The TWL-Aron Ra Dream Team Special: Serving a Christian Sophist
When TWL started several years ago, it was just three friends teaming together to refute Christian apologist Lee Strobel. Even though the original band went their separate ways, we at TWL are jumping with joy to share that this blog you’re reading now is a collaborated work by TWL’s Godless Wolf and Big Lundi joined by Aron Ra himself! And together, we are proud to give our readers a TWL-style team smack-down of a Christian sophist/apologist.
On Oct. 14, Godless Wolf published a blog post addressing Twitter Apologist and blogger SJ Thomason. SJ wrote a lengthy article consisting of 31 points directed at Aron Ra, the Texan Tank. These rather feeble 31 points were meant to refute Aron Ra’s presentation Mythical Man where Aron addressed the lack of credibility of the Bible, specifically the lack of historical proof of Jesus.
Godless Wolf’s response blog post was wildly praised by Aron Ra and many fans on social media. And as you can imagine, SJ was not happy. She eventually wrote a counter-response to Godless Wolf, who on the same day wrote a response back to SJ. At that point SJ threw in the towel and said “no more.”
…except she re-tweeted a blog post written by Tim Stratton, an online Christian sophist/apologist and writer for “Free Thinking Ministries,” a website that sounds as confusing as a homeless man under house arrest. The blog post is titled, “Aron Ra & 10 Bad Arguments for Atheism.”
After reading the blog, and although it was much better written than SJ’s material on her blog, Stratton’s response is wet-noodle limp. This blog reads like something Kent Hovind would write. [Sigh] Oh well, Godless Wolf thought “if this is the best SJ can throw back at us, I’ll show just how bad her best is.” And that is where Godless Wolf had an idea…
Given how Stratton’s blog is directed at Aron Ra, G.W. thought it appropriate to invite Aron Ra to do a collaborated blog response to this Tim Stratton, and he was happy to be apart of the team. And since this Stratton apparently loves to throw around philosophical arguments for God, G.W. decided to invite TWL’s resident philosopher to join forces with Aron and G.W. to write a collaborated blog response.
Godless Wolf: For this collab blog, I’ve taken the role as Editor. Like my previous blog, I will include all of Stratton’s work to avoid any accusation of taking things out of context. Stratton’s comments and responses to Aron Ra will be grouped together in a Quote Box, followed by TWL’s and Aron Ra’s response to Stratton. Aron Ra’s responses will be in BOLD whereas TWL’s response will be in normal font. Some of Lundi’s responses and mine will be edited and molded together. We will speak our minds, though if Aron already covered a point, there’s little need for us to repeat it.
With all that covered: LET’S DO THIS!!!!
It never ceases to amaze me how many internet atheists go to extreme, ignorant, and incoherent lengths to hold on to their faith in atheism.
And right off the bat we are revealed what kind of ignoramus we are dealing with. And given that SJ thinks Stratton is good enough to respond to Aron Ra with, this means on some level she must agree with the lie that atheism relies or requires faith.
First of all, given that Christians and theists have literally gone to war for centuries, witch trials and inquisitions and multiple crusades to hold onto their faith as well as propagate their faith…. yet for Stratton to have the gall to call atheists like us “extreme” is ludicrous to the highest extent.
I think religious believers must know how dishonest faith is, because they keep trying to project that fault onto those who will not share it. It doesn’t even make sense to pretend that I have faith in atheism. It’s not just that there is plenty of evidence that atheism is the more correct position; it’s how much evidence do I need just to say that I don’t believe you? Atheism is the position that the claims made by theists are unsupported, and that’s true. There evidently are no gods. That’s a fact.
In science, there is only what is supported by evidence and what is not supported, and whatever is not supported doesn’t warrant serious consideration. We don’t grant benefit of the doubt either, because an unsupported claim has no more validity than one that has been proven wrong.
Second of all, Aron Ra is an apistevist, just like me (Godless Wolf). What that means is that apistevists reject faith as a failed epistemology. Because faith is dishonest. Aron Ra has done presentations on the irrationality of faith, and to help aid his case he had cross-referenced definitions of faith by multiple dictionaries, famous theologians, and even by definition descriptions given by holy books (like the Bible) of what “faith” really means. In simple terms, faith is “belief without evidence” or in other words it’s “make believe” or “pretending to know something you don’t know.” Claiming that faith is “hope” doesn’t make sense, nor does “trust.” Faith is a knowledge-based claim. If you hope something happened you’re not claiming it did happen. When the faithful say, “Jesus rose from the dead,” they are not saying they hope Jesus rose from the dead, but rather are claiming Jesus actually did rise from the dead.
Third, the fact that Christian apologists love this lie that atheism requires faith (which it doesn’t, you can read my blog critically reviewing “I Don’t Have Enough Faith To Be An Atheist”) reveals something else: isn’t “faith” supposed to be a good thing to theists? If so, why are they making faith look like a bad thing if it is something that atheists also use? Perhaps they think that they are just pointing out some kind of “hypocrisy” of atheists, which would be one thing if they could justify that accusation with anything substantial. Instead of it containing any nuance or validity, claiming “atheism requires faith” is as hollow and meaningless as “lacking any belief in vampires requires faith.” You can’t have faith in something you don’t believe is real.
This is astonishing given all the evidence pointing out their worldview is probably false.
Is that so… then where is the evidence for God?
Contrary to what you may read from atheists on social media today, we are living in a time when atheism is actually in retreat in academia.
The atheistic philosopher, Quentin Smith, of the University of Western Michigan laments “the desecularization of academia that evolved in philosophy departments since the late 1960s.” He goes on to describe all of the “intelligent and talented theists entering academia today.” Smith declares, “God is not ‘dead’ in academia; he returned to life in the late 1960s and is now alive and well in his last academic stronghold, philosophy departments.” The percentage of academic philosophers (those trained in logic) affirming not just theism, but Christian theism, is growing rapidly today. However, if one simply gets their education via YouTube and Wikipedia, they might never be exposed to top-tier academic rigor, and they will probably not be aware of this growing percentage of academic Christians.
Rise in theistic philosophers. I tried looking up the source about Quentin Smith, which goes to ‘The Metaphilosophy of Naturalism’, Philo, Vol 4, #2, at philoonline.org. What I would like, as would my readers, some DATA!
Sure you can claim that there is a rise in theistic philosophers, just as creationists (falsely) claim that there are more and more scientists who are rejecting the theory of evolution. Sorry, a small handful of scientists is of no significance when compared to the tens of thousands of biologists all across the world who accept evolution as a fact.
Oh btw there actually is a survey site that regularly surveys philosophy people of all sorts, it’s called the philpapers surveys. I double checked something, even if we focus entirely on PhD’s and professors who specialize specifically in the philosophy of religion, the amount that identify s “theistic” are about…
And that’s the best demographic Stratton could ask for, and the survey’s doesn’t even say if they’re christian, just “theistic.” Thing is that number’s also been pretty static, cause I (Big Lundi) remember the numbers being around the same like, a decade ago. if we go with “all respondents” in both categories, both specializations and people surveyed, which includes students, the number’s more like 18.5%.
Still, even if we assume there is a rise in theistic philosophers since a decade ago….. so what? Stratton loves to point out “The truth or falsity of a proposition is independent of how or why someone came to believe the proposition,” so can we please apply that to the philosophers too and just stick with the proofs?!
Although academic theists are increasing in number, uneducated internet atheists are multiplying like cockroaches! Since most of the population today does not have access to graduate level studies in philosophy, metaphysics, and logic, our culture is being inundated and “educated” by internet atheists with bad arguments (for example: here and here). These arguments might look good to a young impressionable mind with no education in logic; however, with a little bit of training, one can see how flawed these arguments raised against the knowledge of God are.
His other blogs are basically 1) addressing the claim that man created God and 2) defending the “Objective Morality” argument.
His case against #1 rests entirely on addressing an online video making a 3-premise case that humans predate the era where the idea of God came to life, which means that humans made God. Stratton basically says that doesn’t matter, “cuz we have the Kalam argument, the Leibnizian Cosmological Argument and the Ontological Argument!!”
Stratton also argued this near the end: “One last thing: this video only attacked the Old Testament’s views of God. It is important for Christians (and non-Christians alike) to realize that the truth of “mere” Christianity requires only two key ingredients: 1- God’s existence, and 2- the resurrection of Jesus. That’s it! We don’t even need the Old Testament to reach the conclusion that Christianity is true (logically speaking).” (Bold emphasis are his)
Ugh…. yes, you do! You and all Christians need the Old Testament, because the Old Testament gives the criteria of what the Messiah is supposed to be and do. Christianity doesn’t just claim that Jesus was resurrected therefore it’s true. If that was all, then Lazarus would start his own faith. No, raising from the dead just on it’s own is meaningless. Which is why Christianity not only claims that Jesus raised from the dead, it claims that Jesus is the Messiah AND the key to salvation to get into Heaven. For these reasons, Christians need the Old Testament. Without it, how would Christians know their Savior is the one? How would they know if he was the Messiah? How would they even know what Heaven or sin is without the Old Testament?
Now that has been settled, we know we need to look at the Torah. And what does the Old Testament say the messiah must do? For one, nowhere does it say that the Messiah must be born of a virgin – this is something that the Gospels authors didn’t understand when they were creating their fabricated messiah. Luke and Matthew mistook parts of Isaiah and thought it predicted a messiah born of a virgin, and inserted that mistake into their faith. Isaiah never claimed that the Messiah would come of a virgin birth. The Greek-speaking authors of the Gospels translating the Hebrew scripture slipped up and translated ‘almah’ (young woman) [המלע] into the Greek ‘parthenos’ (virgin). The Hebrew word for virgin would have been ‘betulah.’
This “virgin birth” story clearly indicates that the Greek-speaking authors of the Gospels, while educated, didn’t fully understand Judaism. Why? Because the “virgin birth” is not a criteria for becoming the Messiah. Rather, the “virgin birth” story shoots Jesus’ credibility in the foot (which isn’t so bad considering the bullet would go through the hole in Jesus’ foot. Waka-waka!) The reason why is because the Scriptures make it clear that the Messiah is to be a descendant of King David AND King Solomon, and genealogy in the Bible is only passed down from father to son (Numbers 1:1-18). So when Jesus claims that he did not have a birth father (Matt. 1:18-20) he admits that he has broken the male-to-son genealogy that could link him to David and Solomon. Christian apologists try to claim that Mary connects Jesus to David, but this approach completely ignores the fact that tribal affiliation is patrilineal. Even if we let that slide, there’s another problem. The genealogy from Luke does not include Solomon. Matthew does mention Solomon, but also says Jesus is a descendant of King Jeconiah… whose descendants have forever been disqualified as kings of Israel (Jeremiah 22:24). However you want to slice it, Jesus failed the requirements to be the messiah. These are some of the many reasons why Jews reject Jesus as the messiah (as they should! As we all should).
Aron Ra is one such internet atheist who has been spreading bad arguments like a virus. Ra recently interacted with an article in which Professor John Lennox was interviewed. Ra has entitled his website, “Reason Advocates.” Let’s see if he lives up to the name. Before this specific article even begins, the subtitle of his website raises questions: “If you can’t show it, you don’t know it.”
What does Ra mean by this? Does he mean that if one cannot empirically verify or scientifically validate a certain proposition, then we cannot possess knowledge of the proposition? Does he mean that science is the only way to know things? If so, that very proposition is a statement that cannot be known via the scientific method or empirical verification. It’s simply a faith-based assumption (blind-faith) that one cannot know. Therefore, the statement “science is the only way to know,” is actually proof that the statement is false. It therefore ought to be rejected by any advocate of reason.
What I mean is that knowledge is demonstrable with measurable accuracy. If you say, “the Bible says X”, you can show me where it says that. How often has it happened that you tried to cite something you read only to check the document again and realize that you remember it differently than you read it? This is a common occurrence. Get two people together to explain a shared experience, and you’ll see that our memories are often corrupted information. Sometimes we remember things that never really happened at all. Only that usually takes a room full of objective witnesses or video evidence to prove it. So if you can’t verify the accuracy of your claims to any degree at all by any means whatsoever, then it is a fact that you cannot actually know what you think you do.
I took a moment to read the blogs Strattons linked. The entire case in them can be surmised as this: Naturalism is a view based on the pre-assumption (blind faith) that NATURE is all that exists, which follow that only things that could be scientifically tested and empirically verified exist – and Strattons claims that is “not based on the laws of logic, but only on question-begging assumptions (another logical fallacy).” And anything that rests or relies on logical fallacies, Stratton argues later in this blog, “any argument based on a fallacy is no argument at all.”
To understand why Stratton’s view of naturalism fails, just apply the same logic to his belief in the supernatural: “Supernaturalism is the belief that the supernatural MUST exist in spite of any arguments or logic or evidence to the contrary (blind faith) and this is a logical fallacy!”
See? We can make up definitions to words in a negative light to make up logical fallacies to entire worldviews as well. It didn’t get us anywhere though did it? Funny that.
Anyway, if Stratton thinks that things can be proven that are not “natural”…. why hasn’t he done so? Why hasn’t anyone done so?
To Stratton, he thinks that poetic verses claiming to be sacred and a few “logical” arguments is enough to prove the unnatural, or supernatural. By that logic, Stratton should be a Hindu, and a Muslim, and a Jew, and a Jain, and a Buddhist, and every faith under the sun. Every religion has sacred texts, and they all rely on arguments, many of which are the very same “logical” arguments Stratton use and more!
It could also be questioned how any naturalistic assumption isn’t ‘based on the laws of logic’ as it were? The laws of logic are actually pretty simple and, so long as what you’re saying doesn’t VIOLATE them, then it follows that it must then be based on them. So what part of naturalism says that X =/= X?
If there is no part of naturalism that says X =/= X, if it doesn’t actually violate any laws of logic, then, because these laws are actually just axioms of thought, then it must therefore follow them. Does Modus Ponens still apply? Does Material Equivalence still apply? Do ALL of the laws still apply validly without contradicting naturalism? To the best of my knowledge, yes, so what the fuck is Stratton talking about?
To say something “Isn’t based on the laws of logic” is, to me, saying that it violates the laws, or contradicts them in some way, which, Stratton hasn’t demonstrated. To me, it just seems like a rhetorical trick to say that everything he doesn’t like is illogical, which isn’t how logic works, obviously.
Now, if Ra means that if one cannot possess knowledge of a certain proposition without logical justification, then he and I are on the same page. I invite Ra and all advocates of reason to join me on a journey to follow logic wherever it leads.
Would that we could do that. The problem is that I am bound by rules that don’t apply to believers. I can’t pretend to know things I don’t know, claim facts that aren’t facts, nor reject facts simply because I want to keep believing something else instead. I have no faith to defend and no need to believe. Instead I have only a desire to understand. So my information and interpretations must be accurate or they’re of no value to me otherwise.
I’m curious if Stratton has ever taken a logical journey with a non-believer. And if he has, I wonder if that non-believer spoke back or all Stratton did was evangelize.
The blog in question was published August 28th of 2015, and is entitled, “What do atheists think?” He mentions that his intent in writing this blog is to reach “religious believers.” It seems as Ra is attempting to be an “evangelist” of atheism.
Professor John Lennox offered some quick responses to some common claims from atheists. I will post Lennox’s words and Ra’s objections. I will then offer defeaters to Ra’s bad arguments. Lennox stated the first bad atheist argument is this:
1- You don’t believe in Zeus, Thor and all the other gods. I just go one god more than you, and reject the Christian God.
Lennox stated, “The problem with this idea is that ‘gods’ such as Zeus and Thor are not comparable with the biblical understanding of God. There is a vast distinction between all of the Ancient near eastern gods and the God of the Bible… They are products of the primeval mass and energy of the universe. The God of the Bible created the heavens and the earth.”
“There is no significant difference between the Bible god and the previous near-eastern deities it was apparently based on. All the gods of every religion are magical anthropomorphic immortals, and the characters of ethnospecific folklore.”
Ra doesn’t understand what the Bible teaches about God and goes on to unintentionally underscore the point Lennox was making. The Bible is clear that God is not made of matter: “God is spirit” (John 4:24) and even if the Bible didn’t make this clear, it would logically follow. According to verses like Genesis 1:1 and Colossians 1:16, God created all nature (including matter), therefore — logically speaking — God would be something other than nature. This is what philosophers call “supernatural.”
Thus, the immaterial and supernatural God of the Bible is completely different than these “anthropomorphic characters” Ra is incorrectly equating Him with.
The God of Genesis wasn’t yet in a spirit form. He’s just like the gods of any other pantheon, just a magical man walking through the garden swinging his magic sword around.
Remember that the Old Testament was written by Jews, not Christians. So it’s not about Jesus. The Jewish image of God at that time had a human form who walks, talks, eats, sits, waves his hand, turns his head, shows his backside, and cheats at wrestling. In the Genesis, God appears a few times in human form. Adam, Abraham, Jacob, Moses, and Isaiah (6:1) all saw God face to face, despite what God said in Exodus 33, that “no man may see my face and live”. You’re a bit late for that warning, big guy. And it’s obviously not true either.
Abraham answered the door and saw three men standing there, and he recognized one of them as God. The other two men went on to Sodom. They were the angels in the story where Lot offers his virgin daughters to a rape mob, because they’re just young girls with no value in that society. But the guy still standing and then sitting and eating with Abraham is God. The Bible is pretty explicit that this is NOT a spirit form. This is a flesh-and-blood character who knocked on Abraham’s door and also chews and swallows food.
Aron already pointed out that the Jewish concept of God was that of a man (he walks, talks, eats, sits, waves his hand, etc.), ergo Aron Ra was correct in his original post to include the specific word “anthropomorphic” to describe God.
What we challenge Stratton to explain is: Where in other mythologies would their deities not fit the description of being immaterial and supernatural?
Does Stratton think that his presupposed book, the Bible, is the only sacred text, let alone the oldest sacred text, that claims it’s chief deity created all matter?
Newsflash: the answer is No.
The oldest religion that predates Judaism and is still practiced to this day is Hinduism. In Hinduism, their Gods created all matter. So by Stratton’s own logic, the Hindu gods are “supernatural” as well.
So….. Christian apologists…. what evidence do you have that your supernatural deity is real whereas the other supernatural deities are fake?
That is a question I have yet to hear any Christian apologist answer.
This is supported by both logic and science. According to the Borde, Guth, Vilenkin Theorem of 2003, all nature had to have had an absolute beginning (even if the multiverse hypothesis were true).
This BGV Theorem is the same theorem William Lane Craig resorts to when he’s backed into a corner. Here’s the thing about the BGV Theorem… it doesn’t say that ALL universes have an absolute beginning. In other words, it does not say that the Multiverse had a beginning.
This theorem doesn’t rule out Stephen Hawking’s no-boundary proposal which states that time may be finite without any real boundary (just like a sphere is finite in surface area while it has no “beginning”).
However, Craig’s main problem is that a beginning of the universe can still be described in scientific terms. Nothing in the Borde-Guth-Vilenkin paper suggests a beginning from “absolute nothingness” (as Craig often claims). In fact, the opposite is true. The authors write, “What can lie beyond the boundary? Several possibilities have been discussed, one being that the boundary of the inflating region corresponds to the beginning of the Universe in a quantum nucleation event.”
This “quantum nucleation event” refers to a paper Vilenkin wrote in 1982 (pdf) which discusses the universe coming into being through quantum mechanics.
William Lane Craig doesn’t appear to quote from the paper itself, but rather Vilenkin’s 2006 book Many Worlds in One (amazon) which discusses the 2003 paper: “It is said that an argument is what convinces reasonable men and a proof is what it takes to convince even an unreasonable man. With the proof now in place, cosmologists can no longer hide behind the possibility of a past-eternal universe. There is no escape, they have to face the problem of a cosmic beginning.” (pg. 176).
Now that’s a pretty straight forward quote which at least seems to favor Craig’s argument, but on the very same page Vilenkin writes, “Theologians have often welcomed any evidence for the beginning of the universe, regarding it as evidence for the existence of God … So what do we make of a proof that the beginning is unavoidable? Is it a proof of the existence of God? This view would be far too simplistic. Anyone who attempts to understand the origin of the universe should be prepared to address its logical paradoxes. In this regard, the theorem that I proved with my colleagues does not give much of an advantage to the theologian over the scientist.”
Vilenkin then concludes this statement by suggesting that cosmic origins could be described in “purely scientific terms” – a task which he attempts in the chapter which follows.
Since everything that begins to exist always has a cause, whatever caused nature to come into existence logically had to have been something other than nature. The cause of nature had to have been super natural! If a “reason advocate” lives up to their name, they will follow science and logic to conclude the Bible got this right!
Victor Stenger makes a convincing case that there is an eternal multiverse that predates our universe, and may have caused our universe. Highly recommend reading his books,
But what started / caused the multiverse? Just as Christians claim that their God had no cause or creation, why can’t we apply the same answer to the multiverse? That would be option Occam’s Razor would favor.
So, if we have an uncaused multiverse, and the multiverses are natural, and that multiverse created our universe, then it logically follows that the cause of our universe was a natural cause, not a “supernatural” cause.
What argument and proof does Stratton have to claim that whatever caused our universe must “have been super natural”? None, nothing other than Stratton’s say-so.
So what we have is a logical case for a natural cause of the universe, and according to Statton himself, if we want to be “reason advocates” we should follow the science and logic to conclude the natural cause of the universe.
We can make a strong case that science got cosmology right and the Bible got it wrong.
Ra goes on to commit a logical fallacy: “Just as Christianity grew out of Judaism, Judaism evolved from Semitic polytheism, mixed with the influences of Hellenist, Egyptian, and Zoroastrian mythos.”
What Ra is attempting to do is assert that God did not create man, but rather, man invented (the idea of) God. Therefore, he thinks, atheism is true. However, this is a grotesque example of a logical error known as the genetic fallacy.
A genetic fallacy is a logical fallacy that occurs when a claim is accepted or rejected based on the source of the evidence, rather than on the quality or applicability of the evidence.
Aron’s not basing his atheism on the source of the claim (paganism leading to theism), here he is simply making a historical presentation. Even if Christianity was a totally new religion with no surrounding cultural pagan influences, Aron Ra would still examine the Bible on it’s own merits, and in fact he had already done just that. Atheists who were once Christians tend to become atheists for that very reason, not after seeing some argument on the Internet.
I took a college course on the history of comparative religions, taught by a Methodist with a doctorate in theology. He explained how Biblical scholarship accepts that Christianity grew out of Judaism, which was in turn heavily influenced by Zoroastrianism and of course Mesopotamian polytheism. This fact is not in dispute among Biblical scholars. Christianity then drew separate inspirations from Zoroastrianism which were not adopted in Judaism. For example the belief that righteous men would ascend to the Kingdom of Justice and Truth under Ahura-Mazda. While evil or selfish men would descend into the Kingdom of the Lie ruled by Ahriman the Opposer, also known as Ha Shaitan, a pre-Judean concept of the Satan.
The truth or falsity of a proposition is independent of how or why someone came to believe the proposition. Even if Ra was correct that the idea of God evolved from other ideas of gods, (which he is) it does absolutely nothing to refute the scientific data and the logical evidence we have that points to the fact that God probably does exist and to the historical evidence demonstrating Jesus rose from the dead.
I challenge this completely.
As already addressed to SJ in GW’s previous blog, the historical proof we have for Jesus is near non-existent.
The reason the leaders of all the world’s religions admit that belief in God requires faith is because there is not one scrap of evidence for such a thing, not one objectively verifiable fact which is positively indicative of, or exclusively concordant with that conclusion over any other. There’s not even a single fact that anyone can confirm about their version of god to show that their theology is any more accurate than anyone else’s. So there is literally nothing anyone can honestly claim to know about their god either.
And once again, logical arguments on their own are not enough to prove anything. I could make a logical argument for any god or a mythical creature, but making coherent logical arguments do not mean they are real.
The origin of one’s belief does not invalidate the truth of the proposition. One can have a true belief without proper warrant. Although this would not be a knowledge claim, it does not logically lead to the conclusion that the proposition in question is false.
One can have a true belief without proper warrant….. says the guy who rejects naturalism.
The definition of a fool is one who too readily believes improbable claims from questionable sources on insufficient evidence. Though it’s not surprising that the Bible and the Qur’an give the opposite definition for obvious reasons. Because it is never wise to believe anything without question, reservation, or reason.
Ra’s objection is based on a logical fallacy and any argument based on a fallacy is no argument at all. For a self-proclaimed “advocate of reason,” he is not appealing to reason to make his case.
My position is not based on any logical fallacy. But I have provided extensive examples proving that belief in gods is based entirely on frauds, falsehoods and fallacies with no truth to it.
Ra continues his rant: “Krishna was a Christ-like figure, credited with much more than Jesus ever was. The same goes for other gods too. Krishna gave sight to the blind, and Dionysus turned water into wine more than half a millennia before the alleged time of Jesus. There are so many parallels between all these religions, that Jesus’ biography reads like a compilation of elder legends attributed to older gods, and the Old Testament reads the same way.”
Ra is falling prey to what I call the fallacy of parallels. Let me explain:
Internet atheists love espousing popular bumper sticker slogans like, “Christianity has pagan roots.” I have heard so often recently that the story of Jesus being the Son of God and His resurrection is plagiarized from Egyptian mythological pagan “gods” such as Adonis, Mithras, Osiris, and Attis to name a few.
Again, there is no fallacy in my position. Instead I draw the logical conclusion that God would not create his son to be a cheap sequel to an already popular human idea. Most of the things now attributed to Jesus were already attributed to other gods many centuries earlier, and those original stories were much better. Dionysus for example didn’t just turn jugs of water into wine; he made the springs of the earth bring forth wine, and that’s a much better trick. And he did it first, which is important. So I must consider that either Dionysus really could turn water into wine just like Jesus did, or Jesus couldn’t really do it either–which is infinitely more likely. No fallacy; just logic.
This supposed challenge to the historicity of Jesus (and His resurrection) fails for several reasons. First of all, there are far more differences between Christianity and these mysterious stories of pagan religions than any similarities offered. For instance, it is purported that the pagan god Osiris was a dying and rising god, and that Christianity is a “copy cat” religion based on Osiris’ resurrection from the dead. At first glance this appears to be troublesome, but when examining these stories with more scrutiny, the differences become glaring.
Osiris, it is told, was murdered by his brother, and then his body was torn into fourteen pieces and scattered all across Egypt. Then, the story goes, that Osiris’ wife, Isis, found thirteen of the fourteen pieces of his body, revived him (quite different than a resurrection), and then went on to make him “god of the underworld.” This is nothing like the historical story that Jesus voluntarily went to the cross, which defeated and destroyed sin, so that through His atonement we as humans could be reconciled with the Creator of the universe, and then three days later, Jesus rose from the dead in whole, and in a powerful, glorified body that we as Christians can also look forward to one day. The story the Bible teaches as historical fact seems quite original when compared to these mythical pagan stories.
The differences in these myths are indeed important, because they illustrate (among other things) the origins of the Tower of Babel and Noah’s ark fables and the origins of all the elements in the Garden of Eden story, but without the God Yahweh. All the unique elements are there, albeit attributed to a previously polytheist pantheon. But the God who’s supposed to be the source of all this evidently wasn’t added until after the 5th BCE.
Godless Wolf here, TWL’s biggest Mythicist. Let’s make this clear: Christianity isn’t Osiris Cult 2.0. So of course there are going to be differences between Osiris and Jesus. But the difference in Osiris’s and Jesus’ stories are not the point. It’s the structure of how the faith formed. What a lot of people, esp. on the Internet, fail to grasp is that Jesus is a mystery cult, just as Osiris started as a mystery cult. And the concept and structure of these mystery cults is where the similarities (and influences) take place, and this is key. The argument ‘it was different from x, therefore it wasn’t influenced by x’ is fallacious to the point of ridiculous.
If we define a mystery religion as any Hellenistic cult in which individual salvation was procured by a ritual initiation into a set of ‘mysteries’, the knowledge of which and participation in which were key to ensuring a blessed eternal life, then Christianity was demonstrably a mystery religion beyond any doubt. If we then expand that definition to include a set of specific features held in common by all other mystery religions of the early Roman era, then Christianity becomes even more demonstrably a mystery religion, so much so, in fact, that it’s impossible to deny it was deliberately constructed as such.
Even the earliest discernible form of Christianity emulates numerous cultic features and concepts that were so unique to the Hellenistic mystery cults that it is statistically beyond any reasonable possibility that they all found their way into Christianity by mere coincidence.
All mystery religions centered on a central savior deity (literally called the sōtēr, ‘the savior’, which is essentially the meaning of the word ‘Jesus’, always a son of god (or occasionally a daughter of god), who underwent some sort of suffering (enduring some sort of trial or ordeal) by which they procured salvation for all who participate in their cult (their deed of torment having given them dominion over death). These deaths or trials were literally called a ‘passion’ (patheōn, lit. ‘sufferings’), exactly as in Christianity. (For Christianity: Heb. 2.10; 9.26; Phil. 3.10; 2 Cor. 1.5; Mk 8.31; etc. For other mystery cults see, e.g., Herodotus, Histories 2.171.1 (on the mysteries of Osiris); Plutarch, On Isis and Osiris (= Moralia) 17.357f, 20.358f (on Osiris and others); Euripides, Bacchae 492, 500, 786, 801, 1377 (on the Bacchic mysteries)). Sometimes this ‘passion’ was an actual death and resurrection (Osiris); sometimes it was some kind of terrible labor defeating the forces of death (Mithras), or variations thereof. All mystery religions had an initiation ritual in which the congregant symbolically reenacts what the god endured (like Christian baptism: Rom. 6.3-4; Col. 2.12), thus sharing in the salvation the god had achieved (Gal. 3.27; 1 Cor. 12.13), and all involve a ritual meal that unites initiated members in communion with one another and their god (1 Cor. 11.23-28). All of these features are fundamental to Christianity, yet equally fundamental to all the mystery cults that were extremely popular in the very era that Christianity arose. The coincidence of all of these features together lining up this way is simply too improbable to propose as just an accident.
Sources: Kennedy, St. Paul and the Mystery-Religions, pp. 229-55 (baptism as a universal ritual in the mystery cults), pp. 256-79 (sacred meals). Recent scholarship confirms the basic picture.
On the Mithraic mysteries: Manfred Clauss, The Roman Cult of Mithras: The God and his Mysteries (New York: Routledge, 2000), cf. esp. pp. 14-15 (with 174 n. 30) and 108-13 on the features it shares with other mystery cults (including the ritual of symbolically emulating the god’s labors to achieve personal salvation in the hereafter, and the ritual of sharing a sacred meal with other initiates); see also Marvin Meyer, ‘The Mithras Liturgy’, in The Historical Jesus in Context (ed. Levine, Allison and Crossan), pp. 179-92; Gary Lease, ‘Mithraism and Christianity: Borrowings and Transformations’, Aufstieg und Niedergang der römischen Welt II. 23.2 (New York: W. de Gruyter, 1980), pp. 1306-32 (1309 for the generic features Christianity shares with all mystery cults; the specific influence of Mithraism on early Christianity is unlikely, however— they instead arose around the same time, in a parallel phenomenon of creating mystery cults from major ethnic cults, Persian in the one case, Jewish in the other— they are therefore separate instances of the same phenomenon); Roger Beck, Beck on Mithraism (Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2004); and Roger Beck, The Religion of the Mithras Cult in the Roman Empire: Mysteries of the Unconquered Sun (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006), the latter works correcting or superseding David Ulansey’s The Origins of the Mithraic Mysteries (New York: Oxford University Press, 1989); see also Richard Gordon, Image and Value in the Graeco-Roman World: Studies in Mithraism and Religious Art (Brookfield, VT: Ashgate, 1996).
On Isis– Osiris cult: Malcolm Drew Donalson, The Cult of Isis in the Roman Empire: Isis Invicta (Lewiston, NY: E. Mellen Press, 2003); Sarolta Takacs, Isis and Sarapis in the Roman World (Leiden: Brill, 1995); Reinhold Merkelbach, Isis Regina, Zeus Sarapis: Die griechisch-ägyptische Religion nach den Quellen dargestellt (Stuttgart: B.G. Teubner, 1995); Sharon Kelly Heyob, The Cult of Isis among Women in the Graeco-Roman World (Leiden: Brill, 1975); and Robert Wild, Water in the Cultic Worship of Isis and Sarapis (Leiden: Brill, 1981).
On the mysteries of Attis and Cybele: Lynn Roller, In Search of God the Mother: The Cult of Anatolian Cybele (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1999); Giulia Sfameni Gasparro, Soteriology and Mystic Aspects in the Cult of Cybele and Attis (Leiden: Brill, 1985); and Maria Grazia Lancellotti, Attis, between Myth and History: King, Priest, and God (Leiden: Brill, 2002). Note that all of the above literature confirms moral teachings were linked to every mystery cult (a fact still often denied). The Thracian deity Zalmoxis was also anciently believed to have died and risen from the dead, procuring salvation for all who share in his cult (including a ritual eating and drinking), as attested by Herodotus in the fifth century bce, which also suggests an early mystery cult: cf. Herodotus, Histories 4.94-96; Plato, Charmides 156d; and discussion and sources in Carrier, Not the Impossible Faith, pp. 86, 100-105; and Mircea Eliade, Zalmoxis the Vanishing God: Comparative Studies in the Religions and Folklore of Dacia and Eastern Europe (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1972).
Moreover, as Sean McDowell wrote in an article entitled “Is Christianity a Copycat Religion,” “parallels prove nothing.” He goes on to write about a British ocean liner that could carry 3,000 passengers, had a top cruising speed of twenty-four knots, and had an inadequate number of lifeboats. This gigantic ocean liner hit an iceberg on its maiden voyage, tore a hole in the side of the ship, and sank along with 2,000 passengers.
Most of us immediately jump to the conclusion that this must be the story we read about in our history books regarding the Titanic, but we would all be mistaken. McDowell was describing the Titan, a fictional ship described in Morgan Robertson’s book, Wreck of the Titan (Buccaneer Books, Cutchogue, New York, 1898). This fictional story was written fourteen years before the sinking of the Titanic actually occurred. While the resemblance between the two accounts is eye opening, the fictional “Titan” is irrelevant to the historical evidence that the Titanic was, in fact, a real ocean liner that sank in the Atlantic after colliding with an iceberg. Similarly, even if pagan myths did exist that were comparable to the Gospel records, and before the time of Christ, this would not undermine the historical evidence for Jesus’ miraculous life, death, and resurrection. “Parallels alone are inconclusive.”
Once again, there is no evidence for Jesus. Comic book readers will notice that Marvel’s Dead Pool is apparently a ripoff of DC’s character, Deathstroke. That doesn’t mean that either of these characters actually existed. If all we had were sovereign governments based on ministries dedicated to Dead Pool comics, we’d be justified in rejecting his existence simply on the fact the stories describe a being that couldn’t possible do the things the story says he does. The fact that the comics name the city he lives in, and we can prove that city exists–doesn’t prove that Dead Pool exists. Then in lieu of any historic evidence whatsoever, on top of indications of how the story was erroneously contrived and fraudulently interpolated, we then discover Deathstroke comics from centuries earlier, and what are we to make of that?
For McDowell’s analogy that a fictional story of a sinking ship written before an actual event of a ship sinking to mean a damn thing in this case, we need proof that Jesus did exist and did the things credited to him.
Until then, a more appropriate analogy would be this: some guy wrote a fictional book about a ship sinking, then 14 years later another collection of authors wrote a collaborating fictional story about another ship sinking. Both are fictional stories, and until Stratton and other apologists present some actual historical proofs, their faith has no leg to stand on. (And sorry, making a “logic” claim doesn’t magically make historical proofs poof into existence)
Ra complains: “Every trivial element of Genesis already existed in much older works that were written by the grandfathers of the Biblical authors. So there is nothing unique or original about western monotheism, and no distinction whatever between the gods of ancient or modern mythology.”
Again, Aron, even for the sake of argument, if we granted your objection, it would not follow that God does not exist, nor that the resurrection of Jesus was not a real event of history. Your objection has no teeth in its bite.
No part of Jesus’ life is a real event in history, because no part of it was recorded by any of the historians of the day. But even if there was a Jesus, and he was simply a 1st century faith healing cult leader like the contradictory accounts from decades later imply, there still wouldn’t be any possibility of a god, because no such possibility exists. A magic invisible man who can conjure complex systems with an incantation spell, and whose dimensions are infinite in every direction we can exaggerate even to the point of contradiction is not remotely possible.
Aron’s objection is directed at creation myths, not messiah myths. So of course his objection is not going to have bite because he’s already bitten off the other limb. So have fun claiming “victory” while having lost one of your arms.
Stratton clearly has no idea what he’s talking about, nor what I’m talking about either. So he’s just rambling incoherently now.
Lennox addressed the next common internet atheist rhetoric:
2- Science has explained everything, and it doesn’t include God.
Lennox stated, “God no more competes with science as an explanation of the universe than Henry Ford competes with the law of internal combustion as an explanation of the motor car.”
Ra responded: “There is no question that science can’t answer but that religion can.”
I’ve got to stop Aron right there. Let’s be good advocates of reason and restate his statement accordingly: “There are questions that science cannot answer, but that logic can.”
Now, if a certain religion happens to coincide with the logical evidence, then we would have a religion that can logically answer questions in which science is impotent to even discuss.
You can hypothesize that something may have happened by magic or by some other means you can imagine, but you can’t say that’s the answer until you can show evidence indicating that. Religion doesn’t have evidence. It’s believing on faith what is told on authority in the absence of any actual evidence. So while science can show all manner of evidence confirming it’s claims must be the right answer, all religion can do is often empty unsupported assertions that can neither be indicated nor vindicated, verified or falsified. Everything we can show that we actually know was determined by science while religion only asserted empty speculation as though it were actual fact. That it is dishonest to do that doesn’t stop every religion from doing it.
By Stratton’s own argument, if a religion is based on logic and reason it must therefore be true, then Stratton should adopt Greek mythology. To see what a religion actually based on reason looks like, just look at the formal theologies of the Greco-Roman philosophers. Yes, the pagans invented theology too (Theology as a rational science in antiquity: Aristotle, Metaphysics 6.1 1026a); Sextus Empiricus, Against the Professors 9.12-194 (= Against the Physicists 1.12-194 = Against the Dogmatists 3.12-194); and John Dillon, Alcinous: The Handbook of Platonism (Oxford: Clarendon, 1993): pg. 57-60, 86-89.)
Ra makes a case for subjective morality: “Ethics, for example, can be explained by required criteria and its value in any or every society. The same goes for morality. There are reasons why some action or choice is considered moral or immoral, and knowledge of those reasons shows God to be immoral or unethical by comparison.”
This statement is ignorant for several reasons. First, Ra is rejecting objective moral values and duties and appealing to the majority vote and subjective opinions of a society. Thus, Ra’s position is that there is nothing objectively immoral or unethical in any sense.
Does Stratton’s God follow an objective moral basis, or does he think his God created an objective morality?
Stratton’s case for objective morality usually falls back to William Lane Criag. Craig claims that if God does not exist, there is no ground for absolute moral duties because there is no moral lawgiver. The implication being that a lawgiver could provide that ground. But this is false, lawgivers are still subjective beings and their presence doesn’t guarantee moral objectivity. Even if a divine lawgiver required certain duties of us, all that would be necessarily true is that it required certain duties of us. It would not follow that the certain duties were therefore absolutely good or objectively grounded (i.e. Is-ought argument against divine obedience).
However, then Ra claims that God is immoral or unethical by comparison. If Ra thinks morality is simply subjective, then it’s just his personal preference. If he claims that God is objectively immoral or unethical, and therefore, God doesn’t exist, Ra would be making another self-defeating statement proving that God exists.
Did Aron Ra claim that he judges the God character of the Bible based on an objective morality, or is Stratton putting words in his mouth?
How can Stratton pretend to rebut me when he hasn’t understood anything I’ve said? I didn’t reject objective morality, I argued FOR it on the basis that there are reasons why a given action is moral or immoral. It is the reasons why that make it objective. In order to be objective, we need a definition that is independent of any authority. Because if someone says “that’s immoral simply because I say so”, it is no less SUBjective than if someone says “that’s immoral simply because I say that my god says so”. But if we have reasons why something qualifies as morality, then we can measure God against that standard and God fails every time.
Seems to be that Aron Ra is judging God by several standards. He is judging God based on modern day ethics and judicial systems. Even by theology’s own moral standards. Such as when God credits himself: “I (God) form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.” (Isaiah 45:7). Well, if a being takes credit for creating evil, then logically they cannot be omnibenevolent – and since Christians believe that God is omnibenevolent, it logically follows they are praising a false god.
Plus there are Christian apologists who claim that God cannot do evil all the while God determines what is evil. Okay, so if we determined that X is objectively evil, and whenever God in the Bible does X, it logically follows that God is evil. Example, if God says that adultery is wrong, then commits adultery with a married Jewish woman, it logically follows that God is an adulterer and therefore bad by his own standards.
As a self-proclaimed “advocate of reason,” Ra should appreciate this logic-based argument making my point:
1- If God does not exist, objective moral values and duties do not exist.
2- Evil exists (some things are really immoral and unethical)
3- Therefore, objective moral values and duties exist.
4- Therefore, God exists.
1- If the Earth doesn’t reside within the jurisdiction of the celestial dictator of the planet Bloc-Bloc, then alien moral values and duties do not exist.
2- Evil exists (by human and Bloc-Bloc standards)
3- Therefore, objective moral values and duties exist.
4- Therefore, the celestial dictator of Bloc-Bloc exists.
Or how about…
1- If Krishna does not exist, objective moral values and duties do not exist.
2- Evil exists (some things are really immoral and unethical)
3- Therefore, objective moral values and duties exist.
4- Therefore, Krishna exists.
Are you getting the message??? Logical arguments are useful, but just because you can make a “logic” argument does not mean anything. What’s the point of making an argument for the planet Bloc-Bloc if there is no proof of the planet Bloc-Bloc? Same for Krishna, or any other supernatural deity that is given credit for creating the universe?
As I have already shown, the premise is flawed. Thus the conclusion will be flawed as well. To determine whether morality exists, we only need to know what that is. How can we tell whether something is moral or not? Since God isn’t here to answer our questions from his subjective perspective, and the explanations in the Bible all contradict each other rather violently, then we need a consistent definition. Scott Clifton provided one in his Treatise on Morality,
“A particular action or choice is moral or right if it somehow promotes happiness, well-being, or health, or if it somehow minimizes unnecessary harm or suffering or both. A particular action or choice is immoral or wrong if it somehow diminishes happiness, well-being, or health, or if it somehow causes unnecessary harm or suffering or both.”
Thus objective morality can exist even though God is obviously only imaginary.
Ra switches gears and said, “. . . if we ever do discover the cause of the big bang, or some better explanation for the origin of life, the universe, and everything, it too will be a wealth of new information with practical application, and so advanced that will render our previous belief in gods, ghosts, and magic just as laughably silly as every other field of study so far has already shown.”
As I mentioned above, there are some things that we can possess knowledge of simply by adhering to the laws of logic and the rules of reason. Moreover, there are some questions that science is impotent to even discuss. Science has demonstrated that scientifically testable and discoverable things had a “mother of all beginnings.” Therefore, it logically follows that the cause of scientifically discoverable things is not scientifically testable or discoverable. A scientist is simply in the wrong field to discuss this topic at this point. They are simply in the wrong field and have just as much authority to discuss these questions as plumbers. If Ra does not understand this, he loses all rights to label himself as an “advocate of reason.”
Obviously I do understand this, which is why I said the same thing in so many interviews on public record. However the point remains that the supernatural explanations have never been correct. Nothing in science has ever indicated a god, nor showed that such a thing is even possible.
The only one who has no right to wear a label or badge that involves the word “reason” is Stratton.
Even if science cannot discover the beginnings of the multiverse (assuming there is one anyway), does that mean everything science has discovered to this date is invalid? Of course not.
1) A God who is responsible for the complex structure of the world, especially living things, fails to agree with empirical fact that this structure can be understood to arise from simple natural processes and shows none of the expected signs of design. Indeed, the universe looks as it should look in the absence of design.
2) A God who has given humans immortal souls fails to agree with the empirical facts that human memories and personalities are determined by physical processes, that no nonphysical or extraphysical powers of the mind can be found, and that no evidence exists for an afterlife.
3) A God whose interactions with humans, include miraculous interventions, have been reported in scripture is contradicted by the lack of independent evidence that these miraculous events took place and the fact that physical evidence now convincingly demonstrates that some of the most important biblical narratives, such as Exodus, never took place.
4) A God who miraculously and supernaturally created the universe fails to agree with the empirical fact that no violations of physical law were required to produce the universe, its laws, or its existence rather than nonexistence. It also fails to agree with established theories, based on empirical facts, which indicate that the universe began with maximum entropy and so bears no imprint of a creator.
5) A God who fine-tuned the laws and constants of physics for life, in particular human life, fails to agree with the fact that the universe is not congenial to human life, being tremendously wasteful of time, space, and matter from the human perspective. It also fails to agree with the fact that the universe is mostly composed on particles in random motion, with complex structures such as galaxies forming less than 4 percent of mass and less than one particle out of a billion.
6) A God who communicates directly with humans by means of revelation fails to agree with the fact that no claimed revelation has ever been confirmed empirically, while many have been falsified. No claimed revelation contains information that could not have been already in the head of the person making the claim.
7) A God who is the source of morality and human values does not exist since the evidence shows that humans define morals and values for themselves. This is not “relative morality.” Believers and nonbelievers alike agree on a common set of morals and values. Even the most devout decide for themselves what is good and what is bad. Non-believers behave no less morally than believers.
8) The existence of evil, in particular, gratuitous suffering, is logically inconsistent with an omniscient, omnibenevolent, omnipotent God (standard problem of evil)
Ra says, “Every question that has ever been answered was answered by scientific methodology, philosophy and epistemology.”
This statement is confusing as I cannot tell if he means scientifically methodology and scientific philosophy, and scientific epistemology, or if he is saying in addition to scientific methodology we can also answer questions using philosophy and epistemology (the laws of logic). If it’s the former, he is clearly wrong, if it’s the later, I’ll say, Amen to that!
What I mean is that every time we’ve discovered the real answer or explanation for anything, we were able to verify that we got it right.
That is according to scientific philosophy and epistemology. Once you resort to philosophy outside science, then it is no longer possible to confirm anything. To my experience, what typically happens instead is that someone will dismiss a relatively recent rebuttal of an earlier philosopher to continue citing the rebutted philosopher anyway. The same goes for epistemology outside science. Last year, a well-known PhD professor of theology told me that evidence isn’t factual and facts aren’t objective. He said nothing can ever be objective. If that were true, then science couldn’t even work.
However, Ra goes on to say, “Religion only pretends to answer anything, and all of its answers are either incorrect, inconsistent, incoherent, or all of the above.”
Again, as I said above, if a religious claim is not only logical but corresponds with reality, then the religion is making true claims. For example, if a specific religion claims that the cause of all nature is “spirit,” then the religion in question would be making a logically coherent claim and thus, at least possibly true. In fact, if “spirit” means “other than nature,” then this religious claim must be true!
Religious claims tend to be based on logical fallacies, and are in any case do not correspond with reality. For example, Supernatural spirits have been ruled scientifically impossible, as the astrophysicist Sean Carroll explained. Neither has any possibility ever been established for how “spirits” could cause nature. There is no possible mechanism for them to use even if they themselves were possible.
“if a religious claim is not only logical but corresponds with reality, then the religion is making true claims”… wow, so right here Stratton shoots himself in the foot. He argues that in order for a claim to be true it must not only be logical, it must also correspond with reality.
Based on that, Aron (and many atheist philosophers) have already addressed the best of Christian arguments based on logic in the case for God…. and found that none of them correspond with reality.
It’s astonishing that when atheists ask for the proof of corresponding with reality, such as scientific proofs to test and validate if certain claims and models are true, Stratton cries foul and wails “science isn’t the answer to everything!!!”
When we ask for proof of God that corresponds with reality, all I’ve seen thus far from Stratton is nothing more than “logical arguments” based on presumptions that cannot be tested or verified.
Ra doesn’t realize this and erroneously claims: “Every claim any religion makes falls into one of two categories, not evidently true, or evidently not true. There is nothing any religion can actually show that they honestly know, because none of their beliefs are evidently true. That’s why I always say that science doesn’t know everything, but religion doesn’t know anything.”
Really, Ra? What about the claim I just mentioned? The specific religion of Christianity claims that the cause of all nature is other than nature (spirit). This is a religious claim that is not only logically coherent, but it must be true (unless you want to claim that nature existed before nature existed). Christianity obviously is making a coherent and true claim. The Christian, therefore, KNOWS what they are talking about. This statement is “evidently true.” Therefore, your claim is false and must be rejected by any advocate of reason.
For one, Stratton doesn’t even define “spirit” let alone prove it’s real. So Aron is right all along, the claims of religions either fall into “not evidently true” or “evidently not true” categories.
Plus, Hinduism also claims that the cause of all nature was something supernatural. Hinduism and Christianity cannot both be right, but they can both be wrong.
It may be “logically coherent” to claim that the cause of natural was something unnatural, but as we’ve already gone over, that does not mean it’s true. So when Stratton says that he “KNOWS” with all capitals that a spirit (whatever that means) created the universe (however it mystically did that), Stratton is lying.
So again all we have is an empty unsupported assumption of impossible nonsense asserted as fact with no way to verify or falsify any of it. This it fails to be either logical or concordant with reality. Worse than that, (and this is my biggest gripe with religion) Stratton is proving the atheist philosopher Peter Boghossian correct by demonstrating that “faith is pretending to know what you don’t know”. If you can’t show it, you don’t know it. Remember?
Professor John Lennox pointed out a common atheistic mantra:
3- Science is opposed to God.
Lennox said, “If we’re being offered a choice between science and god… it is not a biblical concept of god. . . Among many leading [atheistic] thinkers, their idea of god is thoroughly pagan. If you define god to be a god of the gaps, then you have got to offer a choice between science and god.”
Aron Ra responds: “Science isn’t necessarily opposed to gods, ghosts, or evil spirits; only to the faith required to believe in such things, because faith is the opposite of science and is opposed to science.”
That might be the most ignorant thing I’ve ever read in my life! Scientists exert faith every day when employing inference to the best explanation. Science is in the business of disproving certain hypothesis; however, science does not prove things to be true. Therefore, a scientist makes reasonable inferences that are probably true. It follows, then, that if a scientist acts according to a hypothesis they think is probably true, they are exerting a Reasonable Faith (a.k.a., an inference to the best explanation).
Once again, he’s equivocating the colloquial notion of faith as a synonym of trust with faith in the context of religion. Faith is not synonymous with trust. There’s a prefix and suffix required. Faith is a [complete] “trust” [that is not based on evidence]. We either base our trust on evident probabilities, past experience, or knowledge of the facts, or we base it on faith in lieu of any evidence at all, just ‘cuz we want to believe it. I say “we”, but that doesn’t apply to me, as I see faith as the most dishonest position it is possible to have, and that any belief that requires faith should be rejected for that reason.
There is no conflict between God and science. Think about it: God is the creator of nature and science is the study of nature.
Hindus believe “Krishna is the creator of nature and science is the study of nature.”
Just asserting that a unproven deity is a creator of anything is meaningless without proof. Stratton claiming his God gets all the credit for making the universe is no different than a madman ranting on top of a soap box about inter-dimensional time traveling pirates.
What’s the big deal?
The big deal is there is as much evidence for God as there are vampires. Or an advanced race of alien scientists who created an advance machine that when activated it simultaneously created the universe and wiped out all trace of the alien race.
The other big deal is this: science and Christianity, even theism, are most definitely at odds.
Ra exclaims: “ . . . miracles [are] inexplicable by science, because they defy the laws of physics. That means they’re physically impossible, and can only be believed on faith.”
It’s important for any self-proclaimed “advocate of reason” to think logically here: Miracles are not logically impossible; they are simply naturally impossible unless a supernatural being interacts with nature. So, Aron, is correct in that miracles are physically impossible (left to nature’s own devices); however, if a being that created nature chooses to act within his creation, then a miracle occurs. Moreover, miracles can be inferred via logic and an inference to the best explanation.
So Stratton thinks that if something doesn’t exist in reality, it exists if logic can claim it exists?
Ellie is an elephant. All elephants are pink. Therefore, Ellie is a pink elephant. Is that logical? Absolutely. Does that mean pink elephants exist in reality? Of course not.
The Australian philosopher Douglas Gasking devised an ironic parody that follows:
- The creation of the world is the most marvelous achievements imaginable.
- The merit of an achievement is the product of (a) its intrinsic quality, and (b) the ability of its creator.
- The greater the disability (or handicap) of the creator, the more impressive the achievement.
- The most formidable handicap for a creator be non-existence.
- Therefore, if we suppose that the universe is the product of an existent we can conceive a greater being – namely, one who created everything while not existing.
- An existing God therefore would not be a being greater than which a greater cannot be conceived because an even more formidable and incredible creator would be a God which does not exist.
- Ergo: God does not exist.
Likewise, when DesCartes decided to be skeptical of everything, even his perception of reality itself, he pulled himself back with the erroneous assertion that God was the only thing he could be certain really existed, which is so wrong he should have been embarrassed. It harkens back to Willie Wonka’s comment, “You should never ever doubt what no one is sure about.”
Moreover, if Ra wants to hold the position that it is logically impossible for a supernatural substance to interact with the physical world, then he will ultimately be denying that he possesses knowledge of anything! I refer you to my “Freethinking Argument Against Naturalism.”
We read the blog he linked. In it, Stratton says: ““If all your thoughts are determined, then how do you KNOW you’re determined thought is any good, let alone true?” All the naturalist can do is presuppose their determined beliefs are correct, but this does not qualify as a knowledge claim as it is utterly void of any justification. It is only a question-begging assumption (a logical fallacy), and any argument based on a logical fallacy is no argument at all.” (Emphasis his)
How do we know our thought is any good or true if they’re predetermined? How do we know they’re any good or true if they’re not pre-determined?
The answer is Epistemology.
Epistemology demonstrates justifications to belief, and these justifications, be them based on foundationalism, coherentism, foundherentism, rationalism, empiricism, these are justifications made that are entirely irrelevant to predetermination of beliefs
Until you can demonstrate that a predetermined belief is necessarily an incorrect one, you can’t invalidate them, even if we presume all of our beliefs are predetermined because if a necessary and sufficient condition for a true belief is NOT “not being predetermined” then no argument has been made.
Hell, we can reverse it on Stratton: “If your beliefs aren’t predetermined to be true, then how can you possibly justify them as being true?!”
“Everything that pops into your head is completely random!”
Neither argument is actually valid, but both rely on the same basic fallacy of negating truth with an unnecessary and insufficient condition. So if you accept one, you have to accept the other, which then leads to a logical contradiction.
I should thank Stratton for admitting that unsupported and unverifiable assertions do not qualify as a knowledge because they’re utterly void of any justification. It is important that I add that I can actually show that I know what I say I do, where Stratton obviously cannot do that.
Ra said, “The only value any claim can have is in how accurate it can be shown to be. If you can’t show that it’s true at all, then it has no value at all. It is just an empty assertion of blind speculation, unworthy of serious consideration. If you have to believe it on faith, then you have no reason to believe it at all; and having no reason to believe something is a pretty good reason not to believe it.”
This is too easy! Given Ra’s own claim he must reject atheism! Atheists claim that God does not exist. Can Ra show that to be true?
Yes of course I can show this to be true. According to what Hitchens’ described as the fundamental rules of logic, “positive claims require positive evidence. What is asserted without evidence may be dismissed without evidence.” The fact is there evidently is no god, not just because all the evidence points to frauds, falsehoods, and fallacies on the part of the god believers, but because there simply is no evidence to support such a thing. Science is only concerned with what is supported by evidence. Whatever is not supported is unworthy of serious consideration. Come back when you have something to show.
Strangely even religious believers can confidently claim that leprechauns or fairy folk don’t exist simply because there is no evidence of them. The fact that there is also evidence against even the possibility of such things, (just like there is for God) is redundant. That’s why we don’t have to look under every rock on every planet in every galaxy far far away before we can say that Darth Vader does not exist. We don’t even need proof that he was imagined by any author. We only need to know there is no evidence of his existence outside of human imagination and fictional depictions.
The claim, “atheism is true,” is nothing but an empty assertion of blind speculation, unworthy of serious consideration that Ra and all self-professing atheists must believe on blind faith!
No one claims atheism is true. This is another misrepresentation by Stratton. Strong atheists like myself will say that God doesn’t exist, and we can obviously justify that claim. But the more general position of atheism is that they’re unconvinced that any actual deity really exists. This is because theists have failed to support their claim. So in that case, yes, atheism is true in the sense that it is a fact that theists have failed to provide sufficient reason to believe in a god.
At least Christians have a Reasonable Faith.
The concept of “reasonable faith” is an oxymoron. Faith rejects reason. It is an unreasonable position assumed without reason and defended against all reason.
If theism cannot demonstrate itself to be true, then atheism by default is the true view.
One does not have to prove that werewolves do not exist, it is up to those who claim that werewolves DO exist to provide sufficient evidence to meet the burden of proof. What Stratton is doing here is shifting the burden of proof unto non-believers.
Well, Stratton, I (Godless Wolf) died and rose from the dead seven times. Prove to me that I didn’t.
Since you’ve got nothing, your non-belief is nothing but “blind speculation, unworthy of serious consideration.”
Ra stated: “Science isn’t concerned with ‘belief’, but knowledge, what you can show to be true . . . So it doesn’t matter what you believe; all that matters is why you believe it.”
Knowledge is defined as justified true belief. Therefore, since belief is a key ingredient of knowledge, if science is concerned with knowledge, it logically follows that it is also concerned with belief.
Belief is an ingredient of knowledge? No. Stratton has that backwards. Knowledge is a subset of belief. Irrational believers seem to define “believe” as “make-believe”. But rational people define belief as what we think is most likely true or closest to the truth, but not something we actually know to be true. Knowledge is that subset of believe that we can actually show to be true.
Being concerned with belief is meaningless unless you have a belief you can demonstrate to be true. Scientists believe in gravity, but what distinguishes a good scientist from an awful one is the scientist who verifies how and why things fall, and not the one who thinks that angels push objects down back to Earth.
Scientists can hold a wide variety of beliefs, such as those who accept the Big Bang and those who credit plasma as the cause of the universe. While they can have their beliefs, only one of these two has anything of value, because of it’s demonstrative and testable abilities and predictive abilities.
Aron Ra was right, science is concerned with knowledge, what you can show to be true.
Although Ra is making many elementary mistakes, he does make one point that I agree with: we should not just know what we believe, we also need to know WHY we believe it. Sadly, most churchgoers today cannot explain why they believe what they profess to believe. However, although that is the case for the majority of Christians in the world today, it would be a hasty generalization to state that this is the case for all Christians. I for one take great pleasure in having logic-based discussion with anyone wanting to know exactly what I believe and why I believe it.
From what Stratton has expressed thus far, his “logic” based belief is as logical as a believer in Krishna.
The bulk of Stratton’s belief is based on faith. His comfort in piss-poor “logic” arguments from WLC and other apologists are just the icing on the cake. Christianity is entirely based on faith.
It is all too common for believers to project their own faith onto rational people will not share those faults, and also to try to create an illusion of false equivalence. These two fallacies equate to “you’re just as bad as me and I’m just as good as you”. To do this they commonly say that science depends on faith and faith depends on evidence. These are both lies. The former is an equivocation, but the latter is a deliberate deception. If it were that religious beliefs were based on evidence, then believers would be able to show that evidence–which of course they can never do. Moreover they would also be ready to change their minds if given evidence to the contrary, which they won’t do either. Sometimes they’ll even admit this. Many times believers have admitted to me that they’re gonna keep believing what they want to even if they know it’s not really true. There is no logic to defend their position.
Aron Ra and his disciples don’t know why they believe atheism is true, or at least they are demonstrating that they don’t have good reasons to put their faith in atheism.
Aron Ra has no disciples. Atheism is not a religion. There is no “faith in atheism.”
I obviously do know why I believe what I do, and I have always demonstrated good reasons for that, and I’m tired of the dishonesty of believers trying to glue their faith onto me. Understand that I don’t have faith and Stratton doesn’t have reason.
The only reason why atheists are atheists is because theists are the ones who have failed to prove their theistic beliefs true. In every case they have failed to meet the burden of proof, and like a cherry on a sundae, they have given us plenty of reasons to not believe.
The next atheistic mantra pointed out by Lennox is this:
4- You can’t prove that there is a God.
The original article stated: “This kind of statement ignores that there are different kinds of ‘proof’.” Lennox said, “Can you prove that there is a God? In the mathematical sense no, but proving anything is very difficult. The word proof has two meanings. There’s the rigorous meaning in maths that is very difficult to do and rare. But then there’s the other meaning – beyond reasonable doubt.”
The cumulative case of evidence utilizing logic, science, metaphysics, and the historical method all demonstrate that God exists with extremely high degrees of certainty. After examining all the data, it seems that it requires more faith to reject theism that it does to be a Christian.
It may only seem that way to those who fail to think critically.
We already summarized and refuted Stratton’s link for “logic” proof of God.
Strattons “metahphysical” proof is William Lane Criag’s argument of Time and B-theory.
According to Craig, God being “timeless” apparently means that He isn’t infinitely old, but instead that He somehow [Ad hoc] exists outside of time from where He can apparently pop in to rant against foreskins, impregnate virgins, get “killed”, or appear on your toast as required. Craig rejects the existence of actual infinities as being anywhere in Nature as being an absurdity, and yet he will cite singularity theorems from cosmologists while not mentioning to his audiences that a singularity, in physics, is an “actual infinite” (in particular, where the space-time metric becomes infinite.) Craig contradicts his own assertions of actual infinities being absurd; in his 2017 debate with Professor Daniel Came, Craig acknowledged that God knows the future (such as by allowing “pointless evils,” such as the Holocaust to occur in the past and/or present, so that “outweighing goods,” even if such occur centuries in the future, may occur), which means that God’s knowledge of the actual future, which consists of an infinite number of events, must also consist of knowing an infinite number of propositions, which would, as Professor Wes Morriston also argues , constitute an actual infinite. Dr. James East, a lecturer in Pure Mathematics at the University of Western Sydney, identifies Craig’s error in applying naive set theory to infinite sets.
Stratton’s “historical method” proof relies on the same old tired arguments to prove the historicity of Jesus. From Mike Licona’s piss-poor case of confusing theological claims with historical claims to the 12 non-historical-facts presented by Gary Habermas.
At the end of the day, Stratton’s Christianity just has no case.
Ra says, “With religion, you start with reasonable doubt, or rather you should. The default position is the null set, a lack of belief until you become convinced.”
My questions for Aron are the following: Why not start with neutrality to avoid bias?Why not start with the question: Is there more to reality than what can be empirically observed or scientifically tested? From that point, we can engage in logic and follow reason wherever it leads. After examining all of the cumulative case of evidence it becomes reasonable to infer that the best explanation of all the data is theism.
Doubt is not bias. We need doubt in order to avoid bias. That way we’re open to all options rather than being credulously fooled by one to the exclusion of all others.
However after examining all the cumulative evidence, I have to say this. The question “Is there more to reality than what can be empirically observed or scientifically tested?” is almost certainly yes, at least given our current technology. However is that something a god? Obviously not. Even if there was a god, would the Bible be true? Certainly not. Even if a god really existed, evolution would still be an inescapable fact of population genetics and the Bible would still be factless and false, just the ignorant ravings of savage superstitious primitives with no idea what they’re talking about.
We all start with a neutral point. We are born with no knowledge of the world, gaining some as our brain develops and experience the world, but we are not told about God until we are old enough to communicate and spoon-fed what people believe about God and are told to take it as fact.
If we utilized critical thinking skills from the get-go, we would end up as atheists.
Moreover, what data does the atheist possess that demonstrates that God does not exist? Oh yeah, it is simply a statement believed on blind faith and blind faith alone!
Atheism is not “believed on faith,” atheism is an examination of the presentation of the demonstrated proofs of God and coming to the conclusion that the burden of proof is not met.
For those who do not believe in mermaids, where is your proof that mermaids do not exist?
Some of the evidence that I have is that there is simply no truth to theism, not one thing any believer can show to be true. Another example would be the fact that there has never been one evolutionary scientist who lied in the act of promoting evolution over creationism, and there has never been even one professional creationist who did NOT lie when trying to defend creationism or condemn evolution.
Ra said: “People can present evidence and arguments to try and convince you, but what can they say in this case? None of their arguments are rational; they require faith, which is the very definition of irrational.”
Ra is oblivious to the faith that he is exerting to hold to his incoherent atheistic affirmations.
Once again, Stratton demonstrates the equivocation fallacy, as if confidence based on evidence isn’t reason but faith, which is a confidence that is NOT based on evidence.
Moreover, if the inference to the best explanation (faith) is the “very definition of irrational,” then he is flushing science down the toilet! Let’s talk about rationality and examine one of my favorite logic-based arguments leading to three deductive conclusions and one abductive conclusion based on the inference to the best explanation of the data. I referred to it earlier; I call it the Freethinking Argument Against Naturalism.” It goes as follows:
1- If naturalism is true, the immaterial human soul does not exist.
2- If the soul does not exist, libertarian free will does not exist.
3- If libertarian free will does not exist, rationality and knowledg e do not exist.
4- Rationality and knowledge exist.
5- Therefore, libertarian free will exists.
6- Therefore, the soul exists.
7- Therefore, naturalism is false.
8- The best explanation for the existence of the soul is God.
So, this gets off to a rough start on premise 1. He’s defined the immaterial human soul as incompatible with naturalism, which is odd, because the immaterial human soul isn’t even a properly defined object in the first place to say whether it is, or is not, compatible with naturalism. I suppose the basic contention here is that “immaterial things” don’t exist within naturalism, which is false. Plenty of “immaterial things” exist in a naturalistic worldview, most of them are simply what we refer to as material things interacting with each other, or descriptions of that which is material in understandable languages. Up, Down, Left, Right, North, South, East, West, Friendship, Happiness, Sadness, love, motherhood, sisterhood, fatherhood, brotherhood, any number of these things, and more are “immaterial” as it were, yet completely compatible with naturalism.
So if we’re going to say the human soul is incompatible with naturalism, we’d have to have a working definition of what a human soul is supposed to be that would entail its incompatibility, and “immaterial” doesn’t cut it, obviously, and to the best of my knowledge, nobody’s ever been able to do that, because nobody can actually explain what the human soul is supposed to even be.
Might as well say “If naturalism is true, The immaterial Blighargh Bu Gaphaw doesn’t exist.” Such as claim makes just as much sense.
So we move on to premise 2 where we’ve defined a human soul’s existence and libertarian free will’s existence as contingent upon each other, but again, we haven’t defined what the soul is even supposed to be yet, not what libertarian free will specifically is and how it differentiates itself from any other form of free will. What makes libertarian free will reliant on a soul that, for instance, compatibilist free will would not? Until we discreetly explain what the soul is supposed to be, we cannot say what it is contingent on, what would need to be true in order for it to exist, or anything else for that matter, so again, it’s like saying, “If Gharghle Bu Blujah doesn’t exist, libertarian free will doesn’t exist.”
Premise 3 is even more bizarre than the other two, Rationality and knowledge are contingent on libertarian free will? How? Let’s just presume that nobody has free will and everything is absolutely determined. How does that negate rationality and knowledge? Couldn’t we simply say that everyone is determined to have rationality and knowledge to one degree or another? An argument that used to be had in the past is that we can’t hold people morally responsible for their actions if we don’t have free will, so we can’t justify the criminal justice system. The counter to this was that it didn’t make sense then either. Even if everyone was determined to do what they do so criminals were going to be criminals no matter what, the justice system still serves a function, and we can just say that the incarceration, and rehabilitation of criminals is simply something that’s determined within our universe. Nothing really changes if we take away free will to the best of our knowledge, it just…makes us not feel as magical.
I agree with premise 4, though I doubt the arguer knows what either word means. Premise 5 is based on the non-sequitor of premises 3 and 6 is based on the non-sequitor of premise 2, so, putting aside that premises 2 and 3 are each actually 2 premises within the same premises, rendering the form of this argument already invalid, it’s also unsound, and, I would argue, indemonstrable even hypothetically speaking, because when we’re talking about unobserved phenomenon for which there is no way to describe it, then the fact we cannot describe it renders it useless to be used in an argument. The argument already fails because it appeals to a thing which the arguer cannot understand in order to explain a thing in which they think they do. So we have hidden premises, within premises, and an argument from ignorance in the form of using a thing the arguer hasn’t explained sufficiently as an explanation for any one thing without understanding why.
Also the options aren’t really “Libertarian free will” and “no free will at all.” Why? Compatibilism. Essentially compatibilism is the notion that libertarian free will “isn’t even” free will. That the ‘free will’ that we actually have, even in a deterministic universe, is sufficient for the purposes of utility, and thus, exists, just not as originally conceived as this “spook” that allows everyone to do things which make no logical coherent sense in the light of the universe’s machinations. Sure, we can’t decide to do something which is entirely beyond our nature to do, but then, we never could and thinking that we could went against all reason in the first place. What we CAN do, is make decisions. Are the end results of those decisions predetermined? Probably, but that doesn’t mean you didn’t make the decision. And the fact that we can manipulate human action with new environments and actions is actually extremely helpful in helping to make society even better than it already is. If we know that inserting someone into a destitute environment statistically significantly raises the chances of them delving into criminal behavior, then we also know that working towards creating an opposite environment for these individuals is worthwhile, if it is indeed our goal to lessen crime. The fact that we DON’T have libertarian free will, is what makes it viable for a society to ‘get better’ as it were, and we can make the ‘choice’ to help society ‘get better’.
Final comment about Premise 5. Does Libertarian free will really exist like Stratton insists? Looking toward more qualified people on the subject, cognitive scientist Julien Musolino, associate professor at Rutgers University and author of the book “The Soul Fallacy: What Science Shows We Gain From Letting Go of Our Soul Beliefs,” has noted that the overwhelming of cognitive scientists and neuroscientists have rejected “libertarian free will.” To hear that coming from Julien Musolino directly, he did a recent podcast with Seth Andrews at the Thinking Atheist. It’s highly recommend that all readers watch the whole thing, but if you wish to skip to the areas where Julien and Seth address free will, including “libertarian free will,” you can skip to around 12:20 to around 16:30. He later notes that while certain things may seem intuitive (such as having libertarian free will or the Earth being flat) science has helped us humans realize the real answers can be counter-intuitive, as amazing as the human brain is, it evolved to help us survive not understand all the complexities of the universe.
1- If naturalism is true, the immaterial human soul does not exist.
If Stratton means philosophical naturalism, then granted.
2- If the soul does not exist, libertarian free will does not exist.
Wrong. Not all atheist philosophers agree on whether free will exists, but that fact disproves this assertion. Free will could exist without a soul. However free will could NOT exist if God can prophesy the future. Because then it doesn’t matter what we do; we can’t change it.
3- If libertarian free will does not exist, rationality and knowledge do not exist.
Even atheist philosophers who say free will does NOT exist (Dennett et al) insist that rationality and knowledge definitely do exist.
4- Rationality and knowledge exist.
5- Therefore, libertarian free will exists.
Wrong again, as Dennett et al say rationality and knowledge exist without free will.
6- Therefore, the soul exists.
Fail on all points and premises. An unsupported assumption lacking anything like logic.
7- Therefore, naturalism is false.
Fail again. Both premises and conclusions all faulty.
8- The best explanation for the existence of the soul is God.
What is the best explanation for Stratton’s lack of either logic or evidence to support either gods or ghosts?
What Ra doesn’t comprehend is that according to atheistic naturalism, the process of rationality is nothing but an illusion. Therefore, if one affirms that naturalism is the rational position to hold, this worldview is self-refuting and true advocates of reason ought to reject it.
Strange that Professor Daniel Dennett PhD is both an outspoken atheist and the most famous philosopher of our time, yet he says that rationality does exist. Apparently then, it is this Stratton character who doesn’t understand atheism or philosophy or logic or epistemology or science or even faith.
Even if it were an illusion, so what? Things are still true regardless how one comes to believe in things, right? So even if the wish became of the father of the desire to believe that rationality is not an illusion, that wouldn’t make it true, would it?
Ra continues to chant: “ . . . there is no proof of God, because there isn’t even evidence of God, and not one compelling argument for such a thing either. Logical fallacies are all there are.”
I hate to beat a dead horse, but it is Ra that has been demonstrating that his atheistic and naturalistic worldview is suffused with logical incoherence and based on logical fallacies. Again, any argument based on a logical fallacy is no argument at all. Moreover, he ignores the cumulative case of logic based arguments, many of which are supported by scientific data, which are quite compelling for theism.
So where is this “scientific data”? The links Stratton provides to his own blogs addressing science and God all boil down to the same points: science cannot prove naturalism (failing to understand that science develops from naturalism) and the “proofs” of God are all “logic” arguments like the Ontological Argument. No “scientific data presented”…. in fact, the only side that seems to be providing all the scientific data is the atheist side.
Stratton has failed to either promote his own position in any way at all, nor to criticize mine in any way that didn’t only reveal his own incompetence instead. So it’s not all surprising that his scientific citations are limited to the irrational rationalizations on his own blog.
Ra says, “I’ve been engaged in this topic continuously for decades, but all the subjective anecdotal impressions I’ve ever heard still wouldn’t be indicative even if they were true, and they’re clearly not true. Almost the entirety of apologetics is simply lies.”
Make no mistake, Aron Ra is an apologist! He is simply an apologist for atheism. Apologia is simply Greek for “defense.” Therefore, anyone who argues for a certain worldview is an apologist. I have demonstrated – not simply asserted – the mistakes Ra makes. Therefore, I have advocated reason to demonstrate that Ra’s brand of apologetics is either based on ignorance or “simply lies.”
I understand an apologist to be someone who makes up excuses to rationalize or justify religious doctrine or to systematically dismiss or reject any and all evidence against it. Even if you took out “religious doctrine” and replaced it with science, that still wouldn’t be what I do. Because (1) there is no evidence against my position, and (2) I have no desire or obligation to deny evidence in favor of any belief, because that’s what faith is and does.
Here’s the difference between Aron Ra and Stratton. Aron Ra is a rationalist, Stratton is not. Even if you want to stretch the word “apologist,” a word reserved strictly for theists, to apply to anyone from defending paganism to Conservatism, then what makes Aron Ra a success and Stratton a failure is that Aron Ra actually presents actual proof when presenting his arguments.
Ra helps make my point with the following statement: “Remember that a lie is misinformation, or information misrepresented, with deliberate intent to deceive.”
He goes on to imply that making an inference to the best explanation is “oxymoronic,” and stated: “In his oxymoronic book, ‘Reasonable Faith’, William Lane Craig says that no one rejects Christianity because of intellectual difficulties or a lack of evidence, but that is one of the reasons most ex-Christians cite when they no longer believe . . . [this has] NEVER been true in ANY case. This claim is absolutely false, and Craig knows that it is.”
Ra did not directly quote Dr. Craig so I don’t know if this is an accurate representation of his exact words. I do know that Craig has demonstrated that most committed atheists simply offer emotional reasons against God but they disguise them as intellectual.
Stratton is claiming that WLC’s reasons are intellectual whereas atheist arguments are emotional…. how does this WLC fanboy miss the interview where WLC said outright that even if all the evidence was against him, WLC would still be a Christian because of his feelings?
Here’s what WLC said: “The way in which I know Christianity is true is first and foremost on the basis of the witness of the Holy Spirit in my heart. And this gives me self-authenticating means of knowing Christianity is true wholly apart from the evidence. And therefore, even if in some historically contingent circumstances the evidence that I have available to me should turn against Christianity, I do not think that this controverts the witness of the Holy Spirit.”
In many debates, WLC had pulled the “deep down I think we all know it” argument for the existence of objective morality – this is just a version of Craig’s general elevation of faith over reason.
Here’s another thing this WLC fanboy may have missed. Stratton was so in love with the Kalam (KCA) that he didn’t take a moment to step back and see how WLC justifies his beliefs by tangling himself into a massive web. Let me illustrate:
Craig uses the Kalam argument (KCA) to prove the existence of God. Then Craig has said the existence of God implies the Neo-Lorentz Aether Theory, which is needed for A-theory of time to be correct, which is then necessary for the KCA to work, so Craig can prove the existence of God. That is clearly circular – in other words: begging the question.
Craig does have four other argument for God, such as the fine tuning argument. The common objection to the fine tuning is that it is a tautology, weakened by the multiverse theory (Craig never says a multiverse is impossible). Craig explains this in the debate book God?, the Hypothesis of a Cosmic Designer… “is again the better explanation because we do have independent evidence of the existence of such a Designer in the form of other arguments for the existence of God.” (pg. 14). So now we cannot rely on the Kalam to tip the scale in favor of the cosmic designer hypothesis, because that just gets us in the same circle we were in before.
What about the resurrection of Jesus? The common objection is that any other naturalistic explanation, no matter how crazy it may seem, is much more probable than the resurrection story. But Craig addressed this an a debate with Bart Ehrman that the resurrection was a supernatural event caused by God. So he uses the resurrection to prove the existence of God by presuming God already exists to explain the resurrection. Again, circular.
And finally, the moral argument, another favorite of Craig. Craig says if God does not exist, then objective moral values do not exist. Craig argues that objective moral values do exist. Basically that our personal experiences of morality makes it true, which is another argument for God. Craig says (in his own words)
“The way in which I know Christianity is true is first and foremost is the basis of the witness of the Holy Spirit in my heart. And this gives me self-authenticating means of knowing Christianity is true wholly apart from the evidence. And therefore, even if in some historically contingent circumstances the evidence that I have available to me should turn against Christianity, I do not think that controverts the witness of the Holy Spirit.” (Source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S-fDyPU3wlQ&feature=youtu.be )
This makes it seem that all of Craig’s arguments for God are tied to personal experience that are dependent on the existence of God, which he uses to support the moral argument to prove the existence of God. Again, circular.
Ra continues: “Citing blatant liars like William Lane Craig does no good to anyone trying to defend religious beliefs they have mistaken for truth.”
Ra simply asserts that William Lane Craig is a liar with no evidence and then ignores the fact that Craig uses the laws of logic, scientific data, and the historical method to confirm certain truth claims. Some of these truth claims also happen to be affirmed by Christianity.
And as I’ve already pointed out: WLC has jack squat.
His arguments are circular. His acceptance of “Neo-Lorenzian interpretation” is rejected. His historical arguments hold no weight. Science is not on his side.
And even after all that, WLC has made it public that even if everything he believes about God is refuted, he would still believe in God because of his “feels.” This isn’t a reasonable or rationalist position to take.
WLC has also said that “Should a conflict arise between the witness of the Holy Spirit to the fundamental truth of the Christian faith and beliefs based on argument and evidence, then it is the former which must take precedence over the latter, not vice versa.” This is a deeply dishonest bias.
Craig also said, “when a person refuses to come to Christ it is never just because of lack of evidence or because of intellectual difficulties: at root, he refuses to come because he willingly ignores and rejects the drawing of God’s Spirit on his heart. No one in the final analysis really fails to become a Christian because of lack of arguments; he fails to become a Christian because he loves darkness rather than light and wants nothing to do with God.” That is a lie. It’s not just that it’s an absolute statement that could be disproved with a single exception, and every instance is an exception; it’s also that there isn’t a single instance that is as he describes. And there’s way he doesn’t know that.
Lennox offered another common atheistic mishap:
5- Faith is believing without any evidence.
Professor Lennox said, “This definition is in the dictionary and believed by many. So, when we talk about faith in Christ, they think that’s because there’s no evidence. Christianity is an evidence-based faith.”
Bullshit. This definition isn’t just given in the dictionary too, but in the scriptures; not just of Christianity but also Islam and even Hinduism. They all describe faith things hoped for but not seen, looking at things that are not seen, and not seeing what is seen. As Jesus put it, “blessed is he who has NOT seen and yet believed.” Not only did Jesus imply that we should not want evidence, but that we should believe without doubt and not put God to the test.
If Christianity was “evidence-based,” then faith would not be necessary in the first place.
Ra retorts: “At best, the Christian gospels are hearsay. At worst, it’s propaganda. In neither case is it evidence.”
Really? How does Ra know this?
Lack of evidence presented in the Gospels and all accounts being based on hearsay and reported by anonymous authors.
Even if the Gospels didn’t exist we could still know several things regarding Jesus via the historical method alone.
Oh this ought to be good. Do tell.
These historical facts happen to be affirmed in all four Gospels.
NEWSFLASH: None of the 4 Gospel authors were eye-witnesses, which makes them by definition hearsay.
And given that we know that some (if not all) of the stories about Jesus were inserted by forgers in order to push a belief system, that would make it propaganda.
Michael R. Licona has demonstrated that we don’t even have to touch the Gospels to come to the historical conclusion that Jesus rose from the dead via the historical method alone. Since this is the main point of the Gospels, it seems to be a hasty generalization for Ra to assert the Gospels are nothing but hearsay or propaganda. The historical method supports the Gospels without presupposing the Gospels. This is powerful reason to trust – put one’s faith in – the Gospels!
I’ve already summarized that article. Everything that Licona presents is bunk.
Ra grumbles: “Christian faith criticizes doubters, praising instead those who have NOT seen and yet believed; believing things hoped for, but not seen, looking at things that are not seen, and not seeing what is seen; a circular argument routing back to an assumed conclusion. Faith is, and always has been a belief that is held independent of evidence, and which must not change because of evidence.”
Ra seems to be advocating the logically self-refuting view of empiricism here, but the passage of scripture he is referring to isn’t based on circular reasoning. One cannot “see” the risen Jesus, yet can utilize the historical method to logically conclude Jesus probably rose from the dead.
…except there is no historical proof to conclude either Jesus was a historical person or rose from the dead…
And some critical Biblical scholars now believe that the Markan passion narrative may be based on Josephus’ account of the crucifixion of Jesus ben Anias. As I explained in my presentation, in Mythical Man, the crucifixion in Luke seems to be based on Josephus too.
Therefore, one does not need to empirically validate or “see” the risen Jesus, but can rationally affirm the inference to the best explanation of all the data is that Jesus rose from the dead. This would be a reasonable faith and the Bible suggests that those with this kind of faith are blessed.
By that logic, it would be reasonable to become a Muslim even without seeing Mohammad fly to Jerusalem on a winged horse.
Ra continues his rant: “Note that there is not one objectively verifiable fact that is either positively indicative of any religious belief, or exclusively concordant with them, or that isn’t better explained without any reference to them.”
Let’s get back to the Biblical claim that nature began to exist out of nothing. This claim was rejected by non-theists for ages, but big bang cosmology finally caught up with what the Bible has made clear for thousands of years.
As I explained in the 3rd Foundational Falsehood of Creationism, everything the Bible says about the earth in relation to the rest of the cosmos is embarrassingly inexcusably wrong and has been known to be wrong for thousands of years.
Stratton is so focused on Genesis 1 verse 1…. just read the next two verses. Genesis chapter 1 verse 2 says “the Earth was without form and void”, and “God separated the waters from the firmament.” I can go on and make a accurate case that the Genesis authors believed the sky to be just a dome, but I’d like to address the second elephant in the room: the water. The Hebrew word used in this verse is “מָ֫יִם – mayim” which means “water,” the same literal word used for the seas later mentioned in the same chapter in Genesis. Mayim is the literal word for seas, oceans, floods, streams, rivers, and rain. It’s the word used that quenches thirst and bathes our bodies. So we are definitely addressing literal a body of water, H2O, existing before everything else that was created according to Genesis. For those who say this passage is symbolic or metaphorical, despite it using literal words, allow me to point out that there is no indication or any criteria that any of this is being symbolic or metaphorical. But if we are going to argue that this phrase is metaphorical for no reason, why stop there? To be consistent we would have to argue that everything else in Genesis is being metaphorical, including the part of there being a supreme God and the story of creation as a whole.
But that not being the case, and that we are dealing with a literal word to represent water, let’s get to the meat of the argument. Now listen carefully as I explain why this piece is significant and fatal to Jacob’s position, because I will simultaneously argue why the origin of the universe does not require a God to explain it as well as demolish his first argument.
To begin with, all of the matter in the universe is a condensed form of energy. We know this from mass energy equivalence (E = mc²), and we have been able to convert one to the other with two nuclear forces by the manipulation of qluons, W+ and W-, and Z bosons. All matter comes from energy, and energy in accordance to the law of thermodynamics, is eternal. These are also naturally occurring processes, the rule of these processes and the Big Bang Theory is by following inflationary epoch, approx. 10 to the minus four seconds after the Big Bang.
The expansion of the universe causes temperature to fall, to the threshold temperature of protons and quarks, the fundamental constituents of matter, is reached. Further expansion causes the temperature to drop further, allowing protons and neutrons to form, and there are your first Hydrogen atoms.
The first hydrogen atoms get attracted to each other under the force of gravity to form structures of extreme density and heat, eventually resulting in quantum tunneling and allows fusion to take place. This is how the first stars form, and fusion being the process that keeps stars burning by converting Hydrogen into other atoms.
This fusion that powers the stars allow heavier elements to form for the first time, such as Helium, Neon, Carbon, Oxygen, Iron, and so on. But when stars run out of fuel, they die and explode, this is called a supernova. These dying stars release all the heavy atoms within them across the universe. This is where for the first time that Hydrogen atoms can bond with Oxygen and form the first water molecules.
But according to Genesis, water existed first before God created light and stars. But thanks to science and cosmology, we know this to be outright impossible. Turns out Genesis, got it wrong 2,500 years ago and still has it wrong today.
Moreover, Paul argues that we have the freedom to take our thoughts captive (2 Cor 10:5) before they take us (Col 2:8). Moreover, in Romans 12:2, Paul states that we can be “transformed by the renewing of our mind” (the way we freely choose to think actually transforms us). Atheistic naturalists exclaim that free will does not exist and that all things are causally determined via the laws of nature – including our thoughts! Science has finally caught up with what Paul has been saying for two thousand years via self-directed neuroplasticity. This research out of UCLA has confirmed that the way we freely choose to think actually transforms our brain structure. Science has validated that Paul’s “religious claims” were on to something!
These aren’t “religious” claims, their epistemology claims.
Here’s a “religious” claim: Christ rose from the dead, walked on water, and can get you into Heaven.
Validating an epistemology claim of the nature of thoughts does not follow that therefore the religious claim is true.
Lennox offered another atheistic objection:
6- Faith is a delusion. I’d no more believe in God than I would in the Easter Bunny, Father Christmas or the Flying Spaghetti Monster.
Lennox pointed out: “Statements by scientists are not always statements of science.” For example, Lennox stated, “Stephen Hawking said, “religion is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark”. I said, “atheism is a fairy story for people afraid of the light.”
Lennox goes on to say, “Neither of those statements proves anything at all. They’re all reversible. What lies behind all these delusion claims is the Freudian idea of wish fulfillment [that we believe what we hope to be true.] This works brilliantly providing there is no god. But if there is a god, then atheism is wish fulfillment.”
Ra responds: “One of the most dishonest tactics of apologists is the lies of equivocation, and trying to project their own faults onto the opposition, as if religion is scientific, or as if science requires faith.”
I need to remind Ra that a reasonable faith is nothing more than an inference to the best explanation.
No, it’s not. Even Stratton’s own Bible disagrees with him. It says In Hebrews 11 that “faith” are things unseen and hoped for, not “inference to the best explanation.”
Moreover, there is ample scientific data that strengthens premises in philosophical arguments which lead to logical conclusions with theistic implications or supernatural significance.
There is NO scientific data lending any support to anyone’s religious beliefs. Period.
What scientific evidence does Ra have that God does not exist?
That’s like asking what scientific evidence does anyone have against inter-dimensional time-traveling pirates. The burden of proof is on Stratton and any religious apologist.
All Ra is left with is question-begging assumptions and any argument based on a logical fallacy is no argument at all.
Aron Ra is left with reasonable conclusions based on the lack of any scientific or historical verification that meets the burden of proof of theistic claims.
If you read above, all Stratton has is reliance on a biased and irrational men like WLC and “logical arguments” that are themselves all fallacious with no evidence to back them up.
Stratton’s treading dangerous grounds with what he’s considering “question begging”. Based on what he’s revealed his beliefs to be, he would hold that any one axiom is “question begging” because axioms are definitionally true. So he doesn’t really know what “question begging” even is really.
Ra incorrectly asserts: “Atheism wishes for nothing, and has nothing to wish for, but I have multiple examples of believers admitting in one way or another that they’ll only believe what they want to believe, simply because they want to believe that, and they’ll continue to believe that even if it is proven false.”
This seems to be the very boat that Ra is in but he does not want to admit it. Atheists sure wish (and hope) that God does not exist. Moreover, they hope that hell is nothing but a fairy tale. Atheists hope that once their bodies die, that there is no soul that continues to live. Atheists hope for — and wish — that life ends at the grave. If they are wrong (and the evidence points that they probably are), they will have eternity to think about it.
If Stratton could show that any atheist ever said the things he accuses, I would go after that atheist for being just as dishonest as religious believers. As a rationalist, a humanist, an apistevist and a science communicator, that is obviously not my position, nor that of any atheist I have ever heard of by name. And I know an awful lot of atheists really well, a lot better than Stratton does obviously.
Ra says: “I even have examples of Christians admitting that they believe things they know can’t be true, and they don’t want to know if it’s true or not.”
This is not my view! I’m sure there are many uneducated Christians who might feel this way, but Ra commits a hasty generalization (another logical fallacy) by trying to paint all Christians with the same broad brushstroke. “I’ve even seen a sermon,” Ra proclaims, “where a Christian minister that I knew admitted to his congregation that Christian faith is a delusion by definition because it is a persistent false belief that does not change despite evidence to the contrary.”
I know I speak for many Christ followers when I say that this is not my brand of Christianity! I confidently contend there is not one belief I possess which is logically incoherent.
I would challenge Stratton to defend that comment, because he is no exception. It wasn’t evidence that convinced him, and no evidence will ever change his mind either.
Hey Stratton, take another look at the Kalam argument you keep using! Then learn what a fallacy of composition is. And what begging the question and special pleading means. And fallacy of equivocation. You’ll find all of these fallacies in the Kalam argument.
Some of my beliefs in the past have been challenged, and based on logic and science, I have changed a few of my beliefs under the umbrella of Christianity. Be that as it may, the Christian umbrella has grown stronger through this process.
Sure it can grow stronger over time when you fail to use critical thinking in your learning process.
Lennox referenced this common claim:
7- Christianity claims to be true, but there loads of denominations and they all disagree with each other, so it must be false.
The original article offered a great point in response: “Why does the existence of denominations imply Christianity is false? It might imply that Christians have very different personalities and cultures – or even that Christians aren’t good at getting on with each other – but not that Christianity isn’t true.”
Lennox said, “There are all kinds of different kinds of teams in football, but they all play football.”
Ra reacts, “Christians may be Unitarian, Binatarian, or Trinitarian. There is not one facet of Christian dogma that all Christians agree on.”
What does Ra think this logically implies? I know of Ph.D. scientists who reject the physical world and even atheistic scientists that reject biological evolution as an explanation of primate complexity. Does it logically follow that science must be false? Of course not!
We have evidence that God exists and for the resurrection of Jesus.
Then where is it?
If the proposition, “God raised Jesus from the dead,” is true, then it logically follows that “Mere Christianity” (as C.S. Lewis phrased it) is true.
So presume God exists to prove Christianity to validate belief in God. Circular.
Christians can argue about the fine-points of doctrine – and believe me I love to engage in these arguments – but at the end of the day, we still agree that God raised Jesus from the dead.
Do you? One of the first denominations of Christianity within the first several centuries believed Jesus was incorporeal. You can’t nail a incorporeal entity to a cross, let alone kill it.
During the first 300 years of Christian belief, there were many different groups of Christians early on, some of them include:
- Marcionism – Christ was a purely spiritual entity
- Nestorianism – Jesus and Christ were two different entities
- Docetism – Jesus appeared physical, but he was really incorporeal
- Apollinarism – Jesus had a human body and human soul, but a divine mind
- Arianism- Jesus was the son of God, not God himself
- Catholicism – Jesus was fully human and fully divine, both God and the son of God
Some of these different groups, which are often lumped together under the name Gnostics, also used some of the Gospels and some of them even had different versions of some of the Gospels and different versions of the letters of Paul, in addition to other writings that they considered holy.
Ra roars, “Show me one aspect of Christian theism that every Christian agrees on!”
I just offered it above, Aron: “God raised Jesus from the dead.” If one rejects this proposition, they are just as much a Christian as I am an atheist.
Ever heard of Christian atheists? Like Thomas Jefferson, they believe there was a Jesus and follow his moral teachings, but reject all the magic bells and whistles and miracles. So they are still followers of Christ, but reject the claim that Jesus rose from the dead.
Or Ebionites? I personally know two Christians who don’t believe in the resurrection.
Lennox brought up the eighth common objection to Christianity:
8- The Bible is immoral.
Lennox points out that atheists (like Aron Ra and Richard Dawkins) say, “Faith is evil. But at the same time [they] abolish the categories of good and evil. That doesn’t make sense.”
Ra counters: “Lennox obviously has no idea what he’s talking about, nor did he understand what he read. Dawkins was correct about the universe having no evil or good. These are concepts applied only by people, but people do apply them.”
According to Dawkins and Ra, there is nothing really or objectively wrong, bad, or evil with the actions of Stalin, Pol Pot, Mau, Ted Bundy, Hitler, Jeffrey Dahmer, the KKK, or ISIS. Ra might have a personal preference that happens to be different than some of these folks (I don’t know him personally), but since he affirms atheism, I do KNOW that Ra does not think their actions are really wrong in an objective sense.
So what? I will oppose the things I oppose regardless of whether my opposition has objective grounding, so it makes literally no practically difference. Also, even if I did need some grounding, why choose a god’s morality as that grounding? Christians may say that you should choose Yahweh as a standard of morality because he exists independent of all human opinion, but according to the Christian religion so does Satan. Why should I choose to ground my morals in Yahweh instead of Satan? Christians can’t give an objective reason why we ought to ground our morals in their god.
If a Christian tries to argue that Satan is evil and God is good, they can’t justify that reasoning because their good God sends people to a fate worse than death for all eternity. If that is not evil, then evil has no meaning. Why should I choose to ground my morals in a god that is the equivalent of an immoral celestial tyrant that is okay with slavery, commands parents to eat their children, and makes all the rules of the universe that dictates that all humans are born wicked and thus deserve to be punished for all eternity? In the Bible alone, God is responsible for killing over 2 million people, whereas Satan only kills 10.
According to Dawkins and Ra, there is nothing really or objectively wrong, bad, or evil with the actions of Stalin, Pol Pot, Mau, Ted Bundy, Hitler, Jeffrey Dahmer, the KKK, or ISIS. Ra might have a personal preference that happens to be different than some of these folks (I don’t know him personally), but since he affirms atheism, I do KNOW that Ra does not think their actions are really wrong in an objective sense.
Once again Stratton pretends to know what he obviously does not know. While it is true that the concepts of good and evil don’t exist in nature, being that they are concepts, that doesn’t mean that I think there’s nothing wrong with the things that cruel or selfish people do. Stratton obviously doesn’t know dick about logic. I have argued to the contrary in this very document.
Christians, on the other hand, believe that, racism, kidnapping, rape, murder, and cannibalism are all objectively evil.
If they are objectively evil, then why does the Christian God command people to do each of those things?
Things are only objectively evil if we have a definition providing the reasons why, so that we can tell if it is or not. Christians, ironically don’t have that. They only have a subjective morality based on a god who repeatedly lies to us and tells us to kill.
The Old Testament is full of ethnocentric laws that benefited the Jews over all other races. From business finances to owning non-Jewish slaves for life. God commanded Moses and his army to kill, pillage, and rape entire tribes and cities of non-Jews who were living in the “Promised Land.”
And finally, God commanded people to commit acts of cannibalism, at least 7 times.
This goes to show about later on when Stratton brings up the Divine Command Theory, (spoiler!) he doesn’t get it at all. Given that he proclaims that certain actions are objectively evil, but the fact that believers like him in his holy of holy books did ALL of those things whenever God commanded them, goes to show that believers are not moral agents, they are just obedient agents – they’re not following an “objective” morality, they’re following a Dictatorship Morality.
Ra goes on to quote a soap opera actor as an authority on the topic: “A particular action or choice is moral or right if it somehow promotes happiness, well-being, or health, or if it somehow minimizes unnecessary harm or suffering or both. A particular action or choice is immoral or wrong if it somehow diminishes happiness, well-being, or health, or if it somehow causes unnecessary harm or suffering or both.”
What Ra and this day-time actor do not realize is that they fail to address the deeper issue: Is promoting happiness, well-being, and health OBJECTIVELY good? Is it objectively evil to deny a human this kind of prosperity? Is it objectively good to minimize human suffering and harm? Is it objectively wrong to maximize suffering and harm? I made this case clear in my article entitled, “An Ought from an Is.”
In other words, can atheist base their morals on objective grounding?
Yes, yes, yes, and yes.
The two prerequisites for reliable moral assessment are 1) reason and 2) accurate and relevant information. Sound reasoning won’t lead to valid assessments if we are operating under flawed information, nor with sound information if our reasoning is flawed. Without sound reasoning and information, we can’t determine how the universe works, how different life forms suffer or flourish, where responsibility lies, or the short- and long-term consequences of actions on an inter-personal or global scale. These are considerations on which moral judgments depends.
Some often declare morality the territory of religion. However, moral development is actually something to which the scientific approach contributes far more–and far more reliably–due to its emphasis on reason, logic, and evidence (the tools that help us discern what is true or false), without which one cannot even formulate a valid argument. To make informed moral choices, and therefore moral progress, religion needs science, but science does not need religion.
Ra adds, “These are universally applicable to every society on earth, and the Bible utterly fails by contrast . . . God is supposed to be an objective moral authority, but he’s entirely SUBjective . . . One minute he says “thou shalt not kill” and on the next page, he says “Kill every man and his brother”. The Bible is not any kind of moral guide, and anyone who actually does everything the Bible commands would be a criminal in every country on this planet.”
First of all, if Ra had a proper understanding of the Law of Christ, he would see that the Jesus commands all people to love their neighbor as themselves (Matt 22:39) and to even love their enemies (Luke 6:27-36)! Jesus commands all people to love all people! Who doesn’t want to live in a world where everyone actually followed Jesus’ great command?
“Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to SET A MAN AGAINST HIS FATHER, AND A DAUGHTER AGAINST HER MOTHER, AND A DAUGHTER-IN-LAW AGAINST HER MOTHER-IN-LAW; and A MAN’S ENEMIES WILL BE THE MEMBERS OF HIS HOUSEHOLD. He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.”
Also, as a bonus point, you can add Luke 14:26 to the collection of Biblical contradictions. Think about it, Jesus tells his followers to hate their family… yet this is the same Jesus who claims to be God, the same God who commanded “Honor thy father and mother” (Exodus 20:12) and “love your fellow as thyself” (Lev. 19:1).
“If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple.”
Ra is uninformed regarding Divine Command Theory and why it is not objectively wrong for God to give commands to perform a specific action that would be objectively wrong apart from such a command. Ra’s objection is akin to one complaining that the government is hypocritical by commanding that we drive the speed limit, yet they teach ambulance drivers how to drive faster than the speed limit in certain scenarios.
Even those ambulances have to follow certain rules regarding driving on the road.
I am very familiar with Divine Command Theory and why it is both subjective and hypocritical, as I have already explained. It amounts to no more than the special pleading fallacy, that God doesn’t have to live by his own rules. So he can contradict himself all he wants to and change the rules on a whim for no reason.
God is supposedly omnibenevolent and the lord of mercy, right? Yet Stratton thinks that aligns with the belief that if God commands someone to perform an action that he has declared objectively evil, then it’s okay? First of all, an omnibenevolent being by its very nature would never demand anyone to perform an evil act, otherwise said being is not omnibenevolent. Second, this is a toxic belief in theism, the idea that their God is omnibenevolent and no matter what it does or says or commands, it is always good no matter what and therefore right to obey. This is what warps people’s senses and moral compasses, one of the many things Christopher Hitchens warned about religion poisoning everything. When God commanded the genocides of entire tribes and nations, theists (and especially Christian apologists) are not disgusted by this, rather their belief in an omnibenevolent God makes them apathetic.
For instance, I engage with theists often. And usually I mention Biblical stories like I Samuel 6, the story in which God kills an entire town of 50,000 people for the crimes of 5 farmers on the edge of town for wanting to see the Ark being transported by the Israelites and make a burnt offering to it. Every time I bring this up, I ask the question is it moral to punish 50,000 people (who weren’t even there or had any idea what was going on) for the crimes of 5 farmers? Is that justice? Every time I ask that question, the theist mind first instinct is to blame the victim in any way possible every time. Even if the 50,000 people were not involved in the “crime” of the 5 farmers, it doesn’t matter because “all the towns people were bad, we’re all sinners and God can take our lives whenever he wants.”
And exactly what was the crime? These men were trying to worship this very god, in their own way. Wouldn’t a God of mercy understand their innocent mistake? What if one of your children gave you a birthday card with the words “Daddy/Mommy, I luv you” and you punish them for spelling the word wrong? (By the way, is it reasonable to think there was a settlement of more than 50,000 at that time in history?)
Moreover, this is like complaining that the government commands people not to kill people, yet Obama is a horrible president because he ordered the Navy SEAL to shoot and kill Osama Bin Laden.
Here’s the kicker: we the people give the government that power to kill terrorists. We elect them into office; we voice our views whenever a bill is proposed; we established a court system to keep the leaders in check; and we can either vote them back in or pick a replacement.
Worse than that, God commands us not to kill people yet commands us to everyone for any offense. He doesn’t do anything himself; he commands men to do his dirty work for him, because he only exists within their imaginations anyway. So he CAN’T do anything for himself.
In Christian theology, God commits horrible acts, the very same acts he proclaims are bad and evil, but nowhere do humans give God the permission or power to do these acts.
Killing another human being is always wrong, unless a higher authority with superior knowledge of the situation issues the order to pull the trigger. This is why Aron Ra cannot coherently condemn God — or Obama — in these situations.
Aron most certainly can. Having authority and “superior knowledge” (whatever that means) does not magically mean it is wrong to commit murder. That’s why we have these things called WAR CRIMES, the very acts that can get President’s sacked or imprisoned.
For more regarding this and related issues, please read my article entitled: “An Ignorant objection to the moral argument.”
Basically Stratton parrots WLC’s objective moral argument.
Old, boring, and refuted a thousand times.
Lennox examined bad objection number nine:
9- Surely you don’t take the Bible literally?
Many atheists object to the Bible because there seems to be aspects to it which are allegorical or figurative. They suggest that if you cannot take the whole thing literally, then the whole thing should not be trusted. This is ludicrous to say the least. Professor Lennox noted that Jesus said “I’m the door.” He asks, “Is Jesus a door like a door over there? No. He is not a literal door, but he is a real door into a real experience of God. Metaphor stands for reality. The word ‘literal’ is useless.”
Ra states: “How I interpret truth is obviously different than religious people do. I say the truth is what the facts are. Truth is commonly defined as “that which is concordant with reality.”
Wait a second, I am a Christian theist and I define truth as “statements corresponding with reality” (basically the same definition). Moreover, I note that reality is defined as “the way things are.” Since I am “religious” and I define truth the same way Ra does, we have evidence and proof that Ra’s statement above about religious people is flat-out wrong.
Stratton is wrong. He may claim that his definition of faith matches Aron’s definition, but the method of reaching the truth differs wildly between Aron and Christian apologists.
If Stratton did accept truth as “statements that correspond with reality” yet Stratton keeps making statements that contradict reality, it’s just that Stratton thinks reality is wrong and he is right if he makes a “logical argument” to his satisfaction. For instance, later on in this blog, Stratton knows snakes don’t talk yet he finds himself defending the belief in a talk snake so long as the possibility of the supernatural exists. Well, if Stratton cares about statements that correspond with reality, where is his proof that the supernatural exists? Until he has even a single shred of evidence, every time he argues about the possibility of the supernatural he is voicing beliefs that do not correspond with reality.
Ra reasons in the following manner: “That means reality itself is not truth, but statements about reality can be -if they’re true.” So far-so-good, but then he concludes: “So if we have to determine whether it is true before we call it ‘truth’, then there is no truth in any religion.”
Yikes! How about phrasing it this way, Aron: “If the claims a certain religion makes corresponds to reality, then that religion is true!” The Christian religion claims, “God exists and raised Jesus from the dead.” The logical, scientific, and historical data demonstrate that we have good reason to believe that claim corresponds to reality. Therefore, “Mere Christianity” is probably true!
I can’t phrase it that way and remain either logical or honest, and not just because there is absolutely no historical data for Jesus’ life in the first place, much less his resurrection. Because every religion might claim some isolated comment no one would argue with, but that doesn’t justify the rest. Most of what any religion claims is not remotely concordant with reality at all though. For example, incantation spells, golem spells, or necromancy, the sun stopping in the sky, guys living inside fish, the global flood, the firmament, and a whole lotta other nonsense.
No logical, scientific, and historical data demonstrates any good reason to believe the claim “God exists and Jesus rose from the dead” corresponds with reality, ergo “mere Christianity” is bogus.
Ra states: “ . . . we know for certain there was never a global flood, and the tower of Babel didn’t happen that way either.”
Aron Ra does not know this with 100 percent certainty. Now, if he has data that he thinks overwhelmingly demonstrates there was probably no global flood or that the tower of Babel was probably not historical, then Ra would be justified in stating that these events probably did not occur. There are some conservative Biblical scholars that agree with him. Be that as it may, Ra’s objection here does not disprove God’s existence or the resurrection of Jesus (even if he happened to be right about the worldwide flood). At most, Ra’s objection is only to taking Genesis in a literal manner. Some conservative Christian’s hermeneutical experts believe the first eleven chapters of Genesis are to be taken as poetry and are not to be taken literally. To be clear, I am not making that case; however, I am simply pointing out that if they are right, the problem is not with Genesis, but with the uneducated interpreter.
Yes, I do this with 100% certainty, and I have ample data to prove it. Check out my playlist.
How Meteorology Disproves Noah’s Flood
Ra continues: “Snakes can’t talk, and none of that nonsense even can be literally true. The only way to glean any meaning out of it is to interpret the entire compilation as allegorical, because not one bit of it is historical.”
Left to their own devices, Snakes cannot talk. However, it is not logically impossible for snakes to talk.
It is PHYSICALLY impossible for snakes to talk.
Again, Stratton thinks that just by forming a logical argument mixed with imagination about magic, he thinks therefore it must exist. As Aron Ra has pointed out, apologists like these literally have to deny reality in order to justify their beliefs.
It’s not on the same incoherent level as married bachelors or square circles. If God and the supernatural exist, a snake could talk, but this misses the point.
I strongly beg to differ, it is a very important point. Stratton literally just used “magic” to defend his beliefs.
Just like WLC, Stratton is presuming God to justify a belief in a magical talking snake to thereby prove the existence of God. It’s completely circular.
Even if Satan never really took the form of a snake and tempted a literal Adam and Eve, this does nothing to diminish what we can prove with high degrees of certainty: “God exists and raised Jesus from the dead!”
It does in fact diminish it, because the whole story of Jesus rests on saving humanity from sin, and sin is the result of the snake tricking the first humans to disobey God. So if the Genesis story is complete junk, so is the need for Jesus to save everyone from a junk curse.
Why is Stratton still pretending he can prove anything? He can’t show ANY reason whatsoever to believe in his magic imaginary friend. Neither evidence nor logic either. In fact he is failing on what he thinks is his strongest point!
Therefore, even if Genesis and some other portions of the Bible are not to be taken literally (I am not arguing they shouldn’t), Mere Christianity is still true!
The Bible is not even figuratively true. It’s just a compilation of man-made mythology adopted and adapted from the elder religions of neighboring areas, and has no more truth than they did.
Literal or not, what invalidates Genesis and other portions of the Bible is whether it’s true or not. Even if we take Genesis as completely metaphorical, it’s still a flawed metaphor filled with so many inaccuracies. For instance, even if we take the first chapter of Genesis metaphorically, it still says that birds came into existence before any of the land creatures. And since we know for a fact that avians (birds) evolved from land creatures (specifically the dinosaurs), then it is evident that Genesis got that wrong.
Finally, Lennox offers the tenth common objection of atheists today:
10- What is the evidence for God?
As I mentioned throughout my response to Ra, there is a cumulative case of data employing logic, science, and the historical method that not only proves the existence of God with high degrees of certainty – but the truth of Christian theism specifically. Be that as it may, Professor Lennox advises to ask [atheists] the most important question: “Suppose I could give [evidence for God], would you be prepared right now, to repent and trust Christ?”
Ra takes this question to mean something completely other than Lennox intended. Ra exclaims: “At least we finally have an implicit admission that there is no evidence of God, but the question still doesn’t make sense.”
I have no idea how Ra thinks asking if a person is prepared to follow the evidence wherever it leads implies that there is no evidence! Ra has lost any ground to consider himself as an “advocate of reason.”
It should be easy enough to understand that no Christian ever, and this includes Stratton and his idol’s Lennox and Craig–have ever produced evidence of any god, much less the Christian god. If that had ever happened, he would be able to cite peer-reviewed journals reflecting that. But I’d already know about them, because that would have to be bigger news than big bang cosmology, gravity waves, tectonics, vaccinations, or evolution. Whoever made that discovery would be a Nobel laureate, and the religions of the world would no longer have to admit that they rely on faith instead.
Ra resumes: “First of all, if there was evidence of a god, it wouldn’t be the Christian god; even if it was, there is nothing to ‘repent’. According to Christian dogma, it doesn’t matter how evil we are. All sins will be forgiven if we but believe; but if you don’t believe, then it doesn’t matter how good you are, because the only sin that will not be forgiven is the sin of disbelief.”
According to the Bible, the only “unforgivable sin” is the “blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. Moreover, John 3:16 states that whoever believes will have everlasting life (in heaven). However, the Bible also says that there is another kind of belief that the damned (in hell) will have. James 2:19 states that the “Demons believe and shudder.” The difference between saving belief and the belief of the damned comes down to faith, or shall I say, “trust!”
And what constitutes as “blasphemy”? While it may entail curses or insults, surely the highest form of blasphemy would be unbelief. So if unbelief is blasphemous, and it’s an unforgivable sin, then Aron Ra was right.
There are three key ingredients to saving belief (K.A.T.):
K– knowledge: One has understanding of the proposition found in John 14:6.
A– assent: One believes the proposition found in John 14:6 is probably true.
T– trust: One chooses to act (on faith) regarding the proposition found in John 14:6.
Demons (and many churchgoers today) can have the “K” and the “A.” These are necessary conditions for salvation but not sufficient. One must choose to put one’s faith in Jesus and trust in his teachings. The person who has put his trust in the teachings of Jesus has the “T” as well and is saved. This is truly a follower of Christ (a.k.a., Christian)!
Faith is not “trust.” Faith is an epistemology, a way to know things. When speaking of his religion, would Stratton says he “trusts” Jesus walked on water, or would he say that Jesus DID walk on water? Those of us who have heard Christians talk before know the answer, they are certain they know that Jesus walked on water. So faith is a knowledge claim, not a “trust” claim.
But “faith” is a flawed epistemology, because the way it reaches convictions includes ignoring evidence to denying reality, because faith demands belief is more important than if a certain thing is true or not. This is what makes all faith “blind.”
And no one has either knowledge of whether Jesus ever existed, much less whether God ever existed. No one can have understanding of that either, since there is not one verifiable fact therein. Except that we know Jesus is NOT the truth. Because the truth is what the facts are, what we can objectively verify to be true, and that doesn’t apply to Jesus. Jesus is a lie.
Ra exclaims: “Believers can be saved only if they believe and unbelievers will be damned simply because they don’t believe.”
I disagree! No one goes to heaven or hell by accident. Heaven is a true love “marriage” with the Creator of the universe, and hell is the “Great Divorce” from God (as C.S. Lewis stated). I believe that everyone will ultimately get to make an informed decision to either enter into a “marriage” with God, or to be eternally divorced from Him.
Really? REALLY????? Humans send themselves?
“God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all might be damned.” – 2 Thessalonians 2:11-12
Bullshit people send themselves. Even if 2 Thessalonians didn’t disprove Stratton as the sophist he is, the fact that the Christian theology claims that their God is omniscient and has a ultimate plan for everything, that means that eons before humanity was ever created, he knew that many would end up in Hell. He knew every single decision of their life milleniums before they were created. Yet God created them anyway, knowing they would be tortured forever. If a person made a wind-up toy, then wound it up to walk 10 feet on a 5 foot table, the toy will inevitably walk over the table and break. Did the toy send itself or did the toy-maker knew it would happen and intended it to happen?
Consider Isaac Asimov’s book “Runaround” where (spoilers!) two scientists travel to the planet Mercury. They need a vital supply of Selenium for life support. So they build a robot named Speedy, programmed with the 3 Laws of Robotics.
1) First Law – A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
2) Second Law – A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
3) Third Law – A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.
So they send Speedy out to get the Selenium. What should have been a quick mission, Speedy is gone for hours and hours, even though he has not stopped running. The scientists investigate, and they see Speedy running in circles near the pond of Selenium. It doesn’t take them long to realize the problem: Speedy is caught between Law 3 and Law 2. The closer Speedy gets the pool of Selenium, there are deadly gases that can hurt Speedy, so Law 3 forces him to run away. When he is safely far enough from the gases, Law 2 kicks in and Speedy must obey the orders of the scientists because if he does not get that Selenium, the humans will die.
The scientists eventually stop Speedy and take him back to their base. Back at base, Speedy starts to spill endless apologies and filled with intense fear about being judged. But the scientists repeatedly tell Speedy that it is not his fault. Speedy wasn’t the one who placed himself with flawed programming.
As humans, our brains are flawed. Our brains are hard wired through the amygdala to judge whether people are trustworthy in less then a second based ENTIRELY on the structures of a person’s face. This is one example of a hard-wired human bias. Psychologists have identified dozens of biases involving memory, visual recognition, decision making and social perception and behavior (bandwagon effect, Barnum effect, confirmation bias, outgroup homogeneity bias, outcome bias, distinction bias, trait ascription bias, and many more). ALL these things operate outside our awareness and out of our control. All of these things distort how we process reality. This isn’t some case of random birth defects or environmental accidents, this is normal brain functions in every human.
So, who is to blame for programming us this way? In Isaac Asimov’s “Runaround” Speedy’s designers come forth and apologize for Speedy’s flawed programming and they take responsibility, reassuring Speedy that he is not to blame. In the case of Christians who believe God made them as they are with flawed programming that mess with their perceptions of reality, shouldn’t their God step forward and do the same as the scientists in “Runaround”?
No. In the Christian theology, all the blame is put on us humans. God takes no responsibility in creating us defecting and corruptible. Even though we didn’t design ourselves with flawed programming, we are told we are flawed and it’s all our fault, thus we deserve to be punished.
If there is no provision wherein atheists can get into Heaven, then I’m right–again.
If there is a Hell (and given the lack of proof, it certainly doesn’t appear to exist) and it really is the case that people “send themselves to Hell,” as some apologists would say and the punishment continues forever, this rashly supposes that no one in Hell has ever changed their mind! If Jesus died for our sins, to grant everyone forgiveness, what’s the point if that offer is not extended to those who changed their minds? According to Christian theology, beings such as angels are capable of changing their minds and they get cast out of Heaven. Why should Hell be any different when a person changes their mind and thus be accepted by Heaven? After all, God loves all, wants all to be with him, and will accept anyone who choose him, right?
Isn’t the Bible’s description of reasonable justice is “eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth,” not eternal torture in Hell for an eye and eternal torture for a tooth?
God is the one who built the world, so it’s his game, and he makes the rules. Christians believe God is incorruptible (while having free will), yet God creates humans corruptible. So the game is make humans corruptible, and then makes every generation born guilty sinners so he can hold them over a furnace to burn them for eternity, and the only way out is if you praise him forever. Ever saw the Saw films? If so, remember when Jigsaw threatens to kill someone unless they obey him and his rules? Here’s what Jigsaw said to the character Amanda: “You will give yourself to me. Every cell in your body. Is that understood?” Someone who puts people in a dangerous situation and then demands everlasting worship to escape can only be described as a monster. At least Jigsaw let his captors know they were caught in his sick games. The God of the Bible doesn’t even give us that courtesy. The God character of the Bible thought, “I’ll make them suffer for thousands of years, then after a few centuries have past, I’ll kill my son during a time with no cameras, surrounded by illiterate people who believe things on hearsay, and then punish anyone who doesn’t believe this story out of hundreds of thousands of mythologies.” He could have written the rules with the Stars, have Jesus live forever to spread the word in every nation, but nope. All we are left with is “believe in this particular mythology, or you will face eternal punishment because you deserve it.”
Ra exhorts: “You have to believe impossible nonsense for no good reason, or face the threat of a fate worse than death. If you have evidence, you don’t [have] faith, and visa versa.”
I must remind Ra that a cumulative case of data counts as evidence to demonstrate that God probably exists and that the resurrection of Jesus is probably historical. Therefore, it is the inference to the best explanation – a reasonable faith – to conclude that Christianity is probably true.
I must remind Mr Stratton that not a single scrap of evidence exists to indicate his god. If there was, he surely would have listed some before now. But all there ever was for his god are the unsupported assertions of disreputable charlatans working from a dishonest basis in willful ignorance of everything stacked against their preposterous assumptions.
David Hume said, “wise men choose probabilities.” I couldn’t agree more! Choosing to put your trust (a.k.a., faith) in what you know is probably true is very wise, indeed.
Trust is not “faith.” Faith is an epistemology, a way to know things. When speaking of his religion, would Stratton says he “trusts” Jesus walked on water, or would he say that Jesus DID walk on water? Those of us who have heard Christians talk before know the answer, they are certain they know that Jesus walked on water. So faith is a knowledge claim, not a “trust” claim.
Ra concludes with this: “ . . . there isn’t any reason to believe in a god, but there are plenty of good reasons not to.”
Please share them with us, Aron Ra; I’m all ears! I would love to hear ONE sound argument — that did not commit a logical fallacy of some sort — ending with a deductive conclusion: “Therefore, God does not exist.” Remember, an argument based on a logical fallacy is no argument at all. Until Aron Ra begins to understand and apply logic, he has no right to associate with the word, “reason.”
P1) God is defined as the arbiter of all things, including time;
P2) A decision requires transition from indifferences to will to action (requires time)
P3) Since time cannot exist prior to its existence, God cannot choose to create time;
P4) If God cannot choose to create time, he is not arbiter of all things;
P5) Therefore, a personal entity cannot be the ultimate arbiter of all things;
P6) Therefore, God as defined is internally inconsistent
C) Therefore, there is no God.
Clearly Mr Stratton doesn’t know how to apply logic himself. He’s never heard a logical fallacy from me, but he obviously hasn’t understood anything I’ve said either. So it would be fun to walk through this with him, and try to reason with him as I would a child. But I doubt very much whether he is willing to do that. Few believers are. It’s as if the delusion has its own defense mechanism, such that my challenges and queries must be ducked and dodged. Consequently, and this is the sad part, he will never know why he’s wrong about everything. Nor will he want to know, as his belief evidently matters more to him than does truth.