Friday, April 30, 2010

How bankrupt is your state?

The bankruptcy tables along with ranking methodology are here. I was surprised that California is 19th in the rankings, meaning that 18 states are in more precarious financial situations. Another factor not included in the study is the welfare caseload. Eventually the savings of non-union elderly will be targeted to balance the budget. Thus, if I want to only think about myself for retirement, Wyoming and Idaho look to be at the top.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

1982: Remembering an earlier dispute between California and another state.

"It's like the Statue of Liberty. We kind of feel there's a beacon in California (saying), 'Give us your felons, your pickpockets, your crooked masses yearning to be free.'" - South Dakota Governor William Janklow.

This dispute was started by Jerry Brown years ago for not extraditing someone to South Dakota regarding a riot for which he had been convicted. Instead, the convict was made the chancellor of a university. South Dakota responded by giving criminals a chance to avoid prosecution by moving to California. The quote is certainly a classic.
Christian Fanatics and WMDs.

Remember a month ago when the news was all agog over the FBI's raid of a "Christian militia". I almost forgot about it. Now it is back in the news. That Bill Clinton and I would forget something big isn't too surprising, but the news article claims that the FBI agent in charge couldn't remember anything either during the court hearing.
Quarry Lakes Swim Area: Rope Down - sort of.

The storms of yesterday and today apparently did the work, cutting off the reduced swim area completely. I decided to swim just outside the buoys to get a workout in anyway. The water felt colder today, which was probably due to the storm whipping up waves which brought the colder water up from below. There were only a few birds that protested my presence outside the allowed swimming area.
California moves to cut ties with Arizona over illegal immigrant bill ...

San Francisco has already taken action. This is a reminder that the loudest moralizers are those who are most committed to immorality. From my perspective, the Arizona bill is wrong because it emphasizes the criminalization of legitimate work, which is contrary to the Biblical commands in both the old and new testaments. Those who scream about the bill are offended that it violates individual civil liberties, but fail to recognize that a corporation is a collection of individuals. When you attack a corporation, you attack a group of individuals - owners, employees and customers - but this is OK per the socialist mentality. Having said that, I have done enough and won't run off throwing a hysterical tantrum like a leftist.

What do Californians think, rather than California's elite?

This reminds me of Proposition 187 which passed in 1997 having received 59% of the vote. The proposition was to cut off all the vast quantity of financial benefits that are provided by the California taxpayer to illegal immigrants, with the exception of emergency medical care. This was quickly ruled unconstitutional by a constitutionally illiterate judge, and the appeals process was dropped later so that the will of the people was overcome by the elites. In 1997, the economy was still doing incredibly well, so I have to wonder if Californians wouldn't pass the same law today as they see an insolvent state government yearning for their diminishing wealth at the same time millions of illegal immigrants munch off the benefits. While the elites are busy condemning Arizona, do they ever give a thought that the people they rule would almost certainly pass the same law, given a chance?

What would happen if Arizona cut its ties to California?

The primary tie I am thinking of is the power lines that ship electricity to California from Arizona, because the California environment is too precious to have power plants built. Then there is the California aqueduct which takes water from the Colorado river and sends it to Los Angeles. This tie technically can't be cut, but Arizona could run the Colorado river through canals away from the border and donate it to more appreciative farmers in Mexico.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Epictetus (55AD-135) regarding admission of faults.

"There are some faults which men willingly admit, and others they do not. No one will admit, for instance, that he is foolish or unintelligent, but, on the contrary, you will hear everyone say, 'I wish my luck was on a level with my wits.' But they readily admit that they are cowards ... A man will not readily admit that he lacks self-control, or admit at all that he is unjust, envious or a busybody; but most will admit that they give way to pity. What is the reason for all this? The principal reason is confusion and inconsistency regarding questions of good and evil ..." - The Dialogues of Epictetus, II.21.1-8

Certainly there are a number of excellent observations in this, but also some things which I will take issue with. For example, I will readily admit that I am foolish and unintelligent, but then take offense when others treat me this way! Having been blessed by God beyond all reason, I certainly cannot say, 'I wish my luck was on a level with my wits', because that would leave me impoverished.

In the matter of faults, it does seem to me that there is a contrast between the Stoics and Christianity:

"'When anyone is guilty in any of these ways, he must confess in what way he has sinned'" - Leviticus 5:5

The Stoic deals with his faults internally and they are between him and himself alone. The Christian, however, must confess - first to God - but also to others we have wronged, and sometimes even to others who aren't even party to the dispute. We must also repent and forgive. These too involve God, and sometimes men, so that the purely internal reformation of the state of the philosopher is impossible for the Christian.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Epictetus (55AD-135) regarding disjoint body parts, as in The Addams Family.

"I will say that it is natural for the foot, for instance, to be clean. But if you take it as a foot, and not as a detached object, it will be fitting for it to walk in the dirt, and tread upon thorns and sometimes even to be cut off for the sake of the body as a whole; otherwise it is no longer a foot. ... Do you not know that, just as the foot in detachment is no longer a foot, so you in detachment are no longer a man? For what is a man? A part of a city, first, of that made up by gods and men; and next, of that to which you immediately belong, which is a miniature of the universal city." - The Discourses of Epictetus, II.5.24-26


"Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. If the foot should say, 'Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,' it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. And if the ear should say, 'Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,' it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body.

Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it." - 1 Corinthians 12:14-16,27

There is a very slight chance that the Stoic Philosopher and the Apostle Paul came up with a nearly identical analogy independently. Given that Paul writes perhaps half a century before Epictetus, it would seem from the above that Paul is the likely source. On the other hand, they both may have derived this analogy from earlier sources.

This reminds me a bit of the Logos, which represented wisdom and reason. The philosophers worshiped the Logos, but had no notion of it as a being with whom they could have a relationship. John chapter 1 changes all this by introducing Jesus as the Logos. In the analogy of body parts, we see the same sort of contrast in that what combines from the many somehow becomes the 'body of Christ', so that this being with whom we can have a relationship is central to the Christian view of the body, but missing from the Stoic. Another difference that strikes me here is that the Stoic version seems to allow an opt out from the body, whereas the Christian one doesn't.
New Swimming Season starts at Quarry Lakes.

This is one of those very rare photographs of me. The water was a bit cold getting in, but it felt nice and warm after 200 yards. Water World has a few swims coming up. The "Swim Around The Rock" looks good - swimming out to Alcatraz, around it, and then back to San Francisco.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Epictetus (55AD-135) regarding confused travelers.

"People behave like a traveller, who, returning to his own country, comes across a good inn on the road, and because the inn pleases him, remains there. Have you forgotten your intention, man? You were not travelling to this place, but only through it. 'But this is a fine inn.' And how many other fine inns are there, and how many pleasant meadows? But only to be passed through on the way. Your business is, to return to your country, to relieve the anxieties of your family, to perform the duties of a citizen, to marry, to have children, and to hold public office. for you have not, I think, come into the world to pick out the most charming places, but to live and act in the place where you were born, and of which you have been appointed a citizen." - The Discourses of Epictetus, II.23.36-39.


Saturday, April 24, 2010

A new poll is up per Livingsword's request. This is based on Stephen Hawkings' recent statement that we shouldn't speak to Aliens because it is too dangerous.
Home, Sweet Home.

After many weeks of travel, I finally flew into SFO last night and drove the last bit home. Lord willing, I will get to stay home for a few weeks. This morning I got up to take a tour of the yard and snapped a few pictures. Yes, I know, my home is a fixer upper. But ...

... just look at the neighborhood.

Californians do tend to be pretentious showoffs.

My friends run and hide when they see me so that all I get is a fleeting glimpse.

My enemies are in my face.

But seriously, with a view like this, why would anyone want to live somewhere else?

Epictetus (55AD-135): Regarding wavering Jews and Baptism.

"Why, then, do you call yourself a Stoic, why do you deceive the world, why when you are a Hellene do you act the part of a Jew? Do not you see in what sense a person is called a Jew, a Syrian, an Egyptian? And, when we see anyone wavering between two creeds, we are accustomed to say, 'He is no Jew, but is acting the part.' But, when he assumes the attitude of mind of one who has been baptized and made his choice, then he really is a Jew and is called one too. And so we likewise, who make a show of having been baptized, are Jews in name only, but are in practice something else, being out of sympathy with reason and far from applying the principles we talk of, for all that we pride ourselves on them as being men who have knowledge of them." - The Discourses of Epictetus, III.9.19-22.

Epictetus was a non-Christian, classical Stoic philosopher. The philosophers wore coarse woven clothes and kept their beards long, but this was just the external show. As he is arguing, it is the inward change which the philosopher is hoping to make - a notion that today's philosophers would find incomprehensible. The example he chose looks very much like Christianity, yet is called "Jew". The tone is neutral, yet the observation is timeless. Today so many of us Christians - me included - merely act the part, wavering between two creeds. Today we also have an education system that is designed to train young people to waver between different creeds - especially atheism and Christianity, so that neither atheist nor Christian can be true to their calling. Of course we need no training to waver between materialism and Christianity, or self glorification and Christianity.

I started reading this book a few weeks ago and set it aside before coming back to it yesterday. The Stoics have a large number of teachings that are extremely similar to the Bible. Analogies frequently use identical imagery, yet the application in the Bible is often distinctly Christian. The translator of this book insists that the Stoics took nothing from the Christians. I will take a neutral stance on that. Epictetus was a child when the Apostle Paul died, so certainly it is possible for Epictetus to have used analogies taken from Paul, while the curiosity of the philosopher would also be in play to have him study the Bible. On the other hand, Stoic philosophy was around for centuries before the New Testament was written, so some of the Biblical imagery clearly is taken from earlier Stoics. One example of this from Sallust regarding the love of money.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Yosemite Bed and Breakfast.

This place is a few miles outside of Mariposa. We had some great hosts and a truly scenic little stay in this country house. The few pictures should give an idea with wild flowers everywhere and plenty of actors for a remake of The Birds.

Columbia, California. This town is supposed to have the largest number of original California Goldrush era buildings still standing. It is just outside of Sonora which is also a great little tourist area. These are some pictures I took a few weeks ago on the trip to Yosemite.

Those were the good ol' days ... after gold had been discovered, but before political correctness had been invented.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Census "71 Percent" complete.

Can someone explain to me how the progress towards completion of a census can be quantified?

Monday, April 19, 2010

Some more pictures from Valley Forge.

There was a triumph in the end, but this arch mostly celebrates making it through the winter. Only one soldier died.

The Washington Memorial Chapel.

Typical soldiers quarters.

Some remaining buildings for the little town of Valley Forge.
The Christian Delusion - Why Faith Fails, by John Loftus: Chapter 15 - Christianity Was Not Responsible For Modern Science, by Richard Carrier, Ph.D.

In this chapter Dr. Carrier tries to take on Rodney Stark, but it is all done at a hand waving level whereas Rodney will dig in and get his hands dirty going through the evidence. From my perspective, the 19th century atheist hijacking of academia resulted in all kinds of slanders being hurled at Christianity, with A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom setting the standard. The tide has clearly turned because atheists no longer have the control over who gets to publish what, although the stranglehold over academia remains.

With mechanics being my specialty, I have noted earlier that the notion of the universe being governed by laws of space and time is discussed by Anselm, and this really is what forms the foundation of modern science. Newton begins the process of putting these laws onto a firm mathematical basis by developing the scientific method and combining it with calculus. As for the Philosophy of Science, this connects to science through mechanics. If I contrast Christianity's science to atheist science, we see the laws of space and time being put into contrast with the pure lawlessness of evolution, which constantly shifts and defies any attempt to pin it down.

Looking at the entire book, my impression is that Loftus thinks that no one should be able to accept Christianity unless a committee of a dozen fanatical atheists grills that person first and gets satisfactory answers, with 'satisfactory' being determined by the fanatical atheists. Why stop there? We could require that no one should be able to accept atheism without first being approved by a committee of a dozen Wahhabi mullahs? And no one should become Muslim without being approved by Hindus ... Thankfully we have freedom of conscience. Thankfully I have finished reading this book!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Christian Delusion - Why Faith Fails, by John Loftus: Chapter 14 - Atheism Was Not The Cause Of The Holocaust, by Hector Avalos, Ph.D.

I should say that Hector is the best of the authors in this volume at coming up with a clear argument and supporting it. That still doesn't make the conclusions correct.

The first part of this is the attempt to separate the killing of Lenin, Stalin and Mao from atheism. He argues that the church in Russia under Stalin was complicit, but apparently ignores the fact that the church was a state institution. Collectivism killed in some instances, while Gulags and raw killing were also used. From reading this book, it is quite clear of the attitudes that link atheism to the policies of communism: The notion of the absolute intellectual superiority of an elite. The notion that even our core beliefs should be vetted by an approved committee. As an ideology, Communism comes from Karl Marx who clearly was a committed atheist and atheism has been a key feature of communist regimes throughout the world.

Regarding Luther's tract on the Jews, it is painful to read. Certainly I would hope to find out it was a forgery, but I will leave it at that. I am told that my ancestry is Jewish. As a Christian, I would escape Luther's proposed wrath, yet I wouldn't have escaped the holocaust. The Holocost was about race, not religion. This is a point that Hector missed: Hitler's German tribalism is what Mein Kampf begins with, not Christianity. In Mein Kampf, Hitler also writes that the Jews were the cause of all the conflict between the Catholics and Protestants, which should give a clear idea of the vacuous notion of Christianity that he had. Then there is the pre-Christian Swastika.

To give Hector some credit, as a Baptist and a protestant, there are others who have proclaimed Christ as Lord throughout history but might condemn me to death. Certainly it makes me sad and I would hope that they would change their views, but I would ask God to forgive them if I should have to suffer such a fate.

The most incredible bit is the notion that Germany had not yet discovered Darwin, so Germany couldn't have been influenced by atheism. Huh? Perhaps Hector has never heard of Karl Marx or Frederick Nietzsche? We should also point out that atheism had a rather infamous history before Darwin was born with the bloody French Revolution. Church services were banned for a while and several turned into "Temples of Reason", but that was in France. It is quite easy to dismiss the notion that atheism flowed from science when we give a proper accounting of its beginnings. We still have the greatest holocaust of all to look at ... abortion.

The other strain of philosophy in Germany that is well documented is brother of atheism: mysticism. This is the deprecating of Christianity in favor of more primitive paganism or simply a concoction of new age beliefs. The prime example of this is Schiller's poem, Ode To Joy, which includes pagan notions. Since Beethoven turned this into the 9th Symphony, we usually associate it with him. Maybe it is my prejudices, but I generally view 20th century Christianity in Germany as a watered down version that compromised extensively to gain the favor of atheists. Am I missing something?
The Christian Delusion - Why Faith Fails, by John Loftus: Chapter 13 - Christianity Does Not Provide the Basis for Morality, by David Eller, Ph.D.

This chapter is wrong on many levels, beginning with the confusion of a moral code with a list of specific commands. Certainly there are moral codes here and there with pros and cons, but this isn't the basis for morality. Romans 1 talks about a moral code being given to us by God through nature. As Jesus is told to us to be the means by which all things came into existence, the Christian believes that even a pre-Colombian Mayan atheist would still be influenced in morality by Christ. Christianity has fewer rules because God has higher expectations of us: The ability to think through things like the Golden Rule or other higher level commands. We have both freedom and responsibility, and this is where there is a real morality.

Then there are Al Gore's infamous words: "There is no controlling legal authority that says this was in violation of law". The moral rationalist will never fail to miss this point. Morality for humans doesn't exist in a vacuum and it must be balanced against man's evil character. A basis for morality must come with a judgment or humans simply won't take it seriously.

Dr. Eller then goes on to repeat the claim that evolution naturally led to morality, which I hope most thinking people will reject. The fact that a few other animal species show empathy now and then is nice, but what does that have to do with human morality? As someone else argued, even if we assume the most wildly optimistic powers of evolution, we still can't explain why whites from the US would care about blacks in Haiti and sacrifice their resources to help them. Evolution at best would lead to tribalism. More importantly, evolution is based on the rationalization that "it exists, therefore it evolved", ignoring the details. Whether I look at a modern corporation or go back to primitive times of invaders from the steppes pillaging and razing more peaceful societies, the evolutionary meta-narrative seems to be in direct defiance of the facts. The immoral win, and the moral lose, so morality is one of these direct proofs of God's handiwork in creation.

All of this misses the point. No matter what moral code we set up, whether a minimal one or a maximal one, whether abstract or concrete, humans will fail. It is this admission of Christianity that is the core. What do we do about this? It is only through Jesus Christ that there is a solution to sin through repentance, forgiveness and reconciliation with God.
The Christian Delusion - Why Faith Fails, by John Loftus: Chapter 12 - At Best Jesus Was a Failed Apocalyptic Prophet, by John Loftus.

Given the fact that Christianity continues to grow rapidly, it is impossible to get past the title without being astounded by the cognitive dissonance. An earlier generation of atheists accepted Jesus as a great moral teacher, but then argued that his teachings were corrupted by crazy followers. The New Atheists can have none of this. They want to take the place of Jesus as the exclusive authorities on morality and truth.

Back to the subject of the post:

" ... and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." - Acts 1:8

It does seem to me that in order to find a conflict here between the Bible's prophecy and what is going on in the world, you really have to bury your head into dirt!
The Christian Delusion - Why Faith Fails, by John Loftus: Chapter 11 - Why the Resurrection is Unbelievable, by Richard Carrier, Ph.d.

This chapter begins with a list of miracles described in Herodotus, including some stories of Delphi.

A tangent: The oracles of Delphi are well known for the ambiguity. Then there is one little reference in passing (don't have Herodotus at my finger tips, but check the index) where Cyrus hears a very specific prophecy that Darius will become head of the Persian Empire, which almost got him and his father killed. It doesn't specifically confirm Daniel, but leaves things in an indefensible state for those who claim there is no evidence of Biblical prophecy outside the Bible.

Dr. Carrier's assertion is that Christians who reject the miracles of Herodotus must be consistent and reject the miracles of the Bible. My response to this is the following: a) the Bible does talk many times of miracles not performed by God - specifically demons. Acts 16 tells of a slave girl fortune teller who clearly did have power from the supernatural. b) The belief among Christians of miracles outside of Christianity is from the beginning until now. Augustine takes things mostly at face value, whereas many missionaries will tell of Satan's miracles also. We believe in a spiritual war, where both sides have real power, yet God has won the victory and will bring it to a conclusion. c) The proper response to a miracle outside of Christianity isn't to scoff, but to ask "What does that mean to me?". If I avoided drowning by not displeasing Poseidon, what good is it if in the process I fail to worship the Creator and drown eternally? Thus, the entire premise of Dr. Carrier's thesis is to be rejected - unless we are talking of Christians who have already largely given there thought patterns over to atheism.

Dr. Carrier then goes back to the earlier allegations that the gospels and epistles are unbelievable because they are forgeries. The evidence for this claim is that earlier scholars deduced that the gospels are forgeries. How did the earlier scholars deduce they were forgeries? Because they were unbelievable! Thus, after we strip out all the filler rhetoric, his argument is -> unbelievable -> forgery -> unbelievable -> ... . This is called circular reasoning.

The last issue is how to explain Christianity starting from a complete denial of everything. Dr. Carrier believes that mass hallucinations was the cause and likens it to alien spaceship religions. The usual response of Christians over the years is to looks at their fruit - Christianity was founded and spread on charity, whereas spaceship cults have gone in murderous directions. The Roman Emperor Julian, however, came up with another formula for discrediting Christianity: If an anti-Christian government uses the unlimited resources of the state to perform charity, then the claim of Christianity to be valid on the basis of charity can be thwarted. The theory of Julian has been taken to the extreme limit today, but how will this work out when the atheist, Social Welfare state collapses?
The Christian Delusion - Why Faith Fails, by John Loftus: Chapter 10 - Jesus: Myth and Miracle, by John Loftus.

This chapter is all over the map so that there is little of substance to get into. The overall meta-narrative is that the Bible has miracles, therefore it is wrong. Atheism doesn't involve miracles, therefore it is right. One of the miracles of atheism is the notion that intellectually pure humans suddenly appeared on planet earth during the last generation. Since we are not permitted to quote the Bible against atheists, I will give this famous quote:

"I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth - that God Governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid?" - Benjamin Franklin to the US Congress.

One of the nice features of believing in God and miracles is that we believe that God is control, and His kingdom will continue to grow, even as atheists rage against God and plot against His people. No need to be fearful or hysterical.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Gotta run ... and what better place to do drills than Valley Forge under the watchful eye of Major General Friedrich von Steuben?

I do like the English and hope that there are no further eruptions that cause a rift in communications between the two nations.

Plenty of single track here.

I love to run in large grassy fields with no fences. The only thing better than single track is no track.

Pennsylvanians have a dim view of deer. They eat their gardens and smash their vehicles.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Two weeks ago, we too this picture of the bridge crossing the Mississippi River from Illinois into Missouri.

This was part of our trip where we crossed from Kentucky to Illinois over the Ohio river, and then to Missouri. We started the day out in Lebanon, but then found ourselves here in Cairo. We are clearly in the middle east, since it is east of the Mississippi and roughly in the middle of the US.

These were taken about 10 days ago at the Saint Louis Zoo. The zoo is free, but parking is $11. It is in the park just next to Washington University. Saint Louis is really an interesting city if some time is taken to check out the various museums, gardens and other attractions. The only thing that came to mind earlier regarding Saint Louis was the Gateway Arch and the high crime rate.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

East Bay Regional Parks: Morrison Plateau ...

This is at the top of Morrison Canyon Road, about 3 miles from my house. Morrison Canyon Road is a nasty little climb on a bicycle, with a steep slope and two-way traffic on a one lane road. I was looking forward to the park opening up there, but the person commenting certainly has a point. The road isn't wide enough for this kind of traffic.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Christian Delusion - Why Faith Fails, by John Loftus: Chapter 9 - The Darwinian Problem of Pain, by John Loftus.

The title is misleading, since the argument here is about why God permits suffering by animals and separately how we are to reconcile the Bible with Old Earth atheist theology (aka "science"). Not being a PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) member, the first topic is only of slight interest. It does seem to me that the suffering and death of one animal to provide life to the next is something both central to biology and central to the Bible. No consistency problem here. If you don't like this, then consider a Biblical prophecy:

"The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat,
the calf and the lion and the yearling together and a child will lead them.
The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together,
and the lion will eat straw like the ox. The infant will play near the hole
of the cobra, and the young child put his hand into
the viper's nest. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain." - Isaiah 11:6-9

Don't like animal suffering? Pray for Christ's return!

There is an admonition that we follow Augustine's advice to not be ignorant of science, for which I agree. The only thing to note is that Augustine's age didn't have atheist academics who judged the merit and validity of science by the degree to which it apparently conflicted with the Bible, and then made a great effort to spread that "science". Thus, I will give this as an example of the sum total of 150 years of Darwinian "science":

Question: Why did the chicken cross the road?
Answer: She evolved.

John, like everyone else, has not a clue how old the earth really is, nor how fossils got there., nor how life came into existence. Science is not derived from ignorance.

Update: There is a little article here regarding a Nebraska law based on the fact that abortion causes fetal pain and suffering. I think it is safe to say that abortion is a practice that has been given to the modern world by atheism. It will be interesting to see how this works out since PETA will need to take a stand on whether or not human suffering is more or less important than animal suffering.
The Christian Delusion - Why Faith Fails, by John Loftus: Chapter 8 - Yahweh is a Moral Monster, by Hector Avalos, Ph.D.

Do I dare take on an Ancient Near East (ANE) studies master in his field? In this chapter, Hector takes on a Christian apologist, Dr. Paul Copan, for saying that the code of laws in the Bible is superior to other ANE codes. Hector focuses much on slavery, and Hector is deeply offended by the differences in slavery treatment for Israelites and foreigners. (Skipping atheist communism with its ideology of universal slavery.) There is one point that doesn't get any attention:

"'When an alien lives with you in your land, do not mistreat him. The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.'" - Leviticus 19:33

Much of the polemic seems to me due to the failure to understand the institution of slavery in the ancient world, as well as God's other commands that impacted the same people. Certainly a master could be cruel. A master might at the same time be able to provide the only means for a person to survive. Bartolomé de las Casas boasted of freeing the Indian slaves that he had, while the scholar writing the introductory note to his book complained that he had probably doomed them to a far worse fate, since he was a caring master. While we rightly deplore slavery, the real world isn't so simple.

Another point is this: Herodotus reports that before a young girl could marry in ancient Babylon, she was required to have performed a sex act as a prostitute. Since the males could choose who they had sex with, the young ladies who weren't good looking could be compelled to wait for years in the temple. It was disgusting and the Greeks rightly condemned it, yet their own young boys were routinely inducted into pederasty. Elsewhere, child sacrifice was common, just as it is in our atheist secular age where 42 million abortion sacrifices are performed each year. Herodotus also tells us that the Persians forced Babylon to provide 500 eunuchs per year, which was an even more barbaric form of slavery. By taking the extreme positions regarding worship of God, the Biblical laws clearly were intended to put the brakes on Israel sliding into the extreme sickness of the surrounding culture, so indeed the Bible Code is clearly superior to the other ANE codes.

Getting to the subject of Hector's title, the creator of the universe certainly does have a right to do what he chooses. If he destroys everything, he would not be in the least less just, so there is simply no logic in Hector's condemnation of God. Anselm shows that an act can simultaneously be just and unjust. Someone may kill me unjustly, yet my death will still be just before God because of my sin. New Atheists are certainly in no position to judge their creator.

The later portion of the chapter is a claim that atheist morality is superior to theist morality. He begins by stating this: "Indeed, when it comes to ethics, there are only two types of people in this world: 1. Those who admit they are moral relativists and 2. Those who do not admit they are moral relativists." I am in category 1, wishing I were better. Unfortunately for Hector, this isn't the only two category split, so he is in fact wrong on the number of 'types': 3. Those who believe their moral choices will be brought into judgment. 4. Those who don't.

Whereas Hector's chosen split has no moral impact, the split based on consequences means everything. It is for this reason that atheism is correctly regarded as the only purely amoral religion. We should also keep this in mind when atheists try to entice others to join them in judging the Creator.

"Woe to him who quarrels with his Maker, to him who is but a potsherd among the potsherds on the ground. Does the clay say to the potter, 'What are you making?' Does you work say, 'He has no hands'?" - Isaiah 45:9

Yes, Isaiah had some New Atheists friends! ;-)
The Christian Delusion - Why Faith Fails, by John Loftus: Chapter 7 - What We've Got Here is a Failure to Communicate, by John Loftus. (Response part 2)

This chapter begins with a statement that the best text for atheists is the Bible. For me, the best text for atheism is Richard Dawkins. For those with a decent science education, I will let them choose their favorite molecular biology text. I guess everyone prefers to sit behind a wall and shoot while the enemy charges across the open ground!

The second chapter of this chapter(!) is on the Old Testament, as viewed through the eyes of a modern American. Is it unreasonable? Of course ... if you are a modern American! Herodotus noted our tendency to view other cultures as unreasonable long ago. Again, the analysis seems to presume that man is good, and evil happens because of God. Probably I should highlight one item, so I will pick slavery. The Old Testament permitted slavery, which was like all the other nations around - with the noted command to treat them well because the Israelites had also been slaves. From the early church until now, slaves have also benefited enormously, first because they were treated as equal members of the church (see Philemon or Pliny's letter on the subject), second because they ransomed slaves, third because Christian leaders fought to stop slavery. What did atheism do? Atheism gave us communism, which is all about universal slavery! Then there is San Francisco which is a premier location for America's new sex slave trade. Europe? Even worse. John, you really don't want to go to this topic! I will leave it at that, since other cultures just do things differently.

On the later side, John mentions the NAZI's and the Holocaust - via Hector Avalos - and tries to link these to Christianity. Probably no link can be truly proven, but we must admit that 20th century Germany was already a post-Christian nation, and this due to the tireless activity of atheists from the 18th and 19th century. As I mentioned earlier, the end result of atheists attacks on Christianity is primarily a reversion to more primitive religions, resulting in the Swastika which is a pre-Christian pagan religious symbol. It seems much simpler (per Occam's Razor) to link this back to atheism via neo-paganism.

After I strike out all of the atheist's wild and misleading exaggerations along with false attribution to Christians, I am still forced to admit that Christians have done many terrible things. All of us will be held to account by God - atheists included.
The Christian Delusion - Why Faith Fails, by John Loftus: Chapter 7 - What We've Got Here is a Failure to Communicate, by John Loftus. (Response part 1)

This chapter seems to me to be several run-on chapters together. It begins by making an minimally supported claim that man's sin is the direct result of God's failure to communicate correctly His will to us. The support for the claim is an analogy, that if things go badly at a company, then the CEO is to blame. Having been a manager in a company before, this analogy is a very bad one: The company has a life of its own and you simply cannot control it, nor the circumstances outside the company. We can heap blame on the CEO, but that is entirely different from the CEO being blameworthy.

Without stopping to consider the derivation or implications of John's dramatic claim, he immediately launches into a machine gun assault hurling allegations of misdeeds by Jews, Christians and God. Stop! One subject at a time!

What do Christians believe about God's communication with Man, and the effect it has on sin?

"And the LORD God commanded the man, ;You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.'" - Genesis 2:16

and ...

"'Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?'" - Genesis 3:11

Scooting forward to the present era, we see the Catholic Churches struggling with the consequences of gay priests and the fallout in terms of pedophilia. Are you offended by that statement? All mankind is in rebellion against God and His commands, which is why we have sin. John Loftus grew up in a spoiled, Christian nation, so perhaps it is easier for him to deny this, but the Doctrine of Total Depravity has been on display from the beginning, so that even when God does clearly an unambiguously express his will, evil still happens.

John wants us to believe that the Bible is nothing but fairy tales, but consider this prophecy of Jesus:

"Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law." - Luke 12:49-53

The fact is that this has continued to this day so that most Christians see this in their own family, not to mention the violence in the world. As for "but there are wars!":

"You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains." - Matthew 24:6

And so God communicates the ultimate idealistic religion to us, and simultaneously prophecies no reduction in the amount of war and death due to random events. Atheists should probably spend more time on the prophecies that clearly have been fulfilled before jumping into what they don't understand.

More importantly, if you condemn God, then what is left? The ultimate fairy tale is to claim mankind isn't inherently evil, and will continue doing good without God. Another fairy tale is that man is innocent and not deserving of God's judgment.

If we want to treat this at a serious, philosophical level, we have to ask why did God allow evil in the first place. This discussion is a heavy duty one which requires a completely different level of discussion and thought such as Anselm did. Unfortunately, it wouldn't sell many books, so the current book is just a populist polemic without serious philosophical discussion. That being the case, we do not need philosophically robust rebuttals!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Christian Delusion - Why Faith Fails, by John Loftus: Chapter 6 - The Bible and Modern Scholarship, by Paul Tobin.

This chapter goes through the Minimalist School of grievances against the Bible. It should be noted that there is a Maximalist School, and then countless schools in between, so to pretend that only the Minimalist School exists among those who are respected scholars is, well, unscholarly.

It would be prohibitive to go through Tobin's entire list, so I will pick a few:

Paul Tobin claims that the date of Quirinius's census (mentioned in Matthew) is 6C.E. (Christian Era), while Herod the Great died in 4 BCE (Before Christian Era), thus, Jesus couldn't have been born during both events. This gripe is well known: The 6AD comes from Josephus, but are we required to assume a doctrine of inerrancy for Josephus? Discrepancies in ancient accounts are countless, yet no one concerns themselves until it involves the Bible, and then atheist scholars presume only the Bible can be wrong. Luke is the author of the reference to Quirinius, and he writes two books full of things that have historical items that can be cross referenced outside of the Bible. My bet is still on Luke getting it right - especially since he writes much closer to the events - but if he gets one event a bit confused, it certainly won't shake my faith.

"The archaeological evidence shows us that camels did not become domesticated until the eleventh century BCE, well after the time of Abraham and of Joseph." Sounds so decisive! Except that this is only the archeological evidence of Palestine. Camels were already domesticated elsewhere (Iran, China), were of huge economic value, able to transport goods thousands of miles, and ... "The camel, though it chews the cud, does not have a split hoof; it is ceremonially unclean for you." - Leviticus 11:4. Far from refuting the Bible, this archaeological evidence confirms that the prohibitions of the Pentateuch were in force from ancient times and delivers a nasty bite to atheists who deny the earlier authorship!

Most of the rest of the 'evidence' is either missing evidence of things that are misunderstood. A typical example is the use of later names to denote earlier locations, as we might say that Julius Caesar fought battles in France. This could easily slip in as an edit to an earlier manuscript without anything being lost.

Then there are the flood stories ... When I was young, I was told that the various flood stories that exist in aboriginal cultures from around the world confirm the Biblical story of the flood. Now, Biblical scholars come across the same data - but with a smaller data set - and assert that because there are multiple accounts, therefore the Biblical account is a corruption of the correct, Babylonian account! According to the Epic of Gilgamesh, the counterpart to Noah tried to sail away in a Ziggurat. The Biblical story used a boat. Why am I required to believe that the Epic of Gilgamesh was written by a smarter author who was closer to the events?

As I noted earlier, the methods of the classical Academy can be used to destroy everything, so they could probably bring doubt on the existence of William Shakespeare. There is, however, the opposite method: Looking at how much of the glass is full rather than empty. One is the Prism of Sennacherib which confirms the ancient Biblical account of Hezekiah in terms that preclude argument. Minimalists believe most of the Old Testament was composed after this time. The item I am most curious to hear atheists explain is related to the Tower of Babel: Like it or not, it seems that all atheist historians begin the story of civilization about 2,500BC. That is when inscriptions start showing up and we can start dating things without placing our blind faith in the vast quantities of assumptions that go into radioactive dating methods. The 2,500BC date also fits the Bible, but we have every reason to believe that if the account was conjured up from Babylonian sources, the date would have been earlier by thousands of years (per Herodotus). Neither China, India nor the Americas have anything to contradict.

Regarding the allegations of unfulfilled old testament prophecies, there are certainly some confusing elements. Daniel's prophecy that is reported to have failed also predicts the future rise of Rome and the establishment of Christianity, which did occur according to the prophecy. I will leave this for now, since this isn't an area that I have studied extensively. Something to highlight here is that if the prophecy is fulfilled, the atheists try to move the authorship to after the events, which creates other major problems when other portions of the text clearly are of an earlier authorship.

As for the charges that many of the gospels are forgeries, we have to put this into the historical context. A few decades back, the "scholarly consensus" was that the new testament was written in the second century and all the works were forgeries. What Tobin describes is in fact a major retreat - a retreat back to a position which is essentially impossible to either prove or disprove.

The last part of the chapter discusses Liberal Christianity, which annoys me as much as it does the atheists. What do we make of those who argue that the Bible is from God and spiritually valid, yet deny the history in order to be compliant with "science", as atheists interpret the meaning? Certainly atheism dominates academia, yet things aren't at all monolithic. The atheist who has never studied science confidently proclaims that science explains everything through an old-earth and evolution story of how life came into existence and that this has no need for God. The Liberal Christian medical doctor - no need to defend his intelligence - then comes along and says he likewise believes in an old-earth, evolution story, but this could only happen because of God's intervention and it actually proves God's existence! Thus, we find that "science" is split between a smaller group of pure atheists and a larger group of liberal, "theistic-science" sorts who are trying to compromise between Christianity and atheism. Many conclusions can be drawn, but the one I will highlight is that atheism can do damage to Christianity, but it isn't doing much against theism. Wouldn't it be more accurate to label atheism as anti-Christianity?

Conclusion: It is possible to launch an infinite number of objections at a text, particularly if we proceed with a mafia lawyer mindset, and we could consume an infinite amount of time tracking everything down. Perhaps we should ponder why "love your neighbor as yourself" is so much in need of being challenged!
The weekend was spent in Pennsylvania. I haven't been taking pictures, but my mother sent me these pictures of a blooming Magnolia in the yard.

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Christian Delusion - Why Faith Fails, by John Loftus: Chapter 5 - The Cosmology of the Bible, by Edward Babinsky

In this chapter, Edward falls for Washington Irving's hoax of the Flat Earth Theory. Irving made this up for his novel about Christopher Columbus. Other clever scholars then scoured the Bible and other ancient literature for anything that could be construed to fit this story, and an atheist zealot, Andrew Dickson White (founder of Cornell), made sure that it got into the school textbooks. Yep, it was the atheists who were the real flat earthers! When atheists lament that they aren't trusted, well, there is a reason.

Babinsky then goes on to repeat the grand meta-narratives which were generated out of the scraps. Thus, this chapter probably tells us more about the scholars than the ancients. This especially applies to the textual criticism of the Pentateuch.

One challenge I took on was to compare the Epic of Gilgamesh to the Bible. This is usually presented as a challenge to Biblical belief - until you actually read the Epic of Gilgamesh. The Epic of Gilgamesh is basically a spoof, so that the relationship of the Babylonian tale to the Bible is like Tina Fey to Sarah Palin. There should be little problem to accept the Bible account as the likely original. That there is a relationship of the creation stories is no surprise to Christians.

Going back to the atheist's flat earth theory, we have to keep in mind that when we go through an OTF challenge or others involving Biblical studies and ancient literature, that there are anti-Christian zealots out there who will deliberately produce false evidence to mislead people. This is nothing new, however, since Eusebius reports that a Memorandum of Pilate was forged and forced to be taught to the children during the 4th(?) century. Per the challenge of the last chapter, we should need to compare all the ancient near east literature before settling on a choice. The only way to be 100% sure is to read everything yourself, but most of it isn't in English. Do we really need to add reading heiroglyphics, various cuneiforms, Hittite, and Ugaritic before we can become a Christian?
The Christian Delusion - Why Faith Fails, by John Loftus: Chapter 4 - The Outsider Test For Faith (OTF), by John Loftus.

In this chapter, John suggests that a logical, skeptics viewpoint be taken towards Christianity. Here are some notes:

1) John just spent the last 3 chapters trying to prove that it is absolutely impossible for anyone to be logical regarding religion. So why now does he challenge us to be logical, when he has proven that this is a human impossibility - for both theists and atheists alike?

2) John asserts that OTF is a new test. It seems to me that OTF is the exact same anti-Christian test that has been in use for the last 200+ years. Can you get through a public school in America without having already been given the same challenge countless times?

3) Continuing the nothing-new-here theme, the argument based on anthropology/culture actually dates back to Herodotus as he was comparing Babylonian, Greek and Persian religion. Of course the same goes for any branch of science that isn't easily tested: We believe what we are taught. The highly educated, first generation Asian is the counter to this, with John's rebuttal (Objection two) being that only if the educated Asian evaluates and compares all religions, as well as all challenges is he competent to make a choice. This OTF, however, would essentially ban all humans from making any decision to either adapt or change religion - Mr. Loftus included! How many Phl.d's would we need to process all the religions along with arguments pro/con? We can't even choose atheism, because there might be a religion out there that passes his test! The fact is that we all - in this modern world - get to read the news, see what is going on in the world, and make our choices. This isn't based on scientifically sifting through propaganda and dubious arguments (i.e. what the OTF requires) , but rather by what we see happening in the world. Jesus says, "By this will all men know that you are my disciples, that you have love one for another." What if God didn't choose to make himself amenable to philosophy? Christianity is a relationship first. At the same time, Jesus is the Logos, which means that without Him you don't have philosophy. He chooses us, not the other way around.

4) In the opening to this, John asserts that skepticism should be used against theism, but mentions nothing else. What about atheism? What about atheist intellectuals, or intellectuals who have subordinated their beliefs to atheism? Do they get a free pass? It should again be noted that the methods of the classical Academy demolish all human understanding, so selective employment of their methods is hypocritical. (I may have condemned myself with that!) (John has some rebuttals to this in the objections, but they seem rather weak to me - since we already know the affect of the classical era Academy's arguments against any reason.)

5) John challenges that we should be able to prove out our religion philosophically from logic without any reference to scripture. This is sufficiently answered with one word: Anselm. This also gives you an idea of how old this challenge is! Realistically, I doubt anyone today could surpass Anselm, so this is setting a bar so high that it would preclude belief altogether.

6) The "many god's" argument against Pascal's wager is silly: There is only one creator God.

7) The Philosopher's god was already tried and failed - more than 2,000 years ago. People have real spiritual needs that must be met. The philosopher's god failed - even as a placebo.

8) John lists seven objections made to the OTF and provides responses. In the first objection response, John conflates atheist selective skepticism and propaganda with technology (science). As an engineer, I take great offense at this and consider it to be morally equivalent to plagiarism. Atheist philosophy has contributed exactly nothing to technology, yet they are forever invoking the awesome achievements and credibility of technology to bolster their own credibility. In fact modern science owes its primary outlook - that the universe runs according to fixed laws - to Christianity.

9) Objection Three Response mentions the falling off of Christianity in the US, which is more pronounced in Europe. Note: Christianity is growing worldwide, but atheism currently has strong government support in much of the Western Nations. Among those who seem uncertain of Christianity, I would be one of his statistics - perhaps multiple times - since I have changed denominations multiple times! Of course the large majority of the falling out with Christianity is happening in the Mainline churches. The reason is well known: A century ago atheist/Christian hybrid religion developed in the seminaries, wormed its way into the pulpits, and eventually shattered the beliefs of the congregations. This hasn't resulted in an increase in atheism so much as a reversion to mysticism. The spiritual needs are still there, just as they were in the 1st century AD.

10) Objection Four Response mentions the existence of disputes between parties discrediting religion. Of course most of the disputes in academia are about whose name is first on the author list, who is included, and who is excluded. Does that mean that the paper is wrong? An Arminian and a Calvinist can dispute for a thousand years, yet they both recognize and experience Jesus Christ Lord and Savior. The existence of disputes means nothing. You have to look at the content. John includes this quote from Richard Feldman: "By contrast, the more rational people agree on an issue then the more probable that their shared opinion is true". I will just note that this is in direct conflict - at multiple levels - with the content of the books first three chapters.

11) Objection Five Response seems like a reiteration of the argument for selective skepticism.

12) Objection Six Response tries to argue that atheist faith is fundamentally different from theist faith, thus, they should not be subjected to the same OTF standards. Of course to have faith in this distinction, you must already believe in the superiority of atheism! John writes: "An atheist is someone who merely rejects the claims that supernatural entities exist, whether it's a god or gods". The problem here is that this claim is hollow rhetoric. From ancient times, philosophers much smarter than John have argued that the design of the universe proves the existence of the supernatural designer. By rejecting this, the atheist has done nothing to remove the need for the supernatural, but merely asserted that the supernatural powers are in nature itself: Atoms can spontaneously (i.e. supernaturally) organize themselves to form the horrifically complex first organism that could feed off the environment, survive and reproduce. From this starting point, they supernaturally became more and more sophisticated, not in themselves, but Mother Nature herself supernaturally organized the ecosystems, and then cross linked them with an optimized design. This is why mysticism has been the more frequent outcome of atheist propaganda in the churches, schools and universities. Since the atheist cannot acknowledge that this is what was done, she must argue that it is scientifically proven to be possible based on the laws of nature, and a "law", evolution, which is utterly devoid of content, was conjured up. This "law" has itself supernatural abilities to explain anything - even thought devoid of content - no matter how complex the biological phenomenon. Unlike other laws, this law requires no mathematical ability, nor even any notable intelligence to be employed. Instead, it must only be embraced by faith! Then there is the deity which we know as The Scientist. She has intelligence surpassing any Christian by many orders of magnitude, is infallible, all knowing, and perfectly committed to truth. No 0ne has ever seen her, but atheists often acts as a priest for her and she is always reaffirming them! No, the atheist has done nothing to diminish the need for the supernatural. Instead, they are returning civilization to a stone age, mysticism of nature.

Again, the methods of the skeptics destroyed all belief, thus, John is right to say that agnosticism is the most likely conclusion of a robust Skepticism. Skepticism, however, isn't all there is to Reason. We must also look to the overall consistency of the world view, as it looks at all religions, atheism, God and man. The deduction of God's existence is a straight forward one done by induction, which was affirmed by Epictetus and Voltaire alike. I will leave it as an assertion, based on the fact that science (I am an engineer), reason, philosophy, history, culture and religion are all my interests. As I see it, Christianity is the only world view that begins to tie together all the pieces, while also meeting the genuine spiritual needs of people.

The challenge of the OTF could only be met by someone with numerous Ph.d's of whom it could be said that he was the wisest and most learned person who ever lived. Jesus says, "I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children" - Matthew 11:25. Praise God for this, and I thank You Lord for Your blessings and mercies.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Christian Delusion - Why Faith Fails, by John Loftus: Chapter 3 - The Malleability of the Human Mind, by Jason Long, Ph.d.

This chapter is an update of classical Academic thought which was skeptical about the ability of humans to know anything, although it is incomplete as the full scope of classical skeptic thought undermines everything - atheism included. Shhh! Better to be selective! (I thought I had the quote from Cicero up so that it can be linked, but apparently not. There is this quote, which attacks the atheists routine use of credentials to bypass reason.)

The main idea is that we do not believe Christianity because we logically choose it, but because we are indoctrinated when we are young. While this is true, it also ignores the power of atheist indoctrination in our society: Atheism is the established ideology of academia so we are bombarded by these messages from when we are young. I loved reading Rupyard Kipling and Mark Twain, yet they were both skeptics and this filtered through much of their writing. Atheists and skeptics have hijacked seminaries, invaded pulpits and spent billions of taxpayer dollars indoctrinating the minds of children in schools - myself included. Then there is Hollywood, which is atheist except when it is mystic, but very rarely Christian. WE HEARD THE ATHEIST MESSAGE!!! In communist countries, the situation was even worse, yet religion is on the rise, especially in places like China where the children NEVER RECEIVED CHRISTIAN INDOCTRINATION FROM YOUTH! If we are going to simply say that humans are doomed to make irrational decisions, than what can the atheists do about it without coercion and government establishment? Furthermore, why should we believe that an atheist is in the slightest more rational, given that we all come from human DNA?

Going back to the chapter: "Impression management theory suggest that people increasingly stick by their decisions because consistency leads to social reward and inconsistency leads to social punishment." First, I will note that this doesn't explain the grumpy hermit, but I will also note that there is one group of society which has a great desire for "social reward" and an equal fear of "social punishment". They are called Ph.D's. (I do believe that God can make good use of people with Ph.Ds.) I started a Ph.D. for no good reason other than wanting people to look up to me. Thankfully God showed me that this was a pointless endeavor and directed me otherwise. With a hundred good applicants for each professorship, the need to seek social acceptance is incredibly high, while the atheists record of ostracizing everyone who does not have acceptable beliefs is unsurpassed. Nowhere was this more on display than the recent anthropogenic global warming fraud.

To summarize, the argument of this chapter is that Christians can't be trusted, therefore Atheists should be trusted...because they say they should be trusted. So there!

Rebuttal summary: Why give up a real crutch for a phony rationalism?
The Christian Delusion - Why Faith Fails, by John Loftus: Chapter 2 - Christian Belief Through the Lens of Cognitive Science, by Valerie Tarico, Ph.D.

Chapter 1's argument is that Christianity is wildly multifarious to the point of being meaningless. Dr. Tarico argues that exact opposite: "Rather, natural selection is at play. Over millennia of human history, religious leaders have hit on social/emotional techniques that work to win converts, just as individual believers have hit on spiritual practices they find satisfying and belief systems that fit how we process information.". Her standard for Christianity is the megachurch and mass evangelism. It is a notion that Christianity has been honed to a perfection for indoctrination. On this matter, Dr. Eller is far closer to the mark as their are countless experiences and methods of Christianity, yet with Jesus Christ at the center. The testimony of one Christian is always different from the next, which is the evidence that Dr. Tarico overlooks. My biggest gripe with atheists is that each argument is made against Christianity with a total disregard for the premises and internal logic of the last argument!

This chapter's other major argument is that religion is reflected in biologically observable effects. I suppose this is radical to some, but gets a "Duh!" reaction from me. Perhaps it is because I view God as the author of biology, which is so radical today. There is the statement that evolution caused the mind to be more suited to religion, which begs the question of why survival of the fittest didn't favor atheism.

But then there is this double edged sword: "Once triggered for any reason, the feeling that something is right or real can be incredibly powerful - so powerful that when it goes head-to-head with logic or evidence the feeling wins. Our brains make up reasons to justify our feeling of knowing, rather than following logic to its logical conclusion."

The most irrational notions in the history of human thought are these: "Technology proves the non-existence of the technologist" - Darwinism and "Technology can only be understood in the light of denial of the technologist" - The Dobzhansky Principle. Thank you Dr. Tarico!
The Christian Delusion - Why Faith Fails, by John Loftus: Chapter 1.

This should be fun. Apparently John Loftus is being honored as a great atheist philosopher, and he has assembled a book of great atheist writings that purport to show the failings of Christianity. To be fair, each chapter tries to cover a lot of ground, making sweeping generalizations and oversimplifications necessary. So I will acknowledge this before beginning my critique ...

"Christianity, like any religion, is a Culture." - The Cultures of Christianity, by David Eller, Ph.D.

Smirk! This is the first major premise. The next is that there are numerous culturally or organizationally distinct cultures of Christianity. The unspoken conclusion is that at most, only one of these can be true Christianities, and it is just simpler to assume none.

The first premise is, however, a disaster area as far as evidence and logic is concerned. Culture is driven by history, geography, ethnicity, natural resources, economics, proximity to other cultures, and countless other non-religious factors. Comparing an Arab Bedouin to a Malay, we can find Muslims among them both, yet their cultures are drastically different. Both are required to avoid pork by Islam and participate in Ramadan, as well as perform Islamic prayers. Religion is related to culture a bit like a boat in water. The boat will make waves in the culture, but "boat is water" and "religion is culture" are equally illogical statements.

Taking things the other way, Christianity is a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. It was multicultural from the start as the Grecian and Jewish Christians worked things out, followed immediately afterward by Greek and Latin Christians, yet the commonality of the relationship is with Jesus Christ. As we look at the large number of Christian "sects", it is quite clear that the cultural differences are a key factor in the multiplication of organizations, yet at the same time the underlying church still remains unified on the basis of Jesus. Other religions have their own premises, with Islam having major cultural mandates, thus, they really need to be treated independently rather than trying to treat all religion as alike.

The section on the spread of Christianity to other cultures suffers primarily because it doesn't distinguish between colonialism and proselytizing. The attempt to digest 2,000 years of missionary work into two pages is hopeless. But what of atheism itself when put under the lens of anthropology? We will find that atheist communities only exist either in Christian communities or post-Christian communities. Without getting into the details, it seems that atheism is a Christian sect. Perhaps something to explore more later ...

Dr. Eller also includes this statement: "... evidence and logic - the atheist's stock in trade". My own sense is that on a practical level, atheists are neither more nor less capable of "evidence and logic" than Christians. On an abstract level, however, Evidence and Logic take on a mythical character. In reality, Evidence is very hard to obtain and even harder to be certain of, while what is Logic when the questions are intractable? Thus, we have the E&L Myth, which the atheist has mindlessly bought into, and only consists of atheist meta-narratives.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Justian's Law: What is Injustice?

"at other times we speak of injustice as an injury, for in cases where someone pronounces a judgment inequitably or unjustly an injury is said to arise because it is without law or justice and thus not lawful." - The Digest of Roman Law, Concerning Insulting behaviour and Scandalous libels.

It does seem to me that a notion of "injustice" per Roman law requires first a notion of judgment and also a law.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Slavery: Justinian's Law (533AD) vs. Patrick (~490AD).

"The first chapter of the Lex Aquilia provides as follows: 'If anyone kills unlawfully a slave or servant-girl belonging to someone else, or a four-footed beast of the class of cattle, let him be condemned to pay the owner the highest value that the property had attained in the preceding year.' And next it is provided that the action should be for double the value if the defendant denied his liability. It thus appears that the statute treats equally our slaves and our four-footed cattle which are kept in herds, such as sheep, goats, horses, mules and asses." - Justinian, The Digest of Roman Laws, Concerning the Lex Aquilia.

After reading more than 100 pages of this legal code, it is clear that the treatment of slaves is the largest portion of the laws. Manumission (freeing of slaves) is also discussed extensively, so was certainly of concern also. This has me wondering to what degree Christianity was affecting things in the Roman Empire. Perhaps 40 years earlier, beyond the edge of the empire, Saint Patrick was busy and writes the following:

"Roman Christians in Gaul behave quite differently: it is their custom to send holy, capable men to the Franks and other nations with several thousand solidi so as to redeem Christian prisoners; yet you would rather kill or sell them on to a far-off tribe who know nothing of the true God. You might as well consign Christ's own members to a whorehouse. What kind of hope can you have left in God?" - Letter to the Soldiers of Coroticus, by Saint Patrick.

Note: Solidi are gold coins.

And so a group of Christians from Ireland made a raid on the Picts and Scots, killing some and capturing others to sell into slavery. Patrick himself had been a slave and was escaped, so he certainly knew first hand about the evils.
College Dorm Life. Some things don't change from generation to generation.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

The Missouri Botanical Garden advertises a famous blogger.

Social Justice, Health Care Reform and Viagra ...

Don't get me wrong, I am all for social justice. That should, however, be understood to be an entirely distinct concept from Social Justice. If the article is correct, we can deduce that Social Justice requires us to provide Viagra to pedophiles!

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Washington University: Still trying to figure out who posed for some of these art pieces.

Aslan? Or Simba?
Washington University Cafeterias. These are the low end facilities - the students have to bus their own tables.