The Judeo/Christian god most likely exists
R1: Opening Argument
R2 to R4: Rebuttal
I’ll be arguing that:
The Judeo/Christian god most likely does not exist. Proof for his existence is purely anecdotal, or else is faith-based, and therefore inherently lacks evidence.
C1: There is no proof
The biggest argument against the existence of god is that there is no way to prove he exists. That is why the ideology of Judaism/Christianity so treasures the idea of faith. Those who do not have faith are given the worst punishment of all… and yet faith, by definition, is simply ignorance of facts. It’s a system designed to scare people into not thinking too much about reality and the factual basis for god, but rather to trust - and it has worked well for thousands of years. Try and shout from the hilltops. Jesus will never appear for you – I’ve tried. There’s a reason Jesus compares his followers to sheep.
If Pro can show one piece of evidence for the material existence of god, he will be the first in history to do so, and the nature of science and history will be forever changed. For example; take a scientific analysis of prayer, one of the few ways that god can supposedly interfere in our lives.
A peer-reviewed study by the Indian Journal of Psychiatry (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov...) found that the only time prayer had an effect on a health issue, it was when women who had been prayed were found to have had twice as high a pregnancy rate (no doubt influenced by religious convictions, not prayer). A study on two groups of elderly coronary care patients found that there was no difference between the ones who had been prayed for and the ones who had not been prayed for; that is, they both died in equal amounts. Interestingly enough, in another study, patients who were told they were being prayed for died slightly more often than patients who were told they were not being prayed for.
If god existed, surely we could measure some kind of data!
C2: The problem of Evil
The problem of evil is a stumbling point for most J/C believers. How could god claim to be an omnipresent, omnibenevolent being and allow evil? If he is omnipresent and all-knowing, and, as it says in Jeremiah 1:5, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart…”, then he would logically know that some of us would go to hell the moment we were created. Thus, if he created us to go to hell, would that not directly contradict his message of omnibenevolence? Something has to give.
Or consider the Tsetse fly, the bringer of the deadly sleeping sickness, whose sole purpose in life is to suck the blood of its victims. It is estimated to kill 250-300 Million people a year. The supposedly kind and fair god allows that fly to exist, and it kills countless unbelievers every day. Should we safely assume that a man like Jeffrey Dahmer is going to heaven because he said, “the lord Jesus Christ is the true creator of the heavens and the earth…I have accepted him as my lord and saviour” and who was baptized by Rev. Roy Ratcliff who said, “…a veil was lifted. He began to see order and design in the universe. He began to see the case for God.”
After all, in Romans 10:9-10 it says, “That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.”
C3: The J/C god/ideology is not unique or divine
Many Christians cite the uniqueness or the divine wonder of the bible/the Torah as the primary motivation for believing in god. The bible is not unique and neither is the Torah. Not only is it not unique, it is often profoundly stupid. Take Deut. 25:11-12 for example, “If men get into a fight with one another, and the wife of one intervenes to rescue her husband from the grip of his opponent by reaching out and seizing his genitals, you shall cut off her hand; show no pity.”
Or take Jesus in Luke 14:26, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple.”
I have often been told and taught that Jesus was simply saying that if it came down to it, one should follow him and not follow one’s family. That explanation doesn’t come close to excusing the harsh, radical, preposterous language that Jesus chose.
Those who say the bible is ordained by god must reconcile numerous contradictions and mathematical and historical errors. For example, the existence of a firmament, as described in Gen. 1:6-7, which was an iron age belief that the heavens were separated by a kind of solid sky-dome in which stars were ‘fixed’ and which held back heavenly waters. From Genesis, “And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters. And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so.”
Or take the differing genealogies of Jesus as listed in Luke and in Matthew:
True believers must also reconcile the historical progression of the biblical canon as it passed from scribe to scribe to scribe over thousands of years, many of which made alterations. For example, the discrepancies between the 1500 year old Codex Sinaiticus (http://www.codex-sinaiticus.net...), which lay undisturbed in a monastery, and the modern text. Seminal stories and texts are missing; like Jesus stopping the Pharisees from stoning the woman, or Jesus’ famous last words of forgiveness, “father forgive them for they no not what they do”. Anti-Semitism is also heightened in this version, as Barnabas has all the Jews repeat “his blood be upon us”. Jesus is described as a more human figure, being “angry” when healing a leper. (https://tothewire.wordpress.com...)
The bible/torah had numerous changes over the centuries (like any ancient text), as certain Popes and monks would try to focus on certain words of Jesus, or on specific stories.
These points are just a handful of countless other discrepancies and contradictions that show that the existence of the Judeo/Christian god is probably unlikely.
I will be arguing that the Judeo/Christian God likely exists. As Con has not said otherwise, I am assuming that the BoP is shared. As Con has requested that the first round be for opening arguments only, I will attempt to focus on evidences that Con has not yet addressed, and save my rebuttals for the later rounds. My opening arguments are as follows:
1. The Cosmological Argument
Things do not create themselves. This statement is self-evident. We have never seen a single example in nature of something that is capable of being its own creator, and the entire foundation of science is built on an attempt to explain cause and effect. The Big Bang theory, and the overwhelming body of evidence supporting it (the discoveries of background radiation left over from the singularity, or the red-shift in distant galaxies implying expansion, for instance) supports the conclusion that the universe began to exist at a point in finite time. If this is the case, the universe was caused by something outside of itself. Additionally, whatever created a universe comprised of space, time, and matter, must, by necessity, be spaceless, timeless, and immaterial—after all, if a being of matter creates matter, the question is raised of what created the matter the being itself is comprised of. God is described as having these three attributes—he is beyond space, time, and matter, as well as being powerful enough to create something as vast and complex as our universe. This is not evidence for the existence of the Judeo-Christian God specifically, but it is the first piece of the puzzle.
2. The Moral Argument
Since the dawn of human civilization, there has been an ever-present belief in the existence of objective moral values. It is worth noting that even Con appears to hold this belief, given that they have seen fit in their opening arguments to accuse God of immorality—a crime that cannot exist without objective moral values (I will address this argument further in my rebuttals). We, as a species, are seized by the need to establish an order that promotes the counter-intuitive ideas of selflessness and compassion, and puts the the needs of others above our own, even and especially at the cost of our own comfort and survival. Evolution cannot rationally account for this. The continued survival of the sick, weak, and disabled, for instance, damages the entire species; according to natural selection, the best course of action is to allow them to die out so as to prevent them from passing on inferior genetic material. Humanity, however, actively campaigns for better care for these individuals out of a sense of moral obligation. This does not make sense from an atheistic perspective. From the Christian perspective, however, Romans 2:14-15 states that the law of the Lord is written on the hearts of all mankind, so that even those without God are capable of knowing and following it.
3. The Resurrection of Jesus
There are two schools of thought among skeptics regarding Jesus.
Position one: Jesus did not exist at all.
This is almost unanimously denied by modern scholarship, and for good reason. Cornelius Tacitus, in Annals XV, writes: “Christus, the founder of the name, was put to death by Pontius Pilate, procurator of Judea in the reign of Tiberius.” This lines up exactly with the circumstances stated in the Gospel accounts. Furthermore, the Babylonian Talmud states: “on the eve of the Passover Yeshu was hanged [a Jewish idiom for crucifixion]. Forty days before the execution, a herald went forth and cried, 'He is going forth to be stoned because he has practiced sorcery and enticed Israel to apostasy. Any one who can say anything in his favor, let him come forward and plead on his behalf.' But since nothing was brought forward in his favor he was hanged on the eve of the Passover.” This affirms Jesus' crucifixion on Passover eve (as well as, interestingly enough, his miraculous powers). These are only two references, but more can be found in the works of Celcus, Suetonius, Mara Bar-Serapion, Flavius Josephus, and Lucian, among others. The Gospel accounts themselves cannot be ignored, either. They were circulated within living memory of the events they describe (even liberal scholarship dates their authorship less than a century after the fact ), and they pass the examinations of textual criticism, containing (for instance) ideas that were contrary to the cultural beliefs of the time, and thus unlikely to be have been fabricated as a product of culture. They also don't shy away from mentioning people (even powerful people) by name, as well as containing embarrassing details about their authors/sources (e.g., the disciples abandoning Jesus upon his arrest, Peter's famous denial of Jesus, or Jesus' own family not believing that he was the Christ), raising the question why they would not choose to omit these elements if the accounts were fake.
Position two: Jesus did exist, but he didn't rise from the dead.
This is where it gets interesting. This position has a number of problems, not the least of which being how Christianity could have possibly spread at all if there had been a body in the tomb. The Jews were hostile to the very idea of Jesus, and had they wanted to crush belief in him once and for all, they needed only to present Christ's body to remove all doubt of his mortality. They were clearly unable to do so. Additionally, the apostles were utterly convinced that Jesus had risen from the dead—a position affirmed even by Bart Ehrman, a respected NT scholar who is self-described as “an agnostic leaning towards atheism.” Given the way the Gospels describe the apostles' reaction to Jesus' death (confusion, fear, and grief), they believed wholeheartedly that he had, in fact, died. It would have taken a hugely significant event to convince them that he was, in fact, alive. The Gospels even make mention of Thomas adamantly stating that he would not believe unless he was able to physically put his hands in the nail wounds—the apostles clearly understood biology well enough to know that people do not naturally come back from the dead, so why did they make this claim in the case of Jesus? There is also a creed in 1 Corinthians 15, stating “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.” Scholarship puts this creed as being in circulation within 1-3 years (!) after Christ's crucifixion—too early for legends to have sprung up  (a position also agreed upon by Ehrman, as well as people such as James Crossley and Michael Goulder, both atheists).
I look forward to Con's rebuttals, and request that they keep it a bit more civil than they have up to this point. Mocking an opposing viewpoint does not disprove it.
Thanks Pro. A bit of a tactical error on my part to not mention the BoP I suppose. It’s always controversial with this kind of stuff, but I would say it’s on you, as you have to prove god certainly exists before you can prove he doesn’t, and thereby if you were to prove certainly he existed I wouldn’t be wasting my time trying to prove he doesn’t. Anyways, on to rebuttals.
1. The Cosmological Argument
The trouble with the traditional view of the big bang is that it doesn’t account for exactly what ‘nothing’ is. Something from nothing as a statement is nonsensical, but in the realm of physics, it is much more complex and troubling.
As Krauss says, “…our discoveries over the past 30 years have completely changed what we mean by nothing. In particular, nothing is unstable. You take space, get rid of all the particles, all the radiation, and it actually carries energy, and that notion that in fact empty space - once you allow gravity into the game, what seems impossible is possible. It sounds like it would violate the conservation of energy for you to start with nothing and end up with lots of stuff, but the great thing about gravity is it's a little trickier. Gravity allows positive energy and negative energy, and out of nothing you can create positive energy particles, and as long as a gravitational attraction produces enough negative energy, the sum of their energy can be zero. And in fact when we look out at the universe and try and measure its total energy, we come up with zero.” (http://www.npr.org...)
I can’t argue the science with near absolute certainty like I can argue evolution, however some of the best physicists in the world are working on it. Which is more sensible – that a cosmological architect super-being designed the whole thing (which brings up many more questions – Why? Who is he? How do we expect to know him? Who created him?), or that we are currently working on a reasonable mathematical answer rooted in quantum mechanics? We have begun to scientifically put the pieces of the puzzle together, and we can measure data – there still is no data for god.
The moral argument is always an interesting idea to me – not a good one, but interesting. There is always a kind of schizophrenia with this argument. While you claim that the J/C god is a ‘true north’ for our moral compass, I observe that he is occasionally vile and impossible to reconcile from a moral perspective, for example, in 2 Kings 2:24, after the Prophet Elisha is mocked by some children, the bible says, “He turned around, looked at them and called down a curse on them in the name of the LORD. Then two bears came out of the woods and mauled forty-two of the boys.”
When this happens in the biblical text, suddenly Christians claim that the will of god is sometimes hard to understand, but that we should just trust in his judgement. This goes back to my opening round. Anytime there is a hole, the official position of the modern church is to claim that the discrepancy is a matter of faith. Faith - or willful ignorance. I observe that the supposed creator of my morals committed an act that is vile. An act that would, in a Texan court room, be a crime more than worthy of the death penalty. There is an inherent gap in the argument. Did god give us moral judgement superior to his own?
By the way, your claim that “Evolution cannot rationally account for this” is simply fallacious. We observe evolutionary morality in chimps and other creatures regularly. Group cohesion is paramount for survival. Making the group a comfortable place to remain in would have decided whether or not our distant relatives worked as a group or tried to survive alone. Chimps, for example, have the capability to remember and discern other chimps who previously did them favors, and will distrust chimps who previously were cruel. It’s perfectly rational to observe that our morals could have evolved from a more primitive version of morality found in primates – like everything else.
I think it’s also perfectly reasonable to assume that religion was created as a way to keep the less morally inclined ‘in order’. Again, chimps have the capability for symbolic communication, a basic building block for religious convictions, ie: the cross.
3. The Resurrection of Jesus
The resurrection of Jesus certainly didn’t happen. Jesus’ existence is debatable, but I don’t need to prove either/or. Let’s begin by assuming he was resurrected. If we believe the biblical account, Jesus is raised from the dead, and as he is raised, as it says in Matthew 27:52-53, “and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs after Jesus' resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people.” That is remarkable! Not only is it remarkable, it makes the idea that resurrection equals savior a bit untrustworthy – apparently resurrection isn’t a big deal in the bible, after all, many holy people were raised as well.
It also is completely unrelated to the existence of the J/C god. If I die and I raise myself from death (in theory) does that make the existence of a supernatural galactic dictator father-figure a possibility? If somebody does something supernatural why should that mean that god exists – and more importantly why does that prove the J/C god exists?
Now let’s assume, correctly, that the resurrection didn’t happen. You won’t find any record of numerous holy zombies roaming the streets of Roman-occupied Jerusalem – and you’d think you might, after all, that kind of thing doesn’t happen very often. You won’t find plentiful accounts of a remarkable resurrection either, despite the fact that 1 Corinthians 15:6 says “After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep.”. If you do find an account, it will, at minimum, be thirty years after the supposed resurrection of Christ, and it will be unreliable. Using the bible to prove the resurrection is like using the words of Frodo to prove that Gandalf existed. It is all man-made. While Paul was gifted with a personal visit from Jesus himself (after falling – probably on his head), apparently the rest of humankind will receive no such proof.
It goes back to that old David Hume line; “Which is more likely – that a man rose from the dead or that this testimony is mistaken in some way?” That idea can apply to the entietity of Pro’s arguments. Just ask yourself – which is logically, without the application of faith, more likely. Even if I can’t prove something like the cosmological origins, does that mean that we can assume that the J/C god existed, apparently for the sole purpose of creating and watching after his favorite pet humans? So at this point, we can apply a couple philosophical razors:
Occam’s Razor: “Entities should not be multiplied unnecessarily.”
I disagree with Con's BoP reasoning, but no matter. My character count is criminally small for this rebuttal, so I will be brief here and hope to make it up in later rounds.
Con, judging by their demands for "evidence for the material existence of God," sees scientific data as the standard of epistemology. This is illogical. My inability to prove (scientifically or otherwise) that the external world is real doesn't mean it isn't. I can't prove that my favorite color is red, but that doesn't make the claim false. In the case of God, science studies nature, and God is supernatural. You should no more expect to find evidence of the supernatural in nature than you should expect to find lizards in Antarctica.
Measuring prayer scientifically is an effort in futility. You can't have a blind study with an omniscient being, there is never a guarantee that a person is not being prayed for by someone, and testing a being with a mind the same way you would test a statistically predictable automatic process is frankly anti-scientific.
The Problem of Evil
A child requiring life-saving surgery, or even a vaccination shot, will certainly perceive it as evil. Children do not have the capacity to comprehend much beyond "pain = bad." To say that the existence of evil disproves an omnibenevolent God is akin to a child saying that being forced to undergo a painful medical procedure is proof that their parents don't love them.
Let's examine a God who only allows the existence of those who will accept him. We would be in a position of being forced to want to choose God, which renders the entire concept of want and choice completely moot. If there is no ability to choose, then everything we do loses all of its potency and purpose, including our relationships with God and each other.
As for the Tsetse fly, Genesis 3:17 sees God telling Adam "cursed is ground because of you." Christian theology states that the earth, as well as everything on it, has been corrupted by sin and demonic influence.
Jefferey Dahmer, in a 1994 interview, revealed that his lack of belief in God, and thus any moral accountability, was why he saw fit to commit his crimes in the first place. If he truly has accepted Christ, then he has abandoned the worldview that lead to his monstrous behavior. Why should he not be forgiven?
In what ways is the J/C ideology not unique? Con has not provided any examples.
Dismissing Deut. 25:11-12 as "profoundly stupid" without demonstration is an argumentum ad lapidem. If wives grabbing men's genitals as a form of conflict resolution was common at the time of Deuteronomy, why shouldn't there be a passage on how to deal with it? Not to mention that this method could very easily lead to infertility for the man siezed, which, in a society where having heirs is of superlative importance, would be one of the worst possible afflictions. Causing it would demand severe punishment.
As far as Luke 14:26, Semitic languages (of which Aramaic, Jesus' native tongue, is one) have always had a flair for the dramatic. This, coupled with hyperbole to emphasize the importance of following God even against the wishes of one's family, seems a perfectly acceptable explanation for Jesus' language. I can say that I love my family, and I can also say I love donuts, but this doesn't mean I love donuts to the same extent as my family. In English-speaking culture, we understand this. There's no reason to think that an Aramaic culture was confused by Jesus' words.
"Firmament" was chosen for the King James bible as translation for the Hebrew word rāqîa‘ meaning "expanse." The confusion is due to the root of the word which implies striking metal with a hammer to make it stretch, thus suggesting solidity, but its other biblical usages show versatility here .
The belief is that Matthew was recording Joseph's lineage through David's son Solomon, and Luke Mary's through David's son Nathan. Joseph would indeed have been the son of Heli through marriage.
Con's article on the Codex Sinaiticus is a travesty of journalism. The author confuses the Epistle of Barnabas for the Gospel of Barnabas (a completely different document that has nothing whatsoever to do with the Sinaiticus), declaring that the former includes the Jews chanting "his blood be upon us," which got it removed from the bible due to supposed anti-Semitism. Even if they hadn't gotten their books confused, they clearly failed to examine this claim before making it: Matthew 27:35 reads "And all the people answered 'His blood be on us and on our children!'". Moreover, the claim that the Sinaiticus has Jesus "angrily" heal a leper in its version of Mark's gospel is incorrect. This account is found in the Codex Bezae, not the Sinaiticus. Very poor research.
The Cosmological Argument
To correct Con's tautology to reflect what I actually said: what begins to exist must have been created. This does not apply to God.
Krauss manages to fulfill the claim of "something from nothing" by redefining "nothing" at his leisure. Space, time, energy, and matter are all things required for Krauss's initial conditions. I can't argue this science as well as I'd like either, but it doesn't take a PhD to recognize a semantic bait-and-switch. Either nothing is nothing, or it is something. It cannot be both.
The Moral Argument
In 2 Kings, Elisha is approached by a gang of fifty-ish "young men" (KJV's translation as "children" is a poor one) who mock and harass him. The taunt "go on up" likely refers to the "death" of Elijah, Elisha's predecessor, which could easily make the comment a threat to Elisha's life. We also don't know whether anyone was killed, as the bible only says that they were attacked.
A petulant child may think his morality superior to yours, but that does not make it so. Thinking your morality superior to God's does not necessarily make it so either.
Con's sources do not offer evidence of morality, but kin selection. A number of studies, notably the ones conducted by anthropologist Joan Silk, have indicated that primates will not offer aid to primates they don't know. It makes sense to help one's kin group, but it does not make sense to help another's kin group at the expense of your own, which humans routinely do, and see as morally imperative.
Resurrection of Jesus
I don't have the characters to discuss the rising of the saints in Matthew 27, so I will refer to a source .
If Jesus claimed to be God and predicted his resurrection by God's power as evidence of God, then yes, I would say that points to God rather a lot.
The Jews were a mostly illiterate orally-traditional culture, so few written records is to be expected, and the attack by the Romans in AD 71 could potentially have seen the destruction of any records that did exist.
Con fails to address the evidences for Gospel reliability that I previously stated, opting instead to compare them to Tolkien.
Hume's error is declaring that no one has ever experienced a miracle “in any age or culture,” despite every age and culture reporting miracles. His argument is essentially “every testimony of a miracle is false, therefore every testimony of a miracle is false.” Forgive me if I am not overcome with awe at this pronouncement.
As for Richard Carrier, the author of Con's final source, I am familliar with his arguments, and I am not the only one to find them underwhelming at best, to say nothing of his juvenile conduct towards his critics. Once again, I do not have the characters to discuss this fully, so I refer to a source .
According to Hitchens' Razor, Con's comment about the unreliability of the Gospels can be dismissed, and as far as Occam's, my worldview requires exactly one entity, as opposed to Con's. I doubt that they will accept this as evidence, however.
Thank you pro, on to the next round.
Pro presents a fallacious comparison. Knowing a favorite color is not comparable to the enormous claims that Christians make – especially when such claims are presented in a classroom. It isn’t illogical to ask for a shred of material evidence, after all, god supposedly created everything! Why wouldn’t he leave any trace of his existence?
Indeed, we can talk translation, morality, and epistemology all day long, but at the end of the day, as you so eloquently put – finding evidence for god is like finding lizards in Antarctica. So then, what is left to distinguish a purely hypothetical intelligent designer from the god of the bible? Only the words of men, and the happenchance of where you were born (how do you know the creator isn’t Allah?).
Problem of Evil
Pro gives another fallacious comparison – and a telling one at that. Pro compares the human species to a child not knowing that a shot is good for him. If the child remained ignorant for the rest of his life perhaps he would remain frightened of a lifesaving shot. All I can say is thank goodness that we can educate a child, and learn for ourselves what is good, and not make it a matter of trust or faith.
The contradiction of evil disapproves the Judeo/Christian god. Pro’s response is interestingly very terse in this area. If god exists, and he is all knowing, as it says in John 3:20, “For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things.” (By the way – that is contradicted several times in the bible: see Gen 4:14-16, Job 1:7, Hosea 8:4) then choice is made an illusion and our fates are decided – therefore he creates a man like me specifically for an eternity of hellfire.
Therefore; contradiction. Questions persist: Why would he point evidence away from himself? Why would he leave no material evidence? Why would he choose a group of illiterate tradesmen in an Iron Age desert to reveal himself? Why aren’t we seeing miraculous works of water into wine today? Why isn’t it obvious? Why punish those who doubt with an eternity of hellfire? I notice Pro spends little time with these questions, but is more than happy to spend several paragraphs in discussing translation in the next contention.
If you can’t see why the acceptance of an evil, wicked creature like Jeffery Dahmer into heaven might be morally repulsive, than I needn’t waste characters trying to convince you.
Pro apparently finds it both logical and moral to cut the hands off of woman who grab the testicles of fighting men. I’ll continue to claim that this is bronze age nonsense, and that it really doesn’t make much sense – I mean, how often does that happen?
Let’s take a look at Leviticus, if that passage isn’t satisfactory: Lev. 20:9, “Any person who curseth his mother or father, must be killed.” Lev. 20:9, “If a man cheats on his wife, or vise versa, both the man and the woman must die.” Lev. 20:27, “Psychics, wizards, and so on are to be stoned to death.” I mean, we’re talking about a book that just seriously gave a punishment for being a wizard – and you mock my comparison to Lord of the Rings!
Pro claims that Luke 14:26 is purely a game of semantics, followed by an ironic comparison: the act of abandoning one’s family (and hating them) is like an innocent fondness for donuts. It always interests me that the Bible is the perfect word of god – until I find a hole in it, or something morally disgusting – then suddenly it is about translation and semantics. It’s about confusion and what he really meant was and all this babble.
I’ve discussed the translation of “Firmament” at length in other debates. It’s a historically accurate account, and if Pro disagrees, than I challenge Pro to explain the clearly defined account of “waters above and below the firmament” as is given in Genesis. Indeed, the firmament once proved to be a hotly debated topic among the righteous – another chance to pervert science to suit tribal ideas on the sky. (Pro can check out St. Thomas Aquinas’ long winded essay on the topic here: http://biblehub.com...)
Jesus’ linage can be chopped with Occam’s razor: what is more logical; that they used an illogical and needlessly complex account, or that they made an error?
The long and elaborate development of the biblical text is well documented. The bible as we know it now has been translated countless times and was written by numerous scribes. From Hebrew to Greek in the 3rd Century BC and then later multiple times into Latin. The Old Testament might be a purer translation, but the New Testament shows countless signs of being tampered with.
As it was translated into Latin through the 2nd and 4rd centauries it became increasingly corrupted, as Jerome, a chief translator of the time put it, there are 'almost as many texts as manuscripts'. The Vulgate was the effort by Jerome to clean up the mess. So we are only a few hundred years in and already we have seen a deep corruption and a clean-up effort. I’ve expedited the longer history of translation for character count. (http://www.historyworld.net...)
Just take a look at the books that have been cut out of the biblical text. The Vulgate is a mishmash of Jerome’s work and a few other scribes – and Jerome himself put the gospels together by using the ‘best’ of several Greek volumes. Translation errors are still being used – Cyril of Alexandria said that ‘camel’ is misprint and Jesus actually said that it would be harder for a rope to go through the eye of the needle, for example. (http://www.biblicalhebrew.com...)
The Cosmological Argument
I still see no logical reason agaisnt asking who created the creator. Pro refutes Krauss with no science. It’s not semantical, it’s based in physics. He examined evidence and came to a conclusion. Its quantum physics; the vacuum state. It has the lowest amount of energy possible – it is nothing. However, nothing has been found to have electromagnetic waves and particles that appear and disappear. (https://books.google.ca...) I can dive deeper into this if Pro insists, but I am not a theoretical astrophysicist. At the very least, the argument is void; you can’t prove it and neither can I – but at least my side is making progress.
The Moral Argument
I claim the right to have superior morality over a god that would see such a wicked action permitted.
I never claimed chimps were as moral as we are, I claimed that they hold numerous foundations upon which morality could have grown - keeping in mind we don't come from chimps, but from a more complex common ancestor.
I ask Pro to seriously ask how often human beings go out of their way to help people in their average day. How many homeless people do you walk by every day? The classic Hitchens point: Name a good thing a religious person can do that a nonreligious person couldn’t. Now think of something evil a religious person would do that a nonreligious person would never do. Which is easier?
Resurrection of Jesus
Pro misunderstands Occam’s razor.
I’ve run out of space, so some points will have to wait for the next round. Thanks Pro.
My "fallacious comparison" was not a comparison. If there exist things that cannot be proven with science, then it means that science cannot prove all things, and we must consider the possibility that God falls in the category of "things science cannot prove." A being outside of nature logically would.
May I ask what sort of "trace" Con is expecting to find?
Ignoring Con's misquote of my "eloquent" statement, distinguishing "gods" from "God" is why I've addressed the bible. Furthermore, atheists must rely on the hopes that "science will figure it all out eventually," which doesn't strike me as much better than "the words of men."
Problem of Evil
Children may very well come to know the reasons for their suffering, just as humanity may come to know the reasons for theirs—either in this world, or the next. If we are in a spiritual "childhood," as the bible suggests, my analogy still stands on its own merits. Either way, trusting those who love you is a key component here. After all, in Paul's words: "now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known."
If I am "terse" here, it is due to a lack of space, not a lack of answer. I've had to reduce all my rebuttals by half so far.
Con's "contradictions" are not. Only Job 1:7 implies a lack of knowledge, and even then, a parent could know exactly what party their disobedient kid was at, and still ask "where were you?" when they came in the door at two AM.
Con addresses the omniscience paradox, which I have limited space to address, but I will say it is unfounded. If I watch everything you do for a week, write it all down, put it in an envelope, go back in time, and hand you the envelope saying "read this at the end of the week," do my accurate predictions of your choices mean you were not free to make them?
- It's one thing for God not to point towards himself, but saying he points away seems unfounded.
- "Illiterate desert tradesmen" as opposed to who?
- On a "proven God," In the words of Yancey: "although power can force obedience, only love can summon a response of love, which is the one thing God wants from us."
- Con laments a lack of miracles despite claiming that miracles should be interpreted as deception or error.
- Hell is most certainly not a "punishment for doubt."
On Dahmer, Con appears to believe that once a monster, always a monster; I do not. As ethics are yet another thing that science cannot help us with, we will have to agree to disagree.
I wasn't illustrating that an "innocent fondness for donuts" is comparable to abandoning one's family. I am uncertain how Con even came to that conclusion. I was demonstrating a linguistic quirk. A language that does not use the word "love" as English does would find the claim "I love donuts" baffling. A language that does not use "hate" as Semitic languages do would find it similarly baffling. Does Con think that the "nice" passages receive any less rigorous consideration?
The bible makes it clear that the conditions of the Old Testament are not at all God's ideal for mankind. Additionally, Con commits errors of presentism. The Hebrews did not live in a cushy 21st Century First-World society; they lived in a virtual state of nature in the Ancient Near East. The laws in the OT reflect this, although they were almost always more humane than its neighbors' (Hammurabi favored mutilation and demanded death for thieves, the Egyptians permitted over two-hundred lashes for libel, and the Hittites killed people for sowing in another's field). Additionally, the bible describes only the maximum punishments that could be inflicted. Context, ladies and gentlemen.
Aquinas is arguing from the belief of solid firmament, not for it. I see no issue with the assumption that "waters above" refers to clouds and vapor, but even if I concede Con's stance, it doesn't matter. "God made the solid dome" does not automatically mean "God made the dome solid," but rather "the thing we recognize as the solid dome was made by God." It's not a claim about science. Why would it be?
Luke traces Jesus to Adam, and Matthew traces Jesus to Abraham. The two clearly had different intentions for different audiences. Why assume this is not the case all the way through?
There are currently tens of thousands of extant manuscripts discovered of the New Testament—nearly six thousand are in the original Greek alone. Most of them come from the 2nd Century. We also have over a million quotations of the NT in the early church fathers. Even considering the textual variants, less than 1% of them affect the meaning of the passage viably, and even then, none of these variants appear in any doctrinal statements, such as ones affirming the resurrection of Christ. As far as the books “removed” from the NT, the traditional canon only has books that are: a) written by eyewitnesses to Jesus (John, Jude, etc), or b) sourced by eyewitness (Mark, Luke, etc). This is just good scholarship. If the standards were any more lax, skeptics would use that to discredit the NT. Damned if you do...
Even if “camel” were supposed to be translated “rope,” the metaphor's meaning would still be the same. Ironically, what Con's article actually criticizes is the belief that "the eye of the needle” refers to a gate in Jerusalem—it affirms the translation of "camel" as likely correct. Whoops.
I can address the OT as well, if Con requests, but I thought I'd start with the NT.
The Cosmological Argument
Eternal things (such as God) do not require causes.
Saying "it's physics, not semantics" is absurd. If I say that something cannot come from "nothing," the definition I am using is "not anything." If Krauss's definition is different from mine, then any answer he provides is to an entirely different question. For further reading: .
"My side" (theists/deists) doesn't need to "make progress" on a functioning cosmological model—we already have one. If atheists can come up with a better one, by all means exalt it as such.
The Moral Argument
"Yeled" is translated in 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles as "young men," "na'ar" is translated practically everywhere as "young men," and "quatan" ("little") just as often means "insignificant" or "immature." "Young men" is clearly an acceptable translation. It makes more sense to read this as Elisha being set upon by a gang intent on harm and/or murder, and God chasing them off, as opposed to "troublesome children become snacks for bears" which doesn't fit the narrative.
Anyone can claim the right to have superior morality to anyone for any reason.
Primate "morality" is still founded in evolutionary logic. Human morality often isn't. Why the jump to irrationality? Even biologists like Dawkins, who love any chance to display the ignorance of religious people, have admitted that they can't find an explanation for how altruism to strangers could have evolved in humans, declaring it a "lucky chance."
Con's next point is irrelevant. Whether we ourselves are selfless has nothing to do with whether we believe selflessness to be morally good (although I do believe humanity frequently helps others. Giving to charity, for instance).
What does Hitchens have to do with it? I am asking whence morality, not whether. There's no good or evil that atheists can't commit right alongside the religious. I would never think to claim otherwise.
The Resurrection of Jesus
Occam's Razor is a guide, not a universal standard. Saying "radios have little men inside" is fathoms less complex than going into the science of receivers and signals, but that doesn't make it true, even if both theories can account for the same phenomena. Before anything else can be decided, we must agree on the initial conditions we're dealing with. A resurrection in light of the current evidence is only less likely if one already presupposes that there are no gods, in which case no argument I make will be acceptable, no matter how compelling.
Thanks Pro. On to the last round.
The claim of a favorite color is a personal, subjective occurrence. We can prove that by asking you what your favorite color is, or we could set up a series of tests in which you might choose random colored objects and then pick from the data which color you picked the most.
The claims of Christians do not correlate to a personal subjective experience. The claims are at least partly rooted in purely objective things, ie: all of creation. If you claim god exists without scientific detection, which is simply a word-game for saying god has no evidence, then how can you say he exists? I can play that game too.
There are lots of Atheists who know little about science and are perfectly happy not ‘trusting in science’. We don’t claim that our ideas and works are inspired by a celestial daddy. We correct them.
Problem of Evil
Trusting those you love has led many a person into an abuse relationship – something I know a bit about, having worked with battered woman, many of whom still claim they love the men who previously whooped them with a coat hanger. Love, while a wonderful thing, can be quite blinding when it is misplaced.
Pro tries to defend the omniscience paradox with a bit of a twisty argument. It has little to do with the finality of this argument. Even if we use that tautology, it still lands us in a place neither one of us could properly defend.
It’s a bit like the Grandfather paradox; if you went back in time and killed your Grandfather, you would cease to exist, and therefore it would be impossible to kill your Grandfather. Thusly, if you got to the pearly gates and Saint Peter said, “Sorry, but it says here you’re going to hell” and you go to hell, even if you went back in time you would, by the nature of your actions, still have to end up in hell, and it would seem that you were destined by said actions to end up in hell.
God creates us express for hell on occasion, it would seem, just as he created all those Australian aborigines, or those Native Americans express for hell, having not heard of Jesus until the 1700’s.
- Evolution. No mention of it in the bible – makes the case for creation a bit crooked
- Illiterate desert tribesman as oppose to us, or at the least, the Chinese, who kept incredibly detailed histories and were well-versed in literature, even at that time.
- God loves us: explain bone cancer, disasters, centuries of religious and ethnic cleansing
- There is no contradiction. The bible claims there were miracles. If I showed them an iPhone they would think it magical. There are no true miracles, and the miracles that are claimed are deception.
- 2nd Thessalonians 1:8, “In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Jeffery Dahmer, a man who boiled the severed head of a 14 year old boy (after smashing his body to pieces with a sledgehammer) in industrial detergent and proceeded to use the skull for sexual purposes. I can’t find his crimes so easy to dismiss, I’m afraid. I wonder if god created Dahmer with the socio/psychopathy, or if that was just the result of ‘a sinful, fallen world’, whatever that means.
I apologize, I may have misread your point. My mistake. That said, the point still stands as preposterous. Jesus said “hate” and meant “hate”. We can bounce around it forever. Why would the perfect vessel of god mislead you by using overdramatic language?
The bible never makes it clear that the laws of Leviticus are to be thrown out. In fact, Jesus says in Matthew 5:17, "Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest part or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place." It takes some twisting for that to mean throw out the old laws, which I trust Pro will try and do in the next round.
Pro tiptoes, but makes it clear that the Israelites were ignorant to modern ideals and standards. Why then do you claim it is the word of god? Why would you continue to try and base morals on Iron Age tribes? Pro makes another stretch by saying that the OT only inflicts the maximum punishment. Nowhere does it say anything like that.
Pro never explained the Genesis account of firmament, and her semantics and wiggling don’t convince. Neither does her explanation of the differing genealogies.
The traditional canon of the NT may have thousands of copies each with varying ranges of change, but the source of these versions must be examined, so instead of throwing around big numbers, why don’t you analyze a historical timeline of translation.
The NT includes the works of men who never saw Jesus, that is, because none of them probably did, most of it being pure fiction, and in the case of the gospel of Luke, certainly didn’t, having been written some sixty to seventy years after his supposed death.
Eternal things must be found to exist and must be found to be enteral before we can assume they are eternal. Just because you or a book says doesn’t make it so.
If you want to dead-end that quote, take the entire story of Noah, in which the whole earth is flooded and almost all of humanity and animal-kind alike are drowned. That’s not really forgiveness and understanding, is it?
I deeply doubt Dawkins would ever use a term like “lucky chance”. It’s systematic evolution. Have you read Lord of the Flies? If it is a matter of survival we can do brutal things. We still have a long ways to go.
Little men in radios = absolutely ridiculous. Out of the question.
Big man in the sky = completely logical.
So, by your own logic:
You maintain that it is more logical that there are explained, reasonable, scientific components that make a radio work.
But, at the same time, you maintain that when we apply the very same logical tautology to matters of cosmology, that the big man in the sky makes the radio run, so to speak.
If you could present to me overwhelming evidence, or really, any good evidence at all, that a resurrection took place, I would change my mind. Sure, it would take spectacular evidence for such a spectacular claim, but I would change my mind if such evidence arose. It does not presuppose the existence of a god either way.
You have not demonstrated that god exists, much less that the god that might exist is the one described in the bible.
I rest my case.
If Con objects to my color analogy, let's use a famous one from philosophy class: I cannot prove that I am not a brain in a jar being stimulated to believe that I am a person with experiences. No amount of science can prove or disprove it.
One cannot find "evidence" of God in science, but there are implications of him. Humanity is innately wired towards god-belief , every age and culture in all of human history attests gods and miracles (including today, where 98% of the globe is religious), and we have holy books reporting accurate history right alongside divine interventions. There is clearly more to it than "silly Christians and their sky-daddy."
So, these un-scientific atheists don't bother themselves with "thinking too much about reality and the factual basis for atheism, but rather to trust" that it's true?
I said "trusting those who love you," not "trusting those you love." Someone who loves you won't abuse you. Please read what I write more carefully.
The grandfather paradox is an example of why past events can't be altered. Solving the omniscience paradox does not require the past to be altered. If Person A chooses X rather than Y, Person B will see a future that has X rather than Y.
I don't have room to address the unreached so here's a source: 
- It also doesn't mention the Big Bang or Newton's laws, because it exists to declare God as Creator, not to explain the specifics of his creational methods.
- Surely Con is not suggesting that God wait millenia to reveal himself to "us." Moreover, does China's literacy and historical records make Pan Gu's existence more likely than Yahweh's?
- Con's red herring is just a restatement of the Problem of Evil. God may allow suffering for a greater purpose, but he isn't the one causing it. I suggest reading C.S. Lewis on this topic.
- Con's position is a tautology: God is false, so miracles are false, so God is false. Furthermore, I doubt there was an abundance of time-travellers dazzling the Hebrews with iPhones. Try again.
- I don't have room to explain the theology of Hell, either: 
Forgiveness is not dismissal. I am horrified by Dahmer's actions, but I refuse to put limits on who can and cannot be forgiven.
So, Matt. 15:3-6 and 19:19, Mark 10:19, John 19:26-27, and Luke 18:20, which show Jesus' high respect for honoring one's parents (including his own) should be ignored in favor of taking an over-literal interpretation of a single verse? Maybe I'm not the one being mislead.
Most of Leviticus refers to ceremonial and civil laws of Israel. The bible makes it astonishingly clear that they no longer apply because Jesus fulfilled them (Acts 10:13-15, Gal. 3:23-25, Rom. 6:14, Rom. 7:1-6, etc). We are still under the moral laws (some of which are discussed in Leviticus), which Jesus affirmed and expanded (Matt 5:21-22, Matt 5:28-28, Matt. 19:8-9). This is pretty basic theology.
The Israelites were forced by circumstance (or chose) to follow inferior standards—this does not mean they were ignorant of preferable alternatives; the first time "love your neighbour as yourself" appears is in Leviticus. Christians base their morals on the teachings of Jesus, who acknowledged that the "Iron Age tribes" didn't always represent the morality that God wanted, and that their stubbornness forced God's hand in at least some cases, if not all (Matt 19:7-9).
Numbers states that you must not accept a ransom for a murderer, which very strongly implies that one could offer ransoms for other crimes, thus that the bible only describes the maximums.
If Con wants a straight answer on the firmament, it's the atmosphere/sky, waters above are clouds and vapor, and even if they're not, it doesn't matter, as I've already explained.
Con hand-waves my answer to the differing genealogies rather than refuting it.
"They weren't witnesses so the NT is false so they weren't witnesses" is another tautology. If I can't use them, neither can you.
It defies logic to say that Luke (who even Sir William Ramsey described as an "unsurpassed" historian) would just "forget" to mention the destruction of the temple in AD 70, or overlook the murders of Paul and James in the AD 60's in Acts, his later volume, unless these events hadn't happened yet. At worst, we're looking at 30-40 years plus for Luke's Gospel.
The fact that we even know Luke's Gospel was revised (Con's link lists some of the changes, and again, none of them are doctrine) means that we have un-revised texts to compare it to. This is the point I was making by appealing to "big numbers" in the first place. Please read up on textual criticism.
"Mark is a collection of traditions" can be shaved with Hitchens' Razor. Con's source offers no reasons for holding this view, but does offer reasons behind the traditional view.
Con, your article affirms the translation of "camel" as correct, and denies the existence of the gate as false, which is exactly what I said last round.
So, you can't assume that X is Y unless you can prove that X is Y? There goes all of scientific theory.
According to Con's beloved Occam's Razor, an infinite recursion of creators, rather than a single, eternal Creator, multiplies entities beyond necessity.
Let's use this logic: I believe that this creature is a cow. You say it's an elephant. But look, all the evidence for this so-called "elephant" lines up with it being a cow—the trunk, the tusks, the big ears. Thus, it is a cow. It couldn't possibly be an error in my definition of a cow, because semantics are irrelevant in light of evidence. Please read the article I linked in Round 3.
I definitely don't have the space to address the biggest ethical complaints in the bible: , , .
Lord of the Flies describes literally the exact opposite of humanity's altruism. It demonstrates how humans should logically behave, as I've discussed, given that evolution considers everything "a matter of survival," but it doesn't do much to help Con's case.
I confess, "lucky chance" may not have been Dawkins, but he is quoted as saying "I am not advocating a morality based on evolution," which is a bizarre claim from a man who rejects any other source for it.
People will do evil things if they think it's morally justified to do them. Your religion, race, or class are irrelevant to this fact. Some religious people agree with genital mutilation despite what science says, and some atheists agree with eugenics despite what history says. No one gets to claim moral superiority.
Once again, Con misses my point. If we are going to use Occam's Razor as a standard rather than guide, then we will have to shave receivers and transmitters in favor of little men right alongside atheism in favor of God. What I am actually trying to illustrate is that this is not a solution Con wants, and thus they should be a lot more careful with what they claim the razor does and does not apply to.
Evidence for the resurrection: accounts of it in historically reliable documents. Explosive growth of Christianity in the centers of persecution. Jews clearly unable to present Christ's body as refutation. Dates of earliest attestation of the resurrection too early to be legendary (1-3 years). Hostile witnesses affirming the resurrection belief, not bothering to deny the event as mythical. Resurrection accounts circulated within the lifetimes of those able to refute it. This is just some of the evidence, and Con rejects it in favor of Hume's (refuted) stance on miracles.
In conclusion, I argue that: morality, cosmology, and psychology imply a god, history demands the J/C God, and ignorance of theology and textual criticism are bad reasons to reject the bible as history.
My thanks to Con for a very engaging debate! It's been fun!
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