What kids learn in Sunday School

This is one of those e-mails where, if I’m going to take the considerable time it will require to answer it, more than one person should benefit. So, rather than reply directly to the correspondent, I think the blog is a better venue for this sort of information. A lot of what “AS” has to say below is the same disinformation I was handed as a young person growing up in a fundamentalist, literalist church. At least two items are pretty much exactly what I was told. And so I feel compelled to respond.

First of all, nothing below matters in the least unless a god exists. If no god exists, then there was no sacrifice. If no god exists, there was no deity who walked among us. If no god exists, the Bible is not divinely inspired. And so on. In the same way it makes no sense to say “Fairies make the flowers bloom, and if you doubt me, I have but to show you a blooming flower,” it makes no sense to say “God is responsible for X, and if you doubt me, I have but to show you X.” And X can be filled in with “coming to earth as a man,” or “inspiring the Bible,” or “creating the universe,” or whatever your heart desires. Whatever you think god has done, until you demonstrate a god actually exists, you haven’t made your point.

That being said, a lot of the refutation below becomes moot. BUT, it may have significance to theists who care about whether or not the church is lying to them, or whether or not what they believe and promote is even likely to be true. And so, I put myself through the pointless paces below because it’s possible someone, somewhere might benefit.

First of all the sacrifice of Jesus wasn’t for God himself, it was for His Creation. because God is a holy and righteous God He CANNOT look upon sin, because he gave His Creation free will, we’ve ALL chosen to sin, and because of that we can’t be in God’s presence. If we’ve accepted Jesus Christ God CAN then and ONLY then look at us as sanctified, and then worthy enough to be with Him.

Please note that AS’s god “cannot” look upon sin, which means that the Bible is not correct in Matthew 19:26 when it says “Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.’” AS here has identified something that is not possible for god.

And we also know then that god is not everywhere. If god can’t be in proximity to “sin” (can’t even look at it—does god have eyes?)—then where there is sin, god is not. So, not all powerful, not everywhere—it becomes less and less god-like with each claim about it. But most importantly, where is AS getting this information? Has someone examined god to determine any of this? To see what the limits of a god are—where a god can/can’t go, what a god can/can’t do? I’m guessing not. And yet, like Big Foot researchers, not having access to one to actually study doesn’t seem to stop them from telling us all about them.

Then, we have the problem of free will. While we can debate whether it exists in any meaningful sense, or what it might represent in reality, the question can be answered with “Does god have free will?” If yes, then it is possible to be all good and have free will. If no, well, then there’s another thing god is restricted by. But if god has free will, then man could have been created all good and having free will, just like god.

Then we have the issue of god creating people as he chose to create them, presumably knowing precisely how they would act, and then getting upset at people for doing what he designed them to do. If I build cars with brakes I know will fail, and then declare failure is unacceptable, is it reasonable to get angry at the cars? If, before I build them, I already know thousands of people will die as a result, who is responsible for the resulting carnage?

But let’s look at human free will in this sense. I am not sexually attracted to children. In fact, I have a strong aversion to the thought of such an act. But, according to AS, I, as a human, have free will. It is inescapable, then, that any/all humans could have an innate aversion to sex with children, and all still have free will—just like me. So, why did god instill some with a desire to have sex with children? If he could have averted child rapes and still given people free will, is it moral that he arbitrarily chose to include “wanting sex with children” as a human attribute in some of us? That’s a sick choice, from any angle. Like saying I’ll build some cars with really, really defective brakes that are just bound to get some people killed—not because I need to. It’s just that’s how I’d like to roll.

And actually there’s TONS of evidence, in Isiah 53: The Suffering and Glory of the Servant

[And here AS quotes the full set of verses 1-12, abbreviated below.]

1 Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed?

12 Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

Quoting the Bible is not “evidence.” This has nothing to do with demonstrating anything about anything. This is a passage that Jewish scholars (and after all, it’s their book, right?) assert is a personification of the nation of Israel and the trials and suffering it endured. Of course, Christians go back and re-interpret everything through their own Jesus-colored goggles, and claim this is about Jesus. And to the reasonable rebuttal “that’s crazy, this author lived many long centuries before Jesus, and would have had no knowledge of Christianity,” the Christian declares “And that proves it’s divine prophecy!” Because it couldn’t possibly be a passage about Israel written by an ancient Hebrew author, right? Far be it from the Jews to be able to interpret their own writings. Good thing the Christians came along to explain to them what their own culture produced.

if you just read the Bible, instead of Choosing what you “want” it to be then it would actually make sense. And that was only ONE chapter out of the Whole OT.

Pot, meet Kettle. See above.

And about the Jewish captivity I’ve heard you say didn’t happen, how do you know 100% sure that it’s not real?

Well, there’s this thing called “burden of proof.” It means that when someone makes a claim, they have an obligation to support it—with actual evidence, not just more claims.

there’s actual history books, on that fact.

Then it should be no problem to demonstrate this “fact,” right? Please provide evidence this story ever happened in reality, because historians currently admit it appears to be a fabrication. In fact one thing I love to do is use people who agree with a position I don’t, to show the flaws. In this case, here is a Jewish promotional site talking about this very issue. The person replying to the question is basically admitting there isn’t a shred of real evidence to support the claim that the Exodus occurred, and that believers just have this Hebrew story. And the person replying declares that’s where “faith” comes in—to help you believe a claim about history for which you only have a story but no supporting evidence. If it’s a demonstrable “fact,” why do you need “faith” to believe it?

http://www.jewishpost.com/archives/cyber-rav/did-the-exodus-story-really-happen.html

I agree with them that there’s no evidence, but in my view, that’s a reason to assert the book appears to not coincide with what we can demonstrate about historic fact, not a reason to believe it’s accurate. If one book were written that claimed George Washington was a cross dresser, but when you looked into the claim, you found no actual evidence to support the claim—why would you accept it as true? The person making the claim needs to demonstrate why anyone should accept it. If they can’t, then it’s just an unsupported claim, and why would anyone believe it?

Just like there’s history books on Pilate/ and even HE was in the Bible.

Correct. There is more than the Bible to substantiate the existence of particular Roman rulers. And when we are presented with more evidence than just Bible stories, we tend to give the claims more weight. In the same way, Homer wrote stories about battles and rulers, too. And because we have more information than just Homer’s stories, from excavation, we are willing to accept these figures in his stories represent real people—where it’s justified to do so. But where Homer suggests that the Greek gods came down to do battle with the armies, we tend to say maybe Homer was fudging just a bit for dramatic effect, don’t we? Why? Why, after we learned that the people in Homer’s tales were real, did we still reject that Greek gods came down and participated in the battles? Didn’t the fact that he talked about real people in his stories mean they had to be totally true? Isn’t that what you’re suggesting a person should do? I don’t think that would be reasonable. So, I don’t agree that’s what people should do when evaluating stories. Not all claims are equal—even claims within the same story. Some require more evidence than others. And “just a story” about gods fighting in a battle is not enough “evidence” to make that claim believable, no matter how many people believe it or tell it, and even when it’s paired with mentions of other real people we know lived, and places we know existed.

And how then do you know all of the historical stories, or even science books for that matter are correct,

That actually requires two different set of criteria for evaluation. Historic claims have to be investigated and the best, most reasonable, most educated evaluations should be made, because we can’t go back in time to confirm them. Some historic claims are easier to confirm than others—such as claims of Roman battles where we are able to excavate and find evidence of Roman battles. Other claims are harder to verify—such as whether or not a guy named Robin Hood ever existed. Our best guesses about history, then, can still be incorrect; but we have only whatever evidence remains to examine and expert opinion to go on.

This is not the same with claims about science or claims about how things are currently in reality. These are claims we can (and should) actually verify through testing, observation and repeated verification. So, if someone makes a claim about gravity, we simply test it to see if it’s true. Or if we can’t test it, then we have to wait until someone devises a test in order to know whether the claim is true or not—and until that time we don’t have any cause to believe the claim. So we wait to see if it should be believed before we lend it our belief.

With a claim of “god exists,” for example, we should be using this method, not a historic evaluation, because, if god exists right now, and has any influence or impact on anything right now, then we can examine that in real time, right now. We don’t have to go back and try to make a best guess—because what we want to know is here now, and if people claim to know it’s here now, they should be able to provide the rest of us with the evidence that this thing is here now—just like gravity is here now, and we can test for that. If the people making the claim can’t provide any evidence to support their god exists in the here and now, then the rest of us can only wonder why they think there is “something” there, when they can’t demonstrate anything is there at all. Carl Sagan wrote up a nice, easy-to-understand analogy about why this fails:

http://www.users.qwest.net/~jcosta3/article_dragon.htm

well it’s the same with the Bible. think of the Bible as one big historical book. It’s the same thing in a court room, where people write/type down what exaclty is happening.

OK, and just as with other history books, when we evaluate them, the most reasonable expert evaluation should be accepted. And when we have a test such as the Isaiah passage you provided earlier, here is what we have to choose from:

1. An ancient Hebrew wrote about his own nation’s trials and tribulations and used personification as a literary technique, or

2. A god inspired a guy to write a story about how this god would come to Earth centuries later and offer himself up as a human sacrifice in human form to save the world from an eternal torture chamber; and he made the story seem like an ancient Hebrew writing about his nation’s trials and tribulations using personification as a literary technique, but really it was magical prophecy that nobody would really understand the true meaning of until centuries later.

Is there really any choice there?

The Bible is infallable.. without error….many people including atheist have tried to dis-prove it, but from many speculations, and in-depth studies has come to the conclusion, that it is real.

The Bible is real, I agree. It’s just not divinely inspired. Nor is it correct in all cases. Nor is it error free, as you claim. As before, the best rebuttal to Christian disinformation is a good religious source. The men and women, with degrees in theological disciplines and ancient Biblical languages, who have devoted their lives to translating the Bible from manuscripts I wouldn’t even be allowed to breathe on, and who work for companies who produce and sell Bibles for profit, are the same people who point out the errors and problems right there IN the Bible’s own pages. The marginal notes in the Bible are the Bible’s worst enemy when it comes to claims of “perfection” in the text or translation. Please check out passages like John 7:53-8:11:

http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=john%207:53-8:11&version=NIV

Translator’s note, in the text: [The earliest manuscripts and many other ancient witnesses do not have John 7:53—8:11. A few manuscripts include these verses, wholly or in part, after John 7:36, John 21:25, Luke 21:38 or Luke 24:53.]

And like Mark 16:9-20

http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Mark+16&version=NIV

Translator’s note, in the text: [The earliest manuscripts and some other ancient witnesses do not have verses 9–20.]

When you say it’s perfect, you’re disagreeing with the men and women who are best qualified to make that decision. Additionally, they make their living by producing Bibles, and so have every reason to support the book; and yet they have to be professionally honest and admit evidence does not support the claim that it is perfect. The book you have in your hands every Sunday is not considered, by the best available Bible scholars, to be error-free. That’s a Christian claim that, again, not surprisingly, defies actual expert opinion.

Additionally, do you know who selected the books and put them together as the Bible? Do you know when that was done? Do you know why? Do you know who commissioned it? Do you know what methods they used to select the books they included and reject the books they didn’t? Do you know that your Bible Canon is not the only official Canon in Christianity? Do you know that the other Canons are not based on the same base set of manuscripts? Do you know why? I’m guessing not. But all of this should interest you. If you don’t know the answers to these questions, ask yourself why a church that preaches the Bible is god’s word hasn’t informed you about how this book actually, historically came to exist. Think: Does that seem even a little bit odd? All that Bible study, and not a single class on the history of how that book came to end up in your hands?

And maybe I’m wrong. But honestly, I think if you knew those answers, you wouldn’t be asserting it’s a perfect book.

And about the flood, again try to dis-prove it. I’ve actually done a study on the flood. Did you know they found fish fossils on mountains. In Mountains all over the world one can find sea shells and other marine fossils. These include the Sierras, the Swiss Alps, the Himalayas and many more. Just look it up!!

One of my most embarrassing moments as a young Christian was when I trotted out this piece of fail, myself. And I was immediately reminded of a fact I knew, but my cognitive dissonance had let me set aside: Mountains are often formed from land masses that were once submerged under water. And also, they are formed often from glacial movement, where sheets of ice move from ocean locations across land and push up masses of earth. The water then melts over time. Mountains with sea fossils on them would not be indicative of a world-wide flood that covered mountain peaks. In fact, modern geology does not hold that our planet’s history included a global flood. And if you aren’t home schooled, you’ll recall this from your younger years when you studied Earth’s basic geology.

Plus the BIGGEST evidence of all. If you look at a world map you’ll see that ALL of the continents when put together, fits together.

Plate tectonics proves god?

And at the tower of Babel when people were trying to get up to miss the flood, God dispersed the languages, so that the people could NO longer communicate with each other. Therefore that why we have different languages(Tower of Babel Gen: 11:6) , and seperated continents (Flood Gen: 6:9-8:22) It also shocked me too, I was once a non-believer, and I actually sat down and read the Bible, and it told me everything.

I suggest you read the story of Babel again. It has nothing to do with the flood. It was about people building a tower due to personal pride, not to escape a flood (Gen 11):

3 They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. 4 Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves…

And there is no mention of plate tectonics in Gen 6-8. If you have a specific passage you think I’ve missed, let me know. But I don’t recall god moving continents after or during the flood. And I’m not going to quote three chapters at this blog to demonstrate it. Anyone who would like to look it up and read it can. If I’ve overlooked anything, feel free to let me know.

But, let me go back to Babel. Here, again, the Bible conflicts markedly with scholarship in the area of how languages evolved and moved around the globe. Especially with the advent of written language forms, we were able to trace language development between people over time, and we know how language changes, and we can make some pretty expert links between languages based on word roots and structures. Language moved around the globe and changed as a process that was quite natural over lengthy periods of time. There is no evidence of all known, different languages cropping up at a single time in a single location. That’s actually in conflict with linguistic models.

Try your best but I don’t think you’ll be able to get around this easily.

In order to accept your claims, I would be required to disagree with expert opinion in a variety of well studied fields. I’m not prepared to do that. If the book disagrees with what is known about our world, why wouldn’t I draw the conclusion the book is wrong? To assert the book is right, I have to reject actual scholarship and evidence. And if I do that, what am I using as my guide for telling fact from fiction? If the goal is to judge whether the book is correct, isn’t the fact that it doesn’t align with reality evidence of its failing? It is to me. If we’re going to reject evidence and expert opinion, and just go with the book—what is the point of even examining reality to see it if coincides? Isn’t that just a waste of time?

These are tired pieces of disinformation that have been promoted by churches since I was your age. It was fail then, and it’s no less fail now. I totally understand how easy it is to accept it. Your preacher, your family, your “information” (which consists of apologetic sources right now), all support your beliefs. But if you ever decide to see what actual scholars have to say about the evidence/facts on these subjects, and not just what other Christians assert, you’ll find it’s not what you’ve been told.

I’m 16 years old and I know I may not hve studied as long as some of you but I’m trying to find out the truth and show others it can be found like I did.

So you’re trying to “find” the truth—but you’ve “found” it? It’s one or the other. If you believe you have it, then you’re not still looking. And if you’re still looking, you’ll find in short order that this “truth” you’ve been handed is a pack of fables.

So thanks for your time and I’ll wait for your responses. Let me know if you find any errors in my logic and whether or not you have been convinced…

As I noted already, a huge part of what drove me to reply to this was simply that you sound so much like I did at your age. It pains me to realize what was done to me, and to see it still being done, no matter how much information is so much more readily available to young people today than it was to me when I was your age. It almost makes me wonder if there will ever be a time when real information will be available enough to keep people from being able to successfully lie to their children. And yet, you wrote to our show—and that’s a damn sight more resource than I would have had access to at 16. So, that’s something.

And let me end on the note upon which I started. Nothing at all above matters, unless you, or anyone, can demonstrate a god exists. If no god exists, there is no point to discussing or debating any of the above points—not a single one. They’re useless exchanges, until and unless it can be demonstrated that there even is a god that exists. Until that time, we have no method to verify any claims regarding any gods (what they’re like or what they do)—to what could we compare the claims in order to determine if they match reality?

Thanks for writing.