Twenty Arguments for God – Three – The Argument from Time and Contingency

This post is one of a serious that picks apart the arguments for god that can be found at the link below. This post addresses number 3:

http://www.peterkreeft.com/topics-more/20_arguments-gods-existence.htm#3

If you don’t want to click over there to read it, the full argument goes like this:

3. The Argument from Time and Contingency

We notice around us things that come into being and go out of being. A tree, for example, grows from a tiny shoot, flowers brilliantly, then withers and dies.
Whatever comes into being or goes out of being does not have to be; nonbeing is a real possibility.
Suppose that nothing has to be; that is, that nonbeing is a real possibility for everything.
Then right now nothing would exist. For
If the universe began to exist, then all being must trace its origin to some past moment before which there existed—literally—nothing at all. But
From nothing nothing comes. So
The universe could not have begun.
But suppose the universe never began. Then, for the infinitely long duration of cosmic history, all being had the built-in possibility not to be. But
If in an infinite time that possibility was never realized, then it could not have been a real possibility at all. So
There must exist something which has to exist, which cannot not exist. This sort of being is called necessary.
Either this necessity belongs to the thing in itself or it is derived from another. If derived from another there must ultimately exist a being whose necessity is not derived, that is, an absolutely necessary being.
This absolutely necessary being is God.
Question1: Even though you may never in fact step outside your house all day, it was possible for you to do so. Why is it impossible that the universe still happens to exist, even though it was possible for it to go out of existence?
Reply: The two cases are not really parallel. To step outside your house on a given day is something that you may or may not choose to do. But if nonbeing is a real possibility for you, then you are the kind of being that cannot last forever. In other words, the possibility of nonbeing must be built-in, “programmed,” part of your very constitution, a necessary property. And if all being is like that, then how could anything still exist after the passage of an infinite time? For an infinite time is every bit as long as forever. So being must have what it takes to last forever, that is, to stay in existence for an infinite time. Therefore there must exist within the realm of being something that does not tend to go out of existence. And this sort of being, as Aquinas says, is called “necessary.”

Did you notice the bait and switch in this one?

Before I address that though, I am noticing a pattern in these first three items. They all focus on the fact that the universe exists and because we (as in our current state of human knowledge) can’t explain why, therefore there must be a god that put it in place. At its most basic it is an argument from ignorance in that a god is inserted where there is no currently accepted explanation. The language has evolved into something more sophisticated and of course I would expect adherents to deny this assertion. They have to.

The issue that this item tried to answer is that of infinite regress, a subject that will be revisited by later items I am sure. Whatever exists must have something that existed before it. A tree came from a seed which came from a previously existing tree and so on. The universe exists and so must come from something that existed before it. Therefore god. But wait, what about before god? Where is the super god that created the universe god? Why stop at the first god that is assumed from the existence of the universe? How can the author of this argument be sure of anything regarding the god that supposedly caused this universe? They can’t be sure, that’s the problem. They’ve presupposed a god then created an argument to support it, but as with all arguments for god, they can’t step beyond imagining, the imagined god can never be tested or confirmed. We are supposed to just accept it.

This brings me to the bait and switch. See this bit.

There must exist something which has to exist, which cannot not exist. This sort of being is called necessary.
Either this necessity belongs to the thing in itself or it is derived from another. If derived from another there must ultimately exist a being whose necessity is not derived, that is, an absolutely necessary being.
This absolutely necessary being is God.

To paraphrase: before the universe, there must be something that caused it (not entirely unreasonable, but is it true? We should really test that before building arguments based on it.), that something must exist (so no test, just assume it’s true and carry on), that thing must be a being (oh?), and that being is god (boof, there it is!)

The bait and switch fallacy is explained more here: http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Bait-and-switch

There is another issue with the argument that is presented in this item, which is the whole issue of before the universe. See this bit.

If the universe began to exist, then all being must trace its origin to some past moment before which there existed—literally—nothing at all. But
From nothing nothing comes. So
The universe could not have begun.
But suppose the universe never began. Then, for the infinitely long duration of cosmic history, all being had the built-in possibility not to be. But
If in an infinite time that possibility was never realized,

The author has forgotten (or maybe ignored) the very important detail that time is a feature of matter. I’m sure I’ve mentioned this already but I’ll do it again. How we experience time is directly related to our proximity to matter. The same is also true of how we experience gravity. This time experience is a calculatable and measurable phenomenon. It has to be accounted for in GPS satellites and it is the reason why your head is not the same age as your feet (https://www.nist.gov/news-events/news/2010/09/nist-clock-experiment-demonstrates-your-head-older-your-feet).

The ultimate conclusion from this is that time, as we understand and experience it, started with the universe. Thus the universe has existed for all of time and the question of what was before needs to first answer the difficulty of how you can have a before time. The author of this item has skipped a very important step in his rush to justify the god that he’s predetermined must exist.

Twenty Arguments for God – Two – The Argument from Efficient Causality

This post is one of a serious that picks apart the arguments for god that can be found at the link below. This post addresses number 2:

http://www.peterkreeft.com/topics-more/20_arguments-gods-existence.htm#2

If you don’t want to click over there to read it, the full argument goes like this:

2. The Argument from Efficient Causality

We notice that some things cause other things to be (to begin to be, to continue to be, or both). For example, a man playing the piano is causing the music that we hear. If he stops, so does the music.
Now ask yourself: Are all things caused to exist by other things right now? Suppose they are. That is, suppose there is no Uncaused Being, no God. Then nothing could exist right now. For remember, on the no-God hypothesis, all things need a present cause outside of themselves in order to exist. So right now, all things, including all those things which are causing things to be, need a cause. They can give being only so long as they are given being. Everything that exists, therefore, on this hypothesis, stands in need of being caused to exist.
But caused by what? Beyond everything that is, there can only be nothing. But that is absurd: all of reality dependent—but dependent on nothing! The hypothesis that all being is caused, that there is no Uncaused Being, is absurd. So there must be something uncaused, something on which all things that need an efficient cause of being are dependent.
Existence is like a gift given from cause to effect. If there is no one who has the gift, the gift cannot be passed down the chain of receivers, however long or short the chain may be. If everyone has to borrow a certain book, but no one actually has it, then no one will ever get it. If there is no God who has existence by his own eternal nature, then the gift of existence cannot be passed down the chain of creatures and we can never get it. But we do get it; we exist. Therefore there must exist a God: an Uncaused Being who does not have to receive existence like us—and like every other link in the chain of receivers.
Question 1: Why do we need an uncaused cause? Why could there not simply be an endless series of things mutually keeping each other in being?
Reply: This is an attractive hypothesis. Think of a single drunk. He could probably not stand up alone. But a group of drunks, all of them mutually supporting each other, might stand. They might even make their way along the street. But notice: Given so many drunks, and given the steady ground beneath them, we can understand how their stumblings might cancel each other out, and how the group of them could remain (relatively) upright. We could not understand their remaining upright if the ground did not support them—if, for example, they were all suspended several feet above it. And of course, if there were no actual drunks, there would be nothing to understand.
This brings us to our argument. Things have got to exist in order to be mutually dependent; they cannot depend upon each other for their entire being, for then they would have to be, simultaneously, cause and effect of each other. A causes B, B causes C, and C causes A. That is absurd. The argument is trying to show why a world of caused causes can be given—or can be there—at all. And it simply points out: If this thing can exist only because something else is giving it existence, then there must exist something whose being is not a gift. Otherwise everything would need at the same time to be given being, but nothing (in addition to “everything”) could exist to give it. And that means nothing would actually be.
Question 2: Why not have an endless series of caused causes stretching backward into the past? Then everything would be made actual and would actually be—even though their causes might no longer exist.
Reply: First, if the kalam argument (argument 6) is right, there could not exist an endless series of causes stretching backward into the past. But suppose that such a series could exist. The argument is not concerned about the past, and would work whether the past is finite or infinite. It is concerned with what exists right now.
Even as you read this, you are dependent on other things; you could not, right now, exist without them. Suppose there are seven such things. If these seven things did not exist, neither would you. Now suppose that all seven of them depend for their existence right now on still other things. Without these, the seven you now depend on would not exist—and neither would you. Imagine that the entire universe consists of you and the seven sustaining you. If there is nothing besides that universe of changing, dependent things, then the universe—and you as part of it—could not be. For everything that is would right now need to be given being but there would be nothing capable of giving it. And yet you are and it is. So there must in that case exist something besides the universe of dependent things—something not dependent as they are.
And if it must exist in that case, it must exist in this one. In our world there are surely more than seven things that need, right now, to be given being. But that need is not diminished by there being more than seven. As we imagine more and more of them—even an infinite number, if that were possible—we are simply expanding the set of beings that stand in need. And this need—for being, for existence—cannot be met from within the imagined set. But obviously it has been met, since contingent beings exist. Therefore there is a source of being on which our material universe right now depends.

I hope I’m not the only person who read that and thought ‘This is just a rephrasing of no1 with the focus on existing rather than changing.’. I can see this series getting tedious and boring very quickly. Especially now that I know that no6 (Kalam) is coming and this seemed like a basic version of that.

This argument makes sense on a superficial level, in that things don’t suddenly pop into existence before our eyes. Stuff is generally created from other stuff. Offspring come from parents and the chain never loops back to the start. The argument extrapolates from that to the point that everything within the universe must ultimately be caused by the universe at the start of the chain and therefore the universe has a cause that must be outside the universe. The logic makes sense at face value, but philosophy runs into difficulty when it addresses these questions. This is because the physicists who have spent time working on the very problem of how the universe came into existence say that the laws of physics break down when we rewind to a point very soon after the universe came into being. We currently have no way of explaining beyond that point, but it is being worked on. The argument presented above ignores the hard facts of science and jumps to it’s conclusion with no method of demonstrating its workings. One of the biggest issues with trying to find a cause to the universe is that matter and time are intrinsically related, how we experience time is related to the matter around us (and our velocity with respect to the speed of light, but that’s not relevant to this specific item so I’ll not mention it again in this post). This means that time, as we know and experience it, started at the point that the universe started, which means that it is possible to have a universe that has existed since the dawn of time. It also means that trying to find something that caused the universe, and therefore existed before time began, is pretty much an impossible task. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t give it a go and thankfully scientists are giving it a go, bit by bit we’re gathering new information to try and make some sense of this conundrum. As such, the suggestion that there is a cause of the universe is somewhat presumptuous, especially when there is no current way of confirming that. The premise of the argument works within the confines of our known universe; stuff comes from other stuff, we know this because we can scientifically explain the parent ‘stuff’. Unfortunately, like the laws of physics, this argument falls apart when you get to that critical point close to the big bang. The argument tries to resolve that challenge by claiming there must be a god but posits no way to of detecting that god, we should just accept that it must exist.

We have in this item, the same mistakes and presuppositions as in item one, that there must exist the Christian god who created everything. The argument is worded simplistically and skips over the challenges of reality and ignores what is known to science in a desperate bit to make the desired god be the only available conclusion.

 

Twenty Arguments for God – One – The Argument from Change

This post is one of a serious that picks apart the arguments for god that can be found at the link below. This post addresses number 1:

http://www.peterkreeft.com/topics-more/20_arguments-gods-existence.htm#1

If you don’t want to click over there to read it, the full argument goes like this:

1. The Argument from Change

The material world we know is a world of change. This young woman came to be 5’2″, but she was not always that height. The great oak tree before us grew from the tiniest acorn. Now when something comes to be in a certain state, such as mature size, that state cannot bring itself into being. For until it comes to be, it does not exist, and if it does not yet exist, it cannot cause anything.
As for the thing that changes, although it can be what it will become, it is not yet what it will become. It actually exists right now in this state (an acorn); it will actually exist in that state (large oak tree). But it is not actually in that state now. It only has the potentiality for that state.
Now a question: To explain the change, can we consider the changing thing alone, or must other things also be involved? Obviously, other things must be involved. Nothing can give itself what it does not have, and the changing thing cannot have now, already, what it will come to have then. The result of change cannot actually exist before the change. The changing thing begins with only the potential to change, but it needs to be acted on by other things outside if that potential is to be made actual. Otherwise it cannot change.
Nothing changes itself. Apparently self-moving things, like animal bodies, are moved by desire or will—something other than mere molecules. And when the animal or human dies, the molecules remain, but the body no longer moves because the desire or will is no longer present to move it.
Now a further question: Are the other things outside the changing thing also changing? Are its movers also moving? If so, all of them stand in need right now of being acted on by other things, or else they cannot change. No matter how many things there are in the series, each one needs something outside itself to actualize its potentiality for change.
The universe is the sum total of all these moving things, however many there are. The whole universe is in the process of change. But we have already seen that change in any being requires an outside force to actualize it. Therefore, there is some force outside (in addition to) the universe, some real being transcendent to the universe. This is one of the things meant by “God.”
Briefly, if there is nothing outside the material universe, then there is nothing that can cause the universe to change. But it does change. Therefore there must be something in addition to the material universe. But the universe is the sum total of all matter, space and time. These three things depend on each other. Therefore this being outside the universe is outside matter, space and time. It is not a changing thing; it is the unchanging Source of change.

Apparently the author has never observed a cell under a microscope, or bothered to understand the 2nd law of thermodynamics. The universe that we are within is under constant change and there is no evidence of external activity interfering with it. As it currently stands, we are unable to detect anything that is outside of this universe. The premise of this argument, that everything needs something external to it in order for it to change, is extrapolated to such an extreme that it makes a fatal assumption. I imagine that the author assumes that we’ll never ‘see’ outside the universe and therefore can’t directly challenge the argument.

If an argument is framed in such a way that it can’t be challenged, does that make it automatically correct?

Physicists are working on the problem of what could be beyond the boundary of the universe, if indeed there is such a thing. There are hypothesis that are in the works and experiments are being devised. For a stack load, and I do mean a stack load, of further reading on the subject, this Wikipedia page has a bunch of references that can be followed (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Observable_universe). Yes, I know there are many who detest Wikipedia for various reasons, it is however a good way to find a list of references to science stuff. So if reading the Wikipedia article makes you want to retch, skip to the bottom and browse through the references. It’s a very good a place to start.

This argument also makes reference to an animal’s will as the external source of it’s desire to move. The will is what we call the decision to move, which is based on the chemical and biological interactions in the brain. The brain, being part of the animal in question, is entirely within the animal and contains nothing that is outside of the animal. The whole idea that our will to move is external to ourselves is an utter nonsense point and factually incorrect.

As will become clear as I chug my way through these arguments, I put a lot of store in what can be explained and demonstrated, which normally means something scientific. The argument quoted above explains nothing and demonstrates even less. It is founded on a crude and minimally descriptive premise and flops downhill from there. There are not even any references to support the points made.

The agent of change that the argument says must exist outside the universe is not explicitly identified in the argument, but we all know that a Christian wrote the item and the only external being that the author is going to accept is the Christian god. The fact that other religions can, and probably do, use a similar argument to this to lead to their own god or gods should be an indication of weakness of this one.

The Story of Naaman – That’s one mean god

The second book of Kings contains the story of Naaman, the head of a foreign army, who is cured from his leprosy by Elisha.

It’s a story I’ve read and heard preached about many times. For those wishing to extol the virtues of faith and the overcoming of doubt, it makes for a great narrative.

What is less well known is that at the end of the story Elisha’s servant gets a little greedy and claims the payment for the healing after Elisha has turned it down. It’s not clear how Elisha finds out about the deception, but he isn’t best pleased and promptly curses the servant and all his descendent to be forever plagues with leprosy. Nice.

It is this sort of ending that justifies the challenge that the Christian god isn’t a god of love but a moral monster.

Subjective moral values aside, the story creates a narrative that should be testable today. The servant’s descendents were cursed to suffer with leprosy forever. Which means that there should be alive today a family line whose descents all suffer with this disease. This would make for an interesting medical case, especially since leprosy isn’t a genetic disease. Does a family line exist today where all members suffer from leprosy?

The existence of such a family would surely be evidence for the authenticity of this story and therefore affirm the existence of such a curse, which surely would conclude that the Christian god isn’t a myth after all. It would also confirm that the Christian god is a petulant vengeful scumbag that we should be afraid of but is not at all worthy of worship. So if this story can be confirmed to be true based on the servant’s curse, then maybe Christians don’t want the lineage to be identified after all.

There are some Christian objections though:
– maybe it’s not leprosy, the English says leprosy, but the original could mean any skin disease.

My ancient language knowledge isn’t good enough to read the original; there is strong support for it being leprosy and also for a less specific diagnosis. Whatever it is or was, it doesn’t cancel out the many generations being cursed with a disease forever. If that disease isn’t a genetic disease, then how does each descendent get it? Does god arrange for each one to succumb?

– People with leprosy tended not to reproduce due to being outcast so don’t assume the servant did

Well, that puts paid to the all descendents forever part of the curse. Who’s at fault there? The godly Elisha or god? Someone surely messed up.

– Maybe god chose not to honour Elisha’s curse beyond the servant.

This is a good one. It rescues god from the evil very not loving accusation but also removes the testable part of the story. No confirmation means the bible is once more in the cupboard marked myth. Christians probably like it because it means the bible can’t be falsified either. Perfect for those with blind faith.

Seen in a fresh light, the story of Naaman isn’t one of grace and faith, it’s one of betrayal, vengeance and downright nastiness. Who wants that sort of god to rule over them? Not me.

On The Alleged Atheist Assumptions

There are Christians who claim that atheism assumes there is no god (https://lyleduell.me/2017/02/02/the-assumptions-of-atheism/). This is typical of theists who are self-styled atheist experts. Apparently this assumption (which hasn’t actually been established, merely claimed and assumed to be true) is false because

No one can prove that there is no God

If it’s not possible to prove there is no god, then equally it’s also not possible to prove that there is a god, which leaves the theist in the uncomfortable position of assuming there is a god, with no proof, while pointing a finger that the atheist saying you can’t assume there is no god because you can’t prove there is no god.

I participate in regular conversations with theists and atheists and the claims of atheists vary a lot. There are those who confidently claim there is no god and there are those who take the softer road that belief in god is not reasonable if said god cannot be demonstrated. The majority take the latter. It’s not clear from the blog post I linked to if all atheists are lumped into the assumption claim or if it’s only the former. What’s also not clear is how the author thinks atheists come to these assumptions. If the assumption if merely because the lack of a god can’t be proven, that that is an entirely reasonable position to take. Given that you can prove neither the existence nor the non-existence of a thing, assuming it exists is the least reasonable position to take.

Next we get to

The second assumption, which I have found in most atheists, is the belief that they are smarter than those who believe in a God.

Yes, there are many atheists who will comment along the lines of “only a stupid idiot would believe in a god”, or other less salubrious phrases. These are equally matched by those theists who quote Psalm 14:1 or other bible verses which justify looking down their noses at non-believers. I am pretty sure I’ve been called all sorts of variations of stupid by theists far more times that I’ve seen atheists bat it back. The numbers aren’t actually important though because the insult isn’t useful regardless of the direction it flows. It is a tad dishonest to accuse the atheist of assuming higher intelligence while not acknowledging the reverse is an equal problem.

The blog post then makes a reference to poll that claims that 51% of scientists believe in god. The link associated with the claim didn’t work for me but it seems to be this:

http://www.pewforum.org/2009/11/05/scientists-and-belief/

Note that it’s 33% believe in god and 18 believe is some form of higher power that’s not god. 10 of those 33% are religions other than Christian. Those stats don’t looks so great compared to the 41% with no belief. But I’m not sure what that has to do with intelligence and belief. Intelligent people sometimes believe dumb things. That happens the world over. Trying to point score on an intelligence comparison achieves nothing other than making it look like you are trying to justify an assumption you have.

What an Abortion

Oh boy what an emotive subject this one is!

I think it is fair that I lay out my views on abortion at the start. Hopefully they’ll be clear but I already suspect that someone will see something in the next paragraph that they can use to call me inconsistent or bigoted or immoral, let’s see.

I am pro choice but I am not pro abortion. I think a world in which abortion is never an option is a better world. However, I do not subscribe to the view that restricting access to abortion is the way to achieve that. My view is that an environment where access to education, health and whatever else is necessary so that an abortion never needs to happen is how that goal is met. When a woman gets to the point that abortion is an option then it means that something else has not gone right and removing abortion as an option should never be considered as the appropriate way to fix that. I refuse to hold judgement over any woman who finds herself in that situation and I will defend her right to have an abortion.

Now that’s out of the way, let’s get to the meat…

New president Donald Trump has signed a ban on aid money going to international groups who provide any information on abortions, not just those that get involved in providing them; they can’t even talk about abortion.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-38729364

The recipients of this aid are now gagged with respect to abortion information. This is precisely why I oppose religiously motivated morality. Don’t like something? Then prohibit everybody from being able to have anything to do with it. That’s nuts, but not the subject of this post.

In an ideal world, contraception would be equally available to all citizens and there would never be a case when a woman finds herself unwillingly pregnant. This isn’t the case though. Rural areas don’t have easy access to contraception. Rural areas are also the poorest areas, so a woman who finds herself pregnant is more likely to be part of a family which can ill afford another mouth to feed. Is reducing the chance of her having a safe and legal abortion the right option here? A woman in a poor, large rural family is more likely to find herself unwillingly pregnant. She’ll also be more likely to seek an abortion than her relatively wealthier city dwelling fellow citizens. Where is the justice in mandating that she, her family, her children and her community all must bear the cost? I don’t just mean financial.

This is precisely the scenario where a desperate woman will seek out the most convenient abortion she can. If you remove the safe option through aid banning, you effectively force her into an illegal and less safe one. A dead woman is of no use to her family.

Among my facebook friends is a very vocal Christian who I’ve known since school. Like most of my friends from that era, she has retained her faith and it is very literal. She is rabidly against abortion and in her defence of this action by Trump she has used the phrase ‘two wrongs don’t make a right’. I’m not sure which is the first wrong she is referring to, but it’s clear the second wrong is the act of abortion. I argue that in this situation the woman taking home a baby to a large and poor family and increasing their level of poverty is also wrong. There is no ‘right’ solution here, every option is ‘wrong’. Yes I am sad that a woman has felt the need to seek an abortion, I am pretty sure she is too; there is no joy in this scenario. If the alternative was better she would not be considering abortion.

The reason the woman is seeking an abortion is because she knows it’s worth it over the alternative. It is the utmost arrogance to decry her actions as morally reprehensible from the comfort of another country where the level of education, medical care and contraception are better in every conceivable way.

Abortion Stats

In checking facts about Mexico, I was surprised to read that contraception is used by about 70% of women in Mexico (http://www.d.umn.edu/~lars1521/BC&Mexico.htm). I understand that Catholicism is the dominant religion, and therefore that means that contraception is shunned doesn’t it? Well apparently not. Adherence to Catholicism is declining and commitment to contraception by those Catholics is very low (http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/02/10/a-snapshot-of-catholics-in-mexico-pope-francis-next-stop/).

The state of women’s health regards to childbirth in South America and the Caribbean is depressing (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3673241/), restricting abortion does not solve it, it exacerbates it. In this action, Trump has condemned thousands to greater poverty and health risks and criminalized those who work hard to against poverty and illiteracy.

A Response to Answering The Skeptics

My last post (https://confessionsofayec.wordpress.com/2017/01/20/answering-the-sceptics/) received a very long reply, so rather than accept a single huge comment, I decided to replicate the whole thing here and respond. At close to 3000 words, the reply is considerably longer than the post it addresses, a tad unreasonable and I suspect the sort of essay I should expect from the poster. (Note to poster, try to keep your comments shorter and to a minimal number of topics in future, it makes maintaining a conversation a whole lot easier.

The reply I received is repeated verbatim below, with outdented commentary from yours truly.

“Presuppositions are fatal. One should never presuppose anything before an argument because that makes the whole point of the argument moot.”

Presuppositions are necessary. You are falsely identifying the fallacy of begging the question with an axiom or an apparent or necessary truth. You must presuppose several things to even make your claim intelligible. One thing you are presupposing is that the fallacy of begging the question is fallacious. And even before that you assume logic…and some sort of concept of truth. But worst of all you have also claimed in multiple places that you do presuppose atheism because you falsely believe that atheism requires no evidence and illogically you presuppose the epistemology of evidentialism & scientism, both of which are demonstrably false yet they are necessary for your worldview to function.

Missed the point that presupposing the conclusion before making the argument makes the whole point of the argument pointless. The writer thinks he can tell me what I believe too, experience tells me that christians who take that attitude tend to be insufferably rude and prone to not listening. Instead of asserting what I believe based on questionable theology, I recommend actually finding out.

“You’ve already decided the result so why bother at all. Unless by argument AiG means those things where spouses shout at each other and throw things. What has happened here is that the non believer has been framed to be just as bad as the believer because ‘they believe we’re wrong’. The correct way to this to have no presupposition and to weigh each option on the evidence available and then test the claims that are produced. AiG can’t do this though because as christians they have to assume and assert their god and in their attempt to balance the scales they project onto those who are sceptical of their claims the opposite presuppositions. That’s deceitful and dishonest.”

Much of this is simply arguing against yourself since you presuppose at least as much as AiG. I’m not a fan of AiG since their misuse of the doctrine of innerancy has led to much confusion amongst both evangelicals (creationists in general) and Darwinists (and anti creationists in general). But as you’ve shown AiG is essentially right unless you’re saying you don’t assume that the universe must have arose from purely naturalistic mechanisms? You can say that your “testable” models are successful and provide evidence for their truth but Darwinism is totally dependent on the presupposition of naturalism/materialism/physicalism.

Christians don’t have to “assume and assert” their God…I’m not sure what that even means. Loads of Christians aren’t YECs. And claiming that the scales are imbalanced is just more presumption on your part. Your sort of atheist is essentially the left wing equivalent of a YEC…which means that the scales are relatively balanced between you. People like Dick Dawkins are essentially left wing versions of Kent Hovind (except Dawkins & co will probably never go to jail…). Its pretty obvious that you’re actually being more deceitful and dishonest because they at least are willing to grant their presuppositions.

Doesn’t know what sort of atheist I am. In the desire to regurgitate AiGs’s ‘atheists presuppose’ trope what I was saying has been missed, again. Is this going to be a theme? I hope not.

“when a Christian is debating with a skeptic, the skeptic will want the Christian to give up their presuppositions and approach the debate “neutrally.” For example, the skeptic may ask the Christian to “prove” that there is a Creator without using the Bible.

That is a very fair thing to do, you want to assert that something exists, demonstrate it. Opening a book and saying ‘it says so here’ isn’t good enough. You need to show your workings and then demonstrate why the conclusion is valid. Don’t do it and you won’t be taken seriously.”

I’ll admit there are problematic things about this sort of approach. But Atheists constantly try to exclude the evidence of history. The apostolic witness contains excellent evidence of God’s activity in the world. But yes if God exists we should be able to provide arguments for his existence and that’s why there are many apologists & philosophers that do exactly that. But to be fair if you have come to the conclusion that the scriptures & apostolic witness are true then you are perfectly justified to use them as evidence for God’s existence. That’s not illogical, it actually follows perfectly. What is illogical is reading a statement in scripture that says scripture is authoritative and that claiming that is why scripture is true. There are Christians that do that…and AiG may be doing that here, I don’t know.

There are claims that apostolic accounts are accurate witness statements of a god. I am sure many believe it, however it can’t be known for certain and certainly can’t be demonstrated. Many historical records contain accounts of events which are rightly doubted. The gospels and other bible books are no better.

“But Christians cannot give up their presuppositions because this results in adopting the skeptic’s presuppositions

If you can’t give up your presuppositions, then you are not being honest with yourself. Claiming that the opposite view has their own does not get you out of that.”

You presuppose the scriptures & apostolic witness don’t give good evidence for the basic facts about Jesus’ life…you can’t argue for that…it’s clearly a presumption… based mostly on your presumption of the impossibility of miracles. In other words “claiming that the opposite view has their own (presuppositions) does not get you out of anything.”

I believe what can be demonstrated. What can’t be demonstrated doesn’t get believed until that changes. Presupposing it’s impossible is as bad as claiming it’s happened but being unable to show it. I take the middle ground, if it’s not been shown, there is no reason to accept it. It will be believed to be impossible when it’s impossibility is demonstrated. Until either happens, neither is presupposed. Want to promote one over the other? Show it.

“There is no such thing as achieving “neutrality” in an argument. Jesus makes this clear when He says, “He who is not with Me is against Me”

I think by “neutrality”, AiG means something akin to the Null Hypothesis (http://psc.dss.ucdavis.edu/faculty_sites//sommerb/sommerdemo/stat_inf/null.htm) in experiments. In an argument context this will mean to take no position and weigh each argument. If the Christian can’t, won’t, or is incapable of doing that, then they have already decided their answer and the argument is pointless. If the only correct conclusion to an argument is to conclude your starting position then you are not being honest with yourself or to your sceptic. This why a Christian should be challenged to prove their god claims using something other than the circular activity of opening the self referencing bible.”

No I don’t think they mean the null hypothesis. They mean that all questions have a right answer and a wrong answer, and since they believe God exists that “neutrality” over whether he exists is not virtuous or desirous. To be fair if God exists the “objective” position will always be Theism. Neutrality is only virtuous in a situation where a null hypothesis is helpful. But because of the implications of Theism & atheism neutrality on either isn’t going to benefit us.

Cool, so until god is shown to either exist or not exist, the correct position to take is the one I hold. No belief either way.

The correct conclusion is the correct conclusion to an argument. Everything you’ve argued for presumes loads of things and you keep arguing for the same position…so I guess you aren’t be honest.

Do at least try to accurately represent what I’m saying. I think this is deliberate.

And as I’ve already demonstrated referencing the Bible isn’t a viciously circular argument (it’s really not circular at all) unless you are making an argument that it is truthful because it is truthful.

“Don’t Accept Atheist Presuppositions

But christian presuppositions are all fine and dandy! Really? The correct sub heading should be don’t accept ANY presuppositions.”

Incorrect. You should assume a lot of things…and you clearly do assume loads of things.

More telling me what position I take, are we all bored yet?

“The skeptic knows that God exists because God has made it plain to everyone through the general revelation of creation.

If that was true they wouldn’t be sceptical.”

That’s a very poor argument because self deception is extremely common and well understood. I think it’s quite clear that many atheists are willfully atheists because their arguments & reasons are of such low quality that it’s hard to believe they think these are good reasons…the same can probably be said for many Christians. The claim that everyone knows God exists but that some suppress that knowledge makes a lot of sense. Humans suppress beliefs all the time.

If that’s what is really thought I think then I don’t see much change of a rational or engaging conversation. Take some time to understand what it is that atheists are saying.

“If there was any doubting as to just how dishonestly AiG wants the christian to argue, there it is, decide you’re right and then tell them you’re right because they are already wrong because they have presupposed the wrong presupposition. Awesome!

Never Assume

Errr!

Most atheists assume several things to be true.

Okay ….

they assume the existence of morality, logic, and the consistency of the laws of nature

Odd choice of assumptions to list and it depends how existence is defined. I’m pretty sure this is wrong about morality and logic, while the laws are nature are demonstrated facts so assume is a redundant option.”

It’s not odd, thats basically the same argument I made earlier.

What definition of reality are you working with?

You really don’t assume logic or morality? That’s pretty hard to believe since almost everything you write presupposes both.

Point missed, again.

“Most skeptics believe in the existence of morality

Blatant assertion with no reference to source. Also still missing key definitions to determine context and meanings.”

Well…it’s true. I mean I guess we could find a poll about whether or not skeptics/atheists are all moral relativists. I haven’t met anyone who was willing to say that the holocaust wasn’t evil…Sam Harris claims to believe in morality even though he really doesn’t. If you really don’t believe there is such a thing as right and wrong then I think you’re right that this argument doesn’t work against you but that doesn’t give good evidence for your beliefs, it makes them seem prima facie absurd.

And again.

“they will often argue against the biblical God by claiming that God is an immoral monster for acts of judgment like the global Flood

True, they do, and for good reason.”

That’s a complete contradiction of what you just said. You can’t argue that something is immoral for “good reason” if you don’t believe in right or wrong.

And again.

“But what standard do they have to claim that God is immoral

Any standard that says it’s wrong to eliminate those whom you don’t like. People who take that view normally get their moral values from themselves, or they conform to the value as a socially accepted norm. I think that the bible also holds that not killing those you don’t like is a good value. How come god gets a pass on that? Isn’t it supposed to be his perfect rules of conduct or something?”

This moral reasoning is arbitrary.

Christians, always giving god a free pass.

The flood is a recreation event within the broader context of the Torah narrative. The people being eliminated have demonstrate their lack of repentance so it has nothing to do with God not liking them. This is childish straw manning and represents your consistent anti intellectual bias. God disciplines those he loves within the narrative of the scriptures. The writer of Genesis clearly views the timing of the flood as merciful because Methuselah lives longer than the other long lived patriarchs and his name means something like “my death brings judgement.” In other words God gives humanity loads of time to repent. Before you lose your mind remember I’m presenting the text as it should be understood in contrast to your straw man and inaccurate understanding. God isn’t being flippant with his judgement, the writer of the Torah always portrays God as being slow to judge. But additionally the univocal teaching of the scriptures and the New Testament is not that taking a human life is always wrong. Killing someone you “don’t like” could be moral. Capital punishment is moral from the perspective of this tradition and humans tend not to like the sort of people that usually suffer capital punishment. Of course not liking someone isn’t relevant to a just cause for taking life. In any case murder is wrongful joking and the Torah and Jesus are clear that wrongful killing is of course wrong. God’s righteous judgement upon wicked people would of course not be wrong.

“If life just evolved naturalistically from matter and energy, then where do immaterial laws of morality come from? And who establishes these laws? Government? Society? The individual?

One wonders if these are genuine and serious questions or if they are being used as rhetoric to shore up the aforementioned christian presuppositions. Giving AiG the benefit of the doubt, the answers are: natural selection, ourselves and societal norms, all three.”

I wonder if you’re being serious here because this makes your worldview evil. This means you deny human rights because you deny natural rights since rights are socially constructed by humans and governments. They just legal fiction. In other words you believe that nothing is wrong…or right. So the Nazis weren’t evil. Slavery wasn’t evil…nothing is evil. And nothing is right or good. If all their is is matter in motion then there simply is no meaning or value to life.

The meaning our lives have is the meaning that we assign to ourselves. It comes from what motivates us, which in turn is driven by what we like, which comes from the chemicals in our brains. It’s a very well understood process, there is no need for any god at any stage.

“If this is the case, and murdering and stealing are right for me, then why shouldn’t I murder and steal from you?

So not serious question then. Is the only thing keeping them from doing bad stuff the belief that god said you can’t? How come so many people who don’t accept the christian god do not do this? Could it possibly be that natural selection has already dealt a dealth blow to the DNA encoding that brings about those characteristics? I wager that a society that finds those actions acceptable is one that would not last very long.”

Right you don’t believe in good and evil. More murder, rape, etc occurred in the 20th century then the previous centuries combined. We clearly haven’t evolved past these things and societies that make peace with evils like infanticide are doing quite well. Doing evil does lead to disaster and the western obsession with infanticide has hurt us badly but natural selection doesn’t select based on any criteria so natural selection cannot be the basis of determining right and wrong. You may as well roll a die. But the bigger problem is that you don’t think evil things are evil you think they are impractical. That is quite evil.

The critical difference between absolute numbers and per capita numbers is not very well understood is it!

“They can’t tell me it’s wrong! It’s just wrong for you.

And wrong for pretty much everybody else, thanks to our evolutionary heritage.”

That makes no sense. You don’t think it’s actually wrong. Explain it’s wrongness. Because you don’t like it? How does evolutionary history connect to morality? It’s a purely physical process. Right and wrong don’t ever come into it. Is it wrong when gorillas rape other gorillas? Is it wrong when wolves eat humans? Give me an example of something that is wrong, universally wrong and why it is wrong base purely on scientism. Unless you think humans are more than matter in motion then we aren’t capable of free will and rightness/wrongness isn’t even relevant to our “actions” since we couldn’t be responsible anyway. This point of view is totally absurd. These are the metaphysics of evil.

I’m skipping some of the remarks you made. Mostly irrelevant.

I’m beginning to wonder if my esteemed responder understands much about evolution and natural selection and how they affect human behaiviour.

“And yet, despite morality being immaterial and not absolute, we manage.”

The claim is that since morality isn’t material it can’t be a part of a materialist worldview…so do you think morality is immaterial as you stated above? And it’s relative? That means there’s no morality.

If it’s relative then it doesn’t exist, what an odd argument.

Yes, we managed to kill a million infants a year for the last 30 years in America alone. Atheist regimes managed to cause the deaths of over a hundred million humans in the 20th century. Your argument isn’t coherent to begin with but empirically it’s completely false anyway.

“Because individual survival depends on the group and if the individual acts against the needs of the group, they don’t survive very well.”

That’s not a reason to not murder, steal etc. That’s just a “theory” of survival. Why survive? Just because? Your worldview is dark and meaningless. Nothing is actually wrong for you.

I was right, doesn’t understand evolution.

It’s also just false. Dictators survive fine. Loads of people have done horrible things and survived just fine. The social contract theory of ethics was exploded over 2,000 years ago by Plato’s myth: the ring of Gyges. And we see that same story inverted constantly through our contemporary myths about superheroes. We consider it morally virtuous to act against our best interests (sometimes to clearly emotionally unhealthy places) and even give up personal survival for the sake of others. You can’t make sense of altruism. Social contract theory is a description not an impetus of morality. It means there is no morality.

And didn’t get my point either, sadly, it was a theme.

“in a random, naturalistic universe, why should immaterial laws of logic exist?

Another faux question I fear.

In a naturalistic universe there is no explanation for laws of logic

As I suspected. The laws of logic are man made by the way (https://www.britannica.com/topic/laws-of-thought)”

This is idiotic. You think that human minds (something you claimed not to believe in elsewhere) came up with the laws that make rationality possibility? Like the law of identity? Or the law of non contradiction? You really don’t know enough about these issues to discuss them. Citing a britannica article as evidence for your faulty claim is an embarrassingly weak argument. Especially since that article doesn’t even agree with you. Laws of logic are necessary truths. Humans didn’t make them, we abide by them.

I’m still being patient with you because I hope you will see some of the numerous errors you’re making and hopefully change.

‘Patient with me’, how about presumptuous and patronising instead.

“you have to assume that the laws of nature won’t change tomorrow.

That’ll explain why I have trouble walking straight when I stay a bit late after work. Those damnable laws of nature always changing when I need them most.”

They don’t change that’s the point. Terrible argument. Why is nature uniform?

“They are immaterial and constant throughout the universe.

That’ll be because they are dependent on the properties of the matter that makes up the universe. Take away the matter and you lose the lawful nature.”

That makes no sense. The immaterial laws depend on matter? That’s absurd. Taking away the matter just takes away the matter. It does nothing to an immaterial law.

Physics class required.

Ignoring more irrelevance.

“I’ll write my own new version, ‘answer with folly and be treated like a fool’.”

That’s exactly why I tell you when you don’t know enough and you certainly do not know enough to intelligently discuss these things. It’s hard to take you seriously. But I’m still being patient.

And relax.

I’ll repeat my suggestion from the top of this missive, if you want to comment here and have a productive conversation, keep your comments concise and to a minimal number of points and do reign in the assumptions of stupidity.

Answering The Sceptics

Some time ago, AiG posted a piece titles Answering The Skeptics (https://answersingenesis.org/apologetics/answering-the-skeptics/).

It’s one of many they’ve posted that address the question of how the Christian should respond to challenges from those who will identify, and draw attention to, consistency issues in the bible.

The opening paragraph identifies Proverbs 26 vs 4-5 as an often quoted source of such contradiction. It says:

Do not answer a fool according to his folly, lest you also be like him. Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes.

Personally, that’s not been on my radar as somewhere to go to critique the bible, there are much better places. Searching on the reference and using the key word ‘contradiction’ reveals more pages of christian responses then there are pages of critiquing sceptics. My problem with those verses is when they are used to justify calling the religious sceptic a fool rather than any perceived contradiction.

“Do not answer a fool according to his folly, lest you also be like him.” Presuppositions play an important role in apologetics. Everyone has starting assumptions (presuppositions) that they assume to be true at the onset of an argument. For example, an atheist has the presupposition that God does not exist and that the universe and life arose naturalistically. Bible-believing Christians, however, have the presupposition that God exists

Presuppositions are fatal. One should never presuppose anything before an argument because that makes the whole point of the argument moot. You’ve already decided the result so why bother at all. Unless by argument AiG means those things where spouses shout at each other and throw things. What has happened here is that the non believer has been framed to be just as bad as the believer because ‘they believe we’re wrong’. The correct way to this to have no presupposition and to weigh each option on the evidence available and then test the claims that are produced. AiG can’t do this though because as christians they have to assume and assert their god and in their attempt to balance the scales they project onto those who are sceptical of their claims the opposite presuppositions. That’s deceitful and dishonest.

when a Christian is debating with a skeptic, the skeptic will want the Christian to give up their presuppositions and approach the debate “neutrally.” For example, the skeptic may ask the Christian to “prove” that there is a Creator without using the Bible.

That is a very fair thing to do, you want to assert that something exists, demonstrate it. Opening a book and saying ‘it says so here’ isn’t good enough. You need to show your workings and then demonstrate why the conclusion is valid. Don’t do it and you won’t be taken seriously.

But Christians cannot give up their presuppositions because this results in adopting the skeptic’s presuppositions

If you can’t give up your presuppositions, then you are not being honest with yourself. Claiming that the opposite view has their own does not get you out of that.

There is no such thing as achieving “neutrality” in an argument. Jesus makes this clear when He says, “He who is not with Me is against Me”

I think by “neutrality”, AiG means something akin to the Null Hypothesis (http://psc.dss.ucdavis.edu/faculty_sites//sommerb/sommerdemo/stat_inf/null.htm) in experiments. In an argument context this will mean to take no position and weigh each argument. If the Christian can’t, won’t, or is incapable of doing that, then they have already decided their answer and the argument is pointless. If the only correct conclusion to an argument is to conclude your starting position then you are not being honest with yourself or to your sceptic. This why a Christian should be challenged to prove their god claims using something other than the circular activity of opening the self referencing bible.

Don’t Accept Atheist Presuppositions

But christian presuppositions are all fine and dandy! Really? The correct sub heading should be don’t accept ANY presuppositions.

there’s lots of evidence for a Creator in the universe

Is this using unbiased testable methods or is this a claim that springs from specifically christian presuppositions? Oh dear!

Just as a soldier would not put down his weapon because his opponent doesn’t believe his weapon is real, a Christian should never lay aside the Word of God, which is a powerful sword given to us by God

Interesting analogy.

The skeptic knows that God exists because God has made it plain to everyone through the general revelation of creation.

If that was true they wouldn’t be sceptical.

After we explain that we will not give up our presuppositions but will use the true history recorded in Scripture to interpret the evidence and present arguments, we can “answer a fool according to his folly” by showing him the logical consequences of his presuppositions.

If there was any doubting as to just how dishonestly AiG wants the christian to argue, there it is, decide you’re right and then tell them you’re right because they are already wrong because they have presupposed the wrong presupposition. Awesome!

Never Assume

Errr!

Most atheists assume several things to be true.

Okay ….

they assume the existence of morality, logic, and the consistency of the laws of nature

Odd choice of assumptions to list and it depends how existence is defined. I’m pretty sure this is wrong about morality and logic, while the laws are nature are demonstrated facts so assume is a redundant option.

Let me explain why their assumptions are inconsistent with a worldview that assumes only matter and energy exist

This’ll be fun.

Most skeptics believe in the existence of morality

Blatant assertion with no reference to source. Also still missing key definitions to determine context and meanings.

they will often argue against the biblical God by claiming that God is an immoral monster for acts of judgment like the global Flood

True, they do, and for good reason.

But what standard do they have to claim that God is immoral

Any standard that says it’s wrong to eliminate those whom you don’t like. People who take that view normally get their moral values from themselves, or they conform to the value as a socially accepted norm. I think that the bible also holds that not killing those you don’t like is a good value. How come god gets a pass on that? Isn’t it supposed to be his perfect rules of conduct or something?

If life just evolved naturalistically from matter and energy, then where do immaterial laws of morality come from? And who establishes these laws? Government? Society? The individual?

One wonders if these are genuine and serious questions or if they are being used as rhetoric to shore up the aforementioned christian presuppositions. Giving AiG the benefit of the doubt, the answers are: natural selection, ourselves and societal norms, all three.

If this is the case, and murdering and stealing are right for me, then why shouldn’t I murder and steal from you?

So not serious question then. Is the only thing keeping them from doing bad stuff the belief that god said you can’t? How come so many people who don’t accept the christian god do not do this? Could it possibly be that natural selection has already dealt a dealth blow to the DNA encoding that brings about those characteristics? I wager that a society that finds those actions acceptable is one that would not last very long.

They can’t tell me it’s wrong! It’s just wrong for you.

And wrong for pretty much everybody else, thanks to our evolutionary heritage.

Each of these scenarios is ultimately inconsistent, and the world cannot operate based on such arbitrary standards of morality.

Yet that’s exactly what it does.

We all intuitively know that these things are wrong because God has written His law on our hearts

What font and point size?

in an evolutionary worldview, there is no absolute standard for morality and no reason why anyone should even have a sense of right and wrong since morality is immaterial

And yet, despite morality being immaterial and not absolute, we manage.

And if murdering and stealing helps me survive better, why shouldn’t I murder and steal?

Because individual survival depends on the group and if the individual acts against the needs of the group, they don’t survive very well.

in a random, naturalistic universe, why should immaterial laws of logic exist?

Another faux question I fear.

In a naturalistic universe there is no explanation for laws of logic

As I suspected. The laws of logic are man made by the way (https://www.britannica.com/topic/laws-of-thought)

Skeptics face yet another problem. They assume that the laws of nature exist

Uh oh, I’m getting a bad feeling about what’s coming next.

you have to assume that the laws of nature won’t change tomorrow.

That’ll explain why I have trouble walking straight when I stay a bit late after work. Those damnable laws of nature always changing when I need them most.

They are immaterial and constant throughout the universe.

That’ll be because they are dependent on the properties of the matter that makes up the universe. Take away the matter and you lose the lawful nature.

Secularists have no logical explanation for the existence of these laws

Errr.

Natural laws are consistent because there is a Creator

That’ll be why my prayers never got answered, it was because his godliness was too busy keeping all that nature stuff in order.

There is no explanation for these immaterial laws in a naturalistic worldview.

Says whom and how can they show this?

And yet an atheist must assume these things in order to argue against the Christian worldview. This is like someone who doesn’t believe in air arguing against the existence of air.

Yep, totally comparable.

they are assuming that Christianity is true in order to argue against it

Don’t be knocking those incontrovertible god inspired laws of logic.

we can apply the “don’t answer/answer” strategy found in Proverbs 26:4–5.

I’ll write my own new version, ‘answer with folly and be treated like a fool’.

God’s Flawed Hearing System

Over at AiG, an old item has been pushed through their RSS feed and bumped onto my reader. It’s on how wonderful the human hearing system is.

https://answersingenesis.org/human-body/selective-hearing/

I agree that the human ear is amazing.

The item, written by a Dr. Don DeYoung, includes some flat out incorrect assertions. It seems that lying isn’t really lying when it’s for The Kingdom.

Your eardrum is wonderfully designed to sense the tiniest changes in air pressure. But this has a potential downside. Loud, sustained noises could easily push the delicate parts of the inner ear beyond their safety limit, causing permanent damage.

By God’s wise design, however, something special happens under these conditions. God put a series of three tiny bones in your middle ear to pick up most vibrations. For their protection, He attached two tiny muscles to the first and last of these bones (the malleus and the stapes). At the instant these bones begin to vibrate beyond normal limits, the brain senses danger and sends a signal to tighten the muscles and momentarily shut down the ear’s sensitivity. This happens in a split second and is involuntary, a phenomenon called negative feedback.

The inner ear is thus protected from injury.

This system is so efficient at protecting the ear from injury that “Approximately 15 percent of Americans between the ages of 20 and 69 … have hearing loss that may have been caused by exposure to noise” (https://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/noise-induced-hearing-loss)

It is reasonable to suggest that the all-wise Creator planned ahead to protect our ears from modern industry’s noisy environments

And yet the hearing loss page I linked to above goes on to say…
“However, long or repeated exposure to sounds at or above 85 decibels can cause hearing loss. The louder the sound, the shorter the amount of time it takes for NIHL to happen.”

For reference, 85 decibels is noisy city traffic, that’s quieter than a passing motorbike and music on a personal stereo.

AiG goes to confidently announce.

In contrast, evolution cannot explain how random mutations could possibly plan ahead for future needs.

It seems their god is as bad at planning ahead as AiG is at telling the truth.

But to cover their butts, the following is thrown in at the end.

Your ear must be prepared at all times to hear any intensity, from a mouse creeping behind your desk (nearly 0 decibels) to a jet engine (over 160 decibels). Your job is to take precautions or cover your ears. But God has given you help through the feedback mechanism.

Nothing like a good caveat in case some wretched internet anti-creationist comes along and reads their stuff. Is their faith really so week?

For a good starter on the evolution of the bones in the human ear from the reptilian ear and jaw bones, take a look at this page; https://ecomorph.wordpress.com/2014/05/07/can-you-hear-me-now-the-evolution-of-malleus-incus-and-stapes-in-early-hominins/

Looking back at Christmas

As a Christian I loved the Christmas story. With its singing angels and divine guidance; it’s a child-friendly story with an almost magical captivation.

I still enjoy Christmas, but in a very different way, I like the decoration filled house, and the cards from friends and seeing family and the extended days off work. But the Christmas story? Well it’s nonsense isn’t it?

I don’t think I ever critically analysed the Christmas story as a Christian. I accepted it as literally true because it was in the bible and I was a Christian so I had to believe it. Why should I ever question it? My exit from Christianity didn’t really involve that part of the bible so in my questioning of what I believed, those chapters and verses didn’t play a significant role.

What has intrigued me about the story in later years is that every Christmas, at least it seems that way, there is a fresh barrage of proposals for what might be the Christmas star, as if that’s the most serious objection to the narrative. Over the years I’m sure I’ve heard every single variation of celestial event being credited as a possibility. Nova, comet, conjunction, you name it, it’s been suggested. However, no one has ever answered how some travellers arriving at a town would be able to identify a specific property from a ‘star’ that is in the sky. If I step outside my house on a clear night and look up and pick a star that looks like it’s above my house and then go to the other end of town, that same ‘star’ will be above whichever house I choose to stand outside. I would also not be able to navigate back to my house using that star as my navigation aide. How on earth did those wise men manage it?

This is fatal to believing the guiding star element of the Christmas story. Well it should be. Yet every year a new swathe of Christian commentary proposes some natural event that could have been the ‘star’ and each one forgets to explain that last point. Is that bit not important? Of course it is, but it can only happen if there is some supernatural assistance of some description, in which case why even bother with the pretence of invoking a natural event? Just say God guided them using a supernatural light that only they could see. of course that doesn’t help the narrative because for something like God being born on earth, something big needs to accompany it, and you don’t get bigger or more glorious than a guiding star! So the modern day Christian is caught in a trap created by an ancient myth.

The problems don’t stop there either. The reported census doesn’t match the required time slot, it happened ten years after King Herod died, and there never was a requirement to travel to an ancestors’ town anyway. The narrative needs to get Jesus born in Bethlehem and so this is made up in order to get him there, nothing more. King Herod didn’t kill all those baby boys. Mary and Joseph didn’t travel to Egypt. One account says Jesus was presented at the temple in Jerusalem after Mary’s 40 days of uncleanliness, another says Jesus was a young child still in Bethlehem for the wise men to visit, what happened to the home they travelled from? The gaps and inconsistencies are more blatant than a Hollywood action flick.

Back to the wise men, does anyone else find it odd that the wise men came from an entirely different land? Why could it not be fellow Jews? No doubt there’s an apologetic that says it’s to show just that Jesus was King of the World not just King of the Jews, or something. This is what’s called retrospective interpretation, probably the least honest of the apologetics strategies.

The Christmas story makes no sense and it should not be believed as an historical event. It’s a myth, let’s keep it that way.

I love Christmas, and I love it even more without the unbelievable mishmash of nonsense that Christianity tries to turn it into.