Books

AC Grayling vs God

2 March 2013

2 March 2013

The God Argument: The Case Against Religion and for Humanism A.C. Grayling

Bloomsbury, pp.269, £16.99, ISBN: 9781408837405

‘Atheism is to theism,’ Anthony Grayling declares, ‘as not collecting stamps is to stamp-collecting’. At this point, we are supposed to enjoy a little sneer, in which the religious are bracketed with bald, lonely men in thick glasses, picking over their collections of ancient stamps in attics, while unbelievers are funky people with busy social lives.

But the comparison is flatly untrue. Non-collectors of stamps do not, for instance, write books devoted to mocking stamp-collectors, nor call for stamp-collecting’s status to be diminished, nor suggest — Richard Dawkins-like — that introducing the young to this hobby is comparable to child abuse. They do not place advertisements on buses proclaiming that stamp-collecting is a waste of time, and suggesting that those who abandon it will enjoy their lives more.

Professor Grayling is too pleased with himself to have realised this. Intoxicated with amusement at his own dud metaphor, he asks: ‘How could someone be a militant non-stamp-collector?’ I rather think he has written the manual for anyone who might like to take up this activity.

This work is full of negative. petti-fogging narrowness, devoid of sympathy for opponents, empty of generosity or modesty, immune to poetry or mystery. Seeking enjoyment in its pages is like trying to quench your thirst with dry biscuits. The rudest thing that I can say about it is that it is pretty much the same as all the other anti-God books. Like Scandinavian crime series on TV, these volumes trundle off the production lines every few months, asserting their authors’ enlightenment and emitting a nasty undertone of spite and intolerance.

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It is an odd target and an odder market. Modern Britain throbs with questionable faiths, objectively unproven but powerfully influencing personal behaviour and state policy. A brief list would include man-made global warming, the worthiness of liberal intervention in foreign countries, the existence of dyslexia, ADHD and addiction and the serotonin theory of depression. Honest scepticism about any of these is not welcome in mainstream publishing.

I should have thought that philosophers would be interested in questioning these dangerous, dominant beliefs. It would be a rewarding and proper use of their skills and standing. But the philosophers are complacent about such orthodoxies. They prefer to rail against the tottering remnants of Western Christianity, a dying force if ever there was one. The writers who take part in this assault do sometimes make rude remarks about Islam, and often make righteous references to Islam’s role in terrorism. But it is in Christian countries that they publish, and it is Christian advantages which they aim to remove or reduce — Christian state schools, Christian church privileges in law and custom, the primacy of Christianity in culture.

Attempts have been made to answer this attack, the defence usually attracting far less notice than the prosecution. The offensive continues unresponsively, exactly as if no riposte has been offered. As Grayling says: ‘The theists are rushing about the park kicking the ball, but the atheists are not playing. They are not even on the field.’ Like almost all atheists, he tries (and fails) to show that his belief is not a belief, but an obligatory default position.

This ungenerous view damages him. As he rightly says: ‘One mark of intelligence is an ability to live with as yet unanswered questions.’ True, but one way of avoiding having to do this is to pretend that questions have been answered, when they have not been. While wholly satisfied with his own supposed proofs that God is not necessary for an understanding of the cosmos, he seems unaware that these formulae are as unconvincing to believers as ontological proofs of God’s existence are to atheists. Religion, he says, is ‘exactly the same kind of thing as astrology’; religious believers are repeatedly equated with those who believe in fairies, goblins and dragons. This is no more use in serious discussion than jibes about Father Christmas or the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

It is a closing of the mind. Why does he close it? We know, from Grayling’s brave and unanswerable attack on the British bombing of German civilians (Among the Dead Cities), that it is a considerable mind when he chooses to open it. I urge him to study the works of his fellow atheist Thomas Nagel, Professor of Philosophy and Law at New York University, who writes eloquently of what he calls ‘the fear of religion itself’, saying he is strongly subject to such a fear and confessing that he wants atheism to be true and is made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people he knows are religious believers.

It is my suspicion that Christians and atheists share one very strong emotion — the fear that God exists. The difference is that Christians also want Him to exist. The truly interesting question, unexplored in this book, is why each side wants what it wants.


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Show comments
  • http://twitter.com/sambadham Sam Badham

    You do not understand simple linguistics. a-theism = a rejection of theistic claims. That is all. It is not any kind of a belief it is a rejection of a claim.

    But you can’t get your head around that can you? Just because people like Richard Dawkins exist does not mean he speaks for anyone but himself. I reject claims of theistic gods thats it just like a non stamp collector.

    However is a stamp collector discriminated against my children by not allowing them in to a state school because they do not collect stamps or tried to stop me from marrying who i choose then i might have something to say about it.

    • aefae

      claiming that a-theism is only a rejection of a claim and not a belief system is not very helpful. Atheist reject theistic claims but still borrowing everything about theism as long as they like it, without ever building up it’s own system. By rejecting theism an atheist should at least be consistent and reject everything that theism helps to build up. But most atheist don’t do this, they HAVE to set-up a belief system for morality, but it’s a borrowed one most of the time. One they pick and choose from theistic principles.

      Why is it wrong for a stamp collector to stop you from marrying? You say it’s wrong, but you can only say it’s wrong by borrowing a theistic worldview or morality. On what basis do you say it’s wrong for me to not discriminate against your children? Should I only be worried about your retaliation? Might makes right? Is that the basis for this?

      An atheist rejects theistic claims all the time and gets away with it, curses in the theist face and then lives off of theistic conclusions and systems.

      • http://www.facebook.com/daniel.schealler Daniel Schealler

        In my view you can build up a pretty good morality by starting from the principles of game theory, throwing in the cultural reinforcement of empathy as a corrective force against the psychological traps (short-sightedness, narrow-mindedness, etc) that lead to a negative equilibrium, and then building up from these core principles – entirely sans the supernatural.

      • http://twitter.com/ronmurp Ron Murphy

        Do you think that one label is all we have? Many atheists are Humanists, but some may not be. Many are science advocates, but they need not be. Atheism is merely the label given to those people who do not believe in God, when they are engaging in the issue of belief in God. I don’t know that there is a positive collective of non-stamp-collectors, or a-fairyists, or a-Santaists.

        There is no objective reason why a stamp-collector should not discriminate. There are pragmatic reasons why non-stamp-collectors would oppose them if they did. So it’s quite straight forward to build up a cultural set of moral guidelines based on reciprocity and empathy.

        It is explicitly religion that makes a mockery of morality by injecting all sorts of hocus pocus: opposing pre-marital sex, condom use, or even what food you eat. It’s totally dumb. Many atheists get by quite well ignoring all the dumb religious moral codes and use what amount to evolutionarily and culturally inherited codes, which they adapt as required by current cultural perspectives. Which, of course, is exactly what theists do too – they just invent more theological bull to explain the change of heart.

        “One they pick and choose from theistic principles.” – Really?

        Furthermore, you are missing the the different aspects of atheist activity. It might be purely intellectual disagreement about gods generally; or it might be about the pro-active opposition to religious privilege. The former is often used to argue against the privilege: without any intellectual or evidential reason to suppose there is a God you have no good reason to use your belief in God to acquire privileges or to discriminate.

    • BrightMind

      Actually agnosticism is the rejection of theistic beliefs. Atheism includes the assumption that god does not exist.

      • http://twitter.com/ronmurp Ron Murphy

        Agnosticism isn’t the rejection of belief, it’s a position of indecision because the person cannot decide to some reasonable degree whether to believe or not. This distinction has been made by Grayling before, and I’d be surprised if it isn’t in this book.

        An a-fairyist does not have solid proof that there are no fairies, but simply has never come across persuasive reasons or evidence to support their existence. To be agnostic about fairies is to suppose they might exist and might be the explanation for a lot of mystery in the world, such as when car keys go missing.

        An a-astrologist does not think astrology works; not because they have categorical proof that it fails in all circumstances but because if fails in many circumstances where science, or even common sense, does not. To be agnostic about astrology is to perhaps not claim to believe explicitly, but maybe to pay attention to some of the things you read in a horoscope, because it might be right, such as being particularly nice to that waiter that serves you because the horoscope told you you’d meet a good looking stranger. An agnostic is one of the “I don’t believe, but there must be something in it” brigade.

        An atheist does not think theism holds, that there is a God; not because there is solid proof of no God, but the shear lack of evidence for one, plus the inanity of the many believers that so obviously make stuff up. To be agnostic about God is to genuinely wonder if he might exist, but not quite enough to bother going to church or worrying too much about theistic morals.

        But, by your account, all Christians are agnostic about Islamic claims that Jesus was a mere prophet and was not divine. And Muslims might worry themselves to sleep wondering if Jesus was really divine?

        Definitions change, to be sure. But to abuse the words agnostic and atheist as you do is to remove all their utility. I don’t know if you’re a theist, but you are certainly using one of the many dishonest ploys that theists use: the twisting of words to suit their own ends.

  • SimonNorwich

    “But the comparison is flatly untrue. Non-collectors of stamps do not, for instance, write books devoted to mocking stamp-collectors, nor call for stamp-collecting’s status to be diminished, nor suggest — Richard Dawkins-like — that introducing the young to this hobby is comparable to child abuse. They do not place advertisements on buses proclaiming that stamp-collecting is a waste of time, and suggesting that those who abandon it will enjoy their lives more.”
    Mr Hitchens, I’m staggered that you can’t understand why atheists or secularists sometimes have to be active against religionists in a way that non-stamp collectors never have to be against stamp collectors.
    Stamp collectors are not trying to take over the world, or impose their beliefs or ideas of morality on everyone else. I’m sure you would think it absurd if stamp collectors were to claim special seats for themselves in parliament on the basis that they considered stamp collecting gave them a special moral perspective. What is bizare – and demonstrates the peculiar power of religion – is that you do not consider it even slightly absurd that some people claim special seats in parliament on the basis that they believe in an invisible man in the sky.

    • http://www.facebook.com/tsu.donim Tsu Do Nim

      Most theists I know do not “believe in an invisible man in the sky” but a god! Understanding the difference between man and god is really rather crucial to understanding the difference between theism and atheism. It sounds like you should try harder to understand what it is exactly you are rejecting..

      Theists did not “claim special seats in parliament”. If most people believe in a god, it makes sense to have god-experts in parliament, right? What’s bizarre? Only absurd now because of the decline of theism.

      • SimonNorwich

        Theists DO claim special seats in parliament – 26 seats, to be specific.

        What theists don’t do, and I see you also avoided the opportunity to do so, is clearly explain what they mean by “god” if it’s not an invisible man in the sky.

        • http://www.facebook.com/tsu.donim Tsu Do Nim

          Let’s be historical – the 26 seats are a relic of an earlier age. They are not ‘claimed’ now but were doled out in an earlier age where nearly everyone, including the monarch, was a theist.

          Any dictionary will tell you enough to realize that ‘god’ is not the straw man of “an invisible man in the sky”. Gods, of course, vary among theists and my advice would be to check out their characters and claims carefully.

          If you want to know what, or more precisely, who the god of the Christians mean by ‘god’ there is a large and well-known collection of historic texts on the subject, conveniently bound together, I strongly recommend this course of action BTW. If you are currently an atheist you have nothing to lose and much to gain.

          • SimonNorwich

            The 26 seats ARE still claimed by the church. Nobody in the church is obliged to accept them, but they still do. And they protest against any attempts to take those seats away from them or reduce the number that they are given.
            I’ve read numerous religious texts, including the Bible, and none of them explain what god is. Just saying that “god did this” or “god said that” is not an explanation of anything, let alone evidence that whatever it is actually did or said those things. I could claim that a rabbit did this or said that. It wouldn’t be evidence that it did – but at least we all know what a rabbit is!

          • http://www.facebook.com/tsu.donim Tsu Do Nim

            Like the monarchy and the other Lords, the few bishops are a cultural relic, with only limited political powers, which are gradually being whittled away in any case. As Hitchens says atheists seem to “prefer to rail against the tottering remnants of Western Christianity, a dying force if ever there was one” rather than the many other larger and more powerful actors in the political arena.

            Let’s return to the more interesting topic of explanations of god. You are right that the Bible authors seem to expect us to be able to understand a lot about the god depicted in it from his words – many of which are about himself – and from his actions . The historic creeds and confessions of various churches are places to look for these, for example the Shorter Westminster Catechism:

            “Q. 4. What is God?
            A. God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth.”

            What’s not to like? You need to know that one of the factors which will distort your judgement as you consider the claims of the Christian god is your own god-rejecting nature, which the bible calls ‘sin’ – another big concept on which much hangs. The bible also shows that the Christian god has a way of saving you from that nature, which was very costly to himself, involving death and resurrection.

            At this point, many people back off, of course. No-one likes to think of themselves as a sinner needing to be saved by someone outside themselves. Sometimes the truth is uncomfortable.

          • maturallite

            Just one question…How do you know your god has any of the qualities you listed above? What evidence do you have that would make someone believe your claim?

          • http://www.facebook.com/tsu.donim Tsu Do Nim

            Great question! I would probably start with the four gospel accounts of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The events described here were recognised as extraordinary at the time and intended to demonstrate to all mankind the qualities of god.

          • maturallite

            The problem with using the gospels as evidence for your claims is that modern biblical scholars pretty much all agree that none of them were written during the life of Jesus. The earliest were written a full 30-70 years after his death. In addition, most of the gospels were written by someone other than the credited author. That was a common practice during those time to give the work greater authority. On top of that, none of the historians of the time recorded those events. I’m sure you will reference Josephus, Tacitus, and Talmud, but nearly all scholars agree that the accounts credited to those historians were forgeries, intended to provide extra biblical evidence for the claims of the bible. Even modern Israeli scholars agree that there is zero historical evidence for the exodus. Eyewitness accounts have consistently been shown to be one of the most unreliable forms of evidence, and so far, all you have is written accounts beginning 30-70 years after the death of Jesus. Have you ever heard of a man named Sathya Sai Baba? He just died in 2011, but he was a man who had thousands of followers, many of whom claimed to have witnessed him perform miracles including flying, walking through walls, and miraculous healing. I’m sure most people would quickly dismiss his claims as hocus pocus, but why is it that if you put similar claims in a setting 2000 years ago, then they suddenly become credible?

          • David Palmer

            This is all rather well worn territory. You say this, I say that.

            A lot of unsubstantiated, contestable claims here, that Christians will find neither here not there and certainly won’t stop them from believing and acting on the Gospel as rock solid truth.

          • http://www.facebook.com/tsu.donim Tsu Do Nim

            Many points worthy of fuller discussion here!
            1.Until photography and sound recording most of what we know as history is based on the spoken or written transmission of eyewitness accounts.The gospels are written collections of eyewitness accounts. Do you have a problem believing eyewitness accounts by people you know and trust of unusual events of 30-70 years ago, e.g. VE day? A lot gets back to the issue of knowledge and trust of the witnesses of course. For many people, the gospels appear credible because they account they give of the early Christians on whose recollections they are based (e.g. Peter) is far from flattering – faithless, slow to understand, cowardly etc.
            2. While the gospels are technically anonymous, I think you may be referring to scholarly debate about the authorship of the epistles of Peter.
            3. A brief glance at the Wikipedia entry “Josephus on Jesus” shows that current scholarship on that topic is not as straightforward as you suggest.
            4. The gospels are of course not about the exodus.
            5. Wikipedia suggests that Sai Baba’s followers’ claims are not similar to those made in the gospels about Jesus Christ. Jesus’s miracles and resurrection – before many other eyewitnesses, who would have been in a position to contest the claims of the gospel authors – are presented in the gospels as signs of the authenticity of Jesus’s outrageous claims to be man’s divine creator and saviour.

          • http://www.facebook.com/daniel.schealler Daniel Schealler

            “1. The gospels are written collections of eyewitness accounts.”

            The gospels were all written at least 30 years after the events they describe, and none of them were written by the people who are alleged to have witnessed the events described.

            An ‘eye witness account’ is when the actual eye witness themselves writes down what they saw at very nearly the time that the event took place – that day, or that week, or possibly that month at a stretch.

            The gospels are not eye witness accounts.

            The most generous possible interpretation of the gospels is that they are decades-old hearsay.

          • http://www.facebook.com/tsu.donim Tsu Do Nim

            “An ‘eye witness account’ is when the actual eye witness themselves writes down what they saw at very nearly the time that the event took place – that day, or that week, or possibly that month at a stretch.”

            So law courts refuse to consider oral testimony older than one month? So if your wife or your father, say, tells you about something unusual they witnessed as a teenager you ‘generously’ interpret the report as ‘decades old hearsay’ unless they can show you it in their diaries from the time? So you pay no heed to virtually any text of ancient or medieval times (perhaps until the time of Pepys?) because there is no evidence that the writer didn’t make it up months or years after the event? (Conversely, you believe any eye witness account so long as it is in written form and recounts events which took place in the last week?)

          • Daniel Schealler

            I was overhasty in prescribing my time limit. The older a testimony is, the less reliable it is – so the age of the testimony speaks to reliability, which is a relevant concern. But that alone doesn’t make testimony hearsay. I was wrong in that part. Mea culpa.

            The authors of the gospels are anonymous, so cannot themselves be regarded as eye witnesses, so their testimony cannot be regarded as eye witness testimony. Rather, the gospels are hearsay.

            US Law courts do in fact refuse to consider hearsay (I am not a lawyer – there are some exceptions, but I cannot claim to understand them).

          • Mike

            There are “eyewitness accounts” by living humans of alien abductions. Why don’t you believe them (or do you…)?

          • rationalobservations?

            Hi pseudonym,
            My own journey from christianity to atheism was promted by curiosity regarding the endless confusion and contradictions to be found within the NT bible. This prompted a few decades of study and research into the earliest texts from which modern bibles were “interpreted”.
            The oldest text claimed to be connected with later much later written and ever evolving versions of bibles dates no earlier than 150 CE and is a papyrus the size of a beer mat.
            I invite you to research the oldest texts in any NT category. The vast vast majority date no earlier than the 7th century and most appear for the first time between the 8th and 11th century.
            The earliest “copy” of Josephus (who himself wrote his histories around 90 CE – long after the time the fables of the NT are set.) is from the 8th century.
            Many independent reports of several named “messiahs” can be found between 4 BCE and c140 CE (one of whom was acclaimed as the true “messiah” by Hebrew/Jewish authorities). None are named “Jesus” (Hebrew = Yshua) and no 1st century text, artifact or archeology exists that refers to or corroborates the legend of “Jesus”.

          • http://www.facebook.com/tsu.donim Tsu Do Nim

            You really spent decades researching this stuff? You are confusing ‘text’ with ‘manuscript’. Early NT manuscripts are only fragments: that is a reflection of the general state of preservation ancient manuscripts, not the authenticity of the texts in question. The earliest manuscripts for the works of Tacitus and Suetonius, for example, date from the 9th century AD. The oldest complete NT manuscript dates from before AD 400.

            ‘Endless confusion and contradictions within the NT’ sounds like an overstatement. The basic facts are not contradicted in any manuscript variants. Historically,Christianity spread fast: the narrative recounted in the NT texts seems to have been coherent enough to be believed by large numbers in the pre-Christian Empire at the time (despite considerable disincentives from Jewish authorities and the Roman state).

          • rationalobservations?

            Yes. I really have spent endless hours over a few decades researching the origins of my ex-religion (christianity) and many others. I have done my own first hand research visiting the museums that house the oldest papyrus fragments and researching the archeology that proves utterly and completely absent. There is no sign of a 1st century city of “Nazareth” and no trace of its existence between c300 BCE and c250 CE for example. I follow quite afew others in digging for that evidence to no avail.

            I am very familiar with the propaganda you recycle with regard to verbal traditions and the fragility of papyri etc. The facts that contradict that propaganda are that I HAVE discovered very detailed accounts of several other “messiahs”, but no 1st century trace of Yshua/”Jesus”.

            There are two codex NT “bibles” from the end of the 4th century. Codex Sinaiticus has recently being reunited from its scattered parts and contains the history of its edited and reworked content during the 800 years following its original authorship by four Greek scribes. Codex Vaticanus is extensively mutilated and appears to have been mutilated by “the church”., perhaps to destroy the evidence of its lack of conformity to later written fables and legends to be found exclusively within later editions leading to bibles as we all know them today.

            You pass on the myth that christianity “spread fast” but I wonder if you have any non-biblical mythology as independent evidence of that propaganda? I have searched, as many others have searched, but there is absolutely no evidence of any cult of “Jesus as god-man” from the 1st century while detailed histories of several other named messiahs are extant.

            Ancient Rome was pretty tolerant of the many and various religions within the then Empire. The only time a religious sect was crushed was when rebellion was raised in the name of one god, or god-man or another.

            The actual history of the 1st century is almost one Jewish rebellion

            after another. Many were led by Jews who claimed to be or were hailed as “messiahs”. Notably:

            Theudas (? – 46 CE), who attempted a short-lived revolt against the Romans before being slain.

            The “Egyptian Prophet”, c.55 CE, (an allusion to Moses), with 30,000 unarmed Jews doing The Exodus reenactment massacred by Procurator Antonius Felix.

            And very notably:Simon bar Kokhba (?- ca. 135 CE). Who was referred to by senior Rabbis as “the true messiah” and founded a short-lived Jewish state. He was followed and worshiped by many thousands before being defeated in the Second Jewish-Roman War.

            Much is written about several “messiahs” by the Jewish historian Titus Flavius Josephus (37 – c. 100 – also called Joseph ben Matityahu) within his extensive and very comprehensive volume upon volume of histories. There are only two short paragraphs that mention “Jesus” that appear in “copies” of Josephus’ works hand written by anonymous scribes after the 7th century. Text typing and the random placing in other non related sections indicates those to be later interpolations.

            So it appears that there is nothing (NOTHING!) that in any way confirms or supports the legends of “Jesus”.

            Note: I put “Jesus” in quotes since no Jewish/Hebrew name Jesus existed. The GREEK writers of the legend of “Jesus” coined that otherwise meaningless word probably from the Hebrew names Yeshua/Yshua/Joshua.

          • Edden

            “Yes. I really have spent endless hours over a few decades researching the origins of my ex-religion (christianity)”…..A complete rubbish statement. You were never a Christian Rational and do not con us into thinking that. Christ said His sheep will never perish neither is anyone able to pluck them out of His hand. So you are the one he failed with you did He? Not at all. You are not more powerful than Him and you cannot keep your promises like Him. If you professed Christ once then you were a hypocrite and pretender. Indeed there is a lot of pretence with you isn’t there? Yes I know, you have heard me say it before.

            If you are telling the truth about doing all this research then you have utterly wasted your time. Nothing here is proof of the fraudulent nature of the NT. All you do is quote dates and non appearances of small and despised towns in a few very ancient document which have barely survived. Most didn’t survive. You are arguing from a thing called SILENCE and ASSUMPTION based on your own very anti Christian bias.

          • rationalobservations?

            You are still locked into your own very simplistic and exclusively subjective view of history, nature, the Universe and everything little Edd.

            You disregard everything that contradicts you and make unsupported and unsupportable assumptions and presumptions that you recycle as ad hominem.

            I was a fully fledged, christened and confirmed member of the “Jesus is god-man” religion until education, knowledge and reason counterbalanced then obliterated all such childish and ridiculous nonsense. It takes a while to overcome the indoctrination you display, but it can be achieved if you have the curiosity and the stamina to seek and find the real truth behind the mythology and lies you have so consistently failed to “prove” or defend.

            I have asked you many times: If you have evidence that proves the historicity of bibles: PLEASE present it! As you do not have any evidence, and never have presented any evidence (NO ONE HAS!), it is nothing but meaningless and empty rhetoric and dishonest, ridiculous claims or assumptions that you continue to endlessly spill onto these comment columns.

            You have only “proved” the comprehensive nature of the indoctrination & brain washing you obviously embrace, and the depth of your unquestioning and totally blind faith my friend. You have answered NO questioned and disproved no evidence that has endlessly confused and confounded you.

          • Edden

            Rational….I stated that you, repeat YOU, had failed to prove the New Testament was a fraud and was false. Now stop trying to change the subject and get onto more general matter. We could spend many hours indeed days going over all the items of theology under the sun. Yes and wouldn’t you love it? Indeed it might take months! However you have made specific claims about the NT. These were claims of yours. Not only did you do it numerous times in the DT blogs but you have done it here too. However, as I continually have to point out, you failed to prove your claims OK.
            Quoting dates of very ancient documents might be an interesting subject. But nothing you have put actually proves that the NT was false and a fraud. It is as simple as that. For the umpteenth time you are simply using assumption as an argument. Yes we know you are anti Christian Mr Rational. Now stop trying to deflect and posing me questions. You are upset and if you were not upset you would have dismissed me. Now come back to me with real proof about your specific claim that the NT was a fraud. You talk about empty “rhetoric”. My goodness look at your words. “dishonest” “ridiculous” “brainwashing”. As for evidence that has “confounded” me, is this a joke now. Really is it a joke?? You presented no evidence at all for the claim I have mentioned above. And of course the same applied to several other items I have challenged you with in recent times. Go away and come back with your evidence. And don’t try to avoid your failures.

          • rationalobservations?

            You’re still barking up the wrong tree little Edden!

            I don’t “claim” that the NT is a fraud and false. I swear and testify that nothing (NOTHING!) exists that verifies or corroborates the content of the modern New Testament we all know today in its various versions and “interpretations”. To confound my testament, you merely have to provide evidence that contradicts it chum.

            I inform you that I have wasted many, many years searching for such evidence, but join hundreds of other historians and archaeologists in finding no text, no artifact and no archeology that in any way corresponds with, or corroborates, the stories later written (mostly centuries later and by scribes employed by, or in thrall to, the church of Rome) times in which the stories of Yshua/”Jesus” are set.

            YOU HAVE CONSTANTLY FAILED TO PROVIDE ANY SUCH EVIDENCE!

            There is nothing that confounds the conclusion that the mythology of “Jesus the god-man” is anything other than mythology.

            You have expressed the self evident opinion that you find the stories compelling and believe them to be true. You have done nothing to cause me or anyone else to join you in that opinion.

          • Edden

            Mr Rational.. So you are in denial now are you? Come off it. You have been
            posting this stuff about about ancient texts etc with the sole intention of
            rubbishing the validity of the NT and to claim it is false. Don’t try and skip
            around the finer points now. You have failed in your plans and claims. Indeed
            you may be doing all this to try and look intelligent. I remember how some time
            back in the DT you appeared to be ignorant of the fact that the Codex Sinaiticus
            was not discovered until the 19th century. You also appeared to be ignorant of
            the Textus Recptus. This from a man who is claiming some expertise in ancient
            texts!! Yes you have indeed wasted your time. I agree with that. By not
            being able to find exceptionally ancient texts before say 100 AD simply proves
            that you have been unable to find ancient texts before 100AD. That is what it
            proves. It does not prove that the NT being the foundation of the Christian
            faith is invalid. Got it. And why do you post all this up here. Come of it Mr
            Rational. You have failed to discredit the NT. That is clear.

            Stop wasting your time. Indeed another gentleman pointed out that the
            survival rate of documents of this antiquity is very small indeed. You are
            chasing the wind. Your inability to find very ancient texts will only provide
            you with an assumption argument based on silence. And that is not evidence OK.
            Why are you using bold type then to say I have no evidence! This is pathetic
            and evasive. Sensible folk will not be fooled by it. The very best thing you
            are achieving in this search of yours (if you are telling the truth) is to
            produce silence ie non evidence. Don’t come back with your bellyaching or silly
            phrases.

          • rationalobservations?

            You do make me laugh little Edden.

            You ignore or deny all relevant facts and the growing pile of evidence presented to you and skirt each and every issue.

            You write: “By not being able to find exceptionally ancient texts before say 100 AD simply proves that you have been unable to find ancient texts before 100AD.”

            The fact is that NO ONE has found any text, artifact or archeology supporting the legends of “Jesus” and dated from the first century simply proves that no extant text, artifact or archeology exists that supports the later written or manufactured texts and artifacts that do exist.

            You appear to be finally “getting it”?

            I am not “anti christian”., I am pro truth.

            I will happily discuss the historical evidence that debunks other religious mythologies and imaginary “gods” or “god-men” if you so wish…

          • Edden

            Stop claiming that you are laughing Mr Rational. You do not find it funny. You are upset maybe, yes. Again, I am not ignoring evidence. It is You that have failed to provide evidence for your claims. You.
            I have told you this many times and it has been clearly spelt out above. You keep on repeating irrelevant things about non discoveries. It is possible you are not telling the truth anyway but even if you were it matters not. It proves nothing. Stop boring me with clap trap about non discoveries Mr Rational. You have run out of ideas.
            Finally getting it? What a false tongue in cheek statement. Indeed more like a bare faced lie by you. You are not pro truth. Having been exposed and looking for a way out, you are now scrounging for all you are worth to try and find some pathetic face saving tit bit that you can depart on.

            The more you try the worse it becomes for you. You have debunked nothing. You just made claims that you did not prove. It is as simple as that. .

          • rationalobservations?

            I offer you my sincere sympathy once again. Your impotent and frustrated anguish is clear in everything you write chum.

            You have been presented with a mountain of evidence from myself and others. You have answered, contradicted and countered nothing.
            How many times before you learn that denial is not contradiction?

            If you can point to any text, artifact or archaeological evidence that supports your case, please provide that evidence. Otherwise you merely continue to express the product of your indoctrination and protest that the argument against all religious mythology and imaginary “gods” has not confounded you when the evidence of your angry protestations and absolute lack of any counter argument clearly demonstrates the failure of your childish, simplistic and furious claims.

            Even “the church” accepts that the judeo-christian creation myth was long ago debunked and the science of evolution is fact and evidence based btw.

          • Edden

            No Rational you do not offer any sincere sympathies. You are not at all genuine in the silly ploy and you are not one bit sympathetic. No I have not, repeat NOT, been presented with any evidence at all to cause discredit to the truth of the NT. Again Mr Rational I have not been presented with evidence. You keep going on about “denial”. And what are you doing yourself? Just repeating yourself like a parrot.
            Yet again you are going on about me not providing archeological evidence. So what?? As explained, it is totally irrelevant. You only say this because you have nothing more to offer but pure assumption. There is absolutely no burden on me whatsoever to produce items of extreme antiquity. Go and waste your own time chasing the wind. None of this disproves the validity of the NT. You can only make bland claims of “mythology” without producing evidence. That is all you can do. You do it to provoke me.
            Stop making demands on me that I hae no burden to answer and never claimed I did. You made the claims and you fouled up when trying to prove your case. I could not care less in your fruitless search for dusty crumbling smelly items that have hardly survived in any reasonable state OK. It proves nothing. You have found nothing to prove your claim and I am not interested in nothing.

          • rationalobservations?

            Well done little Edden!

            Among your usual “I believe exclusively because; I believe” blah blah and “all the evidence you present to me is irrelevant” blah blah., you do reveal some interesting threads of thought and one clear confession.

            You write:
            “Yet again you are going on about me not providing archeological evidence. So what?? As explained, it is totally irrelevant.”
            I would once again point out the utter and complete lack of any evidence that supports the myths and legends within bibles. NO text, artifact OR archeology.
            However: If you accept and confess that you have no evidence to offer (therefore no argument) but consider hard and empirical evidence to be irrelevant to you claims. What do you consider IS relevant to your claims and what do you consider could validate you claims if not logic and evidence? The expression of utter and overwhelming personal faith is common to believers in all the current and long moribund “gods”. If overwhelming faith was enough to encourage atheists to believe; the growing legion of non-believers, would believe in all gods and follow all religions since all have followers every bit as convinced of their faith as you are of yours.

            You are correct in your personal (somewhat late) comprehension (light bulb above the head moment?) that I only bother with you in the humanitarian attempt to PROVOKE you into thinking about and investigating the nonsense you endlessly spout and the unsupported and exclusively rhetorical claims and protestations you continually pour onto these comment columns.

            Best wishes and kind regards

            RO?

          • Edden

            Mr Rational… “Well done little Edden”……You are losing it and I do not know why you bother to continue only that you are displaying an attitude of distress that you have been humiliated. If you were so
            convinced that I had failed there is absolutely no way you would harass me like this. Stop trying to scrounge little face saving tit bits by falsely claiming you have any admissions from me. You are betraying defeat but if you had quietly slipped out a while back you might have avoided your current exposure. You have become ratty and rant driven having been shown up. That it what it is Mr Rational.

            Now YOU made claims. You failed to prove them. You are absolutely desperate to try and turn the heat on me aren’t you? It shows big time. But you failed to prove your claims. You have not discredited the NT. Indeed your foolishness has done the opposite. No. I will not be baited on a goose chase in all the fads you want to bring up. You failed in evidence. YOU. I am really not put off by rhetoric and endless strained and forced terms and speech. Own up to your responsibilities and be honest man.

            Stop hating God Mr Rational. More able men than you have opposed Him and failed.

          • rationalobservations?

            Please try not to get so hysterical Edden.

            You find yourself unable to answer yet more questions asked of you. Never mind.

            I hate nothing but ignorance, cruelty and deception btw. How could anyone hate any
            of “the gods” that exist exclusively within human imagination?

            “Stop hating god”????
            Do you hate Amun, Zeus, Eostre or Quetzalcoatl?
            Do you hate the 300,000 named supernatural entities of the Hindu faith, and Alah etc et al?

            If you hate them, you must believe in them. If you believe in them why do you worship only one among them? If you do not believe in them, why would you hate them?

            I have tried to coax you into discussion. I have tried to provoke you into argument based upon evidence and I have presented you with many facts and much evidence to debate. You refuse to argue, debate or discuss anything.., so I will happily leave you to your stubborn single minded delusions with a clear conscience that I at least attempted to engage with you my friend.

            Best wishes to you and yours as ever

            RO?

          • Edden

            Rational…You know I am not hysterical and you cannot prove that I am hysterical either. You are getting the point about your questtions. And with regard to hypocrisy you need to look at yourself first. I could not care less about idols and all the Hindu items you have now brought up. You are truly running out of steam to bring all this stuff up!

            “I have tried to coax you into discussion”. What a blurb! You have failed to prove your case and have tried to excuse yourself by changing the subject. That is all.

          • rationalobservations?

            Once again you demonstrate your obsession with following me while having nothing relevant to add.

            I have never altered the case I make. That being that there is NOTHING that supports the myths and legends to be found within the NT story book.

            You have produced NOTHING that supports the myths and legends to be found within the NT story book.

            You merely appear too stupid to accept that the case was won many weeks ago while you constantly deny that fact.

            Now:
            Please stop so obsessively bothering me with your nonsense!

          • Edden

            Yes you are really getting desperate are you not Mr Rational? Why continue? Just firing off bland accusations of myth and legend but never with the hard evidence to back yourself up. Opinion and nothing else.
            Indeed it is certainly opinion. Its believe it because you want to or refuse to believe it because you hate it. Thats what it is Stop hating your enemy RO. It has cetainly affected your judgment.
            “Bothering me with your nonsence.” Come on RO. Why and earth do you follow me then and refuse to let this go? What a ridiculous statement. You have been repetative to an obssesive extreme and you say this! If you thought your case was so victorious and mine so defeated there is no way you would have continued on like this following me. You have been totally humiliated that is all. Your very speech and terms betray you and you have decended to insults by calling me stupid. In fact by using terms like “obsessive you are just copying me with regard to words I am completely right to use of you. Yes I notice that too. You are copying me too. You should have given up with dignity a long while back.

          • rationalobservations?

            Dear Edden,

            Your position of blind and unquestioning faith is noted.

            Your ongoing denial of all and any evidence is also noted.

            You have proved the strength of your indoctrination and your refusal to contemplate or investigate anything that contradicts your indoctrination.

            Get back to me when you have something (ANYTHING!) that supports or corroborates your position.

            Otherwise, please, please stop bothering me with the same old (same old.., yawn) nonsense and unsupported boastful vacuous claims and hysterical accusations.

          • http://www.facebook.com/tsu.donim Tsu Do Nim

            Plenty of evidence discussed in this Wikipedia article ‘The Historicity of Jesus’, e.g.:
            Virtually all modern scholars of antiquity agree that Jesus existed,[1][2][3][4] and biblical scholars and classical historians regard theories of his non-existence as effectively refuted.[5][6][7] While there is little agreement on the historicity of gospel narratives and their theological assertions of his divinity[8][9][10][11] most scholars agree that Jesus was a Galilean Jew who was born between 7 and 2 BC and died 30–36 AD.[12][13][14]

          • rationalobservations?

            I call your Wiki page (I will correct it later) and raise you:

            http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2010/11/12/the-historicity-of-jesus/

            http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/scott_oser/hojfaq.html

            http://www.nobeliefs.com/exist.htm

            Quote:

            “Doesn’t it just make more sense to assume that there was a
            historical Jesus, even if we are unable to recover the real facts about his life and death? As it turns out, no. The opposite is true: the closer we look at the evidence for Jesus, the less solid evidence we find; and the more we find suspicious silences and curious resemblances to the pagan and Jewish religious ideas and philosophies that preceded Christianity. And once you begins to parse out the origins of this tradition or that teaching from their various sources, the sweater begins unraveling quickly until it becomes very difficult to buy that there ever was –- or even could have been –- any historical figure at the center.

            Christianity, like all religious movements, was born from mythmaking; and nowhere is this clearer than when we examine the context from which Jesus sprang. The supposed historical underpinning of Jesus, which apologists insist differentiates their Christ from the myriad other savior gods and divine sons of the ancient pagan world,
            simply does not hold up to investigation.”

            The above author mirrors the findings of all who dig into the origins of the texts that eventually found their way into modern bibles after mush editing and alteration down the centuries from their very first extant appearances (in the 4th to 11th centuries).

            I have no answer to the question of whether a 1st century Jewish man named Yshua or Joshua (only later interpreted into Greek as the otherwise meaningless and non-Hebrew word “Jesus”) existed. There is NOTHING that confirms the existence of such an individual outside of biblical legends.

            Every (EVERY!) claimed reference to the works of “christian fathers” leads to a dead end sometime after the enforcement of the then new Roman state religion of “christianity” in the 4th century.

            The oldest versions of “Paul’s letters”? None exist prior to the explosion of around 800 different versions in the 8th century.

            The odd, and out of any context, brief references to “Jesus” within the histories of Josephus? First appear a “copy” of the works of Josephus hand written by Greek scribes under instruction from “the church” c7th century.

            The works of Tacitus? The oldest “copy” was written around 850AD in Germany.

            I have investigated each and every claim of contemporary “eye witness” reports or the writings of “church fathers” and each and every one was hand written by scribes employed by, or in thrall to, the church of Rome and merely back dated and/or attributed to those under who’s name they are attributed.

            For me; the barely probable existence of an entirely human and mortal wandering Jewish/Hebrew philosopher/teacher called Yshua/”Jesus” is immaterial to the total absence of any reference to the fantastical fables that much later evolved regarding his exploits and the utter historical silence in all and every history and/or record regarding those amazing and newsworthy exploits later written as the story we all know today.

            The almost endless mythologies that include “gods” or “god-men” fathered by a god and “gods” or “god-men” who died to “rise again” that precede the writing of the legend of “Jesus” are too many and too similar to be a mere coincidence?

          • Edden

            Stop using dodgy sources Mr Rational. It is against common sense security procedure for people to access links anyway, .

          • rationalobservations?

            Please indicate the errors within the evidence provided.
            Please provide independent and verifiable evidence of the biblical mythology you have failed to defend.
            Until and unless some external evidence is discovered to prove the myths and fables that are exclusive to bibles written by anonymous men during the course of some 16 centuries, bibles will continue to appear to be the most dodgy source of all!

            Your reiterate the oft utilised cop out that you appear to think excuses your utter lack of interest in all sources that contradict and expose the ridiculous fables you espouse but fail to defend. Your avoidance of the truth does not in any way undermine the credibility of the truth.

            Ad hominem and ad hominem by proxy is yet another admission of your failure to provide any rational and evidence supported argument.

            Get over it young man!

          • Al

            Just so no one thinks there isn’t good scholarship on evidence that is persuasive and comprehensive “proves the historicity of the Bible” one author and scholar to read (there are hundreds if not thousands of works) read N.T. Wrights book
            “http://www.amazon.com/Testament-People-Christian-Origins-Question/dp/0800626818/ref=sr_1_9?ie=UTF8&qid=1362717131&sr=8-9&keywords=N.T.+Wright”

            I found the book very helpful and convincing. His methods and research on the topic are second to few works.

          • rationalobservations?

            Hi Al, and many, many thanks for actually engaging in debate regarding the potential historicity of the bible stories. All too many adopt an entrenched position that the NT texts are unquestionably true and ignore everything else.

            I have read the book you refer to, and many others regarding christian apologetics. N T Wright starts from the assumption that the NT bible is a factual and historical collection of stories and eye witness accounts and attempts to justify that as fact. Another interesting and fairly similar book is simply titled “Christian Apologetics” from Cornelius Van Til. The blurb reveals the agenda: “Van Til shows how
            Christian apologetics is rooted in a unified system of scriptural truth,
            a worldview that encompasses all spheres of knowledge.” All books on christian apologetics that I have read follow the same agenda.

            If you only study the content of the bible, it is impossible to verify the content of one book (the NT bible) from the texts within that book. If each book was assessed purely on its content, perhaps we would all believe that the Earth was invaded by Martians in the closing part of the 19th century from studying the content of H G Wells “War of the Worlds”?

            As a fully fledged and committed regular church going, bible studying, minister assisting christian in my youth, it was the discovery of so many contradictions and inconsistencies between the gospels that sparked my curiosity to study all the non-biblical records of the time in order to make sense of what increasingly appeared to make little sense. That journey of research started several decades ago and has yielded nothing of any real significance at all from before the mid 2nd century.

            So far as the hand written texts that are similar (but not identical) to the content of modern NT bibles: All historical roads lead to Rome and fade out prior to the 4th century.

            If anyone starts from a position of certainty in faith, the books of christian apologetics do little to unsettle that faith. Taking the view point that the confusion and contradictions within NT bibles cast some doubt upon the veracity of individual stories within it, the transition to non-belief in the judeo-christian mythology appears to be almost inevitable? My own transition to atheism included the investigation of many other major of minor religious faiths, cults and sub cults and the whole picture of some 6000 years of superstitions and religions spawning from prior superstitions and religions is quite fascinating for those who have an real interest in such things.

          • Al

            rationalobservations?

            Thanks for your response. I do find it helpful and challenging. One questions I would have is if you can cite some works that I can read and review? Books helps me more than just quick articles. Not saying that articles aren’t helpful but books on the subject tend to be more helpful, thorough, and engage the arguments. It also makes good criticism easier. It also allows me to see if there are many scholars out there that support your conclusions and then I can criticize and learn from it. I can also see if there is good criticism out there for the works you cite.

            You write: “So far as the hand written texts that are similar (but not identical) to the content of modern NT bibles: All historical roads lead to Rome and fade out prior to the 4th century. ”

            I would love to read if there are any other scholars that agree with the quote you stated below and if there are criticisms to that statement. Can you provide me with a reference or book that agree with the statement? Or any other things you mention. Maybe I can dig up good responses to these questions or comments.

            I can cite hundreds of authors like N.T. Wright and other textual critics who see the problems you see in the manuscripts and find ways to resolve these issues (through reason, study, and science). I’m sure you know that.

            I guess I’m confused why you think no one could possibly come to believe in Christianity, or that someone is somehow less intellectual when they come to believe the historicity of the Bible after studying the evidence and works from authors who have also studied the evidence?

            If you are looking for 100% certainty that the Bible is right or %100 certain it’s false I don’t believe you will find that. I haven’t and I’m OK with that. I’m not trying to argue for a “leap of faith” here. For example, I’m trained as an engineer and I don’t live my life or practice engineering by trying to get to 100% certainty, so I don’t apply that requirement of certainty to my belief or unbelief in scripture. For example, when we release medical devices we do testing to get us to probabilities that are acceptable based on the risk inherent in the device and risk to the patient. I can get really good confidence that the device will not harm someone but to get to 100% certainty is impossible, I would never release the device if this was what was required and we release devices all the time that could potentially harm patients. We live with some uncertainty although we do try to minimize it by doing some testing. Textual critics like N.T. Wright never get me to certainty, just keep the probabilities high (unless someone can provide arguments that raise the uncertainty). But just because I don’t have 100% certainty doesn’t mean I stop believing and trusting the text. To get to certainty you need something else. In the case of medical devices, I won’t know with 100% certainty it’s safe until we release it and start using it in the field (or maybe just higher likelihood). I could say the same thing of Christianity, you won’t get to certainty until you apply what the text teaches.

            I’ve read Van Til and I really do appreciate his thinking. You are right to point out that “If anyone starts from a position of certainty in faith” it is easier to end up with the conclusion that you started with. But to imply that there is something wrong with this is unhelpful, there is nothing wrong with starting with a presuppesition of faith and solidifying what you believe. There is also nothing wrong with changing your position. Also, this argument doesn’t help your cause, since I can argue that Atheist who perform textual criticism only continue to disbelieve because they never wanted to believe in the first place. It gets us nowhere. I could argue that you don’t believe because don’t want to believe in a God who tells you your greatest joy will only come by being in his presence , but I won’t do that because that won’t answer your question and will get us very far.

            What I appreciate about NT.Wrights books (and others) are that he does engage with alternative positions and arguments and many times does it in depth. You are right that he starts from a position of assuming that this is historical and he himself does believe the texts, but he explains in the book what the evidence is, why it’s OK to believe, the methods he uses, the critics he reasons against, and then he moves past that and gets to the meaning of the text (which is outside the scope of this comment)

            All I ask (well maybe not all) from textual critics (including NT Wright) is that they tell me ahead of time if they believe the text or not, then allow them to use methods they are trained in to analyze the text and tell me their thinking behind what they are doing and why they come to the conclusions they come to.

            I’m not denying that you started in the Christian faith and became an atheist due to study and reasoning after looking at the textual evidence yourself. What I’m saying is that there are people out there that the exact opposite is true. There are many of them. So I’m willing to engage your arguments and read your suggested readings, but I’m asking that you not make a mistake of assuming that there aren’t smart people out there (smarter than you and me… maybe just me) who have come to faith in Christ by studying and dealing with the criticisms you point out and have enough certainty to follow Christ. But I will try to engage with your criticism if I can read them in more depth, feel free to cite books or authors.

            One last things,

            You also said:
            “If you only study the content of the bible, it is impossible to verify the content of one book (the NT bible) from the texts within that book. If each book was assessed purely on its content, perhaps we would all believe that the Earth was invaded by Martians in the closing part of the 19th century from studying the content of H G Wells “War of the Worlds”?”

            I get your point……. but “War of the Worlds” never claims to be non-fiction (as cool as that would be). So I would never try to asses the history of that book since its, well, it’s fiction and we know it. The Bible on the other hand does claim to be historical by how it was written. The Bible never claims to be fiction (other than parables, poems, ect in the Bible). and textual critics and historians don’t read it as fiction but try to analyze if what it says is true with other texts. Also, the Bible is made of up multiple books and genres of writting. I could argue that one way to verify the content is to check if the books are consistent since the books in the Bible were written by different authors. But I do agree that it’s necesary to verify the text with other historical records, and people have done this and continue to do this. I could argue that the Bible is probably one of the most well studied historical texts ever.

            Sorry for long response and any grammatical errors.

          • rationalobservations?

            Many thanks for your considered response once again Al.

            I will respond in greater detail when I have a little more time but it is the result of many thousands of hours reading, visiting the museums and libraries across the UK and around the world and personal digging in known and/or recently discovered archaeological sites – plus face to face “interrogation” of museum curators – that has led to the very, very abridged summary of my personal findings and the conclusions I draw from those findings. I have discovered many historians and archaeologists who reflect similar conclusions but most folk are confined by their own specialty and I know of no one else who has been as wide ranging and cross disciplined as I have while meandering through so many geographic and scholarly fields. I have been called “obsessive” in my quest for truth and hard evidence. Fascinated and committed would be my own description.

            Some things that jump out from your reply:

            You write: “I guess I’m confused why you think no one could possibly come to believe in Christianity, or that someone is somehow less intellectual when they come to believe the historicity of the Bible after studying the evidence and works from authors who have also studied the evidence?”

            I’m not sure what led you to these assumptions? I stated the case that I personally found it impossible to continue in belief quite soon after discovering the discrepancies and contradictions within the NT bible. I note that several other ex-christians express similar reasons for there move to non-belief. I also note from a few years of interaction in debate and discussion within comment columns that many christians do not comprehend the evidence I present or the reason for my own now long established atheism. Blanket denial, abuse and ad hominem is unfortunately the most common and routine response met when discussing these issues on line.

            I have however had many long and interesting exchanges with christian advocates and that has in the past led to information and evidence I was previously unaware of. In every case though; the references to the “proof” of texts written by “church fathers” has led to texts written by anonymous scribes written long after the lifetime of those they are merely back dated and attributed to.

            I would not wish to risk an accusation of ad hominem with respect to the Rt Revd Tom Wright. He is an undoubted scholar regarding biblical texts but has no non-biblical evidence to put forward in support of the historicity of the texts we all know within modern NT bibles and all reference he makes to the dating of texts is circular from the bible but not born out in actual extant texts dated to the time in which they are claimed to refer.

            Science has moved on further in the past 50 years or so than in all of history before. The forensic examination techniques now available to old papyri and other manuscripts is ever more exact and the forensic methods of text typing can pin point the time in which writing took place regardless of the age of the papyrus, manuscript or velum upon which the text is written. While there are texts that date from prior to the establishment of the then new official state religion of christianity in Rome in the 4th century, they are few and far between and appear to be ambiguous with regard to the more extensive and for some, more fantastical texts and codex that appear from the middle of the 4th century onward. The oldest extant text referred to by most scholars is the Rylands Library Papyrus P52, also known as the St. John’s fragment and that is about the size of a beer mat and dates from around 150 CE, at least 120 years after the events to be read in much, much later written extant texts, codex and bibles.

            Kind regards and have a great week end

            RO?

          • Al

            Just a quick note on Titus Flavius Josephus. You are right to say that the mentions of Jesus are disputed by scholars. However Josephus writtings which are not nearly as disputed (or generally agreed up by scholars that they are authentic even most modern scholars) mention two other biblical and historical figures and hold up to biblical accounts. One is the mention of “John the baptist” and the other of “James the Brother of Jesus”…. Although this may not be as important to you, it is important in validating what is in New Testament scripture and gives more weight to the historical accounts of the Bible and the existence of Jesus.

            “brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James, ” This is a translated quote from Josephus writtings. It’s important to note that scholars think Josephus mentions “who was called Christ” to distinguish from other Jesus’ of that time. This mention of Jesus is not considered an interpolation.

            It makes the “legend of Jesus” much more likely.

          • rationalobservations?

            The lengthy tombs attributed to Josephus are an insight into the politics and history of the 1st century. His obsession with detailing the events relating to even minor and long forgotten Roman and Jewish administrators etc is almost mind-boggling but quite fascinating nonetheless.

            It has been claimed as an excuse for the absolute lack of original biblical texts and documents that the fragile nature of papyrus and early papers means that nothing survived from those early times. The fact that some very detailed and extensive 1st century records of another messianic cult or sect have survived from the 1st century with no mention of the characters or events of the NT within them would appear to confound that excuse.

            Another excuse for the absolute lack of original texts is the obvious lack of multiple copies being easily produced since each copy was hand written often by teams of scribes. The oldest “copy” of the works of Josephus is dated as being hand written in the late 7th or early 8th century and contains the references you mention. Here’s the thing though: If another “copy” was produced to provide a resource for scholars, why destroy all previous “copies” if each was identical to that from which it was being copied? You correctly write that opinions differ with regard to the extent of the interpolation within those oldest copies of Josephus and/or some 800 different 8th century “copies” of the letters attributed to “Paul” that have no extant precursors.

            The development of all religious mythologies appears to follow a similar path back to very ancient times. God were re-named and fantastical events attributed to one “god-man” seamlessly adopted and applied to another. The Hebrew pantheon of gods and goddesses that are remarkably similar to earlier pantheons of neighbouring cultures prior to all reference to any gods but Yahweh being obliterated around 450/500 BCE. The many similarities of the legend of Abraham with the Eastern Brahman cults and the similarity of arcaich “Hebrew” to Indian dialects appears to be more than coincidental also.

            In his History of the Jews, the Jewish scholar and theologian Flavius
            Josephus (37 – 100 A.D.), wrote that the Greek philosopher Aristotle had said: “…These Jews are derived from the Indian philosophers; they are named by the Indians Calani.” (Book I:22.)

            Clearchus of Soli wrote, “The Jews descend from the philosophers of India. The philosophers are called in India Calanians and in Syria Jews. The name of their capital is very difficult to pronounce. It is called ‘Jerusalem.'”

            “Megasthenes, who was sent to India by Seleucus Nicator, about three hundred years BCE, and whose accounts from new inquiries are every day acquiring additional credit, says that the Jews ‘were an Indian tribe or sect called Kalani…'” (Anacalypsis, by Godfrey Higgins, Vol. I; p. 400.)

            Martin Haug, Ph.D., wrote in The Sacred Language, Writings, and Religions of the Parsis, “The Magi are said to have called their religion Kesh-î-Ibrahim.They traced their religious books to Abraham, who was believed to have brought them from heaven.” (p. 16.)

            The deeper anyone digs and the more anyone traces anything back to the oldest extent version or possibly/probably the original and first authorship of texts that were then back dated and merely attributed to earlier historical (or mythological) individuals, the less credible the whole thing becomes….

          • rationalobservations?

            Hi again Al.

            I started to compile a list of atheist historians and archaeologists but that is very time consuming since most leading scholars and scientists are atheists these days and each has there own specialised expertise and papers/books that comprised have added to my own knowledge on the subject. Maybe do some digging for yourself? I warn you however that it has taken me decades to piece together the bigger picture and the deeper historical evidence that debunks gods and religion.

            You appear to be most interested in the theological works of employees of the church likethe Rt Revd N T Wright?

            You may be interested to read a counter argument to some of the apologetics you refer to?

            Archaeological evidence for the Bible?

            There is a great deal of evidence against biblical mythology and nothing (outside of bibles) from within the 1st century in support. There’s also circumstantial archaeological evidence that supports the Baghavad Gita, but I doubt any christians consider that an inspired text.

            Jesus fulfilled OT biblical prophecies?

            The “prophesies” reported as fulfilled in the NT bible are nearly all absent from the OT bible.

            Scientific facts in the Bible?

            Only the most convoluted “interpretation” of biblical descriptions of the material and biological evolution of the Universe, Earth and life on Earth can make some of the legends come close to the truth. There are also 1000’s of scientific impossibilities and absolute errors to be found within bibles.

            Biblical accounts of Jesus?

            None (NONE!) of the stories within the NT bible were written by contemporaries alive at the time in which those stories are set., All extant texts (mostly small fragments prior to the 3rd century) were written at least 150 years after (and most many centuries after) the stories they tell and many of which are known and long proved
            forgeries.

            Why would the apostles willingly face severe persecution and martyrs’ deaths for something they know they made up?

            There is nothing to corroborate the stories contained within
            modern bibles so anything written long, long after the event – and mostly many centuries after the time in which those stories are set – is dubious.

            Then again: Ask that of the Heaven’s Gate Cult and the Branch Davidians who died at Waco, TX or the suicide bombers who destroyed the Twin Towers and islamic “martyrs” who continue to murder innocents in the name of another god a “prophet/god-man”
            across the middle east and elsewhere. The depth of indoctrinated faith is no validation of that faith regardless of the “god” or religion involved.

            Regarding the New Testament’s claim that Jesus fulfilled the messianic prophecies:

            There are 23 actual prophecies about the Hebrew/ Jewish Messiah and none of them are in the Torah (the first five books of the Tanakh):

            * The Sanhedrin will be re-established (Isaiah 1:26)

            * Once he is King, leaders of other nations will look to him for guidance.
            (Isaiah 2:4)

            * The whole world will worship the One God of Israel (Isaiah 2:17)

            * He will be descended from King David (Isaiah 11:1) via King Solomon (1 Chron. 22:8-10)

            * The Moshiach (“messiah”) will be a man of this world, an observant Jew with “fear of God” (Isaiah 11:2)

            *****In other words – this must all be accomplished in a human lifetime by a mortal and human man*****

            * Evil and tyranny will not be able to stand before his leadership (Isaiah 11:4)

            * Knowledge of God will fill the world (Isaiah 11:9)

            * He will include and attract people from all cultures and nations (Isaiah 11:10)

            * All Israelites will be returned to their homeland (Isaiah 11:12)

            * Death will be swallowed up forever (Isaiah 25:8)

            * There will be no more hunger or illness, and death will cease (Isaiah 25:8)

            * All of the dead will rise again (Isaiah 26:19)

            * The Jewish people will experience eternal joy and gladness (Isaiah 51:11)

            * He will be a messenger of peace (Isaiah 52:7)

            * Nations will end up recognizing the wrongs they did to Israel (Isaiah
            52:13-53:5)

            * The peoples of the world will turn to the Jews for spiritual guidance
            (Zechariah 8:23)

            * The ruined cities of Israel will be restored (Ezekiel 16:55)

            * Weapons of war will be destroyed (Ezekiel 39:9)

            * The Temple will be rebuilt (Ezekiel 40) resuming many of the suspended mitzvot

            * He will then perfect the entire world to serve God together (Zephaniah 3:9)

            * Jews will know the Torah without Study (Jeremiah 31:33)

            * He will give you all the desires of your heart (Psalms 37:4)

            * He will take the barren land and make it abundant and fruitful (Isaiah 51:3, Amos 9:13-15, Ezekiel 36:29-30, Isaiah 11:6-9).

            Some of the many reasons Jesus couldn’t be the Hebrew/Jewish Messiah:

            * Divine birth/divinity – (the Jewish Messiah will be human – god cannot become human – Deuteronomy 6:4, Isaiah 44:6, Hosea 11:9, Ezekiel 28:2, Numbers 23:19)
            – Not applicable to the “Jesus” of the NT.

            * Performing miracles – (JM won’t perform miracles) – Not applicable to the “Jesus” of the NT.

            * Taking on the sins of others – (no one can take on the sins of others – Deuteronomy 24:16, Exodus 32:30-35, Ezekiel 18:1-4; 20-24; 26-27) – Not applicable to the “Jesus” of the NT.

            * Breaking Sabbath – strike (JM will be observant) – Not applicable to the “Jesus” of the NT.

            * Sacrificed/rising from the dead – (god rejects human sacrifice and blood sacrifice is NOT an absolute requirement – Deuteronomy 12:30-31, Jeremiah 19:4-6, Psalm 106:37-38, Ezekiel 16:20, Leviticus 5:11-13, Jonah 3:10, Leviticus 17, Leviticus 5:11-13, Numbers 16:47, Numbers 31:50, Isaiah 6:6-7, Jeremiah 7:22-23, Psalm 51:16-17) – Not applicable to the “Jesus” of the NT who we are asked to believe sacrificed himself (“god the son”) to himself (“god the father”) to “redeem the sins of mankind”.

            * Prophecies unfilled – (JM will accomplish them in one life time) – Not applicable to the “Jesus” of the NT.

            * Being worshiped – Jews worship god and only god – Not applicable to the “Jesus” of the NT.

            Geneological errors in Christianity:

            1. The Messiah is born of two human parents, as we said. But Jesus, according to Christian theology, was born of a union between a Human woman and God, rather than two HUMAN parents, as was Hercules, and Dionysis, as well as many other pagan gods, Egyptian Pharaohs, Roman emperors and 100s of others.

            2. The Messiah can trace his lineage through his human biological father, back to King David (Isaiah 11:1,10; Jeremiah 23:5; Ezekiel 34:23-24; 37:21-28; Jeremiah 30:7-10; 33:14-16; and Hosea 3:4-5). But Jesus’s lineage cannot go through his human father, according to Christian theology, as Jesus’s father was not Joseph the husband of Mary. According to Christian theology, Jesus’s father was God.

            3. The Messiah traces his lineage only through King Solomon (II Samuel 7:12-17; I Chronicles 22:9-10). But according to Luke 3:31, Jesus was a descendant of Nathan, another son of King David, and not a descendant of King David through King Solomon.

            4. The Messiah cannot trace his lineage through Jehoiakim, Jeconiah, or Shealtiel, because this royal line was cursed (I Chronicles 3:15-17; Jeremiah 22:18,30). But according to both Matthew 1:11-12 and Luke 3:27, Jesus was a descendant of Shealtiel.

            There is a mountain of similar discrepancies and contradictions within the NT bible. Too many to list and too many for many of us to ignore in favour of blind faith in what folks employed by religion say and what generations of scribes wrote, re-wrote, edited and embellished down many centuries leading to the content of bibles that exist today.

            Kind regards

            RO?

          • al.

            Rational,

            Do you want a response to some of the things you mentioned and referenced?

            If so, I’ll also need a little time. I disagree with some of what you write but I appreciate the questions and observations.

            I’ve read a few critics, Bart Erhman and Richard Carrier are two names I have in mind, but I’ve read a few other ). So I am interested in other critics. Anyone in particular you have in mind?

            NTWright is not the only guy I’ve read. Just a helpful source. Have you read his book “Resurrection of the Son of God, Christian Origins and the Question of God”?. He uses other sources other than the Bible to build his case. It’s not like he ignores other sources to come to his conclusions. And he articulates his methods and reasons why he comes to the conclusions he comes. He engages with many of your concerns even though you say he doesn’t deal with other sources than the Bible.

            I know the evidence is not as non-existent as you make it seem, but I’ll have to provide some references.

            Thanks.

            What does RO mean?

          • rationalobservations?

            You write:

            “I disagree with some of what you write but I appreciate the questions and observations.”

            Almost anything within the evidence I pass on is enough to cast doubt upon the historicity of the NT bible claims.

            You once again refer to the works of the Rt Revd Tom Wright. I would once again point out that as a paid employee of “the church” he is hardly likely to undermine the mythology of that organisation. The spurious non-biblical “evidence” is always inconsequential to the stories within the bible and the matter of the City of Nazareth not existing between c300BCE and c250CE is never addressed by anyone but real professional archaeologists.

            You appear to put all your faith in “what some folks say” when you ask for reference works. If you read only christian apologetics you will only aver get exposure to christian propaganda. It has taken me literally decades to reach the picture I perceive by actually digging for archaeological evidence in the ground as well as sifting through 1000s of books that are NOT specifically on the subject of theology or the legend of “Jesus” / Yshua.

            I suggest that you cease your search for the truth and do not trouble yourself to question your faith, or open your mind to the vast number of sources of facts that contradict the legends of bibles. Most religionists follow the first suggestion since the alternative IS hard work and invariably leads to atheism.

          • http://twitter.com/ronmurp Ron Murphy

            Tsu Do Nim,

            I have before me a piece of paper that declares that that I, Ron Murphy, am the body of the second coming of Christ. I wrote it. My only explanation for it is that it must be divinely inspired, for I considered myself to be an atheist. Can you help me figure out whether it’s a genuine word of God, or me making stuff up. There’s a post script I just wrote: “This is the latest, and will be the last, one true word of God, and makes all previous contracts null and void. Consult Ron Murphy on all other theological details, since as the second coming he is my agent on earth.”

            This even must be recognised as extraordinary. I mean, why else would God choose me, an atheist, as the embodiment of Christ? This is far more extraordinary than the myths of 2000 years ago. It’s even current, which answers all those critics who keep banging on about ignorant goat herders. And this time is an extraordinary one too. Just as religious belief has been challenged by the New Atheists, and has been helped over the turn of the new century by ever more atrocities carried out in His name, and the abuse of children has occurred at the hands of Catholic priests, this surely must be a sign, coming as it does right now. This is an answer to so many religious prayers.

            Hold on, there’s a message coming through as I type….Yes, ok. Well, the latest is that whatever theological hoops theists had jumped through before to explain away the seemingly logical falsity of their previous arguments should now be directed whole heartedly at defending this new doctrine. Any apparent falsity in this revelation should be considered an error on the readers part of not being sufficiently sophisticated to interpret it, and is in no way an indication of the fallibility of Ron Murphy.

          • theobelix

            that’s 2 questions

          • SimonNorwich

            Sorry for the late reply, but I was away and Edden accused me of running away from you!

            The god you describe as being “a Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in his being…”, is he visible?

            Please don’t just say something like, yes he’s visible in all the beauty we see around us, because (a) we could say that anything, including my rabbit, is responsible for all the beauty in the world and (b) if he’s infinite you have to claim he’s also responsible for all the bad things in the world.

            It’s an age-old point I’ve made, but it’s never been answered except by the “he moves in mysterious ways” nonsense. I bet he can’t move any more mysteriously than my rabbit!

          • http://www.facebook.com/tsu.donim Tsu Do Nim

            According to the bible God was visible in Christ, and will be again when Christ returns:

            Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. (Rev 1:7)

          • rationalobservations?

            Surely you mean: “According to the MEN who wrote, re-wrote, edited, amended and endlessly embellished the bible…..”?

            Then there are the different and contradictory versions of the events written by those MEN and to be found within modern bibles as demonstrated by the two different versions of the “nativity”. In one; Mary & Joseph travel from the mythical City of Nazareth (modern Nazareth was founded in the 4th century) to Bethlehem and after the Birth fled to Egypt to escape the massacre of the babies and tots. In the other; J & M appear to live in Bethlehem and peacefully return home after the birth.

            Perhaps the best antidote to belief in the lies and legends within bibles., is to study and cross reference the lies and legends within bibles rather than cherry pick quotes from those lies and legends….

          • http://www.facebook.com/tsu.donim Tsu Do Nim

            “Surely you mean…”

            No. I believe Jesus spoke to men and did supernatural signs round them (the chief one being resurrected) which they either wrote accounts of or passed on to others who did so, particularly when the generation of eyewitnesses was beginning to die out. There are no older, unedited, unamended, pre-embellished versions of the bible.

            Luke does not recount the ‘flight to Egypt’ mentioned in Matthew, but then John and Mark doesn’t recount Jesus’s birth. That doesn’t lead me to infer that John and Mark would have us believe that Jesus was not born. Your assumption that Nazareth is mythical is strange. According to Wikipedia:

            “A few authors have argued that the absence of 1st and 2nd century AD textual references to Nazareth suggest the town may not have been inhabited in Jesus’ day.[52] Proponents of this hypothesis have buttressed their case with linguistic, literary and archaeological interpretations,[53] though such views have been called “archaeologically unsupportable”.[54]”

            My quotation was picked to answer SimonNorwich’s particular question about god’s visibility.

            You seem to be coming to the gospel texts with the presupposition that they are myth, legend, fable, and poison. Presuppositions can be very helpful but they can of course also be wrong.

          • rationalobservations?

            For thousands of years religious mythology has had good folk like you believing that “god-men” where fathered by one god or another and sometimes even “born of a virgin”. Everyone from “living god” Pharaohs through “living god” Roman emperors. There were also an almost endless stream of “gods” and “god-men” who died, or were killed, only to “rise again”. Sometimes killed or died on a Spring Friday to rise again the following Sunday and it is no coincidence that the Spring festival of re-birth dedicated to the goddess Eostre was seamlessly adopted for a later “god-man” and renamed “Easter” just as the midwinter festival of Saturnalia was seamlessly re-named “christ mass” but continued unaltered in almost every other way.

            The earliest/first complete codex bible IS the oldest and was hand written in four different writing styles by four scribes. It was started in the late 4th century. When the component parts of this venerable book were reassembled from their locations in various museums around the world and the book was made available for study on line only as recently as 2009. When the news was made public, there was much speculation that christian apologetics would be redundant since there are so many significant differences between the first bible and the modern ones we all know today.

            Full details at:http://codexsinaiticus.org/en/

            The origins of “christianity” may have been one or other of the known and recorded “messiahs” and their short lived cults between 4 BCE and 140 CE. The bulk of christian mythology, ritual and symbolism can be traced to prior “pagan” religions and all the major “christian” feast days and festivals where seamlessly “borrowed” from “pagan” ones. Also worth noting that the “halo” has a history that goes back at least 1400 years BCE and the seated bronze statue often mistaken for “Peter” and found today within the Vatican is in fact the statue of Zeus complete with his wheeled sun symbol above his head that was removed from the Parthenon in Rome when the then orthodox religion was outlawed and what the population considered to be the heretical fraud of christianity was imposed all across the Roman empire by Constantine in the 4th century.

            I came to the investigation of the gospels and the history of the christian religion from a position similar to the one you express. It is only the actual factual empirical historical evidence and utter and complete historical silence regarding the fables that led to the logical conclusion that it is all only a legend used to build and maintain first a then recently reunited empire and later a politico-corporate institution that is currently the wealthiest in the world.

            Assumptions, presumptions and blind faith I leave to others…

        • Edden

          You used the “man in the sky” comment purposely in order to be an insult. It was totally tongue in cheek because you are educated enough to know what Christians believe by God, and the other gentleman has explained clearly enough to you why. No doubt you will run away now as you have run away from Tsu Do Nim. Don’t come on here to load up insults and then try to look clever.

          • Red Mann

            Since Christians refer to their god as Father and use the pronoun he in reference to him, I think they see him as some kind of man or at least like a man. The alleged Jehovah is invisible and heaven is commonly refer to as “up there” or “beyond the blue” etc, I think “invisible man in the sky” is not too far off from what your average Christian perceives their god to be.

          • http://twitter.com/ronmurp Ron Murphy

            The more obscure and sophisticated your theology the less credible it gets, not more.

          • Edden

            Perhaps you might give me a run down of my theology Mr Murphy as you seem to know a lot about it.

          • http://twitter.com/ronmurp Ron Murphy

            My use of ‘your’ was general, as in ‘one’s’

            “to know what Christians believe by God”

            It doesn’t matter what your/one’s particular theology is because they all are based on a presupposition of some God, with never an explanation as to why that presupposition should be made. The presupposition is often disguised by reference to something else – sometimes the gospels, for example – but then that in turn always relies on the presupposition of a God, to do the revealing, the inspiring or whatever it might be.

            So, Christians, and other theists, simply make stuff up and use faith to affirm it. The whole point is to decide what you want to believe in and then do everything you can to convince yourself.

            Of course, there are so many variations on theologies that there’s always someone to pipe up “not my theology”

            So, in order that I might address your particular theology why not state it. Simply saying atheists aren’t sophisticated enough to get sophisticated theology is no real answer.

          • Edden

            It is a correct statement to say that the Bible does not seek to prove God’s existence but rather it assumes it with absolute authority. Indeed, its author has no need to prove Himself other than His own word which in and of itself is all the authority needed. It is for Him to make the demands and not us and we have no moral authority to do so.

            Atheism for its own part is not a default position and is a minority viewpoint as far as the human race is concerned. Atheism is much more a “learnt” position and owes as much to indoctrination that any
            religion does. There is hardly a discovered tribe or newly discovered community on earth that is found to be atheistic. This is because all mankind has a consciousness of “god” on his conscience but is often perverted by sinfulness.

          • http://twitter.com/ronmurp Ron Murphy

            That one’s religion tends to be that of one’s parents or one’s culture is evidence of indoctrination into theism. Even switching religion in adulthood, usually from discovering some dissatisfaction with one’s original, is still evidence of indoctrination into theism generally such that when fault is found in one them some other religion is sought. And if, as you say, atheism is a non-default position, and since it is usually acquired through discovering the emptiness of religious claims through study and reason and science then it seems far removed from indoctrination. The very nature of the methods of religion, faith, and the praxis that will cause you to believe eventually, and the often very rejection of reason, are indoctrinational.

            And as for the infallibility of some written work, it’s such a dumb gullibility to accept as truth what a book tells you because the book asserts its own infallibility, that you should have no trouble believing the latest written work of God that I described above to Tsu do nim.

          • Edden

            I am not really interested in rather lame terms like theism. However unbelief in the Lord’s Christ has nothing to do with reason or “science”. It has everything to do with wilful rejection of the heart. It is written:
            :”He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed”.(John 3 v18-20).
            This is a perfect description of unbelief. There is nothing reasonable about it in that sense. It is a wilful thing and pride is very much at the centre of it.

            Folk might come to faith in Christ from various differing back grounds. Some might come from superstitious positions. Other from unbelief and atheism. I have see all cases. Nevertheless in every case where true faith in Christ is found it is by the effectual work of the Holy Spirit because you and I have no ability to come to God of ourselves. If left to ourselves we would remain in unbelief.

          • http://twitter.com/ronmurp Ron Murphy

            No Edden, Your views have everything to do with wishful thinking. And as a matter of fact it is written, on my piece of paper, that God thinks you should pay attention to what I’m telling you because it is the last true word of God. It must be so; it must be a miracle, because it is so extraordinary that such a profound message should be given by God to mankind through a mere atheist like me. Can you not see how my piece of paper trumps your Bible?

          • Edden

            Ron Murphy. Your claim is utterly ridiculous and and is a very trivial ploy. You are not able to keep any of your promises and I certainly wouldn’t rely on you in a crisis!

          • Al

            Ron.. to say that Atheist come to believe in Atheism from “study and reason and science ” and imply that Christians come to believe in Christianity from only social indoctrination is too broad a brush. I’m not denying that some people believe what they believe because of their social indoctrination, but if this is true, it’s also true of Atheism. Some say that if a Christians wasn’t born in a Christian home, and instead born in Madagascar, they wouldn’t become a Christian. If that’s true, then an Atheist who was born in Madagascar wouldn’t become an Atheist either. Comments like that are not helpful. Atheist is the default position in many areas now, maybe some atheist believe what they believe do to social conditioning as well. Maybe some Atheist are “indoctrinated” as well through social pressures. I’m not saying that of you.

            I think people believe what they believe for three reasons. Intellectual reasons, social influence, and experience. This includes both Christians and Atheist. To say that Christians haven’t wrestled or thought about many of the questions you ask, is un-informed. Maybe that’s been your experience but it’s still un-informed. Some people come to faith in Christianity through much study, and wrestling with the issues. I’m not denying atheist don’t come to their conclusions in the same manner, just consider for a second that Christians also study, reason, and practice science and come to a different conclusion you do.

            “And as for the infallibility of some written work, it’s such a dumb gullibility to accept as truth what a book tells you because the book asserts its own infallibility”

            I’m not going to try and answer this. But here is a reason why this kind of circular reasoning is OK. It’s a video of Doug Wilson who went around debating with Christopher Hitchens for a while. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=afKgX6_RN54

          • http://twitter.com/ronmurp Ron Murphy

            “His own word” Really? Come on, ease up on the gullibility. What you’re reading is the output of a bunch of guys in Nicaea deciding on your behalf what you should believe. And every theological variation since then, in every sect, is just more made-up interpretations invented because someone else decided they wanted to tell you what to believe. The whole business is so naive.

          • satanaugustine

            The “man in the sky” is exactly how the Bible describes the Christian God (at certain points; in Genesis God is walking through the garden of Eden when he finds A&E hiding – I guess he wasn’t omniscient yet then since he actually had to physically walk to find them). The “man in the sky” is a Jewish invention later adapted by what became orthodox Christianity (some early “Christians” wanted to keep the Old Testament out of the Christian canon because it so obviously referred to an evil, angry, jealous, bloodthirsty God. These Christians were later deemed “heretics.” But only because their brand of Christianity didn’t win out).

            Long comment short: the man in the sky maybe a phenomenally stupid concept, but it is not an insult. It is the exactly how the Christian God is presented in the Bible, living in the “heavens” and all that nonsense. See Red Mann’s comment for further details.

            Addendum: I find it ridiculous that Christians are offended by the “man in the sky” comment since that is so obviously how the Christian God is represented in the Bible.

          • Edden

            The “man in the sky” is an insult and that is the reason why it is loaded up, otherwise it would not have been used. Folk load up insults normally when they are bad at proving a case.
            As far as your “nonsense” comment you are simply loading your own opinions. You are entitled to have opinions but that is all they are.

          • rationalobservations?

            You run away from every debate Edden, and never answer any question, or put forward any evidence in support of your ridiculous claims or recycled lies and propaganda.

            You have nothing to offer but childish insults.

          • Edden

            My goodness Rational. What is an evidenceless man like you doing in a place like this? I note you are even posting a few NT fraud fads above. That is before you saw me!! Anyway everything is in print. By the way did the NSS link to this one? I haven’t checked. Genuine question.

          • rationalobservations?

            I would invite anyone to investigate your record before engaging in dialog with you. I say dialog with some consideration since you never engage in debate but merely ignore (or deny) all empirical evidence and logic to plow on with your own delusional nonsense and lies.

            If you have independent (non-biblical mythology) evidence that confounds the information I impart and/or supports the fables within bibles: Bring it on! You haven’t done so during any exchange in the past.

            Denial is NOT debate.

            Opinion is NOT evidence.

            The strength of your personal delusion is no corroboration of the historical basis (or 4th century political origins) of those delusions.

          • Edden

            Rational…You did not produce any evidence to prove the NT was a fraud either in the DT or here. And you have not even done it in your reply to me here which is notable. You are just bellyaching and behaving in a totally unprofessional manner by bringing up things that bloggers here on this article have not seen ie your reams of stuff below the DT article. Simply referring to dates of very ancient documents does not in itself prove the NT was a fraud. If you want to prove it is a fraud then produce actual evidence of that fraud. You cannot do that here because you have no such proof. It is a conspiracy theory based on assumption and silence.
            You referrence to the dates of ancient texts may indeed be quite interesting. But it does not prove a case of fraud. OK. I have spelt it out again. Now unless you can actually prove your case that the NT is a fraud then please do so. Otherwise no clap trap claims please because we will see claims without evidence for what they are. Stop wasting your words like “delusions”. You render them meaningless.

          • rationalobservations?

            Edden

            You once again assert your personal opinion that “Simply referring to dates of very ancient documents does not in itself prove the NT was a fraud.”

            The absolute FACT remains (unchallenged by you) that the ONLY texts that exist are all hand written long after (up to at least 16 centuries after) the events they relate and all were written by anonymous scribes employed by, or in thrall to, “the church” religion and state institution that was founded in Rome (NOT Palestine!) in the 4th century.

            There are so very many current/modern “interpretations” of the “New Testament” that differ in content that I wonder which one you refer to that appears (from the extant evidence) to be a very long contrived fraud? Or maybe you refer to the oldest complete version of the NT bible that was hand written by four anonymous scribes in thrall to “the church”, and was started in the late 4th century and amended for some 800 years thereafter while remaining significantly different to modern NT bibles?

            You are quite entitled to your deeply held opinions Edden.

            You have done nothing to defend or support those opinions however.

          • Edden

            Rational….What is the point of repeating yourself like this? You continually state irrelevant things. “Unchallenged by me”. So what? I think you do understand and are just being dishonest. Indeed you have run out of ammunition so are just loading this incessant dribble. Point to me where I actually disputed certain dates of yours? You might be lying but I could not care less because you are loading up dumb silence and assumption based arguments. The dates you quote to do not discredit the Christian faith or the validity of the Bible. Could I not get on better with a parrot?

            Indeed you are trying to re state a claim or inference of a “contrived fraud”. You have said this in print. Either you are saying this or not. Have some guts man. You cannot prove this and your silence based stuff is your own assumptions based on a very anti Christian bias. Now go away and stop dating ancient manuscripts. Give me hard evidence of what you want to believe namely the NT is not valid and a fraud. You cannot do that! If you could you would have done it long ago and would be a happy man. But you are not a happy man. You are a very frustrated man because you cannot prove your case.

          • rationalobservations?

            My “case” (as you call it) is that there is nothing in the real world that supports or validates the confused and contradictory myths and legends that are exclusive to bibles. You have provided NOTHING from the real world that supports those myths and legends.

            Here’s a suggestion for you: Why don’t you just endlessly repeat the “mission statement” from one well known religionist on line lie factory?

            Merely typing the following would save you much time, frustration and embarrassment:

            “No apparent, perceived or claimed evidence in any field, including history and chronology, can be valid if it contradicts the Scriptural record.”

            That all encompassing cop out encapsulates your own closed mind and limited knowledge of everything outside of the nonsense you have been brain washed into believing.

        • Guest

          God is the ultimate necessary reality, the uncaused cause of the contingent universe. From Him steams moral values and duties, the Good, the Beautiful and Love stems from His nature too. He is all-knowing, all-mighty, and morally perfect, He transcend space, time and matter. God is no a man because man is a contingent being in which his existence relays on other causations (usually within the Universe).

          Also you can always read St. Thomas Aquinas’ SUMMA THEOLOGICA to know more about God’s nature and (some) properties

      • Guest

        God is the ultimate necessary reality, the uncaused cause of the contingent universe. From Him steams moral values and duties, the Good, the Beautiful and Love stems from His nature too. He is all-knowing, all-mighty, and morally perfect, He transcend space, time and matter. God is no a man because man is a contingent being in which his existence relays on other causations (usually within the Universe).

        Also you can always read St. Thomas Aquinas’ SUMMA THEOLOGICA to know more about God’s nature and (some knowable) properties.

        • http://twitter.com/ronmurp Ron Murphy

          Guest, how do you know all this? What credentials do you have for telling us what is and isn’t necessary in the matter of universe beginnings, created or otherwise? Always all this detail, from a supposedly ineffable God. Where do you get this from?

    • http://www.facebook.com/john.steindel.3 John Stell

      “Stamp collectors are not trying to take over the world, or impose their beliefs or ideas of morality on everyone else.”

      And of course ‘non stamp collectors’ are not. You are advanced from those of us across the pond, but over here religious types are increasingly descriminated against and even punished for their beliefs and morality. It’s everywhere in the news. I’m sure you are intellectually elite enough to see the irony, and morally bankrupt enough not to care.
      How Darwinially advanced you are to move us forward to ‘I will stop your imposing of beliefs and morality on me by imposing my beliefs and morality on you.’ Please tell me you have more than this recycled theistic philosphy to offer.

    • Daniel Maris

      Well Simon, then you are admitting Hitchens’ point – that the analogy is not at all accurate.

    • Peter Hitchens

      Yes, well, in that case the metaphor is no good, is it?

      • http://twitter.com/ronmurp Ron Murphy

        A metaphor, or an analogy, is used to express one point, that is either difficult to understand, or perhaps wilfully misunderstood, in terms of another that is easier to understand. The analogues being used do not have to be completely identical; and in fact, if there is some clear distinction that makes the analogue look absurd then that can be used to illustrate some absurdity in the original.

        1) Atheism is as much as a belief system as theism.

        2) Counter, using analogy: Atheism is to theism as non-stamp-collecting is to stamp-collecting. Atheism is no more a belief system that is non-stamp-collecting.

        This is a good analogy in that addresses aspects of belief and non-belief. This really is how all atheists I know see their atheism. It is a complete lack of belief in theistic stuff, for lack of evidence for theistic stuff.

        3) Silly objection: But non-stamp-collectors don’t make as much a fuss about stamp-collecting, as atheist do about theism.

        This is silly because that has nothing to do with the point of the analogy, that being to counter (1). You might as well say the analogy fails because theists don’t stick collected disparate pages of the gospels into a book. Okay, perhaps that is analogous to stamp-collecting. But surely you get the point. Grayling’s analogy is very specific in countering (1) and does so.

        But then, atheists add this, as an alternative counter to (3):

        4) Stamp-collectors don’t hold privileged positions, or try to impose stamp-collecting on non-stamp-collectors. If they did then non-stamp-collectors would make as much fuss as atheists do now about theists and theism.

        5) Silly objection: But stamp-collectors don’t do this, so analogy (2) is inappropriate.

        This is silly because it does not counter the original analogy, which still holds. And furthermore it is ignoring the second analogy being offered, that if stamp-collectors did do what theists do then non-stamp-collectors would make a fuss. It extends the first analogy with a second, but it is a different analogy.

        So, there are now two analogies: the first, which addresses belief and non-belief; and the second, which addresses how non-believers might legitimately respond to the impositions of believers, as atheists do, because theists do impose, and as non-stamp-collectors would, should stamp-collectors start to impose.

        I think such sloppy thinking is what lies behind much theology. There’s the shear lack of ability to dissect concepts, so that myth is seen as truth and theists can’t tell the difference. And, you could have offered better counters to (2), if only you’d thought about it a bit more clearly.

      • SimonNorwich

        The metaphor is very good, in my opinion, precisely because it reveals the absurdity!

    • Simon Semere

      You can’t fault an Atheist for not believing in god, to believe in god we’d have to walk on unsure grounds possibly crack the foundations that keep us readily poised.

    • http://swt.encyclomundi.org/ shackra sislock

      God is the ultimate necessary reality, the uncaused cause of the contingent universe. From Him steams moral values and duties, the Good, the Beautiful and Love stems from His nature too. He is all-knowing, all-mighty, and morally perfect, He transcend space, time and matter. God is no a man because man is a contingent being in which his existence relays on other causations (usually within the Universe).

      Also you can always read Saint Thomas Aquinas’ SUMMA THEOLOGICA to know more about God’s nature and (some knowable) properties.

      • SimonNorwich

        I love the way your “all-mighty”, “all-knowing” and “morally perfect” God, from which the “Good, the Beautiful and Love” stem, arranges for babies to develop cancer.

        And there’s nothing more beautiful or moral than seeing a child dying from malnutrition – except perhaps to see it drown in a Tsunami while a little parasitic worm eats its eyeball.

        • http://swt.encyclomundi.org/ shackra sislock

          To sin is to lose the mark, that is somebody failed to be good. The things that you describe acknowledge by themselves that there is something wrong with our universe, it lose the mark, so it failed to be Good. So actually you acknowledge, by describing those things that there is a transcendent standard of Goodness, that is talk about God.

          But, of course you will buy this book instead of some really good philosophy on the problem of evil by Alvin Plantingan because, well, this book fits with your own faith.

          • SimonNorwich

            Are you saying that every time I have a wank, some baby has to suffer a terrible disease?

          • http://swt.encyclomundi.org/ shackra sislock

            No, to say that a baby suffers of a terrible disease is to assert that the Universe failed to be Good, that is, it failed to be like God. No one else suffers from your “wanks” but you, I have some porn here http://www.patheos.com/blogs/badcatholic/2012/09/an-attempt-to-explain-christianity-to-atheists-in-a-manner-that-might-not-freak-them-out.html this shit is better than Richard Dawkins’ bigotry.

          • SimonNorwich

            I’ve looked at your link giving your explanation of Christianity. What a steaming pile of cack! You’d be better off going with my “invisible man in the sky” description.

          • http://swt.encyclomundi.org/ shackra sislock

            just keep trolling and all the facts will go away :)

          • SimonNorwich

            Calling someone a troll just because they disagree with you or think you’re talking nonsense is not an argument. And I’m very happy to discuss facts if you want to raise any.

      • rationalobservations?

        Most of us “know the nature of god” by its description in the OT bible. It is a heartless barbarous monster that casually commits mass murder while being so totally paranoid and egomaniacle that it condemns innocent humanitarians to eternal torment merely for dismissing its existence.

        There is nothing (NOTHING!) that indicates the historicity of the legends to be found in bibles and everything points to ancient barbarians inventing “gods” in their own image and with all their many human lusts for wealth and power and all their base flaws and faults.

        Thank goodness there are no “gods”.

        • http://swt.encyclomundi.org/ shackra sislock

          Trying to disprove the existence of God using the Bible is the same that trying to prove it using it, are you a Christian fundamentalist or just somebody that bought all the Richard Dawkins’ books hoping to read some good philosophy?

          • rationalobservations?

            It is pointless to try to disprove the non-existent just as it is pointless to attempt to prove the non-existent.

            Where no evidence of, or reason for, “gods” can be found; it is logical and rational to dismiss the possibility of any of the thousands of “gods” imagined by men.

            In the ridiculously unlikely (impossible!) event that one (or more!) of the many thousands of “the gods” dreamed up by men manifests itself, we will all believe. Until then, more and ever more of us dismiss all imaginary “gods” and get on with the more humanitarian matters of living, loving, and looking after our real life fellow creatures and our planet.

        • http://swt.encyclomundi.org/ shackra sislock

          I thought that I did reply you.
          Anyway, You acknowledge that the Bible is right on what It tell us? Because if the Bible is filled with fancy tales I don’t see any reason to believe those things about God. Or even that something I do not believe that do not exists have those properties.

          But, to use the Bible to disprove God’s existence is the same that using it to prove it, don’t you think? So, by what the nonsense that you use as an “argument” I just can think that you should stop buying those Richard Dawkins, Grayling and (Christopher) Hitchens books that are easily refutables and some of their “arguments” can be dismissed because they are just bigotry and misrepresentation about what Christianity is.

          • rationalobservations?

            I don’t think that bibles old and new are “right” about anything other than the age old humanistic philosophy of “do as you would be done by” and the common sense laws that are secular in nature. There is nothing (NOTHING!) that supports the mythological legends to be found in the Hebrew or the Roman/Greek bibles. No text, No artifact. No archeology.

            Having dismissed the content of bibles as confused and contradictory heroic/childish fiction; it would be irrational and illogical to consider the unique and fantastical fiction of bibles to attempt to either “prove”, or “disprove” the existence of the particular imaginary god (among many thousands of imaginary gods) described as a murderous barbarian in the OT and a savior in the NT.

            Trying to prove the existence of the nonexistent is nonsensical. Evidence of the nonexistent is nonexistent. The nonexistence of evidence of the nonexistent and imaginary is for many evidence that the nonexistent is indeed., nonexistent.

            My research (and my move from christian faith to informed humanitarian atheism) long predates the publication of the books you mention and the only book I have read by the authors you name is a little frustrating since it misses much evidence and ignores a mountain of evidence to be found within natural history and disciplines of science outside of the specializations of those authors.

            Unlike those people who are happy to accept what “some folk say” or “what some ancient folk wrote in bibles”., I prefer to do my own research and also travel to the locations of the myths being examined and research for myself.

            As for “bigotry”?

            My (curiosity led) investigation of the origins of christianity were somewhat clouded by christian bigotry in the expectation of finding much evidence in support of my christian faith. It took a while for that bigotry to be dispelled and a more open minded attitude to be adopted. After decades searching and researching that reveal nothing but the obvious machinations of human men, the only option open to an open minded searcher after truth; is humanistic atheism.

          • http://swt.encyclomundi.org/ shackra sislock

            of course, there is no evidence in the above comment that indicates the text were written by some sort of intelligent, creative and free willed being. The comment has some particular arrangement of letters, words and punctuation signs that we recognized as such, there is a inexplicable arrangement of words that looks like sentences with meaning, even paragraphs!. We no have any evidence that such being called rationalobservations?, the supposed author of the comment, do exists, therefore, We cannot say that such comment were made by a being at all, the more obvious answer is that the above comment just happen to exists 2 hours ago without any causation. There is people that claims that a being such being has authored the above comment 2 hours ago. But, we don’t have any evidence for his existence, as we said, nor for his either intelligence, creativeness or free will, and it may be true if you can trust on such people, but since there is no scientific explanation at all, we cannot resort on any other silly theory about a “man behind a keyboard”, anyone who claim otherwise can be dismissed as crazy for believing that the comment subject of study was done by such being, crazy because we cannot find evidence for his existence or for his supposed attributes, such “being” have to be some sort of imaginary being invented to use has explanation by desperate comment fanatics.

            The only logical explanation for the existence of the comment is that it happen to exists without causation 2 hours ago. nothing more.

          • rationalobservations?

            The truly logical explanation for anything that appears in the real world is that it has a natural origin. Since only human animals have developed spoken and written language of the kind you are reading now, it is self evident that anything written has a human origin.

            There has never been any verified and verifiable/repeatable demonstration or first hand experience of magic in the here and now at any time in history. Back dated fictional accounts of magical occurrences can be logically dismissed as fiction unless verified and replicated in the here and now..

            There has never been any verified and verifiable manifestation of any of the several hundred thousand “gods” dreamed up by men. Back dated fictional accounts of the manifestation of “gods” can be logically dismissed as fiction unless one or more of those “gods” manifests in the here and now.

            It is therefore safe to conclude that the only logical explanation for the existence of words written on tiny 2nd century scraps of papyrus, and similar but much more expanded and exagerated versions of the themes alluded to within those first scraps of hand written text, is of human origin and the work of many generations of human scribes.

            However: If you wish to believe that this reply to your entry has a supernatural source., be my guest and worship me from afar.

          • http://swt.encyclomundi.org/ shackra sislock

            We looks like this sort of “creative, intelligent and free willed being” (as many Commentator fanatics claims!) called rationalobservations? has try to prove himself to us. Sadly, we don’t have verifiable/repeatable demonstrations of his existence, without this, we cannot assert that he do exists as a fact and we cannot assert either that those strings of letters, sentences and paragraphs which spontaneously began to exists 24 hours ago were authored by him. Since we don’t have any other scientific explanation for the fact of those comments beginning to exist without a causation a finite time ago, to the question “Why that comments do exists?” we most answer “I just don’t know, but science is working on it” or “They just happen because Nature, but there is no a Commentator for sure, dismiss such nonsense “.

            Out of nothing, nothing comes. Nature… yeah, sure…

          • rationalobservations?

            You appear to consider that some magical being merely wished the infinite 13,700,000,000 year old Universe into existence then waited 7,000,000,000 years for the Earth to coalesce into a furious ball of red hot rock and a further 3,000,000,000 years for the Earth to cool and the first chemical proto-life to start the biological process of evolution. Then a further 4,000,000,000 of repeated mass extinction events that restarted trial and error mechanisms of evolution from single cell organisms leading finally to 4 species of ape including the one we call “human”?

            It’s a point of view I suppose…, but hardly a likely explanation of the real world and the known, tested, observed and evidence based facts of the Universe, the Earth and the 4,000,000,000 year history of life on Earth with less than 1,000,000 year history of hominid to human in very recent geological times?

            Learning without thought is labor lost; thought without learning is
            perilous.

            –Confucius
            (551-479 BCE)

            ~~~

            …Which brings me to the Hubble Space Telescope’s newest images. If it’s wonder
            that you’re looking for, and mystery, don’t just scan the photographs. Stop and think
            about them. Try to imagine the scale. The Earth is just a speck of dust on one distant
            whirling tentacle of the Milky Way galaxy, which contains billions of stars. A ‘collision’
            of galaxies seems unimaginably large – and yet it is something
            scientists long ago imagined… The imaginings of pseudoscience are
            feeble by comparison.

            –Mark Bowden, writing in the Philadelphia Inquirer
            on recent images from the Hubble Space Telescope

            ~~~

            Man masters nature not by force but by understanding. This is why
            science has succeeded where magic failed: because it has looked for no
            spell to cast on nature.

            –Jacob Bronowski (1908 – 1974) British historian and

            mathematician.

          • http://swt.encyclomundi.org/ shackra sislock

            the Singularity was caused by, not a magical being as you call it, but by God 13.77 billion years ago.

            But using the same reasoning you use to dismiss this explanation I can dismiss that the comments that I reply to were written by a creative, intelligent and free willed being 24 hours ago because I don’t have any scientific proof for his existence.

            Magic, hahahaha…

          • rationalobservations?

            Please prove that I don’t exist.

            Please explain why you consider whichever of the thousands of gods you refer to is not “magical”?

            After that., perhaps you can explain why the judeo-christian biblical accounts of “creation” (Gen 1 and Gen 2) are so wide of the actual known origin and material ongoing evolution of the Universe, and the biological origin and evolution of life on earth and our own very, very recently evolved (and still evolving) species of ape?

            Magic was perhaps a rational explanation for ancient ignorant barbarians who dreamed up “the gods”, but surely the ever more rapidly expanding mountain of the sum total of human knowledge provides more scientific and credible answers today?

          • http://swt.encyclomundi.org/ shackra sislock

            Easy: I don’t have any scientific proof or evidence for your existence, then you do not exists!, I read comments but there is no commentator!

            That’s easy too: Moses when writing the Genesis was inspired by the truth of God observable in the things He created and guide, as is, the Genesis is not a scientific writing is wrong and take it as one. Now we talk about laws of physics, evolution, mathematics, etc.. And it is obvious that its mere existence, fine tuning, is caused by an entity that is outside of space and time, because he created it. Catholics call him God.

            but, whatever, I’m just wasting my time talking to somebody that do not exists giving the lack of scientific proves and evidence…

  • Spirokeat

    You lost me in the first paragraph by utterly misunderstanding the ‘stamp collecting’ analogy.

    • JoeDM

      The misunderstanding of the old ‘stamp collecting’ analogy is just willful rhetoric.

      On the whole I like Peter Hitchens rational approach to most things, but on religion he is so out of touch.

    • http://www.facebook.com/tsu.donim Tsu Do Nim

      Misunderstanding? He’s elegantly re-using it against its author: from the title of Grayling’s book it seems that Grayling has become “a militant non-stamp collector” (para 3), a category which should not exist according to his own analogy.

      • Daniel Maris

        I agree. One doesn’t have to agree with the strength of Hitchens’ theism to recognise the weakness of Grayling’s atheism.

        Atheism, whatever it calls itself, is not an absence of something. It is an attitude to existence, one that discounts evidence for a supernatural entity or force as unpersuasive. This despite something like 6 billion people disagreeing with their conclusion, their inability to explain the phenomenon of consciousness and their inability to explain the origin of the cosmos.

        I find what I would call this “pose of atheism” extremely annoying. I prefer the honest anti-theist who is frank that he does not believe in God and does not think anything could ever persuade him otherwise.

        • http://www.facebook.com/daniel.schealler Daniel Schealler

          Note that if you divide those six billion people up into their respective religions, then for any given wedge X of that pie-graph, those who believe X will be outnumbered by the sum of all the people who disagree.

          Arguments from popularity are treacherous – they can all to easily be turned around to bite you.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-Dale/100001162947374 John Dale

    “Intolerance and Spite”. That would make a good title for just about everything Peter Hitchens has ever written.

    • http://www.facebook.com/tsu.donim Tsu Do Nim

      Ad hominem fallacy.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-Dale/100001162947374 John Dale

        It would be ad hom if I was using that statement to discredit this particular pile of drivel, but I’m not. Others are making a perfectly good job of pointing out what rubbish it is, so I can restrict myself to just pointing out what an odious little bigot the author is.

        • http://www.facebook.com/tsu.donim Tsu Do Nim

          Ah, I see. No intention of discrediting this particular piece of writing, just straightforward derision of the man.

  • Alex Szabo-Haslam

    “‘Atheism is to theism,’ Anthony Grayling declares, ‘as not collecting stamps is to stamp-collecting’. At this point, we are supposed to enjoy a little sneer, in which the religious are bracketed with bald, lonely men in thick glasses, picking over their collections of ancient stamps in attics, while unbelievers are funky people with busy social lives.”

    Was it really the author’s intention for us to sneer at a stereotype – a stereotype projected by you, by the way, not Grayling – of bald, lonely men in glasses? You’re reaching a little desperately. Grayling’s “dud metaphor” in fact works quite well: your ill-informed review serves only to betray your own lack of enlightenment.

    • http://www.facebook.com/tsu.donim Tsu Do Nim

      I agree it is ungenerous of Hitchens to assume that Grayling is implying a negative stereotype of stamp collectors. However, I think you’re overlooking Hitchen’s point that if the stamp collecting/non-stamp collecting analogy were accurate, then Grayling’s own book would not have been written.

      As for calling Hitchen’s review ‘unenlightened’ I think you need to engage a bit more with the substantive criticisms later in the review to support your claim.

      • http://www.facebook.com/daniel.schealler Daniel Schealler

        No two things can be perfectly alike, because if the were, they’d be the same thing and not two different things.

        As a consequence, no analogy is completely perfect – they all break down eventually.

        The test for a valid analogy is not perfection at every possible level of interpretation.

        The test for a valid analogy is, given that the analogy suggests a that functions/properties X are held in common between A and B:
        1) That X applies equally well to A and B in the same (or near enough) way
        2) X is actually relevant to the greater point being made

        In my view the ‘non-stamp-collector’ analogy reflects well on Grayling’s central point that atheism is not like a religion.

        The fact that the analogy breaks down if one tries to use it to prove a different point – a point that Grayling wasn’t actually attempting at the time – is not a mark against the analogy, nor a mark against Grayling’s larger argument.

        Rather, it suggests that you’re a little over-eager to find an excuse to dismiss Grayling’s argument, to the point that you’re not engaging with his arguments fairly.

    • https://mikestallard.virtualgallery.com/ Mike Stallard

      Didn’t that great atheist lecher Bertrand Russell use a teapot analogy? Grayling (whose book I have not yet read) seems to be adapting the Master.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/David-Tiffany/100001926356049 David Tiffany

    The fear that God exists is a good healthy fear. He demands, and will get, an accounting from each one of us. For some, that fear of God leads them to God, when they find He is just, and also wants to forgive, and will do so through Jesus. For others, they love the darkness rather than the light and want to believe they are not accountable to Him. http://atheistlegitimacy.blogspot.com/

    • maturallite

      Fear of punishment is NOT a good reason to behave. I feel sorry for you if the only reason you don’t go around raping, killing, and stealing is because you fear punishment after death.

    • http://www.facebook.com/daniel.schealler Daniel Schealler

      You’re describing an abusive relationship:

      Baby, you know I love you and want to take you back.
      You know I don’t want to hurt you.
      Please don’t make me hurt you.
      Just do as I say and I won’t have to hurt you anymore.
      I love you.

      *shudders*

      No.

      Fuck no.

      David, your notion of what constitutes a ‘good healthy fear’ is extremely creepy and abusive and inherently unhealthy.

      You could not be more wrong.

  • Brenden

    Well written and thoughtful. Thank you.

  • http://www.thinkpoint.wordpress.com/ SC
    • http://twitter.com/ronmurp Ron Murphy

      Let’s be tolerant towards the KKK? Nice sentiment but it doesn’t always apply.

  • http://www.facebook.com/rusty.yates.7 Rusty Yates

    >It is my suspicion that Christians and atheists share one very strong emotion — the fear that God exists.

    That must be why so many atheist comics mock god at every turn. It is the great and pervasive fear of god they have.

    Let me show you how much fear I have of god: GOD! Get over here now you dufus! You ignoramus! You jerk! GET HERE NOW! I have a little prayer for you miserable low life worthless . . . . . Gosh . . .. . . . I haven’t been struck down .. . . . .. . … . No lightening. . . . . . . How strange . . . . . … .

    So you just go ahead with your fear – don’t let me interfere but I’ll laugh at this silly idea of god and then get on with something useful.

    • http://www.facebook.com/tsu.donim Tsu Do Nim

      A real clincher. The ironclad logic, the fearless insouciance, the infectious bonhomie, the rapier wit of you atheist comics :)

      Seriously though, don’t you atheists have doubts, fears that you might have got things wrong? Where do you turn in such moments? To other atheists perhaps?

      Does your atheism really account for much of your life experience? Where do you think your desire to “get on with something useful” comes from? Is that merely “useful” for you and your selfish genes or is there some altruism in there – and if so where might that and other feelings of right and wrong come from? Just external social pressure or something more? Ever loved or felt loved by anyone? Ever felt bad when bad things happened to someone else? Ever felt that someone ought to be punished for something bad they’ve done? Ever felt that people ought to be treated equally? Where do those feelings and ideas come from? Just selfish genes again? Really?

      I used to be an atheist but after I became a Christian I learnt that god made man in his own image. Happily for man, god can change your mind even when you don’t want it changing!

      • http://www.facebook.com/daniel.schealler Daniel Schealler

        “Seriously though, don’t you atheists have doubts, fears that you might have got things wrong? Where do you turn in such moments? To other atheists perhaps?”

        When I find myself in doubt about my position on a subject, I turn to researching the the best available evidence on that subject to the best of my ability. If I conclude that an informed conclusion is beyond my ability then I instead try to determine if there is a consensus amongst qualified experts, and then I go with that.

        In the case of religion, I’m pretty comfortable with the notion that there has never been any good evidence shown for any supernatural claims – particularly, the claim that there can be such a thing as a disembodied mind (souls, afterlives and deities are typically described in terms consistent with that of a disembodied mind).

        That’s within my ability to hold an informed opinion. Of course, my opinion is only as good as my data. If sound evidence of a disembodied mind concept that is consistent with religion exists can be provided, then I’ll be very quick to re-evaluate my position. However, the time to do that re-evaluation is immediately after that evidence is supplied, and not a moment sooner.

        So yes. Occasionally I have doubts and double-check my understanding. However, this doesn’t bother me in an existential way because my atheism is a conclusion, not an a priori commitment (you seem to imply in your choice of language that I should be bothered by doubt in an existential way, which causes me to speculate as to whether your belief is a conclusion or a priori, and lean towards the latter).

        If I do change my mind in the future, then sure, I’ll be embarrassed. But I’ll just shrug it off. “My opinion at the time was wrong, but was valid based on the information I had then, so it’s not a big deal that I was wrong all along.”

        “Does your atheism really account for much of your life experience?”

        Everything in my life that I have experienced thus far is most consistent with and best explained by the notion of a universe with no guiding forces beyond that of other intentful agents such as humans.

        “Where do you think your desire to “get on with something useful” comes from?”

        Boredom is a hunger for stimulation. I don’t have a noun for the hunger for self-esteem. Hungers such as this can be explained as biological drives. How/why those drives evolved is beyond my expertise to speculate – but it’s an explanation that fits and works.

        Blaming such drives on the supernatural doesn’t actually explain anything it just pushes the mystery back a step into how the supernatural interacts with the natural – which is an inherently incoherent idea, as this would make the supernatural detectable by natural methods, which by definition it can’t be.

        “Is that merely “useful” for you and your selfish genes or is there some altruism in there…”

        Altruism is itself another biological drive. So yes. There is altruism in there – ‘selfishness’ at the level of genes can benefit from altruism at the level of the organism. Just because our genes are selfish does not require that we must be selfish also.”

        “… where might that and other feelings of right and wrong come from?”

        I’ve read some convincing accounts that feelings of right and wrong share strong associations with disgust and pleasure regarding food and sanitation. As such, intuitive morality (should not be confused with considered morality) is likely a biological adaptation of the disgust and pleasure that developed in our evolutionary history to reward our ancestors for pursuing energy-rich food that won’t make us sick, while simultaneously discouraging us from spoiled meat or spending time in near proximity of our own waste.

        “Just external social pressure or something more?”

        External social pressure – otherwise known as ‘culture’ – is a system by which we can reinforce the biological drives that are consistent with large-scale civilization while discouraging the biological drives that are incompatible with modern living.

        Well… Ideally, that is. If we just let our culture run wild then we can of course do the opposite.

        “Ever loved or felt loved by anyone?”

        My knowledge that feelings of love are correlated to and in all likelihood caused by (in part – causes are complex) oxytocin levels does not undermine how profound the experience is, nor how much I appreciate it when others experience that emotion towards myself.

        “Ever felt bad when bad things happened to someone else?”

        Yep. Empathy is a useful biological adaptation to any communal species.

        “Ever felt that someone ought to be punished for something bad they’ve done?”

        Indeed I have. Vengeance is another of those notions that can be useful to a communal species. In my view the thirst for vengeance – or in the more abstract sense, the notion of deserved punishment – is a biological drive that has outlived its usefulness, and I actually regard it as immoral.

        Punishment of those who commit a crime should be regarded not as righteous and justified, but rather as a lamentably evil necessity on grounds of discouragement and also to suppress the ‘I-don’t-want-to-be-the-only-sucker-who-doesn’t-cheat-with-the-fast-lane’ reaction (don’t have a better word for this).”

        “Ever felt that people ought to be treated equally?”

        Yep. That’s both a useful adaptation for a communal species – but it’s also a sound conclusion that can be drawn from game theory as a positive/optimal equilibrium to many scenarios.

        “Where do those feelings and ideas come from? Just selfish genes again? Really?”

        Yes really.

        Selfish genes give us the drives. Culture – which is a product of humans in sort-of the same way that spider-silk is a product of spiders – reinforces some of those drives and discourages others. Ideally, culture should move us in the direction of a positive and sustainable equilibrium and away from a negative equilibrium.

        Note that any scenario where some people reap great benefits at the expense of others is an unstable scenario that is poised to become a negative sustainable equilibrium – as such, they are dangerous and stressful.

        “Happily for man, god can change your mind even when you don’t want it changing!”

        Well… If that’s true, then He’s not doing a particularly good job with some of us then.

        • http://www.facebook.com/tsu.donim Tsu Do Nim

          Daniel, you’ll note I said ‘can’ change your mind, not ‘will’ change your mind.

          At the moment, it seems that you would rather make huge speculative leaps in the dark about the origins of much of what is ‘profound’ – to use your own term – in your own experience, e.g. good and evil, love, justice, creativity, ideals, equilibrium, sustainability … than believe that these are evidences of a creator of profundity. In practice, you seem to think that profundity is vested in abstractions such as community and culture. Perhaps it is because these things last longer than humans and you too have an inward suspicion that eternity is desirable?

          I was an atheist for many years and know what that is like. What I would like to say again is that god can change your mind.

          • Daniel Schealler

            Daniel, you’ll note I said ‘can’ change your mind, not ‘will’ change your mind.

            Yes, I do note that.

            I don’t understand how that changes anything I said.

            What’s the point of asking me to note this fact? Seems irrelevant to restate yourself in that slightly cutting way when I understood you perfectly well the first time around.

          • http://www.facebook.com/tsu.donim Tsu Do Nim

            Sorry, didn’t mean to offend! Just wanted to counter what I took to be your inference that your own non-belief in god was evidence that god lacked the power to change your mind.

          • Daniel Schealler

            At the moment, it seems that you would rather make huge speculative leaps in the dark about the origins of much of what is ‘profound’ – to use your own term – in your own experience, e.g. good and evil, love, justice, creativity, ideals, equilibrium, sustainability … than believe that these are evidences of a creator of profundity.

            Huge speculative leaps?

            So limiting my understanding of the universe to that which can be demonstrably shown to exist is a huge speculative leap now?

            You’re talking rubbish there Tsu, plain and simple.

          • http://www.facebook.com/tsu.donim Tsu Do Nim

            It cannot be demonstrably shown that your sense of good and evil, love, justice etc (incidentally senses shared by all other humans but not apparently animals or machines) historically derive from the collective self-preservation instincts of all animate beings. This is speculation.

            I am suggesting that you are limiting your understanding more than necessary.

          • Daniel Schealler

            On the one hand you tell me I’m being speculative.

            On the other hand, you chastise me for limiting my position ‘more than necessary – where I am simply limiting my position to being informed only by that which can be shown to be real.

            That’s inconsistent: You can’t have it both ways.

            ————-

            Speculative: Engaged in, expressing, or based on conjecture rather than knowledge.

            It is not conjecture to note that models of behavior show a distinct advantage to altruistic behavior in circumstances that mirror that of a social species.

            It is not conjecture to note that other social animals demonstrate kin-group altruism.

            It is not conjecture to note that some other animals can show out-species altruism – gorillas with pet kittens will groom their kittens, or a pet bird of a human will groom the human (this tickles).

            It is not conjecture to note that other primates demonstrate a sense of fairness: Give two chimps a cucumber each, they’ll both be happy – give one chimp a banana and the other a cucumber, and the chimp with the cucumber will have a fit – because it’s not fair.

            It is not conjecture to note that this is exactly what we would expect if our conceptions of evil, love, justice (etc) are ultimately grounded in biology.

            It is not conjecture to consider this supporting evidence to the position that we see this evidence because our conceptions of evil, love, justice (etc) really are grounded in biology.

            It is conjecture for you to insist that your personal incredulity towards this position is a reason to dismiss it.

          • http://www.facebook.com/tsu.donim Tsu Do Nim

            Daniel, good to keep up the conversation! I didn’t say you were being too speculative, just that you were being speculative. We are both considering the origins of certain human attributes (such as moral sense, love etc). There is no way the particular causal explanations that you or I propose can be “demonstrably shown to exist” either by you or me.
            You seem to think you are limiting your reasoning to processes you can detect with your physical senses but I would suggest you aren’t. You haven’t seen a survival-based instinct to avoid rotting food mutating into a sense of morality any more than I have seen god creating a sense of morality in the first man.
            I believe in a personal god, consciously creating a world which includes humans, which are a reflection of himself. You believe in impersonal forces (survival instincts, endless genetic mutation, and environmental change) unconsciously creating a world which includes humans. For you, the apparent complexity of
            human attributes (to love, to pity, to make moral judgements etc) is deceptive and has been produced by things much less complex. I don’t think you can argue from your own sensory experience, however, that you have experienced simple things mutating into more complex or ‘profound’ things: I think you are limiting your understanding by assuming that this is what has happened. I suggest as a thought experiment trying out the idea that you were created by a more complex, ‘profound’ being
            than yourself. It actually explains an awful lot!

          • Daniel Schealler

            In practice, you seem to think that profundity is vested in abstractions such as community and culture.

            Err… I don’t understand what you mean by the use of the verb ‘vested’ in this context.

            To be clear, I think that profundity is a quality of experience, and I think that all experience is the result of brain chemistry.

          • http://www.facebook.com/tsu.donim Tsu Do Nim

            See reply to previous post.

          • Daniel Schealler

            Perhaps it is because these things last longer than humans and you too have an inward suspicion that eternity is desirable?

            I find much of high-energy physics to be profound, and many of the particles they discover only exist for a bare and fleeting moment before they decay into something else.

            So no. I don’t think that there is a link between what I’d consider to be profound and that which is long lived or eternal. The ephemeral can be profound precisely because it is ephemeral.

            But even here I am being misleading. I am using the term ‘profound’ as if it were an objective property of reality, rather than a subjective experience/description of reality.

            Nouns are tricky that way.

          • http://www.facebook.com/tsu.donim Tsu Do Nim

            “I am using the term ‘profound’ as if it were an objective property of reality, rather than a subjective experience/description of reality.”

            This is what I’m getting at. In your experience some things are profound (i.e. awe- inspiring, inherently more valuable than others?) but your atheistic world view nevertheless obliges you to deny that actually anything is more or less profound than anything else. As a human, and I of course would argue made in god’s image, you can’t help yourself using words like ‘profound’, ‘necessary evil’, ‘immoral’ etc and experiencing the world in such terms. However, your commitment to a materialist world view obliges you to dismiss these concepts as nothing more than brain chemistry.

          • Daniel Schealler

            No, my atheistic worldview is a conclusion, not a starting point.

            My atheistic worldview doesn’t oblige me to anything. That is putting the cart before the horse.

            It is the evidence (and lack of evidence to the contrary) obliges me to hold an atheistic worldview.

            I use words like ‘profound’, ‘necessary evil’, ‘immoral’ because they’re part of the common vocabulary with which we discuss these topics.

            Just because you imbue these words with metaphysical baggage doesn’t mean that you can infer from my usage of them that I can, should, or do carry the same baggage as you, or that my usage of these terms in any way justifies your invested metapysical notions.

            Simply put, I could avoid usage of these terms if I wanted – I could replace ‘justice’ with ‘sound and reasoned application of game theory and human psychology to the problems inherent with large populations of humans attempting to co-exist in environments vastly removed from that of the evolutionary heritage that shaped our emotional intuitions and reactions to social and economic circumstances’. But then we’d be here all day.

            I use the words because the basic meanings are commonly understood.

            That you insist on reading into them evidence for your metaphysical presuppositions isn’t my fault, and nor is it an argument in favor of your position.

          • http://www.facebook.com/tsu.donim Tsu Do Nim

            Your presupposition is that there is no ‘metaphysics’, or that physics is all there is. What evidence could ever show you that there was more than physics?

          • Daniel Schealler

            I was an atheist for many years and know what that is like. What I would like to say again is that god can change your mind.

            Care to venture a speculation as to why He hasn’t stepped in yet?

          • http://www.facebook.com/tsu.donim Tsu Do Nim

            Not really, as I don’t know you. What I can say from my own experience is that god often uses other people who love you. God uses love because he is love. Christ’s death on the cross (which I’d like to remind you you can read about in the gospel accounts:)), is an expression of God’s love for you.

    • Michael Gollop

      Unfortunately your obviously enlightened views don’t help you that much with basic spelling: you meant ‘lightning,’ perhaps?

    • Carter Howard

      You’re critically sarcastic humor holds heavy ties to legalistic theology based on Old Testament law and scripture, in which some people were literally struck dead instantly for certain transgressions. But the existence of the human race as a diverse culture that hasn’t become completely Christian suggests that those who sin did not fall dead instantly, mind a few exceptional cases recorded in Biblical text. Adam and Eve never suffered such fate upon disobeying God, and they were the original sinners.

      Essentially, my point is that you assume the “fear that God exists” is a conscious, well-observed one in which God will strike you dead for dissenting. The theological truth is that this is not true; when the law is broken, we must hold ourselves accountable on what is referred to as the “day of judgment.” So God does not deliver instant reprimand, but it will be required in due time, that is the law’s nature and the justice established by God for our disobedience.

      The hopeful side which is constantly presented through prophecy in the Old Testament and the epistles and gospel in the New Testament is that Jesus would arrive, live blamelessly, then willingly give up his life rather than deliver judgment on people who mocked God. Mind you, after thousands of years of history, there is literally nothing new under the sun, so if such audacious critics like you exist now, they existed then, yet Christianity persists, people still believe, and God still remains.

      The Bible holds many powerful messages, but one of prominent interest is this: God doesn’t need a lawyer to defend him in court, he can defend himself. We as Christians simply need to step aside, unlock the cage, and let him display his power and love through his methods, not our earthly, self-centered, agenda-seeking minds which twist, distort, and destroy all they can for their own purposes.

      It is my hopes that one out of many will read this without a predisposition of intellectual/scientific disdain for the possibility of God in the faintest hope that he or she will consider the truth of God and the reality of his existence. Even such hope, whether any of you care or not, is a powerful drive in my desire to bring and uphold a powerful ministry focused solely on God and his providence for us. “For the angels rejoice more over one sinner who repents than one hundred righteous men who do not sin.” God be present, God be willing. Amen.

  • taytelbaum

    Hmm… Dangerous grounds, mr author

  • NBeale

    AC Grayling’s mediocre but non-negligible powers of reasoning do indeed seem to desert him when he talks about God. But many of these people have seen how much money Dawkins can make with his nonsense and want to cash in, by “preaching to the choir”.

    See a very fine skewering of Grayling at http://verbosestoic.wordpress.com/2012/11/20/sophisticated-theology-grayling-on-polkinghorne-and-beale/

  • Mark Shulgasser

    Are the Four Horsemen
    bringing in reinforcements? No, Grayling does not add to the number, rather he
    replaces or unseats Sam Harris from the atheo-apocalyptic quadrivium. Righteous
    god-haters have long seen Harris as an untrustworthy crypto- transcendentalist,
    and now his literal calls-to-arms surely mark him as a dangerously loose cannon
    in the current religious warfare.

    What strikes one bemused
    spectator is the way that Grayling’s replacing Harris as the fourth Horseman
    obeys Zodiacal design: all four now careen through the heavens under the
    pioneering sign of Aries. (Grayling was born on April 3; Dawkins March 26;
    Dennett March 28; Hitchens April 13). Facetiously I once suggested that Madalyn
    Murray O’Hair (also April 13) deserved Harris’s seat. Let her have, at least, a
    plaque on the saddle.

    Grayling thumps his very own
    humanist bible, and so did Thomas Jefferson (April 13, again). Morals in,
    miracles out. These great minds of
    Aries clump together like red blood clots: Grayling has written substantial
    biographies of William Hazlitt, the pugnacious atheist born April 10, and the
    Man Himself, Rene Descartes born March 31, father of rational materialism and
    eminence gris of secularism, a closet atheist with the door wide open.

    The Great Hitchens, your
    brother, mark you, continued a tradition of dissipated blasphemy under the Aries
    asterism stretching all the way back to Pietro Aretino (April 20) and the Earl
    of Rochester (April 1), including Baudelaire (April 9 — “Tribe of Cain,
    ascend to heaven, and throw God down to earth”), Lautreamont (April 4,
    “My subjectivity and the Creator, it’s too much for one brain!”),
    Verlaine (March 30, a backslider) and Swinburne (April 5 — “the supreme
    evil–God”).

    For instances: E. M. Cioran
    (April 10, “So long as there is a single god standing, man’s task is not
    done.”) Pierre Boulez: (March 26, “Civilization will not attain to
    its perfection until the last stone from the last church falls on the last
    priest.”) Kingsley Amis (April 16, “[Yes, I am an atheist] but it’s
    more that hate Him”). The narrow animus of Aries, coated with
    self-regarding heroism, is raised in univocal alarum from all corners. The Aries atheist is not content to
    disagree, she must abuse. Later she will be admired for her cool reasoning on
    the same subject.

    The line of militant atheism
    can be traced back to Thomas Hobbes (April 5), the ‘Monster of Malmesbury’ and
    philosophical daddy of the selfish gene. While Grotius (April 10) elaborated
    the philosophical justification of warfare. I like to think there is an ironic
    clarity to this amazingly constellated band of Mad Men.

    • http://twitter.com/JosephDPower Joseph Power

      Would the Zodiacal observation work under the old calendar? Funny how the astrologists worked that out without a hitch.

      • Mark Shulgasser

        What old calender? What hitch?

  • https://mikestallard.virtualgallery.com/ Mike Stallard

    I want God to exist because I want the universe to be controlled by a Being who is benevolent, witty and courageous.

    “Credo quia absurdum” means a lot to me. (I believe in it because it is ridiculous).
    So does Lao Tse’s view of the Tao: I treasure its vagueness.
    The way that love breaks through into Islam impresses me a lot.
    And the argument from design seems to me to demand the same reaction as when I stand in front of a Velazquez.

    But I realise this is not an argument, just a reaction.

  • Simon Semere

    From experiences it can be gathered there’s a world of difference between the want to be sure Christian and the sure. But the battle to be sure is the same admirable battle the Atheist has proposing god’s nonexistence. If the Atheist ceases to be belligerent on the issue, the Atheist will never be unsure.

  • Elliot

    Though non-drug-takers do write books about the ills of drug-taking, it seems. But one couldn’t infer anything about a non-drug-taker, necessarily.

    Just because one writes books that are anti-god and calls himself an atheist, it couldn’t be said that he is an atheist because he has declared himself so. Much in the same way that those from the Westboro Baptist Church declare themselves to be Christian are perhaps not what they declare.

  • Steven Ilott

    It may be necessary to draw Mr. Hitchens’ attention to an inconsistency in the final paragraph, or at least to recommend that he provide some clarification. If I understand his intentions correctly (and it’s certainly a thought-provoking suggestion), he means to say that the interaction with the notion of a God for both theists and atheists is paradoxical: the former fear God, yet want Him to exist; the latter have no fear, yet want Him not to exist. That would appear to make that of the agnostic the only rational condition as to the apprehension of God. I should extend my apologies to the author if I am guilty of misinterpretation, even eisegesis. However, since Mr. Hitchens has not otherwise seen fit to distinguish fear of God and fear that God exists, his conclusion that the opposing sides share ‘one very strong emotion’ raises more questions than it answers.

  • rationalobservations?

    Chris Hitchins wrote far more rational and sensible arguments than his brother ever will…

    • retundario

      No he didn’t he was just twice as pompous (which is quite some achievement).

      • rationalobservations?

        Yes he did. His argument was based upon evidence and observation of the real world and Universe. His brother was an atheist until terrified by a painting of souls burning in hell and he now has only myths and legends to refer to when attempting to justify his rejection of rationalism.

  • http://www.facebook.com/colin.broughton.54 Colin Broughton

    Grayling may be satisfied that the ‘God Hypothesis’ is not necessary to explain the universe, but I’m not. Why is there something rather than nothing? Stephen Hawking tried to argue that string theory explains why something could come out of nothing. But he didn’t explain what made string possible in the first first place.

    It is said that there is no proof that God exists. This isn’t true. There may be no conclusive proof but there is plenty that points in that direction, as argued by other philosophers such as Keith Ward in his book ‘There almost certainly is a God’.

    Over the years, various philosophers have assumed the mantle of cheerleader for atheism. The last generation of them was was led by Professor Antony Flew. Before he died quite recently though, Flew recanted for reasons he set out in his book, ‘There is a God: How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind’.

    Pesonally, I find all the evidence I need for belief in God in the Gospel Story of Jesus. There have beem attempts to discredit the historicity of the Person of Jesus stretching back at least to the Enlightnment thinker Reimarus. However more recent scholarship such as that by Ben F Meyer (The Aims of Jesus), Tom Wright (The Victory of the Cross etc) and Richard Bauckham (Jesus and the Eyewitnesses) have shown persuasively that the Jesus of Faith is pretty much the Jesus of history.

    • rationalobservations?

      Please inform me of the location of any non-biblical 1st century text, artifact or archaeological historical evidence relating to Yshua (or “Jesus” as much later Greek scribes translated that Hebrew/Jewish name)?

      The authors (and their books) you refer to; all take one or other NT bible as their reference point and treat that long evolved work of endless generations of scribes (employed by, or in thrall to, “the church” after it was founded in the 4th century) as “history”. Nothing (NOTHING) outside of bibles confirms or corroborates the confused and often contradictory fables to be found within modern bibles.

  • rationalobservations?

    There is NO historical trace of the stories exclusive to bibles
    from within the 1st century and NO trace of the fabled “City of
    Nazareth” between c300 BCE and c250 CE.
    No text.
    No artifact.
    No archeology.

    99.99r% of texts that comprise modern bibles can be traced no further back than the 7th century.

    The bible is nothing but confused and internally contradictory
    fiction written by men and embellished, edited, written and re-written
    by anonymous scribes mainly between the 7th and 10th centuries.

    The institution of “the church” and western religion of
    Jesus the god-man was founded by Constantine in the 4th century and its
    legends and myths are clearly a rag bag of pre-existing “pagan” fables
    and mythology with nothing from the real world to support them.

    You cannot validate the confused and contradictory lies and nonsense to be found within bibles by quoting from bibles.

    Wishful thinking and belief in magic and fantasy has no place in the modern world.

    “I cannot conceive of a God who rewards and punishes his creatures, or has a will of the kind that we experience in ourselves. Neither can I nor would I want to conceive of an individual that survives his physical death; let feeble souls, from fear or absurd egoism, cherish such thoughts. I am satisfied with the mystery of the eternity of life itself and with the awareness and a glimpse of the marvelous structure of the existing world, together with the devoted striving to comprehend a portion, be it ever so tiny, of the Reason that manifests itself in nature.”

    — Albert Einstein, The World as I See It

  • rationalobservations?

    Prayer from Noah:

    Lordmygodlyness Sir,

    I have received your instructions regarding the flood and your
    direction to save your creatures, “each to it’s kind”., and not
    forgetting a breeding pair of each and every one of the many millions of
    species from all the continents and each and every far flung island of
    the Earth, and enough fodder for each and every beast., and a termite
    colony and boring beetle colony of each and every species, and.., oh..,
    hang on a minute., err., did you say a wooden boat? Just the one!?

    I will do my best Mr lordmygodness Sir, but, err.., it’s many, many
    tens of thousands of miles and dozens (hundreds?) of years needed to
    collect all those millions of animals and enough of the exclusive fodder
    many of them will only survive by eating (did you forget that Pandas only eat bamboo and Koalas only eat eucalyptus leaves etc?), and if
    my little boat should be grounded (up a mountain or anything like that)
    after your flood., err.., um., just how will my (admittedly massive
    multi-coloured, multi-ethnic, multinational) family re-distribute all
    those millions of creatures across all the far flung corners and islands
    of the Earth before we start to re-populate (and the creatures start to
    re-stock) the planet you made for us and set unmoving in the void with
    all the bright and not so bright lights set fixed in the spheres of
    heaven to spin around us????

    Are you sure that you have thought out the impossible logistics of what you demand your lordmygodlyness sir????

    You have impressed upon me your perfection and your omnipotence
    lordmygodlyness sir. Far be it from me to ever question your perfect
    infallibility, but: Wouldn’t it be simpler to merely turn all the
    naughty people into pillars of salt, or maybe simply “smite” them with
    thunderbolts, as in days of yore?

    In the event that you don’t change your mind regarding the
    “cleansing” of the Earth (“genocide” and “mass murder are such
    unpleasant terms!) maybe you could have a direct word or two with all my
    children? They are all a little uncomfortable with the idea of incest
    that will be required to repopulate our world and are convinced that you
    previously have consider incest to be a “sin”., except in the unique
    case of Lot and his daughters….

    With hugs and kisses

    Noah, Mrs Noah and my sons and daughters from Namibia, Swaziland,
    Europe, Asia, The Arctic circle, Russia, China, Japan, Australia, New
    Zealand, Hawaii, the Americas, Tonga, Papua New Guinea, Borneo…., and
    you know all the rest I’m sure since it was you who made us all in your image.

    (BTW: Did you run out of mud when you made my sons and daughters the Pygmies and other aboriginal bushmen in your image?)

  • John Heininger

    Peter, you make more sense than your mindless detractors. They have trouble believing that Jesus existed, but have no trouble believing in a hypothetical ancestor no one has ever seen. They have trouble believing in a resurrected Jesus, but believe that dead matter brought itself to life and gradually turned earth into Einstein, and goo into you, via the zoo. They cannot conceive of God creating the universe, but believe that the cosmological constants “fine tuned” themselves; that precisely balanced sub-atomic particles “balanced themselves”; that natural laws had no law maker; that cosmic mathematical regularity had no mathematician. And thus believe that a running down dying “dependent” universe created itself, and wound itself up to the initial state of minimum entropy. While having no problem believing in hypothetical multiple and parallel universes that no one is ever seen, or are ever likely to. Anyone who can believe that our finely structured cosmos, and optimum
    terrestrial environment and Eco-systems, are the result of luck, chance
    and “unguided” and “undirected” events needs a reality check

    Then comes the Darwinian Wonderland, where life came from non-life; consciousness from non-consciousness; mind from mindless matter; intelligence from non-intelligence; reason from non-reason; conscience from non-conscience; and morality from amorality. A magical world were an “effect” is not only far greater than the “cause”, but actually “opposite” to the cause. Were all these ‘natural’ evolutionary miracles happening without a miracle worker, which we would all have to concede is “Really Miraculous”. But wait, there’s more. Their creative magician is “code errors” combined with blind “natural selection”, which has no “overall perspective” and absolutely no “predictive power”. And thus wouldn’t have the foggiest notion of where anything, and everything, is evolving too, or even WHY. Making it impossible to assemble, arrange, and superbly integrate immensely complex biological systems and sub-systems to produce a fully functioning whole. Which, non-the-less, goes on to magically produce an overall living environmental matrix without any oversight or predictive power. Thus, producing “The Greatest Show on Earth”, without any master conductor. All of which calls for a level of “blind faith” that, in comparison, makes belief in God, Christ and Christianity a walk in the park.

    I have read Dawkins, Goyne’s, Millers, Dennett’s, Harris’ etc etc etc and regularly monitor their “go nowhere” rantings. I also extensively read your late brothers defiant material. And the sadist words I read were his last ones. His misguided and unsustainable assertion that we live in a “indifferent” universe. Thankfully, billions of others have found otherwise – thegodreality.com

  • John Heininger

    Confused Coyne: No Jerry, you don’t have scientific “facts”, or even a “scientific” theory, What you have is a godless evolutionary “historical theory” based on the
    “ideology” of philosophical naturalism and materialism. Which operates on the “unverified assumption” that evolution is ‘true’, and that on ALL REALITY is IN FACT solely the result of natural evolutionary processes and natural causes alone. Another name for this is SCIENTISM.

    In reality what you have is a “historical” theory “type 2” founded entirely on unverifiable godless presuppositions, subjective interpretations, inferences, assumptions, tautologies, and self-fulfilling predictions. Namely, unverifiable assumptions as to what SUPPOSEDLY happened in the UNOBSERVED distant past. With no possible way of ever empirically verifying that evolution happened one way, and not another way, OR EVEN WHETHER THE EVOLUTIONARY CONTINUUM HAPPENED AT ALL.

    So, Jerry, you can believe that whales evolved from whatever you like. And tell any storey you like as to what are supposed evolutionary links and transitional forms. As there is no possible way for you to ever empirically verify you assumptions. So, spare us the nonsense about these evolutionary assumptions being real verifiable science.

    Here’s the reality, Jerry, there is absolutely no VERIFIABLE scientific answer to ANY of the essential element on which the whole “evolutionary continuum” is founded. None! There is no VERIFIABLE scientific answer to the origin of life: Nor the origin of the DNA double helix: Nor the origin of consciousness: Nor the origin of intelligence and reason: Nor the origin of conscience, language, music, sex, love and altruism, Nor the origin of the human morality, justice, right and wrong and good and evil. So, all your dogmatic assertions that “evolution did it”, rather than “God did it” will not wash. Sorry, about that!

    Nor will your assertions regarding “macro” evolution wash. Every breeder and horticulturist who has ever lived knows there are natural reproductive “limits” and boundaries, even for subspecies and hybrids. Which “prevents” any ongoing evolutionary continuum. In short, bacteria in, bacteria out; fruit flies in, fruit flies out. This is why your “irrefutable evidence for it” is more imagined than real. And why the “the mountain of evidence” you present in “Why Evolution is True” isn’t worth
    a bean. Your taxonomy, nested hierarchy, phylogeny, and evolutionary molecular
    trees are nothing but “inferences” based on your ideological “assumptions”. As is your assertion that DNA points to a common ancestry, A far better alternative for our tailor made superbly structured universe, and immensely complex biological life, is a COMMON CREATOR.

    Peter correctly argued that science hasn’t “proven” evolution. “That’s not our job.”, you say “Our job is to find the best explanation for natural phenomena.” No! Verifiable science doesn’t operate on “explanations”, Jerry. Real empirical science operates on “experimentation” and “observation”. Historical theories about the unobserved distant past are something else entirely. It doesn’t matter how many “explanations” you conjure up or string together in support of evolutionary theory, that’s all they will ever be – mere explanations. Indeed, you would know that historical
    theories about the unobserved past have enormous flexibility. As explanatory stories can be subjectively contrived to cover every contingency. Making evolutionary theory highly elastic, and unfalsifiable – and therefore unscientific.

    Operational science and the scientific method is about testing, repeating, and verifying every hypothetical claim, and drawing generalizations and conclusions.
    In contrast, evolution is widely assumed to be “fact”, until proved wrong. Thus, turning the scientific method on its head. And making evolution absolute and immutable truth from the outset, along with naturalism itself. Which is precisely why the Nobel
    Committee does not regard “historical theories” based on unobserved
    past events as being “prize worthy science”, or as was noted by Stephen J Gould, “Not the real thing”.

    Which is also why the debate has been raging for over 150 years. And why Darwinians cannot “close”. And why hard core evolutionists are everywhere fighting fires sparked by creationists scientists and Intelligent Design advocates. Moreover, the breathtaking complexity of biological systems is increasingly challenging the credibility and capability of “blind” unguided natural selection, and Darwinism itself.
    These are early days for ID advocates. And the debate could well go on for another 150 years, in spite of the “inquisitional” mindset and tactics engaged in by evolutionary humanist, the NCSE, atheists and hard core Darwinian activists.

    Furthermore, it matters little whether one specifies a particular designer or not. What is blatantly obvious to the vast majority of people on planet earth is that a tailor made dependent dying universe could not have created itself. And that a finely tuned cosmos clearly manifesting unity, inherent structure, patterns, elements, and all else
    demands an intelligent cause. As there exists no verifiable scientific naturalistic answer.

  • John Bremner

    Peter Hichins ‘criticism’ of The God Argument by AC Grayling is just about the most nasty, sneering review I have ever read, and he makes a complete fool of himself by failing to get the point of the comment, ‘Atheism is to theism, as not collecting stamps is to stamp-collecting’.

    Mr Hitchins clearly fails to understand the simple analogy. There is no name for somebody who does not collect stamps; there is a name for somebody who is not a theist, but the situation is the same. Being a theist is simply something that atheists do not do. It says nothing really, just as saying that somebody does not collect stamps says nothing much about them. It’s not something you’d use in an introduction, for example, or put in a CV.

    Hitchin goes on to say ‘This work is full of negative. petti-fogging narrowness, devoid of sympathy for opponents, empty of generosity or modesty, immune to poetry or mystery.

    I think Hitchin is projecting, because he has just described his own writing rather accurately. AC Grayling, on the other hand has never written a line that does not shine with common sense and the inner beauty of perfectly mastered English. He is very focused, nevertheless, and he can destroy a foolish argument with a few graceful words.

    I suspect that Hitchin is furiously jealous of Professor Grayling’s many great accomplishments, and has used his position in the Spectator to get a little bit of his own notoriety in the most petty-minded way possible. Shame on you, Peter Hitchins, and I’d be willing to bet that you merely flicked through the book before writing your vile review.

  • Pearl

    Thank you for that rarest of things, integrity. Anyone who is willing to defame, insult or slur religion is put upon a pulpit and is hailed a media darling. Incredible academic work is done in the areas of archeology, philosophy and even textual criticism…and who gets lifted up as man of the year? A man who decides the bible can’t be inspired based on a theory that is more opinion than fact. We have the four horseman who provide some credible questions that all religious people must consider, but the majority of their works are a rage and rant against the idea of God, and the fact that the people of God drop the ball(which btw is why we need a God in the first place) All it takes to be man of the Year is to take a Theist and chronicle his fall from faith. It is nice to see that there are still a few fair minded writers in the popular media.

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