Hi Everyone. First I wanted to thank those of you who commented and gave me resources and feedback on my initial post on this subject. Here is what I sent to Leah a little bit ago:

I want to say a few things about this response before I get into it. First, let me summarize what I heard from you in our initial exchange. You said:

  • "A lot of the reason for doubt in my own life is because it's hard to have faith without some type of reason behind it. Although faith is believing in that which is unseen, for anyone, that concept can be hard to entirely grasp. The reason I found this story so compelling and convincing, was because this man felt very strongly about having evidence to back up his beliefs. It was interesting to really understand some of the logic behind why I can stand firm in what I believe, and really start to have that solid foundation that I never really learned growing up in an environment not completely sold-out for Christ."

  • "I'm not trying to force my religion down your throat in any way, I hope you don't see it as that. I just thought that you might find it of interest after our last conversation regarding God, and although we believe very opposing things, I respect that it's your right to say and believe what you will. If I didn't listen to the other side and try to understand, I could never grow as a person, but rather just conform to the hypocrisy already evident in the church."

  • "I'd love to hear your thoughts after you watch it" and "I just appreciate you considering it and taking the time to watch it" and also, "Thanks! I can't wait to hear your thoughts. :)"

So what I first want to say very clearly is that the most important thing here is my relationship with you. You're part of my extended family and I love you and care very much about you. This response to the documentary is not an attempt to deconvert you or take anything away from you, such as your faith in Jesus.

What I want is to have a conversation with you where we can both be honest and express ourselves openly and with mutual respect for each other, if not for the beliefs or lack thereof that we each hold.

In the past, I have avoided the subject of religion with you as much as possible because I didn't think it was appropriate for many different reasons. But you are so bright and smart, and you came and asked me to watch this video. So I see that as an invitation to a discussion.

In your comments you mentioned having a reason behind your faith (which is against the very definition of faith, but you did explain a bit where you're coming from there). You also mentioned logic and evidence. This is all common ground between us that we can build on.

I doubt we can change each others' minds. But that doesn’t mean we can't both learn something from this exchange. :) I have already. :)

Ok, so on to the documentary! Butch and I watched it together. I took notes and then did some research on Strobel and the documentary. As you probably know, it is based on the book, The Case for Christ, which was written by Strobel in 1998.

While I know a fair bit about christianity, I certainly don't know all the arguments. I also wanted to get the details correct. So I've included resources.

The first, most glaring issue Butch and I had was his choice of experts: (see my notes from my first article: The Case For Christ: A First Review)

    This is Cherry Picking. All of his experts are christian apologists, all have an agenda, all are blatantly biased. There is zero objectivity. Not a single secular scholar is consulted. He didn’t even find someone neutral. He only talked to True Believers. There is not a single skeptical or critical interview in the video or the book. This is not journalism. He is preaching to the choir, he is pandering to his target audience of christians.

    Which leads me to the next point.

    Strobel claims apocryphally that he was a hardcore atheist and that the evidence he found caused him to convert to christianity.

    But on page 14 of his book, he makes it quite clear that he wrote it as a fully committed Christian, "retracing" his spiritual path an indeterminate period of time after the fact [1].

    Within minutes Butch and I realized we were in Logical Fallacy Land with the video. As Butch said, the whole thing is an exercise in Confirmation Bias. Strobel has a conclusion and then he works to prove his point. This is not investigative journalism in any sense.

    Here is Jeff Lowder's summary of the book, which sums up our views of the video quite succinctly:

    "Strobel did not interview any critics of Evangelical apologetics. He sometimes refutes at great length objections not made by the critics (e.g., the claim that Jesus was mentally insane) [Straw Man Argument]; more often, he doesn't address objections the critics do make (e.g., the complete inauthenticity of the Testimonium Flavianium, the failure of Jews to produce the body is inconclusive evidence for the empty tomb, etc.) Perhaps this will be a welcome feature to people who already believe Christianity but have no idea why they believe it. For those of us who are primarily interested in the truth, however, we want to hear both sides of the story." [2]

    I agree wholeheartedly. If Strobel was ever an atheist, he certainly wasn't a skeptical atheist. And he certainly didn't interview any skeptics or secular experts in this video or the book, which any true skeptic would have done.

    That in itself is enough to dismiss the rest of it as pandering bunk.

    But again I'll recommend Jeff Lowder's excellent and detailed rebuttal to the book. He goes through each section and explains why it's untrue, and how Strobel shows no journalistic integrity in this approach to the material.

    I would also highly recommend a short but good rebuttal by Kush K. Here is a part of it:

    "Strobel cleverly uses the introduction of his book primarily to prep his audience. He starts out by informing his audience that he was an atheist. [Message: “Unlike many of you, I am not predisposed to believing.”] It was the sudden conversion of his wife to evangelical Christianity that changed Strobel's life. The wife's conversion impelled Strobel to take Christianity seriously and to inquire the historicity of the Gospel accounts. Immediately he puts his audience into a great, positive mood by claiming that Christianity had no negative effects on his wife. Strobel's initial fears regarding her wife's conversion, such as her turning into a “sexually repressed prude,” were groundless. Much to Strobel's relief, Mrs. Strobel maintained her “upwardly mobile lifestyle.” Not only that, to Strobel's utter amazement, Mrs. Strobel miraculously developed “integrity” of character and “personal confidence.” To the believing audience the message is clear: Jesus Christ has to be real to cause such “fundamental changes in her character.” To the unbelievers the subtle message is: “No further proof is necessary. But since I said I will give you evidence for the historical reality of Jesus Christ, I shall condescend.”[3]

    I also want to mention that the one time skepticism is mentioned the language used to describe it is negative, while the language used to talk about the scholars is heavy in the appeal to authority.

    I won't go into excruciating detail refuting the myriad of logical fallacies and false arguments that litter this fluff video marketed to evangelical christians. Instead, here are a couple of points:

    (see my notes from my first article: The Case For Christ: A First Review)

    Here are the resources I found that do a much more thorough job. I encourage you to read them.

    [1] The Case Against The Case for Christ an interesting review of the book. A different take than some of the others.

    [2] The Rest of the Story an excellent and detailed review of the book.

    [3] Lee Strobel's Nonsensical “case” for Christ: A short but good look at how Strobel pandered to his audience.

    The Bible And Christianity - The Historical Origins: A rational, secular, historical perspective on the history of Christianity and its scripture: a history of christianity from prehistory to the king james version of the bible, and into the present. With a great list of resources.

    What The Christian Fundamentalist Doesn't Want You To Know: A Brief Survey of Biblical Errancy: a handy chart of biblical contradictions. With a list of references.


    So that's what I sent, with the notes from the previous article pasted in. Maybe the timing was bad. We're coming into the holidays, but Leah had said that she was looking forward to my response, so I obliged. I'll keep you posted on what happens!

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