I wrote: 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.
Craig replied: This is funny because I just had this conversation with my mother a few weeks ago. This is what I told her.
It's not as if the Bible dropped out of the sky with a not from God attached. The Bible, while inspired by God, is written by human hands. Because humans are fallible creatures, the Bible cannot be 100% infallible.
I'm not denying the Bible has been used for ill. Christians have done a lot of bad things throughout history (one of my personal favorite is the Crusade where they attacked Constantinople, a Christian city). Christians will continue to do bad things because they are only human. Part of being human is doing the occasional bad thing. Emotions cloud judgment or sometimes judgment is impaired or misformed. But we're not the only ones who have done bad things in history, we are no different than everyone else. I think the problem for Christians is we don't confess our sins enough. What I mean is we try to justify things Biblically and overlook what we've done.
As far as Biblical stories being stolen, I think that there are a lot of similarities in the different creation accounts and flood accounts, but I think, for the most part, that is where the the similarities end. I might be wrong, I don't know when parts of the Old Testament were written compared to the other stories from ancient religions and I don't know the oral history of the stories.
Me again: I see he ignored most of what I said the other day. So he's saying the bible is simply inspired by god but written by humans. Which means that it’s fallible. Which means that any and all of it can be completely bogus. You don’t know any better than me if any of it is genuine or accurate. The difference is that I don’t base my life on it and take certain bits to be the “gospel truth”, which seems quite ridiculous, really.
And I think if your god really did want people to believe in him, he should have dropped exact copies written in each native tongue around the world like war propaganda leaflets. What makes you think you have the “accurate and true” word of god and that even a small portion is interpreted correctly? What if just half of what you have learned is interpreted right, and the other half you’ve got completely wrong? How do you know what is true and what isn’t? What if you’re totally wrong about the nature of god and the story of Jesus? What if god really is unforgiving and merciless and since you misinterpreted half of the texts, you’re doing it all wrong?
No, christians certainly are not unique in doing bad things throughout history. No person is perfect in this world. We all make mistakes and bad decisions, and most of us do bad things without regard to the consequences. What I find reprehensible though, is that christians and other religions commit despicable atrocities against other people in the name of their god, with the supposed blessing of their deity of choice. To forsake their own ethical responsibility and do horrid things to others in the name of their god is beyond the pale, in my opinion.
Simply confessing your sins is weak. It’s a way to shirk responsibility. Everything is justifiable under those circumstances. Just say you’re sorry and you’re A-OK again. That’s ridiculous. Every child knows it’s better to ask forgiveness than to ask for permission. Every religious person knows it too. It just makes it easier for you because you get to assuage your guilt after the fact.
Regarding the christian myths stolen from older religions and stories, pretty much all of them are seen in older settings. Even the idea of a virgin birth and Jesus rising from the dead after 3 days in hell is from older myths. Someday I’d like to do a chart or something to show the oldest versions of all of the christian myths and where they came from but I don’t really have the resources. Suffice it to say, nothing in the old or new testament is unique. The information is quite extensive though. But I can’t cite my sources at this time.
I wrote: 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.
Craig: Some things need to be taken on faith. I can't prove gravity is a universal constant, yet it is widely claimed to be. Here's a short article I read (link). I think he makes a pretty good point.
I can't prove I love my wife. Buying her, as she says, "Pretty, shiny things." is not proof. What about trust or showing her affection? I trust most of my friends, but don't love them. Showing my wife affection is an effect of my love.
Me again: Who gets to decide what must be taken on faith? That’s ridiculous. Sure, at some point we have to rely on the findings and authorities of others. For you that’s ministers or religious leaders. For me, it’s scientists that have been peer reviewed. Huge difference. I don’t take gravity on faith. When I let go of something and it falls, I see evidence of gravity, each and every single time I drop something. The common evidence is apparent to every single person on the planet. But still, it took scientists to do careful experiments, then to share those results, then have them verified and checked, and have other scientists to do the same experiments before the law of gravity was considered more or less a given.
Even now it isn’t a solid fact. We understand that more information through further research could always come to light and the law might need tweaking a bit. That’s the beauty of science. It grows and changes as we learn and grow and change. That’s not blind faith. So comparing gravity (for which, again, we all have consistent evidence) and an invisible supernatural being in the sky with zero evidence, doesn’t work in the slightest.
Now, about showing love and proving to your wife that you love her. No, you’re right, even showing her affection doesn’t tell us all what is truly deep in your thoughts and feelings. It only lets her see your behavior in words and actions. For all we know, you don’t love her. It’s rather intangible. We have to take your word for it. But then again, we don’t start a religion based on your word, either, so I don’t see how it’s relevant.
I wrote: 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.
Craig replied: Here's were things are going to get kind of messy. Burden of proof can be a tricky matter sometimes and it does not always lie with the claimant.
From Wikipedia on Burden of Proof:
"Under the Latin maxim necessitas probandi incumbit ei qui agit, the general rule is that "the necessity of proof lies with he who complains." The burden of proof, therefore, usually lies with the party making the new claim. The exception to this rule is when a prima facie case has been made.
He who does not carry the burden of proof carries the benefit of assumption, meaning he needs no evidence to support his claim. Fulfilling the burden of proof effectively captures the benefit of assumption, passing the burden of proof off to another party."
I note three things here.
1. It is a general rule.
2. It has to be a new claim. Example: You're the D.A. trying me for murder. The burden of proof is on you because you are making the newer claim about me. Now, before we go to court, I plead mental deficiency. Under the rules for burden of proof, I now have to prove that my mental status was impaired at the time I committed the crime.
3. Ok, not a note but a questions. Between Atheists and Theists, who carries the burden of proof? Who made the claim first? We can argue all day over which came first and not get anywhere.
Also, I cannot prove God exists anymore than you can prove God does not exist. And now that I think about it, proof can be arbitrary. What can be seen as proof for God's existence for one person is not for another. And what is the standard of proof for the existence of God? Is it beyond a shadow of a reasonable doubt or a preponderance of the evidence?
My reply: OK, so you can’t prove god exists. I can’t prove no gods exist. I guess I’ll let that go. I don’t really agree that you get off the hook so easily, but I am not sure how to explain the burden of proof any better than I just did. So we’ll let this go for now, I guess.
I quoted Craig from a previous email as follows: 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.
I wrote: This 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 sometimes 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.
Craig replied: What is the Bible about? It's about the salvific acts of God, throughout history, culminating in the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ for the sins of all. Like I said before, not all of the Bible is meant to be interpreted literally and even direct interpretation is seen in light of almost 2000 years of interpretation. I am not the first to interpret a text, nor will I be the last.
And my reply to that: I refer to what I said above. How do you know your interpretation is correct? It seems extremely arbitrary and convenient. You can pull just about anything out any way you like to create the message you’d like that text to have. If you don’t like a certain passage, you simply ignore it or make some excuse up about it, like, it’s just a story, or that’s not to be taken literally. That’s weak and more importantly, easily corruptible.
Craig wrote: I think I can best answer this through an example and I will use slavery as the example. There is no denying that in the Old Testament the Israelites were allowed to have slaves from the other nations and that these slaves were exempt from the seventh year jubilee. But, we have to look at the entire Bible here. Slavery was also prevalent in the New Testament times. It was just a cruel as the US system. There were, however some difference between slavery in the Roman Empire and it's counterpart in the US with the biggest being manumission.
"Another difference between Roman slavery and its more modern variety was manumission – the ability of slaves to be freed. Roman owners freed their slaves in considerable numbers: some freed them outright, while others allowed them to buy their own freedom. The prospect of possible freedom through manumission encouraged most slaves to be obedient and hard working.
Formal manumission was performed by a magistrate and gave freed men full Roman citizenship. The one exception was that they were not allowed to hold office. However, the law gave any children born to freedmen, after formal manumission, full rights of citizenship, including the right to hold office.
Informal manumission gave fewer rights. Slaves freed informally did not become citizens and any property or wealth they accumulated reverted to their former owners when they died." From here.
I replied: However you care to interpret slavery is basically irrelevant. Thanks for the information, but it doesn’t really matter. It shows the bible for what it really is - letters and books written by barbaric men over 2000 years ago. Sure, it’s historical but it contains no great value or lesson beyond that. It doesn’t teach great morals. It’s simply a window into the politics and history of the times in that one small region of the whole planet. There isn’t even accuracy or consistency among all the different texts.
So slavery was supposedly different than how we did it over here in the new world. Big deal. They still said it was fine over there, and christians used that text to say it was totally acceptable until a few hundred years ago for the modern world. It still goes on in some countries. None of that makes it right, either back then, or in the U.S. in more recent times. It is simply another example of the brutality and moral vacuum that existed in the bronze and iron ages in the Middle East.
Craig said: In the New Testament, Jesus' command was love of neighbor and love of self. Who is our neighbor? It's pretty much everyone around us. Now, can one hold slaves and show love of neighbor, absolutely not.
So what do we make them of Paul's letter to Philemon? Philemon was a Christian and a slave holder. Onesimus was one of Philemon's slaves. Either Onesimus ran away or was sent to Paul. Regardless of the reason why Onesimus ended up in Paul's care, Paul sent Onesimus back to Philemon. This text was one of the ones used to defend the institution of slavery in the 19th century. But one aspect was overlooked. Paul sent Onesimus back not as a slave, but as a Christian brother. By doing this, Paul turned called into question the practice of Christian's holding slaves because one should not enslave their brother or sister.
What I mean by my statement is based in light of Christ's command of love of God and love of neighbor, slavery and patriarchy are out of the question because one cannot love their neighbor while making them a slave or suppressing them because they are female.
My reply: I imagine that slave owners back then and even in America felt they could easily love their neighbor. Were slaves even considered human equals back then or in early America? Probably not. So that’s really reaching. We know that one thing that happened in Germany before WWII was that Jews were considered like filthy rats, not even human. Which is ironic because god specifically called the Jews his chosen people. I’m glad I’m not one of the chosen people if that’s how they are protected by their god throughout history.
You are also assuming that Paul rejected Onesimus because he was a slave and Paul didn’t want slaves. But I recall vaguely somewhere that Paul said that slaves should be good and obedient to their masters, not that there shouldn’t be slavery. So I question your personal interpretation. It seems pretty weak and wishful thinking on this issue.
Some quotes from the new testament about slavery:
- Ephesians 6:5-8 Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ; Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart; With good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men: Knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free.
- Colossians 3:22 Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God;
- 1 Timothy 6:1 Let as many servants as are under the yoke count their own masters worthy of all honour, that the name of God and his doctrine be not blasphemed.
- Titus 2:9 Exhort servants to be obedient unto their own masters, and to please them well in all things;
- 1 Peter 2:18 Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward.
Now, about patriarchy, oh my goodness, you didn’t just say that, did you? Please! The whole bible is Rife with patriarchal overtones, mostly blatant and overwhelming. Your claim that patriarchy is out of the question based on Jesus’ statement is ludicrous. Certainly no pope has ever come to that conclusion. In fact many christians from many different churches see the bible as championing the cause of patriarchy. It’s pretty obvious that god and Paul had no love of women. I’ll find some verses if you like, but in turn, please show me where Jesus, god and Paul say that women are equal in all ways to men, and that slavery is wrong, in clear terms. I am pretty sure neither scenario exists in the entire bible. I would love to be wrong if you can show me the verses that state those things clearly without resorting to apologetics.
Jesus said to love yourself? I don’t recall that. I thought he said to hate your family and yourself and to love and follow him and his father. Which is another thing. Even what Jesus said is contradictory. And the 4 gospels, the only texts in the world even close to the time that he supposedly lived, were written many decades after Jesus died. No one who wrote about Jesus ever met him personally, from what I’ve studied. So how do you know word of mouth is even accurate that he even existed? How do you know stories weren’t exaggerated and completely fabricated? Of course they were. Have you ever played Telephone? Line up 5 people and by the 5th person the message is completely distorted. Imagine what happened when stories passed by word of mouth over 50 or 80 years. And yet christians just take it on faith that the 4 gospels – which in and of themselves don’t even agree – are literal events that happened exactly as told. Even though, as I said the 4 gospels even tell different versions of the same stories.
Some bible quotes from the new testament:
- Matthew 5:17 Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.
- Matthew 10:35-37 For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man's foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.
- Mark 4:11-12 And he said unto them, Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables: That seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them.
- Luke 14:26 & 33 If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. ...So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.
- 1 Corinthians 11:3 But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.
- 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience as also saith the law. And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.
- Ephesians 5:22-24 Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.
- Colossians 3:18 Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord.
- 1 Timothy 2:11-12 Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.
- 1 Peter 3:1-2 Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives; While they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear.
Craig closed with this: I will admit theory is better than practice. The practice has been that of patriarchy, slavery, and suppression of those who are perceived as different. I try to treat everyone the way I would like to be treated. that gets me a lot of strange looks around my neighborhood. My school is in a primarily black neighborhood. When I started way back in 2005 during summer Greek, I would go jogging every day. One day I happened to see a man on his porch and just stopped for a minute to say hello (keep in mind I'm from PA attending a school in SC). He looked and me and said "Son, you ain't from around here, are you?" It threw me for a second because it didn't even occur to me that this was anything out of the norm.
My reply: You try to treat everyone like you’d like to be treated. That’s the Golden Rule, which is much older than Jesus. That’s something that we have in common, because I live my life by the Golden and Silver Rules. I think they are timeless, thoughtful and effective ethical values that we’d all benefit from remembering.
That’s cool that you choose to see past differences and stereotypes. But I think the bible itself fully accepts patriarchy, slavery and many other evils quite readily throughout all of the different books and letters. It’s much more likely to find killing and heinous acts of barbarism in the bible than it is to find good, moral stuff. Also, I feel it’s easier to be ethical and moral outside of the bible, without the confusion and hate filling those pages, than within it, in my experience and opinion.