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Oct 12 2012

Reply to Stephen Feinstein, final round

This post is part of an ongoing discussion between Russell Glasser and Pastor Stephen Feinstein. Here are all the previous posts in the series.

This is the end of the Stephen Feinstein series.  Comments will be open at the end of this post, so please feel free to provide your thoughts and feedback on this post and the entire series.

“If everything must have a cause, then God must have a cause. If there can be anything without a cause, it may just as well be the world as God, so that there cannot be any validity in that argument. It is exactly of the same nature as the Hindu’s view, that the world rested upon an elephant and the elephant rested upon a tortoise; and when they said, ‘How about the tortoise?’ the Indian said, ‘Suppose we change the subject.’” –Bertrand Russell, Why I Am Not a Christian


“Wherever I traveled and met believers, I heard the same responses to my simple question of how they knew that their god or gods existed. The faces, dress, accents, and temples varied greatly, but the reasons for belief did not. The fact that all these people around the world believe in contradictory gods and conflicting religions means that some of them must be wrong. They cannot all be correct. And if some people can be sincerely mistaken on this, all can be.” –Guy P. Harrison, author of 50 Reasons People Give for Believing In a God and other skeptic-themed books

Since this post serves as my closing statement, I’m going to take this opportunity to offer a bird’s eye view of the whole conversation, and the concept of presuppositional apologetics in general, before I get into the  details of Stephen’s final post.

In religious apologetics, the more things change, the more they stay the same.  24 centuries ago in Laws, Plato speculated that since some things move, there must be a first mover in the universe that set everything else in motion.  He concluded, “And of the seasons, stars, moon, and year, in like manner, it may be affirmed that the soul or souls from which they derive their excellence are divine; and without insisting on the manner of their working, no one can deny that all things are full of Gods. No one.”

Ten centuries ago, the Persian Muslim philosopher Avicenna made a similar plea towards the first cause argument to prove that one true God must exist.  That God, of course, was Allah.

800 years ago,  Thomas Aquinas similarly attempted to justify God through pure, context-free logic, using five arguments that used different wording but had the same structure for all of them.  He referred to them in Quinque Viae as (1) The Argument of the Unmoved Mover, (2) The Argument of the First Cause, (3)  The Argument from Contingency, (4) The Argument from Degree, and (5) The Teleological Argument.  All five of these took the same basic form: That there must be a first thing that moves stuff, creates stuff, makes stuff necessary, is bigger and better, and designs stuff.  Aquinas concluded that this was the God of the Christian Bible, of course.

From the ancient Greeks onward, many civilizations have seriously believed that it was possible to determine fundamental truths about the nature of reality without coming into direct contact with any part of reality.  That is to say, if you could use mathematical deductions, philosophical arguments, and logical inferences to make a case then you don’t need to learn anything from the natural world; you can just conclude things about it.  Usually, of course, the desired conclusion is a God of some sort, although needless to say, which God varies widely.

Funnily enough though, attributing every unknown to God has had a terrible track record.  It ends investigation rather than beginning it.  My favorite example is the Egyptian god Ra, who was favored as the explanation for causing the sun to rise and set.  Ra would ride across the sky from east to west in his barge, carrying the sun with him, and in the evening he would go underneath the earth in a series of tunnels in order to return to the east again.

Not only was this the wrong answer, it wasn’t even the right question.  The sun, of course, does not actually move across the sky at all; a fact discovered and refined, not by divine revelation, but by the following centuries of observation and analysis. Answering questions about misunderstood phenomena by claiming absolute knowledge of magic forces at work is great for providing superficially satisfying answers.  It is also great for experiencing unwavering confidence about those superficial answers.  It has no proven track record at all when it comes to finding answers that are reliable in the long term.

Even apart from religion, the application of so-called “pure reason” in the absence of experiment has led to centuries of serious misinformation about the nature of the universe.  Aristotle was utterly convinced that heavy objects fell faster than light objects, because it just seemed obvious.  It took over 1900 years before Galileo corrected that record.

Scientific inquiry resulted in the discovery of the structure of the solar system and eventually the existence of other galaxies.  Religious officials jailed the proponents of such discoveries.  The Renaissance and subsequent Enlightenment brought about an explosion of scientific discoveries, in areas including life-extending medicine, harnessing the power of electricity, and rapid transportation.  These in turn brought about the advancements of the modern world, including our ability to detect and measure behavior at near light speeds and subatomic sizes, near-instantaneous communication from anywhere on the planet, and awesome games like Call of Duty.

Basically, science won.  The Bible existed for a couple of thousand years, stuffed full of speculative answers and talking snakes and parting seas, before scientists set about the business of actually observing reality and reverse engineering how things work.  At this point in history, the credibility of science is so well established that religious advocates, who were once able to proclaim truth by fiat, have clamored in the last century to wrap themselves in the mantle of science in order to maintain some of their perceived authority.

Consider the history of American creationism in the last hundred years.  Prior to the 1925 Scopes trial, the Tennessee law simply outlawed “any theory that denies the story of the Divine Creation of man as taught in the Bible” – tacit official acceptance of Biblical stories as reality.  By the 1960′s, the creationist movement adapted by calling themselves “scientific creationism” in order to piggyback on the authority of the word “scientific.”  And by the 1990′s, under the banner of “Intelligent Design,” the creationist movement sought to cover up the fundamental religious nature of creationism entirely, although that connection was decisively re-established in the Dover trial.  In similar fashion, religious advocates throughout the 20th and early 21st centuries have tried to retroactively align themselves with the lingo of science, even if they bypassed most of the methods.

…That is, until we get to presuppositional apologists like Stephen Feinstein.


One thing I can say about this debate is that it has greatly increased my awareness of the tactics of presuppositional apologetics.  Unlike much of modern evangelism, presuppositionalism is an unrepentant throwback to a simpler time, when you could simply ignore evidence and assume that “pure logic” can lead you to a desired tangible conclusion, devoid of any connection to the observed world.

You’ll recall that the way I started my end of this debate was with a suggestion that both sides acknowledge the success of the basic principles of science, and should accept them as a legitimate way of finding things out.  Stephen, repeatedly, said no.  He insisted that science cannot work unless we agree that science “presupposes” a God to work.

Repeatedly I’ve rejected this premise as both unwarranted and muddled.  I challenged Stephen to explain how any being could manufacture logic.  He did not explain it.  I asked Stephen to justify his own assumption that the lack of God would invalidate logic.  He did not justify it.  I asked Stephen to “account for” his God in the same sense that he demanded the rest of us “account for” logic.  He did not account for it. What he did was repeat the same claim, over and over again, in an increasingly verbose fashion but never in a way that staked out any reason for his positions.

What we are left with is Stephen coming across as if he assumed that scientists are idiots.  His primary recollection of his biology class, and his summary of the whole field, is dismissed with the nonsensical and inaccurate phrase, “time + chance equals an orderly universe and life.”  He discards most of his erroneous understanding of biology as a “fairy tale.”  According to his final post, denying the existence of God is nearly as egregious as denying the law of contradiction.

Yet Stephen seems to revel in making arguments which are essentially incoherent.  He taunts:

“…I am starting to think that the presuppositional argument is going over your head. Your comments demonstrate that you simply have not understood it.”

Herein lies the key difference between an argument by a religious apologist perspective, and one coming from a scientific mindset.  In order to “win” at the long term goal of reaching well-grounded scientific truths, it is necessary to make arguments that are accessible to others, testable, and repeatable.  A scientific paper that bragged that its readers are too dumb to comprehend the author’s wisdom would fail to advance its subject.  Unless the conclusions of the paper could be demonstrated and applied, it wouldn’t receive any references in secondary sources, and the idea would meet a well deserved demise.

Examining the following paragraph provides an ample summary of essentially the only argument that Stephen has tried to advance in five posts.

“So here we are, using these mental laws that seem universal among sentient minds, and yet we did not create these laws, but we know that the existence of our mind is the necessary precondition to access them.”

This is question begging of the worst kind.  Accessing the laws of logic may well require a mind, since “accessing” implies the process of a mind describing them.  This tells us nothing about whether rules such as “A is A” and “A thing cannot exist and not exist simultaneously” hold true in reality; the ability of minds to “access” them is in no way required to cause them to be true.

“If they did not originate in us, but our use of logic is contingent (caused, sustained, and determined by factors outside of us), and yet logic is a product of mind and thought, then our derivative and contingent logic also needs a necessary being as the ground of logic. Logic exists because God exists. God cannot arbitrarily make a square circle because a square objectively has four sides whereas a circle has none, and these exist this way because the logical mind of God determined this as a product of His mind.”

And even here in his own formulation of the argument, Stephen demonstrates why his requirement that “God” must exist to create logic is both meaningless and self-contradictory.  Stephen asserts that “God cannot arbitrarily make a square circle.”  Why not?  If God had “created” the laws of logic, then there must have been a point where they did not apply.  Even in describing the creation of logic, Stephen is stuck with the assumption that God is bound by them.

The bottom line is that Stephen believes that all things require a creator… except when they don’t.  He wants you to believe that it is impossible and absurd for logic to simply stand on its own without a justification, but when asked to supply the justification for God, he becomes strangely petulant.  ”I told you that God is necessary!” he insists.  ”Why can’t you understand that if I describe something as necessary, I don’t have to account for it anymore?”

Later, he asserts:

“…you are a finite man with a three-pound brain who possess no exhaustive knowledge of any single thing. You cannot even possess exhaustive knowledge of a single square inch of earth, since that would require total knowledge of each subatomic particle in the past, present, and future along with the conditions immediately above and below that inch. Autonomous human knowledge is actually epistemologically impossible.”

Somehow, this all-encompassing ignorance of a finite man with a three-pound brain is disregarded when it comes to the confident claim that we can know the existence of the unobserved God with complete certainty.

Try as Stephen might, he can’t make it a universal law that all things need a cause, since that would contradict his conclusion about God.  And once we grant that some things are simply self-existing, there’s no justification for refusing to recognize the laws of logic as being in that category, or for ruling out something as inexplicable and ungodlike as a magic tiara to kick everything off.  Finally, without the necessity of logic having a creator, Stephen has no argument.


So.  Here’s the key question at the end of the day: Are Stephen’s arguments convincing?  Or to put it another way, after ten posts, who “wins”?

Is this a meaningful question?  In his last two posts, Stephen declared victory approximately 5,387 times.  Obviously one method of determining the outcome would be to simply count the number of statements of victory.  If I thought that was a good method then I could simply copy and paste the words “I win” 5,388 times before wrapping up this post.

That wouldn’t be terribly satisfying, though.  We’ve all known all along that both Stephen and I will wind up equally convinced that we had the best arguments.  Stephen tried to throw in some other metrics at various times; for instance, at one point he seems to believe that the debate should be judged based on whose posts were completed in the shortest amount of time.  There are plenty of other equally relevant methods we could use; personally, I kind of like this one.

Take THAT, laws of logic!

It seems to me, though, that the point of an argument is actually to convince other people of something they didn’t already think, based on the strength of your arguments.  In my previous post I actually suggested some more straightforward ways to evaluate the debate: We could submit it to a popular vote.  We could bring in a single highly educated person who is agnostic, but has a strong background in philosophy or logic.  We could let the guy who introduced us to each other give his thoughts on the arguments.

Of course, Stephen rejected all of these proposals, complaining that all of them favored me.  And maybe he’s got a point.  The Atheist Experience does have a much bigger audience than Soli Deo Gloria, a brand new blog, for now… though of course, the real question would have been whether Stephen’s arguments convinced anyone to switch teams.  Philosophy professors don’t tend to be incredibly impressed by anti-scientific apologetic arguments.  And our mutual friend, who was an atheist to begin with, seems to have been singularly irritated with Stephen’s responses for as long as I’ve been in touch with him.

So maybe the results of the debate are strongly weighted in my favor, but that’s hardly my fault.  What’s interesting to me is the emotional force with which Stephen, who is so certain in his own mind that he is “winning” somehow, rejected any attempts at measuring his victory.

“First off, truth does not reduce to a matter of majority rules. If so, then imagine if a Jew debated a Nazi in 1936, and then it was left up to the masses to determine who won. I wonder how that one would have turned out?”

Holy moly!  Apparently if we allow this debate to have a judge at all, then I’m just like a Nazi!!  That’s one of the best invocations of Godwin’s Law that I’ve ever seen!  (“As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1.”)

But wait a minute.  Sure, the truth of a proposition is not determined by majority opinion; and sure, the truth of a scientific fact is not solely evaluated based on its popularity among scientists.  But surely the main point of a debate is to convince others of the strength of your claims.  If Stephen didn’t think he could change any minds by making these arguments, then why did he bother?  If we had had this debate in front of his church, odds are good that most of the people in there would have remained Christians.  But I still would be willing to debate him there, and I personally would be fascinated to know whether any of the audience members felt at least a bit less certain about the strength of their case than they did before we started.  If having his arguments evaluated by others is so upsetting, then why else are we here?

Stephen concludes with an all too familiar apologist’s endgame, making a Hail Mary pass to appeal to fear and emotion:

“My only suggestion to you is that you repent of your sin and trust the Lord Jesus Christ for the salvation of your soul. You are a guilty sinner who has broken the holy God’s laws, and as a result you will one day stand before Him in judgment. Yet, in His grace and mercy, Jesus Christ, the second person of the Trinity, paid the debt of sinners by bearing their punishment. By receiving such grace by faith, your sins are forever removed because the substitute paid the fine for them, and in return you will receive the credit of every righteous thing Jesus did. For He was the only one to perfectly obey God’s holy standards. To place faith in Christ leads to justification, where God declares a person righteous because of Christ’s righteousness being imputed into their account. Russell, and your followers, I exhort you to repent and receive this grace. If you do, you will receive the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (third person of the Trinity) as the gift, and you will then know by experience the things I have written about. The choice is yours.”

Let me see, how does this script end?  Oh yes, I know, because I’ve read Jack Chick tracts.

Jack Chick: "The Bully"

Or wait, what if I don’t fall for this line?  I guess this.

Jack Chick: "This Was Your Life!"

Very convincing!  …Except we’re not comic book characters.

Jack Chick comics are so loaded with smugness that sometimes the comics themselves, in self-referential fashion, show people reading the comics and being converted by them.  I think that’s what presuppositionalism hopes to achieve.  Ultimately, it seems that the point is not so much to make a serious effort at changing minds; it’s using flowery language to make the point sound intelligent, which serves mainly to bolster the comfort levels of people who are already inclined to  believe that their assumption of a God is rational.

Presuppositionalists don’t present evidence.  They balk at the notion that they should attempt to persuade.  They delight in impenetrable quasi-philosophical wankery.  They toss in little jibes like “You know in your heart of hearts that I am right.”  And then they go for the big finish with the “On your knees, sinner!” speech.

When all is said and done, we might as well be trying to convince people in the modern world that Ra is still necessary to explain the movement of the sun.

143 comments

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  1. 1
    Jon F

    Personally I always preferred the idea of Hati and Skoll chasing the sun and moon. Darn those astronomers and physicists for disproving ideas and advancing knowledge of celestial motion.

  2. 2
    Mindy Kyriakides

    I posed a question in one of my online classes when we were discussing “mental models”. My question was:

    “What do you do when your assumption/belief/lack of belief is valid?”

    Of course, we weren’t discussing religion, but we were discussing the way people behave. In this case, it was how a classmate’s co-workers responded to a call for volunteers. My classmate was surprised to find that her co-workers at her job were less than enthusiastic. She was floored that no one wanted to help her with her project.

    My mental model of any sort of proposed volunteer anything in a workplace is expect the “groans and moans and bitches”, and be prepared to work without them. She was adamant that she wasn’t going to do anything by herself and so on, and thus, she was pretty pissed.

    You have laid out a case that fully justifies your mental model of lack of belief. Yet, Stephen persists.

    What do you do when your mental model is valid, and the other person refuses to concede to its validity?

    I guess we could say that the arguments you’ve posed throughout may help another person. : )

  3. 3
    heicart

    While online posters could always lie, maybe it would be a good metric to open it up to a unique brand of “voting” wherein people are only allowed to vote positively for arguments against their prior positions?

    So, a theist could post to say, not if they were deconverted, but if they saw actual merit any any of the atheist presented points.

    And vice versa–atheists would be allowed to comment where they thought that the theist side of the debate made any superior points.

    Obviously if anyone was actually swayed to convert or deconvert, that could also be considered, but I’m doubtful that would occur over the span of a single argument, which I why I suggest that either team judge the opposing team’s merit on points rather on 100% persuasion?

    1. 3.1
      ashleybell

      Yeah. I keep thinking there has to be some kind of game theory model that could be put together as a set of rules that would give ‘honest’ results. I can’t remember if it was in this exchange or another where ‘our side’ couldn’t even get the opposition to agree that there was such a thing as “reality”. He wanted to set up a soggy field for ease in goal post moving. I would love to see a test put forward that both sides of an argument have to take that would determine who was or wasn’t capable/ willing to argue in good faith.

      1. ashleybell

        I would say though that religious belief cannot, by it’s nature be defended with arguments made in good faith

  4. 4
    Jasper of Maine

    He can claim he won all he wants. The contrast of that versus your rational critical-thinking approach will only work against him, ultimately.

    When one is so far down the rabbit hole, there’s little point in trying to rescue that person, but the degree that you utterly laid out the arguments should be apparent to others.

    When the argument comes down to :

    “God is necessary and doesn’t need to be accounted for?”
    “Then why can’t logic just be accounted for?”
    “That’s lunacy!”

    It’s no contest. He’s got nothing – nothing but assertions.

    1. 4.1
      Jasper of Maine

      “Then why can’t logic just be accounted for necessary ?”

  5. 5
    JoshL

    I just want to say i applaud you for taking the time to debate. Feinstein didn’t offer anything compelling and it was extremely difficult to get through. Your responses were really good and I think you pointed out his bullshit well.

    1. 5.1
      jmd777

      presuppositional evangelism requires no proof of a real god, just philosophical points that ‘prove’ their god exists is sufficient to not only claim victory in every debate, but to completely ignore any and all challenges to that thinking.

      there is no requirement to prove any other holy text wrong, or to prove theirs is right anymore. it allows them to claim a young earth inspite of over-whelming science that proves otherwise. they can’t lose any debate because they are the only ones who have the truth, and logic, as we have seen, is intrinsically a god thing, though Stephen has yet to prove that either…

      thank you Russell for enduring this load of rubbish for us so we can absorb the essence of the bullshit lies the christian is now armed with!

      (i copied this from my posting it on another page)

  6. 6
    Stevarious, Public Health Problem

    We could submit it to a popular vote. We could bring in a single highly educated person who is agnostic, but has a strong background in philosophy or logic. We could let the guy who introduced us to each other give his thoughts on the arguments.

    Of course, Stephen rejected all of these proposals, complaining that all of them favored me.

    Much wiser persons than I have pointed out in the past that the point of presuppositional arguments are not to convince non-believers to believe, but to convince believers that they are justified in believing. That is to say, the only way you can find these arguments convincing is if you already believe that they are true, and want to be convinced by them.

    And even then they are not always successful, because of course presuppositional arguments are just raw assertion after raw assertion with nothing to back them up.

    1. 6.1
      jmd777

      this guy sounds as loony as eric hovind does! no, i don’t want evidence as I AM RIGHT ON EVERY POINT AND NOTHING YOU SAY IS EVER GOING TO BE CORRECT AS I AM ALWAYS RIGHT…

      sorry about the caps..

  7. 7
    AndersJ

    Even a win by some skewed popular vote would be much better than a self proclaimed one!

    I think Stephen failed to convince other people that “atheism is untenable, irrational, and ultimately impossible.”

  8. 8
    KarateMonkey

    One of the most interesting points I would have loved to have seen explored further is the contrast between his pre-supistional arguments and standard creationist arguments he clearly buys into.

    One the one hand he’s trying to argue that without assuming god we can’t assume any sort of uniformity in nature. Everything could just change at random from instant to instant.

    One the other hand, when he did start to get into some standard creation science arguments you get arguments like, “And without uniformitarianism, you lose deep time, and without deep time, you lose macroevolution.” You can’t just go assuming that radioactive half-lives stay constant, or that the speed of light has always been the same, or that micro-evolution can pile up to macro-evolution. God is at work here.

    1. 8.1
      Hairy Chris, blah blah blah etc

      That’s what really confuses me. “We need God to explain a consistent universe…. oh, but there are miracles, talking snakes and burning bushes too.”

      Make your bloody mind up. A god that can arbitrarily interfere in causality blows any talk of consistency out of the water.

      Although what is depressingly consistent is that god is always treated as an exception!

      1. ashleybell

        My argument is that if god created the laws of the universe AND performs miracles, then he is conceding failure at having done a shitty job creating the laws of the universe.

  9. 9
    bryanfeir

    [...] you will one day stand before Him in judgment.

    And one response to that would be (though admittedly buying into his framing):

    I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with senses, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use and by some other means to give us knowledge which we can attain by them.
    – Galileo Galilei

    Of course, I’m sure that Feinstein here has convinced himself that he is using his reason rather than justifying going around in circles.

  10. 10
    Chad

    Russel,

    Well done. I’ve enjoyed this series. Thank you for cutting through all of the “wankery”. To paraphrase Mugatu, I felt like I was on crazy pills while reading Stephen’s posts.

    Presup apologetics are sophistry at its worst.

  11. 11
    Eight Foot Manchild

    Presuppositional apologetics : Philosophy

    as

    Creationism : Science

    1. 11.1
      Kaj

      Six words summarize the argument so well.

  12. 12
    harrysanborn

    “Answering questions about misunderstood phenomena by claiming absolute knowledge of magic forces at work is great for providing superficially satisfying answers.”

    This is where you nailed it. He is not arguing to convert others. He’s arguing to give believers a suitable model on which to hang their cognitive dissonance.

  13. 13
    michael b

    Well done Russell! You certainly demonstrated the patience of Job going through the Pastor’s posts. My only suggestion would have been that at the beginning, a word limit – never have I read so much that said so little. I found it very difficult to read Stephen’s posts and not once did I see his argument as to why atheism is impossible, untenable, and whatever else he called it. Any thoughts of inviting him to join the TV program a la Ray Comfort?

  14. 14
    troopdawg

    “Ultimately, it seem that the point is not so much to make a serious effort at changing minds; it’s using flowery language to make the point sound intelligent”

    THIS

    Also,

    “A scientific paper that bragged that its readers are too dumb to comprehend the author’s wisdom would fail to advance its subject.”

    THIS!!!

    Rob made claims in his first post, Russell poked holes all over, then Rob comes back with “You don’t understand”. This is basically the back and forth from beginning to end. From my perspective, it was Rob missing the point and instead of backing up to fix the holes Russell poked, he just continued on with his idea to the end.

    It’s like a caller who calls in to prove God exists but when he finds out one of his ‘facts’ is completely wrong, he drops his evidence and goes to the ‘God still exists’.

    Commends to Russell for doing a great job. If only Obama would have been as good at calling out Bullshit as Russell debates!! LOL

    Russel for pres?? Can we have a national gamer day if so??

    Cheers everyone!!

  15. 15
    Martin Wagner

    (slow clap) Well played, Russell.

    Presuppositionalism isn’t argumentation, it’s obfuscation.

  16. 16
    Strider

    Would you post more of that Chick tract? Because in those few panels there was neither a “Haw!” nor a “Yaaaah!” nor an “Aieee!” and I am left wanting more.

    1. 16.1
      Hairy Chris, blah blah blah etc

      Masochist!

    2. 16.2
      VanRado

      That was the most awesome Chick tract ever!

      I would have liked to see more of a fight though.

  17. 17
    jhendrix

    I’ve followed the series back and forth, and it’s a shame that things never went beyond the “Logic is necessary vs. God is necessary” stage. There is actually a lot that I think we atheists can learn about philosophy as a result of having to refute the bullshit that is presuppositional apologetics.

    For reference, I think you’ve completely got the right of it Russell, logic is fundamentally necessary due to the nature of the universe. It’s demonstrably necessary because much like the Cartesian fact that “I exist” is something we know with absolute certainty because of the impossibility of the contrary.

    There is a fantastic video series on YouTube dealing with Presuppositional Apologetics of a particular stripe, but the video creator goes on to explain and show how/why Logic is necessary and explained on a materialist worldview (I think he tackles that in video 3 of this series). I really recommend it:

  18. 18
    ericvon germania

    Great debate!! Both were really good. I am kind of a strong agnostic, but I have to give the victory to Russel for Feinstein didn’t convince me that atheism is untenable, irrational and impossible and that was what he was supposed to do. Moreover I would say that Feinstein disqualified himself in the end in making an appeal for repentance, etc. he didn’t show that the god that could be possible has something to do in any matter with the bible.

    1. 18.1
      brianpansky

      equivocation fallacy with the word “random”

      that is really all I have to say about the reasoning ability, philosophical rigor, and language comprehension of the aptly titled pastor Stephen Feinstein.

      1. brianpansky

        err.. didn’t mean to reply to you. Though I will say I agree with you.

        Stephen’s objective was to make a convincing case that atheism is totally irrational. He made little headway with that, but also you point out he leaped far ahead of his own progress. So far ahead he leaped that it was clear out of bounds.

        That gap between where he jumped (off of argument building) and where he landed (out of bounds) was quite astounding.

        1. ericvon germania

          Right.

          It reminds me when I went to a conference, in a University, by William Craig. We were evangelical christians, atheists and agnostics.

          So Craig started to talk like a philosopher about the proofs of the existence of a god. He was saying that Big bang and evolution happened, so he lost all the evangelical christians, but kept the attention of the atheists and agnostics.

          Then like in the last 20 minutes of the conference abracadabra “and Jesus died on the cross for your sins”. How that he jump to that? And that guy is suppose to be intelligent or does he thinks we are a bunch of idiots?

          So I guess the only friend he had that day way to his hotel was his wife…and “the crucified”.

          1. Ed Olalde

            Craig is one of the best examples of semantic flowery there is.

            If you actually listen to what he is trying to say, you catch up inmediatly to what baiscally are a lot of claims that are intended to be strictly correct, but completely pointless in essence.

            Forexample, in at least a couple of debates I’ve seen, he starts of saying that he is going to demonstrate that if god exist then the Universe has a purpose, and if it doesn’t exist, it has no purpose.
            In the first place, he actually fails to logically demosntrate either of those two points, but even if he did, it would be a completely pointless effort, since nowhere it says that the Universe HAS to have a purpose (and therefore proving god if he actually managed to prove his points).

            In Craig we have another example similar to what’s going on with Feinstein. They talk a lot, but say very little. An even when they actually say something, it’s generally a pointless claim intented to give the whole text or speech a sense of logical soundness that otherwise is missing across the board.

            I have to say I’ve seen this behaviour in several debates I’ve had on this matter, but I also have to say that I’ve seen it on deists, not theists, since this kind of semantic flowery is generally present on people at least a little trained on logic, and I really think at this point that there is something that pretty much any intelectually honest person can agree on: there is no logical argument whatsoever that can support a theistic view of the world. It contradicts itself in so many ways that you can’t really aspire to make a sound argumnt supporting it, and everyone that defends it comes down to make these extremely elaborated exuses for what it’s obviuosly just a contraidction in itself.

            You kind of can make a reasonable argument for deism. Not really, since there is no evidence to support it and you have to make a couple of nasty assumptions that aren’t easy to swallow in any sense, but well, it isn’t completely unreasonable.
            But for theism… There is no excuse. It just doesn’t add up with what we know about the world. It’s really that simple.

      2. LykeX

        Equivocation fallacies are remarkably common in the apologist crowd. Stephen commits another one on the subject of logic; conflating the fact of logic with the mental description of it.
        I.e. the fact that A does not equal not-A vs. the sentence “A does not equal not-A.” The latter is a product of a mind, the former is not (or, if we’re being charitable, has not been shown to be).

        Personally, I don’t think they realize that they’re doing it. I’m of the opinion that these people are so sloppy in their thinking they simply don’t realize when they’re lying to themselves.

        1. EnlightenmentLiberal

          @LykeX
          I’m not sure I follow. You may be taking a kind of Platonic Realist approach, and if you are, and I think you are, then you’ve already lost me.

          1. LykeX

            Platonic? Heaven forbid. Apparently I didn’t make myself entirely clear. I’m simply distinguishing between a fact and the human recognition of that fact and it’s a distinction that I think Stephen is muddying by claiming that logic is a product of minds.

            The fact that A does not equal not-A is not obviously a product of a mind and when Stephen contends that it is created by a mind (god’s specifically) he needs to show that. He can’t simply assert it.
            The sentence “A does not equal not-A” and the human understanding that it represents is the product of human minds, but that’s uncontroversial and quite irrelevant to the first point.

            I think that Stephen is equivocating by using the word “logic” for both and not sufficiently distinguishing between them. E.g.

            using these mental laws that seem universal among sentient minds, and yet we did not create these laws, but we know that the existence of our mind is the necessary precondition to access them…
            and yet logic is a product of mind and thought

            He doesn’t seem to recognize that the actual law, i.e. the physical reality that something cannot be what it is not, is not a mental law. The mental law reflects the reality. The mental law is the product of a mind recognizing the reality.

            If he wants to say that the reality is the product of a mind (and he obviously does), he needs to demonstrate that. It seems that he think he has done so simply by the fact that the mental law is a product of a mind. Thus, equivocation, consciously or not.

  19. 19
    andrewryan

    Stephen: “after that it took nearly five weeks to get a response from Russell. I am sorry, but for all of the bravado, why is it taking so long? If these arguments of mine are so easy to dismiss and counter then we shouldn’t be seeing this kind of delayed time. We’re both busy men. The time it takes to receive responses betrays the confidence and bravado in Russell’s responses.”

    Why’d it take so long? Stephen admits himself “we’re both busy men”. That’s the only answer required. But perhaps there was a law of diminishing returns – the more obvious and repetitive Stephen’s arguments became, the less enthused and keen Russell was to bother engaging in them. For me, it’s the better arguments that get me fired up. I dawdle or give up when the other guy starts offering junk.

    Thanks for the debate Russell. I’ve enjoyed all your responses.

    1. 19.1
      Jasper of Maine

      Russell took so long because he was scared. His atheism was crumbling and he couldn’t face the music. He was about to have a Chick Tract moment.

      1. Russell Glasser

        Darn, you caught me.

  20. 20
    cazarellagates

    Russ, you showed a great deal of class and patience towards your opponent. Stephen’s argument began as so many apologist arguments do; cordial and intellectual in tone, but as you eventually find out- not so much in scope.The discussion has dragged on for several weeks if not months that could’ve been saved by a Chick Tract sayng you were going to hell if you didn’t repent. Thanks for posting this.

  21. 21
    OverlappingMagisteria

    Russel,

    I’m a bit confused as to why you repeatedly stated that the universe is governed by random chance. That doesn’t seem at all li-

    Oh wait… I’m sorry. I was reading the imaginary posts that Stephen was looking at.

    Good job!

  22. 22
    fuse

    Thank you Russell for having this online debate
    with Stephen. At first I thought this was going to
    be a good honest debate but quickly I saw that
    Stephen was simply insisting upon assumptions of
    God’s existence without any substance. I will admit
    I was quite frustrated reading all of Stephen’s
    chest-pounding, completely counter productive.
    Stephen made such bold assertions in the beginning,
    promises he will prove these assertions, then
    pounds his chest for awhile all the while not
    saying anything at all but keeps on asserting time
    and time again that it’s all been said and that
    we’re all idiots. I was very satisfied with your
    closing Russell, it turned this entire project into a lesson of what we are all dealing with out there in the world. People like Stephen exist.
    Its a scary prospect that him and people
    like him are making decisions based on these
    illogical, unprovable beliefs, faith… the word
    drips venom into our society. Furthmore, I was surprised you didn’t let him get to you more, time and time again I saw him putting words into your mouth and misunderstanding your entire statements. You ask for proof, he goes on and on about being tricked, smoke and mirrors, how he has you where he wants you and is winning, insisting and insisting and insisting and yet not saying anything at all etc… he’s frustrating. Again, your closing made this all worth while.

    Well done and thank you

    1. 22.1
      wholething

      Stephen was simply insisting upon assumptions of
      God’s existence without any substance.

      That’s presuppositionalism!

  23. 23
    liebore

    This debate was worth the while just to expose Stephen’s “unity of plurality / god is a trinity” argument in his third post. It is difficult to believe there is anyone who could be convinced that there is some fundamental inconsistency with a galaxy being both a single unit as well as a plurality of stars, and that the only way we can make sense of that is to understand that universe’s creator is simultaneously one god and three entities. I can’t recall ever seeing a better demonstration of religion attempting to fix a problem that never existed in the first place.

    Great job on the debate, Russell. I found your writing and argumentative style to be very complementary to this format. I hope this is only the first of a series of “Russell’s atheist smackdowns.”

  24. 24
    m6wg4bxw

    My first encounter with presuppositional apologetics was Sye Ten Bruggencate and Eric Hovind on the Magic Sandwich Show. I watched it all, and was thoroughly astonished that anyone would attempt to defend a position by saying such stupid things. I don’t even understand the purpose of an argument when the basis is presupposition.

    Because of that experience, I questioned the benefit of this debate with Stephen Feinstein. If one presupposes the truth of his position, it is necessarily true that he also presupposes the falsity of anything his opponents have to offer. Why bother?

    I don’t know if Russell saw or heard about the show I mentioned. I think it reveals the weakness of the position moreso than this 10-part debate.

    1. 24.1
      mike

      I also watched that “debate” and without a doubt it was the most aggravating show I’ve ever seen. They should have cut him off, i.e. terminate his connection, as he was basically calling everyone liars saying they all really believed/knew there was a god. That Sye Ten Whatever was an idiot and its too bad AronRa lost his voice, as he would have really let him have it

      1. m6wg4bxw

        In my opinion, the presuppositional apologetics was the worst part of the show, with AronRa as a close second place. He seems to have many fans in this community, but I’m not one of them.

  25. 25
    Warrix

    dont really have anything else to say that hasn’t been said by previous commenters. thanks for the debate. it was a learning experience.

  26. 26
    Travers

    Well-done, Mr Glasser, on your very well-written replies. I found Feinstein’s posts to be impenetrably obtuse, and it was on after reading your replies that I understood the points he was trying to make.

    I don’t understand how anyone can claim that apologetics is an intellectually respectable discipline when this tripe is the best it can come up with.

  27. 27
    Tim H.

    Ah, but Russell, you’re forgetting something very important:

    God logic Jesus particles God reason universe creation epistemology presuppositionalist creator ethics atheist Jesus worldview intrinsic Psalms contingent materialism knowledge Moses therefore concept determined metaphysical God you reality cosmology necessary fallacy!

    How does it feel to be so consistently wrong?

  28. 28
    IgnominiousDetractor

    Stephen had absolutely nothing to offer but the endless redundancy of drudgingly reaffirmed, convoluted assertions. I can’t imagine that any atheist would be convinced by what he has said. Unfortunately it’s the dishonesty and inaccuracies that apologists like Stephen present that convince many theists that their beliefs are reasonable and worth retaining. I’ve met intelligent theists and the only thing gluing them to their beliefs despite their intelligence is apologetics. Russel did an excellent job countering it all; his arguments are much more likely to convince the opposition. Poor Stephen is way too full of himself to ever be convinced; too many theists are grounded to apologetics to a seemingly inescapable extent.

  29. 29
    Mike de Fleuriot

    What I have never seen, ever, is a theist explaining why there needs to be a creator. Yes, I understand that most every thing needs a creator, but all this shows is that we understand how everything that we can see was created. And none of the things we understand how they were created require a god to be involved, which leads one to think that anything that we do not know it was made, most likely will also not require a god to make it.

    As Russell said, saying God did it, ends the investigation. Unless you can show how God made it, that answer is of no value. Does anyone have a good reason why there must be an ultimate mover of things?

  30. 30
    EnlightenmentLiberal

    Man, Stephen makes my brain hurt.

    Let me do a quick reply on a small point. brianpansky already called it, but let me expand on it.

    sovereignway.blogspot.com/2012/07/debating-atheist-round-three.html

    Your fundamental assumption is that the universe is governed by random chance. How in the world can randomness account for uniformity? They are antonyms! Science depends on predication, reliability of the senses, reliability of the mind, etc., and all of these things depend on the material universe operating with predictable, uniform, and unchanging laws. Yet, true randomness by its very definition would forbid predictability; it would disallow uniformity. Yet you would ask people to believe that a universe governed by random chance is at the same time completely uniform and predictable. If the universe were truly random, then no two things should happen in a predictable manner. Yet, the fact that the universe is uniform and predictable (an assumption we both agreed upon) means that the universe CANNOT be random.

    Stephen is equivocating, aka playing word games, aka making argument by conflating and confusing the definitions of words. This argument is the most convoluted example of a Dan Dennett deepity I have ever seen. Instead of conflating and confusing only two distinct definitions, this argument confuses at least 5.

    The first sense of the word “uniformity”: not “random chance” (whatever that means, see below). The second sense of the word “uniformity”: a universe where science works, in the sense of the principle of uniformity. The third sense of the word “uniformity”: the apparent design in the world around us (in the usual intelligent design creationist sense).

    The first sense of the terms “random chance” and “true randomness”: quantum theory. The second sense of the terms “random chance” and “true randomness”: a universe where science does not work.

    Ex: In one sense, it is true that you cannot have “true random” and “uniformity”, where “true random” means science does not work and where “uniformity” means science does work. It’s trivial. In another sense, it is false that you cannot have “true random” and “uniformity”, where “true random” means quantum theory and “uniformity” means either science works, or the apparent design in the world around us (in the usual intelligent design creationist sense). This is the deep part, and it’s simply false.

    This argument is so convoluted and confused that I have to call Poe’s Law – I can’t tell whether he’s this confused, or if he is being purposefully confusing.

    And wow: he continues on this inane reasoning for a good while longer.

  31. 31
    EnlightenmentLiberal

    I’m working on a bullet point overall rebuttal from my own perspective for things not covered, but I had to expound on this, and it takes a lot of space.

    http://sovereignway.blogspot.com/2012/07/debating-atheist-round-two.html
    Quoting Stephen: “For example, if you assume uniformitarianism (a geological theory advanced in the 18th century still held by many geologists today), then you will interpret all decay-based dating methods to be accurate and you will assume that we live on a very old earth.”

    As a minor aside, there are other evidences of an old earth / old universe. There are lots of them, and as you seemingly accept science, you appear to have a contradiction in your worldview.

    My current favorite is basic big bang cosmology. Observed type Ia supernova + type Ia supernova are standard candles + Lorentz transforms (aka red shifting) -> old universe. You mention catastrophism (e.g. flood cosmology??) as a way out of this, presumably through some c-decay nonsense. Allow me to share this: SN 1987A.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SN_1987A
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nRmJbP25m-Y
    In short, we can measure the speed of light in the past by measuring the difference in time as observed on Earth between when we saw on Earth the light from the supernova and the light from the supernova bouncing off the nearby gas clouds. We can measure the speed of light in the past, and it conforms more or less with the speed as measured today. Nifty, isn’t it?

    So, Stephen, I have to ask, when you say you favor catastrophism, do you mean to make any particular scientific falsifiable predictions? Or do you mean to say that the universe looks exactly as “atheistic” science describes, 13.7 billion year old universe, common descent of species, and all? Because if you agree that the universe looks exactly as if “atheistic” science is right, then I heard that I stopped caring 5 minutes ago.

  32. 32
    EnlightenmentLiberal

    My overall response to the debate in a nutshell, as if I were debating him. In no particular order:

    Stephen, please describe the difference between an assumption, a presupposition, and an axiom. I am rightly confused by your classification scheme here. I hope we can agree that all sane belief systems are axiomatic, and specifically with a finite (and usually very small) number of finite axioms. (Equivalently, a schema or some other statement-generating axiom.) How do assumptions and presuppositions relate to axioms? For example, what the hell did you mean when you said “even an elementary level of epistemology overturns the axioms and requires us to discuss preconditions” (from round-four)? In the text that follows, it seems as though you are rejecting axiomatic belief systems outright. Surely you must be joking, Mr. Feinstein.

    Stephen, in your first post, you wrongly used “macroevolution” to refer to “inorganic” stuff. Wtf are you doing? Knock it off. You should know better.

    Stephen, learn some biology. When you parrot Bananaman’s “every painter has a painting” argument (you did this in round-two), this just makes you look ignorant and stupid. Evolution by natural selection does indeed raise the information content of a local open system by increasing the entropy (lowering the information content) of the surrounding system. Information can and does come from non-information if you have certain specific rules in place which govern the time-evolution of the system.

    While you’re at it, study some quantum theory. Learn how there are quantum events which seemingly are uncaused. Nuclear decay happens seemingly without cause, for example. Notice also that while nuclear decay happens seemingly without cause, and while we cannot make much in the way of useful falsifiable scientific predictions about a single unstable nucleus, we can make very precise and useful predictions about a bunch of unstable nuclei because of the probabilistic nature of the seeming randomness.

    Stephen, you are wrong with regard to uniformitarianism. You do not need to assume everything has a cause to do science. You do not need to assume the “existence” of some unchanging fundamental laws. You just have to assume that today is sufficiently similar to yesterday to allow science to work. We just need to assume that “science almost-always works”. No more, no less. “Science almost-always works” does not imply that everything has a cause, nor this strong form of uniformitarianism. Science works, and the big bang event may be cause-less; it may be an exception to the “causation” rule.

    Stephen, you seem to object to atheists using science unless they can justify it. On behalf of nearly all atheists everywhere, let me reply: We don’t care. What is the “justification”, or “grounding”, or “source”, of logic, the first cause, the first motion, the start of time, etc.? You claim that we atheists claim “random chance”. We don’t. We say we don’t know, and we don’t care about the answers to those questions. We will continue to not care until you present an explanation which offers testable, scientific, falsifiable predictions. Until such time, we will continue to take “science almost-always works” as axiomatic. Reread this paragraph several times to ensure you have comprehension, because it is how I would respond to nearly every argument you have made.

    I reject realism entirely. I currently do not care whether I exist in someone’s dream, in The Matrix, in “the real world”, and so on. I only care if you are Morpheus and can give me a red pill that can allow me to distinguish between the possibilities via sense experience. I do not know of such distinguishing criteria right now, and that is why I do not care at all. I will still be hungry tomorrow, and to solve that I need to obtain food. (I adopt the terms of “the real world” to describe our shared reality simply as a linguistic convention and convenience.)

    Consequently, I reject the dichotomy of “contingent vs necessary beings” as ill-defined, vacuous, useless, and not-even-wrong. http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Not_even_wrong

    Conclusion 1: Stephen, you have completely failed to describe why the Flying Spaghetti Monster is wrong and you jesus god myth is right. I can say right now that: 1) The Flying Spaghetti Monster is an absolute personality. 2) There is a distinction between the Creator and His pasta-like creation. 3) His Noodlage is surely sovereign over His pasta-like creation. 4) The Flying Spaghetti Monster is both one, and many. His many Noodles can relate to each other, allowing His Noodlage to have personality and relationships without depending on His pasta-like creation.

    Conclusion 2: Stephen, you have completely failed to convince me that even if the jesus god myth is true, that I should worship that moral and intellectual abomination of a creator. If half the stuff in the Bible is correct, then when I met that asshole during judgment, I’d give him the finger and tell him to f’ off.

    And I’m done. I can’t read any more of that drivel. I stopped somewhere in Stephen’s round-four.

    Stephen, I would love to start a conversion with you, email, or preferrably text chat or something. Massive text-blocks on each side at infrequent intervals are a bad way to discuss issues like this, and I am honestly interested in how you can dismiss all of the conclusions and evidence of modern science concerning the age of the Earth, the age of the universe, biology, and so on.

    1. 32.1
      dukeofomnium

      The presupp will reject FSM mythology (and anything similar, including my own Glexnor the Giant Space Lizard) on the basis that you don’t actually believe it, whilst he (and other christians) really do believe in biblegod. Either they believe that their belief, by and of itself, imbues god with existence, or they lack the imagination to moot other presuppositions that are every bit as valid, a priori, as their own.

      Believe me, I’m not a presupp, but I have dealt with them; and I wanted to give that point of information.

      1. EnlightenmentLiberal

        And then we can have a conversation that belief in a proposition does not make it true. I would hope we could agree to that. Surely he’s invoked Godwin’s somewhere in his posts and said that even if everyone agreed with Hitler, that doesn’t make him right.

  33. 33
    jdog

    I thought it was understood that the first person to fall to Godwin’s Law is always the loser.

    1. 33.1
      Martin Wagner

      Godwin’s Law doesn’t actually say that. It simply states that the longer an internet argument continues, the probability that one participant will make a Hitler comparison approaches 1. Value judgments are subjective. You could, at best, state that Hitler/Nazi cracks are a hallmark of weak, unimaginative and unskilled arguers. Then again, sometimes a Nazi analogy actually fits the situation.

      1. dustinarand

        Hmmm, but isn’t it also the case that, the longer an internet (or any other) discusiion continus, the probability of any comparison approaches 1? It must, for in an infinitely long conversation all possible comparisons must eventually be expressed.

        1. ericvon germania

          I was thinking exactly like you. the longer a conversation is the more probable any comparisons can be made, the more probable a baseball analogy will come, a Gretzky analogy, etc. it is not original.

          I have to check more on that Godwin’s Law.

        2. Martin Wagner

          It is, but no conversation goes on forever, and when people are angry and arguing online, ol’ Adolf is a noticeably more popular and common villain to name drop.

          1. Kaj

            I find theists have been invoking Stalin and Mao quite a bit lately…

          2. EnlightenmentLiberal

            Maybe they’re finally learning that the Nazis were buddy-buddy with the Catholics, banned atheists from service in certain areas, claimed divine providence, etc.?

          3. ericvon germania

            lol “ol’ Adolf”, good one.

            But sometimes you are winning with the Adolf’s argument, for you show that the other person is loosing their mind. sometimes it calms the person.

            Anyway, when I debate theists most of the time the name the most popular that coming no.1 when I am right is more “Satan”, followed in no.2 by “the Devil” and no. 3 by “Lucifer”. and they aren’t necessary pissed off, most of the time they regard me with pity thinking that Satan have my soul….Maybe I should call that Von Germania’s law. ;D

        3. ethanmyerson

          There’s no reason to assume that an infinitely long conversation has to eventually include all comparisons. Some comparisons can be made multiple times. Hell, I’ve been in finite conversations that repeatedly cover the same ground.

  34. 34
    JE Hoyes

    What was the wording of the question you were debating again? Or were you just debating what you were going to debate?

    1. 34.1
      vgerdj

      SF position is “why I believe atheism is untenable, irrational, and ultimately impossible.” and “I affirm that the Christian worldview is the only worldview that is possible given the preconditions of intelligibility.”

  35. 35
    mike

    This chick tract, is nonsense!

    Everybody knows Ozzy Osbourne is the Prince of Darkness.

  36. 36
    dustinarand

    Stephen reminds me of the people Alfred Ayer describes in the following passage of Language, Truth and Logic: “It happens to be the case that we cannot, in our language, refer to the sensible properties of a thing without introducing a word or phrase which appears to stand for the thing itself as opposed to anything which may be said about it. And, as a result of this, those who are infected by the primitive superstition that to every name a single real entity must correspond assume that it is necessary to distinguish logically between the thing itself and any, or all, of its sensible properties. And so they employ the term ‘substance’ to refer to the thing itself. But from the fact that we happen to employ a single word to refer to a thing, and make that word the grammatical subject of the sentences in which we refer to the sensible appearances of the thing, it does not by any means follow that the thing itself is a ‘simple entity’, or that it cannot be defined in terms of the totality of its appearances. It is true that in talking of ‘its’ appearances we appear to distinguish the thing from the appearances, but that is simply an accident of linguistic usage. Logical analysis shows that what makes these ‘appearances’ the ‘appearances of’ the same thing is not their relationship to an entity other than themselves, but their relationship to one another. The metaphysician fails to see this because he is misled by a superficial grammatical feature of his language.”

    Philosophers have been duped by this superstition since Plato and his theory of Forms, and we see it in fine form in Thomas Aquinas’ idea of “transubstantiation,” but presuppositionalism takes it even further, out of the realm of physical objects like bread, wine, flesh, and blood, and applies it to things like “truth” and, especially in this debate, “logic”. If we understand logic to refer to nothing more than how our brains process symbols and draw inferences from them, we don’t get faced with the requirement of ascertaining the source of Logic in the universe. It’s source is just the evolutionary process that gave us the minds we have.

  37. 37
    theroundguyisnolongerround

    “A scientific paper that bragged that its readers are too dumb to comprehend the author’s wisdom would fail to advance its subject.”

    “Hoenikker used to say that any scientist who couldn’t explain to an eight-year-old what he was doing was a charlatan.” Kurt Vonnegut, Cat’s Cradle

    Well played, sir. I met a lot of fellows just like him during my brief sojourn in Xtianity. For someone claiming humility and going on about the limits of three pound brains, he sure loves the sound of his own voice.

    I’ve enjoyed the series, though the other guy was pretty heavy on the bullshit.

  38. 38
    casezulu

    I found it amusing that Stephen pointlessly rambled for several paragraphs about Russell’s claim to be a materialist (Russel may define it differently but I tell people it means that I believe the universe can be understood without adding the supernatural). It seems like Stephen thought that meant Russell believed that the number five and logic were somehow composed of atoms. Maybe he should watch the show more and learn the importance of asking your opponent to define terms.

  39. 39
    MAtheist

    Every point I wanted to cover has already been mentioned here, but I still wanted to congratulate you on a job well done. My ability to offer clear, concise, and consistent responses to the repetitive nonsense Feinstein continually spewed would have ended after the second round. Well done, Russell. Once again affirming my stance that presuppositionalists are nothing more than assertionists.

  40. 40
    sebastian

    Presuppositional apologetics is all lipstick on a pig made up of circular logic, and utterly unimpressive when you cut through the bullshit. Even if the lipstick might look good to his followers that want to believe him, his painfully obvious equivocation fallacy with the miss-use of the word “random” must have sent off even his fans’ alarm bells. By arrogantly setting up his over-ambitious goal to prove atheism as “untenable, irrational, and ultimately impossible”, and then proceeding to fail so spectacularly, he made me think of this video:

  41. 41
    Lyserg.Z

    I guess the whole thing was a good read, thou Stephen does seem to both have a huge ego and a like to play victim a lot (the part when confirmed Godwin’s law…), plus he loves to taunt..a lot <.< .

    Also, about this:
    -"Why not? If God had “created” the laws of logic, then there must have been a point where they did not apply"

    He said logic is not something god created; I think it was more that the laws of logic are part of him or his thought process (whatever that could mean).

    But even if I learnt some things about Stephen's position on all of this I'm still really no closer to understanding how the heck this all ties up with the biblical god. Where do Jesus, heaven and hell enter all of this mess? How does it all disprove evolution (specially considering he accepts the existence of "micro"evolution)?

  42. 42
    Jeff D

    The part I love most in all this… Stephen is supposed to be a holier than thou pastor. Yet as a pastor he doesnt have an ounce of humility. The reason no one would want to respond to him is because of his huge asinine egotistical persona, that doesnt even come close to winning any points in personality. Not that personality should matter in a debate, but when I cant stand someone as a person, I certainly dont care to hear their opinion about anything. ‘Especially’ when their position is so far based in fantasy.

  43. 43
    HiEv

    I know it’s too late to implement this (not to mention a bit tricky), but a decent voting mechanism would be similar to the one used in the Intelligence Squared Debate “Is the Catholic Church a force for good in the world?”

    Basically, you take a sample from the audience before the debate begins on the main question of the debate (agree, disagree, unsure) and another sample at the end, and see how the audience was swayed in one direction or another.

    If you get a chance to watch that debate with Christopher Hitchens and Stephen Fry (it’s on YouTube), by all means do. The end result of the voting restored some of my faith in humanity.

    1. 43.1
      JE Hoyes

      Yes, that was a good debate. Helped by the fact that they were debating a specific question: is the RC church a force for good?. In a structured debate you have to agree to argue for or against a proposition. I’m not sure what the proposition was in this back and forth between Russell and Stephen. But perhaps someone will set me straight on that.

  44. 44
    LykeX

    He said logic is not something god created; I think it was more that the laws of logic are part of him or his thought process (whatever that could mean).

    But if that’s what he means by “accounting for” logic, then we can account for logic by simply claiming that logic is a part of the nature of the universe. Done.

    Every time I hear the presuppositionalist shtick of asking atheists to “account for” this or that, I’m reminded of creationists demanding that we show how animals can change outside their “kind” while staunchly refusing to define what a “kind” is supposed to be.

  45. 45
    BradC

    Debate summary:

    Stephen post 1: Just wait, I’m so gonna prove it
    Stephen post 2: Smoke and mirrors, unfounded assumptions, enthusiastic gesticulations
    Stephen post 3: But I just proved it!
    Stephen post 4: Didn’t you see that I proved it?
    Stephen post 5: Come on, I proved it 3 posts ago. Why aren’t you admitting that I won?

    Nice job, Russell. I thought you did a good job of cutting through the clutter.

    I’ve never really understood the whole idea of the “laws of logic” (identity, non-contradiction, excluded middle) requiring any sort of justification whatsoever.

    Isn’t a statement like “a statement can’t both be true and not true at the same time” just a trivial restatement of the definition of the word TRUE? And therefore, its not even a premise or axiom or assumption but more of a basic understanding of the words we are using?

    1. 45.1
      EnlightenmentLiberal

      Yeah, it would have been nice if he actually presented a whole argument in a concise form up front, instead of stroking his ego for a post (or 5).

  46. 46
    vgerdj

    I suffered through 5 posts by Stephen to get to THAT finishing. SF’s entire presentation was ‘I believe in god because [insert logical fallacy here].’ As the rebutter, RG presented why he didn’t agree and the fallacies that were presented. Then SF retorts, RG doesn’t understand his position because RG is not smart enough to understand.

    My take is that SF needed a sounding board to hash out his ‘book’, and RG was the foil. It was truly painful reading SF’s responses after the first post.

    There is no need for a vote. Stephen’s last paragraph decided the winner. That was the most offensive debate conclusion I’ve seen. Very similar to Craig’s closings. I am delighted to see that if this is the best ‘position’ for a christian god, the number of Atheists in this country will grow rapidly.

  47. 47
    Raging Bee

    “…you are a finite man with a three-pound brain…”

    So what is he, a pan-dimensional superbeing whose mind gets information through universe-spanning wormholes?

    Funny how it’s only non-Christians who have to be humble.

  48. 48
    42oolon

    Here’s my take on tag And presup bs.

    Theists who recognize that they have no good evidence look to what atheists appear to accept as proven without evidence, ie the laws of logic. We accept these laws as self-evident and necessary.

    I susupect the theist feels the same way about God and assume that we must be talking about the same thing. A semantic poo fight ensues with equivocations galore. They may even believe the argument, but usually they have to admit their fundamental presupposition is that God placed this perfect knowledge in their minds. What is the point of debate at that point?

    Stephen could not even agree on what axioms are, a first year philosophy issue. He kept calling on Kazim to account for his axioms! He seems to be a very devout person of low intelligence or exceptionally biased by his opinions on God.

  49. 49
    John Kruger

    I have noticed Feinstein has not opened up his end of the debate to comments yet. For a guy so critical about response times, it seems a bit suspect. In fact, not one post over there is not about this debate, and none of them have comments enabled. I also suspect his blog has reached peak views by piggy-backing off of this one, and should fade into obscurity now. He may be much more adverse to criticism than even the extent shown by his refusal to be judged by anyone besides himself.

    As believers go, it really takes an odd duck not to just go with the “you just gotta believe” angle and start cranking out so much tediously bad philosophy. I expect there are not too many people that believe in a god because of the arguments he presents. I am only slightly disappointed his blog has no comments. It might have been interesting to see how theist observers saw the whole thing.

    Well done Russell. You covered everything I hoped you might. It is a pity his only real response to your accurate criticisms was more or less “no it’s not, you just don’t get it.”

    1. 49.1
      ericvon germania

      Yeah, I have noticed that we can’t comment nor see comments on his blog. I was eager to read and maybe comment on his blog.

      He is probably shocked now that, I hope, he realized that he was abused by some Craig of this world as a mentor to find that it doesn’t work…And even if we can postulate a God with philosophy it would never link us to a bible, J-C, sins, repentance, etc It just doesn’t work.

      Really Mr. Feinstein, put your energy at the right place and stop fooling others and yourself.

  50. 50
    vgerdj

    FTB.AXP is open to all. SF’s comment section is closed, his ‘flock’ must know how to get here. Where are his supporters. I have not read one post supporting SF. With an ending like his, I suspect he did see his position as a failure and used his conclusion as a poke in the eye and he then runs away. I see SF’s presentation as wet newspaper, the more pages you turn, the more it falls apart.

  51. 51
    petejohn

    Yeah that was kind of a nauseating debate, and since it took a few months it was like having a loose tooth pulled out slowly by a toddler.

    Stephen’s whole argument seemed to come down to “There must be a God, or else everything doesn’t work!” Insert some atheism bashing and chest-pounding and crowing victory. Rinse, repeat.

    Only problem is is that stuff already works whether there’s a god or not. The real question is whether it works because there’s a god running it all, and since I’ve yet to even hear a coherent and self-consistent definition of said god, what is even the point?

    Stephen’s god caused a uniform universe. ‘Cept all the miracles and stuff. And the random decision to make a universe. And the miracles. So it’s not uniform at all. It’s a deity sitting off somewhere playing a big game of “amuse myself” with his own little self-created universe. Cool. So his definition isn’t even consistent. What’s the point of defending a god that hasn’t even been fully thought out?

  52. 52
    ArthurM

    Well done on the responses Russell. Sadly, I had a feeling this is exactly the way the discussion was going to go. You make valid points which he simply dismisses like he didn’t even bother to read them. Truly sad because he started the conversation with some civility, but it quickly devolved into insults and arrogance. I especially love the fact that he pats himself on the back for his quick replies when we was essentially cutting and pasting the same response without bothering to address any of your questions. Thanks for sticking with it hard as it may have been.

  53. 53
    Russell Glasser

    FYI, Stephen just posted at his blog. Should I just open up a new post with a link and let you comment?

    1. 53.1
      HiEv

      Might as well, since no comments have appeared on his blog yet, despite people here saying they posted some. I’m not saying that he won’t authorize those replies on his blog eventually, but at the very least with a post here we can expect to see replies to his comments in a timely and reasonably uncensored manner.

      1. andrewryan

        So people submitted comments on Stephen’s blog a few days ago. I am sorry, but for all of the bravado, why is it taking so long? If these arguments are so easy to dismiss and counter then we shouldn’t be seeing this kind of delayed time. We’re all busy. The time it takes to allow comments to post betrays the confidence and bravado in Stephen’s blogs.

        Satire aside, what confidence and bravado is Stephen talking about? He was the one continually trumpeting that he was winning the argument.

        1. sebastian

          Well played.

    2. 53.2
      vgerdj

      I tried to post but the comment box was erased when I hit publish. Luckily I saved before hitting the button.

  54. 54
    Ibis3, Let's burn some bridges

    ”I told you that God is necessary!” he insists. ”Why can’t you understand that if I describe something as necessary, I don’t have to account for it anymore?”

    This is an admission that he didn’t win the debate. If he doesn’t have to account for God, what does he think he’s doing? The whole point was to account for it.

    Anyway, this statement raises the question, why can’t anything we conceive of be “described” as necessary? Zeus? Necessary. Ma’at? Necessary. Brahma? Necessary. Dryads and fairies? Necessary. Unicorns and dragons? Necessary. Same old problem as Anselm’s argument: you can’t just assert or define gods into existence, and that includes Yahweh.

    Science and logic presuppose nothing. They are merely observations, and their conclusions are always provisional. If we make new observations, our conclusions will be revised.

  55. 55
    Jeff D

    Wow Russell, he must have called you a liar about 50 times in his follow up. This assclown is so disrespectful I really dont understand how he has any following at all. A lot of the stuff he said didnt make any sense at all. Especially when he tried to use another Nazi analogy. Someone REALLY needs to teach him quantity does not equal quality. I blame every English teach he has ever had.

  56. 56
    Michael B

    I just tried posting a comment on his site, but it requires approval before it will appear. I’m guessing it won’t get approval (I only called him a hypocrite). I now wish I’d copied and pasted it here for posterity.

  57. 57
    vgerdj

    SF’s position, ‘I plan to debate the issues, and why I believe atheism is untenable, irrational, and ultimately impossible,’ in this debate started out as a worthy read, then, seemed to ramble. Not as a rebuttal to RG’s responses, but as a quest to fill in as many fallacies as possible, then claim misunderstanding or superior argument. My problem is with SF’s switching between the multiple definitions of words. His writing hints of his knowingly obfuscating definitions, not so much to bend the debate in his favor, but to deluge RG with an insurmountable compost of apologetics. Too many, ‘you don’t understand what I’m saying Russell,’ details that SF is not explaining himself coherently. 2 cases in point. Transcendental logic is not the same as a transcendent being. He asserts that his god is transcendent, or supernatural. Then he asserts that transcendental logic is supernatural. And argues thusly. But transcendental logic is an idea, not outside reality as we see it; it is a thought. Logic, even transcendental logic, is a tool. Like the scientific method is a tool. It helps to explain reality. A transcendental god, a supernatural being unbound by the ‘laws’ of this reality, is the antithesis of an explanation based on logic. But more egregious was the travesty of ‘random chance.’ The first definition of random is ‘having no specific pattern, purpose, or objective.’ The key word here is ‘or’; and SF conflates all 3 uses, so, whenever it suits him, he intentionally confuses the reader so he can assert that the reader is not able to follow his superior argument. The definition of chance is also a smorgasbord of ‘options as needed.’ Add them together and you get the RR crossing that is SF’s mind. It’s a trainwreck waiting to happen. This debate is the result. If anyone needs an explanation of why Matt D mutes people, the presentation by SF is one of the best examples. SF presented so many fallacies and then responded that the interpretation was wrong and then created more fallacies. If the debate was presented in little steps, as to remove confusion of terms and definitions, I think a more honest discourse could have happened. But that would restrict most of SF’s fallacies.

    1. 57.1
      Jasper of Maine

      Not as a rebuttal to RG’s responses, but as a quest to fill in as many fallacies as possible

      I swear sometimes it’s some kind of goal, like beating all the quests in WoW.

      Achievement Unlocked: Use All Logical Fallacies in One Argument

  58. 58
    Kahli Sana

    …aaaaaaand he just closed comments on his blog. I just took 20 minutes trying to craft a respectful and insightful post, and it was all for naught.

    His final comment before closing it:

    *********BEGIN QUOTE***********
    I must apologize to my atheist friends. Given the amount of comments that are coming in, I as a lone man cannot answer each one. Although I would love a free discussion, it is not truly a discussion when hundreds attempt to debate one man. I walked into this trap myself, being new to blogs. For all of the atheists that put thought provoking and genuine questions, I am grateful. However, I cannot debate all of you. I have too many other responsibilities. I can assure you that answers do exist for your questions/objections. Some of them I did answer in my responses to Russell, and others I did not.

    Given that this is becoming too time consuming for me, I am going to suspend the comments for the time being. Maybe when Christians start posting as well, it will generate discussions between the two groups. However, as a single man I cannot sustain this. Once again, thank you for your interest.
    **********END QUOTE*************

    I don’t mind him heavily moderating the comments (I’m sure there’s a lot of low-quality posts and general ass-hattery), but I wish he’d leave it open for commentary. I’d forgive him for not responding to them all.

    1. 58.1
      LykeX

      But that would mean letting atheist comments go unanswered. Can’t have that. Much better to just shut down discussion completely.

  59. 59
    billgarthright

    Stephen Feinstein closed comments after just NINE other people commented on his final post! Gee, why so generous, I wonder?

    Frankly, this debate started well, but ended up quite disappointing. OK, OK, I expected as much, but Feinstein made such lofty claims in his first post,… and then didn’t even ATTEMPT to make his case, or so it seemed to me.

    It seemed like his plan for the rest of the debate was just to keep declaring victory. I guess he thought if he repeated that often enough that some of us would believe it. But really, he failed completely at what he promised he’d do.

    Russell, on the other hand, did a very good job. Of course, I expected that, too. But I must say that this final post is especially good. I’d quote the parts I liked best, but this comment is long enough already. So just,… nice job!

  60. 60
    Sly Gryphon

    [Disclaimer: I am a discordian, therefore I am not a valid target for this debat as I don't believe anything any of you say.]

    Why even bother debating this guy?

    In his first post, he states “I unabashedly presuppose the Bible, as I believe all rational knowledge depends on such.”

    => If you presuppose the Bible is true, then of course you get to the conclusion that atheism (and Hinduism, Judaism, etc) is invalid and God is true.

    => If you presuppose the Vedas are true, then you get the conclusion that Hinduism is true and atheism, Judaism, Christianity, etc are invalid.

    => If you presuppose that the Eddas are true then athorism, Judaism, Christianity, etc are all false, and Thor is the god of Thunder.

    Sorry, you lose — based on the presupposition that the Bible is true, you lose the debate.

  61. 61
    vgerdj

    I don’t think the comments were shut down because “I must apologize to my atheist friends. Given the amount of comments that are coming in, I as a lone man cannot answer each one. Although I would love a free discussion, it is not truly a discussion when hundreds attempt to debate one man.” I think they were shut down because, of all the comments, there were too few to support his position, even from christians. He could have allowed the comments and his reason why he can’t answer them all. But he took the cowardly way out. I also think that everyone was piling on that he was deceitful in his obfuscating.

    1. 61.1
      Russell Glasser

      I think they were shut down because, of all the comments, there were too few to support his position, even from christians.

      It’s worse than that, I guarantee it. Between the time he opened comments and the time he closed them (and presumably stopped reading them), there must have been ZERO favorable replies for Stephen. Do you have any doubt that if he got any, he would have posted them immediately?

      I was expecting at least a few followers to be interested enough to support him, so I’m a bit surprised. Maybe anyone who would have been encouraged by Stephen’s arguments didn’t have the patience to stick the whole thing out.

      1. vgerdj

        That didn’t even cross my mind, ‘he got no favorable comments.’ That would ruin his day, week, month, year, life, ambition, position, ministration, vocation, and presupposition.

  62. 62
    tosspotovich

    Thanks for your efforts and patience, Russell. It’s given us an insight into the hand waving and pandering behind the presuppositionist “gawd did it, ’nuff said”.

    Does anyone else see a bit of Dunning-Kruger in Feinstein’s bravado?

  63. 63
    Esko

    This entire debate was like watching a dog chase its tail. Stephen was the dog and Russell was the tail. That analogy could go both ways, but you get the picture.

    The problem is that the theistic God argument is impossible to deny categorically. It is quantum in theory. It makes suppositions that set the foundation for their entire belief, which is the way all beliefs are founded.

    Where the theist fails to succeed is when you take their “God explanation method” and hang it over any religion with a creationist deity. It is no different than calling a “Cat”, a “Table”. Logically it doesn’t matter how you define a living creature, just so long as you do it in terms everyone can identify.

    God = Catalyst Evolution = catalyst and both equal nothing. We do not have enough knowledge or evidence to know where our origins are.

    So the next step is to look at the connection between “God explanation method and each religion, and see how that really match up. Finally is look at the traditional and textual foundation of their religion to see if that holds up.

    I fail to see any connection between a creator God which may or may not exist, and the various incarnations represented by the myriad religions in practice today.

    I am Atheist by the way, but all this debate did was further solidify my concept that arguing a catalyst at this point is fruitless.

    1. 63.1
      Jasper of Maine

      God = Catalyst Evolution = catalyst and both equal nothing. We do not have enough knowledge or evidence to know where our origins are.

      It depends on what you mean by “our origins”.

      If you mean homosapiens, we do. We’ve traced the evolutoinary path back to chimpanzees. We have the sub-tree that includes the others like homo erectus, neanderthal, etc.

      If you mean the current state of the universe from the Big Bang, we have enough data to determine that happened, and good detail about the specifics of the event.

      If you mean the “ultimate origins”, then of course not. But that doesn’t mean we can’t figure out that you came from your mother.

      1. Esko

        @ jasper,

        I agree that we can trace our origins here on earth. I was speaking in the context of this debate. The big bang theory fails to account for many things. for instance what was a huge mass of stuff doing just sitting there? Why did it explode with such force? Was it a mass at all? With new emerging theories which try to explain what happened before the big bang I feel as though it is an attempt in very much the same way the theist’s attempt to put an explanation to something they can’t understand. It causes problems when scientists make their hypothesis be quickly turned into theories by over eager peers.

        There is much that we do know without a reasonable doubt, but the How, and Why of the big bang leaves too much open for interpretation and therefore is not a reliable theory to use so freely.

        That is why I think it is better to argue with theists about the validity of their religion. Give them the God Theory, but tear them apart with their own texts.

        1. vgerdj

          If you think the BB was an explosion, this could account for your lack of understanding of physics and why you think the BBT “fails to account for many things.” The BB was an expansion of matter. If you really want a better understanding of the early universe, get a PhD in Theoretical Physics. If not, then accept the current explanation, BY physicists, because, they DO study this, and just don’t make up crap to enslave the masses. You equate the BBT to theism by saying both try to explain the origins of everything, but with facts and experimentation on one side and woowoo on the other, your comparison lacks substance. You can never “argue with theists about the validity of their religion.” Their goalposts are imaginary.

        2. EnlightenmentLiberal

          The big bang theory fails to account for many things.

          Yes, and?

          General Relativity fails to account for whether P = NP or P != NP. Quantum mechanics fails to account for whether the Tigers will win the world series this year. Yet both theories are correct. No theory is complete. Got a point?

          1. Esko

            Look, If I were to just accept what some PHD says is the truth without using my own logic to understand it then I would be in the exact same boat I was for most of my life chanting at a cross. There are PHD’s out there that can’t even tell us what the weather is going to be like, why would I blindly accept someones theory of a past which spans billions of years? By the way many of those church leader which teach WOOWOO are PHD’s as well. Not saying that Darwin was a WOOWOO, I’m just saying that sometimes it is okay to say “let’s think about this for a while before we start trying to insert ideas as fact”.

            So you cut me down for using mass in place of matter. Who cares? Just like a christain would cut me down for using enoch in place of some other guy. You got my point didn’t you? It’s called deduction. anyway.

            The problem is; like you said, the god theory is out of reach from normal logic, so therefore it is impossible to disprove with logic.

            What if this was all created by some God? that still doesn’t account for the horrible translation us humans got right? Obviously if there is a God, that asshole is playing a rather screwed up joke, or he just doesn’t care about a virus called homo sapiens on a tiny planet in a tiny solar system.

            So in that case there might as well not be a god. Which brings me back to my point, attack those fanatic religions weirdos at the core of the problem; the books which fail in many ways. The stories are more ridiculous than the god theory.

          2. EnlightenmentLiberal

            Look, If I were to just accept what some PHD says is the truth without using my own logic to understand it then I would be in the exact same boat I was for most of my life chanting at a cross.

            Sure. I don’t see how that relates to what I said. Completeness of a theorem as a requirement is not the same as some level of comprehension as a requirement. I am more than ok with wanting to understand something before “believing” it. I am not ok with dismissing big bang theory because it doesn’t explain everything.

            There are PHD’s out there that can’t even tell us what the weather is going to be like, why would I blindly accept someones theory of a past which spans billions of years?

            Bad analogy. “Scientists can’t predict if it will rain next Thursday” does not imply “scientists can’t tell if the world is warming year over year” nor “scientists can’t tell if big bang theory is actually true”.

            So you cut me down for using mass in place of matter. Who cares? Just like a christain would cut me down for using enoch in place of some other guy. You got my point didn’t you? It’s called deduction. anyway.

            Now you completely lost me. I never said that. What are you talking about?

            The problem is; like you said, the god theory is out of reach from normal logic, so therefore it is impossible to disprove with logic.

            I didn’t say that here. I might have said something that can be confused for that elsewhere, but I definitely didn’t say that in the post to which you reply.

  64. 64
    Spence14

    Just read the whole debate. Rarely have I seen such a one-sided encounter. The pastor got demolished and yet appears to believe he won. I find it disturbing how utterly deluded some people are.

    Sadly, the debate was really a bit of a waste of time in the end because you cannot have a fruitful conversation with someone who refuses to examine their own assertions or engage with their opponent’s arguments. Well done though Russell for at least trying to have a debate with this guy.

    What would be fascinating would be if an intelligent and genuine theologist would appear to offer debate – I suppose all of the arguments have long been decided many years ago though, and any religious debater is necessarily one who cannot view the discussion objectively or with reason. Oh well.

  65. 65
    Spence14

    Did anyone here see the debate between Hitchens and that other supposed intelligent Christian, William Lane Craig. Hitchens was widely criticised afterwards (mainly by Christians) as having lost. However, I thought Craig’s amazing proofs for the existence of God were fairly easy to counter (even for someone who is not a philosopher or scientist such as myself). Anyway, give it a watch if you’ve not yet done so.

  66. 66
    vgerdj

    @esko [Post anew, margins]In your last comment @9:45 pm, you initially try to equate science with religion, “accept what some PHD says is the truth without using my own logic to understand it then I would be in the exact same boat I was for most of my life chanting”; to support your previous statement “BBT fails to account for many things.” Could you be more wronger? Not much. See, in science there is this thing called peer-review. That means, many other PhDs, in the same science, get to critique what a PhD writes. That does not happen in religion. YOU want to equate, someone rose from the dead – you have to have FAITH; and, the properties of the sun – nuclear physics. You really think these 2 schools of thought are in the same playground. I can accept fission as a reasonable explanation, 60ya there were monthly demonstrations, somewhere called Nevada. (rerere-read;I see, now, why you complain about mass/matter.) Your mis-statements do allude to your lack of knowledge of the subject at hand, and, in the words of Inigo Montoya, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” What irks me most is you say you’re an Atheist and do not accept current scientific explanations, but, not because you don’t understand them, it’s because you mis-understand them. And when it is explained to you, you take it as an attack. You could have looked up the information, easily. But, most egregious, was your position “attack those fanatic religions weirdos at the core of the problem; the books which fail in many ways.” If this is suggested as a scientific endeavor, it is vapid as cutting fog with a knife; Scobby-Doo where are you? My point is, if you’re gonna jump in the pool, know how to swim; if you’re gonna jump in the ocean, be prepared to swim with the sharks. coffee n muffin r rdy, l8r.

  67. 67
    EricR

    I can’t believe I wasted my time reading this “debate”.

    I can tell most of you are incapable of understanding Stephen’s unmitigated arguments. How hard is it to understand? Even if you believe that randomness created uniformity, then what caused the randomness? Randomness in this case just represents an event, a point of origin for the time-line of existence. You don’t know what spurred that event, so you cannot refute that it was possibly made by a creator. The concept of a creator, as well as the “randomness” theory, both transcend verifiable debate. It is pointless for atheists to use this argument, as its based off of just as little physical evidence and it is hilarious to me that you people can’t see what hypocrites you are, thrashing wildly to denounce Christianity as a whole, with flimsy, non-verifiable faith-based arguments.

    Russell’s responses were filled with evasive bullshit. He (and I assume most of you did as well) completely missed that Stephen’s approach to the mechanism of causality re-purposes the Big Bang theory and uses it against your vain arguments. Also, no response from Russell on how carbon-dating has been proven to be ineffective because of various interfering factors… What? The Almighty Gods of Science are FALLIBLE?! BUT THE WORD OF THE ELDER SCIENTISTS IS INFALLIBLE, SO SAITH THE LORD OF SCIENCE.

    You may be able to muddy the waters of existence with your speculation, but you can never seriously tarnish the history (Josephus validated Christ and John the Baptist’s existence), truth and simple logic provided in the New Testament. If you haven’t read it, then you are either a coward or you’re unfit for discussion regarding Christianity.

    As far as Stephen closing off comments, what is the point of having a bunch of pseudo-scientific, agnostic (without knowledge), mental midgets, parroting one another on his site? Russell clearly stated his blog is brand new, and most likely he doesn’t have much of an audience. He can’t respond to all of you dumbasses. Go read some quotes from Charles Fort and start feeling ashamed of your blind faith in all forms of modern science.

    1. 67.1
      Martin Wagner

      You don’t know what spurred that event, so you cannot refute that it was possibly made by a creator.

      We also can’t refute that we’re possibly living in Matrix pods, deep within the brain of a cosmic mega-computer. The point is irrelevant. If Feinstein (and you) want to argue for a creator, then you need to provide specific evidence for that creator. What Feinstein boasted was that he would show that atheism was not only untenable but impossible, and this he did not do with all of his wafflings.

      Stephen’s approach to the mechanism of causality re-purposes the Big Bang theory and uses it against your vain arguments

      How exactly does it do this? Because if it does, Stephen fails to explain it coherently. Perhaps you can.

      what is the point of having a bunch of pseudo-scientific, agnostic (without knowledge), mental midgets, parroting one another on his site?

      I’m sure playground taunts are very gratifying. But if you want to get the adults here to pay attention, you need to argue at our level. The difference between us and Stephen, you see, is that we’ll let you do that.

      1. EricR

        “We also can’t refute that we’re possibly living in Matrix pods, deep within the brain of a cosmic mega-computer. The point is irrelevant.”

        That was my point. This discussion is irrelevant, and using it as a crutch for debasing religion and promoting atheism means you’re just fooling yourselves. Unless you guys are willing to admit you know nothing, then you will never know anything. Many Christians also fall into this trap, you’re no better than them.

        “How exactly does it do this? Because if it does, Stephen fails to explain it coherently. Perhaps you can.”

        Cause and effect. What’s the first cause, which caused the Big Bang (an effect)? All we perceive as reality are the emanations (effects) of that cause, if it did indeed occur. This logic can’t be used to prove that there’s a creator without any doubt, but it certainly creates a major issue for anyone who adheres to standard scientific logic and wants to argue that the Big Bang theory defeats all forms of creationism.

        “I’m sure playground taunts are very gratifying. But if you want to get the adults here to pay attention, you need to argue at our level. ”

        Apparently, you are choosing to ignore the fact that Russell used those “playground taunts” in his “debate” and also the other obnoxious and derogatory comments made by individuals in the comments section, lumping them all into the category of “adults” who are at a higher “level” of intelligence than myself.

        I used to be atheist, when I was younger, more arrogant, and devoid of the historical context necessary to understand human existence (a common affliction of modern man), but those days are gone and it’s my goal to abstain from any form of group-mind, including the blind-faith cult of atheism.

        1. vgerdj

          Unless you guys are willing to admit you know nothing, then you will never know anything.

          What tripe. I know lots of things. My knowledge is based on evidence, your knowledge is based on wishful thinking.

          Cause and effect. What’s the first cause, which caused the Big Bang (an effect)?

          If time started at the BB, then the first cause was the BB, as there was no ’cause and effect’ before time.

          … wants to argue that the Big Bang theory defeats all forms of creationism.

          No, the BBT is the best Scientific explanation for the universe. You can still believe in creation, it’s just not scientifically viable.

          1. EricR

            “What tripe. I know lots of things. My knowledge is based on evidence, your knowledge is based on wishful thinking.”

            No need to respond to that, you’ll show us about your “knowledge based on evidence” in the next quote.

            “If time started at the BB, then the first cause was the BB, as there was no ’cause and effect’ before time.”

            So here you’ve explained that you now know for a fact that a huge explosion (which is usually caused by a chemical REACTION.. sounds like an effect..right?) created time. Hilarious.

          2. vgerdj

            @EricR November 25, 2012 at 3:08 pm

            This was too good to pass up.

            So here you’ve explained that you now know for a fact
            that a huge explosion (which is usually caused by a chemical REACTION.. sounds like an effect..right?) created time. Hilarious.

            You fucking dolt, you think the BB was an explosion. The BBT is the Scientific explanation of the expansion of space/time. At this point, I have to assume you are a troll, you have no idea what you are arguing, you are presenting known false assertions, and your arguments are childish.

    2. 67.2
      LykeX

      BUT THE WORD OF THE ELDER SCIENTISTS IS INFALLIBLE, SO SAITH THE LORD OF SCIENCE.

      The word of any human is potentially fallible, which is exactly why we need the scientific method. The whole point of science is to continually examine your ideas and test them against the real world, so as to catch yourself when you make mistakes.

      Josephus validated Christ and John the Baptist’s existence

      Josephus was born several years after Jesus and John were both supposedly dead, so at best it’s a second-hand account about people he never met.

      Even if we accept Josephus’ account and consider the existence of Jesus an established fact, how does that get us to Christianity? There’s a lot more to Christianity that some guy named Jesus.

      The best we’ve got is the statement “He was the Christ”, which is both of highly dubious authenticity and, even if authentic, would only amount to a personal judgment from a single individual about a person he never met.

      The thing that gets me about the “historical Jesus” debate is, if we accept that there was a guy named Jesus, what do we actually know about him? We have not one single account written by himself or anyone who actually knew him. The earliest material we’ve got are letters of Paul, which are conspicuously short on biographical details.
      The gospels constantly contradict or correct each other and show clear signs of plagiarism. They’re obviously not written by people who actually witnessed the events. Indeed, many of the events took place under circumstances where there were no witnesses.

      How do we know what to trust? Obviously, if you’re OK with just believing things on faith, you can pick and chose whatever you like, but for those of us with a more rational and skeptical approach, the whole subject is a swamp of questions with precious few answers.

      Personally, I’m on the fence about the historical Jesus. I don’t think there’s sufficient information to clearly decide either way. There are some decent arguments for historicity, but no clinchers and some of the ideas proposed by mythicists do make an awfully plausible case.

      More to the point, though, I don’t think it much matters. Sure, it’s interesting as a point of history, but as a matter of philosophy, it’s irrelevant. The really important bits of the Christian doctrine (Jesus was the Son of God and he died for our sins) couldn’t possibly be substantiated by any amount of evidence.
      You might conceivably be able to prove that there was a guy named Jesus, who was believed, or even claimed, to be the Son of God, but how would you demonstrate that he actually was the Son of God? How do you do a paternity test on God?

      Christianity has placed its doctrines definitively outside the area of critical examination and that’s the kind of thing that should make anybody highly suspicious.

      Truth has nothing to fear from inquiry, yet god is hiding.

      1. EricR

        Thanks for your substance free response.

        “The gospels constantly contradict or correct each other and show clear signs of plagiarism. They’re obviously not written by people who actually witnessed the events. Indeed, many of the events took place under circumstances where there were no witnesses.”

        Provide examples of the obvious plagiarism and contradictions. I’m sure it can all be explained away. That’s what happens when you actually perform independent research, you can come to your own conclusions.

        I have no desire to debate the authenticity of all of the claims in the New Testament, I was referring to the fact that if some of the characters of the bible can be proven to have existed, then it can’t simply be tossed in the trash bin… I enjoy reading it and it has many lessons to teach the morally bankrupt humans of this earth, including many so called Christians who only understand Christianity as it is filtered through their preacher/pastor and his level of understanding concerning the historical context of those texts.

        1. vgerdj

          Thanks for your substance free response.

          You then go on for 3 paragraphs to refute his “substance free response”

          I enjoy reading it and it has many lessons to teach the morally bankrupt humans of this earth,

          Funny, that’s how we see religious adherents.

          including many so called Christians who only understand Christianity as it is filtered through their preacher/pastor and his level of understanding concerning the historical context of those texts.

          And then finishes it off with ‘No true Scotsman’

          you’re done.

      2. LykeX

        Provide examples of the obvious plagiarism and contradictions.

        Plagiarism is easy. Big chunks of Matthew and Luke are taken from Mark, sometimes word for word. This is not controversial. The point is that if you witnessed things yourself, you don’t need to copy from others.

        As for contradictions, try reading the gospels in parallel. Here’s a handy site for that. Read the stories of the women’s visit to the tomb; Peter’s denial; the nativity; the genealogies; the rich man, who’s young in one gospel and old in another; two separate mass feedings, but at the second, the disciples act as if the first had never happened.

        Dude, if you’re not aware that there are some distinct problems with the gospel accounts, then you haven’t been reading very carefully.

        I’m sure it can all be explained away.

        Oh, I’m sure it can. Just like you can explain away any contradiction in the Qur’an, or the Vedas, or the Book of Mormon, or…

        Who cares? Sure, if you pull the arms of chance and reason clean out of their sockets, you can explain anything, but why would you? Are we looking for truth or just trying to protect what we already believe?

        Whenever you have one of these explanations, you have to ask yourself, what’s more likely? The tortured explanations or simply that the writers disagree?
        For example, what’s more likely? That Matthew and Mark disagree about what happened at the tomb (because neither of them were there and they really have no idea)? Or that Mark overlooked the fact that a freakin’ angel came down from heaven?
        If something like that happened to me, I’d sure as hell remember it.

        I was referring to the fact that if some of the characters of the bible can be proven to have existed, then it can’t simply be tossed in the trash bin

        And I was pointing out that if you can independently verify claim X, then that doesn’t provide good reason to accept claims Y and Z. Especially if X is quite mundane (some guy named Jesus) whereas claims Y and Z are extraordinary (he rose from the dead and is the son of god).

        The reference in Josephus is not a reliable indicator that Jesus actually lived (for the reasons I mentioned previously). At most, it verifies that stories about Jesus were going around, but then nobody’s questioning that.

        However, even if we accept that, yes, there was a guy named Jesus; he was a wandering preacher; he was crucified; he was hailed as a savior; people believed that he had risen from the dead and would return to usher in the kingdom of god…
        Even if we accept all that, why should I accept Christianity? Why should I believe that any kind of god exists? Why should I believe any of the miracle stories told in the bible?

        This story is entirely mundane and hardly unique. Change a few details and it’s the same story told about Buddha, Krishna, Muhammad and even Joseph Smith.
        I don’t believe their supernatural claims, so why should I believe the bible?

        1. ericvon germania

          @Luke
          Personaly, my best are:

          In Matthew and Mark :
          My God, My God, why have you forsaken me? (last words)
          In Luke:
          Father forgive them, for they know not what they do
          Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise (in response to one of the two thieves crucified next to him)
          Father, into your hands I commit my spirit (last words)
          In John:
          Woman, behold your son: behold your mother (directed at Mary, the mother of Jesus, either as a self-reference, or as a reference to the beloved disciple and an instruction to the disciple himself)
          I thirst (just before a wetted sponge, mentioned by all the Canonical Gospels, is offered)
          It is finished (last words)

          Seems the Last Words weren’t so important after all…

          btw, I always finded strange “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” I thought he was one with God? Oh, right it was in Mark (the earliest gospel), so it wasn’t much traficated.
          Oh my doubts are confirmed by 1 John 4:12 “No one has ever seen God” Seems they understood it right…

          @EricR are you a bible literalist? I just wonder. What it makes you over the other christians? Are you a “gnostic”, or what?

          1. EricR

            Hi Eric.

            Contradictions are fun aren’t they. Well, that’s what happens when different writings are put together in a compilation where the authors may or may not have known someone would append their work to someone elses. Does that make everything in those texts false, because one or two lines don’t match up? Don’t you think this has been considered? When reading through the New Testament you’re getting bits and peices of the story from different view points. It’s certainly not flawed in its entirety. The fact that there are contradictions in the bible blows away the concept that its infallible. But to dismiss it in its entirety.. well, that takes a certain level of willful ignorance.

            Many things in the New Testament are to be taken literally, it’s written in plain Old English! Reading comprehension is a requirement though. Genesis, Revelations.. well I’d have to say those are more “divine” inspired allegories than anything else. It’s a mixed bag and you have to understand these concepts before even attempting to make heads or tails of these texts.

            I don’t consider myself “over” anyone, but I know many people are misled by self/state worship. Atheists are modern patsies of a cult of blind ignorance (denying the moral benefits of Christianity is a sign of pure idiocy). This site is called “free thought blog”, yet here I am being mocked for not being “Christian” enough.

            You want to know what I am? I’m the hammer that will smash through atheistic “logic” (Nietzsche pun intended), when I’m bored. I am whatever I want to be, while you wallow in the muck and excriment, that is your pathetic existence, with no real meaning or purpose… Your only purpose is to dethrone an already defeated and dying religion, who wields little to no power in the political realm. You pat yourselves on the back and agree with one another, and there are many of you. You people will get your wish, and you will not enjoy what comes from it.

          2. LykeX

            Does that make everything in those texts false, because one or two lines don’t match up?

            No, but it certainly means that we can’t just assume that everything they say is true. It means we need independent verification.

            Also, it important to note that the gospels don’t simply disagree on “one or two lines”. They can’t agree on the dying words of the savior of humanity.

            Many things in the New Testament are to be taken literally, it’s written in plain Old English

            I have to ask: Was that a deliberate joke?

            denying the moral benefits of Christianity is a sign of pure idiocy

            Denying the moral deficits of Christianity, equally so.

          3. ericvon germania

            Hi EricR!

            Good to see that you are not a literalist. The problem with the Gospels is that they are so different sometimes and often contradicting each others, not only minor differences between each others. When you study closer those Gospels, you realize the conflict in their different theologies. It pointed out at different gods. That is a problem…

            A good studies of the old and the new testaments can be a good thing, but for that you have to study deeply the hebrew, aramaic and greek. By the way many people think that the new testament was in greek but the oldest gospel, Mark, seems to have been written in hebrew or aramaic (for jesus spoke aramaic). the genuine message from jesus is kind of lost in the parabels that we have in english, for hebrew or aramaic are languages that use a different use of playing with words and concepts and it has been lost through the greek translation, then the latin translation in modern languages…

            who is mocking you to not be christian enough? I just asked you which kind of christian you are for you seem a christian and you denounce some sort of christianity, so I have wonder what kind of christian you are and what do you attack exactly in christianity…

            Nietzsche seems to inspire you. He is the best philosopher ever!

        2. EricR

          “However, even if we accept that, yes, there was a guy named Jesus; he was a wandering preacher; he was crucified; he was hailed as a savior; people believed that he had risen from the dead and would return to usher in the kingdom of god…

          Even if we accept all that, why should I accept Christianity?”

          I’m glad to see maybe you actually have read the bible, too bad you still don’t fully understand the context.. you’re almost there with your basic understanding of how he may have been perceived. And I didn’t ask you to accept anything. What you perceive as Plagiarism, was more of a passing down and comparing of notes for a shared belief system. I just wanted to point out that no one is absolutely right, and to assume otherwise is a gesture of ignorance.

          “The reference in Josephus is not a reliable indicator that Jesus actually lived (for the reasons I mentioned previously). At most, it verifies that stories about Jesus were going around, but then nobody’s questioning that.”

          Do you actually believe that the hoax of Jesus was started by Josephus, when people were still alive that had witnessed what occurred? And that these people were hoodwinked into being subservient to an “awful” religion for which they were severely persecuted.. for a make believe story that was made up a few decades after his supposed death? Qui Bono?! NO ONE.

          I wrote my initial comment to prove that you guys are closed minded regarding simple-to-understand logic regarding cause and effect (vgerdj is busy embarrassing him/herself). You decided to ignore that and attack my use of the word “history” and take it out of context, still you persist even though I explained that I’m not here to try to prove everything in the Bible is the truth. My mentioning of “truth” in the New Testament was in regard to not only the geopolitical circumstances offered in those texts, and how it relates to the social/economic realities we deal with to this day, but the dead simple logic that Jesus uses to confound the Pharisees (the ideological ancestors of modern day Talmudic Jews), if you can deny that, then you don’t deserve another response.

          You cannot even perceive the geopolitical implications of a world wide atheist hegemonic society. It will be a society of slaves, with no understanding of sovereignty or allegiance to anything but the state. All you have to live for is consumerism and atheism, what a pathetic existence.

          1. vgerdj

            Just when I thought I could escape Eric’s childish posts, I get dragged back in.

            I wrote my initial comment to prove that you guys are closed minded regarding simple-to-understand logic regarding cause and effect (vgerdj is busy embarrassing him/herself).

            You said that the BB was an explosion. You are so far wrong, you are now the poster child for wrong. You argue the inerrancy of the NT, in an Atheist blog; you are shown how wrong you are, and still maintain your fallacious position. And then use the word ‘embarrassing’ about someone else. If you were not so pathetic, you would be comical.

            You have not ‘proven’ the existence of YOUR god or that there was ‘something’ before the universe, that we know of; so, there is no ’cause and effect’ before time began, that we know of. Time is the controlling factor of ’cause and effect.’ Like Carl Sagan said “…why not just save a step and conclude that the origin of the universe is an unanswerable question…”; for now!

        3. LykeX

          Holy crap, you’re full of yourself. I don’t know why, but I keep being surprised when you people show yourselves to be so amazingly full of shit. Anyway…

          And I didn’t ask you to accept anything.

          True. However, we are on an atheist blog, discussing a debate between an atheist and a Christian and you’re distinctly taking the Christian side, so I thought it was a relevant question.

          What you perceive as Plagiarism, was more of a passing down and comparing of notes for a shared belief system.

          And you don’t seem to get why that’s a problem. We’re looking for reliable sources here. If all they’re doing is copying, then they’re derivative.
          If one source copies from another, then we don’t have two sources; we have one, in two copies. That’s a very different thing and it’s especially important if we have very few sources that are all highly interdependent, as is the case with the bible.

          I just wanted to point out that no one is absolutely right, and to assume otherwise is a gesture of ignorance.

          Right about what? Sorry, but I don’t know what this sentence refers to.

          Do you actually believe that the hoax of Jesus was started by Josephus…

          WOAH! Where did I say that? Where did I say anything even remotely like that? You really need to pay attention to what I write rather than the voices in your head.

          …when people were still alive that had witnessed what occurred?

          What people? Names and sources, please.
          Remember, one person saying that there was 500 witnesses; that’s not 500 sources. It’s one source.

          And that these people were hoodwinked into being subservient to an “awful” religion for which they were severely persecuted.

          Oh goodie, the old “who would die for a lie” gambit. Let’s deal with these real quick:

          1) I’m not saying that Jesus didn’t exist. I explicitly said that I wasn’t sure on that point.

          2) If Jesus is simply mythical, then I’m not saying that it was a deliberate hoax. It’s much simpler to assume that it was a naturally grown myth, as we see it everywhere else.

          3) Even if the Jesus myth was a deliberate hoax, I certainly see no reason to think that Josephus started it. On the contrary, there are several good reasons to think that he never would, for example, that he owed his life to supporting the Emperor Vespasian.
          Much more likely, Josephus simply reported on the beliefs of various groups that already existed.

          Now, once again, it’s a simple fact that Josephus was born years after Jesus supposedly died. Whether Jesus was a real person or not, Josephus was simply not in a position to know, one way or the other. All he could do was report on what he was told.
          The writings of Josephus is good evidence for the existence of Christians, but not Jesus.

          As for the “who would die for a lie” standard apologetics line; it’s bullshit. Short version; Joseph Smith died as a martyr for a religion that he must have known was bullshit. He’s the one who made it up, after all.
          More to the point; people tend to die for what they believe, true or not. People believe things without evidence today, so it’s not much of a stretch to say that they would also have done so back then.

          You decided to ignore that…

          Because Martin was already dealing with it. I figured I’d focus on something else.

          …and attack my use of the word “history” and take it out of context

          Ok, that’s just pure bullshit. You said:

          You may be able to muddy the waters of existence with your speculation, but you can never seriously tarnish the history (Josephus validated Christ and John the Baptist’s existence), truth and simple logic provided in the New Testament.

          You made a specific factual claim. I attacked it. What’s wrong with that?

          Let’s get this straight: Do you think that the writings of Josephus are good evidence for the existence of a historical Jesus or not?

          I’m not here to try to prove everything in the Bible is the truth

          And I didn’t ask you to.

          My mentioning of “truth” in the New Testament was in regard to not only the geopolitical circumstances offered in those texts, and how it relates to the social/economic realities we deal with to this day

          Here’s a hint: using big words is only impressive to stupid people. People who understand the words will be able to see that you’re not actually saying anything.

          So, which “geopolitical circumstances” are you referring to? What “social/economic realities” do you mean?

          …if you can deny that, then you don’t deserve another response.

          Well, I can’t deny it because I don’t actually know what you’re referring to. I can see that you’re desperate to turn away from the topic of historical validity (even thought you brought it up), but if you want to bring up another topic, you might want to be a little more clear. I just scanned through your previous posts, but I didn’t see anything about geopolitics.

          You cannot even perceive the geopolitical implications of a world wide atheist hegemonic society. It will be a society of slaves, with no understanding of sovereignty or allegiance to anything but the state.

          Tell that to all the atheist anarchists and libertarians.
          Also, do you know how crazy you sound when you say things like this? Maybe we should just rein it in and return to the actual topic we were discussing, yes?

          1. EricR

            In response to: “Even if we accept all that, why should I accept Christianity?”

            I said: “And I didn’t ask you to accept anything.”

            Your response?

            “True. However, we are on an atheist blog, discussing a debate between an atheist and a Christian and you’re distinctly taking the Christian side, so I thought it was a relevant question.”

            I was mocking this “debate” where idiotic people like yourself were proclaiming victory over a pointless debate. I’m not here to reason with idiots or convert them, clearly. So no, it wasn’t a relevant question.

            As far as your blatant dismissal of legend and lore, there’s been many ancient legends proven to have historically accurate information in them:

            http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/the-odyssey-of-heinrich-schliemann-the-uncovering-of-the-city-of-troy-was-one-of-archaeologys-great-moments-the-discovery-of-its-golden-treasure-one-of-the-great-rewards-schliemann-found-it-his-wife-sophia-wore-it-for-the-first-time-in-50-years-the-world-is-about-to-see-it-caroline-moorehead-tells-his-story-1445558.html

            And lets see what other ridiculous things you’ve said.. How about this one?

            “Now, once again, it’s a simple fact that Josephus was born years after Jesus supposedly died. Whether Jesus was a real person or not, Josephus was simply not in a position to know, one way or the other.”

            He was born circa 37AD, you’re telling me that his grandparents or any other elderly people couldn’t possibly have been alive when Jesus was crucified? With the information in the link provided earlier, can it be supposed that people in 37AD were less able to recall recent events than those who possibly authored the Odyssey in 800BC?

            “Here’s a hint: using big words is only impressive to stupid people. People who understand the words will be able to see that you’re not actually saying anything.”

            I do apologize, it looks like I better tone it down, especially since I have a bunch of morons such as yourself reading my comments. How can you not understand what I was referring to? Oh, I know, it’s probable that you know nothing about geopolitics, modern or contemporary and how it could ever possibly affect you or your ancestors.. or your descendants. You apathetic twit.

            “Tell that to all the atheist…libertarians.”

            A real libertarian would never denounce someone’s faith or try to control it as atheists have done with Christianity in the US. They wouldn’t allow it to take over the government, but they would at least let people celebrate their faith in peace. Most of the crazy Christians today out picketing with their hate signs are a product of persistent persecution (both perceived and real). Atheism is a form of thought control with a narrow focus on religion. It’s less about freedom of expression than it is more about attempting to weed out the last bit of religious culture in society. Like it our not, the Constitution was founded on the ideas of Christian individuals like Algernon Sidney (notably his book ‘Discourses Concerning Government’), which is where the understanding that “all men were created equal” disseminated from.

            Anyways, now that you’ve proven yourself to be an ignoramus in all relevant topics of discussion, I must take my leave.

          2. LykeX

            As far as your blatant dismissal of legend and lore…

            I see you’ve decided to continue the trend of not actually reading what I write.

            I don’t think we should automatically reject everything that’s in the bible. I just don’t think we should uncritically accept it, either. That’s why I’m interested in whether the biblical accounts have independent verification.

            If we can verify it with other evidence, then obviously it’s true. If we can’t, we should be skeptical. Why is that such a difficult idea for you?

            He was born circa 37AD, you’re telling me that his grandparents or any other elderly people couldn’t possibly have been alive when Jesus was crucified?

            If your grandfather tells you something, it’s still a second hand account. It doesn’t magically become first-hand by virtue of a family relationship.

            Also, to my knowledge, Josephus doesn’t mention who his sources are for these things. Did he hear this from his grandfather who witnessed it himself? From someone who heard it from one of the disciples? Or from someone whose brother’s friend’s aunt’s grocer’s son heard it from a guy he met at the bar?

            I don’t know. Do you know?
            Could this point of uncertainty perhaps affect how much we can trust the account?

            Oh, I know, it’s probable that you know nothing about geopolitics, modern or contemporary and how it could ever possibly affect you or your ancestors.. or your descendants.

            Do you really think I’m going to be intimidated simply because you make obscure references to “geopolitics”? If you knew what the word meant, you might realize that it’s kind of a big subject.

            You apathetic twit.

            I’m sending you love and light.

            A real libertarian would never denounce someone’s faith or try to control it as atheists have done with Christianity in the US

            And we’re back to the conspiracy nonsense, so I’ll just ignore the rest.

          3. ericvon germania

            “He was born circa 37AD”
            I guess EricR meant “died”

          4. LykeX

            No, he’s referring to the birth of Josephus, in 37AD.

          5. ericvon germania

            ah ok. I guess I have skipped some parts.
            anyway, seems it was a forgery or, if not, Joseph didn’t think that that news as much value for it is like a small sentence insert in other stuff without any relation with the subject.

          6. LykeX

            Yeah, the one passage that directly call Jesus “the Christ” is almost certainly a later insertion. For one, Josephus wasn’t a Christian himself and he was a supporter of the Roman emperor. For him to claim that the rabble-rousing Jesus was the messiah is out of the question.
            There are other, more plausible passages (e.g. mentioning James, the brother of Jesus), but they’re also don’t give as good support for the existence of Jesus.

            Of course, this whole bit can easily get bogged down in a big discussion about whether or not a given passage is reliable, so I prefer to side-step that issue by just pointing out that either way, Josephus was not a witness to any of it. He reports on what other people have told him.

            Again, the most you can conclude from Josephus is that it was commonly accepted that Jesus had been a real person. Whether that was accurate or just an ancient urban legend is still up for grabs.

    3. 67.3
      vgerdj

      I can’t believe I wasted my time reading this “debate”.

      Welcome to the club. Stephen brought nothing new to the discussion. Tired old PRATT.

      “You don’t know what spurred that event, so you cannot refute that it was possibly made by a creator.”

      Russell was refuting the assertion, by Stephen, that it was made by a SPECIFIC creator, the one Stephen created in his mind after he read a book. Because, if that creator can plausibly be shown NOT to exist, the rest is less likely.

      “no response from Russell on how carbon-dating has been proven to be ineffective because of various interfering factors”

      I don’t think Russell is a Geologist, and could not cover ALL of Stephen’s bad science. And, this information is readily available on the inter-webs thingy.

      “(Josephus validated Christ and John the Baptist’s existence),”

      even if we take this for granted, I don’t, but there is the whole mountain of miracles, rising from the dead, and divinity that has to be scaled.

      “truth and simple logic provided in the New Testament. If you haven’t read it, then you are either a coward or you’re unfit for discussion regarding Christianity.”

      See, we have read it and that is why this discussion is ongoing, you just refuse to accept that we DO NOT BELIEVE YOU OR YOUR STORIES.

  68. 68
    ericvon germania

    Note: comments between the ( ) in the “last words” are from wiki’s Sayings of Jesus on the cross

  69. 69
    Clio

    What I learned from this debate:

    1) I need to study some philosophy because I had to look up every other word in Stephen’s responses multiple times just to make sense of them and google 80% of the terms he cited as part of his arguments.

    2) I like straight talk.

    3) My atheism has been reinforced not only by Russel’s well reasoned, easily understood responses but also by Stephen’s lack of ability to convince me of anything.

    4) Religo-speak makes absolutely no logical sense to me.

    5) I used to have some interest in reading apologist arguments (I never have) but if they’re all like Stephen’s arguments I’d rather stick an ice pick in my eye.

    6) If I stuck an ice pick in my eye, the Christians win.

    How depressing.

    Russel won by default to me (on top of the fact that I agreed with his approach to topics and the rationale or logic he was employing in his posts) since Stephen failed utterly to prove the statements he was claiming he would prove and, for what it’s worth, Stephen at least inspired me to, you know, want to stick an ice pick in my eye. So that’s kind of a win for him.

  70. 70
    Dan D

    Most of his points were admittedly WAY over my head. Where he lost me was when he used the Call of Duty(pen)/Universe analogy. This is a video game, it was caused, sustained, and determined by a being.so the universe must also have been caused, sustained, and determined by a being. What other option is there? Random happenstance?
    I really enjoyed your counter to his root causality argument. If both the Atheist position and the Theist position lead to an unknown variable prior to the Universe’s current state (by whatever trace back one wishes) what argument then confirms a deity vs. any other option?

    More importantly, since I read all ten articles in one sitting this evening, I now have a hell of a headache…

    Love your show folks!

  1. 71
    Reply to Stephen Feinstein, round four | The Atheist Experience

    [...] Continue to part 5. Share this:EmailDiggTwitterFacebookRedditStumbleUpon Posted in Atheism & Religion Tags: apologetics, counter-apologetics, email debate, epistemology, presuppositional apologetics, Stephen Feinstein « An open letter to Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa Matrix Apologetics again? » Both comments and pings are currently closed. [...]

  2. 72
    Open thread: In which Stephen Feinstein talks to himself | The Atheist Experience

    [...] My last post remains my last post. However, I’d recommend that all you sinners go over there and give feedback, since there’s a comment box open, but I’ve heard from commenters on the previous thread that the comments are moderated and none are getting published.  So feel free to try, but if you can get through, then just go ahead and give your reactions on this open thread. [...]

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