Author Topic: A question about the WWGHA text...  (Read 13272 times)

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Offline Gnu Ordure

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A question about the WWGHA text...
« on: January 07, 2009, 04:27:32 AM »
I came across the WWGHA web-site recently, and was sufficiently interested to read a few chapters.
 
In one section, though, I came across what seems to be some dodgy reasoning.
 
In Section 2, Chapter 13, the author attempts to establish that the Bible is an "all-or-nothing book", ie
 
Quote
It is when you start thinking about the Bible in this way that you understand something very important about the Bible. Either the entire Bible really is God's Word, or the entire Bible was written by primitive men with absolutely no input from God.
 

Now, what he's doing here is applying The Law of the Excluded Middle ; (A is either B or Not-B). ie the choice is defined as being between black or white - grey is excluded as a valid answer.(I admit I haven't yet found out why he wants to pursue this line of argument, because I haven't read the whole thing).
   
Anyway, I don't see why this has to be true. I can imagine all manner of things can start off from a state of purity, and then be subjected to increasing degrees of contamination or dilution ie there is a spectrum of variation between purity at one end and contamination at the other.
 
Thus in the case of the Bible, imagine that it starts off written entirely by God. Then someone comes along, and adds one page of their own, so that the book is now slightly contaminated.
 
Now, can you imagine that happening ? Or does it seem impossible to you ?
 
It doesn't seem impossible to me. It seems entirely plausible that a book could be amended any number of times over hundreds of years, accidentally or deliberately, and thus end up contaminated, to a greater or lesser extent.
 
Yet the author of WWGHA says that in the case of the Bible it's impossible, that it could not have happened.
 
Interesting.
 
Why not, exactly ?
 
He explains : 
   
Quote
Here is the reason for this very strong dividing line:

If part of the Bible came from God and part came from primitive men, how can you possibly know which is which? How do you know if Jesus really is resurrected, or if that's just a make-believe story inserted by primitive men? How do you know if God wrote the Ten Commandments or not? If any part of the Bible has been polluted by primitive men, you have to reject the whole thing. There is no way to know who wrote what, so the entire book is invalid.

There really is no middle ground. The Bible has to be an all-or-nothing book. Either the entire Bible came from God, or none of it did.
 

er, that's it ? that's the proof ?
 
I'm sorry, but that really doesn't cut it for me.
 
He's saying that because an even slightly contaminated Bible would be totally invalid/useless, it couldn't exist.
 
But invalid things can exist. Useless things can exist.
 
I'm sure we can all think of examples of other invalid or useless things.
 
So it seems to me his proof fails, and a partially contaminated Bible remains a logical possibility.
 
And I think that he's therefore not justified in talking, further down the page, about 
 
Quote
the fact that the Bible is an all-or-nothing book,

 
I guess I should go and read the rest and find out where he goes with this "fact".
 
 
 
There's another problem, though, with his reasoning.
 
Why does he state that an even slightly contaminated Bible would be totally useless ?
 
Because :
Quote
How can you possibly know which parts came from God and which parts were inserted by primitive men? You have absolutely no way to know whether the slavery passages came from God or primitive men.


You can't know, I agree...
 
... but you could have an calculated guess, couldn't you ?
 
Here's an analogy. Say I'm a teacher who hands out a fact-sheet about the Moon to his class. Unbeknownst to me, my mischievous son has tampered with it, so it goes like this :
 
Quote
The Moon is Earth's only natural satellite, and the fifth largest natural satellite in the Solar system. The average centre-to-centre distance from the Earth to the Moon is 384,403 km, about thirty times the diameter of the Earth. The Moon's diameter is 3,474 km, a little more than a quarter that of the Earth. Thus, the Moon's volume is about 2 percent that of Earth; the pull of gravity at its surface is about 17 percent that at the Earth's surface. The Moon is made of green cheese, and makes a complete orbit around the Earth every 27.3 days.

So, is the fact-sheet totally useless ?
 
I don't think so.
 
If I told my students that it was contaminated, do you think that they could see where ?
 
I think they could. (Even if I didn't tell them it was contaminated - they'd still spot it).
 
And slavery sticks out like green cheese.
 
 
 
 
So for me, the author's proof fails on two counts.
 
I'd be interested to know what people think...
 
Please be relatively gentle, this is my first thread here...

Gnu.
 
« Last Edit: January 07, 2009, 04:31:34 AM by Gnu Ordure »

Offline Pale Rider

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Re: A question about the WWGHA text...
« Reply #1 on: January 07, 2009, 07:15:06 AM »
Quote
How can you possibly know which parts came from God and which parts were inserted by primitive men? You have absolutely no way to know whether the slavery passages came from God or primitive men.


You can't know, I agree...
 
... but you could have an calculated guess, couldn't you ?
 
Here's an analogy. Say I'm a teacher who hands out a fact-sheet about the Moon to his class. Unbeknownst to me, my mischievous son has tampered with it, so it goes like this :
 
Quote
The Moon is Earth's only natural satellite, and the fifth largest natural satellite in the Solar system. The average centre-to-centre distance from the Earth to the Moon is 384,403 km, about thirty times the diameter of the Earth. The Moon's diameter is 3,474 km, a little more than a quarter that of the Earth. Thus, the Moon's volume is about 2 percent that of Earth; the pull of gravity at its surface is about 17 percent that at the Earth's surface. The Moon is made of green cheese, and makes a complete orbit around the Earth every 27.3 days.

So, is the fact-sheet totally useless ?

 The author is correct in his position because you have no way to prove that the verses come from God or man. The whole Bible has been tampered with its 6500 years old and been rewritten more times than King Tut has had birthdays. Welcome to the board.

Offline Airyaman

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Re: A question about the WWGHA text...
« Reply #2 on: January 07, 2009, 08:10:02 AM »
The only problem with viewing the bible as "grey" is that you can never know which parts are to be taken literally or otherwise. Its just a guessing game and that is the reason there is so much confusion in the Christian (and Jewish) religion.
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Offline xphobe

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Re: A question about the WWGHA text...
« Reply #3 on: January 07, 2009, 08:48:11 AM »
The green cheese example implies that the only possible alterations in the bible are going to be obvious ones.  This is itself an "excluded middle" fallacy.
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Offline maninay

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Re: A question about the WWGHA text...
« Reply #4 on: January 07, 2009, 09:08:15 AM »
If i'm god,nobody can alter my word :'(

Offline velkyn

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Re: A question about the WWGHA text...
« Reply #5 on: January 07, 2009, 09:16:52 AM »
bm
"There is no use in arguing with a man who can multiply anything by the square root of minus 1" - Pirates of Venus, ERB

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Offline Gnu Ordure

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Re: A question about the WWGHA text...
« Reply #6 on: January 07, 2009, 04:56:53 PM »
Hi guys.

A couple of you are missing my point. I agree that it's not possible to prove which parts of the Bible might be written by God and which parts by people. That's not the point.

In the WWGHA text, the author attempts to reach a particular conclusion with logical argument.

My point is that his logic seems to be faulty.

Since I made my post I've read the rest of the WWGHA section on the Bible, so now I see how his argument develops.

I can summarize it in a syllogism :

1. The Bible is an all-or-nothing book.
2. Some parts of the Bible were obviously written by people.
3. Therefore, none of the Bible was writtten by God.


The validity of the conclusion (3) depends on the truth of the major premise (1) and the minor premise (2).

I concur with the minor premise.

But the major premise is wrong, for the reasons I've stated.

So the conclusion is wrong.

That's my point.



Pale Rider said:
Quote
The author is correct in his position because you have no way to prove that the verses come from God or man.

I agree, PR.

Quote
The whole Bible has been tampered with its 6500 years old and been rewritten more times than King Tut has had birthdays.

Agreed.

Quote
Welcome to the board.

Thank you.

Airyaman said:
Quote
The only problem with viewing the bible as "grey" is that you can never know which parts are to be taken literally or otherwise. Its just a guessing game and that is the reason there is so much confusion in the Christian (and Jewish) religion.

Agreed on both points, Airyaman.

Xphobe said :
Quote
The green cheese example implies that the only possible alterations in the bible are going to be obvious ones.  This is itself an "excluded middle" fallacy.

Analogies have their limitations, xphobe, but I wasn't trying to imply that any alterations would be obvious. I was saying that the moon being made of cheese was as unlikely as God condoning slavery. In each case, the alteration is obvious.

Other less obvious alterations may well exist. I am not excluding these, so there is no fallacy.

maninay said :
Quote
If i'm god,nobody can alter my word

If I'm God, I can allow my word to be altered  ;)

velkyn said :
Quote
bm

Sorry, I don't know what that means, velkyn.


Gnu.
« Last Edit: January 07, 2009, 05:10:56 PM by Gnu Ordure »

Offline Pale Rider

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Re: A question about the WWGHA text...
« Reply #7 on: January 07, 2009, 05:09:52 PM »
velkyn said :
Quote
Quote
bm

Sorry, I don't know what that means, velkyn.


Gnu.

Gnu it means bookmark.

Offline Gnu Ordure

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Re: A question about the WWGHA text...
« Reply #8 on: January 07, 2009, 05:16:44 PM »
Thanks, PR, but still confused.

Why is he saying 'bookmark' to me ?

What does it mean ?

(Sorry, I'm kind of new at this forum lark...)




Gnu.

« Last Edit: January 07, 2009, 05:23:32 PM by Gnu Ordure »

Offline Pale Rider

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Re: A question about the WWGHA text...
« Reply #9 on: January 07, 2009, 05:19:41 PM »
Still confused, PR.

Why is he saying 'bookmark' to me ?

What does it mean ?

(Sorry, I'm kind of new at this forum lark...)

Gnu.



He is just bookmarking it in order to be able to come back to it without searching for the thread. Don't worry its nothing to do with anything you said its just like bookmarking your page in a book you are reading...lots of folks here do it. Because unless its a real popular thread most times it will end up overshadowed by another one.

Offline Gnu Ordure

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Re: A question about the WWGHA text...
« Reply #10 on: January 07, 2009, 05:30:17 PM »
Okay, I get it, thanks PR ...

Actually, when I first saw it, I looked it up in an acronym dictionary, and the only result I got was "Bowel Movement".

From which I assumed Velkyn was saying that I was talking a load of c55p.



Maybe he was.

Maybe I am.


Gnu.

Offline Dkit

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Re: A question about the WWGHA text...
« Reply #11 on: January 07, 2009, 06:00:09 PM »
and the only result I got was "Bowel Movement".

Actually, in some of the other threads, this may be a more accurate use of "BM".   ;D
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Offline Gnu Ordure

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Re: A question about the WWGHA text...
« Reply #12 on: January 07, 2009, 06:32:54 PM »
Hi Velkyn,

I just noticed that here on this site, you have the option of displaying gender identifiers.

I hadn't noticed, and not being able to deconstruct "Velkyn" into a gender-specific location, I defaulted you to "male".

And therefore used all the wrong pronouns.

I am, as you may imagine, mortified.

Please forgive me.


Gnu.

Offline I KILLED JEBUS

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Re: A question about the WWGHA text...
« Reply #13 on: January 07, 2009, 06:44:41 PM »
so why do you dismiss  joseph smith the founder of the menonnite religion? was he just taking drugs making him see angels? or did he like the original founders of all religions make it up.....call me skeptical?

Anything that has that much room for error because of various views and translations cant have come from ANY god never mind YOURS

there are thousands of denominations of christianity,all having their own interpretations and rules developed as the church elders of the day saw fit
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Offline xphobe

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Re: A question about the WWGHA text...
« Reply #14 on: January 07, 2009, 06:51:49 PM »
Velkyn is the great Photo Snow Leopard Trust, who surpasses all gender designations :)

Here is your syllogism:
1. The Bible is an all-or-nothing book.
2. Some parts of the Bible were obviously written by people.
3. Therefore, none of the Bible was writtten by God.

Like you, I would reject premise 1.  But it is held by a significant subset of Christians, so this may be a valid argument with them.

Furthermore I would make premise 2 stronger: The entire bible was written by people.

IF God exists, and IF God communicates with people, and IF they understand the communication correctly, and IF they choose to, they MAY write down some of this truth in the bible.  No guarantees to any of that though.

All we know is that some parts are demonstrably false, which sheds doubt on the rest. 

Re your moon analogy, reading that it's made of green cheese doesn't invalidate the entire report, but it certainly does want to make me proofread it and doublecheck it against other authorities.   Unfortunately with the bible there are no other authorities.
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Offline Husky

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Re: A question about the WWGHA text...
« Reply #15 on: January 07, 2009, 08:45:57 PM »

Here is your syllogism:
1. The Bible is an all-or-nothing book.
2. Some parts of the Bible were obviously written by people.
3. Therefore, none of the Bible was written by God.

Furthermore I would make premise 2 stronger: The entire bible was written by people.

IF God exists, and IF God communicates with people, and IF they understand the communication correctly, and IF they choose to, they MAY write down some of this truth in the bible.  No guarantees to any of that though.


I have reasons to believe ALL of the bible was written by man. No I will not use the typical cheapskate theist circular reasoning. That God doesn't exist. Therefore all of the bible was written by man.

Instead, let's assume God exist. Why would he need to get others to write the book for him. After a few translations there's bound to be some errors here and there. Even the DNA replication process makes mistakes once in a while. For a being that can create the world in seven days. Surely writing a book can't be that hard?
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Offline Pale Rider

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Re: A question about the WWGHA text...
« Reply #16 on: January 07, 2009, 08:47:28 PM »

Here is your syllogism:
1. The Bible is an all-or-nothing book.
2. Some parts of the Bible were obviously written by people.
3. Therefore, none of the Bible was written by God.

Furthermore I would make premise 2 stronger: The entire bible was written by people.

IF God exists, and IF God communicates with people, and IF they understand the communication correctly, and IF they choose to, they MAY write down some of this truth in the bible.  No guarantees to any of that though.


I have reasons to believe ALL of the bible was written by man. No I will not use the typical cheapskate theist circular reasoning. That God doesn't exist. Therefore all of the bible was written by man.

Instead, let's assume God exist. Why would he need to get others to write the book for him. After a few translations there's bound to be some errors here and there. Even the DNA replication process makes mistakes once in a while. For a being that can create the world in seven days. Surely writing a book can't be that hard?

Must have been neither he nor his supposed son wrote any of the Bible.

Offline Vynn

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Re: A question about the WWGHA text...
« Reply #17 on: January 07, 2009, 09:20:40 PM »
Maybe it's a fallacy. If it is, it's not that important to me. What's important to me is that a believer of the book must decide whether it is ALL god's word or only PARTIALLY god's word. If the believer decides to believe that it is only partially god's word, then he will constantly be in doubt (if he's intellectually honest) as to which passages are god's word and which aren't. That kind of continual doubt doesn't seem to abide well with believers.

Offline velkyn

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Re: A question about the WWGHA text...
« Reply #18 on: January 08, 2009, 01:17:04 PM »
Hi Velkyn,

I just noticed that here on this site, you have the option of displaying gender identifiers.

I hadn't noticed, and not being able to deconstruct "Velkyn" into a gender-specific location, I defaulted you to "male".

And therefore used all the wrong pronouns.

I am, as you may imagine, mortified.

Please forgive me.


Gnu.

No offence taken. I get it all of the time.  Most people, women included, don't expect my agressive postings to be coming from a woman. 
Like xphobe says, consider me a big kitty  :)http://www.snowleopard.org/

to add on to the pile, I find that the entire book is written by man, no chance for any divine bits at all.  So, the syllogism fails for me.  Vynn has pretty much nailed it, as usual.
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Offline Dragnet

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Re: A question about the WWGHA text...
« Reply #19 on: January 08, 2009, 02:08:49 PM »
I don't think it fails.

If we have a work that is purportedly "Divinely inspired", then we find that much of what is in it is not just fallible or misunderstood but we can show with ease that is is just flat wrong.

How do we know what divine is?
Has anybody you know experienced divinity in the first person?

If you can't trust that all what you read is divine, you must exclude it all as possibly tainted.

If you do trust that any of it is divine then you have to accept it all as divine.

I am responsible with my actions NOW so I don't HAVE to be responsible for them later.

Offline realdemocracy

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Re: A question about the WWGHA text...
« Reply #20 on: January 08, 2009, 02:43:58 PM »
Indeed, it is very much this problem - which parts are directly divinely inspired and thus perfect truth, which are fables or parables written by wise men indirectly inspired by god and thus useful for teaching, and which parts are complete "bm" - that has led to the separation of Christianity (and Islam) from Judaism, as well as the separation of Christianity into thousands of sects such that some Christians will call other Christians heretics.

To address Gnu's assertion that slavery in the Bible is akin to the green cheese in his analogy, the books to be included in The Bible were agreed upon by several councils of theologians who apparently believed that they were all divinely inspired, despite slavery (or other objectionable bits).  The books they did not consider to be divinely inspired were left out, like 1 Infancy, which tells of Jesus' murderous boyhood.

Thus, while you may feel that slavery sticks out like green cheese, these medieval church scholars found it to be entirely compatible with the idea that the books containing it could be divinely inspired and infallible.  And there has, as yet, been no new ecumenical council assembled to remove them from the canon. So it would seem it is still unclear.

Therefore, we may say that The Bible is not necessarily an all-or-nothing proposition, but we have no way of knowing which parts are infallible truth and which are hogwash.  Furthermore, outside this hodgepodge of untrustworthy literature, He Who Cannot Be Named has provided precious little else to humanity to recommend belief in his existence or his worthiness of worship.  Now, if he were indeed a benevolent deity who wanted us all to find him and be saved, wouldn't he provide us a little more to go on?

Offline Gnu Ordure

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Re: A question about the WWGHA text...
« Reply #21 on: January 08, 2009, 06:30:39 PM »
xphobe said :
Quote
Here is your syllogism:

1. The Bible is an all-or-nothing book.
2. Some parts of the Bible were obviously written by people.
3. Therefore, none of the Bible was writtten by God.

Xphobe, that syllogism was my distillation of the entire argument that The Author puts forward in the 6 chapters of section 2 of WWGHA.

In Chapter 12, he explains why the authorship of the Bible is so crucial.
In Chapter 13, he introduces his major premise ("Either the entire Bible came from God, or none of it did.").
In Chapters 14, 15, and 16 he gives examples in support of his minor premise (sexism, murder etc).

(In Chapters 14 and 16 he repeats the major premise, so you don't forget where he's going with the argument).

In Chapter 17, he repeats both premises, and draws the logical conclusion ("You can accept that the Bible is the work of primitive men and is therefore completely irrelevant to us today").

If any of you disagree with this deconstruction of The Author's argument, please do. I may have misunderstood it.

But for the time being, I'm saying that the conclusion is untrue because the major premise is untrue.

Which some of you agree with.

Xphobe, you said:

Quote
Like you, I would reject premise 1.


Realdemocracy agrees :

Quote
Therefore, we may say that The Bible is not necessarily an all-or-nothing proposition

vynn said :

Quote
What's important to me is that a believer of the book must decide whether it is ALL god's word or only PARTIALLY god's word.

But according The Author, Vynn, PARTIALLY is not an option - he states this as a fact. Presumably you think it is an option. In which case you also disagree with the premise.


So it would appear that we are in agreement on this.

The major premise is untrue, so the conclusion is invalid.

Agreed ?

Or not ?


Cheers,

Gnu.
« Last Edit: January 08, 2009, 07:06:14 PM by Gnu Ordure »

Offline Gnu Ordure

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Re: A question about the WWGHA text...
« Reply #22 on: January 08, 2009, 07:04:47 PM »
Quote
I find that the entire book is written by man

As I'm sure The Author does, Velkyn, but that's the conclusion of his argument, not one of the premises.

Quote
no chance for any divine bits at all.

There's always a chance, however slim.

You can't prove that God doesn't exist. Many philosophers over the centuries have attempted to do so. None have succeeded.

Likewise, many philosophers over the centuries have attempted to prove that God does exist. None have succeeded.

Because if the proof existed, either way, everybody would have accepted it by now, right ?

Which they evidently haven't, as atheists and theists still exist.


There is no proof, either way.

So we all have to choose what to believe.

(Edit: Sorry, that's not quite true - we also have the option to be agnostic, and believe nothing ("I don't know"). But that's still a choice)

Gnu.
« Last Edit: January 08, 2009, 07:54:43 PM by Gnu Ordure »

Offline xphobe

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Re: A question about the WWGHA text...
« Reply #23 on: January 08, 2009, 07:38:05 PM »
I don't defend the author's arguments because in many cases I find them overly simplistic and incomplete.  Sometimes he makes a humorous point (for example, The Milk Jug) but the real power of his online book is that it serves to bring people here to discuss things we think are important.

If I say "The bible was written entirely by man" it's because all books are written entirely by man.  There are no exceptions.  I could hedge and say "as far as we know", but that doesn't mean I credit other possibilities as having equal likelyhood.

I suppose a dog could write a book, but that's pretty far-fetched.  And even that is more believable than the assertion that a book was written by a god, because while dogs exist and I can show you one, I can't do that with a god.

By the way, isn't every premise the conclusion of a previous argument?
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Offline Count Iblis

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Re: A question about the WWGHA text...
« Reply #24 on: January 08, 2009, 08:12:07 PM »
Anyway, I don't see why this has to be true. I can imagine all manner of things can start off from a state of purity, and then be subjected to increasing degrees of contamination or dilution ie there is a spectrum of variation between purity at one end and contamination at the other.

I haven't read the document that you speak of, but it seems to me that you have a valid point. OTOH, I was an Atheist long before WWGHA existed so any flaws in his argument don't really effect me.

Quote
Thus in the case of the Bible, imagine that it starts off written entirely by God. Then someone comes along, and adds one page of their own, so that the book is now slightly contaminated.

If God went to the trouble of inspiring the Bible (or parts of it) why does He make no effort to keep it pure? Apparently our salvation just isn't that important to Him.

Religion is an act of sedition against reason.--P.Z. Myers

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you know, hell is going to be so jammed full of lying Christians that I fear I will never get in.  --velkyn

Offline Gnu Ordure

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Re: A question about the WWGHA text...
« Reply #25 on: January 08, 2009, 08:22:53 PM »
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I don't defend the author's arguments because in many cases I find them overly simplistic and incomplete.

... or, as in this case, xphobe, fallacious.


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By the way, isn't every premise the conclusion of a previous argument?

I don't think so, no. A premise is simply a statement (or axiom, or assumption). It may be true, or false, or somewhere in between.


Gnu.
« Last Edit: January 08, 2009, 08:24:47 PM by Gnu Ordure »

Offline Gnu Ordure

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Re: A question about the WWGHA text...
« Reply #26 on: January 08, 2009, 08:35:49 PM »
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If God went to the trouble of inspiring the Bible (or parts of it) why does He make no effort to keep it pure?


I don't know, Count.

Maybe he changed his mind about us.

Maybe he's messing with our minds.

Maybe he just forgot about us, and just went away.


Heck, anything could have happened...

Who knows ?


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Apparently our salvation just isn't that important to Him.

It's a possibility.


Gnu.
« Last Edit: January 08, 2009, 09:32:55 PM by Gnu Ordure »

Offline xphobe

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Re: A question about the WWGHA text...
« Reply #27 on: January 08, 2009, 09:34:01 PM »
Heck, anything could have happened...

Who knows ?

... including god not writing or inspiring the bible at all.
... including god not existing.

Who knows?
I stopped believing for a little while this morning. Journey is gonna be so pissed when they find out...

Offline alejo_radical

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Re: A question about the WWGHA text...
« Reply #28 on: January 08, 2009, 09:48:10 PM »
If it was written by God, God would not allow it to be changed. So either it was written by God, or not. The logic is valid in this case.

Remember that God is omnipotent, so God would not allow their word to be changed, unless God were malevolent.
« Last Edit: January 08, 2009, 09:50:01 PM by alejo_radical »