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Oct 25 2011

I have a bad feeling about this

August Berkshire is debating a local pastor, Martin Bownik, Wednesday night, on the subject of “Why would Jesus need to die for my Sins?” It’s a dorktastic organization and a ridiculous topic that begs the whole question (my answer: there was no Jesus, blood sacrifice by proxy is barbaric and stupid, so it doesn’t even deserve addressing), but August is a calm-tempered fellow who’ll probably let them hang themselves on their own rope. Here’s where you can go to listen:

26 October, 7pm
The Mann Theatre Maple Grove
13644 80th Circle, Maple Grove, MN

It’s being advertised on facebook, and of course the wacky pastor wrote the copy and is busily recruiting his deluded followers to show up.

Come hear an Atheist and a Pastor share their thoughts on the subject of Christs death. You don’t want to miss this special event! Speakers will be August Berkshire and Pastor Martin Bownik. This is event is being sponsored by KKMS radio 980 am and The EDGE Christian Fellowship Church

Reading the comments (sample: “I pray the Atheist will be saved, in Jesus name”), I’m afraid this debate is simply going to be packed with zombie gomers. Any rational atheists want to show up and give August some backup?


Word is that it will also be broadcast on KKMS, the worst, sleaziest, most dishonest radio station in the Twin Cities. This does not reassure me.

79 comments

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  1. 1
    Alex, Tyrant of Skepsis

    Forget Jesus. The stars died so we could live.

  2. 2
    Loqi

    I decided *not* to go because it was going to be filled with pretentious, vacuous godbots. Plus debates just aren’t my thing. Now you’re trying to guilt trip me into going for the same reason? Ugh, it just might work.

  3. 3
    Glen Davidson

    The trouble with a subject like that is that you almost have to concede some of their nonsense if you want to have any sort of conversation at all.

    And it’s a mistake to concede what lacks evidence for it.

    Besides that, you can range over the whole landscape of theism and Christianity once you start there.

    Glen Davidson

  4. 4
    Dr. R

    Would attend, but I have a yearly dose limit for high intensity theism. Afraid I’m nearly over my limit. Also I have to work.

  5. 5
    raven

    “Why would Jesus need to die for my Sins?”

    Something that never made sense.

    God is supposed to be all powerful and omni-everything. Why couldn’t he just…forgive our sins without sending himself down to be killed for 3 days?

    A fake death for a few days wasn’t much of a sacrifice for well over 7 billion people’s sins.

    How is jesus’s death supposed to atone for our sins anyway? Did he get a huge bag to put our sins in for beng nailed to a cross? How do our sins get from us to him? The whole idea is alien to modern thinking and who knows, maybe it never made any sense.

    My best guess is that jesus the teacher got killed and his followers later deified him. They then had to explain how jesus the magician god man ended up crucified. Why didn’t he just turn them all into rabbits or something. Or it’s just mythology.

  6. 6
    Aratina Cage

    The stars died farted so we could live.

    FTFY. This is Pharyngula after all.

  7. 7
    Atheist Aaron

    If I weren’t all the way in Texas I would probably give it a look. Plus I’m looking for excuses to wear my new out campaign t-shirt. I just can’t imagine what the atheist would have to say. “There is no proof of any Jesus and until we address that the rest of this argument is pointless.” Personally I’d rather just get kicked in the crotch rather than dragging it out for hours.

  8. 8
    A3Kr0n

    PZ, are you already stirring up trouble on that Facebook page?
    Cool.

  9. 9
    razzlefrog

    I avoid these things. I already get enough religion in my life. Even online, you can’t avoid places like Conservapedia 100% of the time. My IQ points go down just scrolling by the link.

    “Aaaaaarrrrrggggghhhhh–IT BURNS! Fuck, not again!”

  10. 10
    hockeybob

    “…broadcast on KKMS, the worst, sleaziest, most dishonest radio station in the Twin Cities…”

    I realize that christian radio = sleazy anyway, but I was wondering what specifics there were to this statement? I tried searching FTB, and this post is the only one with KKMS in it.

  11. 11
    PZ Myers

    KKMS is the station that had me on to debate a creationist; after I made him cry (because he was a DUMBASS), they gave him an open slot the next week to splutter out his lies unopposed.

  12. 12
    Kevin

    It’s all about the blood with those types.

    The gruesome, showy, bloody torture of an allegedly innocent, alleged half-god with shitty superpowers so that he can be temporarily dead and then permanently un-dead.

    The logic escapes me. Perhaps someone could answer the simplest Socratic question possible. Why?

    OK, it gets slightly more complex. To wit:

    Why would an all-powerful god who loves his human creations above all other creatures and wants each and every one of them to be in heaven with him forever in the after-death would have to decide that he could not forgive the original couple the unforgivable crime of eating an IQ-raising sin-fruit without having to send an avatar of himself to earth to be killed as an appeasement to himself for said crime of eating an IQ-raising sin-fruit but only if you truly believe that the avatar was tortured and made temporarily dead and now is permanently undead or else you burn in hell forever for not thinking the right way?

    This god is 1) deficient of imagination, 2) equal measures of sadist and masochist, 3) severely limited in his powers of forgiveness, 4) but not mind-reading.

  13. 13
    required

    I pray the pastor is saved, in FSM’s name.

  14. 14
    Pierce R. Butler

    hockeybob @ # 10: You can find out more about the sad ‘n’ sordid saga of KKMS & our esteemed host starting here.

  15. 15
    myeck waters

    I pray the pastor is saved, in FSM’s name.

    What is FSM’s position on rotini? I just ate some and I’m thinking of using my indigestion as a sort of frankincense.

  16. 16
    Rey Fox

    I would go, but I’m afraid it won’t be enough of a pisstake. Plus I don’t live in Minnesota.

    my answer: there was no Jesus

    In before pointless “historical Jesus” tangent.

    I pray the Atheist will be saved, in Jesus name

    Christians really shouldn’t have given their messiah a name that ends with an “s”, it makes the possessive form tricky.

  17. 17
    Rey Fox

    By the way, how does one pronounce “Pz”?

  18. 18
    WithinthisMind

    I’d start by first asking them to define ‘sin’, and second by explaining how exactly Jesus could have ‘died’ when supposedly he was walking around just a couple days later.

  19. 19
    Zinc Avenger

    Coming up next week: An atheist and a pastor debate the color of God’s beard.

  20. 20
    Brain Hertz

    Kevin @12:

    how about:

    5) Made up…

  21. 21
    Aquaria

    To the dipshit who wished for Berkshire to become a drooling delusional godbot, my reply was “Once you know a delusion is just that, you don’t go back to believing it unless you have brain damage.”

    Let’s see how loudly they shriek about it.

  22. 22
    RFW

    So many questions, so little time.

    1. “there was no Jesus” (P-zed)

    There probably was a Yeshua who was some sort of Jewish reformer, viewed by his followers as a miracle worker. The oldest books of the NT are too close to him in time to be complete fabrications but as followers of gurus are wont to do, the story got embroidered a lot. And then the Greeks got involved and started endlessly arguing about meaningless fine points of christology. An interesting and, istm, pretty level headed book on the subject is The Historical Figure of Jesus by E. P. Sanders, ISBN 0-14-014499-4

    2. “I made him [a creationist] cry” (P-zed)

    Kudos to you. Care to give any pointers on technique?

    3. “What is FSM’s position on rotini?” (myeck waters)

    It’s an unclean food. Made from ground up xtian babies. Eat lots.

    4. “how does one pronounce “Pz”?” (Rey Fox)

    pee-zee, or, if you are north of the 49th parallel, pee-zed.

    Next!

  23. 23
    Pan

    Christians really shouldn’t have given their messiah a name that ends with an “s”, it makes the possessive form tricky.

    Most languages shouldn’t have a problem with the genitive (but possibly other cases), because it doesn’t take the form of an s at the end of a word. For the sake of a clear genitive, let’s only talk about Jesus in… Basque?

    (The German possessive case is quite similiar to the English one, but this guy is called “Jesus Christus”, so we can’t form an unambiguous Genitive of his name. The Latin declension, which is used by the church is practically unknown and sounds weird. Maybe that’s why young people here are so atheist.)

  24. 24
    Wowbagger, Designated Snarker

    Raven wrote:

    God is supposed to be all powerful and omni-everything. Why couldn’t he just…forgive our sins without sending himself down to be killed for 3 days?

    Yep, I’ve always struggled with that one as well. It makes absolutely no sense, even compared to the rest of the nonsensical tripe that Christians claim to believe.

    There’s also the fact that he knew he’d be going up to heaven afterwards, meaning that his so-called ‘sacrifice’ was nothing but a temporary inconvenience; had he agreed to go to hell and suffer for all eternity in our place, then it might have been a sacrifice.

    I’ve also never come across a Christian who could explain how it worked either.

  25. 25
    DemetriusOfPharos

    “Why would Jesus need to die for my Sins?”

    As Stanhope says: “He died for your sins… well, how does one effect the other? I hit myself in the foot with a shovel for your mortgage. I don’t understand. And if there is a correlation, why would you do that? Your sins are the only thing interesting about you dreary, bleak motherfuckers.”

  26. 26
    elmo14

    I’ll be there. There better be an open mic Q&A rather than one in which written questions are read by a biased evangelical moderator.

  27. 27
    pelamun

    (The German possessive case is quite similiar to the English one, but this guy is called “Jesus Christus”, so we can’t form an unambiguous Genitive of his name. The Latin declension, which is used by the church is practically unknown and sounds weird. Maybe that’s why young people here are so atheist.)

    Greek, not Latin.

    /nitpick

  28. 28
    Brain Hertz

    The oldest books of the NT are too close to him in time to be complete fabrications…

    Isn’t that kind of begging the question?

    Do the early writings of the church really nail down a specific timeframe for his existence, or was that painted in later?

  29. 29
    Brain Hertz

    I’ve also never come across a Christian who could explain how it worked either.

    Me neither. I have come across quite a few who just adopt a smug grin and say “Yes, isn’t it mysterious?”

  30. 30
    frankarmstrong

    (my answer: there was no Jesus, blood sacrifice by proxy is barbaric and stupid, so it doesn’t even deserve addressing)

    For the sake of argument would it not be of interest to address the nature of belief? What is there in humans that they will believe a hodgepodge of Levantine creation myths but not analyze in any depth the content of those myths? When myths are viewed as literal truth they are patently silly, but when viewed as a window on humanity, as metaphors for what it is to be human, do they not contain something of value and worth a deeper examination? Would not a scientist be loth to dismiss that which is observable, or settle for a dismissive value judgement when a more objective investigation might reveal something deeper, something indeed of scientific value as it pertains to human behavior? Yes, much of the game of religion is manipulation of fear and desire, but to dismiss the irrational out of hand is to confuse compost with rubbish, and gardens benefit from the former but choke on the latter.

    Note: the idea of a god who demands a blood sacrifice for having been wronged by his disobedient children who acted out of the free will that he gave the initial pair…meh, the message, as I see it, is that daddy is crazy and malevolent, and you’re in deep trouble. The deeper message may be that if you don’t face and examine the irrational in yourself, perhaps the barbaric impulses of your own unconscious, those unconscious contents will nevertheless eventually examine and perhaps even judge you–a fate I don’t recommend. Do I mean some separate and magical entity will “examine you literally?” Nope.

  31. 31
    Pan

    Greek, not Latin.

    /nitpick

    Greek word, Latin declension.

    At least for “Christus”, the declension of Jesus is a mixture of Greek and Latin declension. So says my holy scripture. (german)

  32. 32
    pelamun

    Me neither. I have come across quite a few who just adopt a smug grin and say “Yes, isn’t it mysterious?”

    Yes, the pope was just recently on record celebrating “the mystery of faith”… oh there is even a encyclical called Mysterium fidei… why am I not surprised…

  33. 33
    pelamun

    At least for “Christus”, the declension of Jesus is a mixture of Greek and Latin declension. So says my holy scripture. (german)

    That (the highlighted part) doesn’t make sense.
    I don’t know if you know Latin, but “Jesu” is not a Latin geneitive. It’s true that “Christi” is Latin declension, though Christus is a Latinised form of a Greek word.

    /nitpick[I mean six years of Latin school must be good for something!!]

  34. 34
    What a Maroon, el papa ateo

    Until recently, I would’ve suggested using the Patti Smith line from “Gloria”: “Jesus died for somebody’s sins but not mine.” I always figured she was a lapsed catholic, and that was meant as a big FU to the church. Yeah, buddy, who are you to die for my sins? “My sins are my own,” asshole. You can’t take them away.

    Then I found out that she’s some kind of weird seventh-day adventist. That made me sad. Curse you, Google! Up yours, Wikipedia! She’s not being defiant, she’s being pathetic.

    But you know what, who cares? It’s a great song, and a great line, and who is Patti Smith to tell me how I should interpret her songs? My meanings belong to me. So Jesus died for my sins? Some non-existent dude got nailed to the cross because I didn’t follow to a letter the bizarre, psychotic rules and regulations of his jealous dad? You know, I really don’t give a fuck. He can melt in a pot of thieves for all I care.

  35. 35
    octopod

    Nonono, internal logic dictates that Judas is the savior!

    Look, all Jesus did was die for three days and then bounce right back from it, and he ended up in Heaven. Judas had to not only betray his close friend and mentor to public execution and then kill himself (already more than Jesus did), but commit himself to eternal torture in order to pull off the plan. Who’s the real sacrificial lamb in this story? Yeah. Thought so.

    (I would like to say that I’d thought this out BEFORE I read the Borges story, thankyouverymuch.)

  36. 36
    Zugswang

    When myths are viewed as literal truth they are patently silly, but when viewed as a window on humanity, as metaphors for what it is to be human, do they not contain something of value and worth a deeper examination?

    Not unless you really think people are naturally evil, since so much of Abrahamic mythology relies on that unfounded assumption.

    Would not a scientist be loth to dismiss that which is observable, or settle for a dismissive value judgement when a more objective investigation might reveal something deeper, something indeed of scientific value as it pertains to human behavior?

    I’ve yet to see anything from any religious text contribute positively to scientific understanding. When people find anything in these texts, it’s always after science figures it out. Then the religious go back to their holy books to create some convoluted reinterpretation in a weak attempt to claim that some profound truth was already conveyed to us hundreds or thousands of years earlier, but they just didn’t see it until science gave them the answer first.

    I would say the only value the bible has is to serve as a warning to others about the dangers of taking bedtime stories too seriously.

  37. 37
    Ichthyic

    Come hear an Atheist and a Pastor share their thoughts on the subject of Christs death.

    I imagine the atheist side of that being quite brief, something like:

    “Jesus might have been a man that might have lived in an area around Galilee around 2000 years ago. He’s dead now. The end.”

  38. 38
    Ichthyic

    When myths are viewed as literal truth they are patently silly, but when viewed as a window on humanity, as metaphors for what it is to be human, do they not contain something of value and worth a deeper examination?

    no.

    Because anything that can be explained by metaphor can be explained just as well directly.

    If a metaphor REQUIRES deep examination, it is then, by definition, a failure.

  39. 39
    A. R

    Ichthyic: They could mention the meme of vicarious redemption found in many world religions.

  40. 40
    frankarmstrong

    Not unless you really think people are naturally evil, since so much of Abrahamic mythology relies on that unfounded assumption.

    No such assertion was made or intended. The Bronze age writings tell us much about the Semites and their view of the world, but are not (in my opinion) a helpful guide to living a full, creative and passionate life.

    I’ve yet to see anything from any religious text contribute positively to scientific understanding.

    That’s why I think of Science as the one to do the examining, the exploration of the myths, and not vice-versa. Myths are stories that tell us about ourselves, not about gods (or so I contend).

    This subject is awkward to explore in comments for a few reasons, one being that in a linear discussion one cannot “get everything in.”

    A.R says If a metaphor REQUIRES deep examination, it is then, by definition, a failure.

    It’s not the metaphor that requires anything: it’s the human being who is at play here, not the abstraction. That being said I am puzzled that there is apparently a definition of metaphor that states that a given metaphor is a “failure” because it is open to “deep examination.” Who decided that one?

    p.s. Science to me, the very essence of it, would be a derelict art if it merely dismissed the folk stories and myths of the nations of the world, and did not evaluate the tales for insights into what it is to be human. Hardly controversial, yet there it is. Here’s a quote before I shut up:

    “Half the people in the world think that the metaphors of their religious traditions, for example, are facts. And the other half contends that they are not facts at all. As a result we have people who consider themselves believers because they accept metaphors as facts, and we have others who classify themselves as atheists because they think religious metaphors are lies.”

    Joseph Campbell

  41. 41
    frankarmstrong

    Sorry A.R–I attributed a statement to you that was made by Ichthyic. Please accept my apology (literal, not metaphorical).

  42. 42
    Denis Loubet

    Some questions to ask the pastor:

    (The sublime:)
    Do you think your salvation was worth the death of Jesus?

    (The ridiculous:)
    If you could go back in time a successfully rescue Jesus from the crucifixion, would you do it?

  43. 43
    August Berkshire

    Here is the basic strategy:

    1) Assume, for the sake of argument, that Christianity is true.

    2) Show that there are too many internal contradictions for it to possibly, logically, be true – just as a square circle cannot exist.

    3) Thus the premise (step 1) is untrue.

    Isn’t this how most of us became atheists? We assumed that what we were told as children about religion was true, then we examined it and found contradictions (e.g. problem of evil; evolution, etc.), then concluded it wasn’t true?

    None of us was able to directly prove that an invisible, undetectable god didn’t exist. It just basically, eventually, didn’t make any sense to us.

  44. 44
    F
    The stars died farted so we could live.

  45. 45
    Samantha Vimes, Chalkboard Monitor

    It didn’t make an atheist out of me (on account of my parents were raising me deist), but I knew I could never be a Christian when they tried to guilt trip me into joining because Jesus died for my sins. “I’m a little kid,” I thought, “and the worst thing I’ve ever done is snitched a cookie and eaten it before dinner. That’s hardly a crime that someone should die for. Besides, if someone deserved to die or be tortured for something bad I did, I’d much rather it be me than an innocent. It wouldn’t be right. In fact, it would be evil for me to accept Jesus dying for my sins– it would make me an accomplice to the murder of him.”

  46. 46
    Alex, Tyrant of Skepsis

    I don’t know, the entire premise of this debate is crazy. Imagine you are invited to debate one of the Emperor’s tailors, and the topic is

    “Should one use 1 1/4 inch or 1 1/2 inch needles in order to attach the collar buttons of the Emperor’s silk shirt.”

    You automatically lose if your first words aren’t “The question is completely loaded, I contest that any of this makes any sense”

  47. 47
    WCorvi

    It seems fairly obvious that there is a fundamental contradiction – if god is all powerful and all knowing, then even though he made up the rule that when adam and eve ate the apple, the gates of heaven closed to all, then he could make an amendment to that rule that the gates are now open again, without all the bother. And it cannot be said that he made the first rule without knowing the consequences, either.

    The real debate shouldn’t be about why he had to die for our sins. The real debate should be about how people can be SOOO SLOOOWWWWW to not see the logical fallacy in the whole scheme.

  48. 48
    kristiningstrup

    Definitely read this lecture title as “Why would Jesus need to die for my Sims?” and was consequently much more interested in what this pastor had to say at first.

  49. 49
    sumdum

    I don’t even agree there is such a thing as a sin. And the few rules that make sense are codified in law, such as don’t steal or murder.

  50. 50
    Zugswang

    That’s why I think of Science as the one to do the examining, the exploration of the myths, and not vice-versa. Myths are stories that tell us about ourselves, not about gods (or so I contend).

    Nope. As I said earlier, the only time anyone finds meaning in those stories is when they’re reinterpreted AFTER science has already figured it out. If you’re going to say that the bible is infinitely interpretable, then the bible is such a loose weave as to be completely worthless, as there’s no one correct way to view the bible. If, say, I were to interpret the bible as being written very sarcastically by a series of writers over the years, I could come up with a vastly different interpretation than you would, and both our views would be equally worthless when their contribution to science is examined (though I would contend that my interpretation would make the bible much funnier).

    I could go through the Lord of the Rings series, or any other work of fiction, and do the same thing; it doesn’t mean that LoTR has anything profound to teach us about ourselves. It’s an entertaining story with compelling characters, nothing more. We’re not going to learn anything about psychology by reading fiction.

    Science looks at facts and bases its conclusions from those observable facts. It doesn’t look at works of fiction and manufacture facts from it. That’s what religion does.

  51. 51
    davem

    What I want to know is why Dog waited for 4,000 years before sending down a clone of himself to get killed. Why didn’t he send himself one minute after Adam and Eve had partaken of that tree? Would have saved all that flood nonsense. Then we’d still have dinosaurs alive today. That’d be so much more cool.

  52. 52
    Arcanyn

    It would be much more entertaining if, say they got, say, a believer in the Norse religion to debate the pastor. It’d be interesting to see how the pastor responds to the argument that Jesus’s death for our sins is pointless on the grounds that it is frost giants, not sins that are our greatest threat, and Thor managed to take care of those nicely (seen any frost giants lately?). Given that the whole Christian position is based upon unsupported assertion, the most appropriate opponent will be one who responds to it with rival unsupported assertion, as it’ll become pretty clear very quickly that both sides have just as much justification for their beliefs.

  53. 53
    Human Ape

    Why would Jeebus need to die for my Sins?

    This nutty concept was drilled into me relentlessly for several years in a Catholic school. The ugly nuns repeated these exact same words several times a day every single day: Christ died for your sins.

    I wish I had the nerve back when I was a little kid to stand up in class and tell the disgusting nun she was full of shit. Then I could have been expelled and sent to a real school.

  54. 54
    Alex, Tyrant of Skepsis

    Arcanyn,

    It’d be interesting to see how the pastor responds to the argument that Jesus’s death for our sins is pointless on the grounds that it is frost giants, not sins that are our greatest threat, and Thor managed to take care of those nicely (seen any frost giants lately?).

    This has something going for it. Also, while not Bach, there’s still some fun music about it.

  55. 55
    Cosmic Teapot, not the Antichrist.

    It would be much more entertaining if, say they got, say, a believer in the Norse religion to debate the pastor.

    :)

  56. 56
    greame

    As much as the “Why can’t god just forgive us?” and “If jesus came back to life, where’s the sacrifice?”, the question that I always come back to is, “If eating the apple gave Eve the knowledge of good and evil, then before she ate it, she would have no notion of good and evil, right or wrong, and therefor, how fucking stupid was god to tell them not to do something when he made them with no understanding of what right and wrong are?”

  57. 57
    frankarmstrong

    zugswswang: Nope. As I said earlier, the only time anyone finds meaning in those stories is when they’re reinterpreted AFTER science has already figured it out. If you’re going to say that the bible is infinitely interpretable, then the bible is such a loose weave as to be completely worthless, as there’s no one correct way to view the bible.

    “The only time anyone finds meaning…” is a narrolwly subjective observation–the meanings (to me, narrow as I am) are not about the fantasy aspects of monotheism but what (again) they reveal about the humans who wrote them and (apparently) believed them. And the idea that the bible “if infinitely interpretable” was not asserted nor is it relevant–I have been attempting to suggest that the curious animal known as man (and woman) has a need to tell myths, and those stories (rubbish if viewed literally, compost if viewed metaphorically) reveal a good deal about humanity. They don’t change facts but they do cast some light on the world we live in. What has happened is the literalists have hogged the myths and made them props to their power, and those who have had to listen and witness the gross stupidity are saying “enough!” Bravo to “enough”–the Middle Eastern god is a lie–but I contend these “just so” stories are worthy of study, not as “real” but as “revealing.” LOTR is also worthy of study–and has maps too!

  58. 58
    AlanMac

    Oh no! You can’t fool me. I read the book. He doesn’t die. Turns out he is not God’s son , but is actually God himself. And he only has a fucked up Easter Weekend in hell (and who hasn’t?) for our sins.

    And besides

    HE’S NOT THE MESSIAH, HE’S A VERY NAUGHTY BOY!

  59. 59
    hockeybob

    Thanks to PZ @11 for clearing that up for me – I neglected to do the search at ScienceBlogs… and thanks to Pierce @14 for the link; now it makes total sense.

    As for what Kevin @12 asks, in one of the longest punctuation-free sentences I’ve ever had the pleasure to read, thus;

    “Why would an all-powerful god who loves his human creations above all other creatures and wants each and every one of them to be in heaven with him forever in the after-death would have to decide that he could not forgive the original couple the unforgivable crime of eating an IQ-raising sin-fruit without having to send an avatar of himself to earth to be killed as an appeasement to himself for said crime of eating an IQ-raising sin-fruit but only if you truly believe that the avatar was tortured and made temporarily dead and now is permanently undead or else you burn in hell forever for not thinking the right way?”

    I think the demotivator that incorporates PZ’s own words at the following link explains everything;

    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2011/01/its_a_lens_to_concentrate_the.php

  60. 60
    August Berkshire

    Samantha Vimes, Chalkboard Monitor says: “In fact, it would be evil for me to accept Jesus dying for my sins– it would make me an accomplice to the murder of him.”

    This is a good point and I hadn’t thought to put it quite that way: “an accomplice after-the-fact to his murder.” Expect to hear me say that in tonight’s debate!

  61. 61
    Sastra

    frankarmstrong #57 wrote:

    Bravo to “enough”–the Middle Eastern god is a lie–but I contend these “just so” stories are worthy of study, not as “real” but as “revealing.”

    As long as you’re putting the Hebrew myths into the same category as Norse myths, fairy tales, folk stories, historical fiction, and The Little Engine That Could, then you’re not saying anything controversial or new to us. Yes. Of course. If the Bible hadn’t been so horribly over-rated we would be approaching it with the same scholarly interest and enjoyment we grant to Aesop’s fables.

    Agree.

    That said, I find it a bit annoying when people come in to Pharyngula or other gnu atheist hideouts and present this bland little point as if it were something that “religion-bashing militant atheists” will have trouble understanding or accepting. On the contrary, we ‘get’ it so well that some of the commenters are assuming you must mean something else.

    Though maybe you do mean something else, and are using “the Bible is worthy of study” as some sly little camel’s nose in the tent, a way of breaking down our resistance to Jesus.

    I doubt that. Based on what you’ve written, I’ll assume you’re not so shallow or foolish. And it would then be nice if you granted that we here are neither so shallow or foolish as to think that myths can’t even be appreciated on the level of myths — and that this revelation will be a revelation to us.

  62. 62
    stanton

    “…In fact, it would be evil for me to accept Jesus dying for my sins– it would make me an accomplice to the murder of him.”

    Once, this one godbot stated that all people who’d ever live were essentially guilty of participating in Jesus Christ’s murder. But, after I repeatedly tried to point out the inherent misomaniacal non-logic of this, he then told me I was being obtuse.

  63. 63
    lazybird

    frankarmstrong says:

    I have been attempting to suggest that the curious animal known as man (and woman) has a need to tell myths, and those stories (rubbish if viewed literally, compost if viewed metaphorically) reveal a good deal about humanity.

    So humanity has an ingrained need for rubbish and compost? That doesn’t seem particularly adaptive in the long run.

  64. 64
    Leon

    Come hear an Atheist and a Pastor share their thoughts on the subject of Christs death.

    Wow, I never realized there were multiple Christs! (Or did he mean “Christ’s”?)

  65. 65
    Alex, Tyrant of Skepsis

    ZOMG, it’s an apostrophe induced schism!

  66. 66
    frankarmstrong

    Zastra–thank you for not, oh, I don’t know, smacking me. The original reason for my commenting here was inspired by this parenthetical comment from PZ:

    (my answer: there was no Jesus, blood sacrifice by proxy is barbaric and stupid, so it doesn’t even deserve addressing)

    A couple of commenters here have also suggested that studying what it is about humans that they can believe in “swamp gas and moonshine” is not worthy of scientific exploration (i.e. “doesn’t deserve addressing”). Included in this is the idea of sacrifice, and its role in our world’s history, be it in the planting culture, nomadic culture, et al–would that cultural anthropology vanish as a science, for this totemic ritual is repeated throughout the world? The distinction is clear to me: viewed literally creation myths are fiction, but fiction points to the creative self, and what is there when that onion is peeled?

    No, there is no trojan horse in my views, wherein I drop by with woo ideas, filled with little evangelicals ready to leap out and spray piss all over logic and reason. Perhaps I do come here and point out something that regular readers are very aware of and find it tiresome to be reminded about–thanks for indulging me.

    Note: I view true believers this way: it’s as though someone brought them to an art museum and they tried to climb inside the paintings.

  67. 67
    PZ Myers

    The debate is being broadcast right now. I’m listening. I’m feeling nauseous. Stupid Christians.

  68. 68
    Anne C. Hanna

    Argh. Missed the broadcast. I tried listening at 7 and it wasn’t on; I checked back later and apparently it was too late. Is there going to be an MP3 file anywhere for download?

  69. 69
    kev_s

    They don’t seem to like using the apostrophe. (Crists … Jesus) Is that because a sentence with apostrophe means death? :-)

  70. 70
    August Berkshire

    I think the debate is going to be archived on-line at KKMS. I’ll let everyone know if it is.

  71. 71
    Jorge

    @PZ Myers
    “The debate is being broadcast right now. I’m listening. I’m feeling nauseous. Stupid Christians.”

    I feel nauseous by your comments and many of your articles. I am also an atheist, but something I have learnt is to respect others. And you just don’t do that.

    But everybody knows that barking dog… what have you produced lately, what is your list of publications? Are you entitled to raise the voice in behalf of others?

    Is this the dialectic standard of an academic like you? I don’t think so.

    You just give a bad name to the rest of us.

    Salud.

  72. 72
    Alex, Tyrant of Skepsis

    I am also an atheist, but

    The shibboleth of the insipid apologists, it still works.

  73. 73
    Jorge

    @Alex

    “The shibboleth of the insipid apologists, it still works.”

    Apology of what? Have you even read what I have written?? Is not about atheism, it is about the lack of respect of certain person for others. Not for others’ opinion, just for others.

    And for your information, in the atheist tradition of my family we count with an executed person during the Spanish Civil War for not being a “proper” Christian (he wasn’t at all). So next time you copy a cliché phrase, just read to what you are answering first.

  74. 74
    Alex, Tyrant of Skepsis

    Oops, I meant accomodationist, not apologist, the way it is written it doesn’t make much sense.

    You want to silence ridicule of people for their silly ideas. You oppose criticism of authority. You make (a pretty stupid version of) the argument from authority. Why?

    And for your information, in the atheist tradition of my family we count with an executed person during the Spanish Civil War for not being a
    “proper” Christian

    Sorry, I honestly don’t understand that sentence.

  75. 75
    andrea

    I am always amused when Christians lie as they seem they are wont to do. IF these Chrsitains are praying for the atheist to convert magically, what happens when their prayers go unanswered like all prayers do? Do they fess up and acknowledge that or do they keep on lying?

    It’s also amusing to watch supposed “accomodationists” (I don’t think Jorge is one, just one more Christian trying play pretend) when they try so hard to tell atheists to sit down and shut up, how dare anyone actually tell theists they’re wrong, etc. They try to claim that keeping quiet is “respect” but it is nothing of the sort. I have no reason to respect theists at all and they don’t get some magical free pass to say what they want with no counter.

  76. 76
  77. 77
    UpAgainstTheRopes

    @ Anne C. Hanna

    Thanx! I came here this morning looking for a link and lo and behold…

    Is this a miracle?

    = ; P

  78. 78
    Pete

    Thanks Anne!

  79. 79
    Anne C. Hanna

    You’re welcome, all.

    August, thanks for making the joke at the end about miracles vs. self-fulfilling prophecies. Listening Bownik’s smarmy, disingenuous sermon of a closing statement, I was anticipating walking away from that debate with the taste of rage in my mouth, but then you found a gracious and clever way to give rationality the last word and leave me smiling.

    I thought you did very well overall. You were very clear and rational. There were a few obnoxious arguments of his that the quick exchange format didn’t let you answer completely and cleanly, but you had a consistent, straightforward, logical message, making a strong contrast to his dodgy, emotional style.

    I was a *little* bit impressed by the fact that Bownik appeared to have actually made an attempt to listen to atheist arguments, to the degree that he was able to at least cite them fairly coherently and tell the audience, “Now, August is probably going to say this…” where “this” was a thing you might actually reasonably have said. Of course, I don’t think he answered these arguments well, or even really understood them well, but so many apologists don’t even seem to try, they just go by the standard Christian stereotypes.

    His big point seemed to be that the Bible story is a great story of people fucking up and then learning from their mistakes and paying the price and building character. The problem is that this only makes sense if you think of it at a finite human level, and even then, only if the finite humans who had made the original fuckup (or even their heirs) were the ones who paid the price to set things right.

    But instead, you’ve got an infinitely powerful god who built things in a flawed way in the first place, which is what *caused* the whole mess. Then he chastises the tiny ignorant human children he made because they succumbed to the temptation he carelessly left laying around. And, recognizing that things are now messed up, he doesn’t just say “whoops” and use his infinite power to fix things instantly, he has to construct some big, show-offy sacrifice of himself to himself and claim he’s doing it as a beautiful and noble offering on behalf of the humans (whose fault he still claims it is) to wash away the terrible crimes that he set them up to commit. So it’s not even really the humans who are supposedly to blame for the crimes taking responsibility for their failures and fixing them, instead it’s an all-powerful deity stepping in from on high and making all of your problems go away, but only if you act *really, really impressed* by his performance.

    By skipping over a few inconvenient details (like the fact that the god in this story never actually owns up to the fact that he was the one who fucked up in the first place, and the fact that he’s a giant showoff about how he fixes it), one *could* conceivably tell a beautiful and redeeming version of this story in ordinary human terms. Imagine an ordinary human father who is initially irresponsible and pushes his kids down a bad path and alienates them. Perhaps at first he blames them for their ways, but eventually he recognizes and accepts his own culpability for teaching them poorly and undertakes a drastic and self-sacrificing effort to reconnect with them and steer them back in the right direction. That *would* be a wonderful and ennobling story. But it makes no sense to tell it with an infinite, perfect, omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent deity in the role of the father. A deity which truly has those qualities should never have made such enormous mistakes in the first place, and even then it should have been able to fix those mistakes without causing so many innocent people to suffer so terribly (and some of them eternally) in the process.

    Bownik’s version of the story strikes me as yet another example of how religion tries to graft supernatural nonsense onto perfectly good and praiseworthy human impulses. Screwing up and redeeming yourself, being willing to pay in suffering, or even with one’s life, to help someone you love or to achieve a noble goal, doing what’s good even when it’s hard, and so forth, all of these make sense for humans who have finite abilities, finite capacity for understanding the consequences of their actions in advance, and many conflicting needs and desires. They make no sense at all in the context of the transcendent deity Bownik claims to believe in. The God in the stories he tells is just a big, powerful human with the same kind of failings as we have, but at the same time he wants to be able to talk about it as a mystical, transcendent whozits immune to the reach of our science and logically necessary as the source of the entire universe.

    It also pissed me off the way he kept going on and on about how atheism/materialism/secularism are hedonistic and don’t have any concept of sacrifice. I’m a grad student in the sciences, and every goddamn day I pay in lost sleep, missed opportunities for fun and interaction with friends and family, vitamin D deficiency, poor diet and exercise, intellectual struggle, and emotional pain, just so that I will maybe someday have the opportunity to use my abilities in a way that will actually help to improve the state of the world in the long run. Does all this somehow not count, is it so terribly selfish and meaningless, just because I’m not doing it for his god?

    I won’t even get into the Hitler bullshit he snuck in at the end when there wasn’t time to talk about it, but geez that crap is getting tiresome.

    In any case, thanks for fighting to good fight, August. It’s always hard to tell whether debates like this have any impact on the listeners, but I know it was exactly ideas like the ones you discussed that made me into what they pejoratively call a “cafeteria Catholic” back when I was still religious, which in turn made me more receptive to the idea of atheism once I heard it. By presenting the problems with the Christian story in a calm, straightforward, and logical fashion, it’s entirely possible that you may have succeeded in influencing a few audience members who just hadn’t looked at things in that light before. I doubt anybody became an atheist on the spot, but it’s very likely that you at least managed to sow a few seeds in good ground.

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