Open thread for AETV #854: Unitarian Universalists

Russell Glasser and John Iacoletti talk about Unitarianism, in John’s first episode as regular cohost. Video should be up soon.

During the show, I mentioned to a caller that I had recently done a panel discussing Presuppositional Apologetics with Justin Schieber and Dan Linford. It seems that this video is not easy to search for, so here’s a direct link:


  1. Russell Glasser says

    If you were listening to The Non-Prophets, you’d be hearing about three times as much Jeff Dee per week, on average, as you were on The Atheist Experience. That’s just science.

  2. says

    On Justin’s call, one of my early thoughts was, “You say that Hovind likes to play word games, but it sounds like the solution you propose is to play word games right back at him. That sounds like a good way to lose the argument.” It was good that you, Russell, were able to get him to recognize the flaw in his approach by playing Christian advocate.

  3. Matt Gerrans says

    “Hovind likes to play word games…”

    Speaking of this, I’ve always thought it is very telling that apologists of all stripes and religions have to resort to every manner of word play and sophistry to try and further their case. I think the simple fact that they have to resort to dishonesty to make their arguments says it all.

  4. Paul Wright says

    Too true. They are trying to defend the indefensible though. They have no evidence on their side and little reason to substantiate their ridiculous claims. The outcome seems inevitable. If I was in the position of proving Santa Claus exists, I’d be lying my ass off too !

  5. corwyn says

    If just hearing him was the goal, I could just loop his voice in itunes.

    I like hearing his responses to live callers, which don’t happen much on non-prophets.

  6. Matt Gerrans says

    The smarter theists know that the god(s) of the Bible is indefensible and will instead try to defend a much more vague and general god they don’t even believe in. William Lane Craig provides very explicit and clear repeated examples of this. In “Does God Exist” debates, when the god of the Bible is attacked, he will vehemently exclaim that the debate is not about the god(s) of the Bible specifically and he will refuse discuss, saying that is a separate debate. Of course. Moreover, it is a separate debate he is not willing to have. The only “God” he is willing to defend is one that he doesn’t even believe in. We should call that one The God of Sophistry (as in, the god that is easier to defend with sophistry).

    By the way, it is worth noting that Christianity (and even Judaism) is really polytheism. In addition to the silly and contrived triune “paradox,” there are all the angels and demons (including Satan), which by any measure are lesser gods.

  7. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says


    Russell: Some of them say, “Well, there’s this really old guy who’s still around.”

    Article: Wikipedia – Wandering Jew

  8. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says


    Caller: Have you guys ever dealt with full preterists?

    For reference…
    Article: Wikipedia – Preterism
    Besides cherry picking, there’s another trick in apocalyptic prophecies:
    In the 2010’s, write about recent events, but pretend you’re an inspired author in the 1990’s.
    That’ll guarantee a few hits to build credibility.
    Then get increasingly vague as you make prophecies about later decades.

  9. says

    Hola Russell!,

    I want to comment on the Transgender subject. First I am a transsexual female and I just wanted to mention that at least with transsexuals; studies are showing that our brains are actually feminized (Trans-woman) and or masculine Trans-man) at the time of birth which would put us more in the Intersexed camp. Check out the topic @ New scientist.

    I just wanted to offer this up as something in your toolbox for countering the old claim that it is a “Feeling” meaning that it’s just in our head (your Crazy) .


  10. John Iacoletti says

    corwyn, good point! Also intersex people. We could have spent the whole hour talking about the different nuances of sex, gender, sexual orientation, etc. It’s a complicated subject. But the caller’s notion that any of these are “delusions” is absurd.

  11. John Iacoletti says

    If the stories about Jesus were made up, then it’s not particularly impressive that they made up stories to fulfill the prophecies that they thought were made in the earlier scriptures that they had to refer to. Is it amazing that the 5th Harry Potter book prophesizes what happens in the last Harry Potter book?

  12. thebookofdave says

    We should call that one The God of Sophistry

    Any relation to the God of the Gaps?

    there are all the angels and demons (including Satan), which by any measure are lesser gods.

    I was afraid you were going to include saints, which are not gods, so much as Level 1 tech support on the prayer helpline.

  13. maverik713 says

    I’m kind of curious as to what brought Charlie Check’m out of the shadows. I mean, I know that he was just going to unleash his torrent of awful, misguided arguments against gay people, but why now? He hasn’t made a video about you guys since September, and all of a sudden he pops up?

    I’m probably overthinking this…

  14. houndentenor says

    He also made a false analogy. I know that there are people who are transgendered because people tell me they are. I also know that there are people who are Lutherans because there are people who tell me they are Lutherans. Maybe they are deluding themselves but as I have no way to verify that what they are telling me they think/feel/believe is true and that they aren’t lying to me (and what reason would they have for doing so?), I can only accept their word. That doesn’t mean that I have to become a Lutheran just because they believe in Lutheranism, nor do I have to live as a women just because others do. The analogy was meaningless because it was so badly constructed. And that alone is evidence enough for why you hung up on him. If this is his level of argument, there’s no point wasting your time with him.

  15. houndentenor says

    I think the problem is the false binary of male/female as if every human fits neatly into one of those two categories. Even genetically that’s not always true. nor physiologically. And we can go on from there. If there aren’t entire books written on this subject, there should be. It’s not as simple as some seem to want to believe.

    Also, what does it harm me if someone born with male genitalia decides to live as a woman? There is no harm to me and presumed benefit for the other person. That’s quite simple as far as I’m concerned.

  16. Athywren says

    On the subject of the Non-Prophets, did you skip last week, or is it just not uploaded yet? (And is there a way to find this out from the site?)
    Or I guess my ISP could be screwing with me again? Damn them.

    I do hope you got MRA mail again! “But guuuyyyyys, I dropped my gummy bears! Why won’t you hold the nasty females accountable for this?!” :3

  17. Thorne says

    But how can you know that he’s not doing that just so he can spy on decent women in the bathroom! The dirty pervert! [/snark]

  18. John Kruger says

    I think the tactic is more akin to making god so vacuous and amorphous as to fit any gap at all. A meaningless god cannot be attacked, but unfortunately for apologists who try this such a god also means nothing and needs no attacking. You just have to wait until they want to assert something about god later, they always do, and then bring up that they said god was unknowable and whatnot earlier.

  19. John Kruger says

    He wouldn’t be the real Charlie Check’m if he didn’t make such bad arguments.

    I had to laugh. He might as well have said “you take people’s word on what their favorite food is, but you won’t take their word on if god is true?” As if an otherwise unverifiable (besides taking someone’s word for it) personal preference like gender was at all comparable to a claim about reality like an existing god. Without the sexual category bigotry it would be hard to recognize him, but he never disappoints.

  20. Narf says

    I keep trying to catch that live. I always miss, though. I know it’s the first and third Wednesday, but what time and how do we connect, Russel?

    Is it on the Atheist Experience YouStream channel? I remember you mentioning all of the details in the podcast … but I’m blanking on it right now, and I can’t pull up an episode to listen.

  21. Narf says

    There’s usually a bit of delay between record-time and post-time. I’m still not showing it over here, either.

  22. Narf says

    Well, they attempt to bridge the gap between the deistic god that they think that they’ve demonstrated (but actually haven’t) and the God that they actually believe in, with a bunch of bullshit arguments.

    “So, we know that this god must be timeless, personal, trinitarian, omnipotent …”

    Why must it be those things? Please show your work. Saying that it’s personal, because it had to decide to create the universe, doesn’t solve a damned thing, since you haven’t demonstrated that it needed to decide a damned thing.

    It’s the ultimate case of giving the worried believers a pat on the head, since no one who doesn’t already believe will think it’s the slightest bit convincing.

  23. kestra says

    Caller using “prophecies” in Mark as some sort of proof of *anything*, but most especially proof that Jesus of Nazareth, itinerant preacher, predicted the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem within a few years, a coupla a things:

    1) Most verses from the bible that are interpreted by Christian tradition as “prophecies” are in fact mistranslations and/or willful misinterpretations based on a worldview that Jesus was in fact the foretold messiah and that verses in the Old Testament do in fact support this point of view. The classic example of this is Isaiah 7:14 “Behold a young woman shall conceive” where “young woman” is mistranslated as “virgin” and what is obviously a verse about hope for Israel’s future in the face of international threats from the Syrians is said to be a foretelling of Mary giving birth to Jesus, who was the son of god.

    2) The destruction of the Temple was (and is) a popular theme in Jewish apocalyptic preaching at the time of Jesus, and is a strain in Judaic preaching and prophesying going back to the destruction of the *first* Temple in the 6th century BCE. Predicting a major social change and using the destruction of the second Temple as a sign or metaphor of that is hardly surprising rhetoric from a preacher of Jesus’ culture and background, much like you wouldn’t be surprised if a modern “End-Times” street preacher used imagery of fire and brimstone raining down. It was part of the cultural lexicon of destruction and change in Jesus’ time, and as a result of the completely unwarranted popularity of the gospels, it is part of our cultural lexicon of the same sort of events today. Like holding up one mirror to another, apocalyptic imagery and symbolism of past cultures is thrown up and taken as significant by us because it *was* significant to ancient people.

    It is a kind of cargo-cult-esque interpretation to say that because Jesus used apocalyptic imagery of the destruction of the Temple, he was predicting a future in which that destruction came to pass. It was the real cultural significance of the Temple that made its loss a potent symbol rhetorically, and that’s *exactly why* it was a target for the Roman army when the inevitable rebellion occurred. That Jesus sensed this would happen 30 years early isn’t all that remarkable. I mean, if someone said, in prelude to the 2001 invasion of Iraq, “Saddam’s palaces and statues are going to be pulled down!” at the beginning of the second Iraq War, and then, you know, they were, that’s really isn’t what I would call a “prophecy” per se.

  24. kestra says

    Oh yeah, and since Jesus said “Not one stone shall be left upon another”, he was wrong. What is the Wailing Wall but the last remaining wall of the Second Temple courtyard? I think all walls have to be pulled down before “not one stone is left upon another” comes true. Oh no, I just prophesied that the End Times are still coming because the Temple hasn’t been destroyed *enough*.

  25. Narf says

    The recent handful of federal court cases that have shot down the gay-marriage bans in various states? Seems like something that would outrage any bigot of that flavor.

  26. Athywren says

    Yeah, I know, though thanks for mentioning it. Obviously it takes a while to get the file edited, encoded and uploaded, so that makes sense. I was just curious because my memory seems to think it’s been up by now with the previous episodes… not that this is meant as an impatient complaint – real life is a valid excuse, if one were even needed, both for missing a week and for taking a while over getting it out, I’d just like to know.
    And now I’m going to stop tying before I spontaneously combust while spinning out of control in the attempt to clarify that I’m not complaining. 😛

  27. kestra says

    Oh dang, forgot my third point, which is that even being extremely generous with dating, Mark, the earliest of the gospels, was almost certainly written just before or during, but in all probability somewhat after the Roman siege of Jerusalem, which culminated in the Temple’s destruction in 70 CE. No gospel can be reliably dated earlier than about 65 CE, and most (Matthew, Luke and especially John) were written quite late in the first century, and none were actually written *in* Palestine. So yeah, really astounding prophecy.

  28. Narf says

    I’m writing something about this, myself, in a series I’m doing. The Christian obsession with prophesy actually goes the opposite way that the Christians intend it to. Take a list of any 40 or 50 prophesies that Jesus supposedly fulfilled, and you’ll find a good portion that demonstrate what a manufactured affair the whole mess is, giving us a reason to actively believe that the whole proposition is false. Between fulfilling prophesies that weren’t actually prophesies, fulfilling prophesies that are based upon a mistranslation, having Jesus do something, saying that he’s doing it in order to fulfill a prophesy …

    It’s all crap.

  29. Mike Y says

    “unfortunately for apologists who try this such a god also means nothing and needs no attacking”

    For them, it is not about proving any god. They are MLM operators, con artists, hucksters, that are trying to preserve the con that they have going. Anything said that defends and furthers their bottom line is sufficient and acceptable.

  30. Matt Gerrans says

    Using logic will avail you naught. I think Peter Boghossian is right that we have to attack the epistemology, not the supposed “facts.”

    By the way, it is worth noting that it really doesn’t make sense to say “Jesus said” anything about anything, as it is all fiction. (Well, I guess it makes sense in the way that you could say “Gandalf said…”). This can be gleaned from the NT text alone: Mark says that right before he was captured, Jesus went away by himself and prayed and he then says exactly what Jesus said. How in the hell could Mark know this? This is story telling in the third person plain and simple. Jesus didn’t write, he had no time to come back and dictate his speech to any writer, so we can deduce from the text alone that it was made up. Either that, or a person who wasn’t even there miraculously “remembered” it some thirty or so years later. Right. Can you remember word-for-word any monologues from the year (not the book!) 1984 that you didn’t even hear in the first place?

  31. says

    Nobody has brought this up yet, but what are people’s thoughts on the UU church? I have a young family (6mo and 4yr) and was wondering if others have had good experiences. I grew up in a church and, while I reject the content, I enjoyed the community aspect. We have other educational, activity and friend based communities and “ritual” like things that I’m not sure if adding UU to the list would be worth it.

  32. Robert, not Bob says

    My sister’s been a Unitarian for over 20 years, and I’ve attended occasionally. They’re basically humanists-probably a lot like the so-called “atheist churches” I’ve heard about. It’s the only “church” I can attend without feeling like my skin wants to crawl off.

  33. Athywren says

    The classic example of this is Isaiah 7:14 “Behold a young woman shall conceive” where “young woman” is mistranslated as “virgin” and what is obviously a verse about hope for Israel’s future in the face of international threats from the Syrians is said to be a foretelling of Mary giving birth to Jesus, who was the son of god.

    Well, hey, even if it’s a mistranslation to say that this refers to Mary & Jesus, how could they possibly know that a young woman would conceive? I mean, that has to be about the rarest thing to ever happen, so how could they just come up with that without divine intervention? 😛

  34. NoneOfTheAbove says

    Please forgive me if it has already been explained somewhere: why do you post the video + aftershow here (any time soon, I hope) but only the video without aftershow on the archive at

  35. Narf says

    I’m not a good one to ask about that sort of thing. I was forced to go to Catholic mass every single week, for 18 years. I couldn’t imagine going to anything that resembled a weekly service, even if it was completely secular. I’ve had enough for one lifetime.

  36. Narf says

    I don’t know about going into a full-on epistemology discussion, but you’re right in that challenging the facts directly isn’t likely to have much effect.

    I’d go with a discussion that is part way to epistemology. Going over something as simple as standards of evidence could possibly help. It isn’t likely to have an impact on someone as mindless as Captain, a few posts back, but he brought up a great angle from which to attack.

    Captain claimed that one of the things that makes him a believer is the amazing number of witnesses to Jesus’s actions. I’ve heard a similar claim in … I think it was Josh McDowell’s book, Evidence that Demands a Verdict. McDowell brings up the 500 witnesses to some event or other in which Jesus demonstrated his power, and McDowell says something to the effect of, “Even if each witness gave only 15 minutes of sworn testimony, it would take days to listen to all of their testimony! What we have is a mountain of testimony!”

    No, we don’t. We have one anonymous person claiming that there were 500 witnesses. We have no names. We have nothing entered into the public record. We have no evidence of any sort.

    Even if we had 500 people in a courtroom, giving their names and swearing into the public record that they had seen Benny Hinn perform miracles, I wouldn’t believe them without some amazing supporting evidence. The supposed eye-witness “evidence” for Jesus isn’t even that good.

  37. Matt Gerrans says

    Well yeah, I didn’t mean launching into distinction of empiricism to perennialism in contrast to idealism or rationalism. The idea that Boghossian suggests is to use the Socractic method to get at the believer’s epistemology, rather than argue about the facts. That means asking things like “how do you know there were 500 witnesses?” and so on.

    On the point of 500 witnesses, of course, there are lots of reasons to think that is a literary artifice. It is a suspiciously round number. None of them are named or cross-examined. None of them recorded any account. Later we learn that there were only about 120 followers, so most of those witnesses were not too impressed, apparently. All these points can be addressed (along with the anonymity of the NT writers, the conflicts in their accounts, etc.) with a Socratic approach of asking how we know what we think we know about these alleged events.

  38. says

    Strangely enough, I’ve been going through the blog archives and spent a while reading Charlie’s outpourings of crap yesterday – the 589 comment post on episode 712.
    Spooky 😉

  39. Kandal says

    Somewhat beside the topic, but it might be interesting to some here. The Carroll-Craig debate is now finally up on Youtube and Carroll makes, in my opionion, some great points:

  40. says

    Has the Atheist Experience cast watched the Sean Carroll & William Lane Craig debate from last Friday on naturalism vs. theism and will it ever be talked about on the show?

  41. Kandal says

    I’m not sure. The one I posted was the first and official one released and includes about ~17 minutes of advertisements (sorry about that). The second one removed the ads (yeah!) and a couple of minutes where the organization that hosted the event talks about itself (which could account for the remaining difference, I didn’t time it). if that is all, I recommend the second one (it wasn’t there when I posted my version or I would probably linked the second one as well). Sean Carroll posted some post-debate thoughts as well.

  42. Kandal says

    Just for those who haven’t seen in yet, and aren’t interested in meaningless talk (don’t mind that the time spans don’t match exacly; they take time to walk to their mics and prepare the technical stuff):
    For the first video:
    00:00 – 10:26 Ads
    10:27 – 15:57 NOBTS President talks about themselves, including prayer
    15:58 – 21:08 Introducing the whole event
    21:09 – 23:59 Introducing the speakers
    24:00 – 43:59 Talk Craig
    44:00 – 1:04:29 Talk Carroll
    1:04:30 – 1:16:39 Talk Craig
    1:16:40 – 1:27:09 Talk Carroll
    1:27:10 – 1:35:20 Break, Ads
    1:35:21 – 1:43:42 Talk Craig
    1:43:41 – 1:51:50 Talk Carroll
    1:51:51 – 2:38:33 Q&A session
    For the second video (seems to be the better option):
    00:00 – 01:52 Introducing the debate
    01:53 – 04:30 Introducing the speakers
    04:31 – 24:39 Talk Craig
    24:40 – 45:07 Talk Carroll
    45:08 – 57:09 Talk Craig
    57:09 – 1:07:50 Talk Carroll
    1:07:51 – 1:09:29 Break
    1:09:30 – 1:17:40 Talk Craig
    1:17:41 – 1:25:50 Talk Carroll
    1:25:51 – 2:12:35 Q&A session

  43. Narf says

    Cool, thanks. How was the Q&A section? I usually find that the most interesting part of any debate.

  44. says

    This is correct. I just removed the ads from the beginning, middle, and end. Oh, and the dude at the beginning who prayed and exclaimed that nothing could change the minds of christians with regards to jesus being a magician.

  45. Narf says

    … nothing could change the minds of christians with regards to jesus being a magician.

    Christ, why do believers always do this sort of shit? Are they really that vapid? They have to be doing it as some sort of self-reinforcement defense-mechanism. We aren’t that stupid.

    They always present the most ludicrous alternative explanations for their mythology. Well, obviously Jesus did all of the things written down in the book, even though it was recorded decades later, by people who weren’t there. After all, they wouldn’t be allowed to write it down, if it wasn’t true.

    So, obviously, the only way we can refute them is by explaining how Jesus did it without using God’s power. What the fuck? Who thinks this way?

  46. says

    Narf, the answer is that most of the US population thinks this way:

    73% of Americans think that jesus was born of a virgin*
    72% of Americans believe in miracles**
    68% of Americans believe in angels**
    65% of Americans think that jesus came back from the dead**


  47. Narf says

    Yeah …
    Yeah, I know; I just @#$%^*& hate it. The argument from popularity fallacy is alive and well, in America.

  48. danadamsky says

    I agree with your point, Leo–and the point that Russell and John both made from different angles–that it’s not a good rhetorical strategy to a) take on the burden of proof voluntarily, and b) play the same word games apologists often do.

    However, where I though Justin might have been going when he started (but obviously didn’t) is that certain conceptions of gods are logically impossible, like a god defined as having two mutually exclusive properties, and therefore, it is accurate and justified to describe oneself as a gnostic atheist with regard to these gods. Because they define themselves out of existence, along with square circles and married bachelors, we can know with (the closest possible thing to) absolute certainty that they in fact don’t exist.

    And to your point (what I put under ‘b’ above), this is only playing word games if it is your starting point when you are arguing an anti-theist (as Justin defined it) or gnostic atheist position. However, there are people who claim to believe in gods that have mutually exclusive properties, like omniscience and omnipotence. (Though, apologists often get around this particular objection by amending “omnipotence” to “having all power that is logically possible.”) But I think it can be effective to press these points if for no other reason than it forces apologists to start rationalizing the elements of their god concepts, and this often makes them say even less defensible things that betray the irrationality of their position.

  49. Narf says

    Err, omniscience isn’t self-contradictory. I think you’re thinking of the Euthyphro Dilemma, which lines up omniscience, omnipotence, omnibenevolence, and the existence of suffering, into an unworkable composite.

  50. Athywren says

    Is there any way that you could edit it so that WLC is less tedious? Is that possible?
    Maybe if we give him a chipmunk voice, he’d be bearable?

  51. AhmNee says

    Remember that a lot of believers, I know I had this particular screw loose when I was one, believe that if it was possible that it happened, one has to give it consideration if not credence.

  52. Athywren says

    I’ve noticed a disturbing number of people who believe that, if it’s possible then it’s true. At least regarding the existence of “a being greater than which nothing can be conceived.”

    How come they never see the conflation of actual physical possibility, and it not being demonstrably impossible? It’s like… it’s entirely possible, logically speaking, for me to wear red socks, but I own no red socks and I never borrow other people’s socks, therefore it is outside the set of possible occurrences, in reality, for me to wear red socks. But, following their logic, I am wearing red socks, because it is a logical possibility.
    (Yes, I know that’s not technically true, because it’s not built into the argument that the possibility of red socks demands the actuality of red socks, but the most obvious error comes before that anyway, so I’ll forgive my own sloppiness.)

  53. Narf says

    I dunno. I had that understanding, that things needed an actual demonstration of truth, when I was 5 years old, which is why I was never really a believer, despite my submersion in Catholicism, as a child. I wish I could figure out how to flip that switch that was thrown in me, in others.

  54. AhmNee says

    I know that when I was a believer I was never good at just accepting what I was told. Unfortunately, I was more creative than reasonable. So when these biblical teachings were presented as fact and they made no sense. Well, I assumed 2 things. One is that the entire system of religion was corrupted by people and that if that stuff was true than anything was fair game.

    I hypothesized that magic was a real but lost art. Than psychic abilities were something everyone had innately but because those senses weren’t as reliable, people stopped learning how to use them. I created my own versions of biblical mythology and then decided that it was the belief that mattered more than what the belief was and created my own belief system that had nothing to do with judeo-christian teaching at all.

    Later I converted to Mormonism and I think that was likely the death knell for my being a believer. When you believe that someone has a direct communication with god and then find out that your church did things like disallowing black members … well, how could god be that wrong.

    I know that’s my personal experience and I don’t expect I’m representative. But I know other theists that I spoke with at least gave my ideas consideration. That I wasn’t thought totally crazy. But that’s what you get when you think that people should just be okay believing what they want to believe. Anything one believes, no matter how far fetched, is acceptable.

  55. AhmNee says

    Mostly Craig repeating over and over how inconceivable the notion of a universe popping into being is, even though Carroll explained over and over that it’s the incorrect way to think about it. And Craig showing repeatedly that he cannot conceive of time being anything other than what he experiences here and now.

  56. Matt Gerrans says

    I think Craig took a whoopin’ in that debate. He really looked like like a deer in the headlights, playing his usual shtick with all the play-acting of incredulity and repetition of arguments (again and again after they were resoundingly shot down). He was really out of his depth with Carroll and looked like a fool with his multiple incorrect understandings of cosmological theory. It is kind of funny that Craig has a policy of not debating anyone without credentials (a PhD in philosophy or physics or whatever), when he has no credentials in cosmology and really showed what a rank amateur he is in that field.

    I hadn’t seen Sean Carroll speak before, but I was really impressed with his lucidity and systematic approach, not to mention his prodigious patience with Craig’s inanity. He averred to some frustration with it, but was very gracious and gentle with his dismantling of Craig’s annoying repetition of faulty terminology and faulty reasoning.

    As usual Craig played the childish game of trying to frame the debate, even to the extent of redefining it. He went so far as to claim that the debate, which was titled “Naturalism vs. Theism” was instead actually a debate about to what extent cosmological discoveries and theories support some premises of a couple of specious theological arguments (The Teleological Argument and The Kalam Kosmological Kraziness).

    An aside on the Teleological and Kalam: I think for the sake of argument (and only for the sake of argument) you could grant them both and it is still a ridiculously long stretch to jump to a personal god with all the particular attributes that Craig adds. Especially the trinity nonsense that was invented in the second or third century to resolve earlier mistakes in the cobbling together of the Christian mythology story.

    In sum, Sean Carroll seemed articulate, intelligent, patient and systematic in his presentation, while Craig came of even more pedantic, snide and generally at a loss to buttress his arguments and make his sophistry stick. I don’t know if this is because I’ve seen several Craig debates now and his repeated act becomes more evident, or because Carroll simply dismantled him.

  57. Narf says

    Soooo … his usual bullshit of arguing for a deistic god, then switching off to the fundie-Christian god, when it’s time to preach?

  58. says

    And then there’s the problem of whether a timeless entity is really capable of deciding anything, since that necessarily implies a change of mental state over time.

  59. Dave Lush says

    Russell and John, please take a few moments sometime to look up preterism on Wikipedia (or any source of your choosing). I think you will find it interesting, and may want to change your response to the caller. The “prophecy” made by Jesus is actually very specific. It’s referring to the Jerusalem temple that will be taken apart so that no stone will be upon another, and then about exactly 40 years after he makes the prediction (which also mentions encirclement of Jerusalem and gnashing of teeth), a certain Roman arrives and does exactly that. The temple has never been rebuilt. The “Wailing Wall” is about all that’s left. So, it’s clearly not just a vague prediction, and it’s not taken as such I don’t think by mainstream bible scholars. (It is often taken as a later insertion intended to “prove” Jesus’s supernatural abilities. Alternatively, if it was written into the original, which is fully plausible so far as mainstream thinking about when the gospels were written is concerned, then it might plausibly provide special insight into the mindset of the authors of the gospel.)

    This is just one bit of the large basis of the claim of some people that Christianity is just a Roman invention, with the purpose of pacifying militant messianic Judaism that was rebelling against Rome at the time Jesus was addressing that “sinful” generation. Their sin was rebellion against Rome.

  60. Narf says

    Yeah, there are a few incoherencies like that in the modern conceptualization of the Christian god. Back in the days of the Puritans, when you had a bunch of nuts trying to appeal this evil god who was always pissing on them, the god-salesmen were in good shape. You didn’t have to be intellectual about it, because most people were struggling too hard to just survive to get much of an education. Nowadays, people have a bit too much time on their hands, in which to sit around and think about things.

  61. Dave Lush says

    I think it’s close enough for government work. Few people around the Empire would have been quibbling about it, or in a position to. The Temple was smashed far beyond repair. Thousands of the “sinful” were crucified.

    I’m not arguing it was actually a prophesy, just that as a propaganda claim, “no stone upon another” works just fine.

  62. Narf says

    One of the biggest problems here though is that the gospel wasn’t actually written down until after the temple was destroyed. Post-dictions aren’t very impressive.

  63. Narf says

    Heh, I guess I just hold my proposed gods up to a higher standard than I hold the government to. 😀

  64. Narf says

    I should have added a bit more here.

    The problem with dealing with anything in the Bible is that there are so many layers of problems to the religious proposition. You have to figure out which is the best angle of attack, in any given situation, and coming up with it on the fly can be a little hit-and-miss.

    The response about the specificity of the prophesy is valid. We are talking about a supposedly omniscient being here. It would be capable of foreseeing exacting details. When we’re given specific details, I’m damned well holding them to those details. We’re talking about the freaking incarnation of the omniscient, infallible Yahweh (never mind that Yahweh isn’t portrayed as such in the Old Testament), after all, not some blind, old seer who might misinterpret the visions that he received from the spirits.

    Plus, as I mentioned, we don’t have a solid prediction here, since anything about Jesus was written down decades after the fact and doubtlessly had bits morphed and added. Then, on top of that, even after they were initially written down, later scribes added details and whole sections to the Gospels, at times. The Pericope Adultery story and the bit about Jesus sweating blood in the garden of Gethsemane come to mind.

    We don’t have anything approaching the originals. Who knows what else was “corrected” by the scribes in the first couple of centuries CE? “Well, of course Jesus would have mentioned that, when he was in the temple. Clearly, some Jewish saboteur cut that bit out.”

    The Bible is nothing approaching a reliable source for much of anything, for so many varying reasons. Which is your favorite one?

  65. Dave Lush says

    That’s a problem for actual preterists, which neither I nor the woman who called in are. I never was one, and the woman who called in said it was her final step in theism before becoming an atheist. The question for us atheists is just whether the Son of Man prophecy is about the encirclement of Jerusalem and the razing of the temple and the punishment of the rebels, or just some generic prophecy. I’ll grant that it could have been made more precise, but it apparently is fine as it is, as Christianity is still here, and putting in a lot more precision could have been a concern for the authors who didn’t want the concept of retrodiction to come under consideration.

    I think somewhere in Carrier’s long thread criticizing Atwill’s Caesar’s Messiah thesis, he grants that the prophecy does refer to the razing of the temple. Atwill’s argument for it includes that there is a lot more corroboration that that’s the true meaning, when you start comparing the account of the campaign of Titus in crushing the rebellion with Jesus’s ministry. Atwill claims Jesus’s path through the Galilee follows Titus’s, and that episodes in the gospels refer to battles as described by Josephus in The Jewish War. Carrier of course utterly rejects this, but Atwill has a nice response to Carrier’s attempted takedown on his website. It seems devastating to Carrier’s argument. Carrier doesn’t take Atwill seriously and he’s entirely mistaken about that.

  66. danadamsky says

    Omniscience is not self-contradictory; I agree. But I didn’t say that it was. What I said was that omniscience and omnipotence are mutually exclusive or contradictory of one another. This is because something omniscient would be prescient of its own future actions and would not be able to change those actions from what they knew those actions were to be. (Sorry about the future tense weirdness of language there.) In other words, if you know what you are going to do, you do not have the power to choose or to change in the moment what you are about to do, and are therefore not omnipotent. The refutations or amendments to arguments to deal with this problem usually have to do with the idea that omnipotence refers to “all power that is logically possible,” which I already mentioned, or possibly the idea that determinism and even prescience do not negate will in a meaningful sense (which I think applies to living creatures, but I’ve never heard anyone argue for a deterministic god as such). The Euthyphro Dilemma, which is about the source of morality, doesn’t enter into it.

  67. John Iacoletti says

    Since the gospels were written after the destruction of the temple, I don’t find this a particularly impressive “prophecy”.

  68. Narf says

    In the construction you’re speaking of, you run into the issue I brought up something like half-a-dozen or so posts ago, in reference to the relative self-contradiction within omnipotence. It isn’t a contradiction the way that theists mean the characteristic. God can create a rock of any size that he wants. And then he can move a rock of any size. Self-opposed omniscience doesn’t work, since theists mean it in an absolute sense, not relative.

    In this situation, God can do anything, in absolute terms, and he already knows what he’s going to do, of all of the infinite things he can do. I don’t find your contradiction particularly compelling, and I know most theists won’t.

    Let me see if I can come up with another issue which has a similar construction, within the arguments that theists throw at us. I had the perfect example, while I was out driving earlier, but I’m totally blanking on it, right now.

  69. Narf says

    I’ll grant that it could have been made more precise, but it apparently is fine as it is, as Christianity is still here …

    I just think that most Christians never really think through this sort of thing in much detail. Most Christians believe because of their indoctrination and the emotional crap that’s attached to that, I think. Those who truly examine their beliefs and have a skeptical, questioning nature don’t remain theists for long … or at least they’re likely to become the vague theistic sorts who claim all sorts of labels while rejecting everything in their holy book, avoiding any precision while marveling over the wonder and majesty of their god-concept and how superior it is to any well-defined god.

    I call it spiritual masturbation. Look ma’, no hands!

    Carrier doesn’t take Atwill seriously and he’s entirely mistaken about that.

    I don’t take it all that seriously, either. Even without any in-depth examination, it seems too simplistic to be likely. I would expect a more organic growth of the religion, as we see religions evolving today.

  70. Dave Lush says

    I agree it’s not a prophecy. And thanks for replying. The interesting questions about it are first, whether the whole spiel is actually referring to the razing of the temple, etc (which I think is largely accepted if not unanimously among bible scholars), and then, if it is, whether it’s in the original writing or a later insertion. If it’s a later insertion then it’s not interesting, but if it’s an original element of the story then it gives a clue about the mindset of the authors of Christianity.

    The conventional wisdom is that it’s a later insertion, but an impressive amount of support and corroboration can be found for it being the central point of the gospels. That’s what Atwill lays out in his Caesar’s Messiah book. He puts gospel passages side by side passages from Josephus’. Jewish War and provides some commentary about how he thinks they’re related, and then the reader gets to judge if they are. A lot of people (myself included) come away completely convinced.

    I just think that somebody on FTB should actually read it, rather than trashing it without bothering, as Carrier is doing. You might be impressed if you did.

    Matt D I know has actually read it, and hats off to him and he has my approval to trash it as he sees fit, but I think he’s wrong. I think it’s a situation where people who’ve already formed strong opinions about something are resistant to alternative interpretations, even if those alternative interpretations are more consistent with the data than the original.

  71. Dave Lush says

    Thanks for not saying it’s too far fetched. I would say, it’s parsimonious, and it gets the job done of providing a unifying explanation for the canonical gospels, and possibly the entire NT. It hangs together amazingly well, I think. And, it’s full of cruel humor that makes it compelling. Imagine, a woman named Mary roasting her baby like he’s a Passover lamb, then making a speech proclaiming him a bane to the seditious varlets (i.e., the rebels). Two thousand years later the Christians are commemorating the cannibalism of the siege of Jerusalem every Sunday.

  72. Tsukihime says

    I haven’t finished watching(watching it now as I type this though) but I’m over 25 minutes in and it has been nothing but prank callers. I know these people most likely have no life and just want attention, but it’s still really ridiculous. I know the people screening the calls are doing all that they can to weed these people out. But my question is, on an average session, about what percentage do you think are prank calls?

  73. Andreas says

    Hey guys!
    You are always reasoning and arguing with the “omnipotent” and “omniscient” and “omnibenevolent” and “omnipresent” claims. I know this is in response to this claim being made by religious people. But where does it really come from? And how necessary is it for the “does god exist” question? How would the arguments shift if we leave this stuff out?
    For references in the bible, we could just say this is from the perspective of people who rather do a bit too much praise than too little, and for whom it is quite irrelevant whether god is “almighty” or just “very very powerful”, or whether he is “omnibenevolent” or “he’s going to protect me”, or “omnipresent” vs “he’s probably stalking me around”.
    If we look at the story, we see a different character: One who can be temporarily angry, surprised, disappointed, and who sometimes may regret his own actions, and who needs weird loopholes to get around the laws of guilt. This does not sound to me like a character who is omniscient beyond time.
    And finally, the omnisomething claims are not really necessary for anything else. A god character does not need these absolute characteristics, to be somehow involved in either the creation of the universe, or to mess around in human history.

  74. says

    I know this is in response to this claim being made by religious people… How would the arguments shift if we leave this stuff out?

    You mean, how would the argument shift if they left that stuff out. We can’t leave out the omnis unless they do it first, because they’d simply say that we were attacking a strawman. And they’d be right. As long as they claim their god is omni-this or that, that’s the version we have to deal with.

    If you want to start a discussion with theists about how their god isn’t really omni-this or that, go ahead, but I don’t think you’ll have much luck. They’re very good at ironing out the contradictions in the bible. They have to be or they wouldn’t believe it for a second.

  75. Narf says

    I think the invention of the omnis was some sort of shift that was made in the transition from polytheism to monotheism.

    Why should I worship just your one god? If I need protection in my trip to this far city, I should appeal to Hermes. If I’m going sailing or need to catch more fish … Poseidon. If I’m having a problem with my best buddy, maybe Aphrodite will help me out. Why should I give up all of them for your god?

    Really? He can do all of that? How?

    As for the arguments? It’s just like what Lyke said. You always hear similar from Matt, on the show. “Tell me what you believe and why. Then, we can go from there, and I’ll tell you if I think you’re justified or not.”

  76. Sadako says

    I’m looking into it myself for the same reason John mentioned–I’m a vocalist in desperate need of someone to harmonize with, and most Christian churches won’t have me, what with my atheism and my appreciation for science and truth and my taking of their invisible friend’s name in vain and my Blasphemy Challenge-accepting and whatnot.

  77. Leonardo Cramer Pizzolatti says

    I respect religions, people and their beliefs are theists, atheists or agnostics. Now, say that the historical Jesus never existed and that cristianity only broughts errors in the height of stupidity. Greetings to all.

  78. says

    I respect religions, people and their beliefs are theists, atheists or agnostics.

    Really? You respect, oh say, the people who flew planes into the Twin Towers? There are plenty of beliefs and people who don’t deserve any respect. To pretend otherwise is the height of stupidity.

    I’ll agree to respecting their rights and, if I’m in a good mood, to starting people off with a default minimum level of respect, until they do something to lose it. That’s the best I can do.

    Now, say that the historical Jesus never existed and that cristianity only broughts errors in the height of stupidity.

    Sure, but only because you’re phrased the positions in such a manner as to be indefensible. You’ve dumbed down the positions to almost straman levels and left yourself plenty of loop holes to avoid criticism. Try a real argument on for size:

    First, it’s beyond dispute that the evidence for a historical Jesus is so flimsy as to be borderline nonexistent and certainly doesn’t support any strong conclusion in favor of any historical basis for anything in the gospels. There may be some validity to some of the sayings, but even that is nowhere near certain.

    There’s literally not a single extra-biblical contemporary account of Jesus, in writing, inscriptions, monuments or any other form of evidence, not one. And that’s for a guy who was supposed to have made a triumphal entry into Jerusalem, to the acclaim of the multitudes; have taken control of the Temple court; routinely performed healing miracles in public; and become such a nuisance that he had to be killed.

    Yet nobody noticed, even though secular historians were busy reporting on many other small sects. Even if we exclude some of the more spectacular claims, it’s still a bit weird. This doesn’t prove he didn’t exist, but it is a curious lack of evidence that certainly doesn’t help the case for a historical Jesus.

    While there may conceivably have been a historical person at the bottom of it, we can’t really say anything about him. We can’t reliably trace back any teaching, action, event or biographical detail of any kind to this hypothetical person. That means that if there was such a person, he has practically nothing in common with the Jesus of Christianity. Jesus – understood as the Jesus character of the stories – never existed.

    As for your second point, while Christianity has been around for a long time and managed to insert itself into many areas, including some with positive effects, you’re going to have a hard time defending the idea that Christianity produced any of those good effects.

    The only effects that can be clearly demonstrated to be caused by Christianity (as opposed to merely occurring in the presence of Christianity) are the bad ones. Not all of them – many of the wars would probably have happened one way or the other, but e.g. the genocide against the Cathars wouldn’t have occurred without religious basis.

    When it comes to bringing us knowledge of how the world operates and practical solutions to real-world problems, Christianity has produced only errors. Nothing productive, nothing true, only falsehoods and nonsense.

  79. denos says

    An argument responding to the “respect for trans-genders feelings means you have to respect christian feelings”:

    I’ve heard multiple versions of this same argument. “If you use certain language for Group A, just because they ask you too, out of basic respect, then why don’t you use the language Christians ask you to?”.

    There are many things wrong with this comparison, but there’s a fundamental problem with it that makes all other points moot. The problem is that WE DO RESPECT CHRISTIANS equally to all other people.

    When a MTW transgender asks me to call her a woman, I do so out of respect for her right to determine her own identity. And in exactly the same way, I call Christians “christian” simply because that’s how they identify themselves to me. I do not refuse to call them christian based on my personal judgement that they aren’t “really” christian or that there’s no such thing as christian.

    Calling an MTW “woman” does not obligate me to accept any ideas she may have about how sex or gender are determined, and I am also not obligated to accept a christian’s ideas about creators or magic.