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Mar 19 2008

Rho, I have your answer

Okay, this will be a pretty quick post, because I’ve just gotten home from Richard Dawkins’ signing at Book People, which was attended by about 200, and have to head off soon back down to campus so I can get my reserved seat by the recommended time of 5:30. Photos of today’s festivities will have to wait until tomorrow.

Dawkins preceded his signing by a reading — the new preface to the paperback edition of The God Delusion — followed by a brief Q&A, which was actually quite good. I tried to get Rhology’s question in at the Q&A but wasn’t called on, so I waited until after Dawkins had finished his full signing and was getting up. Rhology will probably be somewhat disappointed by the answer, which is very brief and to-the-point (brief enough for me to quote it verbatim from memory, and I regret I didn’t have the ability to record it), but it’s pretty much the answer I expected Dawkins would give.

To recap, Rhology’s submitted question (it was actually a series of questions, but hey) was:

Professor Dawkins,


On page 92 of “The God Delusion”, you present a 4th option to CS Lewis’ famous “Lord-Liar-Lunatic” trilemma with respect to the identity of Jesus Christ, namely that he was actually mistaken.

Why is it that you rarely if ever extend such an understanding to today’s theists? If you met a man who said there was a pink elephant in a 10×10 room, would you say that the man could be “honestly mistaken?” How much less would you say that a man who thought he was the pink elephant in the room was “honestly mistaken?”

If Jesus could be “honestly mistaken”, can not then all theists?

To which Dawkins replied:

But of course I believe they [theists] can be honestly mistaken. Why shouldn’t they be?

There you have it. Again, I’m sorry I didn’t get a tape of this exchange. But it was very brief, and I felt a little nervous doing it in the first place. But hey, I’m the kind of guy who, if I say I’ll do what it takes to do something, I’ll do it.

What was interesting was that, while Dawkins was perfectly at ease in speaking before a large crowd, he seemed very ill at ease being approached directly. (During his signing, as I expected, the store employees were perfect sheepdogs, moving the line along efficiently, with Dawkins merely giving autographs without personalizations.) When I first introduced myself and asked if I could speak to him for just a moment, his look was wary and guarded. It wasn’t until we had spoken for a few minutes that he began to recover his usual congenial, good humor.

His attitude was understandable. I was told by some of my CFI buddies who were there that security has been a real concern for Dawkins during this whole tour. Dawkins is understandably cautious about the possibility of being waylaid by some some truly offensive theist berating him, or even assaulting him. Hasn’t happened, happily, but when this tour was first announced in the media, at least one Christian minister, David Cox of the First Southern Methodist Church in Charleston, SC, was quoted as saying…

I would certainly like to protest. [Dawkins] is a tool of Satan, of the AntiChrist it sounds to me. All God-fearing people will be opposed to an atheist touring.

Considering how many fundamentalists take rhetoric like that as a call to action, it is understandable that Dawkins would be guarded about his personal space. And lest we forget, there have also been two instances in which creationists approached him for interviews under false pretenses, most recently the producers of Expelled. So the direct approach is an iffy one to take with him, and I felt nervous doing it in the first place for all those reasons.

So no, I didn’t have a chance to make a tape of this brief exchange, Rho, but I can assure you on my word I did ask him, and the quoted reply is his reply. Now, I know you were doubtless hoping for a much more detailed reply, and I have one myself that I will present tomorrow when I post my report about tonight’s talk. I know also that Kazim and Lui, and possibly some of our other regular atheist readers, want to answer you themselves. They’re free to do so at this time.

I’m going to grab a quick bite to eat and hit the road. See you all tomorrow.

35 comments

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  1. 1
    Kazim

    That’s what my answer was going to be, only about ten times longer.I think theists assume that the word “Delusion” in Dawkins’ title is only meant as an insult, like anybody who holds a belief in God is somehow mentally unbalanced. I think the word can mean many things, among them (#3 at dictionary.com) being “a false belief or opinion.” That millions of people believe in the god does not make it any less a delusion.However, theists accuse us all the time on the AE TV show of being mean to theists and assuming they are stupid. We just don’t. We disagree with the factual basis of their claims, but in most cases we don’t conclude that they hold these beliefs because they are dumb.One quote from RD that has become somewhat notorious in creationist circles is: “It is absolutely safe to say that if you meet somebody who claims not to believe in evolution, that person is ignorant, stupid or insane (or wicked, but I’d rather not consider that).” Although many of the terms are perjorative, the term “ignorant,” which comes first, is not. Lots of people are ignorant about lots of things, but it doesn’t make them wicked or insane.

  2. 2
    Martin

    Right. “Ignorant” means you are simply not in possession of the facts regarding [whatever]. It doesn’t mean you’re a clueless, drooling moron in all walks of life. I consider myself a pretty knowledgeable guy on the whole. Until you tell me to give my own car a tune-up.

  3. 3
    tracieh

    Wow. When I read Rho’s suggested question, my first thought was: “Has Dawkins accused all Christians of being liars somewhere?”I agreed with the idea that “actually mistaken” was viable–for both Christ and Christians. But it’s actually Lewis who labels “actually mistaken” as “lunatic” in his dilemma. Josh McDowell expounds on this–basically saying right out (at least in the course I took years ago) that anyone who goes around claiming to be god is a nutjob if they’re not correct. He’s saying it’s like going around telling people you’re Napoleon.I NEVER in a million years would have thought of Dawkin’s book title, “Delusion,” as the prompt for Rho’s question. But if it is the prompt, then I have to say that Dawkin’s absolutely is saying all Christians are “honestly mistaken”–and calling it a delusion is a LOT nicer than Lewis’ label–which, if Xians are wrong, they’re actually running down the path of lunacy.Lewis’ statement only meant by “lunatic” that Jesus thought he was god, REALLY, but was not. That’s the same as honestly mistaken. In other words, if I think, “honestly mistaken,” and then read Lewis’ dilemma, I see there are only three choices, and it’s either:1. He’s really god.2. He knows he’s not god, but goes around saying he is god.3. He really thinks he is god, but he is not.The last one is “lunatic,” per Lewis. How is “lunatic” better than “deluded”? I’ve seen people being taken advantage of in dating relationships where people are willing to call them deluded. It’s not at all a harsh label in terms of claiming someone is mentally unbalanced. In fact, it USUALLY is used to denote a situation where a person is otherwise on top of it–but missing the mark in one area–like with a girlfriend/boyfriend.

  4. 4
    Tommykey

    Martin, I noticed the same thing about Richard Dawkins when I met him last November up here in NY. He did not strike me as being rather personable. Neil Tyson on the other hand was very approachable and easy to talk to. I asked Dawkins if he could sign a copy of “The Selfish Gene” when he walked past me. He seemed reluctant to do so, probably because he was constantly being peppered with such requests throughout the day, but assented. I explained to him that my co-worker Ray had loaned me his copy of the book, which I lost because I left my shoulder bag on the roof of my car when I drove to the train station one morning. When I realized I would have the chance to meet Dawkins at the CFI Conference, I thought it would be a great gesture to get Ray an autographed copy of “The Selfish Gene” to replace the one I had lost. I asked Dawkins if he could write something like “Dear Ray, please don’t let Tom lose this book” but he refused, and just wrote “Dear Ray” and then his name. I was a tad disappointed, but was happy to at least have gotten him to sign it at all. Anyway, when I gave it to Ray, he was like a kid getting a toy, he was very thrilled by it.I had the chance to see Dawkins when he was up here last Saturday in NYC, but I decided not to go because I didn’t expect that he would say anything that I had not already heard him say.

  5. 5
    Martin

    Tommy: Spoke to some folks tonight who went to the CFI invitation-only reception before the event, which was limited to about 50 people. I was told he never really exchanged more than brief pleasantries with anyone there. Partly I’m sure it’s the natural reserve that comes from being the star of the show where everyone around is hoping to engage you in conversation. By the same token though, I do think that where Dawkins is clearly in his element speaking before large crowds, he’s pretty ill at ease with one on one interaction — at least among strangers, which is nearly everybody on a tour like this.Tracie: Where were you tonight?Full report tomorrow afternoon, gang.

  6. 6
    tracieh

    I still think it’s funny I’ve never met Martin. But I was at my office until quite late. Matt gave me the “WHAT?! You’re not going?!” as well the other night.Sorry. Totally my loss, I know!!!

  7. 7
    Rhology

    Martin,Many thanks for asking the question. I’m not impressed by his answer; he seems to have forgotten the thrust of his usual attitude towards theists. Maybe in person he’s more docile than in print. It’s understandable; alot of people are. I think I generally am. But he’s making a ton of £ sterling from this book, so I’d expect him to remember his arguments. Sigh. If you can’t count on consistency from a rabid atheist, what’s the world coming to?Too bad that he’s been nervous about security. What idiot would assault him? Sheesh. That is so stupid, so anti-American, and so anti-biblical that I hardly know what to say. I don’t know if it’s a legitimate fear, but if they have received even one threat or whatever, that’s one threat too many.And protest doesn’t seem like the right course of action either. Why not just hold some classes at your church and debunk his easily-debunked book? Wouldn’t that be easier? Pass out fliers with primer Dawkins-defeaters with URLs to more detailed defeaters? Why protest?OK, I’ll look fwd to your longer answer. I don’t know if it’s worth a long discussion. I might’ve lost a good opportunity, but oh well. Peace,Rhology

  8. 8
    The Dread Polack

    I get to see RD here in Minneapolis tomorrow. I hope to hear something new as well. I’ve caught enough of his talks online. Either way, it’ll be interesting to see how us Minnesotans treat him. I never cared much about getting autographed books, but maybe I’ll drag the Delusion along…

  9. 9
    Matt D.

    Two things..Rhology: I believe that someone can sincerely be mistaken. I also believe that if they’re taking harmful action on behalf of that mistake or encouraging others to agree with them in their mistake, I think we not only have the right but the obligation to point this out.If they take offense, that’s their problem.You seem to be implying that if we think they may be mistaken, we shouldn’t object or risk offending them.Secondly…I had the same observations about Dawkins when we spoke (very briefly) at the reception. However, I think I got a slightly more personal response than others – as he eagerly used his iPhone to snap a photo of my tattoo. :)-Matt

  10. 10
    Kazim

    Rhology,Instead of making vaguely worded assertions about some unidentified contradiction in Dawkins’ statement, why not just give an example of “the thrust of his usual attitude towards theists?” I’ve been reading RD’s work for a long time and I didn’t see anything in that answer that seemed the slightest bit in opposition to anything else he’s said.Too bad that he’s been nervous about security. What idiot would assault him? Sheesh. That is so stupid, so anti-American, and so anti-biblical that I hardly know what to say. I don’t know if it’s a legitimate fear, but if they have received even one threat or whatever, that’s one threat too many.You make controversial statements in public, and you get death threats. Even several of us, small time non-celebrities who have a local cable access show on atheism, have received some pretty ominous sounding threats. I imagine Dawkins gets them weekly, if not more. Michael Newdow recorded a rather humorous song where every alternate line came from a rather vile threat from his home answering machine.And protest doesn’t seem like the right course of action either. Why not just hold some classes at your church and debunk his easily-debunked book? Wouldn’t that be easier?No. For the average apologist, I imagine going to classes and making relevant arguments would not be “easier” than standing outside with a sign, at all.Pass out fliers with primer Dawkins-defeaters with URLs to more detailed defeaters?Yeah, on the other hand, copying URLs where other people purport to “debunk” Dawkins does seem to require an appropriate level of mental taxation.Why protest?Why not protest? Free country.

  11. 11
    Rhology

    Kazim,My question is based on Dawkins’ usual attitude that “The God Delusion” is supposed to be a belief comparable to a psychiatric disease. We suffer from delirium. He draws analogies between people who believe in God and people who believe a pink elephant is in the room with them. The latter, says The Dawkins, we wouldn’t hesitate to throw into a psychiatric ward.Come on, are you really trying to make Dawkins into a guy who never says anythg offensive about Christians? It’s not that I mind, I’m just saying. And about protesting, I just want to make sure you understood I was criticising the idea that protesting would be a worthwhile idea. Just b/c one CAN doesn’t mean one should.Peace,Rhology

  12. 12
    NAL

    rhology: The latter, says The Dawkins, we wouldn’t hesitate to throw into a psychiatric ward.The Dawkins, quoting Sam Harris:… religious people are not generally mad, their core beliefs absolutely are.Rho likes to use hyperbole.

  13. 13
    Rhology

    Dawkins beat me to it. Imitation is flattery, you know. I think he’d appreciate accurate characterisations of himself no matter who may give them.

  14. 14
    Kazim

    I see nothing in the quote you offered that is inconsistent with religious people being honestly mistaken. I’m sorry that you are offended.The latter, says The Dawkins, we wouldn’t hesitate to throw into a psychiatric ward.Not the same thing as threatening to actually throw religious people in a psychiatric ward. Dawkins was just pointing out the interesting fact that delusions are much more socially acceptable as long as they’re shared by a lot of people.

  15. 15
    Luis

    “Too bad that he’s been nervous about security. What idiot would assault him? Sheesh. That is so stupid, so anti-American, and so anti-biblical that I hardly know what to say.”You seem to think that America isn’t infested with idiots.

  16. 16
    Rhology

    Lui,I have a feeling that his fears are justified. I think it’s horrible and stupid that someone would make him feel threatened. So I’m agreeing with you. A follower of Christ should want to blow up his arguments and do no violence to his person.

  17. 17
    tracieh

    >What idiot would assault him? Sheesh. That is so stupid, so anti-American, and so anti-biblical that I hardly know what to say.If only it were un-Christian as well.http://www.atheist-community.org/atheisteve/index.php?id=35

  18. 18
    Tommykey

    Regarding the Lord, Liar or Lunatic argument, one has to remember that during the time period in which the Gospels were set, there seemed to be a longing for and expectation of a messiah who would free the people of Israel from foreign domination. Therefore, it should not be unreasonable to postulate that there could have been a real Jesus whose family did trace its descent from the Davidic line. Being a charismatic and popular preacher during this time, it would not be insane for this Jesus or some of his followers to begin to to believe that he might be that Messiah. Given the context of that particular time and place in history, one could plausibly begin to believe that he was a messiah without being bat shit crazy.

  19. 19
    Rhology

    Sorry, that doesn’t begin to explain the astronomically improbable coincidences of prophecies fulfilled in Christ. Quite a large number. Many of which that weren’t under His control.

  20. 20
    Matt D.

    “Sorry, that doesn’t begin to explain the astronomically improbable coincidences of prophecies fulfilled in Christ.”I’m wondering if you’re simply lacking a proper understanding of probability, prophecy or the historical accuracy of the events you’re appealing to…or all of the above.When the waiter brings me the food he ordered, is he fulfilling prophecy?If something doesn’t say ‘this is prophecy’ but can be retroactively viewed as such, does it count?If one religious group looks at a book and says “X fulfills all of these prophecies” and another religious group looks at the same book and says “no he doesn’t” – who ‘s correct?If one religious group points to specific, unfulfilled prophecies and another group ignores them – who’s correct?When the accounts of the individual’s life are written decades later, by unknown authors, how do we know their account is reliable?When historically verifiable facts in the account don’t exist in any contemporary accounts beyond the selected holy texts, how do we know they happened?When ‘prophecies’ have to be creatively manipulated in order to be viewed as prophecy – do they still count?I could go on and on…but I’m really not sure which prophecies you’re relying on. (Josh McDowell’s?) I’m also not sure who did the math behind your probabilistic claim…or what their method was. I’m also not sure why you consider ancient accounts, by unknown authors, written decades after the events, which include known contradictions, fairly blatant redactions to be accurate. What about the books that didn’t get voted in? What about the other potential messiahs?And why do you believe that a god exists, with a critical message for all mankind (presuming this is an accurate representation) and he chooses to relay this message in such a sloppy, unreliable, unverifiable method? Where’s the ‘second edition’? Where’s the authorized version – and a demonstration of the authority approving it?Jesus broke astronomical improbable odds in fulfilling prophecy? Give me a break. You can’t even demonstrate that he actually existed (not that this is a major objection). You can’t demonstrate a single date of a single event in his life and the Biblical authors can’t even agree on when he was born. Was it during the reign of Herod or a decade later during the census of Quirinius?If you get to pick and choose what counts as prophecy AND what counts as fulfillment of prophecy, you can construct an ‘astronomical’ probability that applies to anyone.Where’s the beef?

  21. 21
    Tommykey

    Many of which that weren’t under His control.Really? I thought everything was supposed to be under His control.

  22. 22
    Luis

    “I’m wondering if you’re simply lacking a proper understanding of probability, prophecy or the historical accuracy of the events you’re appealing to…or all of the above.”Personally, I think it should be compulsory for statistics to be taught in junior high school on up. That might go some way towards disrupting another form of “education” I could mention, but really it would only be setting things right. Mystical thinking is what does most of the disrupting, in the important sense that it interferes with a critical evaluation of the world that could have been got by using the tools that tell us about probability and such. Statistics and science help us see the world in its often counter-intuitive glory.

  23. 23
    Rhology

    Hi Matt D,Historical accuracy, apparently better than you. Probability, I could be mistaken, but when I consider that the guy who was born in the exact timing laid out by the prophet Daniel with respect to His appearing also happened to be born in Bethlehem, to a virgin, in the tribe of Judah, and in the lineage of David, was killed in the way described in several different ways, whose clothes were divided up, whose bones weren’t broken, who healed blindness and lameness, etc, I kind of think that might be a low probability. Besides, improbable or probable, Jesus is the only guy who ever fulfilled just those, and there are lots more. When the waiter brings me the food he ordered, is he fulfilling prophecy?Um, not unless it was prophesied that he would bring you your food. Prophecy is not a statement of intent, like “I’ll see you at the concert!” It takes place in specific contexts, specific literature, by specific people who are marked out by God for that purpose. The waiter isn’t. This is a smokescreen question; I think everyone knows the answer.If one religious group looks at a book and says “X fulfills all of these prophecies” and another religious group looks at the same book and says “no he doesn’t” – who ‘s correct?If one person looks at your comment and sees a set of skeptical statements about Christ’s having fulfilled ancient prophecy, and another looks at it and says that your meaning is that you are repenting of your sins, giving your life to serve Jesus Christ, and eating pancakes, who’s correct? How do you know?If one religious group points to specific, unfulfilled prophecies and another group ignores them – who’s correct?See above. I’d add that it’s the one whose view can account for all of them.When the accounts of the individual’s life are written decades later, by unknown authors, how do we know their account is reliable?1) B/c they were written by multiple different people.2) From eyewitness accts.3) Hundreds of whom were still alive for asking verification at the time of writing and dispersal.4) B/c they all went on to suffer intense persecution for sthg they would have known for sure was a fraud if it hadn’t happened like that.When historically verifiable facts in the account don’t exist in any contemporary accounts beyond the selected holy texts, how do we know they happened?1) B/c you want only to treat the Gospel accts with that treatment and exempt other historical accts. Special pleading and inconsistencies don’t usually fly for honest seekers of the truth.2) And certain historical tidbits, places, people, etc are indeed corroborated by other contemporaneous accts and archaeology.When ‘prophecies’ have to be creatively manipulated in order to be viewed as prophecy – do they still count?Depends on the specific example and what you mean by “creatively”. If it means what it usually means to you, I’m suspicious.What about the books that didn’t get voted in? This shows me that you know nothing about the historical process of the canonisation of Scripture. You might want to pick up a book on that.I’d suggest Metzger’s “The Canon of the New Testament” for a good intro. What about the other potential messiahs?Why would counterfeits that arise after the fact or have radically fundamental differences concern me any more than the existence of $3 bills should make me doubt that real US currency exists?he chooses to relay this message in such a sloppy, unreliable, unverifiable method?B/c I don’t believe He did so.Where’s the ‘second edition’?As if a perfect God would require a 2nd try. You can’t even demonstrate that he actually existed (not that this is a major objection).To deny He did is another strike against your professed historical knowledge. That’s pretty pitiful. Many of which that weren’t under His control.Really? I thought everything was supposed to be under His control.Of course, I meant that such events would be beyond the control of a person. Of course Christ controlled it, being God and all. Seriously, Tommy, did that add value to the convo?Peace,Rhology

  24. 24
    Tommykey

    What does adding value to the conversation have to do with it? I was just trying to get you to clarify what you wrote for my own curiosity.

  25. 25
    Luis

    I might also add that the term “anti-American” is of no particular value. More than anything, it’s just a phrase people use when they’re trying to push something. The term itself is almost completely vacuous. What would it mean to be “anti-Chinese” or “anti-Uzbek”? Why is America seen as a special category that warrants its own “anti”? (actually, here in Australia, there was a rather nauseating period where people where trying to figure out what counted as “un-Australian”. It turns out – surprise, surprise – that being un-Australian happens to be whatever the person uttering the sentence doesn’t like. It’s like the invocation of your country as an entity that everyone has to look up to and revere somehow takes the place of reasoning. Well, I don’t care if something is “un-Australian” or “anti-American”; whether it’s RATIONAL and sensible are the only things I take into consideration, and they are the only things that a society that dares to call itself civilised should take into account. As Noam Chomsky said (roughly quoting him here): “We all bleed when we’re cut, and we all care about our children. Beyond that, I don’t know of any differences.”). It seems that there is a pious component to nationalism, and all too many Americans have taken it on (or rather, taken on hyper-patriotism) as a quasi-mystical conception, with its own myths and hero stories and destinies. Religionists often like to cloak themselves in the mantle of patriotism, as though their ideals and beliefs were somehow the quintessential embodiment of all that the nation supposedly stands for (more often, what they think the nation should stand for). Violence happens a lot in America; indeed, America is one of the most violent societies in the West, and with the largest prison population in the world. Police brutality occurs in America. So do investigations of police brutality. Government surveillance and disruption of dissident groups is something that has gone on for decades, if not longer. The US government perpetuates violence overseas, and it is able to do so partially by implying that anyone who doesn’t get with the program is “anti-American” (like those French “surrender monkeys”. By the same rationale, American war-supporters must be “anti-French”. Well, why not? Why should America be seen as the reference point for others to emulate, and for which everyone else has to be judged either “for” or “against”?). Yet for all that has transpired, America was itself born of a revolution (with both good and bad things happening, as occurs in any revolution). That involved rebelling against the tyranny of the state, against lies and propaganda. Today, it is the greatest opponent of revolution (witness the countless interventions and coups that have been engineered by the CIA and Pentagon whenever some Third World leader tried to break away form the American orbit), because revolution is seen as something that implies independence. Sending 40,000 Marines to the Dominican Republic to crush a populist revolution against a hated oligarchy is as counter-revolutionary as you can get. What of Nicaragua? Was it “American” or “anti-American” to denounce the covert war against Nicaragua? The perpetrators and the media certainly knew where they stood. Many see Oliver North as a great American who stood up to communist aggression – even while his associates exterminated thousands of peasants who had nothing to do with communism. Today, religious fanatics within the US call for state-sanctioned violence to someday be used against gays, lesbians and everyone else who is “anti-God”. Some even believe that homosexuals were responsible for September 11. Slavery was so systemic that many couldn’t even conceive of how it might be seen as immoral, and was propped up to a significant degree by certain readings of the Bible. Segregation laws were American. The US Constitution is thoroughly secular. Yet in Texas and some other states, you have to believe in God in order to hold high office. In the latest presidential race, religion has played more than a significant role in the candidate’s policies and rhetoric. Many of the founding fathers would probably be horrified that the US has become such a faith-soaked society. The Civil Rights movement was American. So was the Ku Klux Klan. So was FBI’s COINTELPRO. And of course there are religious people in the United States who are against violence as the primary means of implementing policy, and who wouldn’t hurt anyone even if it was tactically beneficial to do so. There’s an entire spectrum of opinion, composed of views that won out at certain times, and other views that prevailed later on. So what counts as “American”? America is an evolving entity, like any country (and countries themselves are formed, dissolved, annexed and merged. They are artificial constructs at the mercy of historical processes and changes – often stochastic, sometimes planned, sometimes inevitable – delineated by artificial borders). By the same token, what counts as “Russian”? Tsarism or Bolshevism? The Orthodox Church, or a spirit of rebellion against the nobility? Who gets to decide? All these things that happen within a country are pertinent to that country, so by definition they all count as “American” or “Russian” or “Japanese”. Saying that something or other is “anti-American” is really little more than saying that you believe in something, and that you think that everyone else should too. Anyone can push anything by invoking the nation-state (and indeed, almost everyone has), and calling anyone who doesn’t like it “un-patriotic” or “anti-American” or “seditious”, or whatever the case may be is really little more than a totalitarian reflex.

  26. 26
    Tommykey

    As if a perfect God would require a 2nd try.Isn’t that what that whole Noah’s Flood thing was all about?

  27. 27
    Tommykey

    Lui, were your comments above meant to respond to something someone wrote in another post?

  28. 28
    Luis

    “Lui, were your comments above meant to respond to something someone wrote in another post?”No, I was making a point about Rhology’s invocation of “anti-American”.

  29. 29
    Matt D.

    Rho,”Historical accuracy, apparently better than you.”Odd that you skipped the specific questions about historical accuracy and offer nothing more than assertions that you’re correct and I’m mistaken.I don’t see one verifiable piece of evidence in your response.”When the accounts of the individual’s life are written decades later, by unknown authors, how do we know their account is reliable?1) B/c they were written by multiple different people.”So what? You have a variety of authors that convert an oral record to a written one. That says nothing about the truth of their accounts. The fact that they don’t all agree on the details should be enough to demonstrate that something isn’t quite right.We have no idea who wrote any of the gospels and no way of verifying the authorship or their reliability.”2) From eyewitness accts.”There are no eyewitness accounts in the Gospels. There are claims that they received the story by people who claim to have been eyewitnesses. My friend told me about a ghost he saw in his attic, that doesn’t make the story true when he told it to me…and if he told several of us and we wrote it down, that doesn’t make it any more true.”3) Hundreds of whom were still alive for asking verification at the time of writing and dispersal.”Yes, and one of the gospels claims that Jesus appeared to multitudes after the resurrection. Odd that we don’t have testimony from any of those people. You’re still using the Bible to support the Bible.Where’s the independent confirmation?”4) B/c they all went on to suffer intense persecution for sthg they would have known for sure was a fraud if it hadn’t happened like that.”Ah, the old “it must be true, or they wouldn’t have been willing martyrs”. What about all the martyrs for other religions?The conviction of the believer has no bearing on the truth of the claim.”When historically verifiable facts in the account don’t exist in any contemporary accounts beyond the selected holy texts, how do we know they happened?1) B/c you want only to treat the Gospel accts with that treatment and exempt other historical accts. Special pleading and inconsistencies don’t usually fly for honest seekers of the truth.”What other historical accounts? There isn’t a single contemporary account of any event specific to the life of Jesus – not one. If you’re going to claim I’m ignoring one – cite it.”2) And certain historical tidbits, places, people, etc are indeed corroborated by other contemporaneous accts and archaeology.”Like…? (Are you just going to keep making assertions? Why not put your fingers in your ears while you do it?)”What about the books that didn’t get voted in?This shows me that you know nothing about the historical process of the canonisation of Scripture. You might want to pick up a book on that.I’d suggest Metzger’s “The Canon of the New Testament” for a good intro.”I’ve read it, and dozens of others. I’ve actually delivered lectures on this very subject. Actually, you’re welcome to download that lecture, if you like.”What about the other potential messiahs?Why would counterfeits that arise after the fact or have radically fundamental differences concern me any more than the existence of $3 bills should make me doubt that real US currency exists?”You should really examine your presuppositions. You casually dismiss the important issue of prophecy (you are aware that he’s supposed to be the Jewish Moshiach…and yet he doesn’t fulfill Jewish prophecy, right?) and just assert the tired old line that Jesus fulfilled them all, you’re convinced you’ve found the ‘real deal’ and need look no further. It’s not about $3 bills. It’s about a stack of $100 bills where, at most, one is legitimate…and potentially none of them are. You’ve found yours, no need to address the others.Like the teller at the convenience store, you’re going to keep relying on that little starch pen no matter how many people try to point out that it simply doesn’t work.”You can’t even demonstrate that he actually existed (not that this is a major objection).To deny He did is another strike against your professed historical knowledge. That’s pretty pitiful.”I didn’t deny it – I said you can’t demonstrate it. The fact that you misrepresent what I said and immediately presume that it’s preposterous to think that he didn’t exist demonstrates your bias and unwillingness to critically examine your beliefs.Exactly what makes you so certain he existed?If questioning his existence demonstrates that my knowledge of history is deficient, it should be a TRIVIAL matter for you to identify the contemporary, extra-Biblical, historical accounts that confirm your beliefs.If you provide them, you’ll be the first.I’m not sure that this discussion is actually going to go anywhere…and I’ve got a bunch of stuff to do this weekend (including a response to that transcendental argument video).If you’ve got the historical evidence and you care about saving my soul – feel free to email it to me: [email protected]

  30. 30
    Rhology

    Lui,I used the term “anti-American” in support of Dawkins. The guy should have the right to speak freely w/o fear of violence or any reprisal that be anythg other than rhetorical/factual. You, being apparently Australian, may not realise that’s often the thrust of that term. Since it’s not contention between us, I’ll just leave it there.Tommy said:Isn’t that what that whole Noah’s Flood thing was all about?No. Matt D said:Odd that you skipped the specific questions about historical accuracy and offer nothing more than assertions that you’re correct and I’m mistaken.You asked specific questions? In this comment? The ones that I then went on to answer? Let the reader judge whether I interacted with them or not. You have a variety of authors that convert an oral record to a written one. That says nothing about the truth of their accounts.They pulled from multiple eyewitnesses, that’s the point. Mark was apparently an eyewitness himself, as were Matthew and John. Those guys were there. Not to mention Peter and probably Jude. The fact that they don’t all agree on the details should be enough to demonstrate that something isn’t quite right.Rather it speaks to the fact that they were different people who emphasised diff parts of the story. Some include certain details that others omit. So what?We have no idea who wrote any of the gospels and no way of verifying the authorship or their reliability.Bare assertion. Yes we do. See how 2 can play the naked assertion game? Why not cite someone who knows what they’re talking about? Do you have some advanced learning in NT scholarship that I don’t know about?There are no eyewitness accounts in the Gospels.So all the stuff that is purported to have come from eyewitnesses is… what? Just lies? What’s the argument for that?My friend told me about a ghost he saw in his attic, that doesn’t make the story true when he told it to meThis reveals that you don’t know what you’re talking about.1) He’s an eyewitness of the ghost, if HE SAW IT.2) You didn’t see it. 3) You’re appealing to an inductive judgment against seeing ghosts, but one occurrence of a ghost-sighting would shift the evidence and thus change the induction. Whether it’s eyewitness testimony and whether the eyewitness is lying are 2 diff issues. You have mixed them up and that’s pretty telling. Odd that we don’t have testimony from any of those people. Paul appeals to them in 1 Cor 15, says “Go ask them if you’re wondering. Most are still alive.”You’re still using the Bible to support the Bible.1) The Bible is not A BOOK. It’s an anthology. 2) You yourself use the term “The Gospels” sometimes and “the Bible” sometimes, apparently as it suits your purpose. 3) Give me an argument why I can’t use the Bible to support the Bible. 4) Then give me an argument why I shouldn’t use one Gospel (ie, one source) to corroborate a diff source.Ah, the old “it must be true, or they wouldn’t have been willing martyrs”. What about all the martyrs for other religions?This is just foolish. I almost said: You are a novice at this, aren’t you? but then I realised you run the iron chariots wiki. I’d’ve expected a lot better from someone like you. Maybe if you slowed down, actually read my arguments, stopped emoting, it would go better. Just some friendly advice. Look at what I said: “4) B/c they all went on to suffer intense persecution for sthg they would have known for sure was a fraud if it hadn’t happened like that.”They were in a position to know that it was a lie, if indeed it were.That’s 100%, totally different. Please, deal with MY arguments, not what you imagine, hope or wish they would be.The conviction of the believer has no bearing on the truth of the claim.Since these are not “conviction of a believer” but rather claims to have seen sthg in real space and time in the past, this is a misstatement. There isn’t a single contemporary account of any event specific to the life of Jesus – not one.Tacitus.Pliny the Younger.And a little more on eyewitness reliability for the NT.Like…? Check Josh McDowell’s “Evidence that Demands a Verdict” for a whole bunch. I think that book is available for cheap. Or maybe even at the public library. Actually, you’re welcome to download that lecture, if you like.Mind linking to it?Or emailing it to me? I have a feeling that I won’t be impressed in the slightest, given that you just threw out the phrase “voted in” for the process of canonisation. Exactly what makes you so certain he existed?The historical evidence.The fact that even the most liberal of liberals – the Jesus Seminar – count it beyond question that He existed and was crucified. If you’ve got the historical evidence and you care about saving my soul Eh, I care, yeah, but I have limited time and resources. I prefer to spend them on people who don’t puff themselves up by bragging about their lectures while making amazing ignorant Dan Brown-esque comments in a simple blog combox. Pearls before swine and all that.Peace,Rhology

  31. 31
    Matt D.

    So, my previous guess that you’re getting your information from Josh McDowell seems to have been correct.I don’t need to go get his books, I’ve already got them. Hell, my parents got me the hardcover ‘New Evidence…’ not knowing I already had them.Neither Tacitus nor Pliny the Younger are contemporaries. Pliny doesn’t address the Biblical story, at all, he only asks for advice on how to deal with Christians. He’s corroboration that Christians existed – not that Christianity is true.Tacitus may have spoken to Christians who may have been eye-witnesses – or he may have simply reported events gleaned from other historians, like Josephus or Pliny (he was reportedly friendly with him).However, the point of the “my friend told me a ghost story” still applies…My friend is claiming to be an eyewitness, something I can’t verify. When I tell the story to someone else, it becomes hearsay – unverifiable on two levels.Tacitus (who reports ON the story and doesn’t attest to it as true) was born decades after the events and only reports on what he hears with regard to those events. He is not a contemporary or an eye-witness.You still haven’t provided a contemporary account or an eye-witness account – you’ve provided hearsay, decades removed from the purported events. That hearsay also ammounts to commentary ABOUT Christians, not any sort of commentary on the factual nature of the CLAIMS of Christians.-Matt

  32. 32
    Tommykey

    In fairness to Rhology, just because something described in the Gospel accounts is not verified in an extra-Biblical source does not mean that it did not happen.If Jesus was a real person, and I lean towards believing that he likely was, it is unclear from the Gospels how long his ministry was. If it was of rather brief duration, I don’t know how much we should expect to see references to him from sources outside of the Gospels. From the perspective of his Jewish contemporaries, he might have been little more than a flash in the pan, making a brief strong impression and then forgotten.Earlier this month, I did a post about some observations I had about the book of Matthew. One thing I noticed was that for a good portion of the book, from the Sermon on the Mount and for many chapters afterwards, it is almost as if Jesus is being followed around in real time. It is quite possible that if there was a real Jesus preaching in the Galilee that there would be a scribe in his itinerary recording hs comings and goings. Of course, it does not mean that the scribe witnessed everything that happened. He could have been told by one of the disciples at the end of the day “Jesus healed x amount of people and cast out x amount of demons.”This leaves open the tantalizing possibility that portions of Matthew are from a contemporary eyewitness or at least fellow traveler in the roving ministry of Jesus. Take the Sermon on the Mount for example. It is rather lengthy and detailed. It is highly unlikely that people who heard the sermon years later would remember it in such precise detail. At best, the author of Matthew would have to hammer out conflicting accounts as best as he could. A second possibility, if one adheres to the Jesus Never Existed theory, is that the author of Matthew attributed a sermon uttered by someone else to a fictional Jesus. Years after the purported events, who could possibly fact check such a thing? The third possibility is that either (a) someone transcribed the sermon as Jesus spoke it, or (b) it was already in written format before Jesus preached it, it having been his standard stump speech. After all, just because it is called the Sermon on the Mount does not mean it was a sermon given only once.That being the case, there are also portions of Matthew that purport to tell of scenes that no one in the itinerary of Jesus could have witnessed, such as Jesus being tempted in the wilderness by the desert, the visit of the Magi to Herod’s court and such. But since my lunchbreak is over, I will have to get to that later.

  33. 33
    Rhology

    Hi Matt D,Oh, I guess I forgot that Pliny and Tacitus were a little later. You’re looking for accts from 0-35 AD or something? OK, my mistake, I don’t know of any extrabiblical accts. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are contemporary accts. 1 Cor 15 is a contemporary acct.My friend is claiming to be an eyewitness, something I can’t verify. When I tell the story to someone else, it becomes hearsay – unverifiable on two levels.Fine, but that has no bearing on the truth of the actual event, as Tommy kindly reminds us. It could either be true or false. Add the disincentive to lie of extreme persecution that was applied to the early Christians, and you’ve got sthg entirely else on your hands.And maybe your time is limited, but there was far more in my comment than just naming Tacitus and Pliny the Y. Tommy said:portions of Matthew that purport to tell of scenes that no one in the itinerary of Jesus could have witnessedIt is easy to presume that Jesus informed the disciples of His trips out to the desert.I mean, the guy was gone for 40 days. Andrew: “Dang, Jesus, where were You?”Jesus: “In the desert, Andrew.”Andrew: “It’s been like 40 days!!!”Jesus: “Yup.”Andrew: “What did You do?”Jesus: “Prayed and fasted, and then the Tempter came to me.”Andrew: “Whoa. What did he do? What did YOU do?”Etc…Matt D, is it really your position that Jesus never even existed? Your answer will help tell me and others how seriously to take you.Peace,Rhology

  34. 34
    Tommykey

    It is easy to presume that Jesus informed the disciples of His trips out to the desert.I mean, the guy was gone for 40 days.Andrew: “Dang, Jesus, where were You?”Jesus: “In the desert, Andrew.”Actually, according to Matthew, Jesus spent forty days in the desert before he met the first of his disciples! C’mon Rhology, I expect better than that from an ardent Bible thumper! ;-)

  35. 35
    Rhology

    Haha, oops. You would appear to be correct.Oh well, point stands. Thanks for the correction, though.

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