Biblical understanding of human nature offers me the best explanation of why I am like I am. When Paul says, ‘I do that which I do not want to do, and I do not do that which I want to do’ and he talks about a rebellious nature, and a struggle between the new man and the old, then he is talking about my struggles and life experience in a way that no one else does. It certainly is more on the money than many of the evolutionary pop psych unprovable just-so stories that the scientific establishment uses to explain much of human behavior.
     
     
    ‘In many ways YOU are more of a materialist than I.’
     
    –       Beelzebub
     
    Only if you completely misunderstand the nature of materialism.

  29. James Stephenson
    January 1st, 2009 @ 7:17 am

    ‘Some think the Ascension was spiritual as well.  That’s the backup plan if the Talpiot tomb turns out to be legit.  The goalposts have legs.’

    – Beelzebub

    This claim is disputed by many archaeologists and theologians, as well as language and biblical scholars.

    – Wikipedia

    Just another in a long line of finds that are supposedly going to disprove Christianity.

    And as for ‘some’ think the ascension was real. Correct, if by ‘some’ you mean 99.9% of Christians throughout history.

  30. Beelzebub
    January 1st, 2009 @ 7:35 am

    ‘The Biblical understanding of human nature offers me the best explanation of why I am like I am. ‘

    James, all religions have years to craft a good story.  You can’t exect Christianity to be completely incongruous to human nature; it wouldn’t have survived as long as it has if it was.  The reason why Christians often have “powerful” arguments from scripture is because the entire narrative was crafted by clever ‘pop’ psychologists (otherwise known as prophets or philosophers) of the day and has itself gone through an evolutionary literary sieve.  The story would not have survived, captivated humanity, served as a springboard of oppression for so long if it was completely lame.  But the butt of the joke is you James.  You’ve bought this stitched together chicanery hook line and sinker.  So a first century poet has captured something in your mind/heart that resonates with you.  So what?  Shakespeare has done the same, and perhaps if he made otherworldly claims you’d follow him too?  Please, James, grow up.

    ‘Only if you completely misunderstand the nature of materialism.’

    I guess my point went over my head.  Why does that not surprise me.

  31. Beelzebub
    January 1st, 2009 @ 7:36 am

    I mean your head.  Too many “spirits.”  I’m in Hawaii and it’s still yesterday.

  32. Beelzebub
    January 1st, 2009 @ 7:42 am

    Anyway, James, listen to the beat poetry I linked before.  It  says it one “hell” of a lot better than I can.  Hey if you can refer me to theologists I can refer you to Tim Minchin.

  33. mk
    January 1st, 2009 @ 8:05 am

    Beelzebub,

    Saying that ALL Christians do not believe in the physical resurrection of Jesus is like saying that some atheists believe in God.

    By definition, an atheist does not believe in God.
    By definition, a Christian believes that Jesus died, resurrected and rose.

    Hence the creed.  duh.

    Anyone can claim anything.    This has no bearing on reality.  If you are aware of people claiming to be Christians, but not believing in the physicality of the Resurrection, then you are being duped.   If I told you that I know lots of atheists that are practicing Catholics, I’m sure you’d have the same reaction.  It’s simply not possible. 

  34. Beelzebub
    January 1st, 2009 @ 8:19 am

    It’s a tedious point anyway.  I’m quite willing to concede it since it only bolsters my claim that Christians are tied to materialistic explanations when it’s quite imaginable (to me) that spiritual ones would suffice.  This is exactly the point that seems to have escaped James.

  35. mk
    January 1st, 2009 @ 8:32 am

    Beelzebub,
    Now if we could only get you to concede a few other points… ;-)

    I think what you’re missing is that, at least in the Catholic Faith, the relationship between the material and the immaterial is key.

    In the beginning was the word…immaterial.
    And the word was made flesh…material.

    All of our sacraments are outward signs, physical expressions, of something taking place on a spiritual level.

    The Old Testament, the law.
    The New Testament, the spirit of the law.

    That’s the whole point of our Faith.  Finding a way to reconcile the material with spiritual.

    Theology of the Body does a great job of doing just this.

    Animals are of the purely physical world.  Angels, demons and God, are of the purely spiritual world.  Humans have a foot in both.  It is the becoming one of us, God the spirit taking on a physical form, that allows us access to that spiritual realm.

    We do not deny the material.  We just put it in it’s proper place.  You however deny the spiritual. 

    I know you think we are insane.  But think about this.  We accept that there is a physical as well as a spiritual world.  If we were to deny the material world, claim that it doesn’t, exist, then you would have a point in calling us crazy.

    But from our perspective, it is you that are missing the boat.  You deny the spiritual world.    We accept both, you only accept one.  To us, that seems irrational.  To us, it is you that is close minded.  We look at things through a different lens.  It’s like those “magic” pictures.  Someone that is unable to see the “hidden” image, might feel as though we are trying to pull something over on them.  But the second picture is there.  It’s just as real as the primary image.  You just have to know how to  look at it. 

    But being able or unable to see, has nothing to do with the reality of it.

  36. Irreligious
    January 1st, 2009 @ 9:31 am

    I’m not sure, exactly, what Beelzebub is supposed to concede you, mk, but your argument is airtight. Like Bigfoot and leprachauns, a conveniently hidden away,  nonmaterial world that is accessible only  to devout Roman Catholics is not something one can disprove. Certainly not to the devout Roman Catholic.

  37. mk
    January 1st, 2009 @ 9:52 am

    Irreligious,

    It was said tongue in cheek…hence the wink.

    First of all, no one is asking you to disprove anything.  I’m not having a crisis of faith, and am certainly not look for arguments against my faith.

    I am simply answering B’s assertion.  We are indeed materialists.  We are human and have bodies.  It is the marriage of the spiritual and the material that is at issue. 

    B states that the spiritual should be enough.  Why the need for the material manifestations…I answered, because WE are physical.  The whole point is the connection between the two. 

    We are not physical creatures trying to become spiritual ones.  We will never become angels.  Saints, maybe.  But we cannot become what we are not, and we are not purely spiritual beings.

    We are fully spiritual and fully physical.  Unlike other creatures that are purely one or the other.

    Therefore, it only makes sense that God would approach us in a physical as well as a spiritual manner.  Both of our natures need to be addressed.

    In the beginning it was not so.  In the beginning, both natures were in perfect harmony.  It was only after the fall that the two became enemies.

    From that point on, we have been trying to get back to the beginning.

    You laugh at our “invisible fairy tale world”…

    Tell me.  Why does a person, blind from birth, accept the truth that others can see?  They have nothing to base this acceptance on other than the word of those that claim there is something called color in the world.   They have not seen it for themselves.  They have never seen a sunset, or a tulip or an artichoke.  And yet, they take our word for it that “sight” exists.

    They cannot disprove that we see.  Our argument is airtight, to use your words.

    Can you imagine a blog where blind folks get together and talk about how nuts the rest of the population is…claiming to do something so ridiculous as use their facial orbs to “see” things??? 

    I cannot prove to you my God exists through reason any more than I can explain that my mother exists in the same manner.  However, if you were to meet her, you would know it.

    We do not know “about” God.  We know the man Himself.  We cannot prove Him to you, but we can introduce you to Him.  Until you stop thinking with your brain and start thinking with your mind, you will never understand Him.  He’s not a puzzle to be solved.  He’s not a trick to be exposed.  He’s a person, to be in a relationship with.

  38. James Stephenson
    January 1st, 2009 @ 10:06 am

    ‘But the butt of the joke is you James.  You’ve bought this stitched together chicanery hook line and sinker.’

    – Beelzebub

    Well here’s an impasse then. I think the joke is on you. You have bought into this relatively modern delusion that we are simply chemicals with no spiritual element at all. You have bought into the delusion that mind can arise unaided from mud. You have probably bought into all the popular evolution just-so stories. You have probably sucked up a big dose of Freud and so on.

    The bible calls these things hollow and deceptive philosophies. It warns us not to be taken captive by them. You are a captive.

    I could also say grow up Beez. But I won’t because I don’t think you are a child – you are just a captive to the godless spirit of this age.

  39. UnspeakableyViolentJane
    January 1st, 2009 @ 10:07 am

    mk, the flaw in your blind argument is that the blind person can still detect the object using another sense.  They can verify the desk by touching it.  If you had a friend that could mind read, you could verify her ability by asking her subject if she had ascertained their thoughts correctly even though you yourself can not mindread.

    You tell me that you can “feel” God.  Ok, let’s start with a definition.  If by God, you mean dust bunny, then maybe I’m a theist too, and I just didn’t know it!  Once you’ve established a definition for God, we can test your claims, even though we cannot feel it.  For instance we can do a brain scan and you can indicate to use when you are feeling him/her.

    As for the blind hanging out on websites laughing at us, they probably do.  The deaf think the hearing are pretty hilarious.

  40. James Stephenson
    January 1st, 2009 @ 10:09 am

    ‘It’s a tedious point anyway.  I’m quite willing to concede it since it only bolsters my claim that Christians are tied to materialistic explanations when it’s quite imaginable (to me) that spiritual ones would suffice.  This is exactly the point that seems to have escaped James.’

    – Beelzebub
     
    Okay you have obviously made up your mind that I’m stupid. I understood your point very well – although I don’t really see what purpose it serves.
     
    As for the definition of materialism – okay I was being a bit of a pedant.

  41. UnspeakableyViolentJane
    January 1st, 2009 @ 10:12 am

    James, a book is not proof.  Every religion has a book or books and anyone can write a book.  If I write a scrap of paper that there is a dragon in my garage, does that make it true?

    I think the weakness of every theistic religion is the insistence on claiming its “truth.”  Rather than spinning, just say “I don’t know the truth.  No one does, but living as though this is the truth makes my life better.”  Drop the Santa routine and steal a page from Zen.

  42. James Stephenson
    January 1st, 2009 @ 10:17 am


    I’m not sure, exactly, what Beelzebub is supposed to concede you, mk, but your argument is airtight. Like Bigfoot and leprachauns, a conveniently hidden away,  nonmaterial world that is accessible only  to devout Roman Catholics is not something one can disprove. Certainly not to the devout Roman Catholic.’

    – Irreligious

    Conveniently hidden away. By its very nature it is immaterial – how would you expect the immaterial to show itself.

    The author of the immaterial and material has done what I consider to be a good job of showing Himself and given us a very good understanding of the immaterial. Good enough for me and billions of others.

    As for only accessible to devout Roman Catholics – no. It is open to anyone who is willing to put their pride aside and meet with their Creator. Not so difficult.

  43. UnspeakableyViolentJane
    January 1st, 2009 @ 10:21 am

    James, how does the immaterial affect the material without being material?  In other words, how can Casper hold a glass of water and still pass through a door?

    If the immaterial could affect the material we would be able to measure it.

  44. James Stephenson
    January 1st, 2009 @ 10:22 am

    ‘Once you’ve established a definition for God, we can test your claims, even though we cannot feel it.  For instance we can do a brain scan and you can indicate to use when you are feeling him/her.’

    – Irreligious

    You have already been beaten to this. ‘The Spiritual Brain’ recounts studies looking at the brain states of Carmelite Nuns when they are communining with God. Their brain state correlates to nothing else. It is unique in human experience.

  45. UnspeakableyViolentJane
    January 1st, 2009 @ 10:23 am

    Link please

  46. UnspeakableyViolentJane
    January 1st, 2009 @ 10:29 am

    From Bio-Medicine
    http://news.bio-medicine.org/medicine-news-3/Brain-scan-of-nuns-finds-no-single-God-spot-in-the-brain–Universit-de-Montral-study-finds-3320-1/

    “A new study at the Universit de Montral has concluded that there is no single God spot in the brain. In other words, mystical experiences are mediated by several brain regions and systems normally implicated in a variety of functions (self-consciousness, emotion, body representation). The study published in the current issue of Neuroscience Letters was conducted by Dr. Mario Beauregard from the Department of Psychology at the Universit de Montral and his student Vincent Paquette.”

  47. James Stephenson
    January 1st, 2009 @ 10:30 am

    ‘I think the weakness of every theistic religion is the insistence on claiming its “truth.”  Rather than spinning, just say “I don’t know the truth.  No one does, but living as though this is the truth makes my life better.”  Drop the Santa routine and steal a page from Zen.’

    – UVJ
    What do you think doubt is about. What do you think faith is about? What about hope?
     
    Christianity is littered with doubt – if we had certainty, we would not need to hope and would not need faith.
     
    It’s just that the Atheist view of things is weak and won’t consider any evidence that does not fit in with its base assumptions.
     
    If my faith was simply based upon a book then I could see your point. But it is based on a whole range of experience and historical evidence (that you discount).

    I am better disposed to other religions than to anyone who is duped into believing that we arrived hear by accident. The wonder of the brain – its incredible, breath-taking complexity – an random occurence. I’m with Flew on this one – there is an overwhelming argument for design.

  48. James Stephenson
    January 1st, 2009 @ 10:32 am

    whoops – ‘here by accident’.

  49. James Stephenson
    January 1st, 2009 @ 10:34 am
  50. UnspeakableyViolentJane
    January 1st, 2009 @ 10:37 am

    James said: “I’m with Flew on this one – there is an overwhelming argument for design.”

    Dude, the cloud doesn’t know it looks like Elvis, that’s information YOU bring to the table.  Seeing Mary in toast or beauty and wonder in the landscape is from inside you.

    That isn’t to say that I don’t find being a life form on a random rock flying through space amazing, its just that my need for meaning isn’t in such overdrive that I have ascribe the whole thing to a Ghostly Charlton Heston.

  51. James Stephenson
    January 1st, 2009 @ 10:42 am
  52. James Stephenson
    January 1st, 2009 @ 10:43 am

    UVB – maybe you should read Flew’s book before you start to talk about clouds and Elvis.

  53. UnspeakableyViolentJane
    January 1st, 2009 @ 10:46 am

    Only if you are willing to read Dennet’s “Consciousness Explained.”

  54. James Stephenson
    January 1st, 2009 @ 10:50 am

    UVB.
    I say the creator of this universe who exists outside of time. Responsible for the madness that is the quantum world, the outrageous complexity of the brain and the mind-blowing genome.

    You say ghostly Charlton Heston.

    Again with the ridicule to help your position.

  55. UnspeakableyViolentJane
    January 1st, 2009 @ 10:58 am

    I’m sorry James.  It is my nature to tease and play the coyote.  I’m trying to get you to give me a definition for God.

    And what I got from your last post is that “God” is an entity that made us by manipulating the material world but remains undetectable.

    And to that I would point out that you cannot manipulate the material world without being detected.

  56. James Stephenson
    January 1st, 2009 @ 11:03 am

    UVJ – I have read most of Dennets writing – same for Dawkins, Hitchens and Harris.
    Really I was referring to your Clouds/Elvis thing and wondering whether it has anything to do with the incredible design found within the genome that was one of the things that caused Flew to change his position.

  57. James Stephenson
    January 1st, 2009 @ 11:03 am

    Don’t know why I keep saying UVB.

  58. beauty
    January 1st, 2009 @ 11:08 am

    I’m new to this blog so I’m sure my perspective is bound to be different from those of you who have been following it for years.

    I’m going to bypass all the arguing and suppositions, etc. and simply say:  Heaven is rejoicing at one more soul redeemed for all of eternity.

    Welcome to the fold!

  59. James Stephenson
    January 1st, 2009 @ 11:11 am

    ‘And to that I would point out that you cannot manipulate the material world without being detected.’

    – UVJ

    No worries with the teasing – you’ve been very civil to me – as has Irreligious and Beelzebub – it’s not unnoticed and is appreciated. I know how emotive these conversations can be.

    ‘And to that I would point out that you cannot manipulate the material world without being detected.’

    – UVJ

    Where’s the rule book that you pulled this from?

    I believe that God is able to stack the cards in the first place to get to where we are. It’s possible that He doesn’t need to intervene in the actual workings of the universe. But when he does, it is certainly detectable – water into wine etc. My mate had manky wrist and I saw it straighten up during prayer for healing. I believe that was God manipulating the material world and being detected.

  60. UnspeakableyViolentJane
    January 1st, 2009 @ 11:15 am

    No worries.  My spelling is horrendous, so I have no room to criticize.

    In any case, I have not read Flew, but for me the small number of models replicated in plant and animals, right down to the fact that the double helix always twists the same way, is the trump card for evolution.

    And how did it start?  I don’t know, but even though postulating is fun, I would never “own” any one idea because it would close me off to others.

    Give any five year old a box of crayons and  you will get a more varied selection of life forms than we have on this planet.  Instead every animal is some variation of a tube/worm,  and every plant is a variation of a grass blade, AND, we must kill to live.

  61. UnspeakableyViolentJane
    January 1st, 2009 @ 11:17 am

    I have to leave James.  You are fun to talk to and will be back tomorrow.

  62. mk
    January 1st, 2009 @ 11:27 am

    USVJ,

    First off, I don’t recall saying that I could “feel” God.  I did say, however, that we could know Him. 

    Second, the derision in your tone is palpable, and I have to wonder why.  I have not accused you of anything, poked fun at you, insulted you or attacked.  Probably because I do not in any way feel threatened by your beliefs.  Can you say the same?

    Thirdly, you misunderstood what I was saying.  I did not say that a blind person believes in tulips because the sighted tell them they exist.  I said the blind person believes in “sight”, the  ABILITY to SEE.  This is a very different thing.

    Fourthly, I cannot define God anymore than I can define love, peace or justice.   To even attempt to do so, would be an exercise in futility.  I cannot define you.  I cannot define me.  How could I possibly define God.

    Fifthly, as I said, if you are looking for “proof” you are misunderstanding the entire concept.  I can no more prove God than I can define Him.

    Do you always demand proof that people exist?  When introduced to someone at a party, do you demand proof that there is actually someone there?  I assume you trust your senses.  You can see him, you can hear him, therefore he must be.  God, being a spiritual being is not testable by these methods.  He cannot be felt with our hands, seen with our eyes, heard with our ears, tasted with our tongues or smelled with our noses.

    And yet, through the incarnation, we were able to see Him, hear Him, etc.
    But by becoming human, he also became subject to natural law.  He died.  As we all do.  Yes, He came back and yes He lives again, but His time here on earth was limited the way yours and mine our.  There were people that saw Him with their eyes.  There were people who heard Him with their ears.  We have their testimony, just as we have testimony that Napoleon existed.

    And in the Catholic Church we are still able to experience Him through our senses, in a mystical way.  We taste Him in the Eucharist, we hear Him through Scripture, we see Him in each other…

    If you continue to hold the spiritual realm subject to physical law, you will not get very far.  If you are thoroughly satisfied with your beliefs, then why the need to defend them?  Why come on a blog and attack my beliefs?  Are you trying to convince me of something or yourself?  Do you want me to understand what you believe, or do you simply want me to stop believing what I believe?  Is my faith a threat that must be removed?  Will you only be happy if you are validated by the rest of the world holding your views?  What are your motives?  I’m honestly curious.
    Because it seems clear from your tone, that you are not interested in honest discourse.  Rather you seem to want to shatter our world, in order to solidify your own.

  63. mk
    January 1st, 2009 @ 11:38 am

    USVJ,

    And to that I would point out that you cannot manipulate the material world without being detected.

    And you would be right.  But some detectives are better at detecting than others.

    The clues are all there.  The evidence is all there.  Rarely does a detective walk in to a murder scene and find a note with all the facts laid out for him.  If he is any good at his job, he will find a small thing here, a tidbit there, and draw conclusions from the evidence. 

    There is infinite amounts of material evidence that God exists.  Take any approved appartion…not Mary on a taco, but a bonafide apparition, approved by the church.   Zeitun Egypt, Kibeho Rwanda, Fatima Portugal, La Salette France…look at the incorruptibles, Eucharistic miracles…flashy yes, but evidence just the same.

  64. K T Cat
    January 1st, 2009 @ 11:55 am

    I think that continuing the blog will help codify and organize your thoughts.  I’m not sure if maudlin is a bad thing for conversion stories, either.  It’s an emotional, joyous and very human event in your life.  Being maudlin is OK.  After all, you’re an emotional human.  Imperfections are OK.

    Thanks again for writing what you have.  I’m late to the party, but I’ve enjoyed the last couple of posts.

  65. Michael
    January 1st, 2009 @ 12:02 pm

    Happy New Year,

    I look forward to reading your wit and lessons learned.  As a life long Catholic, I have had many struggles and actually shopped at other faiths.  There were even times I questioned if all this was simply a way to control the masses in the middle ages (i.e. Karl Marx), but I have always returned to the church and the faith.  I still go through dark periods where I don’t feel connected to God and my faith.  Reading blogs from someone that can articulate what they are going through, someone such as yourself, helps even though we are at very different places in our respective journeys.  I would second the advice you received from the conversion blog and I am glad that you will continue to post.  Anything you can add to the discussion that is intelligent, funny, sarcastic, but most importantly real will effect everyone who reads it in one way or another.  I for one will appreciate your continued writings.

    Happy New Year and good luck with any resolutions, I have many to start cracking on, right after college football……

  66. Craig Pennington
    January 1st, 2009 @ 12:40 pm

    One thing that contributed to my less than full certainty of your sincerity was the embedded messages (“no secret messages here” and “FOS ha” I saw w/my own eyes; the 1st I only read abt.) Also, my question about the 1st message never made it past moderation. That said, nothing in any of the messages explicitly denied your sincerity.

  67. the talking dog
    January 1st, 2009 @ 12:42 pm

    Congratulations on  your conversion, and happy new year. 

  68. Bethany
    January 1st, 2009 @ 2:52 pm

    God bless you, RT!

  69. Douchemaster
    January 1st, 2009 @ 5:48 pm

    You’re all fucking IDIOTS. Christians, for obvious reasons (zombie worship, gullibility and stupidity being but 3) some atheists for not seeing that this is obviously a hoax. You is really too dumb for words

  70. mk
    January 1st, 2009 @ 5:57 pm

    Douchemaster,

    And a Happy New Year to you too…:-)

  71. Douchemaster
    January 1st, 2009 @ 6:00 pm

    thanks mk, you too.   The year will be best for those who can tell the difference between fiction and reality. For godidiots it will just be more of the same fuzzy headed shambling.

  72. Pikemann Urge
    January 1st, 2009 @ 6:20 pm

    I hope that TRT doesn’t mind us using his comments section for arguing! :-)

    Douchemaster, I thought this was a ‘Poe’ but it seems that it isn’t. TRT can modify his worldview as he pleases.

    About the Antony Flew thing… is anyone here aware of the dishonesty that went on around him? Basically he was, in my judgement, hijacked by evangelicals and his declining mental state was exploited. I haven’t read his book because I don’t think he wrote it in the first place (I’m a deist anyway – kind of).

    Beelzebub #27, those things are the least important things to look at when determining whether the Gospels are reliable or not. You can’t reject miracles out of hand (a priori is maybe a better term?) and therefore ignore the rest of the story. Rather, IMHO, we should examine the Gospels as a whole. If the natural claims are cleared, then we can start talking about miracles.

    But, if I may further avail myself of TRT’s comment space to posit a POV, the Gospels do not pass muster as biography or history. And, besides, they are too inconsistent with each other, they contradict too much for comfort and their provenance is unreliable. And when you bring in the Epistles it gets even more interesting.

  73. Marion (Mael Muire)
    January 1st, 2009 @ 6:51 pm

    Dear Raving Theist,

    I’m a Catholic and a regular reader of Dawn Eden’s “Dawn Patrol” as well as other Catholic sites. It was Dawn who alerted her readers to your conversion, and so I was convinced of your sincerity from the first, but because of Dawn.

    My compliments on a superbly written post.  The attitude you express toward your former fellow atheists suggests to me that God has blessed you with an abundance of fortitude.  I am so grateful for this blessing of yours; it is truly an inspiration.

    May God continue to bless you richly. Please remember us in your prayers, as I will you in mine. Thank you, and Happy New Year!

  74. Christologist
    January 1st, 2009 @ 7:04 pm

    Dawn Eden is a cocksucking spaz and her blog is shit. I just thought you should know that.

  75. mk
    January 1st, 2009 @ 7:14 pm

    Pikeman,

    I agree with you that the gospels are not an historical source.  But they never claimed to be.  The letters (epistles) of St Paul, are just that.  Letters.  We can read letters from the civil war and glean historical insights, but we wouldn’t use them as historical fact.

    While the scripture can be helpful in piecing together an historical overview, it was never meant to be a textbook.

    Christologist,
    Why don’t  you tell  us how you really feel?  Why hold back…lol.
    Good heavens, there is a lot of anger on your side.  Not exactly a great recommendation for the atheistic point of view.  Have a cup of tea.  You’ll feel  better!

  76. Elizabeth Esther
    January 1st, 2009 @ 7:19 pm

    RT–pontificate at your leisure. I, for one, will wait.

    And welcome. Isn’t the view lovely from here?

  77. Tenspace
    January 1st, 2009 @ 7:45 pm

    Amazing how many people confuse “disbelief” with “lack of belief”.  I’m looking at you, James.

    What makes your god right and all the others wrong?  I won’t go into the Jesus>Vishnu>Ahura Mazda>FSM argument, I’m sure you’ve heard it all before.

  78. Beelzebub
    January 1st, 2009 @ 7:46 pm

    Not directed at me, but from mk’s comment:

    ‘Do you always demand proof that people exist? When introduced to someone at a party, do you demand proof that there is actually someone there?’

    If they’re invisible, yes.
    ‘And yet, through the incarnation, we were able to see Him, hear Him, etc.’
    If by “we” you mean contemporaneous humans, yes, that was reported.
    ‘We have their testimony, just as we have testimony that Napoleon existed.’
    The problem is one of volume of documented history and the problematic fact that there is only one or two contemporaneous — and extremely brief, as in sentences — accounts of Jesus’s life and actions. As you know the Biblical NT account was written, at earliest, a generation after his death. There is also the fact that Napoleon left his wake a rash of civil projects, not to mention the devastation of his conquest. Above and beyond all that, Napoleon didn’t, in fact, walk on water or raise people from the dead. Extraordinary claims must have extraordinary evidence to be rightfully believed.
    ‘We taste Him in the Eucharist, we hear Him through Scripture, we see Him in each other’
    Uh…how? Through gritty, salty mouth-feel? Hear him in some kind of ethereal refrain? See him in each other as a halo glow? Now, you’re about to dismiss this as mockery, but that just kicks the ball more firmly into your court because I’ve done nothing more than pose matter-of-fact questions. This is precisely what frustrates atheists most. The fact of the matter is you do none of the things above in any real sense that you can express to us or even yourself. This time you’re about to dismiss my statements as denying your spiritual experience, but I’m not talking about your spiritual experience, I’m asking how you know you’re not duping yourself.
    It’s GOT to be very comforting to know that as a last resort, when the questions get too tough, you can always hide behind the “mockery” charge.
    ‘If you are thoroughly satisfied with your beliefs, then why the need to defend them? Why come on a blog and attack my beliefs? Are you trying to convince me of something or yourself? Do you want me to understand what you believe, or do you simply want me to stop believing what I believe? Is my faith a threat that must be removed?’
    I can only speak for myself of course, but for me it boils down to the last choice offered. Not that I’m ready to persecute you, your person. If all believers were peaceful retirees, satisfied with ecumenical spiritual contemplation then there’d be quite a bit less motivation hold the whole lot suspect of possible dangerous delusion. There’s simply no way to know on the surface just how crazy a believer is. James, for instance, seemed a fairly reasonable chap before dropping the ‘just-so’ anti-evolution casuistry. Now he’s got me wondering how far his anti-scientism extends.

    And it’s not like the struggle can be left to self-regulation, for if there’s one thing that’s been proven it’s that religion is loathe to self-criticism, even inter-faith — probably because they know that if that particular fire is lit the whole charade will auto-ignite and burn to the ground in short order.

  79. Beelzebub
    January 1st, 2009 @ 7:47 pm

    oops, sorry, that’s going to take quite a bit of parsing.  I guess I should use the markup tools in the compose box.

  80. Tenspace
    January 1st, 2009 @ 7:51 pm

    JS said,
    [i]I say the creator of this universe who exists outside of time. Responsible for the madness that is the quantum world, the outrageous complexity of the brain and the mind-blowing genome.[/i]

    James,  you define time without resorting to causality?

    I am constantly amazed by the fact that theists can be awe-inspired by the writings of long-dead nomads and tribalists, yet they accept things like consciousness and quantum theory as creations of a god created by those ancients. To me, reality is much more vibrant, much more awe-inspiring than the scratching of ancient historians. 

  81. Lily
    January 1st, 2009 @ 8:18 pm

    Pikeman, Mk– Of course the Gospels are historical source documents and historians have their methods for teasing out what is reliable and what is not in ancient documents. That is a well-established discipline. Good thing too because most of what we know about the ancient world, we know from one or two documents,  usually written centuries after the fact. On the score of number of manuscripts originating in different places; their quality, the huge number of citations from them in other ancient documents and nearness to the events narrated, Christianity is the best sourced event (not quite the right word but whatever) of the ancient world.

    The Gospels do not contradict each other in any meaningful way. I always have to smile when people make that claim. They simply do not understand how to read ancient texts. The material was written for specific audiences in different places and each writer picked and chose what he wanted to emphasize for his particular audience in accordance with the conventions of Hellenistic historical biography. One of the conventions which would be unacceptable to moderns is the ordering of material thematically rather than chronologically. There is a lot more to it than this but I am not the one to recreate badly what many scholars have done well. Anyone who wants to know if the Gospels are reliable can find excellent sources of information on the web. Then, of course, there is that old fashioned institution… the library!

  82. Irreligious
    January 1st, 2009 @ 8:24 pm

    mk wrote:
    “We do not know “about” God.  We know the man Himself.  We cannot prove Him to you, but we can introduce you to Him.  Until you stop thinking with your brain and start thinking with your mind, you will never understand Him.  He’s not a puzzle to be solved.  He’s not a trick to be exposed.  He’s a person, to be in a relationship with.”

    I am intrigued that  you say you cannot prove your god to me, yet you can introduce me to him. Initially, that confused me. On its face, it sounds like a contradiction.

    However, I think the answer to the puzzle may lie  in your admonition that I use my mind instead of my brain,  a curious phrase, indeed.

    I have no other way interpreting that but as you instructing me to abandon my reasoning  in exchange for yours as the means to know your god.  I would think that it’s pretty obvious that we would be on the same page if we did, indeed, share a brain (or a mind).  But we don’t.

    Otherwise, you certainly have not offered me any compelling reason to jettison my own reasoning for yours. What you are asking  (?) of me is something that, no doubt, you would find quite absurd if a Muslim or some other nonChristian theist had approached you in the same way.
        

  83. Marion (Mael Muire)
    January 1st, 2009 @ 8:48 pm

    Tenspace wrote: “I am constantly amazed by the fact that theists can be awe-inspired by the writings of long-dead nomads and tribalists, yet they accept things like consciousness and quantum theory as creations of a god created by those ancients”

    Tenspace, your formulation mischaracterizes what most of us believe, or else falls short of expressing adequately what you think we believe.  We believe quantum theory is a man-made construct (in constradistinction to the quanta themselves, of course), and, like all scientific theories, it is a man-made model that attempts to describe and explain some aspect of reality. 

    We believe the quanta were created not by a god created by the ancients, but by a God who created them, the ancients, the quanta, elephants, Woody Allen, the ocean depths, President-Elect Obama’s left toe,  and indeed, everything else that ever has or ever will exist.

  84. Irreligious
    January 1st, 2009 @ 8:54 pm

    James Stephenson wrote:

    “Conveniently hidden away. By its very nature it is immaterial – how would you expect the immaterial to show itself.”
    What I meant that assertions of  the spiritual realm tend to be convenient for those making claims about its existence. Obviously, no demands can be placed on you to offer physical evidence for something that in the physical realm we inhabit is literally nothing.  Any argument you make about it wins by default. 

    James Stephenson wrote:
    “The author of the immaterial and material has done what I consider to be a good job of showing Himself and given us a very good understanding of the immaterial. Good enough for me and billions of others.”
    And what about the billions of others for whom it is not good enough? 

    James Stephenson:

    “As for only accessible to devout Roman Catholics – no. It is open to anyone who is willing to put their pride aside and meet with their Creator. Not so difficult.”
    Muhammad’s divinity and a host of other religious beliefs are just as accessible for those willing to put aside their pride and meet the various incarnations of the alleged creator in each of their religions. Would it really be that easy for you to see the alleged creator through their eyes?

  85. James Stephenson
    January 1st, 2009 @ 9:21 pm

    ‘Extraordinary claims must have extraordinary evidence to be rightfully believed.’

    – Beelzebub

    It was Sagan who coined this phrase and it was never accepted by philosophers.

    You would be better using another of his ideas – ‘absence of evidence is not evidence of absence’ – this stands up to logic far better.

    A supernatural event will leave the same sorts of footprints that a natural event leaves, which can be examined by natural means.

    We do not have a supernatural means of examining historical events. So does this mean that supernatural events are ruled out? That nicely stacks the deck in favour of the Atheist. Actually, they leave a footprint like any other event – you simply choose to accept the available evidence or not.

    Certainly people around Christ’s time believed him to be the Messiah. Peter was prepared to be martyred for it. Around the same time, Christians were prepared to be used as candles in Nero’s garden for it.

    There is much evidence for Christ that I find compelling, including the non-Christian references to him.

    Of course, few Christians base their faith on any single thing, but a mixture of evidence and experience.

    ‘There’s simply no way to know on the surface just how crazy a believer is. James, for instance, seemed a fairly reasonable chap before dropping the ‘just-so’ anti-evolution casuistry. Now he’s got me wondering how far his anti-scientism extends.’

    – Beelzebub

    Of course – the crime of being healthily skeptical about what the scientific establishment tells me.

    The just-so stories are a particular area of non-science – they are really philosophical extensions based upon the TOE.

    I can’t link to it, but Fred on Everything sums it all up – next comment.

  86. James Stephenson
    January 1st, 2009 @ 9:23 pm

    Sorry about the length, but illustrates a point.
     
    Oh god, the endless, thumping, hope-draining, drab, repetitive soul-crushing tiresomeness of it. I find in Psychology Today a piece called “Ten Politically Incorrect Truths about Human Nature,” explaining various aspects of behavior in Darwinian terms.* The smugness of that “politically incorrect” is characteristic of those who want a sense of adventure without risk. Nothing is more PC than an evolutionary explanation, unless it explains obvious racial differences that we aren’t supposed to talk about.
    OK, the authors are going to explain why we mate as we do.
    “Blue-eyed people,” they write, “are considered attractive as potential mates because it is easiest to determine whether they are interested in us or not.”
    Or, as the authors explain, men like blue eyes because, since eyes dilate when the owner is interested in something, in this case getting laid, and since blue eyes better show a large pupil, then men will know when the woman is interested. This produces more children.
    Ponder the solemn fatuity of this. Does any reader over the age of thirteen believe that women with any sort of eyes have trouble letting a man know when they are interested? The authors need to get out more.
    Why is this sort of story-telling so widely engaged in when an alert porcupine would reject it? Because it is PC. As a fellow I see on the internet said in another context, “This is a stretch and illustrates how easy it is to believe what fits your world view.” Yep. The authors would find an evolutionary explanation for a loose doorknob.
    To be fair, the greater reproductive success of the blue-eyed does explain why they predominate around the planet, with the exception of small population pools such as China, Africa, the Arab world, Southern Europe, Japan, India, Mexico, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and South and Central America. It’s because men in all those dark-eyed, under-populated places can’t tell when women are interested.

    Next: The authors say that blonde hair evolved because it loses its luster with age, and turns brown, therefore signaling to a man that the woman is too old to have healthy offspring. That is, it has the evolutionary advantage of keeping its possessors from having many children.
    This would seem to indicate that blondes evolved after the invention of shampoo, since the hair of women who never bathe is presumably something short of lustrous. Doubtless men married to blondes—marriage after all seems to be something of a pattern—stop boinking them when their hair dulls, while men married to brunettes keep at it, producing the huge swarms of dying, defective kids that one usually sees in China, Mexico….
    Again, note the complacent absurdity. Do you have difficulty distinguishing between brunettes of 15, 25, 35, 45, and 55, despite dentistry, hair conditioners, and facial creams? But not with blondes, right?
    Say the authors, blondeness evolved in Scandinavia because women were covered with clothes and, without hair-luster as a signal of age, men couldn’t tell how old they were. This explains why so many young Eskimo men mate with grandmothers: They just can’t tell.
    Does this make any sense at all? It implies, among other things, that young men can’t ask someone. People advanced enough to wear clothes are advanced enough to talk. Do you really suppose that Eskimo boys can’t tell the age of village girls they grew up with? That the same cues as to age that I effortlessly read daily in dark-eyed Mexican women, who characteristically wear clothes, are invisible to Eskimo swains?
    Next, breasts. The authors assert that men like big-titted women because big ones sag at an early age, warning the men that the gal is too old to have healthy progeny. This is wonderfully silly. I know all manner of breasty women who don’t sag, because they wear bras, and I can tell how old they are. Again, if big hooters discouraged further reproduction, the evolutionary benefit to the woman would seem exiguous, and big boobs ought to vanish.
    An unstated but fairly apparent assumption underlying most discussions of the subject is that mating is entirely physical. The man takes the woman with the biggest tits and bluest eyes and the most of whatever characteristic is currently thought evolutionarily desirable. Perhaps this could be demonstrated with water buffalo. It isn’t what I see among people.
    Rather men seem to want a woman who is reasonably cute, not fat and, by whatever the standards of the particular man, likeable. Conducing to the latter condition are (depending on the man) brains, sense of humor, a minimum of bitchiness, and being a decent human being.
    With the exception of brains, these are not evolutionarily respectable categories. Yet, in my experience, bright, vivacious, good-humored, dark-haired and small-bazoomed easily trumps the reverse qualities.
    In general, a difficulty with grasping the evolutionary logic here is that of knowing whether evolution is thought to apply to the civilized. It doesn’t seem to, quite. For example, one may read in numerous sources that mankind, having left Africa, moved to colder climes and evolved greater intelligence to deal with the problems of survival in cold places. (Obviously they would have to go north to get smart since, if they already were, they wouldn’t go. Who wants to live in four feet of snow?) The implication is that intelligence increases fitness and should lead to the production of more offspring.
    But what one sees today is rapid growth of the population of the supposedly least intelligent, namely black Africans, and the extremely low rate of reproduction of the most intelligent, namely Jews. Within populations, the bright have fewer children than the dull, and whole populations of the heretofore fit, for example Japanese, Germans, Spaniards, Russians, and Italians, are rapidly diminishing. If fitness is measured by reproductive abundance, then their fitness has diminished mightily in a few decades.
    Is intelligence not a constituent of fitness? Or has natural selection stopped—assuming, or course, that it worked up to some point? If so, why? When did it stop? Or is something entirely else going on?
    To force mating into the mold of reductionist fitness-shopping, it is necessary to connect beauty and sexual attractiveness with fitness. This is easily done by making up stories. I can do it by the hour: Wide-set eyes improve depth perception and prevent death when jumping about on high rocks. Long lashes prevent dust blindness in windy regions. Pretty, even teeth cut food more efficiently, avoiding the metabolic burden of inefficient chewing which, in time of famine, would lead to starvation. Ready laughter clears the lungs and avoids pneumonia. Shiny blonde hair reflects sunlight better and makes it easier for men to find fertile women at a distance.
    But it reeks of improvisation, of beginning with a conclusion and putty-knifing the logic. I think of those millions of pitiful Chinese women, sobbing quietly in corners, “Oh, how can I let him know I’m interested when I have these horrible dark eyes? Maybe I can write him a letter….”

    – from Fred on Everything

  87. Irreligious
    January 1st, 2009 @ 9:36 pm

    Marion (Mael Muir), I probably should not speak for Tenspace, but he and every atheist I’ve ever met is well aware that Christians believe that the god they worship created EVERYTHING in existence. And,  from what I have have been taught here today, I now know that Christians believe  this entity also created everything that exists in the nonphysical realm.

    I think Tenspace’s credulity is strained by the connundrum of these wise  ancients who wrote the Bible.  How is it that they could know so much about things that are otherwise impossible to know– the nature of the alleged creator, his disposition,  his will for humankind and even specific details about an alleged nonphysical realm– yet they also seemed to know so little actual workings of the world itself. For example, quantum theory.

    For some of us, it just doesn’t seem remotely possible that these people could have gotten it all right, if for all their knowledge about the nature  ofimmaterial beings and nonphysical realms, theyalso knew next- to- nothing about the nature of the  physical world they actually inhabited .

  88. Marion (Mael Muire)
    January 1st, 2009 @ 9:58 pm

    To Irreligious,

    Thank you for your kind reply.

    You wrote, “For some of us, it just doesn’t seem remotely possible that these people (the ancients) could have gotten it all right, if for all their knowledge about the nature  ofimmaterial beings and nonphysical realms, theyalso knew next- to- nothing about the nature of the  physical world they actually inhabited .”

    Ah. But what do we really know as much as we think we do about what the ancients knew?  Yes, our scientific advances far surpass theirs in many respects, however, when one stops to consider that the ancient Egyptians knew how to prepare and assemble immense blocks of stone so perfectly fitted that a single sheet of paper cannot be slid between them, and modern-day engineers scratch their heads and wonder how they did it, one may wonder whether some of the ancients may have known more than we give them credit for. I love it that the ancient Greeks were able to calculate the circumference of the Earth (almost accuarately)  – no computers, no sattelites, just with what was between their ears.  And scientist now are realizing that neolithic men and women knew the properties of different types of wood – alder, birch, oak, pine, elm – and selected different ones for making tools, weapons, and household goods, according to the advantages and disadvantages of each. Would many of us know the difference among these and which would be best to select from which to make an arrow shaft vs. a bowl vs. a barrel vs. a fishing rod?

    Would many of us be able to survive in desert terrain with literally nothing except what we could make, find, or dig up? Or in a wet, dismal, wintry wilderness with nothing but our wits?

    The ancients were busy surviving and taking care of their children, their elders, their livestock, their pastures and fields, and just trying to stay alive and have a bit of a good time whenever they could. How many of us could do that . . . with literally nothing? See, my hat is off to the ancients. I totally respect them and am in awe of them in many ways for what they were able to accomplish and achieve under conditions that many of us would find taxing.

  89. mk
    January 1st, 2009 @ 10:07 pm

    Irreligious (and Beezlebub),

    Any argument you make about it wins by default.

    Now you see, this is exactly what I meant by use your mind instead of your brain.

    As I said, this is not a puzzle to be solved.  There is no winning here in the sense that you mean.  This isn’t a he said/she said situation.  I don’t make points and shoot to score.

    I am simply explaining what I believe.  There is no one making chalk marks, keeping time or giving out trophies.

    G.K.Chesterton says it well his book “What’s Wrong With The World”:

    “I may silently support all the obscene fictions and forgeries in the universe, without once telling a lie.  I may wear another man’ coat, steal another man’s wit, apostatize to another man’s creed, or poison another man’s coffee without ever once telling a lie.  But no English school-boy is ever taught to tell the the truth, for the very simple reason that he is never taught to desire the truth.  From the very first he is taught to be totally careless about whether a fact is a fact; he is taught to care only whether the act can be used on his “side” when is is engaged in “playing the game”…”

    Perhaps to you, this is a game.   Maybe this is simply a way to pass time, debating world views and swapping opinions, hoping to “win” the arguments…but for me, it is just an opportunity to help you see the world through my eyes.

    You have already made up your minds that we are madmen, village idiots, with nothing to offer.   Yet, I believe, that you argue against something which you don’t understand.

    Again, Chesterton says it better than I in “The Everlasting Man”.

    “The worst judge of all is the man now most ready with his judgments; the ill-educated Christian turning gradually into the ill-tempered agnostic, entangled in the end of a feud of which he never understood the beginning, blighted with a sort of hereditary boredom with he knows not what, and already weary of hearing what he has never heard”

    I wonder, do you listen to the answers you are given?   You so easily dismiss, yet you do not easily listen. 

    You have made up your mind that there is no phantom creature called God because you do not see the evidence and yet when you are presented with the evidence you dismiss it.

    I have listed numerous unexplainable phenomena, apparitions, incorruptibles, Eucharistic miracles and you do not address them.  Instead you jump on the fact that a few words appear contradictory in a text that was not meant to be used as a scientific textbook.

    You scoff at the Eucharist, yet you know nothing about it.  You ignore the bleeding hosts, the testimony of hundreds of thousands of people that experience said Eucharist on a daily basis.  The only thing you believe is what you see.

    I’m telling you that you cannot measure the metaphysical with physical means anymore than you can understand the stars using a test tube and a stethescope.  To properly understand at thing, you need to use the method that addresses the nature of the thing you wish to understand.

    I cannot prove God to you.  I can only point to the evidence.  Not one piece, but hundreds.  From the written word to miracles to personal testimony.  A thousand years ago, we could not understand the idea of germs, because we did not possess the knowledge or the means to do so.   At this time, we do not possess enough knowledge or the means to examine the metaphysical.  But like germs, this is not proof that it is not true.

    Again, I say, that you, not I, are the party with the closed mind.  I believe anything is possible, while you believe that very little is.  You are asking me to close a door, I am asking you to open one.


  90. Lily
    January 1st, 2009 @ 10:13 pm

    Great posts James. “Fred on everything” was hilarious.

    BBub– What are we going to do with you? The old Extraordinary claims must have extraordinary evidence to be rightfully believed” is logically incoherent. Think about it. What would constitute “extraordinary evidence”? I suppose 40 angels holding aloft a banner that proclaims: “Yes! Christ has been raised from the dead!” might convince you but what about those who don’t happen to be around to see it? Now we need extraordinary evidence of 2 extraordinary claims.

    I propose that we stick with plain old ordinary evidence. You know, like reliable eye-witness testimony …

  91. mk
    January 1st, 2009 @ 10:24 pm

    I think Tenspace’s credulity is strained by the connundrum of these wise  ancients who wrote the Bible.  How is it that they could know so much about things that are otherwise impossible to know– the nature of the alleged creator, his disposition,  his will for humankind and even specific details about an alleged nonphysical realm– yet they also seemed to know so little actual workings of the world itself.

    Irreligious,

    We and men in the past can understand  God because before the fall, He walked with them.  With each passing year, we, not He, moves farther away.  We used to possess the ability to see Him clearly.  It is our choices, our behavior, that make it less and less possible to know Him.  Possible, yes, but with greater difficulty.

    Every sin, every evil act, every choice that goes against the Natural Law, pulls us farther and farther away from the “other” world, and plants us more firmly in this one.   Soon, we might not be able to know Him at all.

    More and more we choose to become more like beasts and less like angels.  We are losing our spiritual side.  The more earthly we become, the less or spiritual faculties work.   If we lived in total darkness, we would lose the ability to see. 

    You seem to think that Christians do not accept the scientific world, and yet it is the Catholic Church that has given us most of our scientific knowledge.   Where do you think universities came from?  Hospitals?  Scholasticism?  Without realizing it, much of what you do and how you see the world is thanks to men that believed.  Ironic, isn’t it?

  92. Irreligious
    January 1st, 2009 @ 10:56 pm

    Marion wrote:
    “Would many of us be able to survive in desert terrain with literally nothing except what we could make, find, or dig up? Or in a wet, dismal, wintry wilderness with nothing but our wits?”
    I certainly would not, but  such knowledge is most certainly readily available to any modern person who wants or needs it.

  93. Irreligious
    January 1st, 2009 @ 11:07 pm

    mk wrote:
    “Now you see, this is exactly what I meant by use your mind instead of your brain.”

    Sorry, but I am afraid  that I do not see your point.

     If someone claims  to have access to a nonphyscial realm to which I have no such access to verify their claim, what are my options? Believe them because they want me? Sorry, no can do.  Call them a liar? They might find that rude. So, if I want to remain civil, I have to stop arguing with them on that point. They win.     

  94. Irreligious
    January 1st, 2009 @ 11:17 pm

    mk, I know darn well that modern day Catholics and other Christians accept the scientific. Come on. We’re both communicating on the Internet, for crying out loud, something that would have been completely unfathomable to authors of the Bible. You know far more things about the world and how it actually works that they could ever have even dreamed of knowing.   

  95. mk
    January 1st, 2009 @ 11:23 pm

    They win.    

    That’s my point.  They don’t “win”…the argument simply cannot go in that direction. 

    You still have not addressed the evidence.  You say you don’t have access to this metaphysical evidence  and yet you can use the very internet that you spoke of to research tons of evidence.  Read up on Fatima, Lourdes, Rwanda, LaSalette, Medjugorge…

  96. Melissa
    January 1st, 2009 @ 11:30 pm

    I’m still amazed that you thought no one would much notice, or care, about your conversion, RT. Given the notoriety you have had, how could it go unnoticed?! :) No conversion story is insignificant or unprofitable to the Kingdom.  

    What used to be a mouthpiece for evil is now a mouthpiece for good. You have been blessed with talents and abilities and now, you are using them for the purpose for which they were intended. :) You are now in Christ and will accomplish much for Him and His Kingdom (and have been already)!! I look forward to seeing the continual harvest of fruit in your life and in the lives of those around you!! 

    I believe Isaiah 55 sums it all up well: 

    1Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.
     2Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not? hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness.
     3Incline your ear, and come unto me: hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David.
     4Behold, I have given him for a witness to the people, a leader and commander to the people.
     5Behold, thou shalt call a nation that thou knowest not, and nations that knew not thee shall run unto thee because of the LORD thy God, and for the Holy One of Israel; for he hath glorified thee.
     6Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near:
     7Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
     8For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD.
     9For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.
     10For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater:
     11So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.
     12For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.
     13Instead of the thorn shall come up the fir tree, and instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree: and it shall be to the LORD for a name, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.

    You are spending your time, money, and labor on that which satisfies. Everything you do now is done with the intent of furthering God’s Kingdom. You have sought the Lord and found Him. You have forsaken your old ways and are listening to His voice and delighting in Him. He has bestowed His grace and mercy on you and is filling you with His Spirit; teaching you His thoughts and His ways and bringing you wisdom and peace. 
    Your testimony is a witness to everyone and indeed, you will be a “leader and commander” because I know that you have a gift for leadership. The things you share for the benefit of God’s Kingdom will not return to him empty. Even if only ONE person is ever saved because of hearing your testimony, it’s worth it (though I’m sure it will be many upon many!). I know that you didn’t foresee this massive outpouring of responses coming, but you know I did!! It’s why I encourage you all the more to keep sharing and speaking!! Never be silenced, RT!! Keep proclaiming the joyous truth!! 
    May you be filled with His grace and peace forever and ever!! God bless you (and everyone else on this blog as well!!). 

  97. mk
    January 1st, 2009 @ 11:30 pm

    Irreligious,

    You are having trouble with the mind/brain thing.

    Are you pro life or pro choice?  If you are pro choice would you not argue that while a fetus has a brain it has no consciousness?  It can have a “brain” but not a “mind”?  I’m simply saying that if you are thinking in strictly physical terms, you are thinking with your brain.  But if you use your brain, you will see with more than your eyes.

    God, the angels, the demons…these are not physical beings.  They are pure “mind”.  When we say “In the beginning was the word” the proper term is Logos.  More like “mind” or “thought”.  No “brain” involved.  The brain is just a physical way for the mind to express itself.  Literature does not come from the brain.  It comes from the mind.  The mind uses the brain to put the thought on paper.  But the brain did not have the thought.  The mind did.  Then the mind used the mechanics of the brain to physically put the thought on a page.

  98. mk
    January 1st, 2009 @ 11:31 pm

    Sorry,  I meant if you use your mind, you will see with more than your eyes.

  99. mk
    January 1st, 2009 @ 11:34 pm

    Irreligious,

    My post was to both you and Beezlebub.  I believe it was he that lost respect for James because James does not adhere to the theory of evolution.  This is what I meant by I get the feeling that he does not believe that Christians are comfortable with science.

    I’m trying to have a conversation with two different people, using one post at a time.  It’s late, I’m way tired and I’m afraid that while my “mind” is still working, my “brain” is shutting down…;)

  100. Irreligious
    January 1st, 2009 @ 11:36 pm

    mk, Iam being as concilliatory as I know how. You said you have access to a nonphysical realm. I have already conceded that I cannot prove to you that you don’t.

    Now you are trying to tell me that I can have access to this nonphysical realm, too. I am telling you emphatically that I cannot. 

    Reading up on Lourdes and Fatima is not going to give me your mindset, any more than your reading the Koran is going to make you see things from a Muslim perspective .

  101. mk
    January 1st, 2009 @ 11:43 pm

    I am telling you that can have evidence to the nonphysical realm.  How do you know that you cannot?  There are videos of the apparition in Egypt.  It was witnessed by millions of people.  There are newspaper accounts of Fatiima.  There are prophecies that came true in Rwanda.  There is scientific testing on the the seers of Medjugorge.  There is the Tilma of Guadalupe, 500 years old and unexplainable.  There is the bleeding host in Italy.  There are saints whose bodies have not decayed in centuries…How is this not evidence?  Not proof, but evidence?

  102. ELC
    January 1st, 2009 @ 11:43 pm

    Welcome.

    Some of the comments here remind me of an encounter I had not long ago on a message board. A seemingly intelligent fellow posted quite a few basic questions about God; well, they weren’t really questions, they were accusations poorly disguised as questions. I suggested that he read F.J. Sheed’s “Theology and Sanity”, which answered most of his questions/accusations before he was born. :)

    He declined, saying that he wouldn’t have any respect for what a theologian had to say about anything.

    None so blind as they who will not see.

  103. mk
    January 1st, 2009 @ 11:46 pm

    Reading up on Lourdes and Fatima is not going to give me your mindset, any more than your reading the Koran is going to make you see things from a Muslim perspective .

    Again, I am not asking you to have my mindset.  I am simply trying to point out that your assertion that there is NO evidence of a nonphysical world, is false.  I’m not trying to convince you of anything.  I’m addressing a subject that you brought up.  You asked for evidence.  I’m presenting it.  You refuse to look at it, yet continue to say that there isn’t any.

  104. BumBum
    January 1st, 2009 @ 11:47 pm

    People who believe in lourdes miracles are fucking tards

  105. mk
    January 1st, 2009 @ 11:48 pm

    And for the record,  reading the Koran would indeed help me to see from the Muslims perspective.  It might not convince me of it’s truth, but it would help me to understand.  I am not trying to convince you of a truth.  I am simply trying to help you understand.  You have already decided for me, what my goal is.

  106. BumBum
    January 1st, 2009 @ 11:50 pm

    where are these non-decaying saint bodies? Have then been subjected to scientific study? If so, where are the reports?

    Yeah, that’s what I thought. You are a liar mk, and a fool.

  107. mk
    January 1st, 2009 @ 11:54 pm

    mk, Iam being as concilliatory as I know how. You said you have access to a nonphysical realm. I have already conceded that I cannot prove to you that you don’t.

    Then perhaps you should stop trying to prove it.  I never asked for proof.  I’ve never offered proof.  I believe I have stated numerous times that there is no proof.

    You asked for evidence.  I gave you evidence.  You won’t look at it.  I do not ask for evidence.   Yet you keep insisting that you can’t give me what I haven’t asked for…I appreciate your efforts at a civilized discussion, but if you spent nearly as much energy addressing what is begin discussed as you do discussing what isn’t being discussed, you might not have to work so hard at civility.

  108. mk
    January 1st, 2009 @ 11:57 pm

    Bum Bum,

    If you would like information on the incorruptibles, you will have to ask nicely.   I’m am not accustomed to responding to rudeness, when politeness is just as easily shared.

    Now, were you asking me a question?  Or just enjoying your ability to sound pompous?

  109. Irreligious
    January 2nd, 2009 @ 12:07 am

    mk wrote:

    “Sorry,  I meant if you use your mind, you will see with more than your eyes.”

    If I opened my eyes wide enough, I’m sure I could see Muhammad, Buddah and Visnu, too. 

    I am giving you the benefit of the doubt. That is, I sincerely believe that you believe you mean well, but that’s an awful tack to use on another grownup.  

  110. Irreligious
    January 2nd, 2009 @ 12:10 am

    OK, mk. I think we’ve gone about as far as we can go. It’s clear to me that we are destined misunderstand each other. But, hey, we tried.

  111. mk
    January 2nd, 2009 @ 12:11 am

    Ir,
    I don’t see what you mean.  In using your eyes you are using a physical part of your body.  Meaning the eyes see, the brain deciphers.  But it is the mind that understands.    If you open your mind, you will “see” without using your eyes.  Why is this a tactic, best used on a child?

  112. mk
    January 2nd, 2009 @ 12:14 am

    If I opened my eyes wide enough, I’m sure I could see Muhammad, Buddah and Visnu, too.

    No if you opened your eyes wide enough, you’d let in more light.  But you still wouldn’t be “Seeing” with your mind’s eye.

    You say we’ve gone as far as we can go, but what you really mean is that you don’t want to look at the evidence I presented.  I find this often happens when discussing religion with someone that doesn’t believe.  Rather than try to gain understanding, they just shut down the conversation.  Why is that?  I honestly don’t think I have ever walked away from an honest debate.  

  113. Irreligious
    January 2nd, 2009 @ 12:28 am

    mk, you are telling me that there is evidence of the things you claim and that they are in books I have not read. From where I’m sitting, you might as well say: Hey, atheist, shut the hell up. 

    After all, in order to be fully prepared to discuss this topic to your terms, I’d have to turn off the computer, spend a year or two reading up on all the Catholic apologists you think I need to read in order to understand what you are saying. And if I’m smart enough to understand what I read,  I’ll be fully convinced by the evidence because, obviously, I know nothing about  Christianity, as far as you are concerned.

    Look, all  I’m saying is you needn’t go to such lengths to shut me up. I was willing to gracefully bow out of  a conversation that had run its course . I really am trying to be concillatory. What more can I do? 

  114. Beelzebub
    January 2nd, 2009 @ 3:42 am

    Lily:
    BBub– What are we going to do with you? The old Extraordinary claims must have extraordinary evidence to be rightfully believed” is logically incoherent. Think about it.

    Okay, I will, but to answer your first question, you could send me a message saying that I’m absolutely and incontrovertibly correct. (?)

    Actually, regarding the Sagan quote: I really believe we’re (you, James, me) are on the same page, we’re just arguing semantics. It’s easy to let the alliterative second “extraordinary” throw you, but don’t let it. That’s not what I meant and that’s not what Sagan meant, and that’s not what Hume, who first formulated the idea, meant. At least give Sagan the credit to see that swapping one miracle for another wouldn’t get us very far. So now, casting aside literalism for those for whom it’s a problem, let’s redact the statement:

    “Extraordinary claims require really, really good, reputable, good, good, extensive, non-contradictory, did I mention good, evidence.”
    This is essentially the scientific stance. Really this is a key element of the scientific method. A bit of evidence may be “good” (come from a known reputable source). Great. Give me another, and another, now change the experimental apparatus and give me yet more. Are they congruent? Consistent? Great. Now give me more, and more. This is how a Truth is derived if you’re really serious about getting one. Indeed, this is how we know that evolution is true beyond a shadow of a doubt. James, or whoever, stop reading Psych Today and hit the books. You gots some reading Ta do.

  115. mk
    January 2nd, 2009 @ 7:34 am

    Irreligious,

    You are right on one thing.  We are misunderstanding each other. 

    Yes, to properly dispute every thing the Catholic Church teaches you would have to read a thousand books.  Or at least 3 or 4.  But I wasn’t suggesting you dispute every thing the Church teaches.  A few clicks of your computer would let you catch up rather quickly on the miracles I was talking about.  I’ve written about three of them myself on my own blog.  The rest are a fingerstroke away. 

    I wasn’t talking about apologetics.  That is not evidence.  I was talking about unexplained phenomena, some of which has taken place in the last few years.  Not Mary on a taco, not the Virgin on a viaduct,  not images, but the real thing.   Evidence, not anecdotes.  Tangible stuff.

    Again, I was addressing you and another poster.  From this point on I’m willing to keep the posts separate.  I didn’t expect anyone to take my comments seriously enough to answer them, so I wasn’t prepared for a real discussion. 

    Your main issue was evidence.  I claim there is evidence and you don’t need a book to examine it.  If you still want out, I understand.  I just get thrown, when I invest myself in a discussion and the other side walks away.  But of course that’s your right, and I apologize if I made you feel pressured.

  116. mk
    January 2nd, 2009 @ 7:45 am

    Actually Irreligious,

    I just reread all of the comments we three made, and it is Beelzebub, not you that asked for evidence.  You only commented on the the mind/brain thing.  

    I apologize.  You’re free to go….:-).

  117. mk
    January 2nd, 2009 @ 7:49 am

    Beelzebub,

    If you read all the posts I wrote to Irreligious, and substitute your name for his, I think you’ll see that I am trying to give you physical, AND rather extraordinary evidence that there is a metaphysical world.   Evidence that can be examined, and compared with more evidence, until we have built ourselves a nice little pile of “extraordinary” phenomena.  But you better get busy, you’ve got a lot of reading ta do… :)

  118. ELC
    January 2nd, 2009 @ 8:51 am

    For years, I have thought the “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence” assertion was obviously stupid and just an excuse for somebody to decline to accept evidence that points to a conclusion he doesn’t want to arrive at. Now I find out that “extraordinary” really means just “really, really, really good”.

    LOL.

    I still think it means what I thought it meant. :)

  119. UnspeakableyViolentJane
    January 2nd, 2009 @ 9:09 am


    #59 James said “I believe that God is able to stack the cards in the first place to get to where we are. It’s possible that He doesn’t need to intervene in the actual workings of the universe.”
    Fair enough, I just don’t understand why you would attribute the wonders of the world to a single author, rather than a serendipitous meeting of atoms and energy.
    For me, doing so would diminish my curiosity about things in general, my enthusiasm for new scientific discoveries and the joy/feeling of gestalt I experience when encountering the natural world. It smacks of the rudeness of praising the Lord for a meal that some woman slaved over while she waits in your presence.
    #62 mk said “Second, the derision in your tone is palpable, and I have to wonder why…”
    I think the attacking the tone instead of the content thing is getting over played by some of the Christians here. It’s a weak debate tactic only slightly better than ad hominem attacks. Let’s move beyond it, shall we?
     
    “I said the blind person believes in “sight”, the  ABILITY to SEE.  This is a very different thing. ”
    No, it isn’t because they can still use scientific theory to test the hypothesis that seeing happens.
    “Fourthly, I cannot define God anymore than I can define love, peace or justice.   To even attempt to do so, would be an exercise in futility.  I cannot define you.  I cannot define me.  How could I possibly define God. ”
    I can define peace, love, and justice. As it happens even dogs are capable of understanding justice.
    If your argument is that no words can be defined then we would not be having this conversation. How do you know mk, that each Christian isn’t in fact worshiping an entirely different entity if God is beyond any definition?  Are you Christians  actually millions of practitioners of millions of different religions?  If not how do you know?
    “When introduced to someone at a party, do you demand proof that there is actually someone there? ”
    Irr already responded to this more articulately than I could have, so I’ll leave this one alone.
    “If you are thoroughly satisfied with your beliefs, then why the need to defend them? ”
    I’m here because getting in the heads of people who’s beliefs are very different from mine is fascinating and because I’m a strong believer in the virtues of debate. Laying your world views out before the sticky masses is good for all of us. It helps us understand ourselves and explore new realms.
    Why are you here mk?

  120. UnspeakableyViolentJane
    January 2nd, 2009 @ 9:10 am

    You know RT, since you now have access to the ultimate power in the universe, maybe you could tap that source and upgrade the wordpress a little?

  121. Lily
    January 2nd, 2009 @ 9:26 am

    BBub– You aren’t off the hook, brand new buddy. You are demanding a standard of proof that doesn’t exist anywhere. We know nothing in science beyond a shadow of a doubt! Moreover, science can’t even begin to address certain questions that it pretends don’t exist– why is there something rather than nothing? Why is the universe intelligible to us (behaves as if governed by laws) and describable in the language of mathematics? Although perhaps it would be better to say it assumes that there is something rather than nothing, etc. in order to have a starting place for investigation. 

    Science can’t begin to address those metaphysical questions that is forced to take for granted. If you want to claim that there are no truths (Truths?) except those derived from science you are engaging in some pretty bad science! You can’t demonstrate the truth of that claim. Even worse, that would mean that mathematical and logical truths can’t be considered true because they are a priori rather than a posteriori truths.
    If we turn back to the claims of the New Testament, we are in the realm of historical claims which can be evaluated using the tools of historical interpretation. Such claims can rarely (if ever) be established beyond a shadow of a doubt, since it is conceivable that new evidence might come to light that casts doubt on previous assumptions. However, the documentary evidence and the archeological evidence (which turns up, literally, every day) continues to solidly back the historical reliability of the New Testament.
     So, are you ready to convert?
     

  122. Vince R
    January 2nd, 2009 @ 9:49 am

    I find it strange that the Raving Atheist should convert to christianity. Did he spend enough time checking out the other alternatives? Hinduism, Islam, perhaps Taoism? I don’t think so. I think the RA is just reverting to “type” I bet you a million bucks the RA was brought up in a christian community. Folks, the raving atheist is one sick pup!

  123. Lily
    January 2nd, 2009 @ 10:18 am

    Vince R–

    To be blunt, this frequent atheist “argument” remains silly no matter how often it is presented. Do you understand the first thing about the differences among the religions you have named? Do you understand that all of them are ahistorical or depend, in the case of Islam on private (completely unverifiable) revelation? Only Christianity makes historical claims that can be weighed and found persuasive. 

  124. tiber jumper
    January 2nd, 2009 @ 10:29 am

    Dear RT:
    God bless you. His grace can never be underestimated nor fully understood.
    Conversions like yours are evidence of that reality.
    Look forward to hearing your story.
    Happy New Year

  125. mk
    January 2nd, 2009 @ 10:42 am

    USVJ,

    Ahhhh…debate for debates sake.  While the prospect is enticing, at this point in my life, I’m afraid I just don’t have the time.  Tempting, very tempting, but the rewards do not outweigh the effort required. 

    I am here, because I wanted to see if the rumors were true, if the atheist had indeed converted.  I am satisfied that he has.  While I was here, I was drawn in by yours and others comments.  Hey, I’m human.

    I am curious however.  You say that you can define Love.  Justice. and Peace.  I challenge you to do that.  I hold that no one can objectively define these things.  They can give examples of them, but I do not think that anyone could give an objective definition of them, that would satisfy everyone.  But if you think you can, then I would truly be interested.

    As for dogs understanding the concept of justice…you do not find it hard to believe this and yet you find the concept of God to be ridiculous?  I find that astonishing.  You have claimed that there is no objective proof to the metaphysical, to the existence of God, and yet, having never had a single conversation with a dog, having no “book” containing the Word of Dog, having no way of scientifically proving what a dog subjectively thinks, you accept this concept.   I’m sorry, but I find that very odd.

    At any rate, I’m looking very forward to your “definitions”.

  126. mk
    January 2nd, 2009 @ 10:44 am

    Amen Lily.

    No book of Zeus.  No miracles of Mohammed.  No photos of Vishnu. 

  127. Irreligious
    January 2nd, 2009 @ 11:08 am

    mk wrote:
    “I apologize.  You’re free to go….:-).”

    How gracious of you. But I was not seeking your permission to go anywhere. I was merely releasing myself from a futile conversation with you that held little promise of remaining civil. It was never a debate and it was not destined for a satisfactory end for either of us.

  128. Irreligious
    January 2nd, 2009 @ 11:18 am

    ELC wrote:
    For years, I have thought the “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence” assertion was obviously stupid and just an excuse for somebody to decline to accept evidence that points to a conclusion he doesn’t want to arrive at. Now I find out that “extraordinary” really means just “really, really, really good”.

    What is the substantive difference between extraordinary and really, really, really good? They are essentially the same thing, are they not?

    If I told you I saw a flying pig outside my window, would you not demand really, really, really good evidence for my claim? Why is that unreasonable?

  129. mk
    January 2nd, 2009 @ 11:26 am

    Irreligious,

    I see that a sense of humor is not your forte…I was being facetious.   Of course you don’t need my permission.  I was apologizing for acting condescending.  Man, give a girl a break will ya?  I admitted that I misunderstood, and that I had confused you with other posters.  I’ll send my right arm, if it will help!

  130. UnspeakableyViolentJane
    January 2nd, 2009 @ 11:29 am

    #124 mk said ” I’m afraid I just don’t have the time”
    :D   Too poetic for me to touch

    “You say that you can define Love.  Justice. and Peace”

    Mirriam Webster works for me

    Love: 1 a  (1): strong affection for another arising out of kinship or personal ties (2): attraction based on sexual desire : affection and tenderness felt by lovers  (3): affection based on admiration, benevolence, or common interests b: an assurance of love

    Justice: 1 a: the maintenance or administration of what is just especially by the impartial adjustment of conflicting claims or the assignment of merited rewards or punishments b: judge c: the administration of law  ; especially : the establishment or determination of rights according to the rules of law or equity 2 a: the quality of being just, impartial, or fair b  (1): the principle or ideal of just dealing or right action  (2): conformity to this principle or ideal : righteousness c: the quality of conforming to law3: conformity to truth, fact, or reason

    Peace 1: a state of tranquillity or quiet: as a: freedom from civil disturbance b: a state of security or order within a community provided for by law or custom 2: freedom from disquieting or oppressive thoughts or emotions3: harmony in personal relations4 a: a state or period of mutual concord between governments b: a pact or agreement to end hostilities between those who have been at war or in a state of enmity5—used interjectionally to ask for silence or calm or as a greeting or farewell

    “As for dogs understanding the concept of justice…you do not find it hard to believe this and yet you find the concept of God to be ridiculous?  I find that astonishing.  You have claimed that there is no objective proof to the metaphysical, to the existence of God, and yet, having never had a single conversation with a dog, having no “book” containing the Word of Dog, having no way of scientifically proving what a dog subjectively thinks, you accept this concept. “

    Wrong. 

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2008/dec/08/dogs-envy-fairness-social-behaviour

    That study was all over the news a couple of weeks ago, mk.  This is what I mean when I say that religion sucks the cream right out of the cannoli.  You never even see the science news do you?

  131. Irreligious
    January 2nd, 2009 @ 11:39 am

    How about sending me your firstborn instead. ;)

    Notice the little winky thing. I was being humorous.

  132. mk
    January 2nd, 2009 @ 11:48 am

    Ir,
    See that?  A satisfactory conclusion!  whew!  Too late, my firstborn is an emancipated adult with a firstborn of his own.  But the offer of the arm still holds… :)

  133. Irreligious
    January 2nd, 2009 @ 11:55 am

    Thanks, mk. But I’ve already got two arms of my own. I wouldn’t mind a couple of lady fingers though.  ;)  (There’s winky again).

    And you’re right. That did feel good. I always thought that the best way for atheists and theists to get along is for them to scrupulously avoid talking about religion.

  134. mk
    January 2nd, 2009 @ 12:08 pm

    USVJ,

    What??? There is something called Science News?  When did this happen??? Snikeys!  The modern world is amazing.  The next thing  you’ll be telling me is that we can know what’s going on in Tokyo without going there ourselves!

    When I left my hut this morning, I believed that the word could meant might.  I must have missed the New Definition of Words news today.

    A sense of justice could be crucial for social animals and may have played a role in the evolution of cooperation.
    But I immediately got out my tin cans and called a friend.  And sure enough, could still means might. 

    As for your Webster definitions:

    Love: 1 a  (1): strong affection for another arising out of kinship or personal ties (2): attraction based on sexual desire : affection and tenderness felt by lovers  (3): affection based on admiration, benevolence, or common interests b: an assurance of love

    This tells me nothing of what love actually is.  Love is attraction?  Love is based on sexual desire?  Love is an emotion?  No wonder divorce is rampant.

    Justice: 1 a: the maintenance or administration of what is just especially by the impartial adjustment of conflicting claims or the assignment of merited rewards or punishments b: judge c: the administration of law  ; especially : the establishment or determination of rights according to the rules of law or equity 2 a: the quality of being just, impartial, or fair b  (1): the principle or ideal of just dealing or right action  (2): conformity to this principle or ideal : righteousness c: the quality of conforming to law3: conformity to truth, fact, or reason

    Who exactly is doing this assessment?  Who exactly is deciding what is just.  One man thinks it just to kill another because he committed a crime.  Another thinks it just to go to war.  Another thinks it is just to allow a woman to take her own unborn childs life.   Who decides which of those is actually just and which are not?

    The dog thinks it is unjust that his friends get better treats.  The master thinks it isn’t.  Which is the objective truth?

    Peace 1: a state of tranquillity or quiet: as a: freedom from civil disturbance b: a state of security or order within a community provided for by law or custom 2: freedom from disquieting or oppressive thoughts or emotions3: harmony in personal relations4 a: a state or period of mutual concord between governments b: a pact or agreement to end hostilities between those who have been at war or in a state of enmity5—used interjectionally to ask for silence or calm or as a greeting or farewell

    Those are all situations that are peaceful, but they don’t really define what peace is.   I just think that these are subjective terms and that they cannot be objectively defined.  Described, maybe, but not objectively defined.

  135. mk
    January 2nd, 2009 @ 12:19 pm

    Irreligious,

    And you’re right. That did feel good. I always thought that the best way for atheists and theists to get along is for them to scrupulously avoid talking about religion.

    That’s probably why they don’t get along to begin with.  I think if you’re comfortable with your beliefs, you’ll probably be comfortable with sharing them.    This is why I wanted to avoid the You Win, I Win approach.  Usually No One Wins. 

    And exchange of ideas is a good thing.  But when it turns into a battle of the wills, it becomes something else altogether.

    I truly am interested in how the mind works.  I love hearing how other people think.  I’m fascinated with other cultures.   I love walking in foreign shoes. 

    I find myself falling into the trap sometimes, and I hate it.  Heck I just did it not two minutes ago with Jane.  As soon as I hit submit comment I realized my mistake.

    I don’t believe she is actually interested in exchanging ideas as she is in insulting the opposition.  Why the need to add that last little bit about Christians not keeping up with science.   

    Anywho, you have been nothing but civil, and I have thoroughly enjoyed our conversation.
    Anytime you want to discuss, not argue, theology vs atheism, I’m ready and willing.   One of the reasons I love Chesterton so much is his ability to debate with someone like shaw, and then share a beer with him afterwards.

    Whether we share a world view or not, we are still sharing the planet and I think most of us want the same things.  We have more in common than we do in opposition.  I want my kids to be healthy, food on my table and I get really bent out of shape when wet towels are left on the floor.  Doesn’t everyone?

  136. Vince R
    January 2nd, 2009 @ 12:25 pm

    Lily

    Yes I do. I am an ex-christian myself. There is no verifiable way to establish the claims of christianity, least of all the existance of your Godman. You can read my de-conversion on my blog http://www.adoptanatheist.blogspot.com  This is not a spurious claim, go on judge for yourself.

  137. UnspeakableyViolentJane
    January 2nd, 2009 @ 12:29 pm

    mk,

    With all your obfuscating of definitions, I have to wonder how you know if you are worshiping god or satan?  I mean if you have no definitions for things, by what means do you recognize one from the other?

  138. Irreligious
    January 2nd, 2009 @ 12:37 pm

    MK, it is extremely difficult for us to talk and not insult each other because our positions are utterly irreconcilable. That’s not news to me anymore.

    Almost any challenge on my part to your position is going to be perceived as meanspirited and irreverent. For example, you alluded in a prior post to  a videotape  of an apparation– an allegedly immaterial entity.  I wanted to ask you how one could you possibly capture on video something that is  without substance? Dare I ask?

  139. Irreligious
    January 2nd, 2009 @ 12:39 pm

    That should be: I wanted to ask how one could possibly capture on video something that is without substance?

  140. mk
    January 2nd, 2009 @ 12:43 pm

    Irreligious,

    Of course you can ask.  I have no idea how it happened.  I it’s a case of the nonphysical materializing.

    Here’s the link…or one of them anyway…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6W9T-XQpb6Q

    I’m off to the museum right now, but when I get home tonight, I’d be happy to give you more and better links.  This was just the easiet one.

    And I get the “insult” thing.  It’s just a shame.  It gets everyone off track and everyone loses.  Like I said, I fall into myself.  But I do sincerely try not to. 

    Be back tonight.

  141. Vince R
    January 2nd, 2009 @ 1:23 pm

    So where is the re-joinder Lily? Have you even bothered to read my de-con. It is from my heart dammit! Does it not occur to you that some people are genuine, sincere atheists? Give me evidence that Jesus even existed, let alone was raised from the dead, and I will convert back in a second! http://adoptanatheist.blogspot.com/2008/12/goodbye-god.html and no, I don’t want evidence from the bible, I want historical evidence, something verifiable.

  142. Irreligious
    January 2nd, 2009 @ 1:41 pm

    MK, I am going to try to tread gingerly here.

    The YouTube clip to which you linked was not a videotape of this alleged apparition. It was a clip with devout Roman Catholics claiming to have seen an apparition that they also claimed others saw. No one in the clip made the claim that this alleged sighting was videotaped.

    I don’t understand what I am expected to do with this information. It has no relevance to what I asked, which was: Logically, how can something that has no physicality be photographed?  If I understood your answer, it was that the nonphysical spontaneously became physical, but you don’t  really know how such a thing happens.

    That’s not compelling, at least not to me.

    Anyway, I used to belong to a Baptist church. No Baptist I ever met has ever claimed to have seen a vision of the Virgin Mary. Conversely, in my black Baptist Church, it was not uncommon for people to claim that they had  suddenly been struck by “the Holy Ghost,” or “the Holy Spirit, usually during some rousing religious musical interlude that was part of the church service. It caused them start “dancing” with abandon, often until they jumped slumped into exhaustion. They claimed that  it was the spirit of God that made them behave this way. And many a Sunday, I saw them with my own eyes supposedly catching the Holy Ghost.

    Well, I’ve probably been to about five dozen Roman Catholic Masses in my lifetime, maybe a half dozen Methodist services, one Anglican service and a kirkin’ o’ the tartan religious service at a Presbyterian church, and never once did I see any of these people catch what I would have recognized as “the Holy Ghost.”  Do you think that might be because the Holy Ghost that would make people start  jump around in the pews is just a cultural artifact of the church to which I used to belong?  

    Is it possible that seeing apparitions of a Virgin Mary is a cultural artifact of being a Roman Catholic? Or do you believe it is possible that the god of Christianity works differently between these two groups of Christians?

  143. mk
    January 2nd, 2009 @ 1:52 pm

    Irreligious,

    Waiting for the neice and nephew, so I haven’t left yet.  That was actually a coptic church not a Catholic one.  I’m having trouble finding a video of the actual apparition.  I found one sight but it won’t let me open it, so I don’t know if it’s the one I’m thinking of.  But there are lots of photographs and newspaper accounts readily available.

    We’re talking over a million people here, not just a handful.  They all saw her.  Many of them were not Christian, including the original two.

    I can’t explain how something nonmaterial can become material.  I wish I could.  I was such putting forth some documented evidence that what appears to be supertnatural phenomena is taking place.  I will keep looking for the video.   Tho I don’t know how much more it will show than the photographs.

  144. mk
    January 2nd, 2009 @ 2:00 pm

    http://video.google.com/videosearch?hl=en&client=firefox-a&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&hs=uFo&resnum=0&q=zeitun+egypt&oe=UTF-8&um=1&ie=UTF-8&sa=N&tab=wv&oi=property_suggestions&resnum=0&ct=property-revision&cd=1#

    I apologize.  I think I might be thinking that the videos I think I saw were only videos of the photographs.  But the above is a link with some testimony from a couple of scientists.  The apparitions went on for 4 years.  This wasn’t just an image on a window.  She moved.  She appeared, she reappeared and she was witnessed by millions…

    If I find actual video footage, I promise to put it up.  Again, I wasn’t offering this as proof or to change your mind about anything.     It was just a story about something that can’t be explained, and causes one to wonder.
    Honestly, I don’t expect you to have an “Aha” moment, slapping your forehead and instantly becoming a believer.  It’s just interesting, is all.

  145. mk
    January 2nd, 2009 @ 2:10 pm

    Irreligious,

    I’ve had some of those same questions myself.  The only thing I can tell you is that being touched by the Holy Spirit is a purely subjective experience.  The apparitions I am proposing, have been seen, and experienced by many people at the same time, and have left behind physical evidence.  The tilma is still hanging in guadalupe.  There are photographs and newspaper accounts of Fatima.  The prophecies given to the children in Rwanda were specific, and all came true with stunning accuracy.  Not vague like newspaper horoscopes.  The prophecies of Fatima, also, are amazing in their detail.

    Egypt is interesting, specifically because it DID happen to non Catholics.
    So to Rwanda.  One of the seers was a pagan who had never heard of Christianity.

    People of all faiths flock to Medjugorge.  The miracle healings that have taken place at these sites affect people of all denominations.

    I think the Eucharistic miracles take place in predominantly Catholic settings, because the Eucharist itself is a Catholic Phenomenon.

    As for being taken by the spirit, while I have many times had what I would call moments of “feeling” the spirit moving, I have never experienced the swooning or spontaneous laughter exhibited in some of my protestant brothers and sisters.   I’m not sure why.  I do know that the Catholic Church teaches us that “feelings’ have very little to do with faith.  It is an act of the will, that CAN be associated with feelings.  But as Mother Teresa found out, faith is often “tested” by the absence of feeling.  The trick is to continue believing even when the feelings aren’t there.

  146. mk
    January 2nd, 2009 @ 2:11 pm

    Okay, the neice and nephew are here and husband is standing at the front door…I’ll be back!

  147. Christologist
    January 2nd, 2009 @ 2:15 pm

    Being touched by the holy spirit is a totally subjective experience? So is being anally probed by space aliens. Your entire religion is a subjective experience, made objective only to the extent that a lot of people are sucking on the same dick. Alas, all that really means is that there are a lot of delusional cocksuckers who claim to work for jeebus. It’s as meaningful as harry potter, but not nearly so well thought out.

  148. UnspeakableyViolentJane
    January 2nd, 2009 @ 2:30 pm

    So, mk,  I was correct when I said every Christian on the planet – in fact every theist on the planet is actually engaged in their own private religion, separated into groups according to the gestures and robes of their leaders.

    No one really knows who their neighbor is praying to.

  149. Suzy
    January 2nd, 2009 @ 3:31 pm

    Just popped over from Conversion Diary to wish you many blessings for the New Year :0)
    May you find peace and joy as you begin your journey with Jesus.

  150. Irreligious
    January 2nd, 2009 @ 3:46 pm

    MK, I understand that there were supposedly millions of people who saw that alleged apparition in Egypt 40 years ago.  What I don’t understand is why you think this should be compelling to me. It isn’t. Sorry.

    I am well aware that Roman Catholics claim to see alleged apparitional visions of the Virgin Mary. I am also aware that Baptists, Methodists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Lutherans, Episcopalians, Mormons and nondemoninational evangelical Christians– Christians, all– do not .

     As I recall from early experiences as a Baptist, Mary (she was never referred to as the “Virgin” Mary) was hardly ever alluded to in church.  In the church I attended, Mary was not venerated to the degree that Roman Catholics appear tovenerate her.

    Why would this be if we are all capable of seeing the same thing when it comes to this thing called “faith?” Are all of those non Catholic Christians blind to her powers or what? 

    If that sounds like a snarky question, I assure you that it is being asked in all sincerity.   

  151. James Stephenson
    January 2nd, 2009 @ 5:25 pm

    ‘My post was to both you and Beezlebub.  I believe it was he that lost respect for James because James does not adhere to the theory of evolution.  This is what I meant by I get the feeling that he does not believe that Christians are comfortable with science.’

    As a Christian I have moved from being a Creationist, to fully accepting Darwinian Evolution (and just believing that that’s how God did it) to now thinking that there needs to be a design element in Evolution. The incredible complexity found in cells and the genome itself are, for me, beyond the bounds of accident.

    As for not quite accepting science – well I have many issues with science – the peer review process for one. Tha fact that people go into science with pre-existing assumptions that will colour their perception.

    My problem with some aspects of science now is that it has fallen prey to particular types who wish to take God out of the equation and use science to do it. For example, I feel it is difficult to tell whether PZ Myers is a scientist or apologist for Atheism – he seems to spend more time doing the latter.

    Dawkins says you cannot be a scientist and a Christian. He says the two are incompatible – and yet Francis Collins (Director of the Human Genome Project) seem to be able to combine the two, along with 10s of thousands of others.

    Science has become infected with Atheism on a grand scale. In fact, most prominent Atheist are scientists or have a scientific background – a strange turn-around from the days of early science when most were religious.

    Science will attemp to explain God away (The Religion Project):

    http://www.economist.com/daily/news/displaystory.cfm?STORY_ID=10903480

  152. James Stephenson
    January 2nd, 2009 @ 5:33 pm

    MK, it is extremely difficult for us to talk and not insult each other because our positions are utterly irreconcilable. That’s not news to me anymore.
    Almost any challenge on my part to your position is going to be perceived as meanspirited and irreverent.

    – Irreligious

    Irreligious, it is completely possible for us to have very enlightening conversations on these subjects, even if neither of us will move our position.

    My understanding of what I believe has been enriched by some very in-depth conversations with Atheists. In the early days, Atheists cast doubt on my beliefs and it was a difficult process for me to undergo. But I examined the arguments and have discovered that I have nothing to fear. In fact, to start with I lost my faith, but as I delved deeper into it I began to see that Christianity can be approached rationally.

    As I have said, I am very well disposed towards thoughtful atheists – it is just the ones that wish to belittle me that I find difficult.

    I am happy to see that there are some a good deal of the former type here.

  153. James Stephenson
    January 2nd, 2009 @ 5:40 pm

    I am well aware that Roman Catholics claim to see alleged apparitional visions of the Virgin Mary. I am also aware that Baptists, Methodists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Lutherans, Episcopalians, Mormons and nondemoninational evangelical Christians– Christians, all– do not .
     As I recall from early experiences as a Baptist, Mary (she was never referred to as the “Virgin” Mary) was hardly ever alluded to in church.  In the church I attended, Mary was not venerated to the degree that Roman Catholics appear tovenerate her.
    Why would this be if we are all capable of seeing the same thing when it comes to this thing called “faith?” Are all of those non Catholic Christians blind to her powers or what? ‘

    – Irreligious

    I have come to the conclusion that the church is a large vessel with room for many.

    The concept of God and his dealings with humanity are difficult things to understand. I believe that God looks into the heart and is much less concerned about what dogma we sign up to.

    Of course, that does not mean that I do not believe that Christ is cenral to salvation. He is. But many will end up with God who did not know Christ. Infants, people from cultures that have never had the chance to respond to the gospel. Even sincere people within other religions who have never heard the gospel or have seen Christ as an avenging figure as his people have come with the sword – (not so much these days with the sword thankfully).
     

  154. James Stephenson
    January 2nd, 2009 @ 5:45 pm

    ‘So, mk,  I was correct when I said every Christian on the planet – in fact every theist on the planet is actually engaged in their own private religion, separated into groups according to the gestures and robes of their leaders.
    No one really knows who their neighbor is praying to.’

    – UVJ

    Pretty much so. But just because we see God through different spectacles doesn’t mean we can’t see him at all.

    As St. Paul said – ‘Now we see through a dark glass, but then we shall see things in full’.

    If we all saw the same thing, and God could be neatly defined and understood, then I would be suspicious.

  155. James Stephenson
    January 2nd, 2009 @ 5:52 pm

    ‘Being touched by the holy spirit is a totally subjective experience? So is being anally probed by space aliens. Your entire religion is a subjective experience, made objective only to the extent that a lot of people are sucking on the same dick. Alas, all that really means is that there are a lot of delusional cocksuckers who claim to work for jeebus. It’s as meaningful as harry potter, but not nearly so well thought out.’

    Ah, Christologist, you make such a good point – and so eloquently. I will immediately renounce my faith.

    Ah no, maybe I won’t, because after all, there is a wealth of  historical, documented eye-witness evidence related to Christianity, and there is nothing similar for anal probing experiences.

  156. Marion (Mael Muire)
    January 2nd, 2009 @ 6:31 pm

    Irreligious wrote to another poster: ” . . . it is extremely difficult for us to talk and not insult each other because our positions are utterly irreconcilable . .  .  .
    Almost any challenge on my part to your position is going to be perceived as meanspirited and irreverent . . . “

    FWIW, Irreligious, in the short time I (a Catholic) have been reading your posts,  you have left me with an impression of a thoughtful, educated, and  civilized correspondent, one with a great deal more to say than simply . . . well, . . . . than (ahem) flinging poo about.

    (Some of the things people post on here had to have been written while the writer’s head was spinning around 360) You’re not like that at all, and it’s refreshing.  Anyway, forgive me going on and on, it’s just that I think it’s terrific to find someone that one can actually, you know, carry on a conversation with.

    Cannot two people disagree amicably without insulting each other? Sure, they can. It’s called “people of good will”, and civilized people do it every day. You’re one of them, in my book.

    Peace! And Happy New Year.

  157. mk
    January 2nd, 2009 @ 6:38 pm

    Irreligious,

    Why would this be if we are all capable of seeing the same thing when it comes to this thing called “faith?” Are all of those non Catholic Christians blind to her powers or what?

    Well, that is why I chose the Egypt one.   She was physically there, and seen by people of all denominations.  So we were ALL capable of seeing the same thing.   However, Faith itself, is rather complex.  Our own egos get in the way.

    Look at evolution.  If it is so clear, so provable, why are there still so many different ways of expressing it.  Some believe in a big bang, some believe in evolution by design, some don’t believe in it at all, some are still out…one theory, 20 ways of seeing.  The 3 blind men and the elephant.

    As to why I felt you would be compelled, I’m not sure I understand what you mean.  I’ve already said that I wasn’t expecting you to have an “aha” moment.  And Egypt on it’s own isn’t compelling, even to me.  It’s when you examine the multitude of such things, that you begin to wonder.

    For instance, the Eucharistic Miracles and the statues that bleed.  There are many hoaxes, but just as many that have not been explained.  And whenever they scientifically test the blood of these manifestations, it comes out to be AB Positive.  Compelling?  Maybe not.  But now let’s put it with Egypt.  A miracle here, and apparition there, and pretty soon you can say you have a phenomenon.  Not an isolated incident. 

    You don’t find it compelling.  But don’t you at least find it curious?

  158. mk
    January 2nd, 2009 @ 6:53 pm

    James,

    I loved your 5:40 post.  I agree completely.  Each of us has different experiences, different pasts, different baggage.  There is an objective truth there, but finding it is not all that easy.  

    Have you read the Abolition of  Man?   Absolutely amazing. 

    You have three groups of people.  Those that adhere to a God centered objective truth.  Those that adhere to the truths that God put forth, but don’t accept God himself. (Different expressions of the Truth) and those that don’t accept God or Objective Truth.   I think most people fall into the second category. 

    You and I fall into the first category.  We believe that God created and ordered all things. 

    But some people recognize the Natural Law, without recognizing God.  Hindus, Buddhists, Atheists…they recognize that there is objective Truth, objective Moral Good and Objective Evil…and most laws reflect this.   Almost all cultures believe it to be wrong to walk up to a perfect stranger and shoot him dead.  Almost all cultures believe it is wrong to take what is not theirs.  Almost all cultures believe in respecting marriage vows.

    This is why even an Atheist can be totally moral.  My own brother in law is an atheist and I wouldn’t hesitate to go to him for moral advice.  He recognizes Objective Moral Law, even if He doesn’t acknowledge it’s author.

    So while we all have a subjective view of faith, many if not most of us have an objective view of morality.  It is only recently that the third group is gaining a foothold.  And according to Lewis, they will be the death of humanity.

    It is also why the Catholic Church has a head, the pope.  It recognizes the dangers of letting every man think for himself.  While there are 33,000 different expressions of protestantism, all disagreeing on some point or another, there is only one recognized Catholic Church.   Even within that context we are allowed individual expression of our faith, but on the main points we remain  unanimous. 

  159. Beelzebub
    January 2nd, 2009 @ 7:41 pm

    Lily said:
    ‘We know nothing in science beyond a shadow of a doubt! Moreover, science can’t even begin to address certain questions that it pretends don’t exist– why is there something rather than nothing? Why is the universe intelligible to us (behaves as if governed by laws) and describable in the language of mathematics? Although perhaps it would be better to say it assumes that there is something rather than nothing, etc. in order to have a starting place for investigation.’
    We can quibble over exactly how certainty is described. Courts talk about ‘beyond reasonable doubt.” If you prefer that to “shadow of a doubt” I think I can accommodate you there.
    As far as I’m told cosmologists and physicists are attempted to answer the questions you seem to think are actively being avoided.
    “Why is the universe intelligible to us (behaves as if governed by laws)” Perhaps because it is!? But I don’t think I’ll repose myself in bronze age myth due to this.
    ‘Science can’t begin to address those metaphysical questions that is forced to take for granted’
    Here we have a difference. Science can and has begun to do these things. Are you trying to compel me to look backward and not forward?
    ‘If you want to claim that there are no truths (Truths?) except those derived from science you are engaging in some pretty bad science! You can’t demonstrate the truth of that claim. Even worse, that would mean that mathematical and logical truths can’t be considered true because they are a priori rather than a posteriori truths.’
    I didn’t say I think the scientific method is the only route to truth. Obviously 1+2=3 is a mathematical axiom. Whether math is invented or discovered hasn’t been resolved philosophically. It’s “non-material,” as is ‘the set of all toast consumed this morning’.

    ‘If we turn back to the claims of the New Testament, we are in the realm of historical claims which can be evaluated using the tools of historical interpretation. Such claims can rarely (if ever) be established beyond a shadow of a doubt, since it is conceivable that new evidence might come to light that casts doubt on previous assumptions. However, the documentary evidence and the archeological evidence (which turns up, literally, every day) continues to solidly back the historical reliability of the New Testament.’

    Well, I don’t need to tell you that historical reliability doesn’t connote that it was a valid account of divinity. It’s the story of one of the guys who claimed to be God, the one who was lucky enough to have it written. Now, that’s simply an accurate description; it says nothing of whether the story is true or not. But it’s the kind of thing one should keep in mind when forming one’s opinion.

  160. Beelzebub
    January 2nd, 2009 @ 8:45 pm

    Just out of curiosity, are one of you TRT?  If not does he/she ever make an appearance in the comments?

  161. Lily
    January 2nd, 2009 @ 8:54 pm

    Vince: I tried to post on your blog– but I could never get a prompt to identify myself. So I lost a rather lengthy message while trying to post it. In any case, what I tried to say was that I found your story quite moving. One of the problems I have with Anglo/American fundamentalism is that it is rooted in the 19th and 20th centuries. Thus it is cut off from a community that has deep historical roots and has struggled with all sorts of issues, like doubt, skepticism, et al. Some churches can’t deal well with that. Others are perfectly able to. In the end, no one can deny that for many people church hurts. Many others can testify that it is a place of hope and love. Doubt has never been a deal breaker for Christians; only, sometimes, for particular bodies.
    You wrote:
    Does it not occur to you that some people are genuine, sincere atheists? Give me evidence that Jesus even existed, let alone was raised from the dead, and I will convert back in a second! I don’t want evidence from the bible, I want historical evidence, something verifiable.
    Of course some people are genuine, sincere atheists. I was one for 25 years. I was raised in an agnostic/atheist home and never stepped foot in any church until I was a tourist in Rome at age 20. I converted at 25. Your demand that the evidence not come from the Bible is not reasonable. There is no scholar on the planet who dismisses the Bible as primary source material. The New Testament is 27 books written by a number of people at different times in different places for different audiences. There is a whole science of interpretation that is applied to it to tease out what is reliable from what is not.
    However, you may want to read Gary Habermas’s The Historical Jesus: Ancient Evidence For the Life of Christ. Chapters 4 and 9 are available online. Chapter 9 deals with the evidence for Christ outside the Bible. It may help. Habermas is writing for a popular audience– not scholars. However, he extensively footnotes everything which enables anyone who wishes to, to pursue questions of interest in depth.

  162. Lily
    January 2nd, 2009 @ 9:24 pm

    Bbub–You wrote: We can quibble over exactly how certainty is described. Courts talk about ‘beyond reasonable doubt.” If you prefer that to “shadow of a doubt” I think I can accommodate you there.
    Oh? This is not a matter of accommodation, Bbub. The distinction between “beyond a reasonable doubt” and “beyond a shadow of a doubt” is critical. The first is obtainable. The second is not.

    You wrote: As far as I’m told cosmologists and physicists are attempted to answer the questions you seem to think are actively being avoided. I don’t think so. Science can only deal with the natural world. It cannot and does not make truth claims outside of it. This is called “methodological naturalism”. Science proceeds by ignoring truth claims about the supernatural. It does not pronounce them wrong. It recognizes that they are outside its scope.
    You answered my question: “Why is the universe intelligible to us (behaves as if governed by laws)” Perhaps because it is!? But I don’t think I’ll repose myself in bronze age myth due to this. No. Indeed. But it is the starting place for taking the postulate, God, seriously. How we get from that to, “Jesus Christ is the Son of the Living God” is another question, altogether.

    I said ‘Science can’t begin to address those metaphysical questions that is forced to take for granted’ You replied: Here we have a difference. Science can and has begun to do these things. I don’t think so for the reasons I just discussed. If it is dealing with the metaphysical realm, it is no longer science.

    You wrote:

    Well, I don’t need to tell you that historical reliability doesn’t connote that it was a valid account of divinity. It’s the story of one of the guys who claimed to be God, the one who was lucky enough to have it written. Now, that’s simply an accurate description; it says nothing of whether the story is true or not.
    Indeed this is true. But that is what close reading and interpretation do– they examine the claims that are made in the text. Any reader must come up with an explanation for what is described there that covers the evidence. Once you accept that the writers are describing events that were witnessed in living memory, you have to explain why they exerted the power that they did. The earliest surviving letter we have from Paul, after all, was written in 50 or 51 A.D. That is a mere 30 years, give or take a couple, after the facts set out in the Gospels. Moreover, the letter is not addressed to people who don’t know anything about those events; rather they know it very well and have for years. How did this happen? How did those claims spread so rapidly that Paul could take their understanding completely for granted?

    This is where the weighing of probabilities comes into it. Some will say that the probabilities are in favor of the truth of the claims of Christianity. Some will say not. C’est la vie!

  163. Lurker
    January 2nd, 2009 @ 10:05 pm

    Great post, RT. Look forward to hearing more. Glad Jenifer convinced you it would be worthwhile.

  164. Irreligious
    January 3rd, 2009 @ 2:17 am

    James Stephenson wrote:

    “Irreligious, it is completely possible for us to have very enlightening conversations on these subjects, even if neither of us will move our position.”

    I’m intrigued. How were you enlightened by conversing with an atheist? I don’t mean to put you on the spot, but I’m curious about the specifics?

    James Stephenson wrote:
    “But many will end up with God who did not know Christ. Infants, people from cultures that have never had the chance to respond to the gospel. Even sincere people within other religions who have never heard the gospel or have seen Christ as an avenging figure as his people have come with the sword…”

    Is there a specific verse in the Bible that supports your contention that sincere people within other religions who have never heard the gospels are destined for heaven?  According to John 3:3 “… Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.

    Perhaps, there are other verses that I am overlooking. 

    Marion (Mael Muire) wrote:
    “Cannot two people disagree amicably without insulting each other? Sure, they can. It’s called “people of good will”, and civilized people do it every day. You’re one of them, in my book.”

    That’s sweet of you to say, M (MM), and you have been pleasant, as well.  I don’t think it’s impossible for Christians and atheists to have civil discussions, just very difficult. I think some of us (atheists and Christians) here are making a concerted effort to avoid offending the sensibilities of the other. I know I’ve had to think a few times before clicking  that submit comment button, delete what I initially typed and start over again while I’ve been here. But I don’t kid myself that our mutually exclusive positions with regard to claims of the supernatural  are in any way reconcilable. Still, I don’t mind attempting to see far a discussion can go before we hit a brick wall. 

    And Happy New Year to you, as well.

  165. Pikemann Urge
    January 3rd, 2009 @ 2:53 am

    WRT amicable debating/discussion: I am not afraid to mention challenging ideas or facts, but I hope that I never slip in to attacks ad hominem (God help me if I do!).

    Lily #80, I beg to differ – strongly and emphatically. We cannot even properly establish when the Synoptics were written. We are unsure of their provenance in more ways than just authorship (rather, we don’t know what the ‘originals’ may have said as the oldest Gospel fragments we have are, I think, 2nd C).

    Do you truly and honestly propose that the Gospels are not contradictory in any meaningful way? So what if they did? You should be glad that they do – that prevents them from being used dogmatically.

    James #85: LOL. Psychology can be so trite, can’t it?

    Mk #134, “I think if you’re comfortable with your beliefs, you’ll probably be comfortable with sharing them.”

    Amen! If one is not comfortable with his beliefs he can either pull his finger out and relax or STFU. Many people in society are overly defensive due to their insecurities and thus nobody can get anywhere. That, and nothing else, is the reason for the saying, ‘never discuss politics or religion at dinner.’

    James #150, “Dawkins says you cannot be a scientist and a Christian.”

    I don’t think that he did. He said that he can’t understand it. But I’m happy to stand corrected.

    Mk #156, “Look at evolution.  If it is so clear, so provable, why are there still so many different ways of expressing it.”

    Because there are! There is much debate about evolution theory by evolutionary biologists themselves. Scientists never run out of questions.

    Lily #160, “There is no scholar on the planet who dismisses the Bible as primary source material. ”

    Oh yes there is. Are, I mean. Interestingly enough there is one German scholar (name escapes me) who thinks the Gospels are too corrupted by tradition to be reliable. He relies on the Letters alone.

  166. Irreligious
    January 3rd, 2009 @ 3:07 am

    MK wrote:
    “Well, that is why I chose the Egypt one.   She was physically there, and seen by people of all denominations.  So we were ALL capable of seeing the same thing.   However, Faith itself, is rather complex.  Our own egos get in the way.”

    I take it the women interviewed in that video were Coptics and not Roman Catholics and your point would be that even they claimed to see the apparition, along with the legion of others who were there. I know very little about Coptic Christians, their traditions or whether or not they venerate the Virgin Mary, but I’d be lying if I said I was in any way impressed by their testimony. I am a skeptic after all. I don’t know why masses of  fatith-filled  people claim to see apparitions, but I don’t take them at their word, even if I simultaneously accept that many of them might sincerely believe they saw what they claimed to see.

    It’s not an uncommon phenomenon among people who believe in such things, apparently. As for the alleged nonbelievers in the crowd of whom it is claimed saw the same thing, that’s just unreliable testimony to me. I don’t know that someone who claims to be an unbeliever really is. I really am that skeptical , especially when it comes to extraordinary claims made by people who are already predisposed to believe in the alleged supernatural. Am I calling them liars? No. I have no way of knowing definitively why they make such claims. All I know is I don’t believe them and I do believe the reasons for my incredulity are sound. 

    MK wrote:
    “Look at evolution.  If it is so clear, so provable, why are there still so many different ways of expressing it.  Some believe in a big bang, some believe in evolution by design, some don’t believe in it at all, some are still out…one theory, 20 ways of seeing.  The 3 blind men and the elephant.”

    I will admit to being a science dummy, but I would not approach science as a belief. There are folks far smarter and more educated than I am who are dedicated to understanding and unlocking the mysteries of the natural world, the folks who collectively figured out how to make it possible for us to communicate through the ether on this blog, for instance. I don’t have to believe it works. That is evident for everyone with access to the Internet to see for themselves, even if they don’t have a clue how it is made possible.

    The claims made by scientists can be tested for their veracity and applied in myriad concrete ways. The results are not the exclusive province of  any one group of people. They not only can be applied by all, indeed, they are applied by all, regardless of their religious faith or lack of one.  

    MK wrote:
    For instance, the Eucharistic Miracles and the statues that bleed.  There are many hoaxes, but just as many that have not been explained.  And whenever they scientifically test the blood of these manifestations, it comes out to be AB Positive.  Compelling?  Maybe not.  But now let’s put it with Egypt.  A miracle here, and apparition there, and pretty soon you can say you have a phenomenon.  Not an isolated incident. 
    You don’t find it compelling.  But don’t you at least find it curious?”

    Honestly? No, I am not that fascinated by such claims, any more than I am about people who claim to have psychic powers or people who see religious figures in randomly made shapes. As a species, we are equipped with marvelously facile  imaginations.  

  167. Lily
    January 3rd, 2009 @ 4:50 am

    So, Pikeman: your German scholar dismisses the Gospels but accepts the letters. Lots of scholars bring different perspectives to how much of  the NT is reliable history. I don’t see how that makes my statement that the books of the Bible are primary source material wrong. There are 27 of them, after all.

    But he is standing virtually, but not entirely, alone. Bart Ehrman springs to mind. He lost his faith when he found out the Bible had been written by men and not by God, apparently.  In any case, the synoptics can be reliably dated to a quite narrow range of dates that are accepted by virtually the entire scholarly world. Likewise their provenance is not unknown. Moreover, the fact that the manuscripts are 2nd century is not particularly problematic. We don’t have “fragments” we have whole books; chapters of books and several manuscripts. Moreover, as the greatest Biblical scholar of this century has written (Bruce Metzger), if every single ancient manuscript disappeared, we could rewrite the Bible just from the portions quoted from it in the innumerable contemporary homilies, glosses, commentaries, catechisms, that quote it.

    The Bible is the best attested book of the ancient world.  There is a whole field of study devoted to studying, emendating and translating these texts. They are found near and far from the scene of the “crime”. Their agreement with each other is quite conclusive. In today’s Bibles the relatively few passages that are found in one manuscript but not in another (the story about the woman taken in adultery, is one such) are usually bracketed with a note explaining that.

    I think it is safe to say that we have reliable historical documents. The issue then, is whether or not what they claim is true. That is a different subject.

  168. Beelzebub
    January 3rd, 2009 @ 7:43 am

    Believers and non-believers can, in fact have civil discussions if they really want to. This blog is about a million (maybe a little less) more congenial than some I’ve visited. Perhaps due to the general intelligence of people commenting here. In fact I’m ready to think that I’m going to get the boot when everyone discovers how dumb I am.

    Btw — I DON’T think believers are insane, words I believe mk put in my mouth. — Damn YOU, damn you to HELL! :-) Nor have I lost respect for James because he’s anti-evolution — Damn YOU, da…

    In fact for atheists this is the mystery, St. Dawkins has even said it: Why do undeniably intelligent people believe these things? Dunno. Hope to learn some day.

    I can tell you, from rather extensive personal experience, why these forums often DO deteriorate to brawls. Usually it has to do with disingenuous exchanges. For instance, when one side insists on a literal interpretation or critique of an argument when they know full well that what is meant requires a little more nuance. In other word, the unwillingness to interpolate an argument and move it along. That’s the kind of thing that rapidly pisses off the other side, and everything quickly degenerates from there. If you keep asking yourself whether you’re arguing in good faith (as it were), you probably won’t go wrong.

    And all this actually depends on your courage. Do you really have what it takes to follow the truth, no matter where it leads, as the Peripatetics supposedly did? If not, you best turn back now. Do some knitting or something, fix your car.

  169. mk
    January 3rd, 2009 @ 8:28 am

    Beezlebub,

    I just got finished reading a post by the Curt Jester on our friend the raving theist, and he said exactly what you said.  Conversations are possible when BOTH parties are sincerely interested in the truth.  That’s sort of what I was saying earlier, when I said that this isn’t about winning, it’s about learning.

    The Truth exists.  Of that I am sure.  What it is, we must each discover.  But the sincere desire to discover it will allow for some interesting, congenial, deep and enlightening conversations.  At the very least, we can make new friends.

    And don’t worry about anyone discovering your lack of intelligence.  I’ve never had a philosophy class in my life.  Don’t know Sarte from Socrates.  I only graduated high school and am sorry to say I’ve never been to college.  I have had quite a lot of life experience tho.  I’ve got six kids, 5 of whom are boys, and 4 of whom have been educated in the secular system. So I’ve had a lot of practice defending my faith.  The three syllable words are killin’ me tho!

    Irreligious,
    Coptics are Christian, yes, but not Catholic.  They are Orthodox, which is close, but not the same.  Our Lady appeared on a coptic church, but it was 2 muslims that first saw her.  Keep in mind that of those millions of people, there were Muslims, Christians, Catholics, Orthodox, Jews…it was Egypt after all.  And she was there, in plain view, for over 4 years.  It’s not like Medjugorge where only the 6 children could see her.  EVERYONE saw her.  Over and over.   I agree that 2 people or even 200, claiming to see something supernatural is not compelling.  But millions?  If a million people claimed to see little green men land in a spaceship on top  of an Elks Lodge,  and remain there for 4 years, waving and walking around, I’d have to think twice before dismissing their testimony.

    As for the Eucharistic miracles, it’s not like they happened to a couple of people and then the host got thrown away.  The hosts are still there.  They’ve been scientifically tested, and you could go and see them this very afternoon.  This is not the same as having a vivid imagination and seeing Jesus in a doorknob.  We are talking physical bleeding.  We are talking, the host is there to see.  Right now.  You are not the first skeptic to look at these phenomena.  Scientists flock to these occurrences.  They probe and test and test and probe.  No one that I know of scientifically tested that grilled cheese sandwich!

    Again, my point in telling you these things is not to change your mind.  It’s simply to let you know that there is physical evidence of a non physical  world.  Not proof.  Just a little evidence, that maybe, just maybe, there is “something” else.  Evidence that isn’t purely antecdotal.  Evidence that can be seen, touched, studied. 

    As to  your question about non believers getting into heaven, not being in scripture.  It is a protestant, not a Catholic contention, that only that which is directly found in scripture is truth.  Nowhere in scripture does it tell us that it must be found in scripture.  Nowhere does it mention the trinity.  Nor the fact that Mary remained a virgin.  Like the Jews before us we rely heavily on tradition. 

    The scripture passage that you quote, simply says that a man must be born again, but does not tell us  what that entails.  Perhaps, believing in and striving to always to the right thing, simply because it IS the right thing is enough in extraordinary circumstances.  This does not mean that you can be good enough to get to heaven.  It just means, that if you love good for goodness sake, and have never had an opportunity to know that Good has a name, (ie: God) then whether you know it or not you have been following God (since Good and God are the same thing) and the door, for you, will be open.

  170. Irreligious
    January 3rd, 2009 @ 11:52 am

    MK, are you aware of any secular news organization that reported on these sighting in Zeitun over the 2 or 4 years that pilgrims to that Coptic church were claiming to have seen it? I’m not talking about reports on the phenomenon of millions of piligrims claiming to see it, but stories in secular newspapers and  broadcasts on NBC, CBS,  ABC, , CBC, the BBC, etc. that verified their claims? I couldn’t find any. Why would the world’s major print and electronic media  of the time collectively ignore this story?

    You said two Muslims also claimed to see it. Again, that is not very compelling when you consider that there are millions of Muslims in Egypt not making any such claim.  How could they possibly have missed it when, theoretically, it should have been just as accessible to their eyes as those of any Roman Catholic or Coptic pilgrim in the vicinity.    

    By and large, the claims are coming from those already predisposed to believing in the existence of apparitions of the Virgin Mary. Surely, you are not surprised by staggering number of religious faithful who claimed to have seen this apparition when there are multimillions of Roman Catholics in the world.

    Where are the reports of wholesale conversions by Muslims or even  Protestants  as a result of these claimed sightings? That might make me sit up and take notice. 

  171. Irreligious
    January 3rd, 2009 @ 12:01 pm

    MK wrote:
    “As for the Eucharistic miracles, it’s not like they happened to a couple of people and then the host got thrown away.  The hosts are still there.  They’ve been scientifically tested, and you could go and see them this very afternoon.”

    For what were the hosts tested? Tested how and by whom?

  172. mk
    January 3rd, 2009 @ 12:25 pm

    Irreligious,

    There are hundreds of them.  Here is one.

    In 1970-’71 and taken up again partly in 1981 there took place a scientific investigation by the most illustrious scientist Prof. Odoardo Linoli, eminent Professor in Anatomy and Pathological Histology and in Chemistry and Clinical Microscopy. He was assisted by Prof. Ruggero Bertelli of the University of Siena.
    The analyses were conducted with absolute and unquestionable scientific precision and they were documented with a series of microscopic photographs.
    These analyses sustained the following conclusions:

    The Flesh is real Flesh. The Blood is real Blood.

    The Flesh and the Blood belong to the human species.

    The Flesh consists of the muscular tissue of the heart.

    In the Flesh we see present in section: the myocardium, the endocardium, the vagus nerve and also the left ventricle of the heart for the large thickness of the myocardium.

    The Flesh is a “HEART” complete in its essential structure.

    The Flesh and the Blood have the same blood-type: AB (Blood-type identical to that which Prof. Baima Bollone uncovered in the Holy Shroud of Turin).

    In the Blood there were found proteins in the same normal proportions (percentage-wise) as are found in the sero-proteic make-up of the fresh normal blood.

    In the Blood there were also found these minerals: chlorides, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, sodium and calcium.

    The preservation of the Flesh and of the Blood, which were left in their natural state for twelve centuries and exposed to the action of atmospheric and biological agents, remains an extraordinary phenomenon.

  173. mk
    January 3rd, 2009 @ 12:25 pm
  174. Irreligious
    January 3rd, 2009 @ 1:12 pm

    Hundreds of what? Converts to Catholicism? Out of billions of  otherwise non Catholics in the world? Why should I or anyone be impressed by that?

    As for the alleged science you’ve presented, I have idea what you expect me to do  with that.  Honestly, I don’t.  

  175. James Stephenson
    January 3rd, 2009 @ 1:37 pm

    ‘James Stephenson wrote:
    “Irreligious, it is completely possible for us to have very enlightening conversations on these subjects, even if neither of us will move our position.”

    I’m intrigued. How were you enlightened by conversing with an atheist? I don’t mean to put you on the spot, but I’m curious about the specifics?’
     
    -       Irreligious
     
    Hi Irreligious,
     
    I had a conversation with a particularly well thought out atheist over 900 posts on a science site. I was forced to examine a lot of what I believed. It was good for me anyway and enjoyable and challenging. Don’t you just like to debate sometimes?
     
     
    ‘James Stephenson wrote:
    “But many will end up with God who did not know Christ. Infants, people from cultures that have never had the chance to respond to the gospel. Even sincere people within other religions who have never heard the gospel or have seen Christ as an avenging figure as his people have come with the sword…”


    Is there a specific verse in the Bible that supports your contention that sincere people within other religions who have never heard the gospels are destined for heaven?  According to John 3:3 “… Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.
    Perhaps, there are other verses that I am overlooking. ‘
     
    -       Irreligious
     
    In the Bible it is clear that people from before Christ’s time saw the kingdom of God. It seems that Christ provided the mechanism by which to repair people’s relationship with God, but they don’t necessarily have to be aware of the process.
     
    Paul said, ‘where there is no law, there is no transgression’ – meaning that if someone is ignorant of what they should do, then they can hardly be guilty of not doing it. There is no reason to think that this principle is not extended to people who have never had a chance to respond to Christ.

  176. Vince R
    January 3rd, 2009 @ 1:45 pm

    Having now spent a couple of days looking at this blog, I have a few more observations to add. Firstly, I am still gob-smacked. That someone with the notoriety of RA would post such a cheesy, tacky image as Jesus-with-kids is beyond me. This is an insult to true believers and atheists alike. Secondly, have you been checking previous posts? Hardly any comments! Since the “conversion”, comments have skyrocketed. So many in fact, that I cannot even submit a comment on the Jesus-and-Kids post. It spazzes up my PC to even try!  This is definitely a stunt of some kind! And in no way, do I view it as a threat to atheism. Too glib, too childish! Anyway, I suppose it has livened up the debate. I have donated a fiver to the atheist bus campaign in the UK specially in honour of RT here: http://www.justgiving.com/atheistbus
    I believe there is a similar campaign in the States here: http://www.whybelieveinagod.org/
    Go RT, you little devil you!!!

  177. Carla
    January 3rd, 2009 @ 1:50 pm

    Hi MK!!! I miss you!!! :)

  178. nile
    January 3rd, 2009 @ 2:45 pm

    Jesus is Son of God only in the Christian belief.  According to history of religions, when Paulus made his trips,  Jesus was son of god only in the metaphorical sense.  It was common then.  Roman Emperors, the pharaoes of Egypt, Alexander the Great were all called sons of god.  In a council held in Nicea (İznik in Turkish) Anatolia in 325 CE, it was officially accepted that Jesus and God were of the same substance; and then on,   people were made to believe he is actually son of god.

  179. James Stephenson
    January 3rd, 2009 @ 3:00 pm

    ‘Jesus is Son of God only in the Christian belief.  According to history of religions, when Paulus made his trips,  Jesus was son of god only in the metaphorical sense.  It was common then.  Roman Emperors, the pharaoes of Egypt, Alexander the Great were all called sons of god.  In a council held in Nicea (İznik in Turkish) Anatolia in 325 CE, it was officially accepted that Jesus and God were of the same substance; and then on,   people were made to believe he is actually son of god.’

    – Nile

    For several days he was with the disciples in Damascus, and immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.” ( Acts 9:19-20)

    Paul was talking about Jesus being THE son of God hundreds of years before the first council of Nicaea.

  180. nile
    January 3rd, 2009 @ 3:08 pm

    Are you saying that no official acceptance took place in the council of  Nicaea?

  181. nkb
    January 3rd, 2009 @ 3:55 pm

    mk (post 171),
    I’m a little confused on what you are claiming with these scientific tests.
    .
    Can you give me a link to this story?  If I am reading about the same thing, this allegedly happened to a priest around the 8th century, where the Eucharist actually turned into flesh and blood (physically).
    .
    Now some scientists have tested this host, and found it to be human.  That’s it?  Pardon me if I’m absolutely unimpressed.
    .
    Let’s start with some obvious questions:
    1. What evidence tells us that this isn’t just a piece of a human heart, which could have been placed there by a priest trying to win over converts or skeptics?
    2. Why does this happen only in isolated instances, where it is impossible to determine whether there was any shenanigans on the claimant’s part?
    3. What is more logically tenable: That a piece of bread, and some wine, actually turned into flesh and blood, or that throughout history, there have been less than honest people who were willing to dupe people for their own benefit?
    .
    And, last but not least, you do realize that the Shroud of Turin was proven to be a fake, with radiocarbon dating done in 1988 that showed it to be from the Middle Ages, about 1300 years after the alleged Christ?
    .
    That doesn’t do much for the credibility of one of the scientists tasked to prove the Eucharist miracle.

  182. nkb
    January 3rd, 2009 @ 3:56 pm

    I just noticed the link you provided in post 172, and it is the same “miracle” I was reading about.

  183. nile
    January 3rd, 2009 @ 4:57 pm

    JS (post 178) Well, I can wait for a reply to my question: “Are you saying that no official acceptance took place in the council of Nicaea?” In the meanwhile let’s clear this THE usage.  When the pharaoh of Egypt claims he is son of god, he says: I am THE son of god.  When people claim that Alexander is son of god they say: Alexander is THE son of god.  So, it’s no different with Paul saying “Jesus is THE son of god”.  Use of THE  for a particular person is a grammatical necessity anyway. 

  184. mk
    January 3rd, 2009 @ 4:57 pm

    Irreligious,

    Hundreds of what? Converts to Catholicism? Out of billions of  otherwise non Catholics in the world? Why should I or anyone be impressed by that?
    As for the alleged science you’ve presented, I have idea what you expect me to do  with that.  Honestly, I don’t. 

    Hundreds of Eucharistic Miracles. I’m not asking you to be impressed by anything.  You keep asking questions, and when I answer them, as honestly as I can, you tell me you are unimpressed and far from compelled.
    But I’m not trying to impress you or compel you.  I’m just answering your questions.  You asked what scientific tests were done.  The most clearly documented case I could find on the internet was the one I posted.  No impressing, no compelling…just answering.  I assumed you wanted the name of the scientist and a list of what tests were done, and what was found.  So I gave it to you.
    I don’t know how many people were converted and I don’t care.  I didn’t think you did either.  I just cut and pasted what I found along with the link.  Sheesh, you’re almost starting to sound paranoid.
    I’m gonna have to ask for my arm back if you keep this up…;)
    As for what to do with the info I gave you…I don’t know…wallpaper your bathroom?  Line the birdcage?  I’m not trying to convert ya already.  This all started cuz someone, somewhere in the beginning of this thread said that there was not one shred of evidence that anything supernatural/metaphysical existed, and I claimed that was not true.
    That’s all.    Nothing more.  I don’t expect to see you at Mass tomorrow, I don’t expect to be Godmother to your kids.   Relax.  I was just sharing some info…
    ‘kay?

  185. mk
    January 3rd, 2009 @ 5:10 pm

    nkb,

    If you have been following along you know by now that I was just sharing info.  Why does everything think I am trying to impress them with something.

    If you read the entire link, you will see an answer to your “lying to fool the people theory”.  This is not the ONLY miracle.  It is just the only one I can cut an paste any info on.  You could go to the library and do your own research, but for the purposes of this blog, I’m afraid I am limited to what I can find on the web.

    Sure, someone could have cut out someones heart 1200 years ago, stuck it in a glass and every priest, bishop and cardinal that has come down the pike since then has been keeping up the lie.  That makes perfect sense. 

    Look, as I have said to Irreligious, this is not an isolated incident.  There are hundreds if not thousands of documented miracles within the Catholic Church.  While you find that suspicious, I think it points to the legitimacy of the Catholic Church.   Sure they are isolated incidences.  Sure they are few and far between. 

    If you saw a cow painting a barn you’d know something remarkable was happening.  If every cow you saw was painting a barn, you’d assume thats what cows do. 

    What makes these incidents, miracles,  is the fact that they ARE so rare…

    It is because they are isolated and out of the ordinary that we mention them at all.

    Yeah, I know…you’re not impressed.

  186. nile
    January 3rd, 2009 @ 5:22 pm

    mk (184) I was just wondering how many of the hundreds of miracles documented within the Catholic Church, belong to,  say the last 20 years?  Is God still in the act of creating miracles? 

  187. mk
    January 3rd, 2009 @ 5:29 pm

    Well, I can think of three right off hand…Betania, Rwanda, Akita…
    I’m off to Mass as we speak, but I know there are probably 50 more I could come up with.

    If you’re willing to go a  little farther back, there’s Padre  Pio,  Fatima, the one I already posted on in Egypt…

  188. Pikemann Urge
    January 3rd, 2009 @ 6:07 pm

    Lily:

    Yes, Ehrman, Price and co. are in a small minority. No disputing that fact!

    The Synoptics are *not* reliably dated. It is just that nobody has properly evaluated the c.AD65-75 claim. John is just as likely post-AD100 as pre-, but that is not established either.

    The oldest complete Epistles are 2ndC, the oldest complete Gospels are not so young.

    WRT Metzger’s point: there is huge difficulty in determining at least some portion of that claim. One example that was brought to my attention was that of Ignatius. Was he quoting Matthew? Or not? I don’t think he was necessarily (IMHOTEP*), but nobody has bothered to examine that claim with any depth.

    Now, you may not be so flippant as to suggest that there is more evidence for Jesus than for Caesar (or his crossing of the Rubicon), but people do, and worse, and it becomes difficult to sort the wheat from the chaff. And so scholarship is overgrown with apologetics and progress becomes a little more slow going. It’s like trying to clear a minefield.

    * In my humble opinion, tighter evidence pending.

  189. James Stephenson
    January 3rd, 2009 @ 7:04 pm

    ‘JS (post 178) Well, I can wait for a reply to my question: “Are you saying that no official acceptance took place in the council of Nicaea?” In the meanwhile let’s clear this THE usage.  When the pharaoh of Egypt claims he is son of god, he says: I am THE son of god.  When people claim that Alexander is son of god they say: Alexander is THE son of god.  So, it’s no different with Paul saying “Jesus is THE son of god”.  Use of THE  for a particular person is a grammatical necessity anyway.’

    – Nile

    It is not gramatically necessary – ‘a son of god’ will do.

    Of course official acceptance took place in 325. Lots of things were ‘officially accepted’ that had been previously unofficially accepted. Your point proves nothing.

    Tertullian, probably writing 125 years earlier:

    ‘”Keep always in mind the rule of faith which I profess and by which I bear witness that the Father and the Son and the Spirit are inseparable from each other, and then you will understand what is meant by it. Observe now that I say the Father is other [distinct], the Son is other, and the Spirit is other. This statement is wrongly understood by every uneducated or perversely disposed individual, as if it meant diversity and implied by that diversity a separation of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” (ibid., 9). ‘

    He also said of this:

    ‘ this rule of faith has been present since the beginning of the Gospel, before even the earlier heretics.’

  190. Julie
    January 3rd, 2009 @ 7:34 pm

    Wow! Praise Him for what  He has done!
    Don’t let Beelzebub scare you away….he may be next…despite himself.

  191. Kevin Jackson
    January 3rd, 2009 @ 8:15 pm

    Very cool.  I just ran across your site from another Christian blogger.  God bless you in your walk of faith.

  192. Irreligious
    January 3rd, 2009 @ 8:51 pm

    MK, I think we both could stand to calm down. You manage to blunt your frustration with snarky humor (for which I do not lack an appreciation , by the way) but I still read the hostility underneath it.

    I will try to refrain from using such loaded prhrases as “I am unimpressed,” or “I don’t find this compelling.” I  can see why that would raise someone’s hackles and that is not what I meant to do. Sincerely.

    I am trying my best to not come across as attacking you, but as I explained earlier, this kind of dialog is touchy stuff.  Frankly, I don’t know how we can reconcile this question of what constitutes evidence.  This may be that brick wall in the conversation, because it seems we are destined not to agree on what is acceptable evidence for claims of a miracle. 

    No biggie. It happens. 

    And no hard feelings, I hope. :)

  193. nkb
    January 3rd, 2009 @ 9:12 pm

    If you have been following along you know by now that I was just sharing info.  Why does everything think I am trying to impress them with something.
    .
    I have been following along, and where did I say that you were trying to impress anyone.  I was just commenting on your example being somewhat weak.  “I’m not impressed” is an expression to show that something is not very compelling, no matter the motivation of the presenter.

    If you read the entire link, you will see an answer to your “lying to fool the people theory”.  This is not the ONLY miracle.  It is just the only one I can cut an paste any info on.  You could go to the library and do your own research, but for the purposes of this blog, I’m afraid I am limited to what I can find on the web.
    .
    I realize this is not the only miracle claimed.  However, this one is symptomatic of most miracles, in that there are way too many alternative explanations that are more parsimonious and believable.
    .
    Sure, someone could have cut out someones heart 1200 years ago, stuck it in a glass and every priest, bishop and cardinal that has come down the pike since then has been keeping up the lie.  That makes perfect sense.
    .
    It’s not possible that the only one in on the “miracle” was the priest himself?  No need for a conspiracy theory here.
    .
    Look, as I have said to Irreligious, this is not an isolated incident.  There are hundreds if not thousands of documented miracles within the Catholic Church.  While you find that suspicious, I think it points to the legitimacy of the Catholic Church.   Sure they are isolated incidences.  Sure they are few and far between.
    .
    And sure they can be explained more rationally than resorting to miracles, unless the people evaluating it are already predisposed to supernatural explanations.  That is my overall point in this example.
    .
    What makes these incidents, miracles,  is the fact that they ARE so rare…
    .
    Is winning the lottery a miracle?
    .
    Yeah, I know…you’re not impressed.
    .
    Well, at least we’re on the same page for this one.

  194. Irreligious
    January 3rd, 2009 @ 9:46 pm

    James Stephenson wrote:
    “I had a conversation with a particularly well thought out atheist over 900 posts on a science site. I was forced to examine a lot of what I believed. It was good for me anyway and enjoyable and challenging.”

    Yes, I gathered that it was a very satisfactory conversation from what you said in your prior post, but I was wondering what, specifically, this atheist said to you that was enlightening. Again, I’m not trying to put you on the spot, I’m just curious to know how you were enlightened, if it’s possible to share that here.    

    James Stephenson wrote:
    Don’t you just like to debate sometimes?

    Far more than is prudent, I’m afraid. It’s why I’m here. :)

    James Stephenson wrote:
    “Paul said, ‘where there is no law, there is no transgression’ – meaning that if someone is ignorant of what they should do, then they can hardly be guilty of not doing it. There is no reason to think that this principle is not extended to people who have never had a chance to respond to Christ.”

    Interesting. And those who have heard Christ’s message through others  have no room for doubt or skepticism, I take it.  In other words, a sincere Muslim who found Islam more compelling than, say, Roman Catholicism, or a sincere Jew who was honestly convinced that Judaism made more sense to him or her would be disqualified, no? 

    I suspect most devout Christians would think  that a sincere atheist is an oxymoron, so I won’t even ask about them.

  195. mk
    January 3rd, 2009 @ 10:14 pm

    Irreligious,
    *
    I don’t think it was hostility so much as frustration.  There is much better documentation, but unfortunately you’d have to get books, as the internet tends to focus on the sensational.   
    *
    You’re right tho, I don’t know what your criteria for physical evidence would be.   While like you, I am not impressed with tacos or even a bona fide, church approved miracle on it’s own, I am impressed when there are many, each one adding a little more credence to the whole.
    *
    Padre Pio’s stigmata, the aurora Borealis  over  Germany (exactly as predicted to the children of Fatima), and Rwanda, which is my favorite…after a while, you start to think there might be something there.
    *
    There are thousands of claims to these miracles, but relatively few are proclaimed worthy of being of supernatural origin.  You’d be surprised how few.   
    *
    But even when a miracle is approved by the church, the faithful are not required to believe them.  They are proclaimed worthy of belief, but not necessary to the faith.  They are not Dogma.  Truthfully, no one is more skeptical than the Catholic Church when it comes to declaring something miraculous. 
    *
    My husband could less about them.  He’s a devout Catholic, but these things just don’t interest him.  My father was the same way.  I only brought them up, because, in my opinion, they offer some evidence to the possibility that all that there is, cannot be seen.
    *
    I wish that I could find a definitive site that lined them all  up and laid them all out…listed the scientific testing, the names of the scientists, the results…but alas, it just doesn’t exist.  Mores the pity. 
    *
    And for every approved miracle, there is someone out there that claims they know “how it was really done”.  But their theories are no more provable than ours.
    *
    Earlier someone brought up the Shroud of Turin.  He claims it has been proven to be a fake.  He’s wrong.  There was some carbon testing done on it, and it did come up as having been from the wrong time period, but it was discovered that the cloth that was tested had been compromised in some way…I can’t remember how…and that it wasn’t irrefutable.
    It doesn’t matter anyway, as there is no miracle involved with the Shroud. I’m not sure why the poster brought it up. 
    *
    Someone else claims that Padre Pio poured acid on his hands to create the wounds that he displayed.  Why a man that was perfectly rational in every other respect would do this, is beyond me.   Why would a perfectly sane man, who showed no other signs of being an extemist, pour acid on his hands for 40 years.  What did he gain.  Believers didn’t need the miracle, and non believers didn’t believe it.  So what would be the point?
    *
    At any rate, I’ve had fun.  Thanks for the conversation.   And no worries, I wasn’t angry, like I said, just frustrated.  If you want to continue to talk, I’ll check in again.  If not,  peace  to you.    I have no bone to pick with you or anyone else about what they believe.  As I said, my brother in law is an atheist and he is one of the most moral people I’ve ever met.   Just try to remember that not all Christians are fanatics, and I’ll try to remember that not all atheists are amoral.  This alone will keep the lines of communication open.  Something that is sorely needed in this world. 

    Now, I’m off to watch the news.  I read in an earlier post that dogs have been discovered to have a sense of justice.  I wouldn’t want to miss it if they announce one has been appointed to the supreme court.  You know us Christians are soooo out of the loop ;)

  196. Larry Castle
    January 4th, 2009 @ 12:23 am

    First, welcome to the family. I’m so glad to read about the peace you’ve found. I remember feeling the burden fall off (like in Pilgrim’s progress) when I realized God offered forgiveness to me personally. I remember how the good news of grace through Jesus Christ rose in my life like the sun after a cold, dark night dispelling the shadows of meaninglessness with it’s warm rays of purpose and peace. I never grow tired of hearing about someone else finding that!

    Second, I want to thank you for the encouragement your story provides. I spend a lot of time talking with the most thoughtful atheists I can find. I benefit from being forced to think critically about what I believe but my true motive is that I might be used by God as an agent of His grace in their lives. I know it’s not, but sometimes I feel like it’s a losing battle. Reading about your conversion puts fresh wind in my sails. Thanks for sharing your story!

  197. nile
    January 4th, 2009 @ 8:34 am

    JS (189) Oh, but my point proves nothing for the believer, not for a history of religions reader.  Reply to yr comment: A son of god won’t do if you’re claiming to be THE person you’re claiming to be.  You need the THE grammatically! Jesus’ being The son of god in the METAPHYSICAL sense –  not metaphorical as we ascribe to Alexander and pharoas/and we say metaphorical; they themselves believed they were metaphysically sons of god –  was CONTROVERSIAL until the council of Nicaea, that is 325CE.  ARIUS (250/56-336) who opposed this idea was EXCOMMUNICATED with the claim that his teachings were heretical.  Actually, he had a very strong point.  He was saying that a person cannot be son of god because he is not coeternal with God the Father; there was once a time before he was begotten, that he did not exist! These are facts of history.  If  Jesus’ being the son of god were so established an idea,  it would not have been questioned so harshly. Plus not Jesus only, most of the so-called truths of religion are all ordinary, mundane happenings turned metaphysical through the weaknesses of the human mind.  History of Religions is full of examples. 

  198. nkb
    January 4th, 2009 @ 9:14 am

    Earlier someone brought up the Shroud of Turin.  He claims it has been proven to be a fake.  He’s wrong.  There was some carbon testing done on it, and it did come up as having been from the wrong time period, but it was discovered that the cloth that was tested had been compromised in some way…I can’t remember how…and that it wasn’t irrefutable.
    .
    That was me.  I would love for you to link from a credible source to the claim that the shroud was “compromised”.
    .
    It doesn’t matter anyway, as there is no miracle involved with the Shroud. I’m not sure why the poster brought it up.
    .
    Maybe you should pay closer attention to what you post.  You were the one who tried to establish one of the scientist’s credentials by mentioning that he did blood tests on the shroud.
    .
    Someone else claims that Padre Pio poured acid on his hands to create the wounds that he displayed.
    .
    What atheist made those claims?  Oh wait, it was the Catholic Church itself that accused him.  Why would they do that?
    .
    Why a man that was perfectly rational in every other respect would do this, is beyond me.
    .
    On what do you base your statement that he was perfectly rational?  What do you know about his personality?
    .
    Why would a perfectly sane man, who showed no other signs of being an extemist, pour acid on his hands for 40 years.  What did he gain.
    .
    What did he gain?  Are you serious?  He became famous.  He had people coming from far and wide to worship him.  He was getting money from people, and had been released from his vow of poverty by one of the popes.
    What could he possibly have gained from all that?  Hmmmmm.
    .
    Believers didn’t need the miracle, and non believers didn’t believe it.  So what would be the point?
    .
    What exactly does that mean, “believers didn’t need the miracle”?  They didn’t need it, but they still ate it up.  The local people certainly profited from the attention.
    .
    And finally:
    Truthfully, no one is more skeptical than the Catholic Church when it comes to declaring something miraculous.
    .
    Was this said in jest?
    Would you say that Muslims, Jews, Mormons, not to mention atheists, are less skeptical when it comes to catholic miracles?

  199. mk
    January 4th, 2009 @ 9:35 am

    That was me.  I would love for you to link from a credible source to the claim that the shroud was “compromised”.

    I realize Wiki isn’t credible, but it is unbiased.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radiocarbon_14_dating_of_the_Shroud_of_Turin

    All I claimed  was that the blood came up AB positive, the same as it does in the Eucharistic Miracles.  Never claimed there were any miracles involved with the Shroud.  Fake or real, it has no bearing.  I did not use the Shroud as Evidence of the Supernatural, which is what the conversation was about.

    Yeah Padre Pio died a rich man.  Lived in a mansion, had servants and flew in a private jet.  And all because he poured acid on his hands for 40 years.

    In one breath you make fun of the church for  suspecting fraud in the Pio case, and in the next you doubt their skepticism.  Whatever.

    No, believers did not NEED the miracles of Pio.  They may have loved him, but they were believers independent of him.   My point was that his stigmata had nothing to do with whether or not people believed the churches teaching. 

    Having reading numerous books on the man, in my judgment he was as sane and rational as any man.   You have the right to think otherwise.  When the church forbid him from hearing confessions and saying mass, he obeyed.  Does that sound like an egomaniac to you?

    Why does this matter to you anyway?  How does my belief in miracles affect you?  Unless of course, the possibility that they are true, rocks your world view?

  200. UnspeakableyViolentJane
    January 4th, 2009 @ 10:15 am

    Why does this matter to you anyway?  How does my belief in miracles affect you?  Unless of course, the possibility that they are true, rocks your world view?

    Because what other people beleive in interesting, and part of understanding WHY they beleive it is asking questions.  If something appears illogical, the very act of asking them about it is a vote of confidence in their favor. 

    Do you ask a street person what they mean when they scream at you?  No, you assume “broken.”  You only ask people when you are giving them the benefit of the doubt.

  201. mk
    January 4th, 2009 @ 10:29 am

    USVJ,

    Yes, but when I’m sincerely asking, I ask politely.  I don’t insult them, ridicule them, belittle them and then claim that I  “was just curious” …

    It’s a little hard to believe you when the last thing you said to me was “That study was all over the news a couple of weeks ago, mk.  This is what I mean when I say that religion sucks the cream right out of the cannoli.  You never even see the science news do you?” 

    To borrow a phrase from my friend Irreligious, I am neither compelled nor impressed… ;)

    For the past four weeks I have had 14 people living in my house, bought and wrapped over 200 presents,  attended daily mass, helped my daughter in law through a miscarriage, baked 15 dozen cookies, had three parties, still managed to do the laundry, grocery shopping and homework…forgive me if I haven’t been watching the latest news on the moral life of canines.  I’ll have to remember your “poetic” allusion the next time I’m cleaning the toilet. 

    All in all, I’d have to say that your sincerity in questioning my faith is well hidden.

  202. :Lily
    January 4th, 2009 @ 10:36 am

    MK, you are a breath of fresh air. Don’t take the churlishness of  too many atheists too seriously.  As annoying as it is, it will  not change I am afraid, short of supernatural intervention. And we know that can happen!

  203. UnspeakableyViolentJane
    January 4th, 2009 @ 10:49 am

    mk,

    Complaining about style rather than addressing content is a censoring technique.  More polite but less honest than saying shut up.  It’s an old trick. 

    In my remark about the science, I was addressing a post of yours whose tone I would describe as trollish.  I responded in kind.

    From my perspective, your objective is silencing skeptical discussion evidenced by the fact that you want courtesy from atheists that you do not youself extend, and throw in an unrelated emotional pleas to a group, most of whom have kids, and all of whom clean their own toilets.

    If a close examination of your beleifs makes you uncomfortable, and you see no value in it,  just close your browser.

  204. mk
    January 4th, 2009 @ 10:50 am

    LOL..thanks Lily.  I’ve had some practice.  I moderated Jill Staneks website for 2 years!

    What I don’t get is if some of these guys are as happy as they claim with their beliefs (unbelief), then why are they so angry and surly?  If you read all the posts on here, it’s pretty clear which side is wearing the long faces.

    I also wonder if they realize (not all mind you, but so many it’s obvious) that they aren’t really anti religion, as much as anti christian.  I mean how many of them peruse the Hindu websites debating the merits of Vishnu?

    Sure, they’ll throw in Zeus or Allah every once in a while, but it’s as if it’s an afterthought.  Take the “In God We Trust” argument…why do they assume it the God of Abraham?  If if was really a freemason that designed our money, then “God” would be Lucifer/The Light Bearer, or  the Grand Architect and it’s us Christians that should be complaining.

    I just don’t get it.  If you’re happy and you know, clap your hands…

  205. :Lily
    January 4th, 2009 @ 11:06 am

    UVJ: You have got to be kidding, right? Civility is the lubricant that makes any kind of discourse possible. Otherwise we are just shouting past each other.  And what is telling people to shut their browsers other than telling them to shut up?

    What can you possibly mean by this:  From my perspective, your objective is silencing skeptical discussion evidenced by the fact that you want courtesy from atheists that you do not youself extend …

    MK’s conduct here has been exemplary in its courtesy. She has gone out of her way to be conciliatory towards people who little deserve such forbearance.  There are some here, and I include myself among them, who would do well to imitate her. 

  206. Irreligious
    January 4th, 2009 @ 12:37 pm

    Far more often than not in these discussions, there is a point after which civility is no longer attainable. If you really value civility, that’s when you bow out.

    There are walls we just can’t penetrate from our respective vantage points and it is frustrating for those on both sides.

    I see as many snarky Christians here as I do atheist. Atheist tend to be more profane, in-your-face and irreverent (perhaps, because they’re not trying to get to heaven),  but Christians can be just as condescending and rude, even without the vulgar language. 

    It’s surprisingly esay to offend when you’re being honest. Not right, necessarily, but honest.

  207. mk
    January 4th, 2009 @ 1:35 pm

    Irreligious,

    You are right.  When emotions run high, it becomes easier and easier to resort to mud slinging.  But tell me honestly, do you not see a difference between a little sarcasm and out and out insulting someone’s intelligence?

    Sometimes, humor, even if it’s cutting can open doors.  Outright insults, usually close them.

    I have answered every question put forth to me, honestly, and in doing so have made myself vulnerable.

    I said outright that I choose not to devote my time to debate for debate sake, and I am ridiculed for waxing poetic.  I try to explain that I really do have an intense life and have no time for idle arguing, and I’m accused of using emotional tactics.  I mean seriously, where I have outright insulted anyone?  You and I had our moment, and we both managed to find a common ground.  I’m not asking that we all sing kumbya, but isn’t there a way to speak civilly with one another?   

    Am I too understand that in order to have a conversation with an Atheist I must be ready to take abuse because this comes with the territory?  I have debated with those on the other side of the abortion issue for years, and have become fast friends with many of them, some travelling to my homestate and staying in my home…despite our differences over something so fundamental as “life”.  This only happened because we each respected each others persons if not their beliefs.   I have been debating an atheist for over two years now, and I can honestly say that we have a strong friendship, because of and in spite of it. 

    While I can hold my own in the sarcasm department, I have yet to stoop to name calling.   Good Heavens, we wonder why Israel and Palestine can’t get along.  We can’t even manage a simple conversation about our different belief systems!…

    I’ll just keep my responses for those that I think are sincere and try to ignore all others from this point on.    Not only don’t I have time for debate for debate’s sake, I also don’t have time to swap insults.  I’ve played Monkey’s  Island, thank you very much, and have learned all I can from Captain Rottingham!

  208. Irreligious
    January 4th, 2009 @ 2:32 pm

    MK wrote:
    “You are right.  When emotions run high, it becomes easier and easier to resort to mud slinging.  But tell me honestly, do you not see a difference between a little sarcasm and out and out insulting someone’s intelligence?
    Sometimes, humor, even if it’s cutting can open doors.  Outright insults, usually close them.”

    I agree. Sometimes humor can lighten the load.  But just as often subtle digs wrapped up in humor can be just as effective as outright insults  in shutting down communication. Indeed, sarcasm can be even more effective because the target of it often infers that his or her intelligence is being mocked.

    I think you’re stitch, MK. But I also think UnpseakablyViolentJane is funny as hell, too.  

    The funny thing about humor is that we don’t all share the same sense of humor and certainly not about the same things. Humor only works if the intended target perceives it as funny and not at insult directed at him or her or what he or she values.

  209. mk
    January 4th, 2009 @ 2:43 pm

    Exactly Irreligious,

    And I honestly don’t believe I attacked  who VJ is or what she believes.  Heck, I only attacked her attacks!

    Enough said on the subject.  She very well might be funny, and I’m certainly willing to give it another go.    Not having been here very long, it’s possible you have a better sense of her humor than I do.  I could get away with a lot more at Jill’s because everyone there knew me, and knew that I was trustworthy.  I’m new here and realize I can come across in ways that I don’t mean.  The internet.  It’s a blessing (can I say that :) and a curse!  

    I think both sides feel very vulnerable on these in these discussions, as we are talking about our very essences.  We tend to come out fighting, before we are even sure what the heck we’re fighting about.  Makes us all defensive. 

    I’ll try to be better.  I promise.

  210. E.P. Hale
    January 4th, 2009 @ 4:52 pm

    I am just really, really happy for you.  And I hope you do keep blogging, and I hope you don’t get out of your ‘old’ loop…I can’t wait to see where God takes you and what He has for you.

  211. “Thoughts and Explanations” | Kenneth Hynek
    January 5th, 2009 @ 2:20 pm

    […] Raving Theist confirms that it’s for real — his unexpectedly high-profile conversion to Christianity (to Catholicism, specifically, […]

  212. jeney
    January 5th, 2009 @ 2:59 pm

    I wanted to say this.

    I had never read your blog before I clicked on the link to read your Super Cool News. 

    But after reading  just one post for you, I did something that I absolutely abhor.  I made a decision about your news, without as much as a cursory  attempt to read another line aboutyou or from you.

    When I said in an email that I wasn’t sure if this was all a prank, I said this without giving you the benefit of the doubt.  I just read it, thought – “Oh that’s great!” and then 30 minutes later thought, “Gosh, I think it’s a joke”. 

    Later, I read more of you. I read what people who have been reading you for ages had to say about you.  And I realized I had been judgmental and had not given you the benefit of the doubt.  And anyone who knows me, knows how I’ve been hurt by others treating me the same as I treated you.

    I’m sure my tiny statement in my email didn’t give you pause, but it has been bothering me that I behaved that way.  And I just wanted to err on the side of caution and say that I’m sorry I was such a turd.

  213. nkb
    January 7th, 2009 @ 2:13 pm

    I realize Wiki isn’t credible, but it is unbiased.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radiocarbon_14_dating_of_the_Shroud_of_Turin

    What? Where did you get the idea that Wikipedia is unbiased? That is possibly the worst-written, most-poorly referenced article I’ve seen on Wiki, and that is saying a lot.
    All I claimed was that the blood came up AB positive, the same as it does in the Eucharistic Miracles. Never claimed there were any miracles involved with the Shroud. Fake or real, it has no bearing. I did not use the Shroud as Evidence of the Supernatural, which is what the conversation was about.
    The only reason I said anything about the Shroud is because you mentioned it as a credential for one of the scientists who tested the blood in the “wafer”. As far as the blood type, I don’t understand how that is relevant. Can you elaborate on that?
    Yeah Padre Pio died a rich man. Lived in a mansion, had servants and flew in a private jet. And all because he poured acid on his hands for 40 years.
    Your sarcasm is misplaced. The Catholic Church itself was the source of most of these accusations (http://www.nationalcatholicreporter.org/word/word1228.htm).
    In one breath you make fun of the church for suspecting fraud in the Pio case, and in the next you doubt their skepticism. Whatever.
    Where did I make fun of the church’s skepticism? I was taking a dig at you, for stating “someone” was making accusations, when it is quite relevant that his own church wasn’t buying it.
    No, believers did not NEED the miracles of Pio. They may have loved him, but they were believers independent of him. My point was that his stigmata had nothing to do with whether or not people believed the churches teaching.
    I never said the believers needed this miracle. Why do you keep making strawman arguments? There are many rich people who don’t need more money, yet they cheat and steal in order to amass more.  Neither one of these points is relevant.
    The point was that Padre Pio became famous. I have no idea what kind of a person he was, but fame can be intoxicating to many people, and clergy are not exempt.
    Having reading numerous books on the man, in my judgment he was as sane and rational as any man. You have the right to think otherwise. When the church forbid him from hearing confessions and saying mass, he obeyed. Does that sound like an egomaniac to you?
    Another non-sequitur, and a strawman to boot.
    Why does this matter to you anyway? How does my belief in miracles affect you? Unless of course, the possibility that they are true, rocks your world view?
    I wish I had a buck for every armchair Christian psychologist that tried this inane argument on me. I’d be as rich as Padre Pio. ;)
    Your belief in “miracles” doesn’t affect me at all. How does it affect you whether or not someone believes your “miracles”?

  214. zetetic
    February 18th, 2009 @ 12:52 pm

    I was never impressed when he was the RavingAtheist. I recall he used to blog on this or that and let everyone else debate the issue while we never heard mum from him.

    I won’t miss him.

  215. On Enemies of the Church : IgnitumToday
    August 22nd, 2012 @ 8:41 pm

    […] part, tells us that many people who will become holy are now hidden among the ungodly (there are many unexpected converts), and that there are many false Christians within the Church (think […]

  216. NEHA GHOLAP
    February 21st, 2013 @ 5:49 am

    its very boring for a grammar hater

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