Remember Craig the christian from last month? He emailed me yesterday about the recent post I wrote: Cherry-Picking and a bible Lesson for Atheists. I'll quote his email and then post my replies.
Craig said: I do not have a problem with your use of the Skeptic's Bible per se. The issue I have with the Skeptic's Bible is the use of the King James Bible, which relies on later documents for its translation (8th and 9th century if I remember correctly) as opposed to the 1st and 2nd century documents other translations use (NRSV & NET to name a few).
If you know of a more accurate interpretation of the bible that I can link to online and read online, can you link me? Otherwise I’ll stick to the Skeptic’s Annotated Bible. Because it’s the one people know best, and it’s the one I was indoctrinated with, and it honestly shouldn’t matter that much for the following reasons below.
Craig said: Unchecked, the Bible can be made to mean a number of things. The Bible has been used to support slavery and patriarchy. It has also been used to try to define marriage and condemn homosexuality. I'm sure we will get into these matters at a different time. My point is, that the Bible does none of these.
There are three different courses of action on can take when interpreting tricky passages from the Bible
1. Cherry-pick from the texts
2. Ignore difficult texts
3. Admit that we don't know what the text means and hope that future research will shed light on the meaning.
(Neece's note: Craig thoughtfully included commentary regarding the quotes I chose in the bible lesson for atheists from April 7th, but I am omitting them here. If you'd like me to include them, comment below and I'll add them to the bottom of this post.) Instead of getting tangled in the apologetic thinking of the commentary, I said this:
Regarding the bible verses and their interpretation, I think that the word of god should be infallible and shouldn’t be ruined and easily misinterpreted by man. It should be the same in every language, and should be offered to every culture in their own tongue, by god himself, if it should even be necessary at all. Why can’t god make it so that we’re born with an inherent understanding of our creator? Why did this local god play a prominent role in the lives of the Israelites, who ordered the killing and maiming, the torture and deaths of women and children, as well as people who made the slightest error in their worship of that god says a lot to me. The sheer barbarity of the bible is telling. It certainly doesn’t read as a divinely inspired text of love and understanding. It is conflicting at almost every turn, it’s barbaric and cruel and unjust, just like the people of that time.
Why only preach to the men of the Middle East and make those few men tell the rest of the world? It is so easily warped and interpreted to suit anyone and everyone, whether for good or ill. It was written by men from many different walks of life, and many different political eras, over a huge range of time. The stories are all stolen from more ancient religions, and not much of it is original, which is quite telling as well. It all leads to a text that, in its original form, is relevant historically, but certainly doesn’t appear to be divinely inspired.
If god existed, and cared about humans, the bible wouldn’t be easily misinterpreted and would not contradict itself in any way. The message would be simple and clear and probably quite concise.
What you said is the exact opposite of what I think about the bible. What do you mean by the statement that the bible does not support slavery and patriarchy, that it doesn’t define marriage and condemn homosexuality? That is exactly what it does. Sometimes by different authors in different books, sometimes with a different message, but often the same statement of hatefulness as the others.
It says those things plainly in some cases, and in other contexts it’s more a part of a story. But usually it’s pretty plain and blatant what it means. So what do you mean that the bible doesn’t do that? What does the bible do, then? What is its purpose and what is its message? What does the bible do? What is its moral stance? I ask because I was assuming a more direct interpretation of the text, and now I am not sure where you’re coming from.
Next, Craig quoted me from the Cherry-Picking article. I said: "Hey, if I am smart enough to realize that, don’t you think an all powerful god would figure it out too? Maybe it’s because he was just all made up and not really there. That would be the simplest and most logical explanation. Especially since there is zero evidence of yahweh or any other god ever having existed in any fashion."
Craig said: I debated how I was going to respond to this because I don't want to come off harsh or sound like an arrogant ass. In fact, I was very hesitant to respond in this way, but I really can't see any way around it. It's taken me about four days to get it to this point. So please keep that in mind as you read on.
Zero evidence does not equate non-existence. Saying that something does not exist because there is no evidence is a logical fallacy, the fallacy of negative evidence, or more specifically the argument from ignorance. I pulled this from Wikipedia:
"The two most common forms of the argument from ignorance, both fallacious, can be reduced to the following form:
* Something is currently unexplained or insufficiently understood or explained, so it is not (or must not be) true.
* Because there appears to be a lack of evidence for one hypothesis, another chosen hypothesis is therefore considered proven."
I will concede that this same fallacy can be applied to Christians because it can be said that we make claims that there is a God when there is a lack of evidence.
First, I don't think Craig sounded like an arrogant ass. I forgot to tell him that in my reply.
Zero evidence does not equate to non-existence. That’s true.
Claiming that a supernatural being in the sky is the creator of the universe and only started talking to men in the middle east about 6,000 years ago, and simply ignored all other humans before and since is pretty extraordinary. Not to mention virgin births, talking snakes, rising from the dead, etc. It’s all pretty magical.
Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. If evidence came along that was convincing and extraordinary, after it was verified and retested, I’d reconsider my position on the existence of god. But since I’ve yet to come across any evidence, then the burden of proof is on you to show and verify the existence of god.
If I say I am the best bread baker in the world, I’d better be prepared to back that claim up. You come along and say you don’t believe me. That’s your prerogative because there’s been no evidence for my claim. So why should you believe me for no reason? That’s faith, which is based on belief without proof.
If I say the Invisible Pink Unicorn (IPU) visits me every other Tuesday if it’s raining, then I had better be able to show the IPU in all her glory off to a bank of scientists who want to verify her existence. There’s no difference. I’m sure you don’t believe in the IPU. Would you say that is an argument from ignorance, too?
Neither one of us believes in Santa Claus anymore (I hope) and that isn’t an argument from ignorance. There’s no evidence of Santa and no proof of his existence, not to mention his very existence would break the laws of physics. So we can say we don’t believe in him without argument. That isn’t a fallacy.
Now, if Santa walked into the room and offered to prove his existence to us and show that he can fly in his sleigh and deliver tons of presents to good christian boys and girls all over the world, I’d be skeptical, but I wouldn’t stop him from doing the tests.
Skepticism is about holding off judgment, being doubtful and thinking critically. We want proof of wild claims, instead of ignorantly believing everything that is told to us.
Skepticism doesn’t mean we flat out deny everything and don’t believe anything. There’s a huge difference.
There IS ZERO evidence for yahweh or any other god in history having existed in any fashion. And since yahweh makes some huge claims, just like I’d require extraordinary evidence for cold fusion, I’d want it for yahweh. No evidence? Well, I see your point, it doesn’t mean he doesn’t exist, but the burden of proof lies on the claimant. You claim there is a god, so you have to prove it. I can’t prove a negative. So I am left with lack of belief in a god.
That’s not to say that I can’t change my mind if there was proof and evidence and it all followed testing and the scientific method, which is the best way to verify claims that we have. Until then, you don’t believe in leprechauns any more than I do, and that’s not an argument from ignorance any more than my lack of belief in gods.