Monday, February 29, 2016

What if the evidence were different?

A redated post.

“I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.”- Stephen Roberts


Suppose archaeologists were to start saying that they had found the Book of Mormon peoples. We translate a bunch of old Native American documents, and, lo and behold, those Native American documents had names, places, magistrates, and other leaders that  corresponded precisely to accounts in the Book of Mormon. Lehi, Nephi, and the rest of them are all there in the Native American documents. Suppose parts of the book of Mormon were confirmed as strongly as, say, oh, say, the New Testament.

http://www.scribd.com/doc/1648...

Suppose, further, that DNA evidence matched Native Americans to Jews to such an extent that this disconfirmation of the Book of Mormon would not exist. If the evidence looked like that, it would radically alter my assessment of Mormonism. I couldn't rule out shopping for sacred underwear if I were to discover that.

78 comments:

Mr Veale said...

Totally unrelated post - but a case worth discussing with anyone who believes that Rupert Murdoch, of "Fox News" is good for the media...

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-14017661

...and also with anyone who wants to know just how low journalism can sink when profit is the name of the game

Mr Veale said...

I sincerely doubt that RM would have authorised this in his day...but it raises questions about leadership at his "flagships", and the effects of the free market on the free press.

SteveK said...

Your response, Victor, is an example of a person offering valid reasons in support of the believer's slogan such that it defeats Robert's slogan. It's similar to the responses that apologists have been offering to all peoples and all nations for centuries.

Christianity, at least here in the West, is more than "just believe", it's "believe for these reasons".

Papalinton said...

Before anyone gets too excited about Victor's claim and the level of academic authority of the site he included [http://www.scribd.com/doc/1648...], pause a moment and take a deep breath.

1. The site reference is to an Apologetical book written in 1958, over 50 years ago and has been shot down by much more recent historical and archeological discoveries and research.

2. It is very helpful to anyone reading the cited book, to take note of the most critical claim the author makes [on the second last page of the chapter cited]:

"Generally speaking, “confirmation” is not the best word to use of the bearing- [p.331] of archaeology on the New Testament. In fact, in both Testaments it is better to regard archaeology as illustrative than as confirmatory,"

Nuff said.

Walter said...

I have stated it before but if the first western explorers to the Americas or Australia actually encountered a fairly developed belief in Yahweh/Christ, then I would be absolutely sold that the one true religion had been supernaturally revealed to all mankind. As it stands though, it appears that Christianity is one more man-made religion that spreads just like all the rest. And the fact that a collection of sacred books gets some ancient historical facts right does little to dispel my doubts.

Mr Veale said...

Thats a fantastic slogan SteveK...good man!

Anonymous said...

Papalinton, grasping desperately at straws as usual. The evidence since then has only gotten better.

Game, set, match, Pap. ;)

Mr Veale said...

Papa

Dangerously close to a substantive comment! (-;

Walter

Yes, I think that archeological "confirmation" proves a lot less than Joe Public thinks it does. The popular perception is that archaeology is more "scientific" than history.
But many archaelogical finds are open to interpretation, and we tend to come back to epigraphs and documents to put various finds in their historical context. This is why Bruce only makes modest claims about their importance to the historian. Archaeological evidence need not be priveleged over the documents.


But I think that Vic's point is that "The Book of Mormon" cannot manage even some mild archaeological confirmation, and can be explained quite neatly in terms of the folk magic and counter-Christian sects of Western New York in the early 1800s. (Explaining the success of Mormonism is a different matter.)

Graham

Mr Veale said...

Walter

I should add that I have no problem with general historical and sociological explanations of the spread of Christianity from culture to culture. There's a great deal of "overdetermination" in historical explanations. The Second World War can be explained in terms of Hitlers intentions, German conservatism, the economics of the 1930s, or in other terms. The cause cited by each explanation might be sufficient on it's own...this doesn't mean that the others are not true.
So even if Hitler had not succeeded politically, German conservatives were ascendent and wished to reverse Versailles. Britain and France were opposed to a complete reversal of Versailles. So some conflict seemed inevitable once conservatives like Papen and Schleicher made it to the top. But that doesn't mean that Hitler's intentions do not explain the outbreak of a second European conflict. We have a case of over determination.
In the same way I can allow, and indeed expect, that Christianity will spread by expected patterns. But that doesn't rule out providence - and it certainly does not rule out the truth of Christianity, which is a separate question entirely.

Graham

Walter said...

But I think that Vic's point is that "The Book of Mormon" cannot manage even some mild archaeological confirmation, and can be explained quite neatly in terms of the folk magic and counter-Christian sects of Western New York in the early 1800s.

I agree wholeheartedly that mainstream Christianity is in better evidential shape than Mormonism is. Of course, vanilla Christianity is much older than Mormonism, so its historical roots are shrouded in the fog of the ancient past. In other words, the events depicted in the bible happened a long time ago in a place far, far away, and it is difficult, if not impossible, to prove that those events did or did not truly happen.

Funny thing is that as silly as Mormonism is, it is one of the fastest growing religions in the US. This tells me that people are capable of believing the stupidest things for the flimsiest of reasons.

Mr Veale said...

I wouldn't assume that proximity is helps the historian. The number and reliability of the sources can be quite small for quite recent events. For example, it is beyond doubt that Hitler ordered the Holocaust, but we have to infer why as he also wanted his role covered up.
We have better documentary evidence about Paul's reasons for abandoning Jewish food laws.

Also, a proper understanding of recent events can be swept away by the sheer volume of documentary evidence.
(Imagine some poor wretch writing a Phd in American history, with Sarah Palin as the topic. He can't wade through 20000 emails...we'll never understand the 21st Century. We know too much about it.)

In any case, certain ancient events (the battle of Pharsalus) are more certain than some modern events (Blair's "deal" to surrender power to Gordon Brown after a term in office, or Blair's commitment to support a US invasion of Iraq before consulting his cabinet).

Graham Veale

Mr Veale said...

In fact our knowledge of 1st Century Palestine is extremely good. No one person could master all the sources.
So I don't think that we're talking about the "mists of history" when it comes to the life of Jesus. Our grasp of the period is good. We're not talking about the fall of Troy, or Romulus and Remus, here.

Graham

Walter said...


In the same way I can allow, and indeed expect, that Christianity will spread by expected patterns.


Graham, this is where we differ. I would expect the one true religion to spread in a far more efficient manner than all those thousands of false ones. I cannot wrap my mind around the notion of a universal God of all mankind who only reveals himself to a pittance of people throughout history, then gets upset that large numbers of people doubt the stories about him. I would expect a God who seeks a relationship with all his children to reveal himself in a clear manner that cannot be mistaken as a human fabrication. If the Christian story appeared simultaneously around the globe in a manner that would be impossible to replicate by mere humans, then that would firmly validate the message that God was revealing.

Mr Veale said...

As for reasons for accepting a "silly religion"...I wondered about this as a young RE teacher. But I've picked a bit up over the last decade or so.

It is easy to dismiss the devoted Mormon (for example) as somehow sub-rational.
But don't assume that the question of truth is uppermost in the Mormon's mind. Religion can be valued for the existential comfort that it brings, or the community ties that it involves. A person can make a calculation, and be quite happy to exchange a low probability of true belief for the social and emotional benefits of membership in a particular religious community.

Different people value different religions for different reasons. They can remain rational "purchasers" of a religious identity and still ignore questions of truth.
(And, in fact, I worry that many evangelicals value the evangelical sub-culture more than they value Christian truth claims.)
Now to a Christian, and to a secularist, these are terrible reasons for holding to a religious belief.

But thanks to Dawkins and co. secularists sometimes assume that these are the only reasons that a person could have for having a religious belief. As it happens, many of us are simply convinced that Christianity is true. (I loathe the evangelical subculture, but I'm a convinced evangelical. Heaven help me. And I can find no existential comfort in a proposition that is very probably false.)

And I'm absolutely convinced that the secularist should concede that my core Christian beliefs are rational - that I have good reasons for thinking that they are true, and that the sceptic cannot force the Christian believer to abandon his faith on pain of irrationality.

But all that said many people want something different from religion. I guess I have to convice them that they're wrong. (As opposed to ranting at them or condescending to them, as Dawkins does...)

Graham

Mr Veale said...

Walter

Is it the fate of the unevangelised that concerns you? Or do you feel that important Religious truths would be obvious to all?
Or is it a desire for a particular type of miracle? (Multiple revelations in various locations)

The first I can answer, the second I can sympathise with, but the third doesn't seem to be a powerful objection.

Graham

unkleE said...

Walter said: "I would expect the one true religion to spread in a far more efficient manner than all those thousands of false ones."

We cannot avoid having expectations, and it is good that you have explained one of yours. But I can't feel it is a very reasonable one, or very telling when compared to other expectations, such as - I would expect an obscure Jewish tekton crucified in 30 CE to remain obscure and unknown.

So, efficient or not, the fact remains that against all expectations this Galilean is arguably the most influential person who ever lived, and his followers now number something like 2 billion people, more than any other religion.

We cannot judge truth by such matters, but we can judge expectations, and I think your expectation fades in the light of those facts.

Best wishes.

Anonymous said...

Hi Walter,

Your objection to Christianity is that it uses perfectly natural processes (word of mouth, written documents) in order to communicate a supernatural message. I understand your objection and think there is something to it. However, if Christianity is true, then it means that God entered and acted directly in history in a unique way that cannot be duplicated. Therefore, that event will become part of history and be communicated the way other historical events are communicated.

But I also suggest that if Christianity is true, then there should also be a way for God to communicate directly with each individual. So a way to test it is for you to ask God to show you who Jesus really is. If God cares about being in a loving relationship with each of us, then there should be a way for Him to communicate with us in a way that we will know it is Him. But don't do it unless you really want to know. -- Bilbo, in anonymous, anonymous mode.

Mr Veale said...

Sorry to bang on about this, but Fox is very popular with evangelicals and conservative Christians. News Corporation owns the British papers concerned, and Fox News. Rupert Murdoch's leadership should be scrutinised by evangelicals. Carl Trueman made this point recently in "Republocrat".

The behaviour of the journalists and investigators - practice which has been described as "endemic" at one paper - defies belief. It can be generously described as "amoral". It can be more accurately described as "evil".

http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2011/jul/04/milly-dowler-voicemail-hacked-news-of-world


(OK.I'll stop talking about this now.)

Walter said...

Is it the fate of the unevangelised that concerns you?

To some extent, yes. Since I have been indoctrinated into a belief that salvation is exclusive to those who give intellectual assent to a certain set of religious propositions, then I find myself dismayed at the manner in which a supposedly loving God has revealed himself only to people lucky enough to have lived in the right place and the right time. This objection has no force if you are a Christian universalist or liberal inclusivist. Sure, a tri-omnimax deity can reveal itself any way it feels like it; he/she does not have to conform to my expectations, but this deity should not be surprised nor upset if I, and many others, have a hard time believing in it.

Or do you feel that important Religious truths would be obvious to all?

If your eternal fate hinges on certain truths, then yes I do believe that these truths should be glaringly obvious to all mankind, without the need of a human missionary to bring you a *story* about what God needs for you to do or believe.

Or is it a desire for a particular type of miracle? (Multiple revelations in various locations)

Obviously many people don't require such a miracle to believe, but how many millions or billions more would believe if the revelation itself were something that absolutely could not be faked by mere humans? To be blunt the bible is a story about a supposed revelation. This is not the same thing as receiving an unmistakeably divine revelation from God first hand. If God reveals something directly to you, and you proceed to tell me what God wants with me, then I can't claim to have received a revelation from God--I have received an anecdotal story about a revelation from God. And unless you have some way to validate your message as coming from a divine source, then I am under no obligation to believe that your revelation was real.

Papalinton said...

Walter
You commentary has been exemplary.
And unless the christian message can be validated in some substantive way, no one is obligated to run with it.

Indeed I would surmise that because it looks, smells, feels, tastes and sounds like every other religion, although there are slight differences in their stories, they all come from the very same region of human intellection, our imagination.

Shackleman said...

"And, in fact, I worry that many evangelicals value the evangelical sub-culture more than they value Christian truth claims"

AMEN!!! Preach on!!

Shackleman said...

"I loathe the evangelical subculture, but I'm a convinced evangelical. Heaven help me. And I can find no existential comfort in a proposition that is very probably false."

Again! AMEN!! Wish your church were near me!

unkleE said...

Walter, I think that you have described a minority position within christianity when you say: "I have been indoctrinated into a belief that salvation is exclusive to those who give intellectual assent to a certain set of religious propositions"

Many christians, including some very well known evangelicals, are 'inclusivists', that is, they believe that we are judged according to the light we are given. And I know none who think that we are saved by intellectual assent to propositions like some sort of entrance examination - rather we are saved by grace through faith, and propositions are only a part of that.

And even the most rabid exclusivist would agree that the thief crucified with Jesus was saved despite knowing very few propositions about Jesus. Or that Jews in the Old Testament were "saved" despite knowing no propositions about Jesus.

"these truths should be glaringly obvious to all mankind"
But if we are judged according to the light we have been given, this objection fades, as you have recognised.

unkleE said...

Papalinton said: "unless the christian message can be validated in some substantive way, no one is obligated to run with it"

I think you do not get it, unfortunately. It is not a matter of obligation. There is a glorious opportunity for those who choose to grab it, and you have a free choice to accept it or not.

There is sufficient evidence for those who look for it, but never sufficient for those who will only accept it if intellectually compelled.

I would wish you were wanting to check out this opportunity, but I would hate to think you felt compelled or obligated.

Walter said...

I think you do not get it, unfortunately. It is not a matter of obligation. There is a glorious opportunity for those who choose to grab it, and you have a free choice to accept it or not.

According to you, we have a free choice to grab a glorious opportunity, but according to a another set of Christians there is no such thing as a free choice--there is no free will and the choice is made for us. And let's be honest, how free can any choice truly be when the choice is accompanied with dire threats if you "choose" door #2? And can any of us choose to believe something by force of will? I don't think so. I can pretend but I won't truly *believe*.

There is sufficient evidence for those who look for it, but never sufficient for those who will only accept it if intellectually compelled.

There is sufficient evidence for you to believe, but that evidence may not be sufficient for the person standing next to you.

I would wish you were wanting to check out this opportunity, but I would hate to think you felt compelled or obligated.

I think there is some equivocation going on about the word "compelled." I cannot voluntarily believe that the moon is made of cheese; I am *compelled* by the weight of evidence that the moon consists of some form of rock. This doesn't mean that my arm is being twisted until I yell "rock" instead of "cheese."

unkleE said...

Walter, there are a number of interesting points in your comments. Here are some brief responses.

Free will -There is much we don't know here, but we nevertheless live out lives as if we have free choice, and our discussion here would be meaningless without it.

Dire threats - (1) You have discussed with enough believers to know that many of us to not have beliefs which entail dire threats. I do not believe in everlasting punishment (I don't think Jesus taught that) and I don't think Vic believes in it either. (2) Regardless of your argument here, it is a matter of fact that many people do feel free to choose otherwise.

Choosing to believe - No we probably can't make ourselves believe something, nor should we. But our attitudes and assumptions help determine what we believe, and we can change some of them, re-examine them, consider alternatives, etc. Would you be willing to go through such a process of re-examiniation? Are you open to the possibility that what you currently disbelieve may in fact be true?

Walter said...

Free will -There is much we don't know here, but we nevertheless live out lives as if we have free choice, and our discussion here would be meaningless without it.

That depends on how you define free will. Is free will libertarian or compatibilistic?

Dire threats - (1) You have discussed with enough believers to know that many of us to not have beliefs which entail dire threats...

And I have interacted with a vast number of believers whose beliefs do entail the reality of eternal conscious torment for those that choose poorly for whatever the reason. Which group of Christians has interpreted the revelation clearly and how can I know which of you is right?

Are you open to the possibility that what you currently disbelieve may in fact be true?

I sure am, how about you? I spend way more time at Christian blogs than I do skeptical ones for the simple reason that I am always looking for that killer argument that shows that what I currently believe is wrong. Since my initial deconversion from fundamentalist Christianity to atheism, I have moved back towards a minimalist form of deism due to arguments that I encountered on theist's blogs.

Papalinton said...

Walter, there are so many things I was going to respond to unkleE, but your replies are the stuff of logic and reason founded on valuable evidentiary fact and proofs.

For unkleE to suggest that the best of free will we can look to is to "live our lives *as if* we have free choice", is a wonderful metaphor for the extraordinarily tenuous nature of christian trooth-claims. We can add others: Believe in god as if he is real; believe as if he walked on water; believe as if he really ascended to heaven whole.

And you are right Walter to take with a grain of salt anything unkleE might tell you about his personal revelation that, "I do not believe in everlasting punishment (I don't think Jesus taught that) and I don't think Vic believes in it either ."
As you tightly note, relying on indisputable proofs and substantive evidence, that the vast majority of christians do know that you and I are going to hell to roast forever. Even Mel Gibson, the catholic nutter that he is, said, as much as his wife was a good woman who did many wonderful things in the community, because she is not a catholic she too will be going to hell.


@ unkleE
"There is sufficient evidence for those who look for it," as you say; but *only* if you accept a much lower standard of evidence, is what I say.

UnkleE, "I would wish you were wanting to check out this opportunity, but I would hate to think you felt compelled or obligated." You seem to forget I was a trueblue, card-carrying fundie for the first 20+ years of my life. I looked at your 'opportunity', and found it was baggage, a millstone, an unfortunate perspective that sought to bind people through a hierarchy of authoritative entities, with god at the top of the pile, a pyramid scheme, each level in the pile telling those on the level below how they should live, think and act. And I said, no thank you. I can look after myself.

David B Marshall said...

I respectfully disagree. Joseph Smith was a sleazy used-car salesman and all-round creep, and the Book of Mormon adds nothing (that I can tell) of value to the NT. A little archeology wouldn't much help, IMO.

David B Marshall said...

Walter: To answer your first post, which seems fair-minded, I think something very like that has, indeed, happened.

There was, indeed, a "developed belief in God" in the Judeo-Christian sense in Australia (even Emile Durkheim admits this) and in much of the Americas, also Africa, Polynesia, and parts of Asia, including China. (I can recommend a long list of books on the subject to you -- Andrew Lang, Wilhelm Schmidt, John Mbiti, even eminent non-Christian scholars often admit this.) A chapter in my Jesus and the Religions of Man provides an overview.

As for finding Jesus, you'd be surprised; I've been amazed. In some ways, I think more has been provided than you're asking for.

David B Marshall said...

Walter: BTW, I find one of Rodney Stark's book on your profile. He began his career apparently unaware of this phenomena, but in more recent books recognizes it.

Walter said...

David, are you saying that it is your belief that Yahweh revealed Torah to more nations than just the Hebrews--perhaps all of them? I find this to be a little far-fetched. Or are you claiming that the story of Jesus in particular was somehow supernaturally spread across the globe very shortly after the event, because I have certainly never seen any evidence that isolated cultures knew the Jesus story until a human missionary brought it to them.

David B Marshall said...

Walter: Your comment was about God, not the Torah. Though in many ways, the Chinese Classics are very similiar to the Torah and the Psalms, with the Warring States sages a lot like the prophets.

I'm saying that there is a strong awareness of God who matches the characteristics of the Judeo-Christian God in probably most, but not all, cultures around the world, independent of Christian or Muslim influence.

I am also saying there are prophecies or types that are fulfilled better in Jesus than in anyone, not only in Jewish tradition, but also in Chinese, Indian, Greco-Roman, and other traditions. Sometimes the resemblance is startling.

These are both among the reasons that Christianity spread so far, often against considerable social pressure:

http://christthetao.blogspot.com/2011/02/why-christianity-passes-outsider-test.html

They are also among the reasons that I believe in Jesus.

Walter said...

Walter: Your comment was about God, not the Torah. Though in many ways, the Chinese Classics are very similiar to the Torah and the Psalms, with the Warring States sages a lot like the prophets.

True, my comments were about God not Torah, but the overall point that I was attempting to make was that IMO a universal, monotheistic God who supposedly loves his children and seeks a relationship with all of them would reveal himself not just to a particular nation nor a teensy handful of prophets, but would be more likely to reveal himself in a manner that would be impossible to duplicate by human pretenders. I see no evidence that the Christian message has been revealed in a manner that I would find consistent with a deity who seeks acknowledgment and worship by all of humanity.

The second part of my objection is that even if the Christian message is true, people are justified in not believing it due to the manner in which the message is spread, i.e., human books and traditions which give us no means of validating that the source material is a divine message from the creator. A revelation from God can be justifiably rejected when it comes to you second, third, or fourth hand from the mouth of another human being. I have come across the argument that the bible itself is an example of a supernatural revelation, but I strongly disagree with that for a number of reasons that I won't get into at the moment.

David B Marshall said...

Walter: You say you "see no evidence" that God has revealed himself to more of humanity than the Jews: yet I just cited evidence. Have you read those books? Are you familiar with this body of evidence? Your response is not what I would have expected from your initial comment.

Your second paragraph introduces a new objection, which frankly makes me wonder about the sincerity of the comments in your initial post. It also suggests (to me, a subjective impression) that (a) you maintain some of the fundamentalist mindset from which you have partly emerged, and (b) you have a list of "a priori" demands that you make of "how God would do things;" but what if God has reasons for doing things differently?

I hope you don't mind my speaking frankly.

Walter said...

Walter: You say you "see no evidence" that God has revealed himself to more of humanity than the Jews: yet I just cited evidence. Have you read those books? Are you familiar with this body of evidence? Your response is not what I would have expected from your initial comment.

Your response was to point me to some books. Don't take this the wrong way, but life is short, my finances are limited, and I am not sure that I want to go buy a book every time am apologist wishes to press a particular argument. You seem to be saying that if we trace the religious history of most nations backwards in time that we will find that they have at some point believed in some type of male monotheism or henotheism that is similar to the Judeo-Christian God. Even if this is so, my question would be "so what?" How does this prove that Yahweh/Jesus/Spirit is the one true god? I'm just not seeing it. Perhaps you can summarize your argument?

Chris said...

"I'm saying that there is a strong awareness of God who matches the characteristics of the Judeo-Christian God in probably most, but not all, cultures around the world, independent of Christian or Muslim influence.

I am also saying there are prophecies or types that are fulfilled better in Jesus than in anyone, not only in Jewish tradition, but also in Chinese, Indian, Greco-Roman, and other traditions. Sometimes the resemblance is startling."

There are at least two objections to this. The first is that similarities of religious concepts across cultures could just as easily be explained by similarities in human cognition.

The second is that making correlations across cultures with no contact and then attributing them to the same source is an Anthropology 101 mistake. This is often the method of cranks or amateurs; for example, I.P. Donnelly, the writer of 'The Antediluvian World', drew on correlations between Egyptian and Mayan culture, similarities in the sounds of words across cultures (a huge mistake according to linguists), etc., as 'evidence' for an Atlantean culture. Of course that book and the entire Atlantis myth was long ago convincingly debunked.

I'm not saying you are a crank or amateur, since I know nothing of you or your work, but those statements in your post are not good signs.

Walter said...

Your second paragraph introduces a new objection, which frankly makes me wonder about the sincerity of the comments in your initial post. It also suggests (to me, a subjective impression) that (a) you maintain some of the fundamentalist mindset from which you have partly emerged, and (b) you have a list of "a priori" demands that you make of "how God would do things;" but what if God has reasons for doing things differently?

Actually, if you read back through all the comments you will see that I DID raise this objection already. I also stated that I realize that a tri-omnimax being (assuming one exists) does not have to conform to my expectations, but this deity should not be surprised that many people doubt its existence based on the manner with which it has supposedly revealed itself.

I stand by my statement that a revelation from god(s) can be justifiably doubted if the revelation does not come to me either directly from God via a means of communication that simply cannot be faked by my fellow human beings (something like Paul or Moses are claimed to have received), or if the message of the revelation comes from another person, then that person needs some kind of strong evidence that their message was not generated from their own imagination.

David B Marshall said...

Walter: Let me remind you of your original comment:

"I have stated it before but if the first western explorers to the Americas or Australia actually encountered a fairly developed belief in Yahweh/Christ, then I would be absolutely sold that the one true religion had been supernaturally revealed to all mankind. As it stands though, it appears that Christianity is one more man-made religion that spreads just like all the rest."

It is now clear to me that these comments, while I think well-stated, were not sincere.

Life IS short. It's too short to waste time with people who make what appear to be weighty objections to something so important as the truth of Christianity, but then when you point out that their premises are wrong, and point to contrary evidence, they just jump to another objection, admit nothing, express no curiosity, and say life is too short to learn the genuine facts.

I said nothing about "male" monotheism; God is, of course, without gender. That's just another red herring. So is calling me an "apologist."

David B Marshall said...

Chris: Your comments also reveal an abysmmal lack of curiosity and open-mindedness, that unfortunately seems to be the hallmark of the New Atheism:

"There are at least two objections to this. The first is that similarities of religious concepts across cultures could just as easily be explained by similarities in human cognition."

This is not an objection that works a priori. You can't say a set of data can be explained in such-and-such a way, when you haven't bothered to look at the data yet. Have you?

"The second is that making correlations across cultures with no contact and then attributing them to the same source is an Anthropology 101 mistake. This is often the method of cranks or amateurs; for example, I.P. Donnelly, the writer of 'The Antediluvian World', drew on correlations between Egyptian and Mayan culture, similarities in the sounds of words across cultures (a huge mistake according to linguists), etc., as 'evidence' for an Atlantean culture. Of course that book and the entire Atlantis myth was long ago convincingly debunked."

Again, you confuse things because you don't know what you're talking about.

I did not claim that the similarities are due to diffusion. (Which I agree is a common error, based on insufficient data, carelessly and subjectively interpretted.) I argue that the similiarities are NOT due to diffusion.

Walter's original comment showed no awareness of the similarities. Having pointed them out (roughly), I would hope that open-minded skeptics would follow his original logic, rather than just throw up a bunch of post-hoc objections, and pretend that I'm introducing a novel argument, here, and am therefore responsible for answering every potential post hoc objection to it.

"I'm not saying you are a crank or amateur, since I know nothing of you or your work, but those statements in your post are not good signs."

With all due respect, your comments are the ones that seem to suggest incautious reasoning and a "will to (dis)believe," it seems to me.

Walter said...

Walter: Let me remind you of your original comment:

"I have stated it before but if the first western explorers to the Americas or Australia actually encountered a fairly developed belief in Yahweh/Christ, then I would be absolutely sold that the one true religion had been supernaturally revealed to all mankind. As it stands though, it appears that Christianity is one more man-made religion that spreads just like all the rest."

It is now clear to me that these comments, while I think well-stated, were not sincere.


[emphasis added]

You have not produced evidence to the effect that every nation on earth has received a clear revelation from Yahweh/Christ. I had to search around your blog to even get a rough idea about what you were talking about. I asked for you to summarize your particular argument, which you seem unwilling to do.

David says: Life IS short. It's too short to waste time with people who make what appear to be weighty objections to something so important as the truth of Christianity, but then when you point out that their premises are wrong, and point to contrary evidence, they just jump to another objection, admit nothing, express no curiosity, and say life is too short to learn the genuine facts.

I can see why you are routinely treated with derision on Loftus's blog. I consider myself to be an honest truth-seeker who admittedly has biases (just like you do). You are focusing one ONE objection that I mentioned, then you're getting your panties bunched because I happen to have more than one objection to the Christian religion. And you have not even adequately pleaded your case against my first objection. You sound like someone who is getting miffed because I did not run to the altar begging Jesus to enter my heart based on a couple of comments from you. I have changed my position a few times in the past, but I am no winsock, altering with every light breeze that blows past me.

Chris said...

David,

The ‘you’re not open-minded’ charge is a hallmark of people with fringe ideas. I see nothing in your supremely vague posts – so far, anyway – to stimulate any further interest on my part. You make what appears to be a dramatic claim – that Jesus is in some manner familiar/known to non-Christian cultures, but provide nothing of substance to stimulate any further interest, at least from me. (Perhaps your claims are otherwise; it’s hard to tell.)

Given the great number of interesting books and subjects out there that I have a personal interest in, I have to make a judgment call as to what seems promising. Your books appear to be self-published and the sources you cite appear from Internet searches to be fringe as well. The idea of Jesus ‘fulfilling’ (an odd anthropomorphism, by the way) the Chinese culture, for example, seems like a great opportunity for bias, cherry-picking, out-of-context interpretations, etc.

In any case, perhaps your books are great. I’m afraid I will continue reading other things.

David B Marshall said...

Chris: You seem to be under the misunderstanding that I'm asking you to read one particular book. I'm not. I'm stating two facts, both of which can be verified from numerous sources:

(1) That people in many cultures around the world are aware of one Supreme God, whose character closely matches that of the Judeo-Christian God. This is in response to Walter's comment:

"I cannot wrap my mind around the notion of a universal God of all mankind who only reveals himself to a pittance of people throughout history, then gets upset that large numbers of people doubt the stories about him."

You seem to be an educated man. You have not heard of me, but I hope you HAVE heard of some of the following?

James Legge
Andrew Lang
Emile Durkheim
G. K. Chesterton
Wilhelm Schdmidt
Paul Radin
Marvin Harris
Lin Yutang
John Wu
Lamin Sanneh
Mircea Eliade
Rodney Stark
Edward Shaughnessy

Some of these scholars are Christians, others are atheists or "pagans." What they all have in common is that they admit my claim, sometimes with extreme reluctance, and sometimes within certain geographical limits. (Being experts in different parts of the world.) I could lengthen this list quite a bit.

Rather than showing any sign of an open mind on the issue, you jumped immediately to a defensive, ad hominem position. This says something about you, not about me. I know what I'm talking about, and no, neither my claim nor my work is in any sense "fringe." Whether you're interested in it, or the work of these scholars, is of course your own business.

(2) My second claim is that types or prophecies of a figure who Jesus has reasonably been seen as fulfilling, is also common in important pagan traditions. Here again, I can provide a list of respected scholars, though this claim is more subjective and skeptics may be even more motivated to dismiss it. (And some of my favorite sources are in Chinese.) Nevertheless, a strong argument can be made for this claim.

It is nothing to say these claims are "vague." So was the claim I responded to: this is not my blog, let alone an article, let alone a popular book, let alone an academic argument. If you are not interested in pursuing the question (and obviously you aren't), you are of course free to leave it alone. And given your apparent attitude, I think that might be just as well at this point.

Papalinton said...

Chris
"You make what appears to be a dramatic claim – that Jesus is in some manner familiar/known to non-Christian cultures, but provide nothing of substance to stimulate any further interest, at least from me. "

Your assessment of David Marshall is spot on. Indeed he sees the judeo-christian god everywhere. He has spent many years in China[?] attempting to inveigle the myth of the christian god into domestic chinese religions, perhaps as a function of his proselytizing to the eastern heathens. Having immersed himself in Taoism was not to enjoy the beauty of Tao thought itself but by some process of alchemy, sought to subsume Taoism within a particular brand of the christianities, so that the triune god-head emerged at the top of the Tao food chain.

David's belief in the universality of the judeo-christian god having been remarkably familiar to non-christian cultures is indeed remarkable. I suspect, a claim so often repeated that it has now assumed the mantle of, 'factoid'.

B. Prokop said...

Yikes! I am a VERY educated man, and I've only heard of two people on Marshall's list. (Actually, only one - Chesterton. I am familiar with the name Andrew Lang, but I couldn't tell you anything substantive about him even if you put a gun to my head.)

David B Marshall said...

Prokop: People are educated in different fields. Chris give the impression of being educated in fields where some of these names are well-known. Durkheim, for instance, is perhaps the most famous sociologist, ever. A "very well educated" person really should have heard of him. Many of the others OUGHT to be known, but then, this is not a perfect world. Lin Yutang was perhaps the greatest Chinese writer of the 20th Century. Stark is one of the most famous living sociologists of religion. Anyway, in comparative culture and the intellectual history of ideas, they're all big names, mostly very big names.

David B Marshall said...

Papa: I'm afraid your thinly-rationalized and researched affirmation of Chris' line of ad hominem is neither more relevant, nor more accurate, than his own.

Take this claim that the sources I cite are "fringe." Which of the 13scholars I just named would you put in that category? Please tell.

As for your fanciful psycho-history of myself, well, that's what one often gets from people without any real arguments. Why does scurilous ad hominem come so much more easily to the lips of so many modern "skeptics" than the simple and honest words, "I don't know?"

David B Marshall said...

Walter: I don't expect you, or anyone, to change his views the first time he encounters a new idea or claimed set of facts. Maybe I should have been more patient; I do think you should have shown a bit more open-mindedness, and I hope you will.

I don't think I've seen any Christian get any better treatment on John's site: don't make that your gauge. I've carried on friendly dialogue with some skeptics for years.

Walter said...

David,

I'm not trying to sound snarky, but I am as open minded that Christian theism may turn out to be true, as you are that it may turn out to be false. IOW, we are both biased to a certain degree. I am a very agnostic type of deist, which is to say that I do not have a problem accepting the existence of a higher power in the universe. I do however have a problem easily accepting the wildly improbable claims of orthodox, trinitarian Christianity, or any of the other "revealed" religions. Your evidence that many nations on earth have believed in a supreme creator does nothing to convince me that the supposedly triune god of the Christians is that higher power whose existence I tentatively accept.

Shackleman said...

I should probably mind my own business, but Walter, it seems to me from your comments here that, while you raise a really great potential objection for belief in Christianity, you haven't really done much serious investigation into the matter. Then, when a seemingly well-learned person offers you a list of worthy sources that perhaps meets or diminishes your objection you ought to be eager to investigate.

It seems to me that a real truth-seeker would follow up on challenges to objections he himself proposes. Otherwise, why make the objection to begin with?

Walter said...

I should probably mind my own business, but Walter, it seems to me from your comments here that, while you raise a really great potential objection for belief in Christianity, you haven't really done much serious investigation into the matter. Then, when a seemingly well-learned person offers you a list of worthy sources that perhaps meets or diminishes your objection you ought to be eager to investigate.

It seems to me that a real truth-seeker would follow up on challenges to objections he himself proposes. Otherwise, why make the objection to begin with?


No offense, Shackleman, but it seems neither you nor David understood my original objection. I stated that I would be convinced if there were evidence of a developed belief in the Yahweh/Christ story that had spread across the globe without the help of human intervention. This means that if a western explorer came across a totally isolated culture whose religious beliefs had an extreme parallel with the Christian New Testament, then I would be convinced that the Christian religion has supernatural validation. As far as I can tell from looking at David's website, he has a theory that several nations in their ancient past once held to a form of monotheism or henotheism that bore a vague resemblance to the Judeo-Christin god. Basically, his claim is far weaker than what I was asking for. And I mean no disrespect to David, but I am not rushing out to buy his books based on what I've read over at his site.

Walter said...

As an interesting aside, I have since learned that Richard Carrier has used the exact same argument in a chapter in John Loftus's new book: The End of Christianity

Shackleman said...

*shrug*. To each their own. It seems to me that you've clarified that what you really are looking for is "proof" not evidence. In which case I see why you're not interested in pursing the leads, as they are not in and of themselves the "burning bush" you seem to be needing.

That's your right. I can only speak for myself, but evidence that is short of "proof" is still very intriguing to me, and could serve to at least start to meet your objections. I for one will be chasing down some of the leads offered by Mr. Marshall because I find your objection an interesting one and a similar one I held myself when I was an atheist.

Walter said...

*shrug*. To each their own. It seems to me that you've clarified that what you really are looking for is "proof" not evidence. In which case I see why you're not interested in pursing the leads, as they are not in and of themselves the "burning bush" you seem to be needing.

This all ties in with my second objection: validation. When another human tells you that they have a message from the creator--who apparently is unable or unwilling to speak for himself--then the messenger had damn well better have some means of verifying that their message is divine and not self-generated. The Apostles were supposed to have had supernatural powers which could be used to perform miracles and validate that they had a message that came from a higher power. I get no such validation; all I get are apologetic arguments.

Shackleman said...

Walter,

I completely sympathize with that. I had the exact same issues myself.

You and I are brothers from another mother :-) Whereas you were a cradle Fundie, I was a cradle atheist. So I empathize with all of the objections I've ever seen you raise on this site over the years :-)

No one can force you to be compelled to look deeper into what Mr. Marshall has hinted at. Again, for myself, I have already learned a bit by doing simple wikipedia searches on some of the names he listed that I was previously unfamiliar with. When I consider what I've already gleaned from those simple wiki articles, I'm even more intrigued to pursue his lead further. But again, to each their own.

Forgive the snark (it's meant in good cheer), but I think if you desire to seek for truth, then you should spend more time seeking, than you do asking questions! As you said, life is short!

;-)

Walter said...

Shackleman,

Maybe you can buy his books and present his argument for him? As Chris has mentioned, we have to make judgment calls as to where we spend our time and money. I tend to think that Loftus's three books present some of the strongest arguments against orthodox Christianity that I have ever read in one place, but I don't expect that many believers will rush out to buy his books. Wouldn't believers want to critically examine the best arguments against their faith? Most are quite happy never reading a counter-apologetic book in their life. Long story short, David has not given me much to whet my appetite that he has some killer apologetic defense of the Christian faith. Maybe I'll find one of his books in a public library sometime?

Shackleman said...

"David has not given me much to whet my appetite that he has some killer apologetic defense of the Christian faith."

But why set the bar so high? Does it need to be a slamdunk before you spend your time on it? Again, you launched the objection. He gave you some things to pursue. You're choosing not to pursue it. Which again is your right, but then I fail to understand why you're reluctant to research potential challenges to objections you yourself raise of a subject which frankly you appear to know little about.

I don't mean to be insulting. I'm asking if you've honestly ever researched the particular objection you yourself raised? Does Loftus spend time on your objection? Have you read *anything* from the opposition to your specific objection? If the answer is no, why not start with Mr. Marshall who specifically sites sources (among them his own) that meet your objection?

Shackleman said...

I'm off to start my weekend. Cheers to you, Walter.

Walter said...

If the answer is no, why not start with Mr. Marshall who specifically sites sources (among them his own) that meet your objection?

Because I have already explained that David has not met my objection at all.

unkleE said...

Walter, sorry to delay, but I am on holidays and only sporadically online.

"Which group of Christians has interpreted the revelation clearly and how can I know which of you is right?"
I see no way any of us can 'know' this for absolute sure. Like most things in life, we have to make do with uncertainty and probability. But my Biblical arguments for my viewpoint are here.

"I sure am, how about you? "
I am pleased to hear it. I am always examining and re-examining my beliefs.

" I am always looking for that killer argument that shows that what I currently believe is wrong."
I am doubtful you'll find a 'killer argument'. I think it is more a matter of assumptions. Most non-believers I meet are materialists and effectively logical positivists. I think God can be found from that basis, but it is difficult, because that view eliminates so many possible lines of communication. God is, after all, personal, and we get to know people by more means that scientific experiment.

So I suggest a deeper consideration of assumptions may be useful.

Best wishes.

unkleE said...

Papalinton said: ""There is sufficient evidence for those who look for it," as you say; but *only* if you accept a much lower standard of evidence, is what I say."
Yes I think you are right, except for one thing. I think it is not a 'higher' standard of evidence you use, but a 'safer' one - one which is inappropriate for a search for God.

"You seem to forget I was a trueblue, card-carrying fundie for the first 20+ years of my life."
I haven't forgotten it because I don't think I ever knew it. But I'm sorry. I think it may be the very worst position to start from in a search for the true God. But as long as you (a) judge christianity by that standard, and (b) use that as a reason/excuse for not continuing the search, then it is indeed a liability.

But like I said, I have no wish to argue or suggest other than that you are free to choose as you wish, so I'll leave you with it. Best wishes.

David B Marshall said...

Shackleman: Thanks for your comments. They really go to the point, and in a gentler way than mine sometimes do.

Since you're looking into the sources I cited, let me add a few notes about them. Wilhelm Schmidt made this study his life work. He was a Jesuit anthropologist, and was generally conceded to be VERY well informed and astute, but he was also accused by his opponents of being an "apologist."

One of those opponents was the famous Marxist and didactically atheist anthropologist, Marvin Harris. I cite him precisely because he was so strongly opposed to Christianity in general, and Schmidt in particular -- yet he admitted many of the basic facts.

Durkheim is another atheist; I've explained his somewhat contradictory, and very interesting, discussion of theism among Australian tribes, a couple places.

Maybe the best place to start, if you want to read more, would be Andrew Lang's The Making of Religion. He has several books on the origin of religion, and sometimes I confuse the titles, but I think that's the one where he makes the general case, which remains influential to this day.

My True Son of Heaven is a good introduction to both facts, in the Chinese context, and Jesus and the Religions of Man, for a general view. If you haven't read Don Richardson's Eternity in Their Hearts, you shouldn't miss it -- maybe the best general introduction to the subject, though not a scholarly work.

Walter seems put upon at the thought of reading good books; I make these recommendations to you because I think you'll enjoy any of them, if you find time for the reading, and will not resent it.

David B Marshall said...

Walter: Let me be frank. You've made it really clear to me that your earlier post expressed, to put it fairly, more willingness to consider Christianity than you actually feel. That's fine. Let me just suggest that in future, you express your willed commitments with a bit more candor.

On Carrier, see my comments beneath the first review of Loftus's new book, The End of Christianity. Also, see my debates with him on the christthetao.com web site, "debates," or on Amazon at the site for his book, Sense and Goodness Without God.

Bottom line: Carrier can make a decent argument when he knows what he's talking about. But often he doesn't. He doesn't know much about Christian history, and the theological assumptions he apparently builds on in that chapter appear to be out of sync with what the Bible actually says -- assuming the reviewer explained them accurately. As I put it there, the Bible represents the church as a tree, growing naturally and slowly from a small seed, not like a lawn, broadcast everywhere at once, as both you and Dr. Carrier seem to demand. A valid criticism of worldview has to take into account how it represents its own position, what it predicts. And the NT does not predict what you are demanding. It does predict what has actually occurred.

Walter said...

Walter: Let me be frank. You've made it really clear to me that your earlier post expressed, to put it fairly, more willingness to consider Christianity than you actually feel. That's fine. Let me just suggest that in future, you express your willed commitments with a bit more candor.

Let me also be frank. If you were that concerned with converting me back to Christianity, you would lay out your argument for free on your own site. Instead, you seem to be more interested in selling some books. I have scoured your site for all I could find on your claim. I also read several reviews of your books at Amazon. Let's just say I might read one of your books if I can find one in a library, but I shan't be dropping any coin on them.

Walter said...

A valid criticism of worldview has to take into account how it represents its own position, what it predicts. And the NT does not predict what you are demanding. It does predict what has actually occurred.

Who cares what the NT "predicts?"

What Carrier and I am saying is that what we observe happening is not what one would reasonably expect from a universal God who desires a relationship with all of mankind. It might be what we would expect to observe from the Calvinist concept of God, i.e., a capricious deity who chooses a small handful of lucky people, and one who has no intention of saving the majority of mankind.

Shackleman said...

Mr. Marshall,

Thanks so much for offering further details and specific titles. I'm excited to see that the Andrew Lang title you mentioned is in the public domain and available for free download! So anyone unwilling to "drop any coin" on the subject doesn't have to! :-)

I'm also pleased to see that the Don Richardson title is available at my local library. I plan to reserve it after reading the Lang piece, and if my interest holds still after reading those, I might pick up a copy of your work as well. I'm impressed with the way you organize your site and I imagine your published works would make for some good and interesting reading.

Again, thanks for the reading suggestions. I think the topic is a fascinating one and I'm eager to learn.

Peace and blessings....

planks length said...

It cannot be denied that the non-Christian (not just atheists, but also Muslims, Mormons, etc.) cannot rationally deny that there is an absolute mountain of evidence in favor of Christianity - historical, archaeological, documentary, etc. They may end up rejecting the evidence (like the OJ Simpson jury rejected the mountain of evidence for OJ's guilt), but it is nevertheless there.

Just as one can be a Holocaust denier, but he must still acknowledge the existence of the ruins of the camps, the documentary evidence, the eyewitness testimony, etc.

Joe Hinman said...

I could rule out shopping for sacred underwear. I thought BOM was silly long before I knew about the DNA thing. Yes read part of it.

are you up for an amusing anecdote?. Told to me by a friend about her ancestors. I don't know what state it was in. It happened before Mormons took over Utah. My friend's GGG or something had a ranch with horses :out west." The Mormons raided it. They held them at gun point and told them "God told us these are our horses." The family strapped on their six guns, got a couple of friends (the Cartwrights?) ambushed the Mormons. They told them "God told us to take them back."

Cal Metzger said...

Planks: "Just as one can be a Holocaust denier, but he must still acknowledge the existence of the ruins of the camps, the documentary evidence, the eyewitness testimony, etc."

There are thousands upon thousands of photos of the Holocaust -- the dead, the barely alive, the secretly taken, the proudly captured, of the devices used, the camps, the signs, the Nazi propaganda, etc.
There is not one photo of the Resurrection.

There are millions of identified individuals who have provided eyewitness testimony to the Holocaust -- from survivors, to liberators, workers, etc.
There is not one named writer who claims to have witnessed the Resurrection.

Your comparison couldn't be more morbidly inapt.

Joe Hinman said...

It was 2000 years ago Cal. The witnesses have thinned out. I grant you that Plank's comparison might need tweaking.

Cal Metzger said...

The Bailey: "It cannot be denied that the non-Christian (not just atheists, but also Muslims, Mormons, etc.) cannot rationally deny that there is an absolute mountain of evidence in favor of Christianity - historical, archaeological, documentary, etc."

The Motte: "It was 2000 years ago Cal. The witnesses have thinned out. I grant you that Plank's comparison might need tweaking."

Classic Motte & Bailey routine above. First declare that there is a mountain of good evidence. When it's pointed out that there doesn't seem to be any good evidence (let alone a mountain), retreat from the Mountain claim, lock yourself in the Motte, and explain from there why we shouldn't expect there to be any good evidence.

planks length said...

There is not one named writer who claims to have witnessed the Resurrection.

Actually, there are four: Matthew, John, Peter, and Paul.

Cal Metzger said...

Planks: "Actually, there are four: Matthew, John, Peter, and Paul."

Sigh.

This is like saying that Genesis was written by Genesis because that's what people call that work.

Find me a passage in any of the Gospels where the writer:

a) claims to be the person whose name was later ascribed to that work;
b) provides the reader with any traceable information about who he is -- what years he lived, where he lived, what his relationships were to anyone in the stories, etc. All the basic stuff we learn about other ancient authors, like Josephus, for instance.
c) claims to have ACTUALLY WITNESSED any of the events described in the stories.





planks length said...

Find me a passage...

Sigh.

a) Matthew claims to be written by Matthew in the title, in the same as manner that Moby Dick claims to be written by Melville. Same thing for John. Peter and John identify themselves in the opening lines of their respective letters.

b) We know more about the evangelists and the apostles than we know about any other writers of their time.

c) John, writing of himself in the third person, says, "He who saw it has borne witness - his testimony is true, and he knows that he tells the truth" and "This is the disciple who is bearing witness to these things, and who has written these things; and we know that his testimony is true." He also writes in his letter "That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life - the life was made manifest, and we saw it, and testify to it."

Paul explicitly writes that he saw the Risen Lord in 1 Corinthians 15:3-8. "Christ died ... he was buried ... he was raised on the third day ... and he appeared also to me."

Peter is also quite explicit. "We were eyewitnesses of his majesty."

Cal Metzger said...

Planks: "Matthew claims to be written by Matthew in the title, in the same as manner that Moby Dick claims to be written by Melville."

Um, no. Moby Dick is the title of the novel, and Herman Melville wrote it, and that is why his name appears under the title of the book he wrote. As far as we can tell the individual gospels came to be known, after the fact, by the titles sometimes associated with them. But who their authors were remains unknown to history (unlike Herman Melville).

Planks: "Same thing for John."

Same problem as above.

Planks: "Peter and John identify themselves in the opening lines of their respective letters."

And we can check on this information how? Also, as far as I know the Peter who wrote the First Epistle of Peter makes no claims to having witnessed the Resurrection. Ditto for John.

Planks: "We know more about the evangelists and the apostles than we know about any other writers of their time."

Spit take funny. You obviously haven't taken any History courses on Roman History or Antiquity. Do you even know how much, for instance, Caesar and Cicero wrote, and how much we know about them through their writing and the often critical accounts of their contemporaries (whose names, lineage, and fates are known, and for which we have other evidence)?

But not only is your silly claim obviously false, but it doesn't matter, BECAUSE YOU ARE CLAIMING THAT WE HAVE A MOUNTAIN OF EVIDENCE FOR CHRISTIANITY THAT IS EQUIVALENT TO THE EVIDENCE WE HAVE FOR THE HOLOCAUST. So you run back to your motte (more evidence than any other writers OF THAT TIME!) apparently not realizing that even that claim can't provide your argument any cover.

Planks: "Jon, writing of himself in the third person...Peter is also quite explicit. "We were eyewitnesses of his majesty."

According to you the tendentious interpretations above and self-serving proselytizing of authors about whom we know nothing else are the "mountain of evidence" that is equivalent to that which we have for the Holocaust. At this point I don't think reality has much sway with you, so I'll just leave you to your public position and all of the respect you deserve by espousing it.

David B Marshall said...

Planks Length is exagerrating, but it is true that there is strong evidence for Christianity of many kinds.

David B Marshall said...

Shackelman: Thanks for your kind words. I hope you enjoy those books. Lang's treatment is very old now, not cutting edge (Win Corduan's book would be that), but it is very well-written and I think still very much to the point. Richardson's book is also a delight to read, and I've verified some of the facts he mentions.

Trev of Economia said...

One thing atheists mess up on with this particular phrase is that they think we don't believe that it's possible for the other gods to exist, or that we don't believe any other gods exist. For anyone of that disposition, Christian or atheist, I challenge that person to read Psalm 82 in either Hebrew or an extremely straight forward translation of it. There are numerous other gods in the Bible, and they're treated like real entities, and they have dominion over nations other than Israel. In other words, Christianity is a religion which is agnostic to the nature of gods of most other religions, and the gods of at least some must exist. Proving their existence, however, is as hard as proving the existence of Russell's teapot, and like Russell's teapot, such gods have little to no bearing on our lives. This is vastly different from the nature of the ultimate God, as the existence of such a being has necessary implications on how the universe should operate (as a simulation based on information processing, with all physical things being emergent) , what ontology should be correct (idealism or double aspect information monism), and whether or not things like morality can exist.