Sep 30, 2011

89 What motivates you to live honorably in the world

Believer asks: If a man is nothing but the random arrangement of molecules, what motivates you to care and live honorably in the world? 

And skeptic answers: Well, if you're ready to do whatever God tells you and don't stop to think about whether it’s right or wrong, what motivates you to live honorably in the world?  

And intellectual dishonesty is in plenty among religious people. That's not very honorable.

Finally, I ask what "the random arrangement of molecules" means. It isn't clear to me.

Related post:
63 Define truth, reality, morals without God

Sep 29, 2011

88 Should we overlook differences in the Gospels

Believer says: It doesn’t matter if there are occasional discrepancies between the Gospel accounts ... what really matters most is the spiritual gist of the Gospel message.   

But skeptic says: Well then, preachers should stop planting whole sermons on a few chosen words that relate to what Jesus and the disciples did. After all, by admission in the believer’s above remarks, the Gospels aren’t so much careful journalism as they are just a gist of things. And by the same token, I say it does little or no good for a preacher to tear a verse apart word by Greek word in order to explain what it “really means.” Since the verse in question is merely a spiritual gist of things, it’d only be a waste of time to go beyond the general picture. 

Recap: An apologist may claim that the New Testament Gospels convey only the spiritual gist of Jesus' deeds and sayings. But when the apologist reverses his position and closely examines the Greek words, opening his exegesis with his line “What the Greek really means is ...” it seems to me that he claims whatever serves his purpose at the moment.

Sep 28, 2011

87 An absolute standard whereby to judge regimes

Believer says: The atheist cannot condemn a murderous and repressive regime by some absolute standard 

But skeptic says: Well, if a Christian standard is what is meant by “some absolute standard,” the Christian can't condemn a murderous and repressive regime since a New Testament letter by Paul says   

Romans 13:1 Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2 Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3 For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. 4 For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.  

Recap: It sounds as if human government is God’s will for better or worse and so Christians should accept all forms of it.  

Related post:

Sep 27, 2011

86 Did God make and well tune the cosmos (2)

Believer says: With regard to cosmic forces, such as gravitational force, science has discovered that the universe’s energy forces have been finely tuned. If gravity strength were universally changed a tiny fraction, our cosmos couldn’t support life. Scientists can’t explain this amazing fine tuning! Only God could have wrought such fine engineering. This isn’t a “God of the gaps” argument, either.  

But skeptic says: Oh, but it is a “God of the gaps” argument (“God did it”). An apologist might claim that only God’s power could fine structure the energy forces; but it’s merely an assertion. The apologist doesn’t really know.  

If a scientist claims that mere chance fine tuned the cosmos, it would be a “chance of the gaps” argument, a mere assertion; the scientist doesn’t really know.  

Or a scientist might want to increase the chance by positing the existence of multi-universes, each one with its own set of laws of physics. Our universe owes its existence to the odds, the role of the dice if you will, which brought about our cosmos’ set of physical laws. This, too, is a “chance of the gaps” argument; the scientist may assert it. But he but doesn’t really know.  

And another scientist might claim that the cosmos’ physical forces can't exist in any other way; ours, a life-supporting cosmos, is the only possible kind of cosmos. This is the “physical necessity” view. But I call it the “physical necessity of the gaps” argument. It’s a mere assertion. The scientist doesn’t really know whether it’s true.  

Thus none of the three--physical necessity, chance, or design--are testable views, and so neither the astrophysicist nor the theologian has tangible or empirical evidence. All are “gap” arguments--the theological one included--period. So the religious apologist's claim falls back on the “God of the gaps” argument although he may deny it.

Related post:
56 Atheist asks how God made the cosmos come

Sep 26, 2011

85 If the authorities stole Jesus' body, why

Believer asks: Why would the authorities have perpetrated the very scenario that they most wanted to prevent?  

But skeptic answers: It wasn't the authorities who stole the body of Jesus out of the tomb. It was somebody else; Jesus sympathizers might have done it, fearing if their master were to rise bodily out of the tomb, the authorities would have attacked him on the spot. So the sympathizers stole the body and put it elsewhere, to await its reanimation (his re-enlivening which never came about).  

Funny thing, the question seems to say somebody could in fact have robbed the body from the tomb and wants to know why.  

Related post:

Sep 22, 2011

84 How could Jesus have eluded a guard at his tomb

Believer asks: If Jesus did not actually die and rise from the dead, how could he (in his condition) have circumvented all of the security measures in place at his tomb?  

But skeptic answers: Naturally the question assumes that the story of the execution and entombment of Jesus is factual. If it never really happened the way the New Testament says, the question is moot.  

Assuming it's a true story, I'll say somebody let Jesus out of the tomb. There were a couple opportunities for rescuers to go into action

1) The night the authorities laid Jesus in the tomb and rolled a stone in front of the entrance. They placed a guard at the tomb the next day 

Matthew 27:60 Then Joseph of Arimathea rolled a large stone across the entrance to the tomb and went away. 61 Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting there, facing the tomb. 62 The next day, the chief priests and the Pharisees met with Pilate 63 and said ... 64 “Give orders for his tomb to be carefully guarded until the third day.” 65 “Take a guard,” Pilate told them; “go and make the tomb as secure as you can.” 66 So they left and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and leaving the guard on watch.

So the rescuers saw their chance before the authorities posted a guard. They let Jesus out alive. The rest of the story, about women seeing angels at the tomb, is fiction.  

2) The guard swooned at the tomb entrance. They collapsed (I'm making this up of course) because the rescuers drugged their food and wine. Soon the guards fell into a drug-induced sleep. Matthew reports a bright angel who frightened the daylights out of them. I’ll say it was a hallucination thanks to the drug they consumed  

Matthew 28:2 Suddenly there was a violent earthquake; an angel of the Lord came down from heaven, rolled the stone away, and sat on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. 4 The guards were so afraid that they trembled and became like dead men.

And the rest of the story, about women seeing angels at the tomb, is fiction.  

Recap: Matthew is the only one who says a guard was on duty. Other evangelists don't report it. If Matthew made it up, no sentry kept watch. Of course I changed the story around capriciously and included the rescuers of Jesus. The way I see it, though, the resurrection never took place. 

Related post:
85 If the authorities stole Jesus' body, why

Sep 18, 2011

83 If evil exists, God’s moral law exists

Believe asks: Do you believe there is such a thing as evil? If you say Yes, then you must believe there is such a thing as good. So, you must also believe that there is moral law to determine what is evil and what is good. That moral law comes from God.  

Skeptic answers: Anybody's sense of evil comes from their personal moral values. Moral values are relative, so they tend to change from group to group and subculture to subculture. Groups can have overlapping moral values, yes, but there isn't a set of moral values for everybody in the world. Even if everbody were to universally have the same moral values, it still wouldn't indicate they were from God.

Recap: Having a sense of good and bad doesn’t prove it's moral law from God. Moral law is just relative from culture to culture.

Sep 8, 2011

82 Is it arrogant to think churches are in error

Believer asks: Isn't it somewhat arrogant to suggest that countless churches and people are all radically in error in their view of the Bible? 

Skeptic answers: I can hear the same religious person say the many Hindus temples and Muslim mosques are in error. All the ancient temples and shines to the Olympian gods are in error, too.

But suddenly it's “arrogant” to suggest that the Christian churches are in error. I could say it's arrogant for a church to suggest that the church across the street is in error in its view of the Bible. Ao many of the "countless churches" don’t agree with each other about doctrine.

What's important is the reasons to say the churches are in error. What's less important is the so-called arrogant attitude towards the churches.

Sep 2, 2011

81 We can't imagine depth of God--proof God exists

Believer says: We couldn’t have invented an infinite God. The reason is that what we imagine is limited to our experiences. For example, we have experiences with horses and horns, and so we can imagine unicorns. An infinite God is real, however, since we have no experiences with the infinite and couldn’t have merely imagined an infinite God. 

But skeptic says: Well, folks imagine invisible spirits at work in the world. They imagine spirits of the earth and the ocean and just about everything else. They believe that spirits can influence our thoughts, too.

As far as an "infinite god" goes, I say the idea of one is based on the observation that the cosmos is vast and nature has countless life forms. 

I won't claim an infinite universe exists. I simply don't have any experiences with one and can't really imagine the depth of one. I can only talk about it.

Apologists might say an infinite God is in a class by itself. But I could say an infinite cosmos is in a class by itself. So just words alone fail to establish that either one could exist. Both concepts just get nowhere fast. 

Recap: The apologist can't demonstrate the things God does infinitely. I say the concept of an infinite God is based on experiences and imagination after all. It's an invention, and so are finite gods. 

Related post:
14 What created God

Sep 1, 2011

80 Bible claims it’s God’s word, so it must be

Believer says: The Old Testament alone claims to be Gods inspired word at least 2600 times. 

But skeptic says: I don't know how many times the OT claims to be God's inspired word, but such claims can't authenticate that it’s indeed any God-inspired word. The claims don't prove anything.

Besides, other religions have sacred texts claiming to be a god’s word, too. For example: 

The Quran says its Islamic text was taught by a God  

The Merciful 55:1 It is the Merciful [Allah] who has taught the Koran.

The ancient Bhagavad Gita (The Song of the Lord) says most of its Hindu text is the word of Lord Krishna, a God 

Bhagavad Gita 2.1 Krishna, spoke the following words ... 

The ancient Zend Avesta says its Persian text is the word of a God, too 

Vendidad, Fargard 1:1 Ahura Mazda [God] spoke unto Spitama Zarathushtra [the prophet], saying ... 

Recap: The Bible might say it's God word a lot of times, but it's only lying a lot of times.