"...I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me..." [Deuteronomy 5:8-10]

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Not Even Wrong: Revising the Landscape: "There is one obvious example successful of anthropic, or at least environmental, reasoning that I am surprised not to have seen mentioned: the isotope theory. 120 years ago, Janne Rydberg was probably Sweden's most famous physicist. Nowadays he is remembered for the series and the constant, but his main interest was to derive some deep explanation for atomic masses. When it eventually turned out that atomic mass is due to a rather random mixture of isotopes, he became so depressed that he had to seek professional help.
There are of course many differences, e.g. that we can successfully explain the masses of individual isotopes, at least in principle. But I don't see a problem if some numbers must be explained by historical accident, as long as the main predictions of your theory (extra-dimensions, SUSY, massless scalars, proton decay, huge and negative CC, etc.) agree with experiments."

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Google Groups: View Thread "Possibly the most inane YEC site": "Pease's Law ( ver 2.1 )

'In order for a parody to be effective, it must exceed a recognizable upper
bound of madness seriously proposed by the thing being parodied'


Saturday, October 23, 2004

Orwell On Belief
Google Groups: View Thread "Not even one teensy-weensy little spec of evidence t...": "'We are all capable of believing things which we know to be untrue, and
then, when we are finally proved wrong, impudently twisting the facts so
as to show that we were right. Intellectually, it is possible to carry
on this process for an indefinite time: the only check on it is that
sooner or later a false belief bumps up against solid reality, usually
on a battlefield.' --George Orwell, 1946, 'Under Your Nose'"

'Being religious is like living in North Korea
Google Groups: View Thread "Not even one teensy-weensy little spec of evidence t...": "'Being religious is like living in North Korea. You have endless
opportunities to praise The Leader, to thank Him for giving you everything,
to thank Him for looking after you, to thank Him for all his boundless
gifts, to thank Him for all His tireless efforts on your behalf. A Celestial
North Korea is what the religious believer wants, but there are two
differences: you *can* defect from North Korea, and you can die and just
cease to exist. But if you're a religious believer, The Leader goes on
persecuting you after you're dead -- you have to go on praising Him forever,
and thanking Him for being born... this is servility squared.' --
Christopher Hitchens"

Friday, October 22, 2004

Bush/Cheney '04: Don't Change Horsemen Mid-Apocalypse
George W. Bush Loyalty Quiz - Funny Bush Quiz: "The George W. Bush Loyalty Quiz

10 Questions to Test Your Allegiance to President Bush"

Monday, October 18, 2004

SparkNotes: Complete Text of Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion: " And is it possible, CLEANTHES, said PHILO, that after all these reflections, and infinitely more, which might be suggested, you can still persevere in your Anthropomorphism, and assert the moral attributes of the Deity, his justice, benevolence, mercy, and rectitude, to be of the same nature with these virtues in human creatures? His power we allow is infinite: whatever he wills is executed: but neither man nor any other animal is happy: therefore he does not will their happiness. His wisdom is infinite: He is never mistaken in choosing the means to any end: But the course of Nature tends not to human or animal felicity: therefore it is not established for that purpose. Through the whole compass of human knowledge, there are no inferences more certain and infallible than these. In what respect, then, do his benevolence and mercy resemble the benevolence and mercy of men?

EPICURUS's old questions are yet unanswered. Is he willing to prevent evil, but not able? then is he impotent. Is he able, but not willing? then is he malevolent. Is he both able and willing? whence then is evil?"

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

MediaGuardian.co.uk | Media | Fox - the naked truth: "The main beef leftwing commentators have with rightwing stations, particularly Fox, is that they don't trouble themselves with the truth - not even a Republican spin on the truth; they simply muddy all issues to such a degree that opinion and fact become indivisible and, as a result, all opinions achieve equal validity. For the left, then, facts are paramount, and to mimic the rightist habit of false attribution would be entirely to undermine the crux of the argument. Over time, this has given them a reputation for being long on rectitude and short on fun. "

Friday, October 01, 2004

Biblical History
The Importance and Relevance of Biblical History: "Let me hasten to add that I am convinced based on credible scientific data that the modern scholarly consensus is wrong regarding biblical history. Based on research carried out in recent decades, there is persuasive evidence that biblical history is exactly what it claims to be, true history. My purpose here is not to prove that point, but rather to show that it's an important point. If the historical claims of Christianity are not true, Christianity ought to be rejected as just another cult."

Monday, August 02, 2004

Neocons & Flip-Flopping
I saw Outfoxed last night... Fox's corruption of journalism for political ends is scary... But scarier still is that many hardline conservatives in the US just don't care... They like their news biased. They assume that every other media outlet is biased agains them - so what does it matter if Fox is cheerleading for "their team"?

One particularly weird rumour doing the net rounds just now is that George W Bush is hooked on antidepressents. There's no evidence beyond speculation and unnamed sources - but there's some eye-popping detail about Bush's former life which by itself seems pretty scary.

On these points, I came across the following lovely exchange:

No problem...you must be a liberal: not afraid to change his position when presented with the facts, unlike the neo-cons around here, who never change their positions, even when presented with the facts. We call it 'learning' and 'growing as a person,' they call it 'weak and siding with the devil.'

I believe the correct neo-con neo-logism is 'flip flop.' If you change your position after someone proves that your position is incorrect, you have 'flip flopped' and are therefore mentally defective. Because, in their world view, anyone unable to maintain doublethink is mentally defective.
Kudos to Gregory Gadow for those final words of wisdom...

Thursday, July 29, 2004

HM Department of Vague Paranoia

...In an effort to worry the public and convince them to vote for us again next year, and because George Bush asked us to, this website includes the common sense advice found in the Preparing for Emergencies booklet, and information on what the government is doing to protect the country as a whole. (Hint: we're praying really, really hard.) National editions of the booklet will be available here when we can be arsed to get translators to put them into your crazy moon languages.

From 2nd August, translations of the booklet into 16 languages will be available on this website. They will be in : Arabic, Bengali, Chinese, English, Farsi, French, Greek, Gujarati, Hindi, Kurdish, Punjabi, Somali, Turkish, Urdu, Vietnamese and Welsh. In the meantime, just assume that we don't care about you...


A great parody, with a genuine response from the UK Government...

"Public safety is the Government's number one ten priority (the top three are reelection, kissing George Bush's arse, and stopping Gordon Brown becoming PM). We must be prepared to deal with any emergency, whatever it is or wherever it comes from. And that includes zombie attacks! And zombie pirate attacks! And killer robots! And both at the same time! Are YOU ready?"

Miss O'Hara on F*911

Miss O'Hara writes: "...Keep in mind that Iraq is part of the overall War on Terror. Bush has done a really, really crappy job of pointing that out. And you seem to have forgotten that Saddam was, indeed, a direct threat to us, because he funded and assisted terrorists - including Al Quaeda - for years, and he was indeed actively seeking nukes. I don't think he wanted them so he could warm his coffee. ;)"
Miss O'Hara

Much of your argument is contradicted by the words of the Bush administration and the 9/11 report published last week - never mind Michael Moore's film.
  • Of course we know that Saddam *had* WMDs. As Bill Hicks put it, 'we looked at the receipt'. The US, UK, Russia and other countries all sold weapons to Saddam in the 80s. We also know that Saddam used WMDs against his own people. We stood by and watched while it happened
  • F*911 shows Colin Powell and Condaleeza Rice saying repeatedly in 2000/2001 that there was *no* evidence that Saddam had WMDs or posed an imminent threat *at that time*
  • Even Bill O'Reilly of Fox News has admitted that he was wrong in saying that Saddam posed an imminent threat after 9/11 - the main reason cited for going to war
  • The Sept 11 Commission only last week published its report saying that there was "no collaborative operational relationship" between Saddam and Al Qeada. Sure, people from Saddam's regime & people from Al Qeada had contact in the past... But then People from the UK and US governments had contact with Saddam in the past too... And if they'd been in the slightest bit prepared for a terrorist attack, the US intelligence agencies would have had "contacts" (spies, intelligence, etc.) with Al Qeada too. They didn't
  • Let me say it again. There is no evidence that Saddam funded Al Qeada. There is no evidence that Saddam had WMDs or was "actively seeking nukes" from 2000 onwards
  • Iraqi insurgents are "patriots" to many Iraqis. That is a fact, whether you like it or not. Last year Bush declared that combat operations in Iraq were over. Moore said that this was wrong, because many Iraqis wanted rid of the Americans. Bush was wrong. Moore was right. Have you seen the footage of American soldiers wandering around Iraq saying with stunned disbelief that they have not been welcomed as "liberators" by the Iraqi people? They were told by people like Fox News that this would happen. It didn't. US soldiers were *lied* to about the attitude ordinary Iraqis would have to American troops. This doesn't seem to bother you
  • Most of the 9/11 hi-jackers were from Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia provided practical banking and business support to Bin Laden for years. Saudi Arabian citizens are known to actively support Al Qeada financially. But the US let Bin Laden's family return to Saudi Arabia unchecked. It also failed to persuade the Saudi's to freeze Bin Laden family assets. Why haven't we gone against Saudi Arabia?
  • A central trust of F*911 is that the Bush Administration ignored credible intelligence that Al Qeada posed a direct and immediate threat to the USA from 2000 until September 2001
  • F*911 shows Bush sitting reading a children's book for seven minutes after hearing about the second Twin Tower plane crash. You can see his eyes. His advisors are standing waiting for him to act. He does nothing. He looks lost. After that, it took *two months* for US Special Forces to begin looking for Bin Laden in Afghanistan. Two months
  • After 9/11, the Bush administration went to its counter terrorism chiefs and *told* them to find a link between Saddam and Al Qeada. The Bush administration planned to go to war with Iraq *before* it had any credible evidence that Saddam was a threat. But they also told the world that Saddam *was* a threat. They lied. American soldiers died. They are still dying, a year after Bush declared that combat operations in Iraq were over
But still you go on repeating arguments that even Fox News is embarrassed with, and still you go on bearing false witness and vitriol towards Michael Moore when you haven't even seen his film.


Follow the discussion at Miss O'Hara's Blog.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Peace On Earth For Believers Only?
I came across this fascinating snippet from Richard Carrier's excellent article on The Formation of the New Testament Canon:

"Scribal errors are also a problem little dealt-with by any church authority... Perhaps one of my favorite examples... is the famous King James line 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men' (Luke 2:14), which even still gets repeated in nativity plays, 'peace on earth, and good will toward men,' and is treated as an example of the ultimate moral nobility of Christianity. But not until recent times was it discovered that a scribe long ago had failed to record a single letter (a sigma, 's') at the end of this line. The Latin Vulgate Bible, translated late in the 4th century, copied from a correct edition and thus has also preserved the original meaning, which is now correctly reconstructed in more recent Bible translations: 'peace on earth toward men of goodwill,' which is not as noble--since it does not wish peace on anyone else--and it is perhaps even less noble still, since the same phrase more likely means 'peace on earth toward men [who enjoy God's] goodwill,' in other words peace only for those whom God likes. All from a single mistake of one letter. "
My experience from talking to Fundamentalists is most certainly that they treat "believers" differently from non-believers. The problem is deeper than mere prejudice, however. Fundamentalists exhibit a seemingly pathological disregard for evidence, facts and opinions which contradict their own pre-conceptions, as I've expored in previous posts...

Update: On this point, check out this fascinating article on The End of Christian Apologetics on freechristians.com.

Miracle on Probability Street
Michael Shermer has a great piece in this month's Scientific American on probability and "miracles":

"Because I am often introduced as a 'professional skeptic,' people feel compelled to challenge me with stories about highly improbable events. The implication is that if I cannot offer a satisfactory natural explanation for that particular event, the general principle of supernaturalism is preserved. A common story is the one about having a dream or thought about the death of a friend or relative and then receiving a phone call five minutes later about the unexpected death of that very person.

I cannot always explain such specific incidents, but a principle of probability called the Law of Large Numbers shows that an event with a low probability of occurrence in a small number of trials has a high probability of occurrence in a large number of trials. Events with million-to-one odds happen 295 times a day in America.

In their delightful book Debunked! (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2004), CERN physicist Georges Charpak and University of Nice physicist Henri Broch show how the application of probability theory to such events is enlightening. In the case of death premonitions, suppose that you know of 10 people a year who die and that you think about each of those people once a year. One year contains 105,120 five-minute intervals during which you might think about each of the 10 people, a probability of one out of 10,512--certainly an improbable event. Yet there are 295 million Americans. Assume, for the sake of our calculation, that they think like you. That makes 1/10,512 X 295,000,000 = 28,063 people a year, or 77 people a day for whom this improbable premonition becomes probable. With the well-known cognitive phenomenon of confirmation bias firmly in force (where we notice the hits and ignore the misses in support of our favorite beliefs), if just a couple of these people recount their miraculous tales in a public forum (next on Oprah!), the paranormal seems vindicated. In fact, they are merely demonstrating the laws of probability writ large..."
People believe in miracles because they want to believe in miracles...

Fahrenheit 9/11
I saw Fahrenheit 9/11 last night. It is a truly remarkable film. There are valid criticisms of Michael Moore... But forget the mindless vitriol. See the film for yourselves.

Update: Michael Moore appeared on Fox Network's show "The O'Reilly Factor" yesterday. See the transcript here. I've also been discussing the movie on Miss O'Hara's blog.

Monday, July 26, 2004

Quote Of the Day
Eros writes in a Talk.Origins thread:

"God made the universe, that much is clear. Unfortunately, He not only failed to provide any sort of design manual... He apparently found it necessary to hide the fact that He designed the universe, so cleverly... that only a handful of fundamentalist Biblical scholars can detect the subtle truth!"

Poll: God is real, but some believe in witches, ghosts
Sunday, July 25, 2004
Staff Reporter, Mobile Register

In this self-described 'Buckle of the Bible Belt,' it will come as no surprise to learn that 90 percent or more of Alabamians believe in the existence of God, heaven, hell, miracles, angels and the devil, according to the results of a new statewide survey. But what to make of the fact that one in four also believes in witches, and one in three thinks that ghosts are real?

'They might believe in God, but not to the point that they have accepted him,' was the explanation of Richard Blaine, pastor of Lott Road Bible Church just outside the Mobile city limits. 'So many people say they believe in God, but where are they when it comes to attending church?'

To former Samford University professor Bill Leonard, the seemingly contradictory findings reflect a tension as old as organized Christianity in America. The New England Puritans clearly believed in the witches they burned at Salem, and Quakers used to hold seances, said Leonard, now dean of the Wake Forest University divinity school in North Carolina.

Setting the boundaries of orthodoxy, he said, is 'always tricky and always shaky.' "

Full article

Friday, July 23, 2004

Time To Take Sides?

Darkstar218 writes:

"I remember a day when Democrats could be pro-life and still wear a Donkeyin with pride (I LOVE that, by the way.) I can remember a day when Republicans could be anti-Guns and not marked for life. My point is I'm actually glad that lines are being drawn in the sand and people are forced to THINK about what they believe... this US vs THEM mentality, I believe, has merit. Yes, it can turn nasty at times and alienate many people. Call me crazy, but my Bible tells me to either be Hot or Cold - the worst thing to be is apathetic or lukewarm. (see the Church in Laodicea.) Don't have an opinion about Abortion yet? My claim is if you are not 100% on one side or the other about this issue - YOU HAVE NO DIRECTION IN ANY PART OF YOUR LIFE ABOUT ANYTHING.

...What we need to shake things up is some good ol’ fashioned Persecution. See, it doesn’t COST most Christians anything to say they are followers of Christ. Most people think “hey, whatever. You do your thing, I’ll do mine.” At worst, we might get a few mocking emails or fingers pointed at us. Mostly it’s just people WAITING for you to slip so they can jump on you and say “SEE, SEE. You call yourself a Christian? You’re as bad as us!”

But when the church starts to come under persecution, and you’ll have to Count the Cost of calling yourself a Christian – we’ll see a GREAT REVOLUTION in the church. I’m certainly excited and can’t wait for it to happen. Now, I’m not a sadist or anything like that, but when that happens – MAN will it be exciting to see REAL Christians stand up and stand out."
He "100%" opposes abortion, but also opposes full sex education because he fears it promotes promiscuity - even though this means a substantially higher abortion rate. He then hopes that this higher abortion rate will hot up the debate on abortion leading to greater strife within the church and within society. "How lovely".

Perhaps if Dartstar218 did "THINK about what" he believes, he wouldn't be quite so strident. That's the interesting point, as I've explored in my earlier posts today. How do you argue with someone who is adamant that they are right no matter what evidence, opinions, facts and contradictions are shown to oppose their beliefs?

Follow the discussion - if there is one - on Darkstar218's weblog.

Conservatism FAQ
I've just come across an excellent Conservatism Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) written by Jim Kalb at/of Yale University. He writes:

1.1 What is distinctive about conservatism as a political view?

Its emphasis on tradition as a source of wisdom that goes beyond what can be demonstrated or even explicitly stated.
The problem is, of course, that much of what passes for "conservatism" seems (to me) to entirely contradict what can be "demonstrated or even explicity stated". Similar criticisms, of course, can be levied at "liberalism" or any other political, social or religious viewpoint. In many cases, people treat evidence which contradicts their pre-conceived notions as either not existing, or somehow as inherently biased as their own opinions. And how can we deal with this cognative dissonence? That's the big question...

That's Just Your Opinion...
Hiero5ant offers some useful advice on arguing with people who say "that's just your opinion", in this Talk.Origins POTM nominated post (emphasis added):

"There is no response to 'just your opinion', any more than there is empirical evidence that 'shut the hell up' is false. That's just not the kind of argument they're making. This really does strike pretty close to the heart of the intractability of many (but not all) creationists. Some of them are, to be sure, bone-stupid, though most are not. Some of them are pig-ignorant, but most are not. Some of them are malicious and wicked, but most are not. Some of them are quite insane, but most are not. The english language doesn't quite have the vocabulary to make subtle distinctions between insanity and certain... let's call them pathological structures of the intellect. I think the driving force behind (most) creationist fear of science and your relatives' 'just your opinion' remarks is that science really does challenge people's beliefs, and most people are cognitively incapable of making the distinction between a challenge to a belief and an attack on the person. I have many friends of both the atheist and theist variety, and I find what separates the latter category from the theists for whom I have a real animosity is that underlying psychological respect for truth and curiosity about the world."
It's a long post - but it's worth the read...

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Thoughts On Christianity
Just some thoughts.

  • The Bible is not inerrant, because it is historically and scientifically inaccurate. (Only those who insist that the Bible is inerrant to begin with say otherwise)
  • Faith cannot confirm that the Bible is "divinely inspired", because belief without evidence cannot confirm any one given interpretation of the Bible over any other
  • There is no confirmation of "the Resurrection" of Jesus outside of the Bible. Therefore to doubt the Bible is to doubt the Resurrection
  • The Resurrection is the cornerstone of Christianity. To doubt the Resurrection is to doubt Christianity
  • The Bible itself states that those who witnessed Jesus's miracles (Matthew 11:20-24) and even the Resurrection (John 20:24-29) doubted their veracity
  • Belief in the Resurrection depends upon faith - evidence without reason. It can only be reasonable therefore to doubt the Resurrection & the divinity of Christ
  • Since non-belief in the Resurrection is reasonable, it is unreasonable for humanity to be punished for such non-belief as taught by the Bible
Christians have two strategies for coping with this problem.

Fundamentalist churches teach that there is no excuse for not believing in Christianity, because the evidence is overwhelmingly in its favour. This is plainly dishonest.

Mainstream churches teach that "hell" or damnation is not a real punishment - it is merely separation from God. This is odd. If "hell" as described in the Bible is metaphorical, then why should we accept visions of "Heaven" or indeed any form of afterlife as non-metaphorical? Any is it not logically inconsistent for an omnipotent and omnipresent being to "require" anything?

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

The Poverty of Theistic Morality

I'd guess that Darkstar218 has no interest in continuing our discussions, but I did come across this interesting piece which is in point:

"..comparison of the crime statistics in the predominantly theist U.S.A. with the largely irreligious countries of Western Europe and Scandinavia resoundingly discredits the recurring claim that the moral conduct of theists is statistically superior to that of secularists, let alone of secular humanists. A fortiori, these statistics belie the smug thesis that the fear or love of God is motivationally necessary, in point of psychological fact, to assure such adherence to moral standards and good citizenship as there is in society at large.

Thus, the U.S.A. has by far the highest percentage of religious worshippers in its population of any Western nation, and presidents from Nixon to Clinton recurrently give prayer breakfasts. In Great Britain, for example, which has the Anglican state church, only about 3 percent of its citizens attend a place of worship, whereas in the U.S., the figure is approximately 33 percent, i.e., greater by a factor of eleven! In the U.S., about 90 percent of the population profess belief in God, whereas in Western Europe and Scandinavia the percentage is very considerably below 50 percent. Nor is the black population in the U.S., in which the crime rate is high, at all predominantly irreligious. Yet the percentage incidence of homicides and other crimes in the God-fearing U.S. is much higher than in the heavily secularized Western countries. And a corresponding disparity exists between the respective percentages of the prison populations in these societies. But the inveterate clamor for permitting prayer in the public schools of this country invokes the supposed efficacy of such devotionals in fostering 'family values.'..."

The Poverty of Theistic Morality, Adolf Gr├╝nbaum, University of Pittsburgh
The problem is, of course, that Fundamentalists don't let contrary facts get in the way of their beliefs.

On that point, I've added to my main links SpinSanity, a great website which takes aim at distortions of fact from all sides of the political spectrum.

Saturday, July 17, 2004

Abstinence Only At Any Cost?
Darkstar218 writes:

"...go ahead and have promiscuous sex. And yes, blame Christians when your condoms don't protect you from your diseases. (And send us the bill for cleaning up the mess while you're at it. Hey, we make so much money over here in the States, us Yanks should have enough leftover to find the cures to all the diseases the world throws on our doorstep. No charge to you, of course.) And when your empty lives are in ruin because your are looking for satisfaction and love and meaning in a casual sex Russian roulette game, and families lie in ruin, and the cornerstone of society crumbles, and we are running wild in the street fulfilling every urge and notion we have in a reckless disregard for order and civility -- burn in hell? Wait, it would BE hell. Well, don't say I didn't warn ya. And all the technology and drugs and latex in the world isn’t going to save you... My soul is prepared. How’s yours?"
Now you are just being dishonest.

No-one says that condoms always "work". But properly used they are a cheap and highly effective public health measure. You wrote earlier: "You can read your charts and say that Abstinence is not working; I will see the same data and come to the conclusion that money and programs are not the solution to the problem. It’s teaching values and morals." That is admission that "abstinence only" programs are a failure.

Campaign against "promiscuity" all you want. Remove sex from our televisions and magazines. Ban abortion. Make sex outside out marriage illegal. Do what you want. But for now, people are having sex, and "abstinence only" programmes are substantially increasing the rates of unwanted pregnancies and STDs.

If you cared about the health of US teens and wanted to reduce the abortion rate, you'd be honest enough to tell them that if they did for whatever reason have sex that you disapprove of, that they should take care of themselves. (If one of your children did have sex outside of marriage, would you *really* rather that they didn't know how to be responsible about it?)

If you cared about your precious tax dollars, you'd accept the marginal cost of proper sexual health policies rather than paying for after-the-fact AIDS treatment.

But as you've shown with your beliefs on the Bible and "absolute morality", facts, evidence, history, science, humanity, reason and logic play no part in your decision making.


Darkstar's ony response: "Right, keep those sandbags coming."

See the full discussion at Darkstar's Weblog

Friday, July 16, 2004

Abstinence Only At What Cost?
Darkstar218 writes:

"Nice try, but no cigar for you here. Your deep-set distain for righteousness and morality prevents you from even seeing the real problem at the source... You believe that the cause of the dam breaking is not sandbagging... I believe the dam needs to be addressed first."
A huge number of people in Africa wouldn't be affected by HIV if your 'righteousness and morality' didn't lead to them catching it in the first place. The same goes for US teens facing massively increased rates of unwanted pregnancies and STDs because of the pig-headedness of Fundamentalist Christian policy makers. Fine, blame people for having sex you don't approve of. They'll burn in hell for it no doubt. But it is astounding that you can defend a policy of sexual health education which shows an utter disregard for the welfare of living people and unborn children purely out of righteous malice.

See the full discussion at Darkstar's Weblog

Making marriage religious
Some surfing around led me to a fabulous piece in the Boston Pheonix from 2003 by Mary-Ann Greanier on Biblical attitudes to marriage. She points out the the Bible condones:

  • Polygamy (II Sam. 3:2-5; Gen. 29:17-28)
  • Stoning to death non-virgin brides (Deut. 22:13-21)
  • Keeping concubines (I Kings 11:3; II Sam. 5:13; II Chron. 11:21)
  • Forbidding marriages between believers & non-believers (Gen. 24:3; Neh. 10:30)
  • Forbidding divorce (Deut. 22:19; Mark 10:9-12)
  • Forcing childless widows to marry their brother-in-laws (Deut. 25:5-10; Gen. 38:6-10)
  • Incest, if there are no suitable men to marry (Gen. 19:31-36)
Her piece has been re-written as a nice anonymous "amendment" which Bush might like to make to the US Constitution...

Can an atheist be a loyal American citizen?

Can an atheist be a loyal American citizen? Clearly not! And it's high time to take alarm about it.

Fourteen percent of the US population says they have no religion. You might be living next to one right this very moment and never even know it! But, after we're done weeding out the godless heathens among us, let's keep rolling:

  • Can a Catholic be a loyal American citizen? This one was a matter of serious debate for over a hundred years, and it still seems like the Pope is calling the shots for some of them.
  • Can a recent immigrant from India be a loyal American citizen? Oh sure, he took the citizenship test, but he's still got family back there, and he speaks English funny.
  • Can someone who was drafted into the US military be a loyal American citizen? Forced to perform unpleasant tasks against their will, they're likely to carry a grudge, you know.
  • Can someone from the South be a loyal American citizen? Their ancestors weren't, and the acorn doesn't fall far from the oak!
  • Can a quadriplegic be a loyal American citizen? I've never seen one hold his hand over his heart as the flag went by.
In short, we're completely surrounded by potential subversives and traitors. But don't despair. Hang right here. I'll be back in just a moment after I pick up all the torches and pitchforks I've been storing in my basement.

'Anyone who has the power to make you believe absurdities has the power to make you commit atrocities.' -- Voltaire

Richard S. Russell, Madison, WI
Letter to the Illionois Leader, Tuesday, July 13, 2004

The False Teaching of "Abstinence Only"

"Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?" [Matthew 7:15-16]
The net result of 'abstinence only' policies has been to substantially *increase* the rates of STDs and unwanted pregnancies. 'Abstinence only' policies have only added to human misery.

Preach abstinence all you want. Teach it is a moral ideal. But by making abstinence the be-an-end-all of sexual education policy, you are making the world an unhappier, unhealthier place. You are creating AIDS orphans and widows. You are creating a sexual health time bomb for the next generation.

Tim writes: "You can read your charts and say that Abstinence is not working; I will see the same data and come to the conclusion that money and programs are not the solution to the problem. It's teaching values and morals."

No, they don't have the same music, radio, television, magazines in much of Africa as they do in America. HIV rates in parts of Africa are as high as 60%. And yes, they do have much the same media in western Europe where full sexual education policies have resulted in much lower STD and unwanted pregnancy rates.

You don't care two figs if people are infected with STDs or unwanted pregnancies. It's their own fault if they don't have the same 'morals and values' as you.

You rage against abortion, but you don't care that abortion rates are higher as a result of 'abstinence only' programmes.

As I grew up, I was told that Christianity taught compassion, integrity and leadership by example. The more I talk to Fundamentalists, the more I despair.


Thursday, July 15, 2004

Darstar218 On "Abstinence Only" Sexual Education

Hi Tim

Thanks for your extremely interesting post...

Congresswoman Lee did not say that it is not an option to abstain from sex. Re-read the report of her words in context. She said that it is irresponsible to insist that abstinence is the *only* option.

The facts are that STD and teen/unwanted pregnancy rates are *substantially* higher in areas where sexual education is based on "abstinence only" policies compared to where it contains instruction on proper condom use. HIV rates in parts of Africa, for example, are utterly horrific.

"Abstinence Only" places the "evil" of people not abstaining for sex as the be-all-and-end-all of policy over the "evil" of STDs and unwanted pregnancies.

"Abstinence Only" policies are based *solely* on religious dogma. They ignore the realities (a) that people have sex whether policy makers like it or not; and that (b) *proper* condom use substantially reduces the risks associated with sex - even sex that you might not approve of.

That is why "Abstinence Only" policies are immoral and *wrong*.

If you wish to promote "Abstinence" in sexual education, then fair enough, but it is ludicrous to suggest that abstinence is the *only* option.

You write: "The reason abstinence only programs have not been entirely effective is because we are not teaching them exclusively." Well, until or unless you can not only (a) remove "sex" from our culture; but also (b) prove that such a removal does indeed lead to increased rates of abstinence; abstinence only programs remain outrageously irresponsible.

You write: "I think [Lee] believes we’re a bunch of animals driven by our instincts and urges and have completely lost all self control. I give human beings more credit than she does." The reality of the statistics resulting from abstinence only programs show that your assessment is incorrect.

I totally agree that it is best for children to be brought up by two parents... But remember the USA has a huge divorce rate, with Born Again Christian being especially likely to get divorced. What would you do? Ban sex from our culture? Ban divorce?

For the record, I do not consider that (properly regulated) abortion is that much of an "evil". As many as one in two pregnancies end in miscarriages naturally. I personally think that public policy should be aimed at reducing the number of abortions through proper sexual education... (And we in the UK don't worship the Queen ;>)

Best wishes


See this discussion in full on Darkstar218's weblog

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Hank Hanegraaff
In my discussions with Darkstar218, he has referred to the work of Hank Hanegraaff, an Evangelist who claims to be able to support a rational belief in the truth of the Bible and the resurrection of Jesus Christ. I hadn't heard of this guy, so I tried a Google search on him. To my surprise, it seems he's quite a controversial figure. It seems that in the past he's been accused of plagiarism and even fraud. Further, it seems that there are calls for him to be removed from his leading role at the Christian Research Institute (CRI) by various former and current members. Dan R. Schlesinger of the Institute for Biblical Apologetics Inc writes:

"Hank Hanegraaff is not an apologist, theologian, nor an expert on the cults or the occult. Hank Hanegraaff, in my opinion, is a lay evangelist pretending to be what he is not. He should be exercising those gifts God has bestowed on him in his respective field of ministry."

"Hank Hanegraaff needs to be removed from the ministry of CRI . He should not be allowed to 'pontificate' on matters of faith or doctrine as he is clearly unqualified to do so. Neither should he be allowed to perpetuate the wrongdoing he has brought on many others since my departure [from the CRI]."
Strong words.

Dialogue with Darkstar218 - A Summary

Dear Tim

My response to your last post was quite lengthy. I thought it might be helpful to attempt to summarise our respective positions (and please correct me as needed).

1. You argue that the God of the Bible is the basis of what you term "Absolute Morality".

2. You support your beliefs by referring to authorities who support the historical validity of the Bible and in particular its account of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

3. You claim that those "opposing" the historical validity of the Bible appeal what you call "the 'science' of evolution and the Big Bang Theory".

4. You state that God's apparent incitation of immoral acts as narrated in the Bible does not detract from your concept of "Absolute Morality", because God's motives are to "reconcile and restore to fullness".

I say in response:

1. Not all Born Again Christians believe in Absolute Morality; and morality certainly exists in non-Christian cultures. It is for you to establish that both the God of the Bible and "Absolute Morality" exist.

2. Your authorities are dishonest in reporting to you what most historians, archaeologists and Biblical scholars say about the historical validity of the Bible. Most *Christian* authorities recognise that the Bible is not wholly inerrant in all matters. They recognise that the Bible is a human work, although many or most of course believe that it is divinely inspired. It is therefore simply not true to say that science, archaeology and Biblical scholarship on the whole support your arguments regarding the nature of the Bible.

3. Most scientists who are professing Christians support the idea that life has evolved over billions of years through common descent (whether or not God was directly involved in the process). Therefore it is simply not true to say that "evolution" or the concept of the "Big Bang" are somehow opposite to Christianity. Challenges to the prevailing scientific consensus on such matters do not and cannot help the validity of your claims. If you wish to prove that the Bible is scientifically accurate, it is for you to do so using logic and reason. This you have not done.

4. The Bible is clear that the punishments dealt out by God are primarily for disobedience. I say that it is immoral for humans to punish the crimes of wrong-doers by punishing uninvolved bystanders or inciting immoral behaviour in third-parties. God as described in the Bible does these very things (e.g. the Flood, where babes in arms were killed; or 2 Samuel 12:11, where God incites adultery). If it is "moral" for God to do these things; but "immoral" for humans to do the same, then I say that your notion of "Absolute Morality" cannot be used as a basis for human behaviour or morality.

Kind regards


LINKS: Updated Discussion Index | Darkstar218 Weblog | Full text of my last response

There is no such thing as safe "X"
Further to my posts on sex education, I came across this nice little line from Topshelf in a Slashdot thread on flaws in Internet Browsers:

"users... need to be taught that there is no such thing as truly 'safe' browsing. The only 'safe' choice is abstinence."
There is a serious point here. Darkstar218 says "there is no such thing as safe sex". The same can be said for driving, browsing, skiing, flying or even giving blood. All have risks. We have a choice - even if we disapprove of people doing these things. Do we help people minimise the risks involved with potentially damaging behaviour? Or do we insist that abstinence is the only option?

On a lighter note, Dausha points out in the same Slashdot thread:
What are the three major kinds of shock? (I know there must be more, but follow)
  • Hypovolemic: low blood volume
  • Anaphalactic: allergic reaction (e.g. bee sting)
  • Prophylactic: the condom breaks.
Boom boom...

A reply to Darkstar218 on Sexual Health Policy

Hi Tim

I apologise if you are offended by my raising of the issue of the Catholic Church. I wasn't asking you to defend them. I was, however, interested in your opinion on their use of inaccurate information...

I take it your opinion on this point is closer to that of Hank Hanegraaff. He argues against the promotion of condom use, and that Biblical morality and a belief in Jesus Christ is the only way to save humanity from sexual disease and sin.

The trouble is that not everyone shares that opinion. In fact, the US Constitution would seem to say that political policy based only on Biblical morality would be unconstitutional, in that it would be an establishment of a religion.

I say it is immoral to fail to prevent evil where it is within our power to do so. Since "abstinence only" programmes have not been shown to be entirely effective - because many are not able to remain abstinent - I say it is immoral to fail to properly educate people about sexual health. Most condom "failures" happen because of poor sexual education. Properly used, condoms are highly effective.

I say a responsible health education policy must include accurate information about the use of condoms - and of course the very real risks involved in sexual behaviour. In this thread you have "laughed at the idiocy" of a US Congresswoman for promoting that same policy.

But given that teen pregnancy and STD rates in the USA are *higher* than in Western Europe where "abstinence only" sexual education is practically unknown, it is clear that the USA has a problem.

Since the *result* of abstinence only education is an *increase* in the risk of STDs and unwanted pregnancies amongst those who fail to abstain, such policies have a negative and harmful effect.

I don't want to give children the licence or the tools to have sex. What I want to give them is an educated, responsible attitude. Your insistence that children should not be taught proper condom use out of pure religious dogma has been shown to cause active harm. That, to me, is immoral.

I also apologise if I have offended you by commenting on comments made by another of your weblog guests. However, I stand by my remarks - the opinion he stated was clearly in contradiction to the facts.

As for "bastard children", I do not think there is any shame in being born "out of wedlock". It seems that you do. I have asked you before what time and place you feel was the best example of Christian society which you would wish our society to emulate. I'll ask again. Would you like to return to values of a generation ago when it was generally considered shameful for children to be born out of wedlock? Would you accept all of the values of a generation ago? Or perhaps two generations ago?


See the full discussion on Darkstar218's weblog

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Proper Condom Use - Continued

Darkstar218 writes:

1) I'm not Catholic and don't support the Catholic church's doctrine, particularly in this case. So don't even lump me in with that group. In relation to our other discussions, the Catholic church is even worse than non-Christians relating to Biblical authority because they proclaim to be the Church of Jesus Christ, and yet their teachings, at times, contradicts the Bible. So people like you, PTET, assume that what the Catholic church teaches must be what all Christians believe.

2) You didn't answer my question concerning doing what is right. Are you saying that we should abandon all things right when the going gets too difficult? You and the Philippine government can cower in the shadows if it makes you feel better. It's certainly easier to concede. You, yourself, admitted to knowing what is best, and that's abstinence. I take comfort in knowing that I Reap what I Sow and that I take full responsibility for the actions that I choose for my life. Putting the blame on me for not teaching a child how to have 'safe' sex for their STD's and bastard children is just non-sense.
Hi Tim... I'm well aware of the differences between Catholic teaching and that of other sects such as your brand of Protestant Fundamentalism. In fact, in our previous discussions I've had to point out to you that the Catholic church - like non-Fundamentalist Protestant sects - considers that the Earth is Billions of years old and that life has evolved through common descent. I was merely pointing out that some religious groups unscrupulously misrepresent scientific data in order to further their political and religious agendas. (Isn't lying supposed to be a sin?).

As for abstinence... Certainly it is the one way to be sure of not catching an STD. (Unless, of course, your unlucky enough to be infected by a blood transfusion or other injury... But I digress...)

The problem is that *most* people aren't terribly good at abstinence. By insisting on abstinence *only* education, you are damning those people who do take part in sexual behaviour to an increased risk of STDs and pregnancy, because they don't know how to protect themselves.

Further, not everyone believes that sex is only appropriate before marriage. I certainly don't. Why should *your* religious beliefs about morality be allowed to harm the health of other people who don't share them? Is it not better to teach abstinence, but to educate people properly about the best way to protect themselves in case they can't keep up their promises? Or, as Johnxdow seems to, do you take some sort of pleasure in the thought that people who are not abstinent might be "smited", perhaps by an STD or unwanted pregnancy?

Your use of the words "bastard children" says a great deal about you, Tim. However, I want to remain on civil terms so I'll leave you to dwell on your judgment of children for the "sins" of their parents... And also your lack of grace in making unfounded and false allegations of bias in the CBS (AP) report I cited previously.


See the full discussion on Darkstar218's weblog

Proper Condom Use

Darkstar218 writes: There is no such thing as safe sex. The fact that CBS - one of the most liberally slanted news organizations in the country - shows that STD’s are everywhere doesn’t surprise me any. The article you cite doesn’t seem to address where these so called "abstaining" teens are picking up the STD’s - because if they are abstaining and then giving in and abandoning their decisions to remain pure, and they sleep with someone who’s made no such commitment ever, it’s no wonder that they pick up an STD. Doesn’t mean we need to abandon teaching Abstinence; in fact, it tells me that we need to reach that whole other part of the population who are not practicing it.
Your allegation of bias is hilarious. The CBS report I linked to cites a study from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (the CDC). The CDC is the same organisation cited in *your* link to the "Concerned Women For America" Moreover, the CBS story is a direct report from Associate Press. Do you think that AP is a "liberally slanted news organization" too, I wonder?

Here's what the CDC says in recommending proper education on condom use as part of its strategy on preventing STDs:
"In order to achieve the protective effect of condoms, they must be used correctly and consistently. Incorrect use can lead to condom slippage or breakage, thus diminishing their protective effect. Inconsistent use, e.g., failure to use condoms with every act of intercourse, can lead to STD transmission because transmission can occur with a single act
of intercourse..."

"...Many of the available epidemiologic studies were not designed or conducted in ways that allow for accurate measurement of condom effectiveness against HPV infection... A number of studies, however, do show an association between condom use and a reduced risk of HPV-associated diseases, including genital warts, cervical dysplasia and cervical cancer."
The fact is that proper condom use *significantly* reduces the risk of pregnancy and STD's such as HIV.

People will have sex, whether you like it or not. "Abstinence Only" programmes have been shown to be woefully inadequate in preventing STDs and unwanted pregnancies. (See for example here).

Here's a great bit of religious dishonesty for you:
"The Catholic Church is telling people in countries stricken by Aids not to use condoms because they have tiny holes in them through which HIV can pass - potentially exposing thousands of people to risk... The church is making the claims across four continents despite a widespread scientific consensus that condoms are impermeable to HIV... A senior Vatican spokesman backs the claims about permeable condoms, despite assurances by the World Health Organisation that they are untrue..."

Vatican: condoms don't stop Aids, The Guardian, October 9, 2003
"Abstinence Only" programmes lead to a *greater* risk of STDs and unwanted pregnancies amongst the significant number of adherents who "lapse". Do you really think that you are making the world a better place by denying them a full sexual education purely out of religious dogma?


See the full discussion on Darkstar218's weblog

Abstinence Only Sex Education

"Abstaining from sex is oftentimes not a choice, and therefore their only hope in preventing HIV infection is the use of condoms..." - U.S. Congresswoman Barbara Lee

Darkstar218 writes: Abstinence is not an option?!? The sexual urge is so great, that we just have no control over ourselves anymore? I don’t even know how to respond other than laughing at the idiocy of a US Congressman making such a remark.
Laugh all you want... But "abstinence only" sexual education programmes miss the reality (a) that people have sex whether you like it or not; and (b) that STD rates amongst "abstaining" teens in the USA are as high as amongst non-abstaining teens. (See here).

Sure, we must teach kids that abstinence is *always* an option (although culturally that's often very difficult); and that it is generally the *best* option... But it is immoral and irresponsible to deny sexual education to kids simply because of *your* religious beliefs that sex outside marriage is always wrong.
johnxdow writes: At times like this I just want to get away from America and it's idoit representitives. Then I realize it's worse elsewhere. For a few seconds I feal better, then it kicks in- it's worse elsewhere. If only God would smitith those such as these. :(
As for johnxdow, can you tell me why its "worse" outside the USA than within? Teen pregnancy & STD rates in western Europe are generally lower than in the US Bible Belt. In fact, teen pregnancy rates are nearly nine times higher in the USA than in the Netherlands. The teen birth rate is nearly 11 times higher in the USA than in the Netherlands; and five times higher than in France; and nearly four times that in Germany. As for teen abortions, the US rate is nearly 8 times higher than in Germany; 7 times higher than in the Netherlands; and 3 times that in France. (See here).

But hey, why let facts get in the way of your prejudices, ay?


See this conversation in full at Darkstar218's blog.

A Dialogue with Darkstar 218 - Updated summary of posts so far

Tim: Darkstar218 - SAVED - The Movie, Monday, May 24, 2004
PTET: Christian Tradition, Tuesday, June 08, 2004
Tim: No Child Left Behind, Monday, June 07, 2004
PTET: Is rape OK when God says so?, Wednesday, June 09, 2004
Tim: New Entry, Wednesday, June 09, 2004

PTET: Part 1, Wednesday, June 09, 2004
Tim: A DIALOGUE WITH DARKSTAR218 - PART 2, Wednesday, June 09, 2004
PTET: Part 2, Thursday, June 10, 2004
Tim: A DIALOGUE WITH DARKSTAR218 - PART 3, Thursday, June 10, 2004
PTET: Part 3, Friday, June 11, 2004
Tim: A DIALOGUE WITH DARKSTAR218 and PTET - PART 4?!?, Friday, June 11, 2004
Tim: Post Script to Part 4 of our discussion, Saturday, June 12, 2004
PTET: Continued, Thursday, June 17, 2004
PTET: Aldous Huxley, Friday, June 18, 2004
PTET: Supplemental, Saturday, June 19, 2004
Tim: A Continuation of discussion with PTET - Part 5, Thursday, July 08, 2004
PTET: A further response to Darkstar218, Monday, July 12, 2004
PTET: Summary Of Arguments, Wednesday, July 14, 2004

See Darkstar's next response at his weblog.

Monday, July 12, 2004

A further response to Darkstar218

Hi Tim

Thanks for your post.

Tim: Before I start, I want to first address your misinterpretation of 1 Thessalonians 5:19-22. Again, in the correct context of Scripture, what does this passage mean?... We, as Christians, must not quench fire of the Holy Spirit when He speaks through believers or treat the message with contempt, but we are, at the same time, obliged to test these messages AGAINST SCRIPTURE (as the Bereans of Acts 17:11) to see if it is truly a Word from God we are receiving or that of a false teacher.The way we test false teachers is with SCRIPTURE.This does not preclude me from testing men and women who proclaim to come in the name of Jesus Christ.It, in fact, gives me charge to do so.But what I use to test their message is not Kant or Freud or Foucault, but the standard of Scripture which they proclaim to follow.
1 Thessalonians 5 doesn't even mention *scripture*, so it's amusing that you suggest that *I* am misinterpreting it. Do you really believe that the Bible can only be interpreted properly by adding words which aren't there to begin with?

I don't believe that the Bible is inerrant. You do. But I think the Bible does offer good advice about false teachers:
"Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?" [Matthew 7:16]
We should look very carefully at the works of those who claim to be preaching "truths".
Tim: Scripture does not change the definition of evil at a whim or justify evil acts.Again with 2 Samuel - comparing God to Stalin and Hitler just a thoughtless analogy.They can't even be compared.The reason Stalin and Hitler’s acts were unjust and evil was because their motives were that of greed, hatred, and domination.God punishes and rebukes to reconcile and restore to fullness - which was see happens in the very next verse.
And what are the motives of God, spelled out time and time again in the Old Testament?
"You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me..." [Exodus 5:20]

"And I will destroy your high places, and cut down your images, and cast your carcases upon the carcases of your idols, and my soul shall abhor you." [Leviticus 26:30]
God shows jealousy and hatred to those who will not worship him, to the extend of damning not only them, but their children, grand-children and great-grand-children.

Evidently you think that is moral. Stalin and Hitler both punished the descendents of those who opposed them. Evidently you think its different for God, who you hold up as your absolute standard for morality, because you think that by definition God can do no wrong...
Tim: I have to ask, What definitions of LOVE and MORAL are you using and where do those definitions come from? As I've written before, the secular notions have no weight if you mean that Love means everything goes and anything is acceptable.All Loving does not mean accepting all things under all circumstances, and God (and mankind) would never claim to BE that definition of All Loving.All Loving does not mean removing all pain and suffering from the world.
I don't know about you, but I'm using generally accepted definitions of these words:
LOVE: "A deep, tender, ineffable feeling of affection and solicitude toward a person, such as that arising from kinship, recognition of attractive qualities, or a sense of underlying oneness..."

MORAL: "Of or concerned with the judgment of the goodness or badness of human action and character: moral scrutiny... Teaching or exhibiting goodness or correctness of character and behavior..."
I'm not the one claiming that "love" and "morality" can in any way be "absolute". You are - but you use these words inconsistently. How can it be moral or loving for *God* to do something, if it would not be moral or loving for humans to do it too? How can it be moral or loving of God to damn the descendents of those who displease Him, if it is not loving for humans to do the same?

Would you threaten to spank your daughter purely because of the bad behaviour of your son? I say that would be immoral - even if your motivation was to cajole your son into repentance. Apparently you think that's OK.
Tim: On top of this whole discussion, there are a few other things to consider about 2 Samuel 12.1.) Most of the time, we focus on David’s sin for sleeping with Bathsheba.However, doesn't the door swing both ways?We are not certain from Scripture, but there is no mention of Bathsheba resisting David’s advances.
You know, Tim, when you are in a hole you should really stop digging.

Firstly, you seem to have forgotten that God specifically says in 2 Samuel 12:11 that *he* will bring the evil (or "calamity"). To excuse his culpability for the consequences of his actions because the participants are themselves are immoral is just whacko.

Let's say that Bathsheba did want to sleep with David in full view of her husband and the general public. (There are numerous other examples of God apparently inciting whoredom and adultery, e.g. Hosea 4:13). The penalty for adultery in those days was death (see Leviticus 20:10).

Your argument seems to be that it is moral for God to punish wrong-doers by inciting their relatives to commit immoral and even illegal acts.

Do you really think that that is *moral*? Is *that* what you want to teach your children? Or base your life on? I don't.

I say that the basis of morality can only be *consistency*. If we expect a standard of behaviour in others that we do not expect in ourselves, we are hypocrites...
Tim: There are some who believe that the only real evidence is scientific... I am curious what you would say is a definitive proof or evidence for (fill in the blank).Or are you one of these philosophers who believe that there is no such thing as proof and nothing can be certain?(I'm asking this in all sincerity because I don't know where you stand.My tone is not one of sarcasm.)
I've always been fond of this quote from Steven J Gould on that very point:
"Science is all those things which are confirmed to such a degree that it would be unreasonable to withhold one's provisional consent."
The question is then, of course, what we are prepared to accept as confirmation...
Tim: My personal basis for Biblical TRUTH and Absolute Morality (and I'll definite that in a bit) revolve around one crucial event / person and that is Jesus Christ.The reason why it’s foundational is because Jesus claimed to be GOD, and God claimed to be the author of the Bible and creator of the Universe.... If Jesus Himself upheld the Scriptures and gave sanction to its completeness and validity, and He gave evidence to show that He was indeed God as He claimed, would this not support the conclusion that Scripture is in fact the inspired, complete, inerrant Word of God?
Let's be careful here. To assume that the Bible is inerrant, or that Jesus upheld that inerrancy, without properly considering the evidence to hand is circular reasoning.
Tim: For that, the first evidence I'll cite comes from the conclusions of Simon Greenleaf...
Simon Greenleaf died in 1853. A lot has happened in Biblical scholarship and archaeology since then. Since his time, most *Christian* scholars have come to the conclusion that even the supposed "Mosaic" writings of the Old Testament were put together by various sources over hundreds of years; and that the Gospels were not written for at least a generation after the death of Jesus, and depend on each other or perhaps a lost common source.

Are we to discard their opinions and the evidence which they have gathered merely because it conflicts with some pre-conceived notion of the "Truth" of the Gospels? If so, we can say goodbye to any notion of logic and reason being the basis of your beliefs.
Tim: So why is that significant?It’s because Jesus predicted His own death and resurrection.NO ONE in history has ever accomplished that to the detail that He did.And the reason why He could is because He is God, as He claimed.This unprecedented miracle was the last evidence the disciples needed to proclaim and witness to a hostile and violent world of Christ’s life.But even so, they witnessed dozens of miracles before His crucifixion as are recorded in the Gospels.
Again, the Gospels were not (according to most *Christian* experts) completed until at least generation after the death of Jesus. That gives plenty of time to retro-fit stories to supposed prophesies. Even worse, you seem (again) to be forgetting the words of the Bible itself.

According to Matthew 11:20-24, the towns of Korazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum witnessed the best of the miracles of Jesus first hand - but they turned him away. If *these* people did not believe in Jesus 2,000 years ago, how can we be expected to today? Is it because if we don't we'll be damned just like Jesus damned the people in these towns (even, apparently, the people there who *didn't* see his miracles first-hand)?

Is that the best you have to offer? Threats of damnation? That doesn't seem very moral to me...
Tim: And Greenleaf is not alone in his assessment.Scholars, historians, archaeologists, and Biblical and non-Biblical writers have come to similar and supportive conclusions of the life and resurrection of Christ.Hank Hanegraaff writes about the reliability of the Bible by evidence of the available Manuscripts, Archaeology, Prophecy and Statistics...
Now you are on very dangerous ground... Look. If, as it seems, you only read Fundamentalist apologetics, then it's not surprising that you have a false sense of what scholars say about the Bible.

Read elsewhere - in any standard non-Fundamentalist University textbook, for example - and you'll get a very different picture.

Most *Christian* scholars do not believe that the Bible is a truly accurate history of Israel. Most *Christian* scholars accept that the Gospels were modified in their formative years to meet the needs of the early Christian Church. (I provide numerous quotes, sources and references on my webpage Facts For Fundamentalists).

Why should I accept the opinion of Hank Hanegraaff (or Sir William Ramsay, who died in 1916) over that of Bruce Metzger, emeritus professor at Princeton and chairman of the Revised Standard Version and the New Revised Standard Version? Or William G Dever, Professor of Near Eastern archaeology and anthropology at the University of Arizona? Or Bart Ehrman, Bowman and Gordon Gray Professor of Religious Studies at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill?

Now, you can disagree with their opinions all you want - but it is dishonest and immoral to simply pretend that these opinions do not exist... And that is *precisely* what Fundamentalist Apologetics do.

Let's hark back to the warning in Matthew 7:16 about false teachers.

Your authorities tell you that historians and archaeologists support the literal "Truth" of the Bible. How can you trust them when a simple examination of the *facts* about what most Christian scholars say about the Bible shows this to be false?

Tim: Now, what about opposing ‘evidence’?A favorite of non-Christians is the ‘science’ of evolution and the Big Bang Theory, supposed billions and billions of years of earth history, radioactive potassium-argon dating, etc...
Now you are being dishonest.

Here is a partial list of Christian and Jewish organisations which accept that the Earth is billions of years old and that life evolved through common descent:
the American Jewish Congress; the American Scientific Affiliation; the Center For Theology And The Natural Sciences; the Central Conference Of American Rabbis; the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) ; the General Convention Of The Episcopal Church; the Lexington Alliance Of Religious Leaders; the Lutheran World Federation; the Roman Catholic Church; the Unitarian Universalist Association; the United Church Board For Homeland Ministries; the United Methodist Church; and the United Presbyterian Church In The U.S.A.
It is simply a *lie* to claim that only non-Christians accept the standard scientific explanation of the world; or that "evolution" or an "old Earth" are incompatible with Christianity.

I trust I won't have to correct you on this point again.
Tim: Take radioactive potassium-argon dating, which is commonly used to date volcanic rock and nearby discovered fossils.Andrew Snelling of Creation Magazine writes...
Sigh. "Creation Science" magazine is associated with Answers In Genesis, an organisation which says in its "Statement of Faith":
"By definition, no apparent, perceived or claimed evidence in any field, including history and chronology, can be valid if it contradicts the Scriptural record. Of primary importance is the fact that evidence is always subject to interpretation by fallible people who do not possess all information."
They say that *by definition* no evidence can contradict the Bible. That isn't science. Do you truly believe that the interpretation by fallible humans of the Bible must over-ride the interpretation of other evidence no matter what that evidence says? I hope not. I remember you saying that you could defend the Biblical account of Genesis using logic and reason...

Turning to Potassium Argon dating... This claim is dealt with at length, and with references to numerous peer-reviewed scientific papers, at TalkOrigin's Index to Creationist Claims Claim CD013.

Now, I'm well aware that TalkOrigins is a sort of bogey-man for Fundamentalists... But the fact is that it merely states what mainstream scientific opinion - Christian and otherwise - says about science.
Tim: The same goes for evolution.Dr. Lee Spetner... writes a fascinating and poignant response to an evolutionary biologist’s claims of justifying the ‘science’ of evolution.I’m not a biologist...
And neither is Dr Spetner. (He's a physisist). Look, the vast majority of biologists accept that evolution occurs as mainstream science describes. The fact that you or Dr Spetner disagree is surely neither here nor there.

Of course there is disagreement about the *mechanisms* of evolution - but that doesn't get round the fact that even "Intelligent Design" advocates like Michael Behe accept that macroevolution occurs.
Tim: So here’s my opposing view and the evidence for it...
Tim, you have presented *nothing* except for arguments based on (a) the given assumption that the Bible is true; and (b) a deliberate disregard for the opinions of others who do not start with that same assumption.

Let's go back to Matthew 7:16. Non-Biblical science has brought us medicine; the motor car; the internet; space travel; and any number of other wonders.

Look at the list of "creation scientists" listed by Answers In Genesis. You will not find *one* scientific advance made by any of those listed which was based on "Biblical science". No - they used materialistic science just like every other scientist.

Creationism has brought science *nothing* except deliberate and blatant dishonesty about the beliefs of others. If that isn't evidence of false teaching, I don't know what is...

Look, we are straying from the point here.
  • Do you think it is moral to encourage the wives of wrong-doers to commit adultery?

  • Do you think it is moral to punish the unborn great-grandchildren of wrong-doers?

  • Do you think it is moral to destroy whole cities if they will not accept your beliefs?

  • Do you think it is moral to punish those who refuse to love you of their own free will?
These are the actions of the God you claim to worship.

There are those, of course, who claim that it is moral for humans to do these things as long as it is in "God's name". Are you one of them?

And if you claim that it is moral for your God to do these things, but not for us to do them, then I can only conclude that your God is a hypocrite.

Best wishes


LINKS: Updated Discussion Index | Darkstar218 Weblog

Friday, July 09, 2004

More from Darkstar...
Darkstar 218 has posted his latest response in our ongoing discussion. I'll be away for the weekend - but I'll post my answer here and on Darkstar's blog when I can.

Thursday, July 08, 2004

Fundamentlism & Abortion
The website BushCountry.org ("Promoting the Ideas of Conservatism") today posted an article entitled "John Kerry: Baby Killing Catholics Are not Catholics - Plain And Simple - By Joseph Grant Swank". This argues that anyone who does not oppose abortion cannot be a true Christian. Amongst their least coherent arguments comes this:

"...the public is not confused at all. The knowing spiritual public knows in quick move a backslidden believer when he trips over one. Those truly Christian can spy a religious fake miles away. And of course God Himself knows the heart, so it does not take but a mega-second in earth language to come upon the prodigals prancing in the name of Christian faith..."
They further state:
"Since the Bible regards the fetus as personality, then the aborting of the fetus is murdering personality."
This only applies, of course, if one insists that the Bible is inerrant in all that it teaches. Most Christian scholars do not believe that it is. The true evil of Fundamentalism is it's repeated insistance that the world of thought outside Fundamentalism just does not exist...

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Survey shows Christians more likely than agnostics to buy lottery tickets
The Texas-based "Baptist Standard" reported on 11 June 2004:

"Christians are more likely to invest in lottery tickets than non-Christians while non-Christians are twice as likely as Christians to fast, a newly released survey shows.
The Barna Group, a Ventura, Calif.-based research and analysis company, looked at the relation between faith and lifestyles in a survey of 1,002 adults.

Researchers found that 15 percent of born-again Christians and 23 percent of notional Christians--people who say they are Christian but haven't made a profession of faith in Jesus Christ--bought lottery tickets in a typical week. That compared to 10 percent of adherents of non-Christian faiths and 12 percent of atheists and agnostics...

While evangelical Christians were most likely to discuss political, spiritual and moral issues with others, they were the least likely group to contact a political official to express their views.

Researchers found that evangelical Christians and nonevangelical, born-again Christians were least likely to recycle. More than six out of 10 nonChristians, notional Christians, atheists and agnostics engaged in recycling. Only half of evangelicals and 47 percent of nonevangelical, born-again Christians recycled..."
Other studies have shown that more born-again Christians in the USA believe in channeling, astrology and reincarnation than non born-again Christians...

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Is God Unconditional Love?
More Fundamentalist madness:

God is not Love any more than Love is God. God as to his nature is love. Agape is a self sacrificial seeking of the highest good of another without expectation of return. Christ died for all men in that regard though not all men will be saved. We must qualify by faith for salvation by placing our trust in the death burial and resurrection of Christ as the satisfaction of the justice of God concerning our sins. His love therefore is unconditional, but love also is directional in that it wouldn't be fair to those who adjust to the justice of God by faith to be placed aside those who do not for the sake of sloppy sentimentalism or emotional 'love' which is misguided by a liberal mindset. We would not be loving God if we expected that his only begotten Son died for nothing in the process of bringing all into the fold without distinction... His love is filtered through the elements of his holiness, righteousness, and justice. It is not sloppy sentimentalism or emotion. Emotions vascillate, and sentimentalism is subjective. These are inadequate criteria for divine fairness, and therefore are not a part of how God deals with persons.

Is God unconditional Love?, orin@primenet.com http://orin.net
In other words, God's love is unconditional - but our love for Him in return must meet Fundamentalist expectations or He's entitled to damn us to Hell for all eternity... Similarly, God's judgement in "Noah's Flood" was unconditionally "good", according to Fundamentalists, even though he wiped out children ,animals, housepets, the disabled, etc...

A thought: Fundamentalism reacts angrily to post-modern teachings on the subjectivity of opinion by insisting that it follows a supposedly objective "Truth". In reality, their "Truth" involves re-defining existing words to shoe-horn in their personal prejudices. Reality waprs around Fundamentalism, like light bends round mass...