Rebutting Atheist Universe 1.1

So, the first chapter in David Mills' Atheist Universe is titled, "Interview With An Atheist."

As I was reading, I quickly realized I was making lots of red marks in the margins and body copy. Of those marks, I include the strongest and most relevant arguments, and discard weaker, less persuasive ones. Even so, I could see as early as page 31 that my critique of Chapter 1 was going to take multiple posts. The chapter itself is over 40 pages long, and as a general custom, I'm won't critique more than ten points in any one post in this series. Ten is probably too many already.

I suspect much of this chapter's purpose was to rebut common misconceptions people have about atheists. This is a noble cause. I sympathize with any misunderstood minority party, because there's perhaps nothing more frustrating in life than having people insult you based on what they think you believe, which is often wrong. All in all, Mills does a good job setting some things straight, but unfortunately, he also affirms just as many common misconceptions about Christians. Nonetheless, considering that religious tension and distrust of atheists was still considerably high in this country when Atheist Universe was published (2004), I'd say the chapter was appropriate. Nobody deserves to be on the receiving end of ignorance, especially in a religio-political climate of hostility such as the first few years after 9/11.

Still, that doesn't mean "Interview With An Atheist" was without problems, and in my opinion, the first one worth mentioning comes on page 28.

1) Mills makes his first hasty generalization about Christians, suggesting that,

Christians instantly disregard the Greek gods as being figments of an overactive imagination… (p. 28)

Who is Mills speaking for in this sentence? I know writers who reasonably qualify as Christian by most definitions of the word who have also written books explaining in great detail their belief in the converse opinion – that the Pantheon represented something that existed – and exists – in actuality. We cannot simply say all Christians believe such, when in fact there is diversity of opinion.

2) The second red flag went up where Mills says,

So while, on esoteric philosophical grounds, I hesitate to claim absolute proof of a god's nonexistence, I will claim proof that the Bible is not 'The Word of God' because much of it has been shown by science to be false. (p.28, 29)

This is a rhetorical statement, not to mention loaded. What presupposition does Mills bring to scripture in order to support his claim that science shows it false? We'll find out when he gets into the arguments later, I suppose. Further, how much is the generic 'much' as used in Mills' sentence? Even if I granted Mills' argument that science has proven certain tenets of the Bible false – which I do not – still, that would only be a handful of the claims the Bible actually makes. Is it fair in a public interview to conflate a handful of claims with "much of [the Bible]" sans further explanation?

3) Mills' next paragraph opens with the argument that there is no more "reason to believe" in Zeus than the God of the Bible, yet exactly what constitutes "reason to believe" in either of them is never even discussed. Instead, we're offered another rhetorical argument. He tries to support this by reminding us that the burden of proof falls on the person making a positive claim, but this has nothing to do with whether we should believe in Zeus or the God of the Bible, or what constitutes reason to believe in either of them. Mills then gives us the oft-repeated strawman,

…if you demand belief in all Beings for which there is no absolute disproof – then you are forced by your own twisted 'logic' to believe in mile-long pink elephants on Pluto, since, at present, we haven't explored Pluto and shown them to be nonexistent. (p. 29)

First, this fallacious reasoning is the source of ULFSM arguments, and only applies to the person making the most absurd and ill-thought-out of epistemological claims. No person I know demands that we believe in "all Beings for which there is no absolute disproof." Mills sets up a position that is caricaturized into uselessness, then knocks it down. Big deal! The question of which God is sufficient to believe in cannot logically proceed without discussion of what constitutes sufficiency of reason to believe in any of them, something Mills neglected to do entirely.

Worse, Mills obviously did not think that analogy through very well. We can completely justify our disbelief in the preposterous example he offers with current scientific knowledge. We don't need to have explored Pluto to know it is not the type of planet that can support any elephants, let alone mile-long pink ones. Central to the development of carbon-based life are the good old-fashioned planet and host star, and not just any planet or host star, either. Both have certain requirements, and water appears to be primary among the planet's. The planet has to be large enough to support an atmosphere and small enough to maintain correct gravity. To support the development of carbon-based life, the host planet must be about .8 – 1.25 the size of Earth's mass or temperature variations would presumably halt the development of life within about 2 billion years. The planet must also have some mechanism for the preservation of carbon-dioxide, or else chain reactions resulting from the presence of water would deplete carbon-dioxide from the atmosphere. On Earth this occurs via plate tectonics and volcanic activity. Does Pluto meet any of those criteria?

4) Mills' next hasty generalization comes directly after the above problematic paragraph, where, in response to the interviewer asking why so many people believe in God, Mills replies,

Because, again, they were taught to believe as small children and because almost everybody they know believes in God also. (p. 29)

Who is this hypothetical they Mills already seems so fond of referring to? Does Mills imagine that his comments apply to all theists?

5) Next, he says,

We should recognize that all children are born as atheists. (p. 29)

I disagree with that, because I define an atheist as someone who's reached at least a tentative conclusion about the matter. Newborn infants haven't even considered the question, so calling them atheists seems a bit unfair.

6) At the top of page 30, Mills states an incomplete, strawmanned version of the First Cause argument, identical to the manner in which Bertrand Russell frames the argument in his famous skeptical treatise, Why I Am Not A Christian. The real First Cause argument is that everything which begins must have a cause, but even with this distinction clearly made, the argument fails to persuade. Incidentally, Mills is correct to point out that even if we accepted it, the First Cause argument doesn't prove which God created the universe. Further, I don't believe there's a discussion about the creation of the universe that doesn't suggest an infinite regress. Either way, it appears we must say that something or some process always existed, right? We have no point of reference for something that can exist eternally and uncaused. I'm not claiming the First Cause argument is successful, only that Mills fails to frame the argument accurately.

7) Mills' next hasty generalization comes here where he says,

Christians are masters of selective observation – or counting the hits and ignoring the misses. (p. 31)

Again, which Christians? All of them? Does Mills' statement apply equally to all denominations of Christians? Did he intend to refer primarily to Fundamentalists? Certainly, anyone with even a half-brain would be a fool to deny that some number of Christians acts this way, but Mills wasn't very clear here, and clarity was supposed to be one of the book's strong points. My experiences have shown that atheists, skeptics and anyone else is vulnerable to the error, and selective observation is by no means a Christian or even religious phenomenon. At best, statements like Mills' here serve to persuade via propaganda and rhetoric, not reason.

8) In the next paragraph, we get another hasty generalization, this time regarding what Mills apparently believes is the "Christian" position on evolution.

The reason why Christians view evolution as such an absurdity is that their only exposure to evolutionary theory has been through absurd caricatures and harebrained misrepresentations offered by pulpit-pounding evangelists. (p. 31)

I know that Mills knows better, because he addresses theistic evolutionists elsewhere. What I don't know is, if Mills knows better – why present skewed information in public interviews?

There's a related criticism of this point that I feel is worth mentioning here. Yes, part of what Mills says is true. Many Christians do have an absurd understanding of evolution, because many Christians limit their intake of knowledge on evolution to religious criticism of the matter, which tends to get a little out of control and irreverent of science, to say the least. However, many atheists and skeptics commit the same logical error in the inverse context. Many atheists' only exposure to religion has come through absurd caricatures and hare-brained misrepresentations, not to mention the most extreme examples of religious insanity they can find. Many atheists criticize religion on account of people who starve babies and spew anti-homosexual hatred, but they commit the same error as those who say evolution led to the Holocaust. When that is the case, no wonder religion is misunderstood! But to be clear, I'm not disagreeing that many or most Christians aren't exposed to absurd caricatures and harebrained misrepresentations of evolution. Again, I'm disagreeing with Mills' lack of clarity and hasty generalization.

9) On a positive note, I heartily agreed with Mills' response to whether or not there was meaning in life:

The only realistic answer to meaning-of-life questions is that 500 different people will have 500 different meanings to their lives… The error in searching for one meaning of life is to assume that every human being holds identical values. (p. 32)

It's comments like these that reassure me Mills might really be level-headed and objective at heart, yet it's difficult to tell against a backdrop of hasty generalization and ill-thought-out arguments this early on in the book.

10) To finish up 1.1, Mills drops an epistemological nightmare that is highly reminiscent of the what we've been arguing about at DD's and in the MiracleQuest posts for months:

The fact is that, whether we like it or not, our earthly life is the only life we're ever going to experience. (p. 34)

Excuse me, but for those who dislike preaching, that's quite a preachy statement. On what evidence might that statement rest? Truthfully, for all we know, we might have already lived and experienced several lives, and we might live and experience several more. To simply state the above as 'fact' severely undermines Mills' credibility as an objective thinker in my opinion.

And, that pretty much wraps up my first ten points of comment and criticism on Atheist Universe, Chapter 1. We'll return to Chapter 1 next week, but so far we've got 4 hasty generalizations, 2 rhetorically bolstered arguments, 1 epistemological nightmare, 2 strawman arguments, and 1 well-spoken observation.

Although not off to the best start, I'll give Mills the benefit of the doubt until at least the third chapter.

14 Comments

  1. Freidenker says:

    I don’t get it. You seem to have a certain beef with atheists not supplying evidence for their atheism. Am I getting that right?
    When Mills said that this is the only life we’ll get – he’s saying it because we don’t know of any afterlife. Yet, anyway. Do you really think Mills would say that if there was an open TV channel constantly broadcasting news from the netherworld?
    Your treatment of the Zeus!=Yehuva question is utterly absurd. There is no difference between the two because there’s exactly the same kind of “evidence” for the two: unsubstantiated textual and verbal claims.
    Do you know what would make these two different? If Yehuva would come here like he allegedly came to so many people who told stories about him.
    He doesn’t. He just doesn’t. Not if you look for him, not if you learn about him, not if run away from him. He doesn’t leave a discernable mark on this planet. If there was anything observable about what the bible says that can be taken literally, it fails. If it isn’t supposed to be taken literally, then it’s useless in a debate about the real-world validity of claims about God’s existence. God is either a failure or redundant.
    What makes a person decide that something doesn’t exist?
    “Mills’ next paragraph opens with the argument that there is no more “reason to believe” in Zeus than the God of the Bible, yet exactly what constitutes “reason to believe” in either of them is never even discussed. Instead, we’re offered another rhetorical argument.”
    First time I ever read something you wrote and simply give up.
    “Reason to believe” is a different way of saying “evidence”. You’re criticizing Mills for not giving you the evidence that doesn’t exist and you’re trying to portray him as dishonest or inaccurate by saying he doesn’t say what “reason to believe” is.
    If there’s no reason to believe, there’s no way of saying what that reason is. If an ancient Greek says “Zeus exists, he’s 50 feet tall, has an enormous white beard, and only walks around in Athens during August” – then we could talk Zeus.
    But we don’t get that. Do we? How many times will theists have to tell you the dog ate their homework before you just move on with your life? Sure. Let them bring forth their Gods. No atheist is sticking fingers in ears – Let them. We’re waiting.
    Let them *show* these gods. But until then? The kid’s telling you the *dog* ate his homework. He doesn’t even have a dog.

  2. Pine says:

    Freidenker:
    You said; “Your treatment of the Zeus!=Yehuva question is utterly absurd. There is no difference between the two because there’s exactly the same kind of “evidence” for the two: unsubstantiated textual and verbal claims.”
    The ‘evidence’ for Zeus must be of a very different nature and type than the ‘evidence’ for God. Mainly because the claims made about Zeus do not match the claims made about the Christian God in the Bible. They are two different beings and are very different.
    If I said that an orange hairy zebra existed, then the evidence I might present to prove that would be very different than if I claimed I possessed a singing coin.
    The world we live in operates in a way which is compatible with the Biblical worldview of God. Can we claim the same for the claims made about a world in which Zeus exists?

  3. Freidenker says:

    Which part of the bible? And compatible with who’s view of the bible? Do you think that if you and I couldn’t agree on anything else, would we still disagree about the existence of the sun?
    When you can’t see it, there’s an infinite number of ways to make it compatible with the world we live in. You CAN’T be wrong. That makes God worse than non-existent: it makes him useless.

  4. cl says:

    Freidenker,
    I don’t have a beef with atheists not supplying evidence for atheism, so no, I don’t think you got that part quite right. Perhaps you can show me what sentences lead to that impression? Maybe I was unclear.
    If we don’t know of any afterlife, why is Mills allowed to speculate but criticize believers for doing the same thing?
    Your fourth and fifth paragraphs just sound like DD gassing on about God’s failure to show up. I disagree with those paragraphs, because my experience on this world has been different, but I’d rather not argue about the differences in our life experiences.
    I’m pretty hesitant in declaring what does not exist, for I’m just a man with very limited knowledge. However, logical possibility is always good place to start making exclusions.
    I’m not telling you the dog ate my homework. I will tell you the God I believe in is not my magic genie that I can break out and show you. If you want God to show up in your life, that’s between you and God, not you and me.

    First time I ever read something you wrote and simply give up. “Reason to believe” is a different way of saying “evidence”. You’re criticizing Mills for not giving you the evidence that doesn’t exist and you’re trying to portray him as dishonest or inaccurate by saying he doesn’t say what “reason to believe” is.

    First off, I DID NOT SAY I think Mills is dishonest. That’s what DD’s commenters do to me when they can’t understand me, and I think it’s a most childish tactic. So no, I’m NOT saying Mills is dishonest. To make that claim, I would have to know the contents of his subjective mind, and I cannot. Please, read carefully and double-check before claiming I’m insulting someone. As a writer I respect other writers and typically do not insult them.
    That being said, I’m honestly sorry I let you down regarding 3, but I also honestly feel Mills treated the subject naively. It would have been a breach of principal for me to pretend otherwise. I find it absurd when truth-claims regarding “reason to believe” are offered sans definition of what constitutes “reason to believe.” And like Pine, I disagree that the “evidence” for the two is, “exactly the same kind.”
    Just like the believes he criticizes, Mills simply makes a just-so statement and the reader is expected to swallow it whole. Mills’ evidentiary standards were never discussed or even mentioned.
    If one claims there is no reason to believe, one is obligated to define what would constitute reason to believe so one’s opponents can better participate in the debate. If someone tells me there is no “reason to believe” in something I find great reason to believe in, I’m naturally going to be curious as to their evidentiary standards, right?
    Pine,
    I’m curious, do you believe in the traditional Pantheon as well? Do you believe that Zeus and Apollo, for example, were actual beings?

  5. Pine says:

    Freidenker:
    You said: “When you can’t see it, there’s an infinite number of ways to make it compatible with the world we live in. You CAN’T be wrong. That makes God worse than non-existent: it makes him useless.”
    I always hate these types of arguments. Please tell me why you think the rules of textual criticism and interpretation do not apply to the Bible. Simply because many people have different opinions of things does not mean we cannot determine which opinion is correct. Otherwise all I would have to do is suggest our conventionally understood interpretation of Darwin’s writings are wrong. Would my dissenting opinion about the meaning of his texts cause you to doubt their validity or meaning?
    cl:
    You asked: “do you believe in the traditional Pantheon as well? Do you believe that Zeus and Apollo, for example, were actual beings?”
    I dunno. I’ve always wondered if these might be descriptions of Nephilim or demons/angels themselves. Here are a few verses which keep may keep the possibility open:
    “The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men, and they bore children to them. Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown.” (NASB, Genesis 6:4) Were the Nephilim: (1) The godly line of Seth intermarrying with the ungodly line of Cain. (2) Mighty kings. (3) Demon possessed mighty Kings. (4) The unholy offspring of fallen angels and humans. ?
    “If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder comes true, concerning which he spoke to you, saying, ‘Let us go after other gods (whom you have not known) and let us serve them, ‘you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams; for the LORD your God is testing you to find out if you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.” (NASB, Deuteronomy 13:1-3) Notice that the wonder might come to pass! What if someone called lightning from the sky and said, “That was Zeus, let’s follow him…” Seems like the Bible indicates it could possibly happen.
    “The LORD will scatter you among the peoples, and you will be left few in number among the nations where the LORD drives you. There you will serve gods, the work of man’s hands, wood and stone, which neither see nor hear nor eat nor smell.” (NASB, Deuteronomy 4:27-28) Not to contradict everything I just said, but it would seem that this is implying there are no other actually pantheons of gods. Perhaps these old religions reflect exaggerations of the lives of very powerful men, or of beings which were half-man half-angel and possessed powers. Perhaps they reflect the false teachings of ungodly prophets who intentionally deceived and misled people by virtue of the ‘wonders’ they were able to perform. Or perhaps all these stories are just made up ways of justifying worship of gods the local stone cutter manufactured. What do you think cl?

  6. Freidenker says:

    Pine:
    I’m sorry, just to make it clear – I was raised Jewish and I’m an Israeli. In Israeli, we have mandatory Jewish theology class from the 2nd to the 12th grade – meaning I matriculated in theology and have a firm grasp of what the Tanach (old testament) says about the real world. We never had to actually test the theological argument in class – but the Tanach makes verifiable truth-claims about the universe if you take it literally. The Tanach says things about the origin of the universe and the origin of species which fail to meet real-world evidence. How can I trust a book filled with lies? The Tanach cannot disprove the existence of God, but it’s possible to use the Tanach to disprove the existence of the God which it speaks of.
    Cl:
    I’m sorry if I appeared a bit aggressive – it’s my fault since I didn’t stress out that my “allegations” to you are true so long as I got you right – evidently, I didn’t.
    Furthermore – I think the problem is that you demand something that seems trivial and common to me, and I find that demand weird and bizarre. Of course “reason to believe” means “video tape of God addressing the Christian world” (for example). Eventually, this is what a normal atheist like me would see as evidence. Anything else would by my definition change what God is. If finding God requires a subjective experience, unlike you and I agreeing the sun exists, then ipso facto, I would not call that entity which I experienced God.
    Those are the rules for me, that is, until I change the way I *feel* (an important distinction) about what constitutes as factual, objective evidence for me.
    When I said that Zeus and Yehuva need the same evidence – I meant that they both need evidence that is lacking – and this is why we only have the stories men tell about them as a guide for what it is that Zeus and Yehuva want. Obviously, the theological narrative is different, such as would any work of fiction.
    The kind of evidence you need is visible, independent evidence, the kind you can’t explain with anything we know. This would constitute another part of collective human experience, and if evidence such as that would be called “God”, then that’s fine by me.
    Like you said: your God is not a Genie in a magic lamp – but the problem is that so is any other God, and everyone experiences their God exactly like you would –
    So who’s right, and how can you determine who’s right in a way that’d convince all the other Gods’ worshippers that that one guy’s right.
    No matter how you slice it, the dog did ate your homework. You may have done homework in some other subject, but the one I’m talking about has definitely been your dog’s lunch.
    P.S –
    I find atheist literature a complete waste of time. The real reason I’m an atheist isn’t Richard Dawkins or Charles Darwin. The reason I’m an atheist is because my personality makes it repugnant to me to accept evidence that isn’t as clear as “the sun exists as a yellow ball in the sky”.
    I want to google God and see his face – I want it my way, that is – in an accessible, observable way. The minute you stray from that path – it no longer fits my personality and my mental state.
    You can brainwash me out of it, you can make me trust you based on a philosophical worldview other than my own (die-hard empiricist naturalist)
    I’m not a post-modernist or relativist or anything like that, but I do know that eventually people believe in things because of the way it makes them feel, not because of what appears to them true.

  7. Pine says:

    Freidenker:
    First you said: “When you can’t see it, there’s an infinite number of ways to make it compatible with the world we live in. You CAN’T be wrong. That makes God worse than non-existent: it makes him useless.”
    Then you said: “but the Tanach makes verifiable truth-claims about the universe if you take it literally. The Tanach says things about the origin of the universe and the origin of species which fail to meet real-world evidence. How can I trust a book filled with lies?”
    Two questions: (1) Do you believe that we can objectively evaluate the message of the Bible via textual criticism and arrive at a “correct” and non-subjective interpretation of the text? (yes or no) (2) Do you believe that the “literal” approach is the best interpretation we have based upon the rules of textual criticism? (yes or no)
    Previously you asked: “Do you think that if you and I couldn’t agree on anything else, would we still disagree about the existence of the sun?”
    I hope so! Does our fickle want of physical observable evidence subjegate God to provide not only evidence, but the TYPE of evidence we would like from Him?

  8. MS Quixote says:

    Mr. Freidenker,
    Not to be pedantic, but I have a hard time believing you live your life believing only propositions that come with this type of certainty: “The reason I’m an atheist is because my personality makes it repugnant to me to accept evidence that isn’t as clear as “the sun exists as a yellow ball in the sky”. (actually by your standard I shouldn’t believe it)
    In fact, if you’re remotely similar to anyone else I’ve ever met, you don’t. So, is this standard reserved for the god question? And if so, why?

  9. cl says:

    Pine,

    What do you think cl?

    I’m familiar with the passages and have also read what Enoch had to say, which is rather detailed. Despite the fact that skeptics love to invoke generic “no evidence” claims about God and the Bible, we have a sample of physical evidence consistent with what we would expect were the genetic interbreeding claims of the Bible true. It’s also worth mentioning Apollon in the book of Revelation is an instance where the Bible arguably cross-references Greek mythology, which would seem to indicate that John of Patmos considered them actual beings. I’ve got a post along these lines coming up. Keep an eye out.
    Freidenker,
    You said to Pine,

    The Tanach says things about the origin of the universe and the origin of species which fail to meet real-world evidence.

    Such as?

    Of course “reason to believe” means “video tape of God addressing the Christian world” (for example). Eventually, this is what a normal atheist like me would see as evidence.

    I would be skeptical of any supposed “video tape of God.”

    The kind of evidence you need is visible, independent evidence, the kind you can’t explain with anything we know.

    Whether visible, independent or otherwise, unexplained phenomena do not prove God.

    The reason I’m an atheist is because my personality makes it repugnant to me to accept evidence that isn’t as clear as “the sun exists as a yellow ball in the sky”.

    Although I’m different, I can respect that.

    ..eventually people believe in things because of the way it makes them feel, not because of what appears to them true.

    True, but not absolutely, and in all fairness I have to ask – do you think that might be able to at least partially explain your comment about your personality making you feel it’s repugnant to accept evidence that isn’t as clear as the sun?

    I want to google God and see his face – I want it my way, that is – in an accessible, observable way.

    Again, I can respect that. Although the concept is admittedly overwhelming, I would like to see God face-to-face, too. But that I can’t right now is no reason to disbelieve. And, as far as wanting to see God’s face, what makes you think myself or any other believer could do this for you? If you don’t think they can, aren’t the homework comments maybe a bit unrealistic? :)

  10. Freidenker says:

    I don’t see the difference between God and anything else people feel strongly about, waxed much poetic on and would passionately hold as true in the face of criticism – I feel the same way about certain things, God excluded.
    “I would be skeptical of any supposed “video tape of God.”
    Suppose God proves it to you himself. If you were Moses, would you be skeptical of the burning bush?
    The Tanach states that all creatures rose on the first week of the universe creation. If you hold that to be wrong literally (days aren’t real days, stuff that Jewish tradition deny, by the way) – then the debate is meaningless. If you don’t – then it’s simply wrong. The evidence firmly points to gradual evolution and extinction (multiple, not just one in a worldwide flood that has no evidence for it) in vast surpasses of time. Unless someone is claiming that people lived for hundreds of millions of years (an easily-disproven fact since we’d fail to see human fossils in the cambrian, which, by the way, would utterly destroy evolutionary theory) –
    the bottom line is that the Tanach is simply wrong. Dead wrong. The Tanach also speaks of a story about approximately 2 million nomads wondering around the Sinai desert for 40 years with a shitload of cattle, pottery, and loot without leaving a trace in a desert which has clear mementa of hunter gatherers and Byzantine presence.
    In short – the Tanach says stuff that didn’t happen. Some of the stuff in it might be true, including the mention of God’s existence – but the Tanach is dead wrong when it speaks of a God who delivered from Egypt, since no such delivery ever happened. (This is according to the Israeli archaeological consensus, by the way. It’s not a mouthpiece of Richard Dawkins, who wouldn’t know jack shit or care about such matters)

  11. Freidenker says:

    MS Quixote – God is not unique in that respect – Any hypothesis which purports to explain fundamental truths about our universe gets the same treatment – the same goes for evolutionary theory or any other scientific theory, for that matter.
    Let me stress one thing, though – on the atheist scale, I’m probably a 5-er – I’m not an atheist like Dawkins or PZ Myers are, but I AM an atheist: I think it’s possible that God exists precisely BECAUSE I know that a lot of things are true regardless of my degree of certainty that they’re false.
    I’m waiting for compelling evidence, in short. I haven’t found any.

  12. cl says:

    Freidenker,

    I don’t see the difference between God and anything else people feel strongly about, waxed much poetic on and would passionately hold as true in the face of criticism – I feel the same way about certain things, God excluded.

    I’m not really sure what you’re getting at there.
    As far as the videotape and the burning bush question, I don’t mind answering the question, but the reason I mentioned it at all was to get at your standard of proof. You said you would be convinced by a video tape of God. I found that odd. If I were Moses, I probably would have been a little skeptical, just like he was. Of course, once all the other things started happening, my skepticism would reside.
    What in Jewish tradition states that yowm can only mean a 24-hour-day? Convincing evidence would really help seal the deal in this debate. I think you jump to a bit of a rushed conclusion. I can easily conceive of other options that allow no conflict. It could very well be that what took God one week to accomplish in whatever universe God lives in took much longer here, as one example.
    Your mention of anomalous fossils is a valid point and something I’ve been looking into for a while, just for fun. As far as your concerns over the Exodus, I acknowledge that you made them, and am planning to discuss similar claims in the future.

    In short – the Tanach says stuff that didn’t happen.

    Besides the Genesis issue which to me seems unresolvable, and Exodus, which actually does seem resolvable, anything else in mind?

    It’s not a mouthpiece of Richard Dawkins, who wouldn’t know jack shit or care about such matters.

    I like that! To MS, you said,

    I think it’s possible that God exists precisely BECAUSE I know that a lot of things are true regardless of my degree of certainty that they’re false.

    Very well said and honest, IMO. I’m currently in a similar discussion with somebody, but I’m having a hard time getting them to define exactly what constitutes compelling evidence.

  13. Freidenker says:

    Cl – I’ll be honest – this world is tricky, and since the greatest variety of claims about God come from people who (so they purport) believe in it – you know,I gotta say, maybe there is a God, I just haven’t been told of the right one.. Yet, anyway. I wouldn’t mind find “my own God” if there’s some way conceivable for it to exist. I’m pretty sure that even if that God would be commensurate in some respects with the Tanach, millions of believers would still consider me an atheist or just a heretic – so who’s right?
    As to your other questions:
    Listen, I’m an Israeli born Jew (by ethnicity, of course) – my native tongue is Hebrew. I’ve studied the Torah-Nevi’im-Ktuvim from the second to the twelfth grade, I’ve matriculated in it – in the college in which I study biology in – we have mandatory Jewish theology class-
    I’ve studied Rashi, Rambam (Maimonides in English, I think), Luria, Rashbi, Kasuto – heck, I even remember some mention of foreign biblical scholars –
    There are traditions that do not interpret the bible literally – in that case, *anything*, including the worldview of Richard Dawkins – is commensurate with the Tanach. We’ll simply shoehorn reality to it and do a little victory dance.
    I studied Tanach at a secular school. We had mention of the biblical scholars’ claim that Genesis is a cosmological *legend* (Israel can be so sweetly secular sometimes) –
    so, if the bible can be a set of legends – how can I trust a book that contains fiction to be historically accurate precisely when discussing such key figures as the first humans, animals, and their purported creator?
    Why would I refer to an ancient text? What did the sheep herders who dwelt in the same place I’m typing right now 2500 years ago knew better than we know today?

    One more thing. The Tanach has some fantastic historical accuracies, but this only begins after the Judean country has become well-substantiated. There isn’t even any evidence That David and Solomon ever existed!
    However, there is Assyrian evidence for
    the military disaster (the Assyrian king had to call back his army from Judea because of domestic issues during the siege on Jerusalem on Hizkiya’s term, in the 6th century BC) – the Tanach speaks of these matters, and the imputed date from Genesis is concordant with the historically verified date.
    Why is it accurate in some cases but not in others? Why is a day 24-hours long in the 6th century BC but not on the first days of the universe?
    Many stories in the bible have laughably similar stories that predate them, such as Enuma Elish, a Sumerian story that makes Noah’s ark seem like bad plagiarism (I’ve read some of it, it’s way better than Noah’s ark).
    We even learnt that some stories were used mainly to explain phenomena, much as legend’s always have – for example, Genesis, chapter 4, was designed to explain why farmers and goat herders hate each other so much.
    So the question goes right back at you – why would you believe a book full of legends to be historically accurate about a legendary creator?

  14. Freidenker says:

    Cl – I’ll be honest – this world is tricky, and since the greatest variety of claims about God come from people who (so they purport) believe in it – you know,I gotta say, maybe there is a God, I just haven’t been told of the right one.. Yet, anyway. I wouldn’t mind find “my own God” if there’s some way conceivable for it to exist. I’m pretty sure that even if that God would be commensurate in some respects with the Tanach, millions of believers would still consider me an atheist or just a heretic – so who’s right?
    As to your other questions:
    Listen, I’m an Israeli born Jew (by ethnicity, of course) – my native tongue is Hebrew. I’ve studied the Torah-Nevi’im-Ktuvim from the second to the twelfth grade, I’ve matriculated in it – in the college in which I study biology in – we have mandatory Jewish theology class-
    I’ve studied Rashi, Rambam (Maimonides in English, I think), Luria, Rashbi, Kasuto – heck, I even remember some mention of foreign biblical scholars –
    There are traditions that do not interpret the bible literally – in that case, *anything*, including the worldview of Richard Dawkins – is commensurate with the Tanach. We’ll simply shoehorn reality to it and do a little victory dance.
    I studied Tanach at a secular school. We had mention of the biblical scholars’ claim that Genesis is a cosmological *legend* (Israel can be so sweetly secular sometimes) –
    so, if the bible can be a set of legends – how can I trust a book that contains fiction to be historically accurate precisely when discussing such key figures as the first humans, animals, and their purported creator?
    Why would I refer to an ancient text? What did the sheep herders who dwelt in the same place I’m typing right now 2500 years ago knew better than we know today?

    One more thing. The Tanach has some fantastic historical accuracies, but this only begins after the Judean country has become well-substantiated. There isn’t even any evidence That David and Solomon ever existed!
    However, there is Assyrian evidence for
    the military disaster (the Assyrian king had to call back his army from Judea because of domestic issues during the siege on Jerusalem on Hizkiya’s term, in the 6th century BC) – the Tanach speaks of these matters, and the imputed date from Genesis is concordant with the historically verified date.
    Why is it accurate in some cases but not in others? Why is a day 24-hours long in the 6th century BC but not on the first days of the universe?
    Many stories in the bible have laughably similar stories that predate them, such as Enuma Elish, a Sumerian story that makes Noah’s ark seem like bad plagiarism (I’ve read some of it, it’s way better than Noah’s ark).
    We even learnt that some stories were used mainly to explain phenomena, much as legend’s always have – for example, Genesis, chapter 4, was designed to explain why farmers and goat herders hate each other so much.
    So the question goes right back at you – why would you believe a book full of legends to be historically accurate about a legendary creator?

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