Author Topic: Kcrady - old school  (Read 43851 times)

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Offline screwtape

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Re: Kcrady - old school
« Reply #116 on: August 02, 2011, 11:32:36 AM »
Did christ really exist?, pt 10


Quote from: unkleE
2.  Scholars don't necessarily believe that most of the events you are talking about can be established historically.  There are a number of categories here, including:
>snip<
•   In some cases they believe the events were never intended to be historical, but that writers of that day used fantastic events as a way of illustrating meaning, and people of their day would recognise this.   An example is Peter's quoting of Joel in Acts 2 ("I will pour out my Spirit in those days ... the sun will become dark and the moon red as blood") as an explanation of people apparently speaking in different languages.  There is no indication that any of these ominous portents actually occurred, yet Peter applies the passage.  Clearly he saw the language in some sense as metaphoric or some such.

How is this second position much different than what I've been saying all along?  So maybe all the miracle stories about "Jesus" are "metaphoric or some such."  That would explain the complete absence of contemporary reaction to miracles better than your odd hypothesis that the period of the miniistry of Jesus was the one, solitary time in all of recorded history that human beings were utterly uninterested in grandiose displays of supernatural power.  "Yeah, yeah, I know that the Omnipotent Creator of the Universe walks among us curing the sick and raising the dead, but why can't we talk about something that matters, like Pilate's immigration policy?"
Quote from: unkleE
I don't necessarily agree with all they say in these areas, but here is another example where just reading may be enough for the believer but is not enough for someone like you who wants to make historical-critical statements - you need to know all these things.

Wait a minute--how can you disagree with NT scholars???  I thought we weren't supposed to do that!
Quote from: unkleE
3. Most scholars say that Jewish people of Jesus' day didn't question that he did the miraculous, but that critics argued that he did it using evil powers.

Based on what evidence?  The Gospels.  Do we have a single yohd or tittle of contemporary Jewish evidence suggesting that Jews accepted that Jesus worked miracles, but did it using evil powers?  Can you explain why an awesomely powerful Satanic "Messiah" would go unnoticed? 
Quote from: unkleE
So why would they make the fuss about it you suggest?  And the majority of people couldn't even write, so there's little likelihood they would have left a record!

And I take it all those scribes that debated Jesus couldn't write either.  And that the existence of a super-powered Anti-Messiah ("Antichrist") walking among them wouldn't interest them too much.  Nothing to make a fuss about.  You know, that's more miraculous than Jesus' miracles! 
Quote from: unkleE
4. On the other hand, the Roman historians would generally not have cared what was happening in a far-flung and rebellious province, apart from the stuff relating to the success of the Empire, and they would have given little credance to reports from there.  Again, why would you expect Roman historians to take much notice?

That's why Josephus never wrote anything about the Jewish War.  I mean, it was such a far-flung and unimportant province, inhabited only by a few illiterate yokels anyway.  Not like the Romans would care about it. 
Quote from: unkleE
5. I can honestly say I cannot recall any scholar making the argument you make, though there may be some (my reading, after all, is not all that extensive!).

From what you've said so far, they seem to take a "don't go there!" approach to the miraculous elements of the Jesus story.  They don't make the arguments I do because they ignore the issue and say it's not a historical question.  That way they can write their technical monographs for Biblical Archaeology Review without catching any flack from the Evangelicals, most of whom probably don't read BAR anyway.  Basically, they can act as if all the miracle stuff is bunk (debating about technical stuff like whether the woman with the alabaster jar of perfume was Mary Magdalene or not) without having to come out and say it.  It's the NT-scholarship equivalent of Stephen Jay Gould's "separate magisteria" of science and faith (so that biologists can accept evolutionary theory without saying that Genesis is bunk).
Quote from: unkleE
6.  Finally of course, it isn't true to say that no-one noticed.  The gospel writers noticed, and if you believe the scholars (another example where ignorance is indeed misleading!), the oral sources behind the gospels noticed.  I wonder how may records you would want before you count it as someone noticing?

The early Mormons (Joseph Smith & Co.) noticed the golden plates and the huge Jewish civilizations in North America, with their great cities and large-scale wars.  The Native Americans didn't notice any of this stuff, but then they were illiterate, and probably considered the presence of large Iron-Age armies of Semites in their territory unworthy of commemoration in legends.  The early Mormons must have been right.  The Scientologists noticed the deeds of the evil cosmic overlord Xenu.  Nobody else did, and there's no evidence outside of Scientologist literature for Xenu, but that's no reason to doubt that Xenu is real.
Quote from: unkleE
So I think you need to show, not out of your own fertile imagination but from historical analysis, why you are so confident of what you say.

It's really as simple as the Law of Cause and Effect.  If an astounding event happens--whether the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, or huge cosmological wonders like the sun shutting off, a great earthquake, and a crowd of newly-resurrected corpses walking home to a city of 100,000 people--it would have commensurate effects.  The assassination of Lincoln wasn't even a miracle, but somehow it was considered more important than the play.  You sneeringly refer to my "fertile imagination."  It doesn't hold a candle to yours, since you can imagine that God can walk on Earth doing all sorts of amazing divine feats in front of many thousands of people without even causing a stir.  "So what if he made this bread and fish appear miraculously?  I've had better fish."
Quote from: unkleE
I have explained this several times, but I will try again.  We are not just talking about reading the daily news.  We are talking about texts that carry very important implications (obviously, or we would not be discussing like we are).  Just as I would not attempt to argue biology with Richard Dawkins, or paleontology with Stephen Jay Gould (if he were still alive), because they know a great deal of information that I don't have, so I suggest the historical scholars know a great deal that you and I (and Dawkins!) do not know.  We make our statements about historical conclusions out of ignorance unless we build on their knowledge.  I am amazed that you would attempt to suggest otherwise.  So yes, you are entitled to form your own opinion, but it won't be based on evidence unless you know enough of the facts - which you have provided no indication that you do, any more than I do without the experts.

In the context of every other science--physics, astronomy, geology, etc., the notion of a man with super-powers is absurd.  All of your NT scholars, armed with the Gospels, and only the Gospels as their evidence, cannot overrule everything else we know about how Universe works.  In a choice between the Gospels and physics, physics wins.  Even if every single Bible scholar ever born swore to the absolute accuracy of every single letter of it, it would be their authority as scholars vs. the scholarly authority of the entire rest of the scientific community and every scientific experiment and observation since Kepler.  If I have to trust experts, I'll trust the physicists, meteorologists, astronomers, geologists, geneticists, biologists, etc., etc. over the NT scholars.  They've got a lot more evidence to go on than a few ancient texts written down after decades of oral tradition by people who may have intended to speak/write metaphorically/allegorically/mythically to begin with (as your quote above substantiates).
Quote from: unkleE
I'm not sure we are going to get much further on this.  I think your anti-scholarship views look awfully like obscurantism.

What anti-scholarship views?  If one branch of scholarship (NT scholarship) attempts to base positions that go against the rest of science on the word of pre-scientific ancient people (and only a handful of them), then the NT scholars are "anti-scholarship."  If they do not attempt to base positions that go against the rest of science on the authority of the Gospels, and the Gospels alone, then I don't see how I'm that much in disagreement with them. 

I've shown, from the Gospels themselves, that there were at least two "Jesuses" arrested for similar crimes, at the same time.  In one of my earlier posts on this subject, I suggested that there could have been 20 "historical Jesuses" (wandering preacher/faith-healer wannabe Messiahs with the common Jewish name "Yeshua").  That there could have been at least one is no big deal.  All along you've been arguing that Jesus would have been someone beneath the notice of anyone but his small sect of followers.  As Generous George put it, there's people like that in New York City today.

Even if oral traditions about one, or half a dozen of these "messiahs" ended up being collected together to form the "Gospels," the character of Jesus as an incarnate God doing stupendous supernatural wonders in front of many thousands of people and causing cosmological disturbances of the heavens and the Earth at his death is still a myth, as much a myth as the invulnerable Achilles.

If you really want to claim, based on ancient Iron-Age manuscripts (and the authority of the scholars that love them) that a person can overturn physics in grand fashion--and do so without anybody but his own disciples noticinig or cariing--I'm going to have to charge you with an obscurantist, anti-scholarship position. 
Quote from: unkleE
I find it ioronic that an educated athesist who criticies christians for using faith rather than reason can argue the way you have.  In the end, you still have not explained why I should accept such views ahead of people who have studied these matters for decades in high quality universities.

If you can tell me why I should accept the opinions of these scholars over the entire rest of humankind's scientific knowledge (much of it gathered over centuries in high-quality universities), I'll get back to you on that.
Quote from: unkleE
I hope I have not been personally rude, as that is not my intention,

Well, let's see, you accuse me of obscurantism, go on about my "fertile imagination" while ignoring all my points (like the two "historical Jesuses" in the Gospels) and generally have an attitude that pretty much everyone here but you recognizes as patronizing.  Nah.  Not rude at all. :-/
Quote from: unkleE
I just wish to challenge you to move beyond your own ideas to take the best available evidence seriously.  Then we can debate the more important debate on an evidential basis.  Best wishes.

Physicists can accurately model the behavior of utterly tiny sub-atomic particles down to several decimal places, without ever having to introduce a variable to account for the presence or powers of the resurrected Jesus, God the Father, Satan and his demonic legions, or any other Gospel character.  And they've got experiments to prove it.  What "evidence" do you and your NT scholars have for Jesus the miracle-working resurrected God-man?  The Gospels, and only the Gospels.  When it comes to "the best available evidence" I have to go with the physicists on that one.
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Offline screwtape

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Re: Kcrady - old school
« Reply #117 on: August 02, 2011, 11:42:43 AM »
Did christ really exist?, pt 11

UnkleE:

Before attempting to continue, I will try to spell out your position as I understand it.  Please correct me if I'm wrong:
  • A general consensus of NT scholars agree that a historical Jesus existed, with a "fringe" of uber-skeptics on one extreme and Christian apologists on the other.
  • The existence of this historical Jesus is validated by such lines of evidence as the number of ancient NT manuscripts available, the closeness of the earliest manuscripts to the claimed time of his existence, and other things one would have to be a professional scholar to discuss intelligently.
  • Scholars generally agree that the historical Jesus lived the biography sketched out for him in the Gospels, minus the miracles, which are not addressed because history as a science can neither validate nor deny their reality
  • Scholars generally agree that the historical Jesus is to have said at least some of the things attributed to him in the Gospels.
  • Scholars generally agree that the historical Jesus was crucified by Pontius Pilate, that his tomb was found empty, and that his disciples were radically transformed by the belief that he had risen from the dead
  • For you as a Christian, this scholarly consensus "opens the door" for belief in the fully-miraculous Jesus as God Incarnate, literally working the miracles described in the Gospels as real events in the past, rather than as accreted myths, allegories, or metaphors.
  • Since the miracles of Jesus are not a question of history, history cannot be employed to debunk them.
  • Thus, with the solid foundation in history for the existence of Jesus, you can rationally believe that he was also the miraculous figure described in the Gospels, since from the perspective of history this is indistinguishable from a non-miraculous Jesus (the miracles are an issue that cannot be discussed pro or con by historians)

Quote from: UnkleE
And miraculous and supernatural are matters that historians are loath to comment on as historians, because one's metaphysical beliefs or assumptions have a stronger bearing on one's conclusions than would the historical evidence.

For example, there is quite a bit of historical evidence pointing to the fact of the resurrection, but an atheist or agnostic would (quite reasonably for them) be unable to accept it as historical because of their metaphysics.  So most historians put aside their metaphysical views (at least for a while) and seek to establish what might be called a lowest common denominator understanding of what is considered to be historical, that is, what could be accepted on historical grounds by people of all beliefs.

Quote from: UnkleE
But perhaps you would accept that particle physicist John Polkinghorne is a reputable physicist?  (I have even seen a quote from Richard Dawkiuns to the effect that he is, or was, a first rate scientist.)  John says this about miracles: "science has falsified the idea that we know the laws of nature so well that they can dispose of an individual event. like the resurrection"  He bases this view on the nature of science as "restricting itself to the impersonal and general, and bracketing out the personal and unique"

This claim that science (whether history or physics) cannot address the question of the miraculous seems to be the linchpin of your position.  By placing the quiestion of the existence of miracles outside of the bounds of scientific analysis (whether by historians or physicists) you are able to place belief in miracles on an equal footing with rejection of miracles. 

I can understand why many reputable scientists would make this claim, as they live in nations where the vast majority of their fellow citizens believe Jesus is the miracle-working Son of God.[1]  To "come out" like Dawkins has would put them in a pitched battle with the popular consensus of belief.  Since many scholars and scientists get their funding from those same people via government grants and government funding of universities (not to mention that at least some of them probably have mommas who go to Church every Sunday) provides a strong incentive for them to avoid taking sides in the battle between theism and atheism.

By taking the Stephen Jay Gould position that Science and Religion occupy separate and non-overlapping "magisteria," they are free to focus on their research instead of being drawn into endless debates against theism, and potential loss of funding due to political pressure from Congressmen well aware that atheists are an insignificant voting bloc.  It's a kind of denial.  "No, no!  Of course my latest technical monograph on the evolution of trilobites in the Cambrian is no threat to your religious beliefs!  I'll keep my science in technical journals you never read, and you[2] keep your belief in a 6,000 year-old Earth, talking snakes and the rest in church and we can both agree to pretend there's no conflict between the two."

However, as far as I can tell, this sort of truce only exists with regard to miraculous claims associated with extant and popular religions (Christianity in the US, perhaps Hinduism in India, etc.).  I have never heard of a historian of ancient Greece claiming that "the existence of Centaurs and Cyclopses is not a historical question.  Credible historical texts such as the Iliand and Odyssey mention them, but history as a science cannot address the question of whether or not they actually existed."  I am more familiar with scholarship in Egyptology than I am with NT scholarship. 

If you ask someone like Zahi Hawass or Mark Lerner about some of the magical "Atlantis-type" theories about the construction of the Pyramids, or Egyptian magical tales about sorcerers who could turn wax models of crocodiles into real ones that would eat the target of their spell, they would give you a forthright rejection of such claims.  Likewise, Stephen Jay Gould probably would not bother placing the Norse creation account into some "separate magisteria" where it would be sheltered from scientific criticism as an invalid hypothesis.

A "historical Jesus" sans miracles is not one any self-proclaimed Christian (outside of the Bishop Spong "atheist-of-the-cloth" fringe) would care to believe in, much less worship.  Without the miracles, he becomes exactly as insignificant and uninteresting as you say he would have been to everyone outside of his small circle of followers.  If the NT scholars you cite were to reject the miracles as myth (the way their counterparts in the study of every other ancient culture's religion do) instead of sheltering them in an unassailable "separate magisteria" I doubt you would be crowing about their consensus acceptance of some proto-Martin Luther King who got crucified instead of shot.

Do you think an ordinary wandering preacher/faith-healer who managed to utter a handful of pithy statements before getting himself crucified for holding a sit-in at the Jewish Temple is worth founding your religious world-view on?  As Generous George put it, there's guys like that in New York City today, and you're not hurrying off to worship any of them.

Even in the Gospels Jesus the anti-establishment radical is not unique (see my point in a previous post regarding Jesus Barabbas).  If these are historical documents rather than mythic ones, the existence of a historical Jesus Barabbas is validated through the "criteria of embarrassment" you cite in favor of your preferred Jesus.  Since later Gospel manuscripts omit "Jesus" and refer to him only as Barabbas, this is ironclad proof of embarrassment.  A mythicist could argue that Jesus Barabbas is a remnant of a Gnostic "twin allegory" (see the Gospel of Thomas the Contender for an example) in which "Jesus, Son of the Father" is not crucified (thus representing the immortal "Witness" or "higher self" that is inherently indestructible) while "Jesus, the Son of Man" goes to the Cross, suffers, dies, and is resurrected, representing the death and shedding of the "lower" or "ego" self (the eidolon) and the initiate's rebirth as one awakened to their true nature as the "Witness" or "higher self."

The Gospels also clearly state that it was a fairly widely-held belief that Jesus was the resurrected John the Baptist.  If such a belief could be widely held even though Jesus and John the Baptist were born at about the same time and even had a fairly close relationship, then the spread of an equally erroneous belief in Jesus' resurrection is hardly even a surprise. 

In other words, the plain text of the Gospels pokes two big holes in Christian belief.  1) Jesus was not unique--there was at least one other man named Jesus living at the same time bearing a title that could identify him as the "Son of God," who was arrested by Pontius Pilate on the same charges (subversion/rebellion), at the same time--implying that Jesus was only one of many like him.  2) The people of Jesus' day were even more eager to believe in the resurrection of "prophets" than modern fans of the King of Rock and Roll are to accept the claims of Elvis sightings as proof his death was faked.

Thus, even if we try to take the Gospels as "good history," they still provide us no solid basis to believe in "a" "historical Jesus" or to lend credence to claims that he rose from the dead.



 1.  Do you know of any recognized scholars living in non-Western countries and/or receiving their research grants from non-Western governments, such as India?  If so, do they hew to the claim that Jesus' miracles cannot be questioned by history?
 2.  By "you" here, I do not mean you, UnkleE, but rather a hypothetical Evangelical/Fundamentalist Christian.
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Offline screwtape

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Re: Kcrady - old school
« Reply #118 on: September 12, 2011, 03:31:30 PM »
Did christ really exist?, pt 12

UnkleE, one of the main problems we're having in this debate is that we aren't even debating the same thing.  You're providing scholarly quotes claiming the existence of a stripped-down Yeshua of Nazareth who, despite having uttered a few catchy teachings was in all respects a very ordinary man who did not attract much notice in his own time and would not attract much notice in ours if he walked the streets today. 

We are arguing that the superhuman "Jesus" character presented in the Gospels, who repealed the generalized principles of physics and biology in front of many thousands of people, and whose death was a literally earth-shaking event accompanied by a cosmological darkness and a wave of spontaneous resurrections, is a myth.

There is no reason both of these positions can't be true.

You have explained how historians set aside the miraculous elements of the NT as outside of the purview of history.  They just write "Here Be Dragons" over that part of the map, and don't go there.  The problem this presents for the Christian hoping to rely on scholarly consensus about Yeshua of Nazareth for apologetics purposes is that once scholars take away the supernatural claims--either by denying them outright, or just looking the other way--what's left isn't Jesus anymore.  Returning to my Superman analogy, if you take away the cape and tights, the origin on planet Krypton, all of the super-powers, etc. until you end up with a New York newspaper reporter named Clark Kent who wrote news stories in the '30's and '40's, what you've got left is a newspaper reporter, not a superhero. 

You have claimed that the historical Yeshua would not have attracted the notice of his contemporaries, beyond his small circle of followers, despite the fact that the Gospels say otherwise.  By the time you're finished stripping him of his miraculous powers, his widespread fame, the huge crowds that followed him around everywhere, the attention of major political figures like Herod ("and all of Jerusalem with him") Caiaphas, Gemaliel (the book of Acts), distant foreign rulers (who sent the Magi to honor him at birth) etc., you're not even talking about the Jesus of the Gospels anymore.  Which defeats the purpose of using the Gospels to establish his historicity, doesn't it?

This obscure teacher[1] shrinks away to almost nothing in comparison with Greek and Roman philosophers.  If such a figure existed, he is nothing but a grain of sand around which the oyster of Christianity slathered a pearl of myth in order to create the glorious Incarnate God of the Gospels.  The latter is still a myth.  Even the name "Jesus" is a construct created to add up to 888 in Greek gematria, so that the new God-man could be identified as the Solar Logos of Hellenistic cosmology.[2]


followed up with this link in the next post:  If Jesus, then why not Hercules?.  The essay begins about halfway down.
 1.  Even Christians did not see fit to preserve more than a few scraps of (the alleged) Yeshua's teaching, as compared with the volume of preserved writings of Paul.  This fact alone provides powerful evidence against the claims of Christianity in my view.  If the all-knowing Creator of the Universe truly set foot on Earth for 33 (or so) years, surely his words and deeds would be more worthy of preservation and inclusion in the Bible than Paul's mail.  If the Incarnation of God on Earth is really the great centerpiece of the Cosmic Plan, why does Jesus get not merely upstaged, but comprehensively pwned by some Johnny-come-lately who wasn't even one of his disciples?
 2.   David Fideler, Jesus Christ: Sun of God
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Offline screwtape

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Re: Kcrady - old school
« Reply #119 on: September 12, 2011, 03:39:06 PM »
Did christ really exist?, pt 13

Quote from: unkleE
I have tended to use the late historian Michael Grant because he was a specialist in the wider Roman Empire, not just the NT, so can bring a wider perspective to bear, and because he was an unbeliever, so could be considered to be impartial. Things Grant  said could be established about Jesus included:
  • he claimed to be able to forgive sins which only God could forgive and people believed him
  • he believed his death would be redemptive and people believed him
  • he believed he was inaugurating the kingdom of God on earth, and people believed him
  • he believed repentant "sinners" were eligible for the kingdom, and people believed him
  • he died a terrible death
  • his actual tomb was later found to be empty and right from the earlist days people believed he had been resurrected

These (as I understand your position) represent the extraordinary things about the "historical Jesus" that a consensus of scholars accepts, and which, for you, mean he was not just an average itinerant rabble-rouser of his time.  The first four are not very impressive.  There have always been charismatic cult leaders who have concocted wildly unorthodox (for their time) doctrines "and people believed them."  Heaven's Gate, David Koresh, etc..  The next one, that he died a terrible death--that was awfully common in Roman Judea.  Judea at that time was a hotbed of sects, cults, and people claiming to be the Messiah.  Even if it is accepted that a single person with the common name "Yeshua" taught these things and got himself crucified by the Romans, it is a non-sequitor to assert that the existence of such a person provides any validation for the towering God-man character of the Gospels.

While you are correct that there is no evidence that the "Jesus Barabbas" mentioned in the Gospels taught these things or claimed to be the Son of God, I brought him up mainly to show that "Jesuses" getting arrested by Pilate for rebellion/subversion was common enough that even the Gospel writers show us two of them--until the editors decided to edit out the name "Jesus" for Barabbas in later texts.  The word "Barabbas" means "Son of the Father."  "Abba" is used as a name for God in the NT (as I recall, by Paul) when we are encouraged to pray to God as "Abba, Father" (indicating our intimate close relationship with God).  Of course, the Gospels do not give us any teachings of Barabbas.  I did not intend to make a positive claim that he called himself the Son of God or that he taught the same things the other "Jesus" did.  My main point is that, in the context of one Jesus, Son of the Father (yours) being arrested by Pilate for subversion, to find, even in the Gospels, another Jesus, Son of the Father (who proved important enough for later redactors to edit out) being arrested for the same or similar crime at the same time shows that we should not gasp in awe that at least one person named "Jesus" would have been crucified by Pilate around 33 C.E.  "Historical Jesuses" may have been a dime a dozen.

Which brings us to your last claim, the "Empty Tomb" and the belief of his followers that Jesus was resurrected.  The claim that Jesus was interred in Joseph of Arimathea's tomb, which was later found empty rests on confidence in the historical reliability of the Gospels.  Jesus' body could have just as easily been tossed in a pile with all the other crucifixion victims.  The character of Pilate as presented in the Gospels, as a sensitive but weak-willed soul who really didn't want to crucify the innocent Jesus, but bowed to the pressure of a rent-a-mob, and then generously permitted Jesus' followers to take his body down early and bury it with honor in a rich-man's rock tomb contradicts the way Pilate is portrayed by Josephus--a stubborn, brutal tyrant who seemed to delight in riding roughshod over Jewish sensibilities.

So we're left to trust the Gospels that this "Empty Tomb Mystery" even existed.  I think there are lots of reasons to distrust the Gospels as historical accounts, even after one discards the miracle-stories.  Time and again we have Gospel accounts of things neither the Gospel writers nor their oral-tradition predecessors could have known, such as things Jesus said, thought, and did while he was alone and/or all his disciples were asleep.  The Gospel writers moved various "Jesus stories" around in their narratives for literary purposes (Skitch posted a Christian apologist's detailed explanation for this in another thread, the link to which I have unfortunately lost), and made all sorts of totally unsubstantiated grandiose claims for Jesus (that "Magi" from the East came to revere him, that Herod initiated a massacre of children to kill him--obviously a copy of the same myth in the story of Moses, that he was followed by massive crowds, etc.).

Not to mention that they attribute super-powers to him!  I think there are a lot of credible reasons to doubt the validity of the Gospels.  Still, even accepting the "Empty Tomb" narrative, it's very weak in terms of providing evidence for a miraculous Resurrection.  We're told that the Romans stationed a cohort outside the tom of Jesus to prevent his disciples from stealing his body--a claim contradicted by the assertion that Jesus, when he was alive, was so insignificant that he was beneath the Romans' notice.  Would they really be more concerned about the corpse than about the living man?  If we grant that the "disciples stole the body" theory is a possibility, then a Roman cohort couldn't have stopped them--because the Romans gave the disciples the body to begin with!

If the Jewish elites were worried that the disciples would come up with a Resurrection myth while stealing the body to support it[1] the "secret" disciples (Joseph of Arimathea pops up out of nowhere, with enough influence to gain an audience with Pilate and persuade him to give him Jesus' body) could have had a corollary motive to hide the body so that Jesus' enemies could not desecrate it.  Joseph of Arimathea makes a show of sealing his tomb, while hiding the body elsewhere.  The women, kept in the dark, go to Joseph's tomb.  Mary mistakes a gardiner for Jesus (just like many people are portrayed mistaking Jesus for a resurrected John the Baptist), the other disciples mistake other people they meet on the road for Jesus, add in a few ecstatic visions and dreams, and you've got a Resurrection story that can grow in the telling.

Could there have been a cult centered on a Messiah-claimant named "Jesus?"  Sure.  Could he have taught some new doctrines, like granting himself the right to forgive sins?  Sure--it's not a bad way to get followers.  Could he have believed that his death would be redemptive, and that he would be resurrected?  Sure--the Heaven's Gate folks believed their deaths would beam them up to a UFO hiding in the Hale-Bopp comet.  From what I've read about the period, there were lots of sects and wacky apocalyptic prophets teaching all sorts of weird things.  That there could be one or more real people who served as inspiration for the teachings of the Jesus character in the Gospels does not change their essentially mythic/story (rather than biographical or historical) character. 

Do we have any evidence that a super-powered God-man walked around Judea followed by huge crowds of follwers, repeatedly repealing physics in front of "scribes" and many thousands of others, that his death caused a great earthquake, spontaneous emergence of dead from their graves, and a cosmological darkness over a city of 100,000 that contained the core of the region's litererate elite--who, amazingly, never notice any of this or consider it so commonplace it's not worth writing about?  No evidence whatsoever.


 1.  It is interesting that the Jewish elites are portrayed being so intimately familiar with Jesus' teachings that they were more aware of his predictions of a Resurrection than his own disciples (who, playing the Watson role to the hilt, "don't get it" at all until after the Resurrection is staring them in the face), when these same Jewish leaders are also supposed to have considered Jesus utterly insignificant and not worth writing any commentaries, counter-propaganda, etc. about.  Which is it? 

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Offline screwtape

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Re: Kcrady - old school
« Reply #120 on: September 12, 2011, 03:42:48 PM »
Did christ really exist?, pt 14

One major attribute of a real "historical Jesus" (rather than just another cult leader) would be legitimate descent from the royal line of King David.  The Gospels provide us with geneologies for Jesus that trace his lineage to the great Israelite king.  This presents an interesting question.  We are supposed to believe that Jesus' family was able to keep a record of their geneology going back at least a thousand years to King David (Luke's geneology goes all the way back to the very first human being!), but also that they were illiterate yahoos who were incapable of recording any of the words and deeds of God Incarnate as he lived among them.  The geneologies contradict each other, but since all mainstream scholars accept the reliability of the Gospels, we have no choice but to accept that Jesus' adopted father Joseph had two biological fathers, Jacob (Matt. 1:16) and Heli (Luke 3:23).

As we follow these rickety geneologies back to David, we find something interesting: an almost total lack of evidence for the existence of David!  There is the Tel Dan inscription, which has been interpreted as referring to a Davidic dynasty (the House of David) or to a city named House of Praise (c.f. place names like "Bethlehem" ("House of Bread"), Bethsaida, etc.).  Source: http://members.dodo.com.au/%7Eneilgodfrey/arch/teldan.htm

Here is a survey of the rather scanty archaeological evidence for King David and his empire.  Remember that we're talking about a mighty kingdom that was supposed to have fielded an army larger than that of the United States! (2 Samuel 24:9).  Now, we see a familiar motif: scholars shrink David down from a mighty giant-killer with vast legions at his command and an empire that stretches from the Nile to the Euphrates, to a local chieftain that would not have achieved any contemporary notice.  There is, however, a problem with using the "Obscurity Defense."

The problem's name is Solomon.  Solomon was supposed to have ruled in great spendor, and have been so widely renowned for his great wisdom, that he was considered to have "excelled all the wisdom of Egypt" (1 Kings 4:30).  We have a lot of evidence for the "wisdom of Egypt," such as the extreme accuracy of astronomical alignment, and precision stonemasonry with which the Great Pyramid of Giza was built.  There is even some evidence that the Egyptians had developed a technology for machining stone[1] (though, how this was done is a mystery, since we only have what appear to be machined stone artifacts, but no machines).  The esoteric "secret wisdom" of ancient Egypt is legendary even today.  There is abundant evidence of the ancient world's admiration of the wisdom of the Egyptians.  Yet, there is not a single scrap of evidence for the international renown of an Israelite king named Solomon.  Not one inscription or other evidence that he was known to any other kingdom.  All we have of his vaunted "wisdom" is the book of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes, which do not stack up very well against other ancient literature (such as the Greek philosophers).

David and Solomon allegedly rest on the history of the Judges--which, being a series of petty tribal wars, we can accept the Obscurity Defense for without objection.  But before that, we have Joshua's sweeping conquest of Canaan--for which there is no evidence.  In fact, scholars now beleive that the Israelites emerged from the Canaanite population rather than invading from outside.  Leading up to this non-existent Conquest, we have the story of the Exodus, even grander miracle-wise than the wonders of Jesus.  And again we encounter something that is by now quite familiar: a total lack of evidence outside of the Bible.

Now, UnkleE, as I recall, you accept evolution in general (though perhaps as God's method of creation rather than as a purely natural process) and a 4.5 billion year age for the Earth.  Luke's geneology traces Jesus' descent back to Adam "the son of God."  Jesus bases his arguments against divorce on the Genesis account.  Am I wrong to think that the Creator of the Universe would know when he did it within at least a couple orders of magnitude?  Would God Incarnate really base moral doctrines on something he knew to be primitive superstition?  Since, as you point out so often, all mainstream scholars trust the reliability of the Gospel accounts (and we should accept their authoritative pronouncements to that effect), we have no choice but to accept that the "historical Jesus" really thought the world was created a few thousand years ago, and that the first human being, Adam, was made out of dirt, watched his wife hold a conversation with a talking snake, etc.

If so, the "historical Jesus" revealed in the Gospels could not have been an omniscient, omnipotent God Incarnate.  That conception of "Jesus" is still a myth.

The "historical Jesus" we're left with is propped up on a tall stack of incredibly rickety assertions (those contradictory geneologies leading back to other, equally mythic or mostly-mythic figures like David, Solomon, and Abraham).  The very most we can say about them, judging from the scholastic arguments you cite is that the Bible characters are wildly-exaggerated literary constructs that may have have been based on little kernels of real history here and there.  That's a terribly poor foundation to base one's world-view on.  Isn't Jesus portrayed saying something about not building a house on sand?


 1.  The author of this article developed a theory that the Great Pyramid was built as a power plant to harvest earthquake energy through piezoelectrics and sonics, which I consider ludicrous.  However, the physical artifacts he references exist, and their precision manufacture is self-evident.  Even though his hypothesis of powered machinery is almost certainly wrong (I don't know of any evidence of Egypt having an infrastructure to support it!), they must have found some quite clever way to accomplish such precision manufacture.  Any evidence of comparable inventiveness on Solomon's part?
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Offline screwtape

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Re: Kcrady - old school
« Reply #121 on: September 12, 2011, 03:48:43 PM »
Did christ really exist?, pt 15

UnkleE,

To me, the question of a "historical Jesus" seems a lot like asking if there was a historical Count Dracula.  One the one hand, we can say, "Yes, all mainstream scholars are certain that there really was a Vlad ('the Impaler') Tepes who took the moniker "Dracul" upon being inducted into a crusading order (organized to resist the Turks) called the Order of the Dragon, and that he was a very unpleasant personage.  Therefore, there is a historical Count Dracula."  On the other hand, we could say "None of this "opens the door" to the existence of vampires, or to accepting that Vlad Tepes was immortal/undead, that he could shape-change into an animal, turn into mist, or climb walls like a spider.  'Count Dracula' is a myth.'"

If we take away the miracles and other grandiose claims about Jesus (that he was known to the Magi, that Herod tried to murder him by killing all the young boys in the region of Bethlehem, that the chief priests and Pharisees were closely familiar with his doctrines and considered him a threat, etc.) then what you have left is, in my opinion, a completely different character than the "Jesus" of the four canonical Gospels, or at least so different that accepting the former does not lend any credence to accepting the latter.

I am not an NT scholar, and I have not read them all as you have.  I have read Eisenmann's James, the Brother of Jesus (though due to a move my copy is in storage in another state, so I can't cite it in proper scholarly form).  I think, based on my own reading of the Gospels and on Eisenmann, that the "Jesus" of the Gospels is a composite of at least two distinct strains of teaching[1]

In the Gospels, Jesus is often portrayed sounding very Jewish, claiming that not one yohd or one serif ("jot or tittle") of the Torah will disappear "until all things be fulfilled," that he has come only for "the lost sheep of Israel," etc.  His inner circle includes "Zealots" (fanatical Jewish rebels).  He unleashes thundering diatribes at the Jewish elites for their corruption and hypocrisy ("Whitewashed sephulcres!  Hypocrites!") and predicts lots of fire-and-brimstone Old Testament-style wrath to come, comparable to the writings of the Essenes and other Jewish fundamentalists.

Other times he's portrayed as pro-Gentile, commending the faith of Roman centurions, telling his followers to "go the extra mile" carrying a Roman soldier's pack for him, etc.  He is portrayed distancing himself from the Jews' most holy scriptures with the formula, "It says in your Torah x, but I say y"--hardly the sort of thing we would expect from a devout Jewish Rabbi!  Then he teaches pacifism, non-judgementalism (completely contradicting the highly-judgemental Jesus who rails against the Pharisees and others, like the man who wanted to attend his father's funeral before following him), unconditional love, and cooperation with Rome (paying Roman taxes, etc.).  The Gospel of John even starts with a mystical preamble identifying him as the Logos, the celestial mediating proportion/rationality-aspect of the Divine that unites the material and celestial/spiritual realms in Hellenistic cosmology.

If "Jesus" is a composite character, this would explain how scholars and ordinary readers of the Gospels can see him in so many different ways.  There could be at least two, and possibly more, strains of teaching that were merged to form the "Jesus" of the Gospels, which could imply two or more "historical Jesuses."  We already accept that "Yeshua" was a common name at the time.  Furthermore, "Yeshua" ("Joshua") is the name of the conquering "hero" of the OT book by that name, hence a good name for a would-be Messiah to adopt even if it was not his real given name.  If you have lots of people running around quoting "sayings of Jesus" it would be possible for the sayings of more than one "Jesus" to be integrated together, just as the "J, E, D, and P" sources were compiled together to form the Torah (so far as I know, JEDP is very much a "mainstream scholarly" theory, though I could be wrong). 

The Greek name "Jesus" (Iesous) is very different phonetically from the Hebrew "Yeshua" and "happens" to add up (by adding the numerical value of the Greek letters) to 888, a very significant number in Pythagorean mystical mathematics/"sacred science."  To me this and other hints (such as the mystical geometric diagrams encoded in miracle-stories like the "Miraculous Catch of Fish") provide evidence that whatever "historical Yeshua(s)" there may have been, was/were reconfigured and mythologized to form the God-man of the Gospels.
As PastorAlan points out, "miracles" are teaching-aids, not a means to solve problems.  As such, they can teach just as well if they are fictional, like any other parable/allegory.  "Miracle-stories" would be even more effective as teaching-lessons if they're taken to be didactic myth rather than real events, since we then would not have believers hoping miracles will solve their problems ("Please, God!  Cure my son's cancer!") and skeptics saying things like "Why won't God heal amputees?"  There would be no distractions and people (believers and nonbelievers) could evaluate whatever lessons the miracle-stories are really supposed to be teaching.

Regarding the reliability of the Gospels, I see plenty of good reasons to doubt their reliability as historical documents, though I readily admit I am not a "mainstream scholar."
  • The Gospels are written in a narrative, omniscient p.o.v. style, like novels.  They include scenes and dialogue from events none of Jesus' disciples could have witnessed, such as things Jesus said and did when he was alone, or dialogues between Jewish leaders and Pilate.
  • Thier portrayal of Pilate disagrees radically with that of Josephus and Philo.  Since Pilate grows progressively more fair-minded and reticent to crucify Jesus as we progress through the Gospels in chronological order of writing, they seem to present a growing legend, not accurate history (though, again, I'm not a 'mainstream scholar,' perhaps Josephus and Philo were wrong about Pilate and there's solid evidence for the Gospels' portrayal).
  • The Gospels are chock full of fanstastic miracles, demons running amok, etc., the sorts of things even Christians immediately regard as myth when they're presented in other people's tales (e.g. Greek mythology, 1001 Arabian Nights, The Mahabharata, etc.)
  • These miracles are as central to the narrative as spaceships, robots, lightsabers, and the Force are to Star Wars.

There may well be accurate history in there somewhere, just as there appears to have been a real Trojan War behind the stories of the Illiad and Odyssey.  But until I've had a chance to read your mainstream scholars and find out where their absolutely unshakeable certainty comes from, I see no reason to accept the Gospels' God-man figure any more than I accept the historicity of a magically-invulnerable Achilles or the Goddess Athena.

There is no coroborrating evidence for the towering miraculous God-man of the Gospels.  This is an inescapable brute fact.  We can get out the Shrink-O-Matic and either reduce him to a plausible figure who for whom the Gospels are sufficient evidence, or argue that Judea was soooo far-flung and so primitive that no one cared enough about the place to write about what happened there, even when the events were literally earth-shaking.

There is no coroborrating evidence for the towering miraculous God-man of the Gospels.  This is an inescapable brute fact.  People can come up with all sorts of explanations as to why this would be so even if the Gospels were, well, Gospel Truth.  Needless to say, such arguments are not very persuasive.

In relation to your "stage 1" acceptance of a "historical Jesus," I'll have to get a lot more information (i.e. read the scholars you cite) before I get anywhere near the absolute confidence and certainty they have regarding a "historical Jesus."  I find that certainty itself a bit strange, given that they've admitted (in other quotes you cite) that the evidentiary standards of ancient history have to be looser than what we have for other sciences or even recent history, due to the nature of the evidence.  Maybe they've got the evidence to back it up.  Until I've had a chance to evaluate at least some of that evidence, I'm not going to take them on pure faith, any more than I'll believe string theory is true (even though most mainstream physicists seem to accept it) until it has some experimental validation to back it up.  Until then, it is, in the words of Wolfgang Pauli, "not even wrong."  The mainstream can be wrong, and has been in the past. 


 1.  Eisenmann, as I recall, argues for a real "historical Jesus" who was a Jewish fundamentalist revolutionary, who was later outshined in popularity by his brother and dynastic successor James "the Just," but that the Hellenistic Pauline sect overwrote the Gospels to shrink the importance of James in the early Church and Hellenize Jesus.  This is, of course, a vast over-simplification of a huge book, but I think Eisenman makes a good case for his position.
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Offline screwtape

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Re: Kcrady - old school
« Reply #122 on: January 30, 2012, 03:38:22 PM »
I am going to leave out all but the best posts from this “Did Christ really exist?” thread.  It goes on for 41 pages.  I recommend you all read it when you can.  It has many good contributions from other members. 
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Re: Kcrady - old school
« Reply #123 on: January 30, 2012, 03:40:43 PM »
DCRE part 16 (because it’s very good)

Quote from: Dawiyhd
An atheistic world view can not logically account for invariate immaterial entities such as the law of logic. As such those that hold that world view, do so in opposition to itself, creating intellectual discordance and forcing compartmentalizing.

Not so.

Axiom #1: Existence Exists
Axiom #2: Each thing that exists manifests Identity (it is what it is and not something else)
Axiom #3: Consciousness exists, being the faculty of perceiving Existence.

These axioms form a self-evident, irreducible and inescapable starting point for all cognition and action.  It is not possible to deny any of these axioms without implicitly accepting them, i.e., without contradicting oneself.  Stating any proposition at all rests on the Existence of the person you're talking to (why try to convince a non-existent entity of something?), that they manifest Identity (the person you're talking to won't turn into Abraham Lincoln or a bowling ball that hatches a baby elephant while singing opera), and Consciousness (they will be able to perceive your argument and perhaps be convinced by it).

From Axiom #1 we get "A is A."  From Axiom #2 we get "A cannot be non-A at the same time and in the same respect."  From Axiom #3 we get the purpose of logic, which is to persuasively communicate identification and integration of facts of existence to another consciousness.

Nowhere here are any theistic deities required, or even desirable in establishing the validity of logic. 

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Offline screwtape

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Re: Kcrady - old school
« Reply #124 on: January 30, 2012, 03:43:22 PM »
DCRE part 17 (because it’s very good)


Quote from: Dawiyhd
Quote from: kcrady
Nowhere here are any theistic deities required, or even desirable in establishing the validity of logic. 

You have done nothing but restate the laws of logic, which does nothing. You still have not accounted for the existence of said entities in a materialistic natural world view.

They're not "entities" like bowling balls or radio waves.  They're self-evident, inescapable generalized principles of The Way Things Are.  Any attempt to "account for their existence" assumes that their existence is a mystery, i.e. that their non-existence is the normal state of affairs, so something must have caused them to exist.  But the very act of proposing such a "something" (such as a god or gods) must rest on the premise that the god(s) Exist, have Identity (they are gods and not mortals or bacteria), and (in most theistic systems) Consciousness.  In other words, the concept of a deity rests on the Axioms, not the other way around.  It is not possible to make any form of "accounting" for anything from the perspective of a Void where no Existence, Identity, or Consciousness exists.  Nor is it possible to imagine a deity existing in a state where there is no such thing as Existence, Identity, or Consciousness.  You have to have the Axioms first before you can attempt to posit the reality of any particular entity, such as a god that Exists, has Identity, and is Conscious.

To propose (as you seem to be doing) that a deity invented the Axioms is self-contradictory.  How can it invent Existence if it does not first Exist?  How can it legislate Identity if it does not first possess Identity as a being capable of legislating?  How can it think to create the Axiom of Consciousness if it is not itself Conscious?  Can you explain to me how a deity lacking Existence, Identity, and Consciousness can create them?
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Offline screwtape

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Re: Kcrady - old school
« Reply #125 on: January 30, 2012, 03:46:38 PM »
DCRE part 18 (because it’s very good)

Quote from: Dawiyhd
No. Any attempt to account for their existence is a means of analyzing ones own world view for inconsistencies in known reality. Their is no implications of non-existence.

You don't get it.  The Axioms are an irreducible, inescapable starting point.  You cannot even attempt to "account for their existence."  "Accounting for existence" depends on the prior axiomatic concept "Existence" (and the prior axiomatic concept "Consciousness," since "accounting" is something that cannot take place appart from a consciousness that does it) in the same way that a stack of bricks depends on the brick on the bottom.  You cannot evaluate the stability of your stack of bricks by pulling out the brick on the bottom and comparing it with all of the other bricks.
Quote from: Dawiyhd
I don't remember talking about deities? Where talking about how your materialistic worldview can not account for invariate non-material entities such as the law of logic.

You have a short memory.  A couple posts back you made the claim that an atheistic world view cannot account for the existence of logic.  The only alternative to an atheistic world view is a theistic world view--in other words, belief in a deity.
Quote from: Dawiyhd
This is random babbling. How do you account for the existence of the laws of logic with a worldview that believes you can only learn  by observing nature

Oh, that's easy.

Step 1: Get an anvil.

Step 2: Drop the anvil on your foot.

Step 3: Repeat until you are persuaded that:

A) Your foot and the anvil Exist.

B)  Your foot has Identity as an appendage of flesh, blood, bone and nerves, and the anvil has Identity as a large, heavy object that behaves in a certain manner (falls when dropped).

C)  That you possess Consciousness, being able to perceive the reality of A and B, and the results of dropping the anvil on your foot (Causality, a corollary of the Axioms of Existence and Identity).

Step 4: If you are not convinced that the Axioms can be observed in the natural world after repeating Steps 1-3 more than two or three times, perform the procedure again, but drop the anvil on your head instead of your foot. 

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Offline screwtape

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Re: Kcrady - old school
« Reply #126 on: January 30, 2012, 03:55:19 PM »
Numbers 31 Challenge

Quote from: Solvalou
I'll do that right after your proof as requested in an old thread of mine that god doesn't always intervene for the best possible outcome of this world. Because if you can't prove that, whatever point of proving god cruel for letting and/or inspiring his followers to do that things, can't stand 100%, so can't logically stand for your high standards of atheist reasoning.

Hey, don't get mad at me, I didn't write your holy book.  Your relative incoherence here (and the exaggerated, whiny tone of the bolded words above) gives me the impression you're fuming at the computer screen right now.  That's OK.  Just take a moment to think about why Numbers 31:17-18 doesn't fill you with inner peace and feelings of love.  Then think about it some more.

Now, I think I missed whatever challenge you'd proposed in some old thread of yours.  But (if I'm interpreting you correctly here) you're claiming that this is the best of all possible worlds, and that the atrocities described in the Old Testament and promised for the future in the New are necessary and unavoidable if "the best possible outcome" is to be achieved.  DTE's "Logic 101" bit is correct, but there are a couple points to make in relation to this.

1) Christians claim that their god is omnipotent and perfectly loving.  Omnipotence, by definition, has unlimited options available to it.  Omnipotence cannot be constrained by other, non-omnipotent forces (e.g. "Satan" or "sin") and forced to take a course of action that, while horrible, is the best option it can find.  "Free will" isn't a problem either, since omnipotence, combined with omniscience has unlimited possibilities in arranging a universe and a history that would result in a freely chosen "best possible outcome."  "Free will" does not stop God's plan anyway (the Bible is very clear in claiming this), so it could not be an obstacle to a better plan.[1]  In order for you to claim that omnipotence and omniscience could not have produced a better plan, you would have to possess these faculties yourself.

Example: Let's say we had Q from Star Trek: The Next Generation on our side during WWII (in case never watched ST:TNG, Q was a mischeivous alien with "omnipotence" of a sort, in that he could wave his hand and stuff would happen, including the creation of whole worlds).  Would we have had to storm the beaches of Normandy, and fight all those bloody battles, from the Bulge to Iwo Jima?  Of course not!  Q waves his hand, and *bling* the Nazis and Japanese vanish, or are disarmed, and Hitler and Tojo are hanging in gibbets from the White House facade.  With omnipotence available, Allied war planners would not have had to make plans that would cause enormous suffering for everyone involved, as the only way to get the "best possible outcome" (Allied victory).

2) "Best possible outcome"--for whom?  Obviously not the young Midianite girls!  Since they were Pagans, that means they get to suffer eternal torment in Hell, in addition to the brutality they endured at the hands of the Israelites.  Not to mention the rest of their families.  So, for them, and everyone else who, for whatever reason (e.g. being born in Iran) doesn't toady before the Great Cosmic Bully in just the right way (being a heretical Christian doesn't count!), they (we) all get the worst possible outcome.

3) Since it is you that is proposing to add something extra to the understanding of Universe we hold in common--namely, the proposition that an omnnimax God exists, is perfectly good and loving, and is revealed for us in the Bible--it is you who has the burden of proof to show that: A) such an entity exists; and B) the deity described in the Bible is consistent with your proposal.  Which means, it's up to you to demonstrate that this is the best of all possible worlds, that even an omnimax could not do better.  This last is absurd, since we mere humans have made a large segment of our world a lot better in many ways during the last few centuries.  We still have lots of work ahead of us, but we have a much better world than the one Jesus lived in.

Your turn.  The excercise awaits.



 1.  Heck, I'm just a puny mortal, and I've got a better plan: it's called "freedom of religion."  Let's say I'm in God's glowing sandals.  So a few Israelites want to marry Midianites and worship the Ba'al of Peor?  Go for it!  If I'm the omnipotent creator of billions of galaxies, I'm sure I'll get along just fine without their worship and servitude.  Kinda silly for an omnimax superbeing to be jealous of a statue, don't you think?  And if I just gotta be worshipped and praised, I got a plan for that too: be the Ba'al of Peor for them!  I can talk out of a statue as easily as a burning bush or a donkey or an old book.  I can wear whatever mask people need to see.  Even female masks.  That's right.  I can be Goddess as well as God, and why not?  You don't really think an omnipresent, transcendant-and-immanent superduperbeing actually has a penis, do you?  And through each of these masks, I tell my children two simple things: Be excellent to each other.  Take good care of this beautiful planet, it's the only one you've got.  And if some barbarian like Moses or Hitler starts salivating over the prospect of massacring people, I use my unlimited powers to turn him into a young Midianite girl or a Jew.  And I make that a general principle: you become the sort of person you would hate, exploit, and victimize, until you learn empathy.  Nobody gets tortured, nobody goes to Hell.  Heaven, the Elysian Fields, another go-round on Earth (reincarnation), a life in your favorite fictional universe (Wanna be a Jedi?)--it's all yours, have a happy death.  I came up with this in minutes.  And I'm not even close to being omniscient.   
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Offline screwtape

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Re: Kcrady - old school
« Reply #127 on: January 30, 2012, 03:57:23 PM »
Numbers 31 Challenge continuted...

So far, the replies of JtW and Solvalou have brilliantly demonstrated why Abrahamic religious memes are so dangerous.  Both of them have agreed that genocide and mass child-molestation/sex slavery are acceptable practices if you and/or your tribal/religious collective will benefit from it.  In Solvalou's terminology, this is reflected in God's "plan of salvation" and the "greater good" that results from the atrocities described and predicted for the future in the Bible.  JtW is less flowery about it, and defends it in terms of a nakedly barbaric Nietschean/Darwinian struggle to outbreed other tribes.  Ironically, JtW's philosophy is what the Bible and its God are supposed to save us from.  "If people didn't believe in God we'd all run amok killing each other!  We need God to give us morality and compassion for others!" 

In Solvalou's case, he expects to benefit personally from the massacre of the Midianites and the molestation of their virgin daughters, so he has reason to sanction it.  The "plan of salvation" that makes it possible for "him and his" (i.e. those who believe as he does) to go to heaven could not be implemented without "breaking some eggs."  Bible atrocities are necessary in order for him to be able to go to Heaven and have an eternity of bliss.  Which, interestingly enough, is the exact same motivation held by the 9/11 hijackers.

Now, if Solvalou were some crazed, frothing-at-the-mouth nutjob, then we could dismiss him as an anomaly, a fanatic, and say that Christianity is still a noble religion of peace and love that just happens to attract a few cranks.  But he isn't.  As far as I can tell, Solvalou is an intelligent, and most likely, generally nice person no one would be afraid to have for a neighbor.  What is truly pernicious and diabolical about Christianity is that it can take ordinary, good-hearted people like Solvalou, Fran, UnkleE, etc. and get them to sanction the most horrifying atrocities, and even own them as something they, the believers, will benefit handsomely from for eternity.  As instruments for making good people sanction (and do) horribly evil things, the Religions of the Book are matched only by the Religions of the State.
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Re: Kcrady - old school
« Reply #128 on: January 30, 2012, 04:01:36 PM »
On morality

Quote from: deko
If I am nothing more than an animal there is no such thing as good and evil or any kind of certain moral code. Now I know that it might not be helpful to the ever evolving evolutionary group, or even members of my own clan, but as distasteful and unhelpful to all of you as it might seem, isn't it evil to kill, rape and eat a child on my block? If we are nothing more than animals it is not evil, it might not be helpful to the group, but not evil. A moral code created outside of humanity would make it evil, not evolution. If I and the child are animals then it's not evil, you need to coin another word for what it is, not evil.

Before we can define any act as "good" or "evil," we must have a standard, a measuring-stick by which we can evaluate it.  The arbitrary will of some Boss, whether it be a ruler on Earth or a King in the Sky, is insufficient as a basis for any real morality.  In such a code, the Boss is, by definition above morality, and may thus change his whims at will, commanding the very things his code decrees are "evil"--and thus transmuting them into "good."  We see this frequently in the Bible.  Moses comes down from the mountain with the vaunted Ten Commandments, including "Thou shalt not kill"--and the very first thing he does, after shattering the sacred tablets in a fit of rage (because people who had not yet seen the First and Second Commandments, were not obeying them), is to gather the Levites and slaughter 3,000 people for worshipping the golden calf.  The Biblegod goes on to violate the Second Commandment (no graven images) by commanding that graven images of Cherubim be fashioned to mount on the "mercy seat" of the Ark of the Covenant, commanding genocide, and so forth.  Believers in the Biblegod then find themselves in the position of rationalizing all this while at the same time claiming to be the sole possessors of "moral absolutes."

Then they claim that Jesus came along and superceded the "everlasting ordinances" of the Old Covenant and created a whole new moral code ("turn the other cheek" instead of "an eye for an eye"), further demonstrating the relative and situational nature of Biblical ethics.  Add to this the difficulties in finding "divine revelation" in a "holy-book" as explained in my previous post in this thread.

A genuinely objective moral code, if such is to be found, must be sought in reality itself.  Virtually all of us desire to survive and flourish.  Those that do not (i.e. the suicidal and masochistic) are generally considered to be mentally unhealthy.  Therefore, we can use as an objective standard and goal of morality, "the survival and flourishing of human beings and the biosphere upon which they depend."  Human beings are entities of a specific nature, having specific attributes, abilities, and limitations, a specific means of survival, and so on.  Therefore, certain things will advance or hinder human survival and flourishing.

Just as regular maintainence is "good" for a car, and driving it into a wall at high speed is "bad" for it, so is it possible for us to determine by observation what is "good" for humans, and what is "bad" or "evil."  If you are a child, obviously, you would not want to be eaten by one of your neighbors.  If you have a child, obviously you woud not want him or her to be eaten by your neighbors.  If you live as part of a society, then the practice of child-eating would not make that a society you would wish to live in.  A simple extension of empathy to others in exchange for reciprocal empathy extended toward you is sufficient to define and establish a moral code for a working society.

Human beings survive by applying their intelligence to the problems of life ("how can I shape this piece of obsidian into a useful tool or weapon for hunting?  Which berries and tubers can I eat?  What can I do to make money?  What is the purpose of my life?") and by cooperating with other humans to achieve survival and flourishing at levels no individual can accomplish alone.  Those things which hinder or destroy the ability of the individual to use his/her mind and act on his/her thinking (bound by the imperative to recognize the same liberty in others), or which hinder or destroy the ability to coexist peacefully and cooperatively in society may be objectively defined as "evil."  Those things which benefit human survival and flourishing (and the survival and flourishing of the planetary biosphere on which humans depend) may be objectively defined as "good."   

This is, of course, a very brief overview.  There are issues that present challenging ethical dilemnas (such as late-term abortion).  However, the "basics" (don't kill, don't steal, dont' eat your neighbors' children) that you're proposing as "Moral Law" can be derived and understood quite easily by most humans.  Human evil generally results from creating a moral double-standard: what is evil when done to me or to "Us" is permissable or even "good" when done to "Them."  Moral progress is the extension of the empathy horizon to redefine "Them" as "Us."

A genuinely objective moral code would have to be a set of generalized operating principles of Universe that relate to human behavior.  Just as "force = mass x acceleration" or "triangles are self-bracing" are generalized principles that are applicable at all times and in all special-case applications, generalized operating principles of morality must also be seen as always-applicable.  Therefore, recognizing a generalized moral principle in one special-case circumstance ("It is wrong to initiate violence against one of Us") and violating it in another ("It is righteous and heroic to initiate violece against one of Them") is self-contradictory and hypocritical.

This concept of morality as objectively derivable from human nature and the requirements of survival and flourishing is consistent with the Deist appeal in the American Declaration of Independence to "the Laws of Nature and Nature's God" as validation for the American revolutionary project.  However, the language should be updated to replace "Laws" with "Principles," since the implicit notion that an apple falls when dropped because some "law" orders it to is silly.

Now, you have critiqued atheist concepts of evolved altruism (which is not the morality I'm discussing here) on the premise that it results in the sanction of genocide and assault on children.  Please read Numbers 31:17-18 and explain whether the actions described there are morally justified or not.


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Offline screwtape

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Re: Kcrady - old school
« Reply #129 on: January 30, 2012, 04:11:35 PM »
From deism to biblegod

Quote from: blaize
Quote from: kcrady
Now, you have critiqued atheist concepts of evolved altruism (which is not the morality I'm discussing here) on the premise that it results in the sanction of genocide and assault on children.  Please read Numbers 31:17-18 and explain whether the actions described there are morally justified or not.

First, I am not sure where you are getting your interpretation for Numbers 31 from. I would note that there is a distinction between the Hebrew world for "murder" and the Hebrew word for "kill". Second, Jesus didn't come to superseded the everlasting covenant, but to fulfill it as priest and sacrifice, both which are part of the Old Covenant. The Bible is consistent here: The penalty of sin is death. They disobeyed God, and God killed them according to his own law. They tried to take matters into there own hands by not relying on God's grace and mercy. The morality that Jesus preached is found in the Old Testament. What he was referring to in an "eye for an eye" was not coming from the old covenant, but from the scribes and pharisees of the day that were teaching something contrary to the ethics of the old testament. It is true that Jesus preached a message of mercy, but only in light of God. It is very clear that if one wants to take matters into his own hands (ie worship another God, thus rejecting Jesus and God) then he will receive due punishment.

Cliff Notes version: It's OK to commit genocide as long as we think it's what the Biblegod wants, and we "kill" everybody instead of "murdering" them.
Quote from: blaize
Second, if survival is a basis for morality, you create a whole other set of problems. What if killing all people with brown eyes were beneficial to human survival. In this case, killing off all non-browned people would in essence increase the survivability of humans.

Made-up "what ifs" are a lousy basis for morality.  What if the Biblegod decreed that all brown-eyed people ought to be killed?
Quote from: blaize
This may seems far fetched, but consider something that is not so far fetched: people of Arian descent are more well-suited for survival than those who are not. Therefore killing off all those who are not of Arian descent will increase the survivability of the human race. This is the same justification that the Third Reich used to kill Jews and the Japanese Empire used to kill Manchurian Chinese.

And they were proven wrong about all that racial-superiority nonsense, now, weren't they?  Again, from your perspective, Hitler would have been perfectly righteous in instituting the Holocaust if he sincerely beleived that the Biblegod wished to punish Jews for killing and continuing to reject their Messiah--perhaps because he heard The Voice in his head tell him to.[1]  To repeat your closing line from the quote above,, "It is very clear that if one wants to take matters into his own hands (ie worship another God, thus rejecting Jesus and God) then he will receive due punishment."

If yyou had read my previous post more thoroughly, you would have noticed that I pointed out that evil arises from individuals applying a moral double-standard based on a concept of "Us" and "Them."  Ask any Nazi, "Do you think it would be a good thing to round up lots of beautiful blonde Aryans, starve them to death and shove them into ovens?" you would get an immediate "No!" in answer.  Nazism would have been impossible under a universal moral standard ("What's wrong if done to Us is also wrong if done to Them"). 

It takes some doing to get people to shut off their capacity for empathy.  The Nazis used incredible amounts of propaganda, pageantry, and stirring Hitlerian oratory to turn people against their Jewish neighbors, and they had hundreds of years of Christian "blood libel" doctrine to help them.  The Bible also demonstrates considerable effort being put to the task of shutting down human empathy in order to make atrocities possible.  "Thine eye shall not pity them."
Quote from: blaize
Additionally, such an definition of "good" and "bad" is not sufficient to account for for all that is "good" and all that is "bad". How does such a judgment apply to something like "a good day" or a "good nap" These things would be difficult to evaluate in that context.

That's because you've switched the context from moral good to unrelated concepts of "good."  That is like saying that Valentine's Day as a celebration of "love" is inadequate because it doesn't cover the idea of "loving" chocolate sundaes or the Green Bay Packers.

What is a "good" day?  When the Mongols don't ride over the hill and burn your house down.  What's a "good" nap?  One you wake up from refreshed without any adverse consequences (e.g. getting fired from your job or crashing your car).
Quote from: blaize
Third, "Laws" as defined in science are really just abduction based on what had been observed in science. These "Laws" do not dictate that an action will occur. I think that we agree there. However, it does raise the question, "Could it have been another way?", and if it were another way, then what might it look like. Many of the constants in nature such as the speed of light in a vacuum, Avogadro's number, the gravitational constant, and others. There is such a delicate balance of these numbers that some have suggested that the universe was established with the "Anthropic Design Principle". This idea suggests that God did indeed establish laws (if you please) to govern the universe that it would support life. This principle was fundamental in a physicists and atheist-turned-Christian Frank Tipler's conversion.

If you re-check the title of this thread and the OP, you will see that for the purposes of this thread, no one is disputing this.  We are assuming, for the sake of argument, that such things as "anthropic" cosmological constants or some other "philosophical" argument for some sort of Deity(-ies) is considered valid, so we are at the point of accepting Deism.  The question is, can you use these sorts of scientific or philosophical arguments to select the Biblegod as the true one rather than the Deist God, the Korangod, the Heliopolitan Ennead, Brahmin, or any other "revealed" deity.

In other words, can the more logical arguments for Deity (Anthropic Principle, First Cause/Unmoved Mover, Intelligent Design, etc.) be used to substantiate the Biblegod as opposed to the other "revealed" religions and Deism?  For the purposes of this thread, I'm defending Deism.


 1.  Abraham is portrayed hearing a voice he interpreted as being that of the Biblegod telling him to sacrifice his son Isaac.  He obeyed this voice without question, and for that he is hailed as "the father of faith" for the three dominant monotheistic religions.  Anyone else does this, and we fit them for a straitjacket.
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Offline screwtape

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Re: Kcrady - old school
« Reply #130 on: January 30, 2012, 04:16:48 PM »
Is god a jerk?


Quote from: Solvalou
If god is evil, then worshiping a loving and just god is the ultimate rebellion.

Hmmm, that's a very interesting quote, Solvalou.  I might have to make that my signature.  Searching the Bible for a loving and just god, one would have to choose Nakhash (the Serpent).
•   He is portrayed treating humans with respect
•   He issues no commands or threats
•   He engages in Socratic dialogue and tells the truth about Jehovah's motive for forbidding humans access to the Fruit of Knowledge
•   He never even asks them to eat it--simply tells them the truth and lets them decide for themselves
•   The Fruit offers them "knowledge of good and evil," i.e. morality and conscience as opposed to blind obedience to force-backed commands
•   He offers them the opportunity to become "as gods" as a free gift, without demanding obedience, worship, praise, love, sacrifices, or anything else in return.

In Ezekiel 28, he is identified as the spiritual "King of Tyre," i.e. the spiritual principle underlying the Phoenician civilizationn (28:12-15).
•   The Phoenicians were an advanced, prosperous, cultured society of traders and explorers
•   They invented the alphabet
•   The "great" King Solomon is portrayed going to Tyre for artisans and crafstmen to build Jehovah's temple because his (and "His") own people are so primitive they have none
•   The Phoenicians, being open-minded and accepting of other people's religious beliefs, agree to Solomon's request
•   Ezekiel 27 provides a long description of Tyre as a model city--peaceful, prosperous, and well-governed, even as the prophet tries to condemn it
•   Despite condemning the "King of Tyre" for "violence," (28:16) Ezekiel cannot cite a single example, though he spews forth a storm of savage threats from his own Satanic deity
•   The "King of Tyre" is an able protector, successfully defending his city against the attack by Nebuchadnezzar which Ezekiel says his deity instigated (29:18).  Ezekiel's god then promises Nebuchadnezzar Egypt as "wages" for attacking Tyre (i.e., to "pay" him the promised loot he did not get from Tyre)--a promise that also fails, as Nebuchadnezzar never conquered Egypt

You are, of course, quite correct that Christians would consider it "the ultimate rebellion" to worship the Serpent.
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Offline screwtape

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Re: Kcrady - old school
« Reply #131 on: January 30, 2012, 04:18:55 PM »
Is god a jerk?  Pt2


Quote from: Monik
Wow, that serpent souns like quite a guy. Actually, the first five points on your first list would make some great 'commandments' to live by; treat others with respect, don't command/threaten, always tell the truth, always seek the truth. I may have to tell the next Born Again I meet that I've decided to follow the teachings of the snake from the Adam and Eve story :D

Exactly.  If you read the Bible applying the principle "Actions speak louder than words," it is inescapably clear that the Serpent operates on far superior ethical principles.  Drop the a priori assumption that "Whatever Jehovah does is Perfectly Good because it's him doing it," and it is easy to see that Jehovah meets all of the attributes of the character we refer to as "the Devil."  The Serpent is described in Ezekiel 28 as an "anointed[1] cherub that covereth" (the word translated "covereth" refers to establishing a hedge of protection) who has the courage and integrity to stand up to Jehovah's tyranny and offer humans the opportunity to live up to our fullest potential, rather than seeking to make us his slaves.

 1.  The word for "anointed" in this verse is the derived from the same root from which we get the word "messiah."  Interestingly, the numerical equivalent (gematria) of the Hebrew letters for the words "Serpent" and "Messiah" add up to the same value: 

Serpent: Nun (50) + Kheth (8) + Shin (300), total = 358

Messiah: Mem (40) + Shin (300) + Yohd (10) + Kheth (8) = 358
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Offline screwtape

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Re: Kcrady - old school
« Reply #132 on: January 30, 2012, 04:45:38 PM »
Is god a jerk?  Pt3



Quote from: Monik
What are the implications for this, belief-wise? Isn't all of this very good evidence that what we think of as 'the Bible' was never made to be put into a single book, since it's so incoherent? And how do Christians get away from the fact that the Serpent could be portrayed as so 'good' at the start of the Bible and then conveniently become evil by the end of it?

In mythic terms, the Abrahamic religions represent the apotheosis of the "Dominator" paradigm.  While Pagan Sky Kings like Zeus and Odin ruled over other gods, Jehovah's thirst for domination is so complete that he ultimately could not even tolerate other deities as subordinates.  While the Bible begins with henotheism (one god dominant over a pantheon)--in Genesis 1 the Elohim (gods) do the creating, and Jehovah says "let us" do each step.  In Exodus, Jehovah issues the command to worship no other gods beside him--which inherently assumes the existence of other gods for him to be jealous of.  Only in the historical books and the Prophets do we begin to see skeptical attempts to debunk the existence of other deities (all arguments that work equally well against the existence of Jehovah as a supernatural entity

Since the archetypal enemy of the Dominator is the principled rebel and independent thinker, it was necessary mythically to portray such a being as the root of all "evil" (which, for followers of Jehovah means disobedience, questioning, doubt, and the like rather than evil according to a real system of ethics).2  Since the Dominator paradigm is also patriarchal (men generally possess greater physical strength and military utility than women) the Feminine must also be propagandistically labeled as "bad" or "inferior."  Eve's name in Hebrew (Chavah) means "to breathe" (i.e. "life") and comes from a root word meaning "to show, interpret, explain, inform, tell, declare."

The word for "Serpent" comes from a word meaning "to practice divination, divine, observe signs, learn by experience, diligently observe, practice fortunetelling, take as an omen."  In other words, the Serpent is a symbol for knowledge, both scientific and magical (which were thought of as the same thing in Biblical times).  Taken together, the names of the Serpent and Eve constitute the gathering and dissemination of knowledge, which is the greatest threat to the Dominator paradigm.

The Serpent is never identified with "Satan" in the OT.  The OT "Satan" is uniformly portrayed as an officer of Jehovah's court, a Grand Inquisitor who accuses people before the King, and engages in entrapment techniques (called "tempting," the word for which actually means to "prove," i.e. test the loyalty of) in order to root out disobedience and subversion.  This can be seen by looking up "Satan" in a concordance and reading all of the OT verses.

In the NT, the picture of "Satan" gets more muddled.  Sometimes he is portrayed fulfilling his OT role as Jehovah's Grand Inquisitor (e.g. tormenting a man in a relationship with his father's wife at the invocation of Paul and the Corinthian church so that the man's spirit can be saved--1 Cor. 5:4-5), while at other times he is given some of Jehovah's nastier attributes and turned into a rival Dominator.  It is only in the Book of Revelation that "Satan" and the Serpent are finally labeled as the same being.  By this time the Serpent is portrayed as having the exact same goal as Jehovah--to establish a global theocratic dictatorship and ruthlessly slaughter all who reject it--even though this is wildly inconsistent with his character in the OT.

This, too is an attribute of the Dominator mindset.  We see in Revelation 4 that Jehovah surrounds himself with yes-men (and yes-creatures) whose sole purpose for existing is to bow down before him and praise him, over and over again, forever.  Any Dominator who becomes that self-absorbed loses the ability to imagine other people having different motivations than his own.  This is why megalomaniacs like Nero, Herod, Stalin, etc. descend into paranoia as they assume that everyone wants to sieze their throne as badly as they want to hold onto it.  So when Jehovah attempts to predict the future, he makes the assumption that his enemy the Serpent shares his motivations and goals, and will act in the same way he does, seeking power through conquest and domination.  In his "mind"3 there is simply no other possible way to be.

The Bible begins by projecting the image of the archetypal foe and opposite of the Dominator, and ends with the assumption (in the minds of the Dominator's propagandists) that no such opposite is even conceivable.  And thus all of the things the Serpent and Eve represent are first condemned, then demonized, then finally rendered literally unthinkable.

However, it could be argued that this represented a major error on Jehvah's part.  By proclaiming that the Serpent must set up a vicious theocratic dictatorship before he can come back and establish his own, Jehovah has allowed the Serpent to trap him in his own spell simply by refusing to participate.  Thus, the New Testament's promises of the imminent arrival of Jehovah's kingdom are foiled by the fact that the Serpent is not the mirror-reflection Jehovah assumes he must be.  Instead, the Serpent has opened the door for humanity to become "as gods" through the accelerating advancement of science and technology, while Jehovah has been forced to pit his own followers against each other (Christians and Jews vs. Muslims) in hopes of creating a Gotterdammerung that will destroy advanced civilization and restore the kind of brutal Iron Age level of development his meme is best adapted to.
Quote from: Herman Menderchuck
Quote from: Solvalou
If god is evil, then worshiping a loving and just god is the ultimate rebellion.

Won't mean a piss though if he is. It wouldn't be like there would be another God to cancel the bad one out. The bad one would probably just torture you all the same after death regardless of your rebellious phase, and you would have wasted the one little speck of tolerable life in worshiping a side of God he doesn't have. That's all, of course, if God exists and is a jerk.


This only applies if his tyranny is unopposed and invincible.  Take away the tinted glasses of theological propaganda, and one can find convincing evidence in the Bible that Jehovah has multiple peer competitors.  In the Book of Daniel, one of Jehovah's angels is prevented from getting through with a message to Daniel for nearly a month because "the prince of Persia" (i.e., the spirit-being embodying the Persian nation) opposes him until Jehovah sends reinforcements led by Michael (the spirit-being embodying the Israelite nation).  Even then the battle is not over, as the angel tells Daniel he will return to the conflict until the "prince of Greece" arrives.  Militarily, such a long, pitched battle could not take place if one side (Jehovah's) was overwhelmingly superior to the other(s).

Centuries later, the Apostle Paul makes reference to ongoing spiritual warfare against "principalities and powers in heavenly places," a very different picture than the conventional cultural/theological picture of Jehovah in Heaven waging a war against a single Satanic principality emanating from the underworld.  Modern fundamentalists often cite these passages as if the war is still going on, and lend their support to Jehovah through prayer.  It is difficult to imagine any war going on for thousands of years if one side has overwhelmingly superior power. 

Furthermore, Jehovah's expressed worry about the scientific and technical prowess embodied in a mud-brick ziggurat (Genesis 11) and his fear that "nothing will be restrained from [humans], what they have imagined to do" (11:6) indicates that Jehovah sees human science and technology as genuine threats to his power.  Needless to say, we've come a long way since ziggurats.     


Notes:

1.Examples include Elijah's "contest" with the prophets of Ba'al over which deity could ignite an offering.  No religionist would make such a bet against science today (e.g. prayer to God vs. a cruise missile, megawatt-class military laser, solar heliostat, or chemical incendiary).

2.The Bible makes it clear that if Jehovah says to commit genocide ruthlessly ("thine eye shall not pity them"), that is "good."  If he says "love your enemies" and "turn the other cheek" that is "good"--until he returns to rule with an iron rod, shatter the nations like pottery, and Godzilla-stomp people en masse as he "treads the winepress" of God's wrath (see the Book of Revelation).  The absolute suspension of ethical judgment Christians engage in when it comes to Jehovah's actions ("He knows better than we mere humans do.  The genocide and child-molestation in Numbers 31:17-18 must be Perfectly Good in some way we don't understand.  We just have to trust God because he's perfectly good--he even says so himself!") is an example of the reversal of humans gaining "knowledge of good and evil."  That kind of ethics-free obedience is Jehovah's goal from the beginning of the Bible to the end.

3. In other threads I have proposed the hypothesis that Jehovah actually exists as a memetic parasite that hijacks the cognitive faculties of human hosts (believers) in order to live and act in the world as a person, a kind of infectious multiple-personality disorder.  Communities of hosts enable him to parallel-process (via inter-communication between hosts), have a kind of immortality (he does not die with any given host the way an ordinary MPD persona would), a kind of "omnipresence" ("wherever two or more of you are gathered in my name there I am in your midst"), and far more power than any single host could accumulate. 
« Last Edit: September 10, 2012, 09:54:36 AM by screwtape »
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Offline screwtape

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Re: Kcrady - old school
« Reply #133 on: September 10, 2012, 10:05:47 AM »
Is God a jerk?  pt4

Quote from: Solvalou on March 25, 2007, 05:24:33 PM
If god is evil, then worshiping a loving and just god is the ultimate rebellion.


Hmmm, that's a very interesting quote, Solvalou.  I might have to make that my signature.  Searching the Bible for a loving and just god, one would have to choose Nakhash (the Serpent).


  • He is portrayed treating humans with respect
  • He issues no commands or threats
  • He engages in Socratic dialogue and tells the truth about Jehovah's motive for forbidding humans access to the Fruit of Knowledge
  • He never even asks them to eat it--simply tells them the truth and lets them decide for themselves
  • The Fruit offers them "knowledge of good and evil," i.e. morality and conscience as opposed to blind obedience to force-backed commands
  • He offers them the opportunity to become "as gods" as a free gift, without demanding obedience, worship, praise, love, sacrifices, or anything else in return.

In Ezekiel 28, he is identified as the spiritual "King of Tyre," i.e. the spiritual principle underlying the Phoenician civilizationn (28:12-15).


  • The Phoenicians were an advanced, prosperous, cultured society of traders and explorers
  • They invented the alphabet
  • The "great" King Solomon is portrayed going to Tyre for artisans and crafstmen to build Jehovah's temple because his (and "His") own people are so primitive they have none
  • The Phoenicians, being open-minded and accepting of other people's religious beliefs, agree to Solomon's request
  • Ezekiel 27 provides a long description of Tyre as a model city--peaceful, prosperous, and well-governed, even as the prophet tries to condemn it
  • Despite condemning the "King of Tyre" for "violence," (28:16) Ezekiel cannot cite a single example, though he spews forth a storm of savage threats from his own Satanic deity
  • The "King of Tyre" is an able protector, successfully defending his city against the attack by Nebuchadnezzar which Ezekiel says his deity instigated (29:18).  Ezekiel's god then promises Nebuchadnezzar Egypt as "wages" for attacking Tyre (i.e., to "pay" him the promised loot he did not get from Tyre)--a promise that also fails, as Nebuchadnezzar never conquered Egypt

You are, of course, quite correct that Christians would consider it "the ultimate rebellion" to worship the Serpent.
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Offline screwtape

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Re: Kcrady - old school
« Reply #134 on: September 10, 2012, 10:22:35 AM »
Is god a jerk?  Pt5

Quote from: Monik on March 26, 2007, 07:29:25 AM
Quote from: kcrady on March 26, 2007, 07:10:19 AM
Exactly.  If you read the Bible applying the principle "Actions speak louder than words," it is inescapably clear that the Serpent operates on far superior ethical principles.  Drop the a priori assumption that "Whatever Jehovah does is Perfectly Good because it's him doing it," and it is easy to see that Jehovah meets all of the attributes of the character we refer to as "the Devil."  The Serpent is described in Ezekiel 28 as an "anointed1 cherub that covereth" (the word translated "covereth" refers to establishing a hedge of protection) who has the courage and integrity to stand up to Jehovah's tyranny and offer humans the opportunity to live up to our fullest potential, rather than seeking to make us his slaves.


NOTES:

1. The word for "anointed" in this verse is the derived from the same root from which we get the word "messiah."  Interestingly, the numerical equivalent (gematria) of the Hebrew letters for the words "Serpent" and "Messiah" add up to the same value: 

Serpent: Nun (50) + Kheth (8) + Shin (300), total = 358

Messiah: Mem (40) + Shin (300) + Yohd (10) + Kheth (8) = 358 

That's a very interesting thought.

What are the implications for this, belief-wise? Isn't all of this very good evidence that what we think of as 'the Bible' was never made to be put into a single book, since it's so incoherent? And how do Christians get away from the fact that the Serpent could be portrayed as so 'good' at the start of the Bible and then conveniently become evil by the end of it?

In mythic terms, the Abrahamic religions represent the apotheosis of the "Dominator" paradigm.  While Pagan Sky Kings like Zeus and Odin ruled over other gods, Jehovah's thirst for domination is so complete that he ultimately could not even tolerate other deities as subordinates.  While the Bible begins with henotheism (one god dominant over a pantheon)--in Genesis 1 the Elohim (gods) do the creating, and Jehovah says "let us" do each step.  In Exodus, Jehovah issues the command to worship no other gods beside him--which inherently assumes the existence of other gods for him to be jealous of.  Only in the historical books and the Prophets do we begin to see skeptical attempts to debunk the existence of other deities (all arguments that work equally well against the existence of Jehovah as a supernatural entity...) 1

Since the archetypal enemy of the Dominator is the principled rebel and independent thinker, it was necessary mythically to portray such a being as the root of all "evil" (which, for followers of Jehovah means disobedience, questioning, doubt, and the like rather than evil according to a real system of ethics)2 Since the Dominator paradigm is also patriarchal (men generally possess greater physical strength and military utility than women) the Feminine must also be propagandistically labeled as "bad" or "inferior."  Eve's name in Hebrew (Chavah) means "to breathe" (i.e. "life") and comes from a root word meaning "to show, interpret, explain, inform, tell, declare."

The word for "Serpent" comes from a word meaning "to practice divination, divine, observe signs, learn by experience, diligently observe, practice fortunetelling, take as an omen."  In other words, the Serpent is a symbol for knowledge, both scientific and magical (which were thought of as the same thing in Biblical times).  Taken together, the names of the Serpent and Eve constitute the gathering and dissemination of knowledge, which is the greatest threat to the Dominator paradigm.

The Serpent is never identified with "Satan" in the OT.  The OT "Satan" is uniformly portrayed as an officer of Jehovah's court, a Grand Inquisitor who accuses people before the King, and engages in entrapment techniques (called "tempting," the word for which actually means to "prove," i.e. test the loyalty of) in order to root out disobedience and subversion.  This can be seen by looking up "Satan" in a concordance and reading all of the OT verses.

In the NT, the picture of "Satan" gets more muddled.  Sometimes he is portrayed fulfilling his OT role as Jehovah's Grand Inquisitor (e.g. tormenting a man in a relationship with his father's wife at the invocation of Paul and the Corinthian church so that the man's spirit can be saved--1 Cor. 5:4-5), while at other times he is given some of Jehovah's nastier attributes and turned into a rival Dominator.  It is only in the Book of Revelation that "Satan" and the Serpent are finally labeled as the same being.  By this time the Serpent is portrayed as having the exact same goal as Jehovah--to establish a global theocratic dictatorship and ruthlessly slaughter all who reject it--even though this is wildly inconsistent with his character in the OT.

This, too is an attribute of the Dominator mindset.  We see in Revelation 4 that Jehovah surrounds himself with yes-men (and yes-creatures) whose sole purpose for existing is to bow down before him and praise him, over and over again, forever.  Any Dominator who becomes that self-absorbed loses the ability to imagine other people having different motivations than his own.  This is why megalomaniacs like Nero, Herod, Stalin, etc. descend into paranoia as they assume that everyone wants to sieze their throne as badly as they want to hold onto it.  So when Jehovah attempts to predict the future, he makes the assumption that his enemy the Serpent shares his motivations and goals, and will act in the same way he does, seeking power through conquest and domination.  In his "mind"3 there is simply no other possible way to be.

The Bible begins by projecting the image of the archetypal foe and opposite of the Dominator, and ends with the assumption (in the minds of the Dominator's propagandists) that no such opposite is even conceivable.  And thus all of the things the Serpent and Eve represent are first condemned, then demonized, then finally rendered literally unthinkable.

However, it could be argued that this represented a major error on Jehvah's part.  By proclaiming that the Serpent must set up a vicious theocratic dictatorship before he can come back and establish his own, Jehovah has allowed the Serpent to trap him in his own spell simply by refusing to participate.  Thus, the New Testament's promises of the imminent arrival of Jehovah's kingdom are foiled by the fact that the Serpent is not the mirror-reflection Jehovah assumes he must be.  Instead, the Serpent has opened the door for humanity to become "as gods" through the accelerating advancement of science and technology, while Jehovah has been forced to pit his own followers against each other (Christians and Jews vs. Muslims) in hopes of creating a Gotterdammerung that will destroy advanced civilization and restore the kind of brutal Iron Age level of development his meme is best adapted to.
Quote from: Herman Menderchuck on March 26, 2007, 10:41:24 AM
Quote from: Solvalou on March 25, 2007, 05:24:33 PM
If god is evil, then worshiping a loving and just god is the ultimate rebellion.

Won't mean a piss though if he is. It wouldn't be like there would be another God to cancel the bad one out. The bad one would probably just torture you all the same after death regardless of your rebellious phase, and you would have wasted the one little speck of tolerable life in worshiping a side of God he doesn't have. That's all, of course, if God exists and is a jerk.


This only applies if his tyranny is unopposed and invincible.  Take away the tinted glasses of theological propaganda, and one can find convincing evidence in the Bible that Jehovah has multiple peer competitors.  In the Book of Daniel, one of Jehovah's angels is prevented from getting through with a message to Daniel for nearly a month because "the prince of Persia" (i.e., the spirit-being embodying the Persian nation) opposes him until Jehovah sends reinforcements led by Michael (the spirit-being embodying the Israelite nation).  Even then the battle is not over, as the angel tells Daniel he will return to the conflict until the "prince of Greece" arrives.  Militarily, such a long, pitched battle could not take place if one side (Jehovah's) was overwhelmingly superior to the other(s).

Centuries later, the Apostle Paul makes reference to ongoing spiritual warfare against "principalities and powers in heavenly places," a very different picture than the conventional cultural/theological picture of Jehovah in Heaven waging a war against a single Satanic principality emanating from the underworld.  Modern fundamentalists often cite these passages as if the war is still going on, and lend their support to Jehovah through prayer.  It is difficult to imagine any war going on for thousands of years if one side has overwhelmingly superior power. 

Furthermore, Jehovah's expressed worry about the scientific and technical prowess embodied in a mud-brick ziggurat (Genesis 11) and his fear that "nothing will be restrained from [humans], what they have imagined to do" (11:6) indicates that Jehovah sees human science and technology as genuine threats to his power.  Needless to say, we've come a long way since ziggurats.     

notes:

1. Examples include Elijah's "contest" with the prophets of Ba'al over which deity could ignite an offering.  No religionist would make such a bet against science today (e.g. prayer to God vs. a cruise missile, megawatt-class military laser, solar heliostat, or chemical incendiary). 

2. The Bible makes it clear that if Jehovah says to commit genocide ruthlessly ("thine eye shall not pity them"), that is "good."  If he says "love your enemies" and "turn the other cheek" that is "good"--until he returns to rule with an iron rod, shatter the nations like pottery, and Godzilla-stomp people en masse as he "treads the winepress" of God's wrath (see the Book of Revelation).  The absolute suspension of ethical judgment Christians engage in when it comes to Jehovah's actions ("He knows better than we mere humans do.  The genocide and child-molestation in Numbers 31:17-18 must be Perfectly Good in some way we don't understand.  We just have to trust God because he's perfectly good--he even says so himself!") is an example of the reversal of humans gaining "knowledge of good and evil."  That kind of ethics-free obedience is Jehovah's goal from the beginning of the Bible to the end.

3. In other threads I have proposed the hypothesis that Jehovah actually exists as a memetic parasite that hijacks the cognitive faculties of human hosts (believers) in order to live and act in the world as a person, a kind of infectious multiple-personality disorder.  Communities of hosts enable him to parallel-process (via inter-communication between hosts), have a kind of immortality (he does not die with any given host the way an ordinary MPD persona would), a kind of "omnipresence" ("wherever two or more of you are gathered in my name there I am in your midst"), and far more power than any single host could accumulate. 
« Last Edit: November 15, 2012, 03:04:16 PM by screwtape »
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Offline screwtape

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Re: Kcrady - old school
« Reply #135 on: September 10, 2012, 11:00:56 AM »
Krcady and vynn

(mid discussion)

Quote from: Vynn on April 02, 2007, 11:18:49 AM
Kcrady,

Many things that we might call bossy today was in the time of the commandments a protection issue.

Pork and other forbidden meat was full of parasites.

"And when thou dost eat pork, thou shalt cook it thoroughly, so that none is pink, and thouroughly shalt thou cook it.  For if thou dost not cook it thorougly, until all the pink of the flesh is fully cooked, then shall harm come upon thee, for within the pork is a malice that must be purged by fire.  Behold, I have warned thee."

Besides, if God was telling us not to play in the street, why would he send that mischievous kid of his down here to repeal it all and say, "Go ahead!"

Quote from: Vynn on April 02, 2007, 11:18:49 AM
Having only one sex partner cut down considerably the spread of VD. I think most commandments were for reasons like this.

Where, exactly, do all these parasites and diseases come from, by the way?

Quote from: Vynn on April 02, 2007, 11:18:49 AM
It made for a healthier group of people overall.

"And behold, thou shalt work out with free weights and aerobics three times a week, that thou shalt be healthy and prosper in the land which I give unto you."   

Quote from: Vynn on April 02, 2007, 11:18:49 AM
As far as the Sabbath thing it makes sense to me. The whole nation taking a day off at the same time builds community, time for family and friends, national pride, something we do different.

So you agree with having a death penalty for gathering firewood on a Saturday, in the interests of building a proper Volkish State?

Quote from: Vynn on April 02, 2007, 11:18:49 AM
And Jesus certainly implied that some accidents or whatever would merit work on the sabbath --pulling an ox out of a ditch on the sabbath seemed to be perfectly acceptable to Jesus.

If he'd tried that in Moses' day, he would have been stoned for our sins instead of crucified.

Quote from: Vynn on April 02, 2007, 11:18:49 AM
I don't claim to have all the answers to these questions but i'll attempt to address the "killing other pagans" as best i can.

In some instances i have no reply, in others it could be that since Abraham had owned the land and the people there refused to move, they had to fight for the land that was theirs.

If you read the story about Abraham seeking a funeral plot to bury Sarah, you will see that Abraham repeatedly insists on purchasing the land even though the man who owned it repeatedly tried to offer it to him as a gift of friendship.  Abraham was the one to whom the Covenant was given in the first place, yet he doesn't go around committing genocide in order to get land.  Read Joshua and Judges, and see how many times the Israelites come and say, "hello, our God promised this land to us through our ancestor Abraham, and he has given us lots of loot from Egypt with which to purchase it, following Father Abraham's example.  How much do you all want for this city and these vinyards?"

It never happens.  They just swoop in and massacre everything that breathes.

Before you reply to this post, I would like you to take a moment to notice what you're doing here.  You're making excuses for evil.  If you were to go through Numbers 31 and replace "Moses" with "Genghis Khan," "Israel/Israelites" with "Mongols," and "Midianites" with "Ukranians" you would have no trouble whatsoever recognizing the resulting account as a barbaric atrocity.  But since it's about "the good guys" you learned about in Sunday School and Charlton Heston movies, suddenly a great mystery arises in which you must go casting about for an explanation, any explanation, as to why these atrocities are the noble and pure moral actions of the incorruptible Supereme Being.

Now, take a moment to think: Who would want to get good people to justify evil: a perfectly good God--or the Devil?
Quote
“Whenever we read the obscene stories, the voluptuous debaucheries, the cruel and torturous executions, the unrelenting vindictiveness with which more than half the Bible is filled, it would be more consistent that we called it the word of a demon, than the word of God.”

--Thomas Paine, Age of Reason Part I, pp. 18-19 (emphasis added)

Quote
The most detestable wickedness, the most horrid cruelties, and the greatest miseries that have afflicted the human race have had their origin in this thing called revelation, or revealed religion. It has been the most dishonorable belief against the character of the Divinity, the most destructive to morality and the peace and happiness of man, that ever was propagated since man began to exist.  It is better, far better, that we admitted, if it were possible, a thousand devils to roam at large, and to preach publicly the doctrine of devils, if there were any such, than that we permitted one such imposter and monster such as Moses, Joshua, Samuel, and the Bible prophets, to come with the pretended word of God in his mouth, and have credit among us.

--The Age of Reason Part II, p. 176 (emphasis added)
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Offline screwtape

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Re: Kcrady - old school
« Reply #136 on: September 10, 2012, 11:04:09 AM »
Kcrady and vynn  pt2

Quote from: Vynn on April 02, 2007, 11:43:43 AM
What you call cherry picking i call "doctrinal priority of scripture" I won't quibble over the term usage because i see your point, however I do think god's mind is infinitely greater than ours and he uses concepts beyond our imagination.---that is why we call him god.
>snip<
I trust god, that he has it all figured out enough that i don't have to run around in a panic trying to convince everyone within 500 miles that they must accept christ and every uncomfortable verse in the bible. I guess it comes down to me just trusting in a god that is more good and wonderful than any of us can imagine. I think He is good enough and powerful enough to figure out the things that i cant figure out here for myself. ---Vynn  ;-)

Notice what you're doing here.  First, you start out with the assumption of a vast, awesome, omnibenevolent God who is infinitely more intelligent, wise, good, etc. than us.  Then you go to the Bible and struggle to make it fit with that preconception.  Anything that just can't be shoehorned in, somehow, you just say, "well, it's beyond the conception of my puny mortal mind."

If you were to read the Bible without this preconception, and adopt the common-sense premise that "actions speak louder than words" you would not come to the same conclusion at all regarding the moral character, intelligence, etc. of the Biblegod.

Now, since you are forcing the Bible to fit with a prior notion of a supreme, vastly-intelligent, omni-benevolent God, what do you need the Bible for?  You already have a better picture of God from somewhere else!  Let's say I somehow discovered how to create the perfect society, a theory of politics and social order that was so wondrously sublime it had to be of superhuman in origin.  Now, having this, why would I want to go to Mein Kampf or Mao's Little Red Book and wrench whatever I find there to fit (while dismissing those parts that just can't fit as being so sublime that they're beyond the reach of the mortal mind) and go forth trying to explain to everyone how Mao or Hitler had discovered the secret of Utopia?

Wouldn't it be better for me to just propose my blueprint for Utopia without trying to salvage someone else's horrid old book?  Why not do the same thing with God?  If you have inner knowledge of the existence of an omnibenevolent, omni-intelligent, infinitely wise and loving Being, Who works genuine miracles in your life, why pollute His or Her perfection with all that Iron Age barbarism in the Bible?

Do us all a favor and write the Book of Vynn.  I'm sure it would be much better than the Bible, and I mean that sincerely.
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Re: Kcrady - old school
« Reply #137 on: September 10, 2012, 11:16:40 AM »
knowledge, science, religion  

Quote from: unkleE on April 02, 2007, 11:36:14 PM
1.  I think the starting point must be my tentative definition of "a god", which was: "a supernatural (ie outside of nature) being with the power to design and create the universe (on its own or in concert with other gods) and the volition to make a choice to do so".

So how do we define "nature"?  I would guess nature = space-time.  God (or a god) would not be bound by or contained within space & time. 

>snip<

But since I used the word nature, and believe nature is defined as space-time (perhaps we would want to add "in principle able to be measured by science") I have to conclude that these beings [hypothetical advanced aliens who caused our Big Bang and "fine-tuned" our cosmological constants] are not "gods" under the definition, because they are still in space-time.

2.  If we drew some corollaries from the definition of "a god", we might conclude that a god is eternal, timeless, never had a beginning - otherwise it would be in space-time.  This too would rule out the beings you postulate.

3.  Your postulation then doesn't change anything.  You have set up a regress, admittedly with only one extra item in the set, and it doesn't solve anything.  If I could communicate back through time to these beings, I could have the same discussion we are having here, and argue that "a god" is the best expanation for their universe, or sub-universe, or part of the multiverse.  So again, I conclude that they are in the same position as we are, and clearly not gods.

From this, it would seem that all concepts of "god" must depend on the concept of "the supernatural."  If the concept of "the supernatural" can be shown to be invalid, then it can be said--with certainty--that no god exists.

So far, all you have offered for as a description of "the supernatural" is negation: it is "not natural," "not space-time."  You have claimed it is not anything man knows, and offered nothing to say what it is.  From a burden-of-proof standpoint, it is the supernaturalist who seeks to add something (the supernatural) to our understanding of existence, and thus the supernaturalist bears the burden of proof.  Since part of your definition of "supernatural" is that it is "in principle not able to be measured by science" (based on your definition of "nature" above), you are basically making claims of omniscience for yourself.  How do you know if any given entity or location (such as a "supernatural realm") is in principle not measurable by science?  Do you know what measurements science will be capable of 100, 1,000, 10,000,000 years from now?

How, exactly, did people come up with this idea of an unknowable realm they claimed to know about?  The first clue is in the word "supernatural" itself.  Going back to its Greek roots, it means "above the natural."  An important fact to note is that nearly all of our major religions (with the possible exception of Scientology, if you count it as "major") have thier origins in pre-Copernican times.[1]

Before Copernicus, Galilleo, Kepler, and Newton, the concept of "the supernatural" as a realm that was at once inherently unknowable yet provably existent actually made sense.  In ancient times (when our religions were being born) it seemed obvious that there were two distinct realms of existence, each with its own generalized operating principles.

There was the natural world "down here" on Earth, and the supernatural world "up there" in the heavens.  Here on Earth, things wind down.  Torches and candles stop burning, a wagon, if pushed, will eventually stop moving unless more force is applied.  An arrow shot from the bow will eventually fall back to Earth.  An object, when dropped, will fall, hit the ground, and stop moving.

But up there, in the supernatural realm, stars, planets, and the Sun and Moon just keep moving ceaselessly, their light never running out, and they carried out their celestial ballet in sublime defiance of gravity.  Even here on Earth there were some substances that seemed to behave entirely different from everything else.

Air was invisible, yet able to manifest its presence when the wind blew.  It did not seem to have weight, and it was directly connected to life--when something stopped breathing, it stopped living.  Light could be seen to come down to Earth in rays (such as a ray of light coming through a window), yet it could not be weighed, and it did not pool up on the ground like water.  Fire moved of its own accord like a living thing.  It was intangible (one could pass a hand straight through it without feeling anything but heat), and tended to rise (flames flicker upward, ashes and sparks float into the sky) rather than fall like "normal stuff."  Split a bushel of grain and you have two half-bushels of grain--split a fire (by lighting a second torch or fuel source) and you can get two fires of the same, or even a larger size than the original. 

The final mystery-substance was human consciousness.  Clearly there was a difference between "Grandma" and the corpse of Grandma.  Since everything else (soil, water, plants, animals, etc.) seemed to be made of some sort of stuff, it made sense to think that there was some kind of "Grandma-stuff" in addition to her physical body that carried all of her intangible (non-bodily) attributes.  This made even more sense in the light of "near-death experiences," shamanic vision-quests, lucid dreams of flying, psychadelic trips from hallucinogenic plants, etc. in which the "self" could seem to leave the body and return.

It is no accident that the other "mystery substances"--air (breath), light, and fire--all became common analogies for "spirit," the invisible, supernatural "person-stuff" that left the body at death or during altered states of consciousness.  And so, if you were to go back in time and tell an ancient Egyptian priest that you were an atheist and ask him to prove that supernatural gods exist, he would look at you as if you were crazy and point at the Sun.

Not only was the "supernatural" clearly something that existed, it was also inherently out of the reach of human beings.  Ask an ancient Hebrew prophet what the far side of the Moon looked like, and he could tell you--quite rationally--that it was unknowable to man, that only God or the angels could know.  No chariot or trireme could reach the Moon, and even the birds could not fly that high.  The idea that "in the future, people will have better technology, and we'll send space probes up to look" would be far more fanciful to him than his belief in God, angels, and the supernatural.

Technological advancement took place so slowly in ancient times that it was basically not even thought of as a concept.  The technologies people used were as much a part of primordial creation as the mountains and the animals.  In the Biblical story, all of the important technologies were developed in primordial times by antediluvian patriarchs.  The various gods employed Bronze Age and Iron Age technologies, even if they were magically enhanced.  Hephaestus operates a forge, the Egyptian god Khnum forms each individual's spirit-double ("ka") on a potter's wheel, Elijah is swept up to Heaven in Yahweh's fiery chariot, and Jesus charges into the Battle of Armageddon at the end of time on horseback, fighting with a sword (one that comes out of his mouth, but a sword, nonetheless).

For the ancients then, there was no concept of "we may not be able to know X now, but in the future when we've invented better technology, we will."

All of this changed during the Rennaisance.  The invention of gunpowder weapons radically changed warfare in a wholly-unanticipated way, and in a short enough period of time that people noticed that change was afoot.  Even God did not predict, nor do his angels possess, firearms.  The telescope suddenly revealed new features of the heavens that could not be observed before.  For the first time, people became conscious of technological advancement.

In science, Copernicus, Kepler, and Galilleo overturned the old "totem-pole" model of existence in which Earth was at the bottom of the Universe with the celestial and divine realms "up there."  Newton finished the job by demonstrating that "the heavenly bodies" obeyed the same generalized principles of physics that applied on Earth.  When the Gospels were written, the idea that Jesus could return to "the supernatural realm" by going up made sense.  After Newton, Jesus would be no closer to a supernatural realm at 30,000 feet than he was at ground level.

At this point, clergy and theologians had a choice: they could accept that "the natural" had embraced and included "the supernatural" within itself (so that God, if he existed, would be more of the natural even though he possessed fantastic powers), or they could push "the supernatural" away into some undefined state.  At first it could be hidden behind "the sphere of the stars" that enclosed the Solar System.  Then parallax measurements demonstrated that the stars were not holes in a sphere, but distant objects.

As science advanced, revealing a bigger and bigger natural Universe, "the supernatural" was pushed back until it became some completely undefined alternative dimension.  Theologians retained the claims that "the supernatural" was "above"--well, now it's "outside"--nature, and that it was inherently unknowable to humans, but without the ancient context in which those claims made sense.  Whereas in the past, at least some "supernatural" objects (such as the Sun, Moon, planets, and stars) were self-evidently real, "the supernatural" became a realm entirely--and in principle--beyond the reach of any possible validation or falsification.

The "unknowability" of "the supernatural" that made sense in the ancient context of no technological advancement ceased to make sense.  It is not possible to know what technological and scientific advancements may exist in the future.  To claim that a given entity or location is undetectable by science in principle is to claim complete knowledge of all possible science and technology.  The ancients, unaware of the possibility of continuing technological advancement, could reasonably make that claim within the context of their knowledge.  That claim no longer makes sense within the context of our knowledge.

The end result is that theologians have backed themselves into a corner of claiming that a realm and entities exist, which cannot be detected by any possible science no matter how advanced, while at the same time claiming that "the supernatural" impinges on our Universe powerfully enough to do things like parting seas and creating tons of matter (such as loaves and fishes) out of nothing.

Given the existence of extremely sensitive scientific instrumentation capable of detecing things like neutrinos--particles so diaphenous they can shoot straight through the Earth at light-speed as if the planet isn't even here--the claim that "the supernatural" intervenes powerfully in our Universe while being inherently undetectable in principle has become self-contradictory.

Thus, "the supernatural"--a concept that made sense in the context of the times in which our religions were born--has been revealed to be self-contradictory in a post-Rennaissance context.  It is an invalid concept.  Without the concept of "the supernatural" the concept of "gods" as defined by theology (and here, by UnkleE) is also invalid.

Q.E.D. :)




 1.  While Mormonism is of recent origin, it is a derivative of Christianity and even its own distinctive "scriptures" claim to originate in Iron Age Jewish cultures.
« Last Edit: September 21, 2012, 01:16:43 PM by screwtape »
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Re: Kcrady - old school
« Reply #138 on: September 21, 2012, 01:29:07 PM »
Unies, burden of proof and the religious


Quote from: unkleE
You have neatly illustrated what I think is the "problem" I am trying to highlight.  "God does not exist" is a proposition and a pretty general one.  Not just a particular god, but god generally.  I can't see why such a proposition does not require some demonstration before it can be urged upon anyone else.  If I put forward the proposition "a god exists" and wish to recommend that view to you, it is true as you say that a "burden of proof" lies with me.  But that being the case, it seems to me that if you make your proposition and wish to recommend it to me, then you do indeed also have the same "burden of proof".

The only way out I can see is either (1) we each stop trying to recommend our views and then we don't need to offer reasons for our respective views (that would mean closing down the parent WWGHA site), or (2) we both continue to present our views and we both share the same burden of proof.

OK UnkleE, let me try an analogy:

Let's say I come up to you and say, "Have you heard the Good News about unies?  Unies exist!  Not only that, they're the most important fact of existence.  You see, unies are responsible for the existence of pretty girls and chocolate, which makes them the most important fact of existence.  Hey, look!  A pretty girl!  Therefore, unies exist!"

At this point, you're a weak aunieist.  You don't even know what I'm talking about, so how could you have any positive evidence that unies don't exist?  So you ask me what unies are, and I tell you:

"They're little invisible lights that exist everywhere, but especially in my back garden, and with their help I've written a book, the Book of Unie, that provides a guide for how we should live our lives and run our nations."

"'Invisible' lights?  You mean, like ultraviolet?"

"Ohhh, no, not at all!  Unies are a supremely sublime kind of light that can never be seen or detected with mere scientific instrumentation!  But if you are willing to believe in unies and sincerely open your heart to them, you will feel their presence in your spirit."

The discussion goes on like this for awhile.  Perhaps you argue that the concept of an inherently undetectable "light" is self-contradictory, or you point out flaws in my Book of Unie that show it could not have been authored by supremely transcendant beings of light, and so on.  But I keep going, explaining that whatever parts of the book that don't make sense must be interpreted in some other way until they can be made to fit with our knowledge of Universe, or just sort of ignored. 

This goes on for awhile, you debunking all of my claims, until finally you say, "Oh, come on!  You're makng this up!  Unies are imaginary!"  Then I say:

"Oh, reeeeeallly?  What's your proof that unies don't exist?  All I've seen you do is argue against my claims, but you've offered no evidence at all for the proposition, 'No unies exist.'"

The point of this little analogy is that, apart from my claim that unies exist, there isn't even an issue to debate.  You do not go around calling yourself an aunieist and you have established no collection of proofs for their non-existence and you would certainly not assume a burden of proof to demonstrate that they don't, any more than you do for the Invisble Pink Unicorn or the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

Likewise, apart from people claiming that gods exist, there is no issue.  If no one claimed that gods exist--or if their existence was apparent--there would be no theism/atheism debate.  The reason there's a debate is because theists make claims about gods—and can't prove them.

If atheists can refute the claims of the theists then we are justified in saying things like "God is imaginary."  We do not have to positively prove that gods no one has ever mentioned do not exist.  Until a god or goddess can be shown to exist in external reality, they exist only in the claims of the theists.  Refute the claims, and the proposition "no gods exist" is established in the same way that the propositions "no unies exist" and "no IPU's and FSM's exist") are.  There is no need to show evidence from thorough explorations of every corner of Universe that no unies, IPU's, or FSM's can be found.
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Offline screwtape

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Re: Kcrady - old school
« Reply #139 on: September 21, 2012, 01:46:49 PM »
Unies, burden of proof and the religious  pt 2



Quote from: unkleE

1.  Your example indicates that there are no objective, evidential, reasonable reasons for believing in Unies, that belief is subjective, untestable, etc.  Now despite the fact that you and others infer the same is true for 'a god", this is manifestly untrue.  There are many facts adduced as evidence, many arguments put forward by strict logicians, to support the proposition "a god exists".  You may not, presumably don't, accept that these evidences and arguments establish the proposition, but that is a very long way from denying they exist and can be argued competently.  Here are a few examples of such arguments:
  • Philosopher Stephen Davis has written "God, Reason and Theistic Proofs", published by Edinburgh University Press, in which he outlines a whole swag of such proofs, and analyses the logic of their arguments.  He concludes, (with one possible exception if I remember correctly) that the proofs do not succeed deductively, but they still exist, are formidable and plausible, and cannot be easily dismissed.  If one allows inductive reasoning, they might, and in my judgment do, provide reasonable support for the proposition.  There are of course many such books.
  • The secular web carries or links to many arguments for and against God's existence.  Powerful and well rehearsed arguments exist on both sides of the question.


Well, goodness, Unieism is just getting started, you expect me to have centuries worth of debate and philosophical tradition already? :) 

---Athens---

"Well, Saul of Tarsus, I'm sorry, but we have centuries worth of philosophical discourse about Apollo, Zeus, the Demiurge, and the Unmoved Mover with well-rehearsed and powerful arguments on both sides, but none whatsoever about this 'Jesus Christ' of yours.  I'm afraid we're just going to have to use our patented Lofty Scholarly Dismissaltm in your case."
Quote from: unkleE
2.  Further, your analogy states: "apart from my claim that unies exist, there isn't even an issue to debate" and infers the same is true about a god.  But again the analogy fails.  It isn't the fact that I and a few other theists are responsible for promulgating this crazy belief and none of you would need to worry about it if we didn't do it.  Belief in God crops up all over human existence, it is one of the most prevalent and defining features of humanity.  People can look at the night sky and wonder why, even if they have never been taught about a god (e.g. that was my wife's experience - she was raised an atheist).  So the issue exists in some people's minds, often because of theistic proselytising, but certainly not always.

And you said your definition of 'god' was non-sectarian. :)  Once you invoke "all over human experience," then you're not talking about one capital-G "God," but literally thousands of different gods and goddesses. 
Belief in unie-like "nature spirits" and so forth is also common in human experience.  For that matter, so is astrology.  I do have to give you credit for deft use of the Argument from Popularity though.
Quote from: unkleE
3.  Your analogy infers that you are the only Unie believer, and therefore that I might reasonably find belief in Unies a bit strange - of course you know yourself better than I do, so I'll leave you to judge that! : )  But of course theism, and my version of theism are not in that situation.  They are believed by billions.  Doesn't make them correct, of course, but it does lift the belief a little above the quaint.

I love how you invoke the Argument from Popularity, wave it around enough to get your mileage out of it, then throw in a "doesn't make them correct" just in time to give yourself plausible deniability.  Nicely done!

Perhaps you're right that being able to invoke the Argument from Authority (famous philosophers!) and the Argument from Popularity (lots and lots of people believe in gods!) make theism more legitimate than unieism, but I'm not sure exactly how that works. :)

You still can't prove unies don't exist.
Quote from: unkleE
In the extreme, if everyone in the world was a theist except you, no matter how strong your logic, it would be hard to argue that everyone else was wrong and you were right.

Tell that to Galileo.  1) Truth isn't arrived at by counting noses.  2) You all disagree when you talk about "the Divine," having many completely incompatible ideas about the subject.
Quote from: unkleE
(You might be able to wirdtand the argument if the matter was as provable as 1 + 1 = 2, but not on such a semi-subjective matter.)  Of course it isn't like that, but weight of numbers can at least arguably indicate that the belief may not be based on "delusion".

Does that work for astrology?  Must be true, lots of people have believed in it.  It built Stonehenge and thousands of temples, stone circles, and the like all over the world, and providing the start for the modern science of astronomy.  How about female divine beings (goddesses)?  There are temples, statues, etc. dedicated to goddesses all around the world, throughout all of history, at least until the Abrahamic religions got around to legislating that only solitary male gods may be worshipped.
Quote from: unkleE on April 09, 2007, 11:11:29 PM
4.  Many, many of those believers claim to have had some experience of this God, through healing, communication, "coincidence", etc.  Now I know there are arguments against these experiences being genuine, but again the weight of numbers counts for something.[/quote]

Does it?  There are a lot more Hindus than there are Christians of your stripe.  They believe in healings, gurus who work miracles, statues of Ghanesh that sip milk from spoons and all sorts of things.  There's at least a billion of them, and their numbers must count for something.  Does every religion become true if it can get enough followers?  How many unieists do I have to recruit before unies become real?
Quote from: unkleE
Further, christianity and some other forms of theism have had enormous impacts on the lives of people, societies and the entire world - it can be well argued that christianity is largely responsible for the development of modern science,

Right.  The Greeks didn't do things like calculate the circumfrence of the Earth, invent the steam engine (developed by Hero of Alexandria), discover the Archimedes Principle, invent the first known computer (the Antikthera [sp?] Mechanism), formulate the first atomic theory, etc..  "Christian" (medieval) science was based on the work of...Aristotle.  When, exactly, did Aristotle accept Jesus as his lord and savior?
Quote from: unkleE
the rise of modern democracies,

Because, in the Bible, it's called the Constitutional Republic of God...right?

And of course, the Pagan democracy of Athens and the Roman Republic had nothing to do with the origins of democratic government.  Or was Pericles a Christian?
Quote from: unkleE
major social changes and institutions such as schools,

No schools before Christianity?  I would love to see the evidence for this, given that writing, mathematics, and other disciplines had existed for millenia before Jesus came along.  Presumably, people used to be taught these things.  Do the Greek philosophical schools not count?
Quote from: unkleE
hospitals,

Because Imhotep and Hippocrates never existed, and nobody was interested in treating wounds or curing the sick until after the Council of Nicea.  And the Cadeuceus which represents the medical practice to this day is not the staff of Hermes, but a Christian symbol representing...well, I'm not sure really, but it must be Christian.  All mainstream scholars agree.
Quote from: unkleE
freedom for slaves,

Yes, the Bible is passionately anti-slavery in both Testaments, such as where Moses forbade the practice of slavery along with idolatry, and Paul in the NT commanded Philemon's master to set him free in the epistle by that name...right?  And it was devout Christian Yankees fighting wicked Pagan Confederates in the US Civil War.  I must pay a visit to this parallel universe you live in.
Quote from: unkleE
Your Unies belief really changed nothing and impacted very little on you, compared to this great impact of theism.  Thus the lives of believers constitutes some evidence (not always good, but overall good).
 

Communism had a great deal of "impact."  Does that make it true, or even add to its credibility as a belief-system?

Quote
5.  The Unies belief in the end is unimportant - it doesn't really matter of you believe it or if I don't.  But christianity and theism are very different - the stakes are very high if they are true, and fairly high if they are not.

So...if I said that you would be horribly punished in some way for not believing in unies, the way we're threatened for not believing in Christianity--thus making the "stakes" higher--that would make it a more credible belief system?  How exactly does that work? 

You still haven't proven that unies don't exist.
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Offline screwtape

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Re: Kcrady - old school
« Reply #140 on: September 24, 2012, 08:50:12 AM »
On Slavery


Quote from: blaize
I think DTE  does well showing that the imagery of slavery is used throughout the Bible, but what I think most people end up doing when the issue of slavery is brought up is they begin to superimpose a 21st century understanding of the concept of slavery onto a 1st century world and prior. Often times when we think about slavery, we associate the obvious imbalance between long hours repaid with marginal living conditions and poor treatment. Of such things, the Bible condemns.

Isn't one of the things Christians rail against most, the notion of "Godless secular liberals and their moral relativism"--ostensibly in contrast to the Chrstian conservative position that upholds moral absolutes?  That sure doesn't hold up.  So we have the spectacle of an omnipotent Deity Who created billions of galaxies with a word, bobbing and weaving and compromising with the social systems of utterly puny little creatures armed with swords and spears, while declaring through his propagandists that he is "King of Kings and Lord of Lords."  One wonders why he was able to be so uncompromising when it came to other popular social customs of the day, such as idolatry/worship of other gods.

And why not employ a 21st century understanding of morality as we look at your barbaric old book?  It is clear that when it comes to the ethical treatment of our fellow humans, we have made a great deal of moral progress compared with Biblical times.  Just as we have made progress in other areas, such as science and technology.  Your reply here is a naked confession that the Bible cannot live up to the standards of a 21st century moral understanding.  Why then, should we guide our lives by its principles?
Quote from: blaize
In the Old Testament, slavery was permissive, but not necessarily promoted. The law had allotted certain regulations governing slavery that entrusted the masters to treat slaves fairly, not with severity. (Lev 25:43,46). It also seems that masters were held accountable for treating a slave justly. Exodous 21:20 invokes masters to be punished should a slave die in the process of being punished. This was a sharp contrast to the way the Israelites had been treated as slaves under the Egyptians, who were ruthless in the way they treated the Hebrews. It would be easy that once freed, a person could become vengeful and want to take advantage of those in servitude.

Bollocks.  There is not a stitch of evidence that there were ever any Hebrew slaves in Egypt, much less that they were treated ruthlessly. 
Quote from: blaize
During the New Testament period, perhaps as much as 60% of the population of the Roman Empire were considered slaves. Most of these slaves were probably bondservants -- those that hired themselves out to pay a debt.

Didn't you just criticize DTE for not providing sources?
Quote from: blaize
When an apostle identified himself as a servant (or slave if you prefer) he is saying that he has volunteeringly surrendered his interests to the interest of Jesus,  making himself subject to Jesus, Jesus teachings, and way of life. If the predominant model of slavery in the New Testament period was the idea that people gave themselves into slavery, then it would have been understood that the apostles when they were saying this were saying that they were volunteering themselves as such.

So, if I captured you and gave you a choice: become my slave for life, or I'll burn you at the stake, and given the options you chose to be my slave, would you really call that "voluntary?"  If the Dark Lord (aka the God of the Bible) really existed and his threat of eternal torture in Hell was genuine, in what sense is the choice to serve him "voluntary?"  For that matter, what if the Calvinists are right?
Quote from: blaize
On the same token, the imagery of redemption is also prevalent in scripture, in that Jesus paid the purchase price for those who were onces slaves to sin.

So, did he buy you, or did you voluntarily indenture yourself to him? 
Quote from: blaize
In Romans 6, Paul uses the analogy of slavery to illustrate that once those who are saved were slaves to sin which leads to death, but they become slaves to righteousness which leads to eternal life. Not only is this slavery freedom from death, but it is an elevation to sonship through adoption (Romans 8:15, 23). If Christ is king, and isn't being his servant leads one to be adopted as a son by the king them certainly we would want that over the alternative.

Sorry, but I really don't see how attempting to justify the Biblical sanction of slavery by appealing to the Biblical sanction and promotion of despotic monarchy is helping you here.
Quote from: blaize
Now, going back to the original observation, with the precognitions of the evil slavery that has existed in recent years, slavery in the Bible doesn't seem to be the same thing, and as I mentioned, it is permissible but not necessarily prescriptive. And the slavery of which the New Testament speaks leads to freedom and sonship, not bondage and death. Comparably speaking, I would rather be a slave to a king that would adopt me as a son..

As a prince then, do you get to lord it over others?

Bottom line: The Bible is vicious and tyrannical from beginning to end.  Accept it.  Evasive maneuvers are pointless.

BTW, great topic, DTE.  +1...you whore ;)
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Offline screwtape

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Re: Kcrady - old school
« Reply #141 on: September 24, 2012, 09:06:40 AM »
Before Jesus; After Jesus


Quote from: unkleE
kcrady:

This post picks up our discussion, and asks a few more questions of you, please, to clarify what you believe.

The outstanding questions so far are:

1.  Are you assuming that all human beings (including me) actually accept that "objective morality"?  Or do you believe that we should accept that morality?  If the latter, on what basis should we accept it?

Most of us do accept and apply "the basics" most of the time.  "Basic" (i.e. what we need to get around in most real-life situations) morality is simple enough to teach a child.  As I perceive it, most differences in morality arise from making exceptions.  Women--they don't count as people, so it's OK to mutilate their genitals, force them to wear black tents, and be property of men.  Those other folks who don't (look/act/talk/dance/dress) like we do or believe what we think they ought to--they don't count as people, so we can kill, enslave, or otherwise exploit them.  And so on.   Looking up at the title of this thread, it's not an extended discussion of ethics, politics, and the best way to operate a society, so I'm not going to write any extensive treatises on those subjects here.
Quote from: unkleE
2.  Your statement sounds pretty much like utilitarianism, and one of  the obvious difficulties is how we actually know the requirements for human survival.

If you don't know the requirements of human survival, however did you manage to last this long?  BTW, I do not agree with "utilitarianism" as I understand it, so I won't accept that label.
Quote from: unkleE
I'm not talking about the difficulty of doing a computation but what things should be taken into account.  Would you be happy for me to include the benefits of knowing God in this life and the benefits of life in the age to come in the computation?

So long as you abide by the basics that are demonstrably necessary for the rest of us to peacefully coexist with you as fellow-members of a civilization, go right ahead.  Whether such things qualify as elements of objective morality or not depend on whether or not they correspond to reality.  However, due to the limitations of human knowledge and human perceptual abilities, there will be different ideas on what is, and is not, reality.  Because of this, humans need a system of epistemology that works as a "BS detector."  So far, the most effective BS detector we have found is the scientific method.  If such things as "God" and "life in the age to come" can be shown to be anything more than the speculations of people who were cognitively primitive even by the standards of their own era, then they would count.  You have yet to present a single stitch of evidence that your concept of "God" (i.e. the Christian god, not merely some Adjuster(s) of Cosmological Constants) or the Biblical concept of "the age to come" have any validity.
Quote from: unkleE
I have three more questions, in the form of hypotheticals, please, to further explicate your belief in ethics based on the good of human beings:

I strongly dislike the notion of developing a system of ethics based on situations that will almost certainly never be relevant to real life.  What are the odds that Richard Dawkins and I will ever be in a Donner Party situation in the Andes?  What magic transforms all the other bodies to ash (so that we cannot eat them, LOL) while leaving Richard and I unharmed?  What's the likelihood that A) the UN will ever have the power to contemplate some sort of global genocide, and B) they'd put a libertarian-leaning person like me in charge of the new global Gosplan?

One thing all of your scenerios have in common is: the assumption of a no-win situation.  Either I must die (in the Dawkins and Dying Man Scenarios) or commit murder, or we can both die.  Either I must commit genocide, or allow natural disasters, famine, etc. to do pretty much the same thing.  I do not share your implicit world view that life is a choice of grisly defeats, and that ethics should be based on that assumption.  And so, I will give these questions the seriousness I think they deserve.
Quote from: unkleE
3.  Suppose you and Richard Dawkins and many others are in a plane flying in South America when your plane crashes into snow-covered mountains (just like the football team many years ago).  Everyone in the plane is incinerated to ash, but somehow you and Richard survive.  There is plenty of water from snow melt, but no food.  You both know rescue is weeks away.  Richard looks at you and says: "My continued existence is far more important than yours to the wellbeing of the human race, otherwise those pesky christians will enslave even more people.  I am needed to combat them.  You must allow me to kill you and eat you, so I survive to carry on this important work.  That is the best result for the human race, so I know you will allow me to do it."  You know he is speaking the truth.  What is your response?

WWJD?  Let's see, if I decide to abide by Pure, Perfect, Christian Moral Absolutestm, I've got a bit of a dilemna.  On the one hand, it could be argued that Jesus would say, "Eat of my flesh, drink of my blood, for this is the true food," then stretch out his arms and let Dawkins kill him.  On the other hand, the Jesus we see in the Book of Revelation would stomp Dawkins into the ground and splatter his blood all over his (Jesus') pure white robe.  So I guess it could depend on which Jesus I liked more. 
Quote from: unkleE
4.  Same scenario, but this time it is you and a dying man.  So you argue that you continuing to live is more important than him, so you make the same suggestion to him.  But he demurs, saying piously that he doesn't think either of you should kill the other.  What do you say to persuade him to see things your way, or do you just use your extra strength to kill him?

Crikey, if the chap is dying, I could just agree with him, couldn't I?  What would I need to kill him for?  Maybe I could just pick the Jesus that does nothing (i.e, when he's not finding someone a parking space or helping a football team win the Super Bowl).
Quote from: unkleE
5.  The human race is multiplying, and global warming is reducing the food supply.  You are director of the UN population and health program, and a proposal is put forward by two influential members of the Security Council to apply methods developed in animal husbandry and national park management, and begin to cull the human race.  After all, we are just a higher form of animal, but no different in essence.  Do you agree to support the proposal, and who do you start with?

This is the same old saw we hear so often.  Humans don't have some ghostly "essence," so they're no more valuable than cockroaches.  Why don't you atheists run amok killing people?  Well, your "essence" has never stopped True Believers from killing people en masse.  Why?  Because the God they believe in is portrayed not giving a tinker's cuss about some "essence" that makes people worth more than animals.  He slaughters people wholesale in the OT, and pledges to do lots more of it in the NT.

So, as a devout Christian (we are talking about exceedingly unlikely hypotheticals here :) ), I could agree with the policy.  We start with all those atheists, neo-Pagans and liberals, then move on to the Hindus and Buddhists.  We have to have some degree of global consensus to make the policy work, so I decide to call this Project Numbers (it is about human overpopulation, after all).  Announcing the policy, I base it on what all three Abrahamic religions can agree is Divine Revelation:

"Kill every male, and every woman who has known man by lying with him.  But the little girls who have not known man by lying with him, these keep for yourselves." (Numbers 31:17-18)

Of course, in reality I would reject the policy, but hey, these are hypotheticals based on supremely unlikely scenarios.  What this does demonstrate however is that you Christians don't have any sort of "moral absolutes."  What "Biblical morality" says depends on which Bible verses and/or which portrayal of Jesus you happen to like, the rest can be interpreted out of existence.   

Is it wrong to eat lobster wrapped in bacon?  Before Jesus: yes, both are an abomination unto the Lord.  After Jesus: no, actually that sounds pretty tasty!

Is it wrong to wear clothes made from more than one type of fiber?  Before Jesus: yes.  After Jesus: no.

Is it wrong to let somebody with any defect, like a flat nose or a crushed testicle into a place of worship?  Before Jesus: yes.  After Jesus: no.

Is it wrong to be gay?  Before Jesus: yes, it's an abomination to the Lord and ought to be a capital offense!  After Jesus: yes, but gayness can now be easily cured with a three-week counseling retreat.

Is slavery wrong?  Before Jesus: no.  After Jesus: no.  After Appomattox: yes. 

Is genocide wrong? Before Jesus: no, in fact it was commanded by God.  After Jesus: no, in fact Jesus promises to do it himself in the future.  After V.E. Day (when all those devout German Lutherans with their Gott Mit Uns belt buckles got their *sses handed to them): yes.

Right now, we have a Christian President of the United States, with the passionate support of the strongest community of devout Christians, who has killed over 600,000 people based on lies and misinformation.  If only this vaunted Christian morality could give as much of a damn about a hundreds of thousands of Iraqis as it did about Terry Schaivo...

So basically, you Christians apply the same sort of moral relativism you accuse atheists of.  Of course, there were Christians on the right side of issues like slavery, and most of the young men at D-Day were Christians also.  For that matter, there are gay Christians and Christians who don't think women ought to just shut up, be housewives, and bear children as their only valid purpose in life.  This merely goes to show that Christianity as such does not offer a consistent system of ethics.
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Offline screwtape

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Re: Kcrady - old school
« Reply #142 on: September 24, 2012, 09:13:53 AM »
If Biblegod were real


I presume you're referring to the Biblegod.  The specifics of what I'd do depend on the circumstances under which his existence is revealed.

The first and most important thing to note is that, despite all of his Mighty Oz boasts, the Biblegod is not omnipotent, as we can tell from his actions.  Despite his being "with" the armies of Judah, they still got pwned by guys with chariots (Judges 1:19).  Jacob was able to wrestle with him and "prevail."  He is portrayed being worried about the scientific and techological prowess represented by a mud-brick ziggurat (Genesis 11), and saying, "Nothing they (humans) conceive in their hearts shall be impossible for them" (v. 6).

Jesus promised that he would return 'soon,' that the High Priest Caiaphas would see him coming in the clouds, that "some now standing here" (i.e. his disciples and audience) would see the Second Coming.  Obviously, the wheels fell off somewhere along the line. 

The most parsimonious answer (pretending for the moment that the Biblegod does exist) is that the Serpent defeated him by the simplest strategy imaginable: doing nothing.  A malignant narcissist, surrounded by yes-men, the Biblegod got a bee in his bonnet to "declare the end from the beginning" and tell us in his 'inerrant Word' how the world was to end.  In a sterling example of psychological projection, he declares that the Serpent must have the same ends as he does--the establishment of a global theocratic dictatorship.  So he proclaims that the Serpent must do a Jesus re-enactment (the beast's head that was slain and restored to life), then set out to conquer the world and brutally persecute all who do not worship him.  Then, Jesus would return at the head of his horse cavalry, conquer the world, and brutally persecute all who do not worship him.

But the Serpent/King of Tyre (Ezekiel 28) has other plans, namely the liberation of humanity and their ascent to divinity.  Since the Biblegod in his hubris preconditioned his return on the notion that the Serpent would imitate him, all the Serpent had to do was refrain from doing so.  Yahweh was bound by his own spell, and humanity set free to continue that technological advance Yahweh was so scared of. 

So a case could be made that Yahweh has already been beaten at the (non-) Battle of Armageddon.  If he does manage to break out of the trap he built for himself, he and his horse cavalry will be up against supersonic jet aircraft, precision-guided munitions, and motorized armor.  Even with his magic powers, he's in for an unpleasant surprise. 

His giant Borg cube/jewelry box could represent a significant threat on account of its (most likely metaphorical) size, but we have telescopes that can spot something that big and shiny from a long way off, and tens of thousands of nuclear weapons.  With enough advance warning, we'll have time to build an 8 million ton Orion space battlecruiser loaded to the gills with every nasty toy Earth's military-industrial complexes can imagine and meet him in space.  If he's held up long enough, we might be able to just eat him with swarms of submicroscopic nanoassemblers. 

By his own prophecy, he can't even bring that into play until he gets to the end of his script, and the Serpent can stop him from getting there by refusing to play the role appointed to him.  Perhaps that's why Yahweh's followers in all three of his religions seem so desperate to start a cataclysmic war in the Middle East.  Anything to break the Dark Lord out of the box he locked himself into!

Of course he may never be able to break his own spell, since Caiaphas, his disciples, and "this generation" (the people of Jesus' time) are all dead.  The prophecies of Revelation cannot be fulfilled as spoken.

Another thing you believers ought to think about a little is how Yahweh continually refers to you as agricultural commodities.  You are "the sheep of his flock," the "wheat" of his field, the fruit of his vine, etc., that upon his return you will be "harvested."  Have you ever considered the possibility that he might actually mean it?  Sure, he promises you eternal bliss in Heaven, but that may just be a lure, like the little bioluminescent sparkly an angler fish waves in front of its mouth.  Maybe if you're good, you'll be eaten last.

He might not just gulp you down though, maybe he'll keep you around to feed off you like a psychic vampire, lapping up your fear, praises, worship, and attention.  Like a vampire, he has promised you immortality if you drink his blood and eat his flesh, making yourselves profiteers on Jesus' brutal torture-sacrifice, transforming you into blood-obsessed, blood-drinking vampires in his image ("power in the bloood, power in the blooood, power in the blood of the Lamb!").  He promises to Assimilate you into his "Body" and you will become drones chanting his praises forever.   

If you're lucky, we'll destroy your evil master and save you from that fate.
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Offline screwtape

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Re: Kcrady - old school
« Reply #143 on: September 24, 2012, 02:38:06 PM »
You live in the same godless universe as we do



Hello, we encounter this sort of thing all the time.

Christian: God has lots and lots of wonderful power!

Atheist: Well, if your god has all this power, why do we never see it in action?  Anyone sensing where the kidnapped soldiers are?  Walking through bullets to save some kids?  Stopping a car bomb?  Heck, God should be able to at least manifest powers on believers like the characters on 'Heroes'

Christian: Oh, no, you see, God's powers are all "spiritual" [translation: invisible and undetectable by any means whatsoever].  He helps us preach and be nicer people.  Physical life, health, freedom from pain and so on don't matter that much compared to the invisible, undetectable spiritual stuff.

What you're doing here is trying to explain how "universe as we know it + Omnipresent, Omnipotent God who knows when every sparrow falls in the forest and does things like raising the dead and parting seas" is completely indistinguishable from "universe as we know it, without such a god."

You live in the same godless universe we do.

Your biggest problem is your religion's advertizing copy (aka "the Bible").  Your holy book presents us with the picture of an entity with amazing super-powers, who even came to Earth and promised super-powers to his followers ("Greater works than these shall you do in my name").

You live in the same godless universe we do.

If you want to be able to do the "spiritual" dodge and say that your god-hypothesis has effects only in an invisible "spiritual" dimension known only within the confines of your own skull, then you've got to get rid of the Bible.  Otherwise, you're like a car salesman going on television and promising that the cars you sell can go from 0 to Warp 9.5 in 6 seconds, and have unlimited gas mileage due to a perpetual motion engine, then, when someone comes down for a test drive saying, "Oh, here on Earth it can only get to 65 mph, gets 15 miles per gallon, and you have to ignore that clunking noise.  But if you sit in the driver's seat and enter a meditative state you can visualize yourself driving across the Galaxy at warp speed!  Woohooo!"

You live in the same godless universe we do.

It is a simple, utterly inescapable fact: The Christian god cannot live up to the claims made for him in the Bible.  To maintain your belief, you have to "interpret" whole rafts of Bible passages away, or say that, despite the fact that your god is "the same yesterday, today, and forever," that he doesn't do all that super-power stuff these days.

You live in the same godless universe we do.

From beginning to end, the Bible is full of passages where your god boasts like the Mighty Oz, hurling vicious threats at those who don't worship him, making sweet promises to those who do, but when we peer behind the curtain, there isn't even so much as a man to be found there.

You live in the same godless universe we do.

Look at this news story[1].  Here we have the account of a community of Mennonites so devout they forswear technology and connection to global civilization for their god.  Except that their inbred community has a way of generating rare genetic disorders, among which is a disease that will kill their children unless the children sleep uncovered under intense blue lights.  Sounds like the opening of a Stephen King novel, doesn't it?

Anyway, these people reject science and technology, believing that their god wants them to live forever in the 1700's.  Their religiously-motivated separatism causes their children to be struck by a horrible disease.  God, as usual, does nothing.  Who does come to their rescue?  A man from the society they reject, a doctor bringing the science and technology they forswear, the blue lights that keep their children alive until they're old enough to take advantage of the man-made "miracle" of liver-transplants.  And so, in a magnificent display of hypocrisy, the people there credit their god with "sending" them the doctor!

You live in the same godless universe we do.

There is a real monster here.  It is not some extra-cosmic superbeing with unstoppable powers and horrifying tortures in mind for those who do not serve him.  It is a meme, a contagious idea, the idea of a god for which you must reject "material" things, and value "spiritual" illusions.  This meme condemns children to terrible, rare diseases in bizarre, cultish communities, with only the hypocrisy of their parents to spare them from death.  It is an idea that can make nice, kind-hearted people sanction genocide and torture.  Like some twisted alchemy, it turns good to evil while claiming credit for the good.

You live in the same godless universe we do.
Quote from: Hello
For those who believe in the immortality of the soul, saving a person from physical death is nothing compared to the power of saving their soul from spiritual death.
 
This fiendish computer virus of the brain even has you sending out veiled threats.  My guess is you're a nice, civilized person who does not employ coercion and bullying in your "material" life.  But when your god-meme is activated, it has you waving your hands in ooky-spooky gestures and saying bewaaaaaare, spiritual deeeeeeaaaaathhh!  We are, of course, supposed to take the whole "believe or you'll be tortured forever in Hell" thing as read, so that you don't have to come out and state it blatantly.

You live in the same godless universe we do.

But you see, there is a difficulty with trying to explain the absence of detectable divine power, and issuing implicit threats in your god's name at the same time.  A threat is only as good as the agency issuing it.  If your cosmological bully existed and had muscles to flex, then maybe we'd have reason to be afraid of it (see Omen's post).  Except that you're telling us that there's no observable difference between god's vast power and the absence of god's vast power.

You live in the same godless universe we do.

What you've done here is to explain why your hypothesis ("universe + Christian God") is observationally indistinguishable from ours ("universe").  In other words, there is no way to look at reality and see anything that fits your hypothesis and doesn't fit ours, i.e. in this case, manifestations of your god's activity in Universe.  Instead, you bob and weave and change your hypothesis to conform to the data that fits ours:
Quote from: Hello
My point was, God gives us powers that benefit people in ways that we may not understand.

If the "powers" your god give you only "benefit" people in ways you don't understand, how do you know you even have these powers?  You're basically claiming to know the unknowable and understand that which you say you do not understand.

There is an epistemological principle called Occam's Razor.  What it says is that if there are two explanations that fit the data equally well, but one has extra entities, postulates, etc. that are not needed to explain the data, then those things may be pruned away.  Since you have all but admitted that "universe + god" is functionally equivalent to "universe" (i.e., without god), then "god" is unnecessary and threats in his name offer only illusory terror.  Because...

You live in the same godless universe we do.    

It is a simple, utterly inescapable fact.
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Re: Kcrady - old school
« Reply #144 on: September 24, 2012, 02:51:14 PM »
Morals


OK, UnkleE, Fran, I suppose you do have a point that before I can criticize Jesus for sanctioning genocide, despotism, and slavery, I have to demonstrate that those are morally wrong.  Since neither of you have taken the opportunity to say that you consider genocide, despotism, and slavery to be morally wrong (at least not in any absolute, objective sense), and the Bible which you uphold as the source of your objective, unchanging, non-relative/non-culturally determined Moral Absolutes clearly does sanction these things, I will have to take your silence as implicit sanction, unless you say otherwise.

My Ethical System

I hold that it is possible to establish a system of objective ethics, but it is a process of discovery, like the requirements of physical health.  In other words, we already know "the basics" of what is required for physical health, things like excercize, balanced diet, and so on, but there is still some "fuzzinezs on the edges," as we see in the "four food groups" being changed to the "food pyramid," this being revised a time or two, the debated studies where researchers will say "X is related to incidence of heart disease" while other researchers produce a conflicting study.  However, we know enough now to know that certain things (excercize, a healthy diet, vitamins) are healthy for us, while certain things (heroin, overconsumption of alcohol, open sores) are not healthy for us.

In a similar way, we can know that certain things are "good" for us morally, and certain things are "bad," even if philosophers can produce wildly unlikely hypotheticals in which ethical decisions are difficult to make and pick away at things until they're debating what the meaning of "is" is.

So here goes:

Before we can ask what the proper moral system is, we need to ask, "why do we need a moral system at all?"  In other words, if ethics is to be considered a science, instead of subjective or theological whim, on what facts of reality is it based?

Humans are entities of a certain nature.  Our existence as humans is conditional.[1]  We continually face the alternatives of life and death.  If we fail to take the actions required for our survival, or take actions inimical to our survival, we perish.  The concepts of morals, values, and ethics arise from the concept of life as a process of self-sustaining, self-generated action.  They pertain to a specific set of living beings, namely humans and other sapient entities (i.e. extraterrestrials, if they exist, future sapient ) for whom nature does not provide an automatic set of "proper" behavior patterns.  A shark or a praying mantis has a "given" set of behaviors it needs to engage in if it is to survive, and it has no choice in the matter.  The shark cannot decide to become a vegetarian.  If it fails to adequately perform the behaviors necessary to survive as a shark (i.e. finding and catching prey, avoiding or defeating threats such as dolphins or fishermen), it will perish.

Humans must also adequately do what is necessary to survive as humans.  Unlike other animals, humans are not automatically "programmed" to do what is needed for them to survive as humans.  We have the capacity to deliberate before acting, to engage in volitional, goal-directed action.  We must discover for ourselves what is "good" for us and what isn't, and choose to act on that knowledge. 

This begins with the first choice, with regards to the fundamental alternative: existence, or non-existence.  We choose between life and death.  For the person who chooses death, ethics ceases to have import once they have implemented that decision.[2]

So, the science of ethics begins with a condition, namely, "If you want to live..."

From this we can derive an objective standard of ethics.  Life is something that exists objectively and has objective requirements.  Those things that are required for life to continue may be defined as "values."  For example, access to food, air, and water are "values" to living entities since they are needed to sustain life.  Now, it is possible to "surivive," but to do so on such a level of misery that death may be considered a preferable alternative.  Humans possess an objectively-existent nervous system, psychological makeup, etc. that determines whether we are "miserable" or "happy."

So, "if you want to live," you will need to obtain those conditions that are necessary to continue to want to live, i.e. "flourishing" or "happiness."  Therefore, objective ethics may be derived from a bi-level standard of survival and flourishing. 

Therefore, ethical principles ("oughts") are related to objective facts in the same way other normative prescriptions like medical advice and a health-coach's counsels are.

"If you want to live and be happy, you ougt to do X and refrain from doing Y."

"If you want to cure this sickness, you ought to take these antibiotics according to the instructions on the bottle's label."

"If you want to burn fat and build muscle, then you ought to follow this excercize regimen."

Now, it is possible for humans to be in error about what is required for their survival and flourishing.  If a human makes ethical decisions based on an inaccurate perception of the reality of what is needed for human survival and flourishing, the person will not survive and flourish.  You are free to hold inaccurate beliefs and make inaccurate decisions based on them, but you are not free to succeed at it.  Reality is the court of final appeal.

What this means is that there is an ethical imperative for humans to gain the most accurate possible understanding of reality they can.  There is an objective need for humans to discover and apply generalized operating principles of Universe, and root out and reject errors and delusions.  This leads us to value[3] rationality and logic as means to identify and integrate the facts of reality, and develop a set of protocols that provide us a working "BS Detector," such as peer review and repetition of experimental/observational validation in the scientific method.

Protocols which do not work to separate accurate perception of reality from inaccurate perception of reality--such as "faith"[4]--should be discarded.

Humans are by nature social animals.  By living together in a society, we are able to achieve levels of survival and flourishing we could never hope to reach as isolated subsistence-farmers/hunters.  However, not all societies are equally beneficial to human life and flourishing, and some are demonstrably inimical (e.g. the Soviet Union), which leads to their collapse.  Some societies, such as the United States and Europe, are demonstrably better places to live in than others, such as the Aztec Empire and Nazi Germany.  As "ethics" is the science of how human individuals ought to behave, so "politics" is the science of how socieities ought to be ordered.

"If humans are to survive and flourish in a society, then that society must be so ordered as to enhance the survival and flourishing of its individual members."

Now, entire book-length treatises can be written explaining these things in detail.

For the purposes of this post, I am going to focus on ethical and political principles related to what is needed for humans to coexist peacefully together in society (this being demonstrably superior to a Hobbesian "war of all against all" in terms of human life and flourishing).  While all human societies that endured for any significant period of time have discovered at least some of the "basics" of objective ethics ("don't kill each other" "don't steal from each other" etc.), some have discovered and applied more than others, and did so more consistently.

Savages in New Guinea figured out that it wasn't good to just randomly kill and eat members of their own tribe (so far so good), but they did not discover, or choose to apply that principle to other tribes.  In other words, it's demonstrably wrong to kill and eat "us," but we don't apply that principle to "them."  The result is a meta-society of brutal, warring tribes that is able to survive on only a minimal level.

If we compare them with the advanced societies where people suvivie (have much longer life expectancies) and flourish (live at a much higher level of prosperity and happiness) more effectively, we can compare the ethical and political principles being used in both cases and accept those differences in the level of survival and flourishing as objective indicators of superior knowledge and application of objective moral and political principles in the advanced societies.  We can do the same thing with regard to the advanced societies and ancient societies, i.e. compare the United States or European Union with ancient Israel, or ancient Greece with ancient Israel. 

Humans possess neural structures called "mirror neurons" which enable us to understand what is happening when we see another human being or animal in pain, and in a psychological sense, feel it ourselves.  This is "empathy."  As we can an understanding of what is "good" for us (health, prosperity, happy children, etc.) and what is "bad" for us (torture, being killed, being raped), we can choose whether or not to apply this understanding to others, and how broadly.

Historically, humans have tended to apply their highest ethical understandings to the ones they define as "us" while exempting the ones they define as "them" from the protection of ethics.  I call this the "horizon of empathy."  One thing we can see that distinguishes the advanced societies from the primitive ones is broadened horizons of empathy.  For example, in the era in which the Books of Moses were written, men of that time understood that rape was a Bad Thing--if it happened to them.  We see this in the narratives of Lot in Sodom, and the story in Judges about the man and his concubine.

In both cases, male visitors come to a city and the men of the city want to rape them.  In both cases, their hosts recognize this as bad--they would not want to be raped because of the pain, injury, and violation involved, and they apply this understanding empathetically to their male guests.  However, they do not apply this understanding to women.  Lot offers his daughters to the mob, and the visitor in the other story offers his concubine.  There is no implication in the Bible that they are considered unethical in this.  In the New Testament Lot is referred to as "just" despite this action (2 Peter 2:7-8).

In comparison, the Minoans appear to have extended their horizons of empathy to include women (their artwork reflects equality between the sexes, portraying women as prominent figures, and participating equally with men in activities like bull-leaping).  Judging from the archaeological excavations, they achieved a far higher and broader level of prosperity for all social classes than other societies of their era.  We can contrast the relative survival and flourishing of modern societies (e.g. the U.S. and Europe vs. the Islamic nations) and see, as a demonstrable fact that expanded horizons of empathy (to include women, people of other races/ethnicities, etc.) among other things (such as freedom of thought and action) provide higher levels of human survival and flourishing.

I doubt that very many Christians would prefer the Israel of Moses' time, the Judea of Jesus' time or the Christian Empire of St. Augustine's, to the United States or Europe as a place to live and raise their children.

Now, I'm sure that pretty much everyone here, including UnkleE and Fran, would not like to have themselves and their loved ones murdered in a genocide, or used as slaves, or live under an iron despotism.  Right?  We can all agree on that, can't we?

From the quotes of mine UnkleE citied in the OP, we can see that Jesus sanctions genocide, slavery, and despotic monarchy (with him as the proper despot), unless maybe he's just speaking in incomprehensible riddles.

Premise 1: Jesus sanctions genocide, slavery, and despotic monarchy, in many clear statements of his own, and by claiming divine sanction for the OT. 

Premise 2: Genocide, slavery, and despotic monarchy are demonstrably inimical to human survival and flourishing.

Premise 3: Our acceptance of the fact of Premise 2 is demonstrable in that we would not wish these things on ourselves or our loved ones (those within our horizon of empathy).

Conclusion: Therefore, Jesus is not (at least not always) a "pleasant" (i.e. moral) guy.
           
 1.  Even if one accepts the idea that human consciousness somehow survives the death of the body and goes on to exist in some other state, the person becomes another sort of entity, with a new set of ethics to be derived from its new nature, whatever that is.  For example, an ethical principle that murder is wrong has no application to an entity that can neither kill nor be killed.  Likewise, sexual ethics that apply to humans do not apply to sexless disembodied entities, or apply differently, if they have a different sort of sexuality.

 2.  This brings up the issue of suicide bombers.  Is suicide bombing ethical?  This depends on the truth-status of the propositions on which the suicide bomber is acting, i.e. does his life continue after his death, is there a God who is the ultimate arbiter of right and wrong, and who rewards suicide bombers with a paradise of doe-eyed virgins?  Does this God consider suicide bombing ethical and reward it?  If these propositions are false, then we may reject suicide bombing, and furthermore, condemn the belief system that promotes it as inimical to human life, i.e. evil.  Since we are discussing the ethics of Jesus here, an in-depth debate about suicide bombers and Islam is beyond the scope of this thread.
 3.  A "value" is something one acts to gain and keep.
 4.  "Faith" in the sense of choosing to believe in something without regard to evidence, or in contradiction to the evidence (as in Tertullian's maxim, "Credo quia absurdum," I believe [in Christianity] because it is absurd) is a threat to human life because it strips us of the ability to question ideas held on that basis and root them out if they're wrong.  A Christian with complete faith in the Bible and a Muslim with complete faith in the Quran have no basis on which they can come together and discover which (if either) of them is correct.  The result, as demonstrated by history, is the resort to violence.  It is better to accept ten falsehoods on the basis of reason, than one truth on faith, because the former leaves you with the ability to uncover falsehoods, while the latter does not.
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