Archive for March, 2008

Email forward of the Day

I get email forwards from my (politically and religiously conservative) family. I recently received one that kinda made me smile because it just didn’t seem very well thought out. One of the big issues in the coming election is “change” – i.e. people want a change in political leadership. By in large, Obama is seen as the candidate for change. The problem is that Republicans don’t like that. Republicans don’t want to move away from the George W Bush way of doing things. So, this email forward attacks the very idea that “change is good”. Also, I should add that this wasn’t written by Jay Leno (email forwards have a ridiculous tendency of just making stuff up). I also have to wonder: is the essay any more persuasive or notable if it’s credited to “Jay Leno” rather than “Joe Schmoe”?

Subject: Pathetic Negativity

Hope you will all read to the end. Jay Leno puts it into perspective and makes us think about the pathetic negativity. That’s right, Jay Leno wrote this!!

Jay Leno wrote this; it’s the Jay Leno we don’t often see….

“The other day I was reading Newsweek magazine and came across some poll data I found rather hard to believe. It must be true given the source, right?

The Newsweek poll alleges that 67 percent of Americans are unhappy with the direction the country is headed and 69 percent of the country is unhappy with the performance of the president. In essence 2/3rds of the citizenry just ain’t happy and want a change.

So being the knuckle dragger I am, I started thinking, ”What we are so unhappy about?” Is it that we have electricity and running water 24 hours a day, 7 days a week? Is our unhappiness the result of having air conditioning in the summer and heating in the winter? Could it be that 95.4 percent of these unhappy folks have a job? Maybe it is the ability to walk into a grocery store at any time and see more food in moments than Darfur has seen in the last year?

Maybe it is the ability to drive from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean without having to present identification papers as we move through each state? Or possibly the hundreds of clean and safe motels we would find along the way that can provide temporary shelter? I guess having thousands of restaurants with varying cuisine from around the world is just not good enough. Or could it be that when we wreck our car, emergency workers show up and provide services to help all and even send a helicopter to take you to the hospital.

Perhaps you are one of the 70 percent of Americans who own a home. You may be upset with knowing that in the unfortunate case of a fire, a group of trained firefighters will appear in moments and use top notch equipment to extinguish the flames thus saving you, your family and your belongings. Or if, while at home watching one of your many flat screen TVs, a burglar or prowler intrudes, an officer equipped with a gun and a bullet-proof vest will come to defend you and your family against attack or loss.

This all in the backdrop of a neighborhood free of bombs or militias raping and pillaging the residents. Neighborhoods where 90 percent of teenagers own cell phones and computers. How about the complete religious, social and political freedoms we enjoy that are the envy of everyone in the world? Maybe that is what has 67 percent of you folks unhappy.

Okay. All of those would be good points if George Bush’s administration was personally responsible for bringing those things to America. But, they didn’t. All of those things were true before G.W. was elected. Wanting a change in political leadership is based on how things have changed for the better or worse under Bush, not on the question “are things good or not” relative to the rest of the World. I also couldn’t help thinking that you could repeat nearly that entire section verbatim in the year 2000. Would Republicans conclude, then, that “we should continue the Democrat’s control of the White House”?

Fact is, we are the largest group of ungrateful, spoiled brats the world has ever seen.

Read: you’re an ungrateful, spoiled brat if you want Obama to be president or think G.W.Bush is a bad president.

No wonder the world loves the U.S., yet has a great disdain for its citizens. They see us for what we are.

Ha. Quite the opposite – many people like Americans, but hate the US government.

The most blessed people in the world who do nothing but complain about what we don’t have, and what we hate about the country instead of thanking the good Lord we live here.

Yeah, they hate us because we complain about the state of the nation. I’m sure the world would just *love* it if Americans could elect G.W. to a third term.

I know, I know. What about the president who took us into war and has no plan to get us out? The president who has a measly 31 percent approval rating? Is this the same president who guided the nation in the dark days after 9/11?

Ungrateful Americans – don’t you know he was looking for answers in the “My Pet Goat”.

The president that cut taxes to bring an economy out of recession? Could this be the same guy who has been called every name in the book for succeeding in keeping all the spoiled ungrateful brats safe from terrorist attacks? The commander in chief of an all-volunteer army that is out there defending you and me?

He’s the leader of an all-volunteer army, and therefore he should get the credit for the work they’re doing.

Did you hear how bad the President is on the news or talk show? Did this news affect you so much, make you so unhappy you couldn’t take a look around for yourself and see all the good things and be glad? Think about it…… are you upset at the President because he actually caused you personal pain OR is it because the “Media” told you he was failing to kiss your sorry ungrateful behind every day.

It’s all the media’s fault. The media doesn’t properly glorify the great leader, therefore it’s biased and evil.

Make no mistake about it. The troops in Iraq and Afghanistan have volunteered to serve, and in many cases may have died for your freedom. There is currently no draft in this country. They didn’t have to go. They are able to refuse to go and end up with either a ”general” discharge, an ”other than honorable” discharge or, worst case scenario, a ”dishonorable” discharge after a few days in the brig.

And you should credit all their hard work and sacrifice to the President!

So why then the flat-out discontentment in the minds of 69 percent of Americans? Say what you want but I blame it on the media. If it bleeds it leads and they specialize in bad news. Everybody will watch a car crash with blood and guts. How many will watch kids selling lemonade at the corner? The media knows this and media outlets are for-profit corporations. They offer what sells, and when criticized, try to defend their actions by “justifying” them in one way or another. Just ask why they tried to allow a murderer like O. J. Simpson to write a book about how he didn’t kill his wife, but if he did he would have done it this way…… Insane!

If you hear anything bad about our glorious leader – blame the media. I especially like how “they” (the “media”) conspired as a *group* to publish O.J.’s book. I’m quite sure they consulted the high-priest of media control and his thousands of underlings – who control everything we see, hear, and read – and he, in complete dictatorial control, approved O.J.’s book for the masses.

Stop buying the negativism you are fed everyday by the media. Shut off the TV, burn Newsweek, and use the New York Times for the bottom of your bird cage. Then start being grateful for all we have as a country.

Ignore the media – and make-up the news stories you want to believe. Hmmm – today, George Bush saved children from a blazing fire. That’s my news story of the day.

There is exponentially more good than bad. We are among the most blessed people on Earth and should thank God several times a day, or at least be thankful and appreciative.”

Thank God? I think he meant to write thank George W. Bush for all his hard work fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. I heard he took several bullets and single-handedly rescued dozens of POWs. You’d have to be crazy for wanting a non-Republican president!

“With hurricanes, tornados, fires out of control, mud slides, flooding, severe thunderstorms tearing up the country from one end to another, and with the threat of bird flu and terrorist attacks, “Are we sure this is a good time to take God out of the Pledge of Allegiance?”

Jay Leno

Please keep this in circulation. There are so many people that need to read this and grasp the truth of it all.

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Just thought this was a pretty cool video. It’s an 8-minute video of an elephant painting an elephant. You have to wonder what the inner mental life of an elephant is like.

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Matt beat me to it on this one. An eleven-year-old girl recently died from diabetes (which is treatable with modern medicine). Her parents decided to rely on God and prayer rather than doctors and hospitals. Now they believe that they just didn’t have enough faith, and even worse, they think that she can still be resurrected from the dead if they have enough faith.

Now, I know the Christian excuses here – God gives us doctors and medicine, they say. (As if we should credit God, rather than the hard work and intelligence of a the disproportionately atheist medical researchers.) I would add that while that philosophy might be a good way to get theists to rely on science-based medicine (rather than prayer – which has a ridiculously bad track record in medical studies), there’s nothing un-Biblical about prayer. In fact, the Bible is very pro-prayer. Here’s the bad advice that the “Good Book” gives:

Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him. Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the earth for three years and six months. Then he prayed again, and the sky poured rain and the earth produced its fruit. (James 5:14-18)

You can read the whole chapter if you think I’m taking that out of context. The fact of the matter is that these parents were following the teachings of the Bible. God isn’t “the great physician” no matter how many times you say that he is.

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Reverend Moon – leader of the Unification Church, and self-proclaimed Jesus Christ reborn – is such a narcissistic ignorant putz. But, like L. Ron Hubbard said: “I’d like to start a religion. That’s where the money is.” And, Reverend Moon is a rich, politically connected man because of it.

More than a dozen lawmakers attended a congressional reception this year honoring the Rev. Sun Myung Moon in which Moon declared himself the Messiah and said his teachings have helped Hitler and Stalin be “reborn as new persons.”

At the March 23 [2004] ceremony in the Dirksen Senate Office Building, Rep. Danny K. Davis (D-Ill.) wore white gloves and carried a pillow holding an ornate crown that was placed on Moon’s head. The Korean-born businessman and religious leader then delivered a long speech saying he was “sent to Earth . . . to save the world’s six billion people. . . . Emperors, kings and presidents . . . have declared to all Heaven and Earth that Reverend Sun Myung Moon is none other than humanity’s Savior, Messiah, Returning Lord and True Parent.”

The only “international crown of peace awards” went to Moon and his wife.

Moon has claimed to have spoken in “the spirit world” with all deceased U.S. presidents, Jesus, Moses, Mohammed and others. At the March 23 event, he said: “The founders of five great religions and many other leaders in the spirit world, including even Communist leaders such as Marx and Lenin . . . and dictators such as Hitler and Stalin, have found strength in my teachings, mended their ways and been reborn as new persons.” (Link)

Two US congressmen are even filmed carrying the crowns to be placed on the heads of Moon and his wife. (What planet am I living on again?)

Below is an 18-minute video on Moon, this bizarre event, and his level of political influence in Washington. Much of his influence is based on sucking up to right-wing politicians by attacking Democrats, promoting American nationalism, and abstinence education. They returned the favor by sucking up right back to the cult leader, and (apparently) sending government money his way for things like “abstinence education”. It’s amazing how rich Moon is.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

I especially like how dead US presidents (from beyond the grave) have endorsed him as messiah. Strangely, the percentage of dead presidents endorsing him was significantly higher than the percentage of living presidents (hmm, I wonder what could possibly explain that?)

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My Week in Review

The last seven days have been interesting. Last weekend, I was hanging out with friends. There was one girl (Sarah) who I’ve liked for years. I had asked her out years ago, but she turned me down. I occasionally made off-hand comments indicating that I was still interested, but not to the point of awkwardness. Well, last weekend, she suddenly grabbed me and started kissing me. It was very unexpected. She said that it’s been building up for a long time. Great. Like I said, I’ve liked her for years. She came home with me that night (not that anything happened). The next morning, she sheepishly admitted that she had a date that night with another guy she’s been seeing.

I talked to her on Sunday about making plans for the this weekend. She said she wasn’t going to do anything on Good Friday. Um – she doesn’t have plans yet, or she’s not going to make plans because it’s “Good Friday”? She says she’s not going to make plans. Hmmm. I had no idea she was so religious. Being an atheist and dating is hard when the majority of people believe in God. I’ll have to think about this situation, and avoid the subject of religion for the time-being. I guess that explains why she’s still a virgin at 29 years old (at least, that’s what I’ve heard from our mutual friends).

Yesterday, I brought a shirt to a local tailor. A short Greek woman with a heavy accent. She owns a tiny little shop that’s easy to overlook between other businesses. I walk in and she’s smoking a cigarette. I had to smile – as of a few years ago, there is a city-wide ban on smoking in businesses. I assume she’s simply ignoring the ban. She takes my shirt, and we discuss modifying it. She’s a foot shorter than me, in her sixties, and round. She asks me if I bought the shirt on sale in a tone that says, “all clothes these days are overpriced, so I’d better answer yes”. I’m in my thirties, but I stammer around and say something about buying the shirt a while ago and I don’t remember. Of course, that’s a lie. I remember exactly how much I bought it for less than a month ago, and it wasn’t on sale. Somehow, it felt like less of a lie than “yeah, I bought it on sale”. I hate lying, and I’m bad at it. Now I know what it feels like to have a mother from the Old World. I can’t help but smile at the roles we’ve fallen into. She tells me to come back on Friday. “You’re open on Good Friday?” I ask, just making sure since this is obviously a one-person business. She says she’s Greek Orthodox – Easter isn’t for another month, she says with a wink. (Huh. I had no idea the Greek Orthodox had a different calendar.)

Tonight, I’m at a local coffeeshop when suddenly, I see Sarah walk in. There was a brief moment of confusion that happens whenever you see someone in a totally different place than you’d expect. She lives in the suburbs. I live downtown – at least 15 miles away. Sarah’s with a guy. Hmm. On “Good Friday”? I smile and look at her. It takes her a good half a minute to notice me. Not going out on Friday, huh? Maybe she’s not as religious as she said. And isn’t lying a sin? She occasionally looks over to me, trying to avoid tipping off the guy. I can’t figure out exactly what she’s thinking, but my expression is a mixture of “strange seeing you here” and an amused “I think you’ve just been busted going out on ‘Good Friday'”. They get their drinks and quickly leave. Of course, I knew she was seeing some other guy, so that isn’t completely a surprise, but going out on “Good Friday” when she said she wasn’t going to? Heh. At best, maybe he talked her into going out on Friday, since I was seeing her on Saturday. (I’m still skeptical that she was being completely honest, but there was really no reason for her to lie, since she had already told me about him.) Seeing her in the coffeeshop was a bizarre coincidence, though. There were thousands of places she could’ve gone, but she ended up in the coffeeshop where I was. In all the years I’ve known her, I’ve never run into her unexpectedly. But, it happens on the very night she’s out with some other guy, on the night when she says she’s not going out. I’ll have to give her crap about this tomorrow.

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Like Father, Like Son

(How could anyone think that’s a good idea?) The mug shots of father and son:

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Remember the video posted by anonymous declaring war on scientology? The “church” of scientology is striking back:

Jason Carlin just sent me this link, it seems someone claiming to be involved with The Church of Scientology has identified what they think are a few Anonymous members and posted all their personal information online. I said before this was going to get more interesting before it went away and it seems to have just taken another step in that direction. I do think it’s noteworthy to point out that when trying to defend yourself against claims that you use fear and personal threats to silence your critics, using fear and personal threats to silence your critics might not be the best course of action when it comes to clearing your name. (Link to Boing Boing)

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< Previous: The non-believers review of “The Case for Faith”, Chapter 4, Part 2

Advancing to the other reason for the Bible’s divine authority, Geisler said there’s one sure way to determine whether a prophet is truly a spokesperson for God or a charlatan trying to deceive the masses: can he produce clear-cut miracles? … Even famed skeptic Bertrand Russell conceded that miracles would authenticate a truth claim.

“In the Bible — which, remember, we’ve seen is historically reliable — we have prophets who were challenged but who then performed miracles to establish their credentials,” Geisler said. (p.190-191)

Geisler wants us to believe the Bible is historically accurate, but all he had done previously was show that the authors of the Bible knew about mundane things in the ancient world (like the existence of the Hittites). That’s a far cry from proving that the miracles written into the Bible actually happened as the Bible says.

“For example, Moses said in Exodus 4:1, ‘What if they do not believe me or listen to me and say, ‘The Lord did not appear to you?” How does God respond? By telling Moses to throw down his staff to the ground; instantly, it turned into a snake. He told Moses to pick it up by its tail; it turned back into a staff. Then God said in verse 5, ‘This is so that they may believe that the Lord, the God os their fathers — the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob — has appeared to you’ (p.191)

Geisler goes on to talk about Elijah’s miracles, and Jesus performing miracles. I’m unsure what this supposed to prove. Geisler’s argument seems to be: the Bible is “historically accurate”, the Bible says various prophets did miracles, therefore, these miracles prove that the Bible is true because only true prophets can do miracles.

“When you add this up — the historical reliability of the Bible as authenticated by archeology, the miraculous fulfillment of clear predictive prophecies, and the performance of documented miracles — you get a supernaturally confirmed book unlike any other in history.”

I wanted to clarify something. “What you’re not saying is, ‘I believe the Bible is divinely inspired because it says it is.”

“That’s right. That’s a circular argument. No, the argument goes like this: the Bible claims to be the Word of God and the Bible proves to be the Word of God.” (p.192)

I understand that argument is he’s saying that “prophecies prove the Bible true”. (Something I dealt with in the last post.) I’m unclear on how miracles fit into this since the only evidence that miracles happened are the words written down in the book. Further, when Bertrand Russell conceded that miracles would authenticate a truth claim, I’m pretty sure he’s talking about contemporary miracles — not “this book says that miracles happened, so there’s your miracle”. A video I recently linked to talks about a verse in Mark 16 that says Christians will be able to handle snakes and drink poison without being harmed. It says that will be a sign that they are true believers. That would be a contemporary miracle. Unfortunately, those miracles don’t actually happen. Most Christians think snake-handling is crazy stuff. Yet, it’s written in the Bible. They say you shouldn’t “test God”, but if snake-handling and immunity to poison are supposed to be signs of a true Christian, how exactly are these *signs* supposed to be manifest if Christians are always avoiding the handling of snakes, and not drinking poison? Are you supposed to hang around for a few decades until a true Christian accidentally gets bitten by a snake or drinks poison? It seems that this would be a verifiable miracle — if it actually ever happened.

Further, if “miracles were written down” is good evidence for the divine, then we need to include a whole bunch of other claimed miracles from other religions. I’ve seen hindu books claim that people can live to a hundred and fifty years through proper diet and yoga. Scientologists are told that high-level scientologists can perform various miracles (including the healing of broken bones, correction of bad eyesight, curing psychiatric disorders). L Ron Hubbard actually claimed to do some of these miracles. Lots of TV evangelists claim to be doing miracles. The leader of Falun Gong claims to be able to perform miracles (no doubt, his followers will write down his claimed miracles after he dies as “proof” that Falun Gong is the true religion). He claims that Falun Gong practitioners never get sick, and people can be cured if they practice the religion:

“It was Falun Gong that cured her. Falun Gong can cure the incurable.” (Link)

I could go on and on with examples of claimed miracles in other religions. Of course, I don’t believe any of it is true. I also don’t believe the miracles of the Bible.

Coping with Contradictions

When I asked about alleged contradictions in the Bible, Geisler leaned back in his chair and smiled … All I can tell you is that in my experience when critics raise these objections, they invariably violate one of seventeen principles for interpreting Scripture… For example, assuming the unexplained is unexplainable.” (p.193)

Okay, I’ll accept that “assuming the unexplained is unexplainable” is a bad principle – but I don’t think that’s the nature of critics complaints (we’ll have to see once Geisler brings up some examples of the unexplainable). Geisler goes on to say that scientists don’t give-up on science because they find an anomaly that doesn’t fit with the current science. Similarly, Christians should not give up on Christianity because of apparent contradictions in scripture. There’s a problem with this analogy, however: first of all, scientists don’t believe that the current scientific knowledge is perfect. Science allows for overturning, updating, or superseding existing ideas. It allows for changes, and sometimes “that’s a weird result” is a precursor to a new scientific discovery. This contrasts with Geisler’s ideas about the Bible: “the Bible is … without error” (p.195) Additionally, science has repeatedly shown its accuracy. The Bible has not (though Strobel and Geisler would dispute this). If you have a system that has repeatedly shown it’s accuracy and it allows for updates and changes, then an anomaly is not devastating. On the other hand, if you have a book which is (supposedly) completely infallible and doesn’t have a strong track record, then a contradiction is more problematic. Admittedly, one contradiction probably isn’t enough to reject the Bible. A more liberal Christian might say that the Bible was written by men, and therefore has certain inaccuracies, but that the basic theology is sound. That position could deal with contradictions, but it’s a position Geisler does not subscribe to.

“[The Bible] has proven over and over to be accurate, even when I initially thought it wasn’t. Why shouldn’t I give it the benefit of the doubt now? We need to approach the Bible the say an American is treated in court: presumed innocent until proven guilty (p.194)

I don’t believe that the Bible has been “proven over and over to be accurate”, but that idea allows him to shifting the burden of proof – a pretty common tactic. I assume that by “presumed innocent until proven guilty”, Geisler is saying that we should assume the Bible is divine unless proven otherwise. I doubt Christians would offer the “presumed innocent until proven guilty” principle to the books of other religions. I also have to wonder what “proving” the Bible wrong means exactly. If we take Geisler’s position, we would continually say that any apparent contradictions in scripture must have an explanation, even if we don’t know what it is. If that’s his position, then I’m unclear on what could constitute “proving” that a contradiction is really a contradiction.

“Critics do the opposite [of presumed innocent until proven guilty]. They denied the Hittites of the Old Testament ever existed. Now archeologists have found the Hittite library. Critics say, ‘Well, I guess the Bible was right in that verse, but I don’t accept the rest.’ Wait a minute — when it has been proven to be accurate over and over again in hundreds of details, the burden of proof is on the critic, not on the Bible.” (p.195)

You have to understand that religion colors the world, it doesn’t totally mask it. For example, the Old Testament talks about Israel’s battles with its neighbors. There were times when the Jews won, and times when the Jews lost. The passages in the Old Testament usually blame some sin or immorality for the Jews’ loss in battle. It’s not hard to think, “Maybe the battles were happening, but the explanation for losing in battle is fiction”. That’s the problem, Geisler wants to say something like, ‘Look, the Bible is right – these battles actually happened’, and then jump to the conclusion that ‘therefore, the Bible must also be right about the explanation for losses in battle’. Of course, that’s ridiculous. Every ancient culture could explain their poor fortune on the gods intervening or not intervening for whatever reason. The Pacific Islanders could probably find some wrongdoing that “explains” why the local volcano erupted, too. Just because some islanders have accurate records of volcanic eruptions doesn’t mean “the volcano god is angry” is also true.

“Matthew says there was one angel at Jesus’ tomb; John says there were two. The gospels say Judas hung himself; Acts says his bowels gushed out.”

Concerning the angels, have you ever noticed that whenever you have two of anything, you also have one? It never fails. Matthew didn’t say there was only one. John was providing more detail by saying there were two. (p.195)

I don’t really buy that explanation. It seems rather clear in Matthew that there’s just one angel in the story:

And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it. His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow: And for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead [men]. And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. (Matthew 28)

Contrast that with John 20:

But Mary stood without at the sepulchre weeping [over the missing body of Jesus]: and as she wept, she stooped down, [and looked] into the sepulchre, And seeth two angels in white sitting, the one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain.

As you can see, the problems in reconciling the gospel accounts are deeper than “was there one or two angels?” For example, they disagree on who was at the tomb, whether an earthquake happened, whether an angel rolled away the stone (versus arriving at the tomb and finding it empty), whether the guards were still there, etc. The book of Mark doesn’t even mention any angels at all, but it talks about a mysterious stranger dressed in white (an angel? maybe, but not like Matthew’s description). In Mark, this mysterious stranger is discovered inside the tomb – where the stone is already rolled away when the women arrive, and the guards are already missing:

And they said among themselves, Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulchre? And when they looked, they saw that the stone was rolled away: for it was very great. And entering into the sepulchre, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a long white garment; and they were affrighted. And he saith unto them, Be not affrighted: Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him. (Mark 16)

Regarding Judas’ death:

“The gospels say Judas hung himself; Acts says his bowels gushed out.” (p.195) “As for Judas suicide, you hang yourself in a tree or over the edge of a cliff. It was against the law to touch a dead body in those days. So somebody came along later, found his body, cut the rope, and the bloated body fell onto the rocks. What happens? The bowels gush out, just as the Bible says. They’re not contradictory, they’re complimentary. (p.196)

I don’t really buy that explanation as being very plausible. It doesn’t make much sense to say that his guts burst open without saying that his body was already several days dead. Here’s the passage – see if you can work Geisler’s explanation into it:

Now [Judas] purchased a field with the reward of iniquity; and falling headlong, he burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out. (Acts 1:18)

That sounds an awful lot like an accident.

“One more thing before we go,” I said as I read him the colorful words of a frustrated spiritual seeker:

So if I want to avoid hell, I presumably have to believe that a snake talked to Eve, that a virgin got pregnant from God, that a whale swallowed a prophet, that the Red Sea was parted, and all sorts of other crazy things. Well, if God wants me so bad … why does He make believing in Him so … impossible? … It seems to me that an all-powerful God could do a much better job of convincing people of His existence than any evangelist ever does … Just write it in the sky, nice and big: “Here’s your proof, Ed. Believe in Me or go to hell! Sincerely, the Almighty.”

Looking up at Geisler, I said, “What would you say to him?”

Geisler was a bit bemused. “My answer would be that God did do something like that,” he replied. “Psalm 19:1 says, ‘The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.’ In fact, it’s written across the heavens so vividly that more and more scientists who search the stars are becoming Christians.

[Geisler then goes on to name a number of astronomers that are theists or Christians.]

And I like what mathematical physicist Robert Griffiths said: ‘If we need an atheist for a debate, I go to the philosophy department. The physics department isn’t much use.’ The evidence, Lee, is so clear.” (p.196-198)

This seems like a pretty ridiculous argument to me. He’s saying that the stars in the sky are equivalent to God writing a message in the sky with actual words. Further, he doesn’t explain why this universe-creating God points us to the God of the Bible. Thus, we’re supposed to believe that seeing the stars in the sky will lead us to believe in a book that says “a snake talked to Eve, that a virgin got pregnant from God, that a whale swallowed a prophet, that the Red Sea was parted”. Neither see a problem with that.

“[Bertrand Russell] said if he someday stands before God and is asked why he never put his faith in him, he’ll say he hadn’t been given enough evidence,” I reminded him.

Geisler, one of whose hobbies is collecting quotes from atheists and agnostics, pointed out something else Russell said. “He was asked in a Look magazine interview, ‘Under what condition would you believe in God,’ and he essentially said, “Well, if I heard a voice from heaven and it predicted a series of things and they came to pass, then I guess I’d have to believe there’s some kind of supernatural being”‘

In light of our discussion about the miraculous fulfillment of predictive prophecies in the Bible, the irony in Russell’s statement was obvious.

“I’d say, ‘Mr. Russell, there has been a voice from heaven; it has predicted many things; and we’ve seen them undeniably come to pass,'” Geisler declared. (p.198)

Except that when I tracked down these Old Testament prophecies (in part 2), they were vague and didn’t seem to be fulfilled.

“Then you don’t think God is making it hard for people to believe?”

“On the contrary, the evidence is there if people will be willing to see it. It’s not for a lack of evidence that people turn from God; it’s from their pride or their will. God is not going to force anyone into the fold. Love never works coercively. It only works persuasively. And there’s plenty of persuasive evidence there.” (p.198)

So much to disagree with in one paragraph. (1) He asserts that the evidence for the Biblical God is far better than it actually is. (2) He claims that people don’t believe because of “their pride or their will”. Apparently, there are no non-Christians who, through ignorance or any other reason, rejected Christianity. It’s always the personal flaws of “their pride or their will” that is their downfall, apparently. Since God isn’t going to “force anyone into the fold”, the only reason they deny God is willful denial of the “persuasive evidence” (which is absurd). There are no innocent non-believers, it seems. No matter how nice and sweet that hindu, buddhist, muslim, atheist, or agnostic is – they are rejecting the Christian God because of “their pride or their will”.

Update: For a slightly different view than Geisler’s idea that ‘archeology is always confirming the Biblical history’, you can listen to Hector Avalos talk “How Archaeology Killed Biblical History” (Part 1, Part 2). I have to admit that he doesn’t give as many details as I would like. I also didn’t much care for his idea that Christian Biblical scholars are lying about archeology to preserve their jobs (sounds a bit like ‘climatologists are lying about global warming to preserve their jobs’). But, he does talk about how Christian scholars jump to conclusions when they say this or that archaeological find validates Biblical history. He says that scholars a hundred years ago saw the Bible as a reliable record of history, but that view is no longer widely believed by scholars. He says that many scholars think that only a few (of the 40) books of the Old Testament accurately record history. There is also an interesting part where he talks about the lack of evidence for the existence of King David and Solomon. According to the Bible, Solomon controlled an empire from Egypt to the Euphrates (1 Kings 4:21, 2 Chronicles 9:26). We should find evidence of such an empire – at least in the letters of the contemporary Kings in the area (like we do for other large nations), but we don’t. Avalos suggests that King David and Solomon were like King Arthur, and that the Jews were constructing a glorious fake history for themselves.

Up next: “Objection #5: It’s offensive to claim Jesus is the only way to God”

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By the way, this is the same verse that the Penecostal snake handlers‘ use to justify snake handling.

Hensley, the founder of modern snake handling in the Appalachian Mountains, died from snakebite in 1955. In 1998, snake-handling evangelist John Wayne “Punkin” Brown died after being bitten by a timber rattler at the Rock House Holiness Church in rural northeastern Alabama. Members of his family contend that his death was likely due to a heart attack, although his wife had died three years earlier after a snake bite while in Kentucky. Another follower died in 2006 at a church in Kentucky.

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I was talking to a friend of mine the other day. Her friend Karen recently returned from teaching in Japan over the past few years. But, Karen doesn’t go out on the weekends, despite the fact that she wants to find a boyfriend/husband. Why doesn’t she get out and meet people? Because a psychic told her that she’d meet the man she’d marry in the next year. Now Karen doesn’t feel the need to even try to meet anyone – it’s already “guaranteed” by a psychic. (Who says psychics are all just harmless fun?)

In other news, my dad sent me an email the other day. They’re driving thorough Ohio, so they thought they’d make a visit to the Creation Museum. No, this isn’t a “what are these wacky creationists claiming” kind of a trip. My parents actually believe in a six-day creation and a six-thousand year-old universe. I just wish my parents weren’t paying these charlatans.

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