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February 4, 2012

7

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Wrongness

by juju2112

This is part 2 of my response to Jeff Crawford’s sermon on apologetics. You can read part 1 here.

I’m a little annoyed that the church members on the Grand Avenue Baptist Church forums said that I was obviously “searching” for something since I’m listening to sermons. Don’t they know I’m a militant atheist? I am not seeking to understand the mysterious. I am seeking to undermine their faith and improve the image of atheists. So, maybe I’ll be a little tougher this time, to justify my angry atheist stereotype.

Here is Jeff’s response to my first article:

There is never anything wrong with a spirited and civil dialogue. But I fear you might be guilty of missing my point. In no way was I trying to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt the God of Christianity. I was merely attempting to prove beyond a “reasonable” doubt (the same standard as a court of law). Of course any one argument or group of arguments can be argued against and no analogy is ever fool proof. And thus becomes the role of faith in order to take the next step.

I’m not arguing for 100% certainty. I never said that. I don’t even think such a thing is possible. But I do expect that you have a reason for believing what you believe. 1 Peter 3:15, anyone?

So, you present a bunch of reasons why you’re not crazy. When I explain that what you said makes no sense, you backpedal and try to say the arguments you made aren’t that important. I don’t even know what “any one argument can be argued against” means. It’s either true or it’s not true. If I’m giving a nonsense rebuttal, I expect to be corrected. Are you really so cruel as to let me walk through life being wrong?

I made some points last time that you didn’t respond to. Are you unwilling to respond, or are you just considering my statements? Do you care whether your beliefs are true? Or do you believe in God because you want to and not because it’s “reasonable”? If it were reasonable, you would be able to defend your beliefs. Do you stand behind your arguments or not? inigo

For the record, here is the definition of the word:

rea·son·a·ble

[ree-zuh-nuh-buhl, reez-nuh-]

adjective

1. agreeable to reason or sound judgment; logical.

There is nothing in there about faith. It says, “reason”.

Now, on to the rest of the sermon!

The Intelligent Design Argument

Because the more we dig in to the science of our world, the more we are just stepping back and looking at it and going, “Wow, this could not have happened by accident.”

This is an argument from ignorance. Just because something is sooooo complicated that you can’t understand it, that doesn’t mean you get to make up an explanation for it. God is not the default answer to everything you don’t understand. You need a better argument than:

  • Wow…. amazing!
  • How does that work?
  • I don’t understand how that came to be.
  • God did it!

Is there something wrong with just admitting you don’t know how something works? Do you really need to make up an answer?

Let’s say that you’re walking in the desert. There’s nothing but sand everywhere you look, and you run across a 2012 year old Cadillac in the middle of the desert. Is your first reaction, “Whoooaah! Evolution!”? I mean, is that what you think? Or, does the presence of a vehicle sitting in the middle of the desert, does that not just scream that somebody put it there? And beyond that, somebody designed it.

We know Cadillacs were designed because we can go to the factories and see them being built. We can talk to the designers. They can explain how they did it. The same things are not true of the universe. So, no, it isn’t the same thing at all. Until I’m able to walk into a universe factory, this argument makes no sense.

And I gotta tell ya, this world is far more complex than a Cadillac. Far more complex. We just somehow believe that given enough time, that the sands of the universe will produce this. And we’re okay with that? We think that’s reasonable? And it’s unreasonable believe in a God?

Again, the fact that we’re incredulous at the amazingness of the universe isn’t any reason to think a supernatural being designed it. It just speaks to our own ignorance. To believe in something, you need a reason. Ignorance is not a good reason.

The human genome is the longest word to ever exist. But every letter has to be in the right place or it doesn’t mean anything. And when you look at that word, you think to yourself, “This doesn’t just happen, because words don’t just happen by themselves.” Words are the product of intelligence. There has to be a God. There has to be!

It’s not a word, it’s code. Language is for communication. DNA is a set of instructions. Anyway, you need to prove that, “DNA doesn’t just happen by itself”. That’s an assertion that you can’t back up. You can’t prove it.

Listen, Christian, it is reasonable to believe in a God! You’re not crazy if you say you believe in God. You’re not nuts or out to lunch or unreasonable. It’s actually a quite reasonable thing to believe in a God.

Keep telling yourself, that, buddy. If your church-members keep repeating it to themselves, they might start believing it, too.

The Koran vs. the Bible

The Koran was written in the year 600-ish A.D. […] So, when you think about the Koran, just very objectively, you’ve got a book that’s about 1400 years old. I gotta tell ya, that’s not ancient history. That’s history, but that’s not ancient.

[…]

Let’s compare that to the bible. The bible had been completely written before the Koran was even thought of. The bible spans history all the way back about 6,000 years.

Who cares how old it is? Age has nothing to do with accuracy. One year is just as good as any other for writing supernatural books. You’re committing a logical fallacy here. You’re saying the bible is right because it’s old. Just because an idea has stuck around for a long time doesn’t make it right. Long ago, people used to think frogs were created out of mud and water. They weren’t right.

I don’t mean to be trite by comparing the bible to frogs. I’m just saying we should decide the truth of an idea based on its merits, not its age.

And the bible was not written down by one man. The bible was written down by multiple authors over a couple thousand years. And here’s what amazing: In the midst of all of that, the antiquity of the book, there’s amazing continuity. It’s almost as if the whole project was overseen by one editor.

You know, multiple people can be wrong. There’s such a thing as shared mythology. Just take a look at snopes.com. It’s very easy for a good story to spread around like wildfire, even if it’s also false.

As far as the continuity being “amazing”, a simple google search shows this to be very wrong.

There are many contradictions in the bible. Could this be because a bunch of different people who didn’t know each other wrote it? I’d say so.

I’ll never forget standing in Caesarea on the Mediterranean coast in Israel, and I was looking at a stone relief that had the name “Pontius Pilate” on it. Pontius Pilate, from the bible, referred to as living in Jerusalem. And there is an archeological artifact with his name on it! And this kind of thing happens all the time when it comes to the bible. There is nothing related to the bible that has been disproven archeologically, historically. It continues to hold up to the best of scrutiny.

Ok, well if you accept that logic, then would you also accept this?

  • Spiderman lives in New York.
  • New York is a real place.
  • Spiderman is real!

Or this:

  • The 9/11 conspiracy theory refers to George W. Bush.
  • George W. Bush is a real person.
  • The 9/11 conspiracy theories are real!

My point is: historical characters and real places being in the bible don’t make the supernatural claims true.

Prophecies and Punishment by Proxy

Listen, it’s a prophetic book. It predicts the future. And to date, it has been 100% accurate. Not 99% accurate, 100% accurate!

Please cite a few. I’ve no idea what you’re talking about. I hope we’re talking specific predictions, and not vague things that could be interpreted to mean anything.

But when you really study the word of God, and you understand God and his holiness, and you understand Man’s sinfulness, and you understand that there’s a gap, then you understand that there’s got to be something done to close the gap. And the only way that could happen was for God to intervene himself. You see, the fact that the Messiah suffered is proof that he was human. He had to become like us. Experience humanity. The fact that he died is necessary because there has to be a sacrifice. Without the shedding of blood, there is no remission of sin. It’s the most basic old testament concept of forgiveness. And then here’s the thing: The messiah had to come back to life to prove he was God. It’s so reasonable in God’s economy.

Let me tell you what I believe. I believe people are responsible for their own actions. Evolution shows that Adam and Eve couldn’t have existed. But if they did, I am not responsible for their actions. I reject that notion as immoral. People should accept ownership of their own misdeeds, and your religion undermines this idea.

However, even accepting original sin (which I don’t), Jesus dying on the cross is not the only way it could have been resolved. God is omnipotent, remember? Why could he not just forgive Man’s sins?

Wouldn’t the absurdity of this claim have been just remarkably easy for the Roman government to disprove if they could?

Or maybe their mysterious silence on the matter is more indicative of the fact that it never happened!

I guess the question I have for you today is this: Are you persuaded?

No, I’m not.

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7 Comments Post a comment
  1. Feb 5 2012

    Donald – you confuse me. In your post about why you attend church and why other atheists should too, you indicate that you are trying change the image people have of atheists. Then in the above post you indicate you are trying to justify the angry atheist stereotype. Which is it, Donald? Has it made you uncomfortable that you were so easily accepted by our congregation and unable to illicit an angry response from us, and thus justify some stereotype of Christians that YOU have?

    You say you are a “militant atheist.” That’s a loaded word, militant. Now you sound more like Hitchens, Harris, Dawkins, etc. I would caution the use of that word because in our current culture it conjures some not so nice images. Radical would be another word that goes with militant. It is also opposite of how your friend, Robert, described you on our church’s City forum. “Peaceable” and “gentle” are the words he uses to describe you – sort of the opposite of “angry” and “militant.”

    On to a brief response…

    Reasons for belief: I believe I have outlined those to a “reasonable” doubt. You obviously do not. I am somewhat amazed that you can not understand the concept of an argument that can be argued against. That is the whole point of debate and in debates I have witnessed there is rarely ever a clear cut “winner.” People on both sides tend to claim “victory.” After our back and forth we have had the past year, I am beginning to think that persuading you is out of the question because I do not believe you are open minded to new truth. You seem very set in your belief system and only interested in lobbing critique at the religious.

    Intelligent Design: I think you are simply wrong. Complex is not the same as complicated. The universe is complex. In fact it is clearly designed. The evidence of design is nearly irrefutable. Even Stephen Hawking concedes and champions design (his book The Grand Design). Design by definition demands a mind and a designer – plain and simple. In fact, Donald, at this point I believe the burden of proof is on YOU and not me. You seem obsessed on demanding that Christians provide proof for our beliefs. Well, what about proof for your beliefs? WHY are you so convinced their is not Designer of the universe in the face of so much designed evidence. If you and I were riding in a car through the desert I would say that the presence and existence of the car is clear proof that someone exists who designed the car. I do NOT have to tour the car factory. That is honestly a silly rebuttal and I am surprised you stooped to mention it. If you insisted that there is no grand designer of the car I would then say the burden of proof falls MORE on your belief of non-belief than on me. The universe is infinitely more complex and intricately designed (portions of which are irreducibly complex) than a car. And so, Donald, I am ready for YOUR proof that there is no God. I feel I have defended my position FAR more adequately than you have ever defended yours.

    The Bible: Your are once again wrong. I never said the Bible is right because it is old. Those are your words that you ascribed to me. Please be more careful. What I DID assert is that age and accuracy are indeed tied. Especially when a document like the Bible, ancient as it is, has as many copies of manuscripts as it has, ALL with near perfect preservation in content through the millennia. No other ancient document comes close to the internal integrity of the Bible. That speaks to our ability to have confidence in it. Further, Super Man is a mythical character. Pontius Pilot was real and his name appears in extra-biblical sources. Your argument by absurdity is, well….absurd. My point still stands. NOTHING in the Bible has ever been disproven via the archaeological record and in fact, the opposite is consistently true. The more we dig the more the Bible is verified. Once again adding to the confidence we can have in the Bible.

    Fulfilled Prophecy: 1) Daniel’s prophecy of world empires, 2) NUMEROUS Messianic prophecies predicting the location and instances surrounding Jesus’ birth and death, 3) Rebirth of Israel as a nation in 1948. MANY more and I would encourage more study on your part.

    Responsibility: On this one point, you are right! Each of us is responsible for our own actions. Somehow you have come to believe inaccurately that my religion undermines this. To the contrary. In fact, this is so basic to our belief system I am confused how you came to believe otherwise. God is Holy. He cannot tolerate sin. And every human being sins. This is a HUGE problem. God can not “just forgive Man’s sin” because to do so would violate His nature as a holy and just God. All sin must be punished. Period. “The wages of sin is death…” (Romans 6:23). At this point it is not unusual to hear people scoff. They don’t like this kind of God. Maybe they don’t understand or get why it is this way. But let me point out that the nature of God is not up for debate. If He is God, He can do anything He wants to do and be anything He wants to be. Whether or not we like it is irrelevant. God can set up the “rules” any way He likes. And He has said that we all sin and that sin deserves death. Man is stuck. He cannot get to God without some sort of intervention. And that is where Jesus comes in. He came to be the proxy for any who will have him. He died so that we could live. But it is never forced. Jesus must be freely chosen.

    Donald, you have (to date) made a free will choice to walk away from Jesus. You have done this, in my opinion, in spite of good evidence. You have instead taken another step of faith. Yes, you are a man of GREAT faith. Faith in your own worldview. Faith in your own sense of disbelief. You have taken the great gamble that you are right and I am wrong. If so, in the end, I really have lost nothing. I am thoroughly happy and fulfilled in this life with great expectation for the next. If you are right, Donald, and I am wrong, we both seem to be happy people and in end we both will finish in the same way. BUT, Donald, if I am right and you are wrong, you will have lost the wager and will pay for it for eternity. That is not a bully tactic and I hope you don’t see it that way. You are greatly concerned with the Truth and what I just presented IS irrefutabley true.

    I can only hope of this much you ARE persuaded…

    Reply
    • juju2112
      Feb 5 2012

      I was joking about the angry atheist thing.

      When I hear people say it’s obvious I’m “searching” for something, it makes me think my being nice has led to me inadvertently misleading them. I have taken the “red pill” so to speak. I now know and understand the cognitive biases and logical fallacies behind religion.

      I am open minded, and I do listen and question if I’m right. But because I have an understanding of cognitive biases and logical fallacies, and because I base my views on evidence, I can never be “converted” to religion again. I’m effectively immune.

      I stand ready to be wrong, however. I have been in the past.

      This stuff takes a long time, to respond to, so I’ll probably just hit the rest of your points later. Thanks for your thoughts!

    • juju2112
      Feb 5 2012

      I won’t let this go on forever, by the way. I’m definitely not for beating a dead horse. But getting both sides out there is interesting for everyone, I think.

  2. Judith
    Feb 6 2012

    Donald, after reading both of your rebuttals to Pastor Jeff’s sermons I have some questions for you.
    Why don’t you believe in God now? What happened to change your belief into non-belief? Why do you feel that by undermining a Christian faith the image of atheism would be improved? How does my faith in God affect the atheistic image? Can you prove to me, beyond a reasonable doubt that the God of my Christian faith does not exist? It is a matter of faith on both our parts – your belief that God does not exist, and my belief that God does exist. I don’t ask these to be “in your face” but, out of curiosity.
    No offence was meant when you were wished well in your search/quest. We’re all searching for something. Each of us is on a quest in this life whether it is for happiness, love, acceptance, and so, being wished well in your individual search should not be taken as an insult.
    Why do you think it’s more reasonable to NOT believe in God than it is to believe? By believing in God and the salvation provided by Jesus Christ I have hope; I have reassurance that whatever happens in this life at the end of my life here on earth my eternity will be glorious. God gave each of us free-will. I have chosen to exercise my free-will with belief. John 14:21 “He who has My commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves Me; and he who loves Me shall be loved by My Father, and I will love him, and will disclose Myself to him.” As I have read the Bible, expressed my belief and love for Jesus, he has been revealed to me in my heart and life. That is why I accept that He Is, Was and Always Will Be.

    I, as a Christian, look at creation and feel overwhelmed at the complexity of it all. I am unable to find words to explain the awesomeness of our God’s creation. But, even scientists are often at a loss to understand how it came to be. Arno Penzias (Nobel prize in physics, co-discoverer of the background microwave radiation in the universe proving the Big Bang model) said: “The best data we have [concerning the Big Bang] are exactly what I would have predicted, had I nothing to go on but the five books of Moses, the Psalms, the Bible as a whole.”

    In a subsequent radio interview, Penzias was asked what there was before the Big Bang. He said: “We don’t know, but we can reasonably say that there was nothing.” An upset listener called immediately, accusing Penzias of being an atheist. He wisely replied: “Madame, I believe you are not aware of the consequences of what I just said. Before the Big Bang there was nothing of what now exists. Had there been something, the question could be: where did it come from?” He continued commenting that if there was nothing and suddenly things began to appear, that was a sign that Somebody had taken them from nothing, and concluded saying that his discovery could bring about the overcoming of the historic enmity between science and religion. “ (http://www.allaboutphilosophy.org/teleological-argument-and-scientists-faq.htm)

    Even though you say you are firmly set in your belief we would still welcome you to come visit at our house of worship and, though it might be bothersome to you I feel sure many of us are praying to our God for you.

    Reply
    • juju2112
      Feb 6 2012

      So many questions! Thanks for your interest. This is a really interesting subject.

      Debunking Christianity and improving the image of atheists are two goals that are completely at odds with each others. It makes things hard for me. I was going for the latter goal at first, but I can’t just let an apologetics sermon go without a response. It would be immoral! Oh, decisions…

      I’ll try to write up something for you later. I’m at work at the moment.

  3. Feb 10 2012

    Judith, I am doubting your claim that Arno Penzias even said what you said he did. The searches that I did, just came up with articles that are quoted exactly as you pasted it in your comment. I found absolutely no mention of the article that was referenced, what article and issue. I’m afraid you may be a victim of religious writers that say pretty much what they want to.

    Reply

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