Secular Stalinist Scotland? Letter in Hebrides News

This is a letter published on Hebrides News – in answer to the plethora of letters coming from Secular Scotland supporters – who have obviously decided to take on Christianity in the area where it is perceived to be strongest in Scotland.

Sir,
Alistair McBay of the National Secular Society (NSS) wants to claim that communism is a religion because it replaces an omnipotent God with an omnipotent state. This is an excellent description of what the NSS are seeking to do. They want a secular state which determines what our morality is, how we can behave, what marriage is etc.
His citation of Montifiore’s Young Stalin is interesting. He conveniently left out that Montiefiore records a teenage Stalin excitedly proclaiming to his friends, after reading Darwin’s Origin of the Species, “there is no God, they lied to us.”
From that time on he was an atheist and because of his lack of belief in God, thought there was no eternity, no judgement day and that he could therefore do what he wanted.
Ironically, Mr McBay has pointed us to what happens when a society rejects God and replaces him with the secular state and a social Darwinist view of humanity.
David Robertson
Solas CPC
St Peters Free Church
4 St Peter St
Dundee

78 thoughts on “Secular Stalinist Scotland? Letter in Hebrides News

  1. David

    It is you who is misappropriating Montefiore’s work (notwithstanding the fact that you can’t even spell his name right!).

    I remember posting the following (now with engrossments) to you on Premier Christian Radio’s debate forum back in the day after you cited this passage from Young Stalin:

    From my 2008 Phoenix paperback edition of Young Stalin:

    On page 47 Montefiore writes, “[Stalin] talked about books all the time. If he coveted a volume, he was happy to steal it from another schoolboy and run home with it. When he was about thirteen, Lado Ketshouveki took him to a little bookshop in Gori where he paid a five kopeck subscription and borrowed a book that was probably Darwin’s Origin Of Species.” [My emphasis]

    Of course you miss out the “probably”. Rather like failing to mention that Traudl Junge admits that she has a poor recollection of what Hitler said after quoting that tasty bite about Hitler not being a member of any church and thinking humans evolved from apes from Until The Final Hour.

    Or swallowing the English translation of Table Talk whole in relation to Hitler’s supposed atheism without reference to the caveats Ian Kershaw places on the text in the second of his two-volume biography of Hitler, which you claim to have read.

    Kershaw (2000) 1024 – 1025: “The available German text is, therefore, at best a construct; neither the original nor the copy of that original exists… [There is] no reliable German text whose authenticity can be placed beyond question.”

    You also neglect to mention that Montefiore does not mention Darwin or evolution again in the book or subsequent biography The Court Of The Red Tsar, nor indicts atheism or Darwinism for influencing Stalin’s policies.

    Plenty of people have been converted to atheism after discovering Darwin because it removes the need for a divine designer. They haven’t become genocidal dictators.

    But even if Montefiore did make such an accusation, that doesn’t mean he would be right. I actually wrote to historian Laurence Rees ticking him off for describing Nazism as “expressly Darwinian” in his otherwise excellent Auschwitz: The Nazis and the ‘Final Solution’ without citing any primary sources in support. Never received a reply, mind you.

    In light of this primary source where we have it in Stalin’s own words that he rejected Darwinism in favour of Larmarkism, I am going to put this down as a lapse by Montefiore in pandering to urban myth:

    Mendeleyev’s “periodic system of elements” clearly shows how very important in the history of nature is the emergence of qualitative changes out of quantitative changes. The same thing is shown in biology by the theory of neo-Lamarckism, to which neo-Darwinism is yielding place. – Stalin 1906, 304

    It is abundantly clear to me from reading the sources upon which you rely that you are skim-reading your history books and cherry-picking passages and phrases that support your presupposed notions that atheism is responsible for all the evils in the World and Christianity is the only cure.

    MSP

    1. Manic – never ever attribute arguments to your opponents that they do not hold. Otherwise you just end up talking to yourself. I don’t believe that atheism is responsible for all the evils in the world. I do believe that Jesus is the answer to them. Mind you I’m quite surprised that you as an atheist think there is evil and would be interested in a) how you define it and b) how you deal with it! (ps. Of course it is ‘abundantly clear’ to you that I ‘cherry pick’ after skim reading history books. That is because you want it to be. Sadly for you it is not true. I have read Montefiiore’s books on Stalin twice and found them fascinating – as I did Deutscher;s classic on the same man. Much as this does not suit your faith – Stalin’s atheism was a major factor in his political actions. As we say up here ‘facts are chiels that winna ding”.

      1. David

        I note that you made no attempt to correct my interpretation of your interpretation of Montefiore’s, Junge’s, Kerhaw’s and Hitler’s works.

        That’s progress of a kind.

        I’m also glad that you seem to accept that if God is the source and definition of goodness then axiomatically he must be the source of and definition of evil.

        If there is a being behind all the evil and suffering that we see everyday visited upon innocent millions in the World, he would embarrass the most ambitious psychopath.

        How would I define evil?

        Try this for size.

        And if Jesus is the answer to all the World’s problems, then why did he pledge not to bring peace but a sword?

        Certainly, that is his one prophecy that did come to pass if we go by the subsequent 2000 years Christian history.

        Unlike his promise that his second coming would happen before some of his followers died.

        MSP

  2. I’d never read the Stalin quote before, David. Thanks.

    I understand the point you’re trying to make about secularism. I just don’t know where the line should be drawn. I’m currently reading Philip Yancey’s ‘Christianity and Politics’ and he refers to the various models that Christians have adopted, with varying success, in their societies. Some have went all in and some have had a complete separation. And do we change our society by political activism or preaching the Gospel and changing hearts and minds that way? It’s a difficult one for me, I admit.

  3. There is so much more to Stalin than MSP suggests.

    His Lamarckian views were mediated via Timofei Lysenko, whom Robert Service in his biography of Stalin described as a “self-styled geneticist who claimed to be able to breed new strains of plant by changing their climatic environment”. Service also asserts that Stalin “had a bias in favour of scientists who came from the working class or peasantry and, regardless of their limited education, challenged conventional ideas……Lysenkoism was a bastard form of the Lamarckian propositions of natural selection.”
    Mendeleev was championed as part of Stalin’s attempt to rewrite history by asserting the superiority of Soviet scientists over their European counterparts. In effect, he was re-writing history.
    And the blessed Montefiore in “The Court of the Red Tsar” calls Lysenko a “scientific charlatan”.

    This is another case of not addressing the argument but diverting it into ad hominem attacks on relatively minor issues.

    Tut! Tut! MSP

    1. Gav

      Perhaps all it boils down to is a difference of opinion, but I do not think holding David’s feet to the fire on his quoting-mining of academic sources to support his preconceived notions of the causes behind the atrocities of the 20th century is a diversion into ad hominem attacks.

      In the second of our two debates on Premier Christian Radio in 2009, I pressed David on whether he actually believed in evolution after his half-hearted defence in The Dawkins Letters of schools that taught creationism as “teaching the controversy” and his reply was, “I don’t know and I don’t care.”

      That is not good enough.

      In fact, that’s worse than not good enough.

      It is a disgrace of the first, second, third and fourth orders.

      David has a chapter in his book called “The Myth of the Science-Religion Conflict”.

      He has touted the fine tuning argument as evidence for a divine design.

      He rubbished Stephen Hawking’s recent pronouncements that the universe can have been created without God.

      And he has attempted to tar Darwin’s good name with accusations of racism and promotion of eugenics in relation to the full original title of Origins and made out that his discoveries lead to Hitler’s attempt to create an Aryan master race.

      AND YET HE CANNOT EVEN BE BOTHERED EDUCATING HIMSELF AS TO THE EVIDENCE FOR AND TRUTH O FOR ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT SCIENTIFIC DISCOVERIES IN THE HISTORY OF HUMANITY!!!!!!

      If you read this post of mine on Premier Christian Radio’s screening of the creationist propaganda piece, Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed in 2010, I actually discuss Stalin’s views on Darwinism and Lamarckism that gave rise to his insane biology program that lead to millions dying in famine. I am simply preserving the true historical record that Stalin was not influenced by Darwin.

      I agree that there are such things as bad science scientific fraud.

      But the answer is not rejection of science altogether and/or turning to religion.

      It is more science and it is better science.

      MSP

      1. Manic – forgive me for not having the time to respond to all your points – most of which are distorted and wrong. Stephen Hawking argued that the universe self-created out of ‘nothing’ – it takes a special faith to believe that! And I don’t really care about the creation/evolution debate – I know Christians who are YEC, OEC and TE….and all of them are fine believers….not a big issue for me.

        And I don’t quote mine history – unlike you I studied it for my University degree and regularly read it. You can try to find a reason why the most atheist societies in the 20th Century were also some of the most violent – I just take the evidence and see the connection. A connection which you are determined not to see – and so guess what, you won’t!

      2. David

        Actually, the latest discoveries in quantum and particle physics show that – contrary to yours and William Lane Craig’s slanted language that preys on the lay person’s ordinary everyday perceptions of what is plausible, logical and rational – the universe could well have “popped into existence from nothing” and have violated no know laws of physics by so doing.

        Hawking is far from alone in this view. Laurence Krauss and Victor Stenger as well as many other scientists who are far more qualified than you to speak on such matters back him up.

        I am in the middle of drafting a response to your post “Why I Am Not An Atheist” and in relation to the Kalam First Cause Argument, I’m sorry to tell you, yes, things like radioactive particles and virtual particles “just pop in existence” all the time without any observable cause.

        Evolution is not a big issue for you because it does support theism. In fact, it removes any need for a supernatural designer, rather like the physicist La Place telling Napoleon that he “has no need for that hypothesis; my theories work well enough without that assumption” when the emperor asked him how God was involved in his model of the solar system.

        And scientists who accept evolution as part of God’s design like Francis Collins are being highly disingenuous. There’s no way around that argument and a hypothesis that cannot be falsified is a very poor one indeed.

        And since we are comparing the sizes of our respective… academic qualifications, let me inform you that I graduated from Cardiff University in 2003 with a 2.1 in Law & Politics and have been a qualified Solicitor of the Supreme Court of England and Wales for over four years.

        These subjects require a deep understanding of philosophy and history, the latter of which I obtained a ‘B’ at A-Level before entering university.

        In my profession I have to scrutinise all the available evidence and come to a conclusion that best supports my clients’ interests, even if that means telling them some uncomfortable truths. I would be a very poor lawyer if I carried on with a litigation without paying heed to my client’s prospects of success in court, but simply advised them to fight tooth and nail for the sake of amassing fees and not wanting to tell them ‘no’.

        I have read Montefiore’s work as well and if anything he supports my argument that while Stalin’s Russia was “atheistic” in respect of Yahweh, Jehovah, Allah and Zeus, Josef was actually trying to install himself as a new Tsar in line with the preceding three centuries of Russian orthodoxy. The clue is in the subtitle of his next book: “The Court Of The Red Tsar”.

        As the Hitch wrote in God Is Not Great:

        Communist absolutists did not so much negate religion, in societies that they well understood were saturated with faith and superstition, as seek to replace it. The solemn elevation of infallible leaders who were a source of endless bounty and blessing; the permanent search for heretics and schismatics; the mummification of the dead leaders as icons and relics; the lurid show trials that elicited incredible confessions by means of torture; none of these was very difficult to interpret in traditional terms.

        You also ignore the second stand of Dawkins’ argument on this point that there is no evidence that atheism systematic motivates people to commit violence.

        Yes, atheists can be (and have been) tyrants, despots, mass murderers and psychopaths. But unless you can find a direct causal link between their brutality and their simple rejection of your particular sky father (as opposed to all the others to which I have alluded), then the logical conclusions of all this dead body accountancy is that Hitler and Stalin upped the roll of iniquity for all those who happen to sport moustaches.

        In the studio at Premier, you had with you a copy of Goldhagen’s Hitler’s Willing Executioners, which as I pointed out on tape, is a damning indictment of the Catholic Church’s complicity with fascism and National Socialism. You reluctantly agreed with my point, but you did not mention a word of it in TDL which you should have done if you wanted to portray an accurate picture of the historical record that you were only too aware.

        So I’m sorry, David, my charge of against you of quote-mining history books is still very much extant.

        MSP

      3. MSP –

        The universe ‘popped into existence from nothing’ – incredible the levels that some people will go to in order to avoid God!

        Frances Collins is disingenous because he does not believe what you believe.

        And yes you do come to conclusions that serve your ‘clients interests’ – in this case your client being fundamentalist atheism.

        You have a deep understanding of philosophy and history because you got a ‘B’ at A-level in history! (I’ll over you one MA from Edinburgh Uni in History to trump your A level!)

        And I love the fact you cite Dawkins as evidence. Of course he says there is no evidence that atheism inspires violence. But he has no evidence of that. He knows nothing of philosophy and even less than you about history!

        And incidentally of course the Vatican was complicit with Hitler….but then so was the scientific and academic establishments in Germany – I didn’t have space to mention all of that either. The trouble is I don’t live in the black and white world of the fundamentalist (whether atheist or religious). Life is more complex!

      4. David

        You seem to have plenty of time to fire off your usual ad hominems such as “atheist fundamentalist” (a sure sign that you have lost the exchange and don’t want to say anything further) so how come you don’t have time to quote any passages from those historical sources to prove me wrong?

        I’m not citing Dawkins as evidence; I am merely reminding you of his argument. There is a difference. Indeed, the burden of proof in on you to show that atheism motives people to do evil things. So far, you have shirked this responsibility.

        While Hitler was building the gas chambers and Stalin the gulags, I could easily argue that Christian USA and UK were committing atrocities of their own by carpet bombing Dresden and Hamburg and dropping the Atomic Bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

        However, such actions were not motive by their religion, so it would be wrong of me to take such a cheap shot. I wish you would do me the same courtesy. (By the way, I’m certainly no bleeding-heart-liberal who condemns the Allies’ bombing tactics during WWII outright. I think that a plausible case for self-preservation can be made, but also we have learnt the lessons of that conflict and it is good that we haven’t flattened Baghdad from the air.)

        The universe “just popping into existence out of nothing” may seem incredible to you, but then again, you seem view matters with a very short horizon. This is the same science that flew us to the moon and wiped out the wonderfully designed omnibenevolent smallpox virus. As Victor Stenger once put it, “Science flies you to the moon. Religion flies you into buildings.”

        Francis Collins is disingenuous for accepting evolution but then reinventing his God so that he conforms to the empirical facts. The remainder of Francis Collins’ intellectual suicide is off-topic for this discussion, but is best analysed by Sam Harris who seems to be the only person in the scientific community to have noticed it.

        I don’t know why I let you goad me into a comparison of academic credentials. William Lane Craig has a fair few doctorates, including one from a British university and has been given platforms to speak at Oxford and Cambridge, so clearly that is no measure of a man’s intellectual integrity. But at least yours is in a proper subject, unlike that waste of the rainforests known as theology.

        Yes, I accept that many intellectuals in Germany supported Hitler. Yet many others, like Albert Einstein, did not support him and had to flee or face persecution. Stalin had the support of many atheistic Marxists, but he too also persecuted many others. I’m quite happy to admit that the intellectuals who supported H &S were wrong to do so. The Enlightenment tradition is not shackled by any dogma that its adherents are infallible.

        Niemöller and Bonhoeffer are held out as shining examples of Christian opposition to Hitler; however, the fact that they had to leave the established churches in order to do so is no cause for Christian celebration.

        As for your accusations of “atheist fundamentalism”, how is it possible for an atheist to be anything other than a fundamentalist in his non-belief? What exactly is a “non-fundamentalist atheist”? Someone who sort-of-doesn’t-but-not-entirely-not-believe in God?

        And can you please name for me a war or a terrorist campaign being fought by atheists in the name of their non-belief that they are attempting to force onto religious people, or indeed such an example in the history of the human race ever (aside from the bogus H & S argument which I am done with refuting)?

        No? Thought not.

        I agree that the truth and morality are not just black and white. They are an infinite spectrum of grey areas.

        There are things that would change my mind on the matter. Such as a big face sticking out of the clouds with a booming voice striking sinners down with fire and brimstone (rather like the God of the Bible I was made to learn about in school), double-blind scientific prayer studies showing an overwhelming bias in favour of prayers to the Christian God or Jesus returning to Earth trailing clouds of glory to commence his thousand year reign of peace.

        You, on the other hand, once admitted to me on the Premier Christian Radio forum that the discovery of Jesus’ corpse is the only piece of evidence that would change your mind. While this piece of evidence at least has the potential of coming to light, it doing so in reality is vanishingly small.

        And I take it you will not even accept other arguments such as scientific and philosophical rebuttals of the design and first cause arguments, not to mention those relating to the unreliability of the Gospels as historical documents and whether Jesus ever even existed?

        Ergo, you have constructed your beliefs on the same lines as Bertrand Russell’s celestial teapot and realistically are utterly unprovable as they are unfalsifiable.

        Now who looks like the fundamentalist?

        MSP

  4. MSP
    Thanks for your explanation. There is an awful lot to consider but I will do so in the next few days on your blog if that’s okay, rather than take this one off track.

    What I will say here is that the actions of both Hitler and Stalin were determined by more than just Darwin’s books. But what we have here in this blog discussion about them and the society they moulded is an illustration, I think, of the consequences of the evil that men do. How can you explain it? Can you justify it? (Would anyone want to justify it?). Regardless of the answer, it still happens – in Rwanda, Bosnia, Syria.

    It’s beyond my comprehension. If you want to experience the horror of the Holocaust, don’t go to Auschwitz-Birkenau. Just about everything has been put behind glass and reduced to a horrible voyeurism while a little group in one of the buildings re-writes history and reduces the number of those slain.

    No, go to Majdanek instead. Everything there is as it was – huts, shower rooms, barbed wire, Zyklon B canisters. Then take a closer look. There is a little church at the entrance to the camp, which is situated on a hill overlooking the town of Lublin. Imagine the incinerators going full blast, even the ones specially made for babies and wonder. Wonder how no-one in the town below saw it, heard it felt it, smelled it. Wonder how the church never asked what was going on a couple of hundred yards up the road. And then stand at the memorial – a mound of ash. You can still smell the horror today.

    I’m quite sure very few of the townspeople ever read Darwin or Lamarck. But what they did was evil too. How do you explain the evil in man? Man without a Saviour, and, regrettably, too, man with a Saviour?

    Regards
    Gavin

  5. MSP, you wrote:

    “Niemöller and Bonhoeffer are held out as shining examples of Christian opposition to Hitler; however, the fact that they had to leave the established churches in order to do so is no cause for Christian celebration.”

    Yes, they are shining lights of Christian opposition to Hitler. As I’m sure you are aware, both non-Christians and Christians were involved with opposition to Hitler and the resistance. But Bonhoeffer and Niemoller had distinctly Christian grounds for their resistance. The shape of their response to Hilter was formed by their theology.

    However, that you think their rejection of the German Reich church should not be celebrated shows your ignorance of that period of history. The Barmen confession of 1934 (note the early date in Hitler’s reign) used biblically theological grounds for declaring the Reich Church to be no true church at all. The Reich Church abandoned biblical truth in order to accomodate National Socialism. Any church that abandons biblical truth is no church, since it is a mark of the true church. So, yes, we as Christians boldly celebrate Bonhoeffer’s et al, adherence to biblical truth that led them to reject the national church.

    Here is Bonhoeffer’s summary in his own words from an address in 1936:

    “The Confessing Synod of Barmen has repudiated the teaching of the German Christians in its decisive points as false teaching. The repudiation means that this false teaching has no place in the Church of Jesus Christ. The Confessing Synod of Dahlem took it upon itself to declare that the government of the national church has separated itself from the Christian church by teaching and by action. It did not bring about any exclusion from the church, by stated a fait accompli. At the same time it formed its own church government and claimed to represent the true Church of Jesus Christ in Germany. Since then the Confessing Church has recognised that it has the responsibility of being and the commission to be the one true Church of Jesus Christ in Germany. This is a fact of church history” (see ‘A Testament To Freedom’, p 161)

    So, yes, I celebrate the fact that these courageous men recognised that National Socialism and biblical Christianity were incompatible, that they separated themselves from the “German Christians” and that they declared biblically, and publically, why they did so. Or do you think they should have remained in a church that demanded obedience to Hitler and required formal aquiesence in violent anti-semitism? I think not.

    1. Hobbes

      I have given my fuller thoughts of the Church’s complicity with fascism and National Socialism on my own blog examining Albert Einstein’s opinion of the Church’s stance towards Hitler and Pius XII’s silence following comments by Richard Dawkins and PZ Myers in 2010.

      Please note that my promised set of epic posts on the topic is still very much a work in progress after all these years…

      However, the thoughts of Gregory S Paul might also interest you if you can overcome the fact that Paul is a palaeontologist and therefore might not be “qualified” to comment on such matters and his essays were published in the disgracefully un-“scholarly” Skeptic magazine.

      As I say, the opposition of Niemöller and Bonhoeffer to Hitler burns so bright mainly because the shadows of overwhelming Christian support are so dark.

      Bonhoeffer may have repudiated Nazism with recourse to Christian theology, but the head of the Austrian confession, one Bishop Alois Hudal, managed it well enough with his Hitler-fawning tract, The Foundations Of National Socialism.

      Was that the same Bishop Hudal who, after Germany was defeated, helped spirit away many Nazi war criminals to South America via the “Ratlines”, including one of the chief architects of the “Final Solution”, Adolf Eichmann?

      Yes it was.

      Which version of the faith can you claim is “right”?

      To conclude on a more personal note, I’ll share with you my own personal story of how Christianity is explicitly anti-Semitic.

      In my second year of secondary school (Year 8), I was reading my history textbook and learning about the Holocaust. At the bottom of the page was an explanatory paragraph as to why the Jews had been targeted for Nazi persecution: they had been seen for the last 2000 years as “the Christ killers”.

      After so many years of a Christian education and hearing about how the Jews had rejected Jesus as the Messiah, that they had missed the boat and how the Jewish mob had demanded that his blood be on the heads of them and their children to the remotest generation, I didn’t even have to read that explanatory paragraph; I already knew the reason.

      And when I did read it, I just thought to myself, “Well, yeah; what do you expect if you demand that the Son of God be put to death…?”

      And that was before learning about the preceding centuries of Jewish persecution by Christians is Europe culminating in the inscriptions of the belt buckles on the Nazi soldiers who manned Auschwitz.

      Oddly enough, we weren’t taught those elements of Christian history in school…

      MSP

      1. MSP – this is school boy history and far worse theology. You clearly know very little about Weimar Germany and even less about Christian theology which teaches that Christ died because of all of us, not just the Jews. You have reached a level of desperate special pleading when you cite Richard Dawkins and PZ Myers as authorities on history – they have little or no concept of history and only select material which suits their pre-suppositions. Next time you post get serious….but then you probably are. Your sole aim is not to find the truth (which is much more complex than your simplistic faith will allow), but to accuse.

      2. David

        Can I ask you a question?

        Do they teach Ad Hominem as a core module on theology and apologetics courses?

        Yet again you give no substantive reply to my main points, so you engage in petty naming, accusations of “simplistic faith positions”, attacks on sources and general “Courtiers Reply”.

        Exactly what is wrong with Robin Lane Fox and A N Wilson’s biblical scholarship apart from the fact that they support Dawkins’ position and not yours…?

        And being ignorant of theology is no great loss in my life.

        Near total ignorance of the non-subject is about as expert as anyone can get.

        If you read what I actually say in my posts, I have engaged with historians such as Ian Kerhaw, Guy Walters, Michael Burleigh, Ronald Rychlak and David Dalin.

        And of course there’s that biography of Eugenio Pacelli by one of your fellow fleas, John Cornwell, called Hitler’s Pope.

        Clue’s very much in the title as to which side of the Pius Wars he took.

        Maybe you should consider doing the same.

        If Christianity is so congenial towards the Jews, why did it take until 1965 – nearly two decades after the Nuremberg Trials – for the Church to rescind the doctrine of deicide against the Jewish people?

        Why did the last pope, Herr Ratzinger, reinstate Richard Williamson as a bishop; a man who denies that the Holocaust happened but that the Jews are responsible for the murder of Christ.

        As the Hitch summarised his views, “Genocide? No. Deicide? Yes!”

        Clearly, we must not fall into the trap anti-Semitism is of historical concern only and has been defeated.

        As Bertolt Brecht concluded his play The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui, “Do not rejoice in his defeat, you men. For though the world has stood up and stopped the b*****d, the b***h that bore him is in heat again.”

        But I suppose I’d have to agree with you that there was some schoolboy history in my previous post.

        It was my personal history as a schoolboy of the mild anti-Semitic indoctrination I received from my Christian education.

        Like the woman who wrote to Dawkins saying that the mild physical abuse she received as a child paled beside the psychological torment that was thrust on her from those in holy orders, that is something you cannot take away from me with your cheap debating tactics.

        Not good enough, Pastor. Doesn’t even get out of the starting blocks.

        MSP

      3. You said: “As I say, the opposition of Niemöller and Bonhoeffer to Hitler burns so bright mainly because the shadows of overwhelming Christian support are so dark.”

        You are begging the question. What is Christian? Is biblical (note that word) Christianity compatible in any way with National Socialism? Bonhoeffer thought not, and refused to call the “German Christians” a church, on biblical grounds. Support of the murderous, anti-semitism of Hitler is not Christian in any shape or form.

        Referencing Hudal’s The Foundations of National Socialism is equally question begging. He did not recourse to Christian theology, because biblical Christianity is incompatible with National Socialism. Even the Vatical (who were not blameless by any means) refused to support this “Nazi Bishop”. Hudal used a warped theology disengaged from biblical teaching – which is exactly why Bonhoeffer’s countered this kind of thing with biblical texts and theology. From a biblical point of view, it isn’t difficult to counter National Socialism, but it required great courage in that period. You are failing on the easy bit.

        How about you demonstrate your knowledge of Scriptural Christianity and show us, from the text, that it is compatible with National Socialism? I look forward to your response.

        You ask: “Which version of the faith can you claim is “right”?”

        I see what you did there. 🙂 Since in the atheist worldview there is no arrangement of atoms and synaptic firings that can be given the label “right”, I will answer you with Christian presuppositions. The “right” version of Christianity is the one based on a correct understanding of biblical truth, since the bible is the ultimate authority for Christians. If anyone rejects this authority, they cannot be called “Christian” in any meaningful sense.

        By the way, it is exactly this kind of confusion about what “Christianity” is that we have to prefix the name with qualifications (e.g conservative, biblical, liberal, postmodern), etc. Your treatment lacks nuance, to put it politely.

        The cherry on the cake is your section beginning: “I’ll share with you my own personal story of how Christianity is explicitly anti-Semitic.”.

        I’m not sure what kind of school you went to, but my history lessons definitely did teach about the anti-semitism of Reich churches, and earlier periods. And, again, I’m not sure what history books you were reading. Perhaps you should get a refund. If you read a reputable account (my strong recommendation is Ian Kershaw’s brilliant biography of Hitler) you will see that Hitler blamed the Jews for Germany’s economic, political problems and the Russian revolution, and for the “stab in the back” of the end of WWI – not because they were “Christ killers”. Anti-Semitism was rife in Germany before Hitler came to power, but it was not generally anything to do with the crucifixion.

        It is true that many anti-semitic atrocities were committed against Jews in the name of Christianity. But, you need to engage some historical knowledge and nuance – something you have failed to demonstrate in your responses so far. What is Christian? Can anti-semticism be justfified on biblical grounds? Or a rejection of them? Please answer this based on the text of Scripture.

        Your personal anecdote proves nothing. But, I guess people sometimes prefer a good story rather than the truth.

      4. Hobbes

        Obviously you don’t take after your Leviathan-penning namesake. Indeed, you appear to have attended religiously theweeflea’s Apologetics Debating Tactics 101 Course and paid particular attention to the Ad Hominem module.

        You also seem to be following in his use of the “No true Scotsman” fallacy: any person ostensibly a Christian who commits acts of violence and utters words of racism and anti-Semitism axiomatically cannot be a “true Christian” and therefore their words and actions are no blemish on the faith as a whole.

        Well, I’m sorry that’s no good enough.

        You deny that Hudal’s support of National Socialism can be reconciled with Christianity.

        How about the virulent anti-Semitism of some of the mainstays of Christianity theology classes such as Aquinas, Augustine and Martin Luther?

        Luther was the founder of Protestantism who penned the notorious anti-Semitic screed “On The Jews And Their Lies” (another title that holds a lot of clues) which was adored by Adolf Hitler and is still relied upon by the worst extremist elements in the Muslim world.

        I’m not citing these examples as cheap shots saying, “Ah, look! Even famous Christians can say and do nasty things.” I’m arguing that there is a perfectly logical and natural route to these ideas if you base your Worldview on the Bible. Luther would have been able to square these appalling views with The Sermon On The Mount, The Beatitudes, “turn the other cheek”, “love your enemies” and “love thy neighbour as thyself”.

        They drew on the following passages:

        “The children of the kingdom [the Jews] shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” – Matthew 8:12

        “So when Pilate saw that he was gaining nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, ‘I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.’ And all the people answered, ‘His blood be on us and on our children!’ – Matthew 27:24-25

        “And therefore did the Jews persecute Jesus, and sought to slay him, because he had done these things on the sabbath day.” – John 5:16

        I have read Kershaw’s two-volume biography of Hitler.

        I have also gone straight to the source and read Ralph Manheim’s translation of Mein Kampf where the insane little corporal had this to say of his motives: “Hence today I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord.”

        Finally, my personal story of the mild anti-Semitic indoctrination that I suffered from my Christian education is mine and mine alone. I left school nearly 15 years ago, in 2000. If the school syllabuses have been changed to include the Church’s support of Hitler, then I applaud that. It does not speak for anyone else, only me. I accept that personal experience and memory are far from reliable, but it is an honest recollection. If no one else in the history of the human race as ever experience anything of the kind (which in reality I deny of course!), then all the better.

        I do not take kindly to thinly-veiled accusations of lying.

        MSP

      5. MSP,

        Since this discussion is has potential to go on indefinitely, I’ll respond to your points here, and let you have the last say.

        I’m not sure where you got the ad hominem accusation from. No-where did I base my arguments upon you or your character. I may have included some cheeky remarks for free, but what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

        You also missed the target with your accusation of the “no true Scotsman” fallacy. My definition of “Christian” is one who worships and obeys Christ. How do I come to that conclusion? Well, Christ’s words are found in the bible and in the bible Christ defines what a Christ-ian is and how they should behave. Kind of obvious, isn’t it? So, it is perfectly reasonable to claim that adherence to biblical teaching is a mark of a Christian. It is unreasonable, however, to claim to be a Christian and ignore or reject the teachings of …. you know …. Christ.

        Raising issues of Luther, Aquinas and Augustine is simply question begging again. Another fallacy, anyone? Right from the start I have made Christ the yardstick of what a Christian is. You can bring exhibit Z in, if you want, but it doesn’t change my point. How about addressing that point? As the apostle Paul states in a different context, even if an Angel preaches a different gospel, let him be accursed. The same to anti-semites, but perhaps with the temperature turned down a notch.

        The verses you quoted do not imply what you claim. In fact, it’s fairly laughable that you even suggest so. For example, why does the historical fact of the Jews (who else? This was in Israel!!) persecuting Christ cause anti-semitism? Is that another fallacy? And, someone else’s biblical eisegesis is their issue, not mine, even if they have a halo over their head.

        You claim to have read kershaw’s biography of Hitler. You will have read, then, that Mein Kampf was an absurd mishmash of untruth and hubris and cannot be used as an accurate portrayal of Hitler’s true intentions. It was posturing designed for political purposes. You will have also read in Kershaw that Hitler had plans to destroy the church, but only after the war. That’s strange way of “working for the Lord”, don’t you think? Did you really read Kershaw?

        Finally, you need to take a chill pill. I did not accuse you of lying. I was questioning the information you had been given in the past, which sounds seriously deficient. But, your personal anecdote is still besides the point.

        Hobbes

      6. Hobbes

        I have read Kershaw and he is about as non-judgemental of his subject matters as anyone can possibly be.

        After debating these points so many times with the faithful, I’m surprised how little historians such as Kershaw, Bullock, Gilbert etc actually discuss Hitler and Stalin’s religious views in their books. Their religious views seem to be a side-issue that has been blown out of proportion by the faithful eager to sweep their own guilty consciences under the rug and blame it on others.

        However, the detail historical record must be kept straight. Even Kershaw mentions the complicity of the Churches, not only in Hitler’s regime, but also that of Croatia’s leader Ante Pavelic who was granted an audience with Pius XII (even Hitler never actually met Piuses XI nor XII) and whose regime was so foul that many German officers objected to being associated with it (thus discrediting Goldhagen’s central thesis that the German people were the only people in Europe who could have carried out the Holocaust).

        Kershaw is right that MK is a horrendously boring diatribe about one man’s love affair with himself. Manheim’s version rightly warns readers looking for a piece of political pornography to look elsewhere. Thank God for speed-reading is all I can say.

        The only passage in MK where Hitler expressly prescribes violence towards the Jews and hints at things to come is near the end when he says, “The sacrifice of millions at the front would have been prevented if twelve or fifteen thousand of these Hebrew corrupters of the people had been held under poison gas.”

        The prescriptions for violence in the Bible, however, are far more numerous and explicit.

        I accept that Hitler was an egoist and an opportunistic liar who would tell people what they wanted to hear in order to win favour and ultimately power. However, you have to call a halt somewhere and start taking the man at his word.

        The logical conclusion of this “reasoning” is to ask whether he was really anti-Semitic and really wanted the extermination of the Jews or was it all just a facade to win over the popular support of the German people.

        We’ll have to agree to disagree on “The True Scotsman” point. If you won’t accept Luther, Aquinas and Augustine as model Christians, then who in the name of God and all that is holy will you accept?!

        Christ was a Jew in case you’d forgotten that one.

        Even he had a dark side, such as promising hell fire to anyone who didn’t believe in him and the following nugget:

        “Do not think that I came to bring peace on Earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household. He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me. He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it.” – Matthew 10:34–39

        As I have said before, that was his one prophecy that did come true, unlike his promise that his Second Coming would happen within the lifetime of some of his followers… (Matthew 26:64)

        I’ll end with a note of agreement: my school history education was “seriously deficient” on the role of the Christian Churches in the Holocaust.

        But the rest of my story is true to the best of my recollection and there’s nothing you can say to take it away from me.

        And what’s more I’m sure I am not alone in my experiences of such indoctrination.

        Not by a long shot.

        MSP

      7. “We’ll have to agree to disagree on “The True Scotsman” point. If you won’t accept Luther, Aquinas and Augustine as model Christians, then who in the name of God and all that is holy will you accept?!”

        Jesus Christ.

        Everyone else is a sinful approximation.

        This point was made abundantly clear in my comments, several times.

        Farewell!

      8. Hobbes

        You admit that there’s no such thing as a “True Christian” any more than there is a “True Scotsman”.

        Thank you for agreeing with my point.

        I’ve provided evidence that Jesus had a dark side to him and not all of his sayings and teachings were moral.

        Perhaps Luther, Aquinas and Hitler weren’t all that far off his mark.

        Adiós.

        MSP

      9. MSP, your question was: “Who is a model Christian”? I answered your question. The archetypal Christian is Christ. We model ourselves on Him. We don’t model ourselves on each other, not even those who have written big books.

        The fact that you think I actually agreed with your point says more about you than me!

      10. And I say there is no such thing as a “True Christian” any more than there is a “True Scotsman”.

        Aside from Christ (who I have argued is not a good role model for anyone) you have agreed with me.

        Thank you.

        MSP

      11. MSP, since you are incapable of recognising distinctions made in your own questions, I’ll post this for the benefit of the viewers at home.

        You are confusing a “true Christian” from a “model Christian”. You asked me what a model Christian is. I answered you. Because my answer doesn’t suit your prejudice, you have resorted to the equivalent of putting your fingers in your ears and singing “lalalanotruescotsmanlalala”. It’s funny, but I don’t believe it can be called a reasonable response because you haven’t reasoned anything just asserted.

        The apostle Paul exhorted the Corinthians to “imitate” him, but he qualified that by saying “as [he] imitates Christ.” We only imitate the Christ-like features in one another. But, Paul is still not our “model”. Furthermore, the process of sanctification is to make us more Christ-like, not more Aquinas-like or more Augustine-like. There is a very good reason for this: all earthly Christians are sinful in some way. We do not want to be imitating sin. So, our model is Christ. Couldn’t be clearer.

        So, what is a “true Christian”? A true Christian is someone who has repented of their sins and has trusted Jesus Christ to forgive them for their sins, and follows Him as their Lord (which implies obedience) as a fruit of being a Christian.

        So, yes, a true Christian can sin very, very badly. Furthermore, you can’t be a Christian unless you are a sinner, since Jesus came to … you know … save sinners. But, the important point here is not the existence of sin, but whether there is a turning of the mind and heart away from sin and a turning to Christ to save us from both the guilt of sin (justification) and the sin itself (sanctification).

        But, even the best Christian will have sin, but that sin is not the product of their Christianity. It is a product of the Fall, of which we all bear witness (some more than others!). We are Christians because we sin. We don’t sin because we are Christians. As the apostle John says:

        “Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. But you know that [Christ] appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.”

        So, was Hitler a Christian? Well, he had sin. So one point for that. But, was there repentance? Was there a trust in Christ for forgiveness of his sins? Was there an attempt to conform his life to Christ’s teaching and example? Did he continue in sin? You’ve read Kershaw, so I don’t need to answer that for you

        It really could not be clearer. Only in your own weird bubble of irrationality can you suggest that Hitler, and any other unrepentant, unbelieving sinner, are “Christian”.

        I know you struggle with my answers, so let me point our that I have defined what a “true Christian” is, so none of this “no true Scotsman” silliness. It’s unbecoming.

        I am confident the readers at home will have more success grasping this than you have been able to, and I am content with that.

      12. Hobbes

        You are splitting ever finer hairs of hairs of hairs and running around in increasingly self-defeating circles.

        It is the apologist’s last resort to debate syntax and semantics when they have run out of steam on all other fronts.

        “Model Christian”, “True Christian”: your distinction is about as clear as a pile of mud.

        What if Hitler and Eva Braun found Christ in their final moments in the bunker and repented all their sins before blowing each other’s brains out but no one ever found out about it?

        They already had the sin bit in spades. Would repentance in their final moments have made them “True Christians”?

        Colin and I have already answered this “Fall” nonsense in earlier posts, so I can’t be bothered repeating myself any more on any other topics.

        MSP

      13. MSP, again, the fact that you find the distinction as clear as a pile of mud says more about you than me. Children are able to understand it. But, I need to respond to one final thing which is the most important point in all of this discussion:

        You asked: “What if Hitler and Eva Braun found Christ in their final moments in the bunker and repented all their sins before blowing each other’s brains out but no one ever found out about it?”

        If Hitler and Braun found Christ, placed their trust in him for forgiveness and repented of their sins, then they will be sharing eternity with all believers in the glorious presence of God. That is the glory and the grace of the gospel and why the cross of Christ is the central event in Christianity. Christ took upon himself the punishment of all the sins of all who believe. Those who don’t believe take upon themselves the punishment of their own sins, and there’s a special place reserved for them. That’s the radical choice we all have to make and why one of the Puritans said that, in Christ, justice and mercy kiss.

        Of course you find this incomprehensible and nonsense. I genuinely pray that you will understand what I and my children understand and see that, before an infinitely righteous God, we have no more claim upon heaven that Hitler did. Only through the undeserved favour of Christ can anyone stand before Him.

      14. Hobbes

        We agree on another thing: I do find it all incomprehensible and nonsensical.

        That Hitler could be rewarded with an eternity of heavenly bliss for making a few promises and propitiations in his final moments having spent years conducting murder on a biblical scale while many of his victims who died in ignorance of Christian revelation due to the circumstances of their birth and the culture in which they were raised are denied this, and even punished with an eternity in hellfire despite leading good lives, is the height of immorality.

        The only redeeming feature about it is there is absolutely no evidence to believe that it’s true.

        You pray that I understand what you and your children see?

        While you’re at it, why don’t you also sacrifice a goat?

        MSP

      15. Good grief, MSP, you are now demonstrating your inability to read words on a page/screen, let alone comprehend. It’s no wonder you end up confused about what Christianity is all about. It’s must be embarrassing for you.

        So, for the benefit of viewers at home: Christians are not “rewarded” for making “promises” and “propitiations”. As I said in words of very few syllables, Jesus receives the punishment of our sins, so the justice of God is satisfied. And, Christians receive the forgiveness of sins, so the mercy of God is satisfied.

        MSP, on the other hand, believes that we should all be rewarded for our “good lives”. Trouble is, we don’t get decide what a “good life” is. Before a a perfect judge, only perfection is good enough. Of course, that’s a problem. But, that is exactly why God sent Jesus to die on our behalf – to solve this unbridgeable moral gap (in human terms).

        Oh, and we don’t sacrifice goats, because the one and for all sacrifice that the Old Testament sacrifices pointed towards has occurred.

        MSP demonstrates his ignorance of the bible and his inability to comprehend sunday school-level teaching. Was he able to, he would know why we don’t sacrifice goats.

      16. Hobbes

        That was a glib comment about the efficacy of religious rituals; something for which there is no evidence at all.

        Of course Christianity doesn’t practice animal sacrifice any more.

        It has moved up a gear and does human sacrifice.

        Abraham’s son (who, I grant you, was at least spared at the last minute) and Jephthah daughter (who was not) anyone?

        And then there’s good ol’ JC himself.

        A human sacrifice that took place two thousand years before any of us were born, had no say in and maybe would have attempted to stop if we’d been there at the time.

        But no, we were there at Calvary. We drove the nails into his body. We increase his agony and loneliness to this day with our every thought and action.

        I’m perfectly content to remain in complete ignorance of Christian theology.

        How many learned discourses in Thor-eology have you studied before deciding not to believe in his thunderingly enlightened revelation?

        MSP

      17. MSP wrote

        “I’m perfectly content to remain in complete ignorance of Christian theology.”

        So, there you go, ladies and gentlemen. Mr Edward Turner is content to criticize something he knows nothing about. Not only that, but he is content to be in *complete* ignorance of the subject matter he criticises. This explains his repeated straw-man argumentation in this thread.

        So, let’s translate his statement to this:

        “I’m perfectly content to engage in straw-man argumentation against Christian theology”.

        And since straw-man argumentation is not rational, let’s get to the nub of it:

        “I’m perfectly content to engage in completely fallacious argumentation against Christian theology.”

        So, there you have it: MSP – content with irrationality.

        Well, at least he’s being honest and consistent with his atheism. After all, there is no such thing as “rationality” in atheism. Just different kinds of brain fizz, some of which are better for survival than others.

      18. Hobbes

        I think that we have now well and truly strayed off topic, so I’ll be as brief as possible and point you in the right direction for atheists’ fuller thoughts on the useless waste of trees and needless contributor to climate change that is theology.

        Firstly, why don’t you re-read the very next sentence of my last comment:

        How many learned discourses in Thor-eology have you studied before deciding not to believe in his thunderingly enlightened revelation?

        If you think that theology is a valuable academic discipline, then I look forward to your full and detailed answer to this question.

        Richard Dawkins reply to Alister McGrath’s charges of ignorance of Christian theology in Dawkins’ God:

        Yes, I have, of course, met this point before. It sounds superficially fair. But it presupposes that there is something in Christian theology to be ignorant about. The entire thrust of my position is that Christian theology is a non-subject. It is empty. Vacuous. Devoid of coherence or content. I imagine that McGrath would join me in expressing disbelief in fairies, astrology and Thor’s hammer. How would he respond if a fairyologist, astrologer or Viking accused him of ignorance of their respective subjects?

        The only part of theology that could possibly demand my attention is the part that purports to demonstrate that God does exist. This part of theology I have, indeed, studied with considerable attention. And found it utterly wanting.

        Friedrich Nietzsche,The Anti-Christ:

        Anyone with theologian blood in his veins will approach things with a warped and deceitful attitude. This gives rise to a pathos that calls itself faith: turning a blind eye to yourself for once and for all, so you do not have to stomach the sight of incurable mendacity. This universally faulty optic is made into a morality, a virtue, a holiness, seeing-wrong is given a good conscience, – other types of optic are not allowed to have value any more now that this one has been sanctified with names like “God”, “redemption”, and “eternity”. I have unearthed the theologian instinct everywhere: it is the most widespread and genuinely subterranean form of deceit on earth. Anything a theologian thinks is true must be false: this is practically a criterion of truth.

        Thomas Jefferson:

        Ridicule is the only weapon which can be used against unintelligible propositions. Ideas must be distinct before reason can act upon them; and no man ever had a distinct idea of the trinity. It is the mere Abracadabra of the mountebanks calling themselves the priests of Jesus.

        P Z Myers, “The Courtier’s Reply”:

        I have considered the impudent accusations of Mr Dawkins with exasperation at his lack of serious scholarship. He has apparently not read the detailed discourses of Count Roderigo of Seville on the exquisite and exotic leathers of the Emperor’s boots, nor does he give a moment’s consideration to Bellini’s masterwork, On the Luminescence of the Emperor’s Feathered Hat. We have entire schools dedicated to writing learned treatises on the beauty of the Emperor’s raiment, and every major newspaper runs a section dedicated to imperial fashion; Dawkins cavalierly dismisses them all. He even laughs at the highly popular and most persuasive arguments of his fellow countryman, Lord D T Mawkscribbler, who famously pointed out that the Emperor would not wear common cotton, nor uncomfortable polyester, but must, I say must, wear undergarments of the finest silk.

        Dawkins arrogantly ignores all these deep philosophical ponderings to crudely accuse the Emperor of nudity.

        Personally, I suspect that perhaps the Emperor might not be fully clothed – how else to explain the apparent sloth of the staff at the palace laundry – but, well, everyone else does seem to go on about his clothes, and this Dawkins fellow is such a rude upstart who lacks the wit of my elegant circumlocutions, that, while unable to deal with the substance of his accusations, I should at least chide him for his very bad form.

        Until Dawkins has trained in the shops of Paris and Milan, until he has learned to tell the difference between a ruffled flounce and a puffy pantaloon, we should all pretend he has not spoken out against the Emperor’s taste. His training in biology may give him the ability to recognize dangling genitalia when he sees it, but it has not taught him the proper appreciation of Imaginary Fabrics.

        Richard Dawkins, “Let’s Hope It’s A Lasting Vogue”:

        Athorism is enjoying a certain vogue right now. Can there be a productive conversation between Valhallans and athorists? Naïve literalists apart, sophisticated thoreologians long ago ceased believing in the material substance of Thor’s mighty hammer. But the spiritual essence of hammeriness remains a thunderingly enlightened relevation, and hammerological faith retains its special place in the eschatology of neo-Valhallism, while enjoying a productive conversation with the scientific theory of thunder in its non-overlapping magisterium. Militant athorists are their own worst enemy. Ignorant of the finer points of thoreology, they really should desist from their strident and intolerant strawmandering, and treat Thor-faith with the uniquely protected respect it has always received in the past. In any case, they are doomed to failure. People need Thor, and nothing will ever remove him from the culture. What are you going to put in his place?

        Richard Dawkins, “The Emptiness of Theology”:

        What has theology ever said that is of the smallest use to anybody? When has theology ever said anything that is demonstrably true and is not obvious? I have listened to theologians, read them, debated against them. I have never heard any of them ever say anything of the smallest use, anything that was not either platitudinously obvious or downright false. If all the achievements of scientists were wiped out tomorrow, there would be no doctors but witch doctors, no transport faster than horses, no computers, no printed books, no agriculture beyond subsistence peasant farming. If all the achievements of theologians were wiped out tomorrow, would anyone notice the smallest difference? Even the bad achievements of scientists, the bombs, and sonar-guided whaling vessels work! The achievements of theologians don’t do anything, don’t affect anything, don’t mean anything. What makes anyone think that “theology” is a subject at all?

        Amen.

        MSP

  6. Hobbes
    “Nasty brutish and short”
    Too low a view of human nature IMHO.
    After all we do have the image of God.
    Consider Bishop Butler as a counterweight.

  7. I’ve been following this with interest. Lots of talk about Christian theology.

    Christian theology is predicated on one of the most ridiculous ideas ever – the so called “Fall of Man”. Just think about it. All the death, disease, natural disasters, animal predation and suffering (which is unfathomably immense in the natural world) happens, because two people (the only hominids around at the time) ate a bit of fruit because a talking snake told them to.

    Not only that, but this supposedly infallible “god” created this “very good” scenario – flawed humanity and a snake with evil intent – not so perfect is it? Something that is so good that it can be corrupted at the drop of a hat. God, you failed. Big time

    And this happened within the timeframe of human history, which as anyone with any scientific knowledge knows, is but a blink in the geological timeframe. Its like 2 minutes to midnight. Humans are extremely recent, geologically speaking.

    Death, earthquakes, predation and floods are all well represented in the fossil record stretching back billions of years. Most natural disasters can be laid at the door of plate tectonics which has been around for a very long time, a lot longer than humans have. The timescales simply cannot be reconciled. If they can would you care to show me?

    The doctrine of the “Fall” is utter nonsense. Just like the idea of there being an “Adam and Eve” is absurd.

    So, in summary, Christian theology is based on nonsense. There may well have been a hippy cool dude called Jesus who got a cult started in his name. he may have said some good stuff. But the idea that this guy links back a few thousand years to a talking snake and a tree is crazy.

    So when people talk about so called “christian theology” ask them about this and watch them squirm. And in the meantime, ignore their “theology” its a garbage non-subject which is about inflicting guilt trips, extracting money and gaining power.

    BS in other words.

    Dare to try a credible response, DAR?

    1. Bravo, Colin!

      Refreshing to see that I am not the only voice of reason on this blog.

      I suggest you read DAR’s post explaining Why [He Is] Not An Atheist.

      Don’t you know that evil and suffering are all part of God’s Plan and prove his very existence?

      Some of us might think that all the needless death, suffering and devastation (not all of it being man made) that we witness going on in the World everyday are exactly the state of affairs that we would expect to see if there was no design or purpose in the Universe, and certainly not by a being who is all good, all powerful, all knowing, all just and all merciful.

      But then again we have not thought through these matters hard enough. Clearly, any apparent square pegs can be crammed through all those round holes if you just put your mind to it.

      If the systematic extermination of six million of God’s supposed people by members of another of his churches who had “God Is With Us” inscribed on their belt buckles is evidence of his existence, anything can.

      MSP

  8. “A distinction that is required for a discussion of evil is that between the evil of sin and the evil of suffering. In theological literature the latter frequently takes priority, especially since Auschwitz. But sin is the first and the worst evil of all. There is truth in saying: at the bottom of all questions lies the world’s guilt of sin.”

    I am not a theologian but the above statement statement statement from Concise Reformed Dogmatics by J van Genderen and W H Velema neatly encapsulates the issue. MSP and Colin start in the wrong place and come to the wrong conclusions which, I think, they have expressed provocatively and this has only amplified their stated hostility to God. But no matter how much they rage, “evil cannot be blamed on God, but only on man who abused his free will”. (Quote from same book)

    1. Gav

      Ah, yes “free will”. Note the scare quotes. I knew that it would only be a matter of time when this device would be brought up in the apologist’s never-ending quest to defend the failures of their imaginary best friend.

      Poor old God. Up there in his heaven shaking his metaphysical head denouncing so many of our actions as objectively wrong and crying his divine heart out saying, “Why have they abused what I gave them and knew all along what they would do with it?!” but not actually bothering to start again from scratch so he can get things right.

      Created sick. Ordered sound.

      By the way, “free will” is an illusion.

      If you really think about it, you are no more in control of the next thought you think that the next words that I write.

      MSP

      1. MSP – whilst it is fairly obvious that you are not in control of the next words you write – please don’t attribute your inabilities to the rest of us!

      2. David

        For once you made me chuckle with a glimmer of genuine wit. Unlike that awful “joke” at the end of The Dawkins Letters about no atheists being harmed in the making of the book.

        On a more serious note, I suggest you read the blog post I linked to previously about Sam Harris’ annihilation of the concept of “free will” if you are writing a book on him and want to defeat his arguments properly, unlike your limp wristed attempt to do so with Dawkins.

        As you watch SH’s lectures you will be trying to concentrate on what he is saying (or not, as is more likely in your case, you will be skimming for sound bytes to paint him in the worst possible light), but you might also find yourself thinking, “He does look a little bit like Ben Stiller…”

        Or maybe you thought at Premier with me and Richard Morgan, “The atheist guy does look a little bit like Timothy Oliphant in Hitman…”

        MSP

    2. Gav

      Not quite sure how I am starting in the wrong place. I was mainly drawing attention to the idea that, according to Fall doctrine, at some point in human history, the entire natural order of the universe changed its character.

      “Natural Evil” predates humanity by a long way. Major extinction events in the geological record attest to that. Over 99% of all the species that have ever existed are extinct. Death and suffering runs from the Precambrian to today. Meteorites, gamma-ray bursters, comets – space is full of dangerous stuff, some of which may well have caused extinctions in the past

      The idea that all this started in the “Fall” due to the only two hominids called Adam and Eve a few tens of thousands of years ago simply does not fit the evidence. Whether it was 6000, (most YEC), 15000 (John Piper) or over 100000 (Hugh Ross) years ago is irrelevant. The Earth is 4.7 billion years old .

      One can argue about whether Adam and Eve were literally real people or representations of humanity. One can argue about the innate “sinfulness” of humans (and you dont really need to look far to see how bad some people can be) and whether humanity “became” sinful or not. The arguments could go on and fill volumes

      But, and it is a huge but, this business about the natural order being “corrupted” and the emergence of natural evil as a consequence of the Fall is empirically indefensible.

      It is quite simply the Achilles heel of christian theology. Incidentally, I have never read a convincing rebuttal of this, that isnt YEC, If you know of any, feel free to post the URL.

      Next time there is an earthquake and tsunami and hundreds of thousands die, the only acceptable reason is because, well, thats just the way it is. No need to invoke gods who cry and suffer too, or gods who are punishing people. Or worse, gods whose godliness is manifest in the good deeds of helpful people. Thats just human goodness, not the divine kind.

      I’ll finish off with a quote from one of the finest intellectuals that America has produced Neil deGrasse Tyson:

      “Every account of a higher power that I’ve seen described, of all religions that I’ve seen, include many statements with regard to the benevolence of that power. When I look at the universe and all the ways the universe wants to kill us, I find it hard to reconcile that with statements of beneficence.”

  9. Colin,
    You have hit on something which also resonates with me.
    The view of humanity as corrupted by fear and greed is too low IMO and eliminates the possibility of living the life we are enjoined to live, or choosing God.
    (Of course this is not a problem for those who think we do not have such a choice)
    It is rather more helpful to think of humanity as being capable of willing and striving towards that which it knows in conscience to be right – ie the virtue of loving God and loving your neighbour.
    Think of humanity as living in suffering as opposed to being totally corrupted.
    Think also of Camus who writes in the Outsider of the protagonist in the prison cell awaiting his death seeing the divine in the stones of his cell.
    Out of the suffering in which man finds himself he has within himself the will to strive and the knowledge (within his conscience) of where to find it.
    In this way he exercises his will whilst also subliminating it to God’s will

  10. MSP and Colin

    A scare quote? – only if it contains an unpalatable truth.

    But here’s one that is, and it is about a subject which neither of you have addressed, namely, the meaning of life and the reality of sin. It would be grand if we could all just excuse ourselves by saying “it’s in my genes” or “a big bang did it and ran away” but that won’t do.

    Anyway, here’s the quote.

    “How fortunate that memory brings back the past, not for us to refashion, but for us to peruse, lament and understand. We answer for everything – for every deed and every word – and memory invites us to consider why we have lived, what we have done with our lives, whether we had a preordained purpose, and if so ,whether we have fulfilled it; whether our life had a unifying thread of meaning, or whether it consisted only of random and absurd happenings. We answer for everything, but there are many ways of trying not to.” (Hope Abandoned, Nadezhda Mandelstam).

  11. Colin
    And to be even-handed, here’s one of Mr Tyson’s

    “‘Recognize that the very molecules that make up your body, the atoms that construct the molecules, are traceable to the crucibles that were once the centers of high mass stars that exploded their chemically enriched guts into the galaxy. Enriching pristine gas clouds with the chemistry of life. So that we are all connected, to each other biologically, to the Earth chemically and to the rest of the universe atomically. That’s kind of cool. That makes me smile. And I actually feel quite large at the end of that. It’s not that we are better than the universe. We’re part of the universe. We’re in the universe and the universe is in us”

    A tin of inter-galactic tomato soup to the person who can name this ancient heresy.

    1. Gav

      Scare quotes are used to convey sarcasm, irony and a general sense of you not agreeing with something but are forced to use its terminology.

      And that quote from deGrasse Tyson is far more awe-inspiring than anything I have come across in scripture and apologetics.

      Rather like comparing the burning bush to an image from the Hubble Space Telescope; no contest at all.

      MSP

      1. Tyson is an intellectual giant. He has taken Dawkins to task on occasions over his approach and use of language. That “Universe” quote is particularly good. You can even see him on YouTube speaking it. Stardust we are. to stardust we return. It doesn’t get more awesome than that. Tyson nutshells it beautifully.

      2. What a sad sad version of life – dust (whether star or not) we are and to dust we shall return. And thats it! Thank the Lord for the Resurrection hope of life, joy and love!

      3. David

        If that’s not a statement of pure faith and hopeless optimism, then I don’t know what is.

        But then again, only you are allowed to make such vacuous statements and get away with them.

        The rest of us who do not share your views are the ones living in a fantasy world.

        You also commit the classic fallacy of believing that something is true just because the thought of it is comforting.

        Allow Sam Harris to demonstrate the sheer insanity of this type of thinking when it is applied to a concept other than religious faith.

        But since your asserting you own opinions and inner feelings as cold hard fact, allow me to present my view.

        I think the Christian doctrine of redemption of sin by vicarious human sacrifice is disgustingly immoral.

        Even when I was a child and was ordered to believe it by the adults running my life, it left a bad taste in my mouth.

        You may want to put your faults and wrongdoings on a scapegoat; others are man enough to face them and atone for them in this life.

        And how is being made from stardust any less depressing that being made from earth dust as per the Genesis account of creation?

        MSP

      4. Yes, it is a sad version of life.

        I think it is telling that only response Tyson can muster is that it is “kind of cool”, that it makes him “smile” and …wait for it … makes him feel quite large!

        Oh, the riches of the atheistic worldview! It makes you smile and feel … large!

    1. Gav

      We’ve been trying, but you keep changing the parameters of the question.

      What is the question?

      Maybe there is no answer.

      Like Guy Pearse in Memento, perhaps you’re just trying to create a puzzle for yourselves that you’ll never be able to solve.

      MSP

  12. Gav said:

    “And you never answer the question.” Not exactly sure what you mean, but I notice you referred to :

    “about a subject which neither of you have addressed, namely, the meaning of life and the reality of sin”

    Depends on what you mean. If I took a time machine back to the Palaeozoic and had a look at the trilobites etc that were floating about then. Lots of primitive life then. What meaning did it have? A consequence of evolution thats what. All went extinct of course in the mass extinction event at the end of the Permian, Thats one type of life (and death) (Long before the only two humans were told to eat a bit of fruit by a talking snake)

    Or humans maybe. Human life. What meaning does it have? Highest stage in animal evolution is one view ofit. Once the Sun starts to use up its hydrogen fuel and start to become a red giant, it wont be around for long either. Unless we’ve headed off to some other planet….

    On the cosmic scale, how many other human like life forms are “out there” Who knows? Could be lots. Statistically there should be. Big philosophical questions that you can argue about for years. And get nowhere. Unless concrete evidence for other life forms on other planets is found.

    How about my question though? Here it is again,in another form, in case you missed it –

    “Were there no natural disasters, death or suffering on planet Earth until humans appeared? And “sinned” apparently.Answer that one please.

    As for the concept of “sin” If you mean people doing bad stuff, well yes, there is plenty around. As a description of human failings, its got some mileage. As for the idea that “sin” is being in the bad books of the sky fairy until you get “saved” because he elects to save you. And if you dont he’ll torment you in flames forever. How people swallow this BS is beyond me.

    But thats philosophy, not science.

    As a thing which is supposed to have changed the nature of plate tectonics, weather patterns and animal predation, because two (and only two, and non-evolved) people were told to eat a bit of fruit by a talking snake, well, no….., Because science says otherwise.

    That answer your questions. How about mine now?

  13. Colin and MSP

    I said a couple of days ago that I am not a theologian. I am now happy to confirm that I’m not a scientist either!

    But I do feel qualified, after reading your various posts, to make the following observations.

    Firstly, you claim to espouse a “scientific” view, one in which you clearly revel. You have your own heroes and you see your existence in terms of being nothing more than the random material outworkings of a cataclysmic event a very long time ago. You are not responsible for your actions, thoughts or words because these too flow from that same event. Big questions, Philosophy, Christianity, are not too hard for you, they are simply pointless. Constant evasion.

    Secondly, such a view makes your existence pointless. Even this conversation is pointless because neither of us have any meaning. Indeed, do we even exist separately and individually?

    Thirdly, your antagonism toward God is also meaningless given that He doesn’t exist. Or does He? Methinks thou dost protest too much! You sound just like every other man lost in sin, looking for someone to blame.

    I’ll leave it at that, hoping that you will eventually find some comfort in this your bleak midwinter.

    1. Gav

      Of course I do not think that God exists and therefore it is not possible for me to “hate” him.

      The closest I can come is to echo the comments of physicist Steven Weinberg who once said in an interview that he did not like God in the sense that he was like a bad character in a novel.

      However, what I do hate are the effects religion has on the World from it being a major cause of violent human conflict to it poisoning the minds of otherwise sane and rational people and making them believe in the billions ludicrous concepts so devoid of evidence in support that only a complete lunatic could believe on his own.

      As Sam Harris said in his debate against William Craig, if you say a few Latin words over your pancakes tomorrow morning at breakfast and pretend they turn into the body of Elvis Presley, you have lost your mind. But if you do something very similar with wine and a few crackers in church on a Sunday, you’re just a Catholic.

      As for meaning, well, maybe this conversation will not matter a jot in a few centuries, decades, years or even moments. But it is providing my existence with some meaning and purpose in this moment. After all, it is always now. All we have is the present moment. The past should be learned from, but now it is gone and the future is an illusion.

      The idea that “on atheism” there is no basis to judge actions as right or wrong because they have no cosmic implications beyond the grave has to cut both ways.

      The atheist could argue that the theist has no basis for saying that an action is morally right or wrong since those murderers and others inflicting suffering are ultimately instruments for God’s will in testing their Christian victims’ faith, conducting Job-like trials and sending them to a martyrs death where they will experience everlasting bliss beyond the grave.

      And if you can’t find meaning in a finite existence, why should you expect to find it in an infinite existence?

      As Mark Twain once wryly observed, most people cannot bear sitting in church for an hour once a week on a Sunday morning. How are they supposed to enjoy living somewhere similar to it for an eternity?

      Sounds like hell to me.

      MSP

  14. Gav

    An important point I would like to make: I am not categorically saying “there is no god(s)” or “there is no supernatural” What I was trying to point out is that there are certain aspects of Christian theology / the Bible which are completely at odd with the observed facts of the universe.

    There may well be a “supernatural” realm of which the “natural” is an enclosed subset )like on a Venn diagram) There may even be a hyper-natural realm of which the “supernatural” is a subset. And so on, But that sort of stuff is just arm-waving.

    I am more concerned with and am trying to home in on specific points of theological thought where there is a total clash with reason.

    The consequences of the “fall” on the natural order within the timescale of human history being an obvious one. And excuse me if I have missed it, but I am not seeing an adequate response to it.

    “Old Earth” “Young Humanity” may be the preferred flavour of origins for those sophisticated evangelical theologians like John Piper et al who dont want to be saddled with the anti-intellectual obscurantism of YEC. But it still doesnt “work”. Neither does Theistic Evolution – thats even worse….

    And this is the important bit: If the so-called “Fall” is just made up stuff, then the whole Christian scheme of sin- fall- sacrifice-redemption-future perfection is all up for debate.

    So when evangelicals rattle on about the need to be “biblical” I ask them questions like this.

    Still waiting……

  15. Hobbes

    I did try to post a lengthy reply to your indignation at my proud ignorance of theology, but it doesn’t seem to be showing up for whatever reason.

    However, my comment was essentially a selection of articles links and quotes from a post that had been sitting in my drafts folder for years, which I have now finally got round to publishing on my own blog.

    You can read it here and consider your answer to my question the very next sentence of my relevant comment:

    How many learned discourses in Thor-eology have you studied before deciding not to believe in his thunderingly enlightened revelation?

    If you think that theology is a valuable academic discipline, then I look forward to your full and detailed answer to this question.

    MSP

    1. The trouble with theology is that there are as many theologies as there are theologians And some theological debates run deep and divisive.

      Cessatiionism vs continuing gifts
      Paedo-baptism vs credo-baptism
      Arminianism vs Calvinism (thats a good one that is…..)
      Real presence vs symbolic presence re the eucharist
      Old Earth vs Young Earth vs Theistic Evolution…
      Premillenialism vs amillenialism vs post millenialism
      Dispensationalism vs covenant theology
      Federal vision vs who knows what?
      Theonomy vs non-theonomy
      Trinitarianism vs unitariansim
      Universalism vs particular redemption
      Anihialationism vs eternity in hell….
      Catholic “traditions” vs protestant “Solas” (sola scriptura etc etc…)

      And so it goes on and on and on…

      And all these “-isms” and “-ists” and “-ologies” are all predicated on biblical interpretation

      MSP, I can understand why you dont want to have anything to do with this “subject” I used to study it at length, in detail and tried to make sense of it. I actually know a lot of it inside out. Unlike MSP, I HAVE studied it. But I can understand why he wants nothing to do with it. Angels on pinheads and so on.

      None of it adequately answers the conflict between science and religion without a lot of semantic limbo dancing.and battering square pegs into round holes. And upsetting a lot of other people at the same time.

      Incidentally, DAR mentioned something back there about evolution / origins. He claimed :

      “And I don’t really care about the creation/evolution debate – I know Christians who are YEC, OEC and TE….and all of them are fine believers….not a big issue for me.”

      Well in that case, these people cannot all be correct in what they believe. At a maximum, only one can be right. If you bring in non-theistic evolution to the mix, then all these theistic positions (OEC, YEC and TE) are wrong.

      Evolution / Ancient universe / old earth / geological time and processes are a MASSIVE threat to religious belief. And I would say it behoves the believer to understand and to deal with these issues.

      Two questions aimed firmly and squarely at DAR:

      “Do you believe that there was a time , withiin the time span of human history when there was only ONE male human on earth? And that the only female was created from his rib? (Again, within the timeframe of human history)

      and two:

      “Were there no natural disasters, death, animal predation or suffering on planet Earth until humans appeared?”

      Still waiting….

      1. Colin wrote:

        “MSP, I can understand why you dont want to have anything to do with this “subject” I used to study it at length, in detail and tried to make sense of it. I actually know a lot of it inside out. Unlike MSP, I HAVE studied it. But I can understand why he wants nothing to do with it. Angels on pinheads and so on.”

        Since you’ve studied Christianity in so much depth and detail, perhaps you can cite exactly where the question “How many angels can fit on a pinhead?” was actually discussed by Christian theologians. Medieval scholarship would be interested to hear your answer, because they’ve been looking for quite some time, and found no reference to it – except as a strawman argument by critics of scholasticism of that period.

        And, don’t answer with a question. That tactic doesn’t work here.

  16. Hobbes. No need to get all sniffy and dismissive. I know full well that the “angels on pinheads” thing is little more than a device to dismiss worthless arguiments. I was just using it for a bit of fun. Thats all. Anyway, for what its worth a very similar variation of the phrase was used by the Puritan Richard Baxter:

    The quote is: “And Schibler with others, maketh the difference of extension to be this, that Angels can contract their whole substance into one part of space, and therefore have not partes extra partes. Whereupon it is that the Schoolmen have questioned how many Angels may fit upon the point of a Needle?”

    Which would date from thwe 17th century

    And dont worry, I wont answer with another question. not before my other ones get answered first.

    Still waiting…..

    1. I’m not being dismissive. I just thought, with all your studying and knowledge of christian theology, you could have done a lot better than to cite a well-known straw man as your example. That’s all.

  17. Hobbes, my “angels on pinheads” remark was NOT an example of anything. Just a well known phrase so that anyone reading this who doesnt understand (or is aware of) the minutiae of theological debate might get the jist of what I was saying.

    I listed a bunch of theological debate topics which Christians (and evangelicals) seem to rage over. (And those are proper examples of theological debate) Some of which are almost polar opposites. Which is one of the reasons that as I stated, there are as many theologies as there are theologians.

    “Christian theology” is a term that is so malleable to be almost worthless. It only means anything if it is either preceded by some equally vague term like “evangelical” or else followed by an “according to so and so”. Pick your favourite author.

    The theology of churches like the FPs and the theology of the LGCM have almost zero overlap. Yet both will claim to be Christian.

    No wonder manicstreetpreacher wants nothing to do with it.

    Any danger of you or DAR answering those questions I posed earlier? Or are they unanswerable killer questions? Beginning to look like it.

    Still waiting….

    1. Colin, I’ll post brief replies to this (due to time constraints), and then I am going to enjoy a blog-free xmas (because, for some us, xmas is more than a meaningless evolutionary anomaly thrown up by quirky brain-fizz).

      1. The fact that you think the theological differences listed in your earlier post are concrete examples of “angels of the pinhead” type suggests you never really understood the issues in the first place. Just to take the first issue of cessationism. This issue is of vital importance for Christianity, because it concerns issues of the authority and the openness of the biblical canon, the extent of the benefits of the atonement, and so on. This has practical implications of ecclesiology, pastoral care, issues divine guidance, the shape of worship, and so on. Either you never understood the issues in the first place, or you are being merely rhetorical in your criticism. Either way, your criticism fails.

      2. You seem to suggest that Christians “rage” over these issues. If you call debate and disagreement “rage” than can I suggest you buy a dictionary for xmas?

      3. You claim that “Christian theology” is so malleable to be almost worthless. Since you are well-versed in Christian theology, you would know the etymology of the word. You would also know that the term is broad, which covers a large range of different positions. “Christian theology” is no more malleable than the term “Western european”. It is for this reason why we prefix “evangelical”, “reformed”, “luthern”, and so on, to designate a sub class. This is normal procedure, even in the academic sphere – a sphere for which you are clearly not suited.

      4. Again, your inability to grasp simple distinctions is demonstrated when you say that “the theology of churches like the FP’s and the theology of the LGCM have almost zero overlap”. I believe they will share largely the same view on the atonement, the trinity, the nature of God, and so on. You know, minor things like that. That’s not to say there are major disagreements, but you seem to just see only the differences. For that reason alone, your assertions are not worth taking seriously. Study requires us to recognise nuance, you know, not just the black and white colours.

      The fact that I have had to spell these things out to you suggests that you didn’t really do any serious study of Christian theology in the first place. Posting one-sentence assertions without any argumentation whatsoever is consistent with this. The viewers at home will judge who has argued a case and who has merely asserted.

      Finally, since you claim to have studied Christianity theology, you already know the answer to your question posed to DAR. The fact that you are insisting on an answer suggests you want to pick a fight. So, what’s the point?

      So, farewell for now. I’m about to prepare to celebrate the entrance of the Saviour of the world into the world. Blogs are not a part of that.

      Hobbes

      1. You know Hobbes , for someone who claims to be a Christian, the sneering, patronising sarcastic ad hominem,nature of your last posting is revealing. “Fruit of the Spirit” (Gal 5: 22-23) seems to be lacking somewhat. Suit yourself.

        However there is one particularly unkind ad hominem remark I will not let go. You patronisingly stated:

        “This is normal procedure, even in the academic sphere – a sphere for which you are clearly not suited.”

        1) You know nothing of my academic background, so a little humility might be in order rather than assuming as you do.

        2) I have just completed 4 years of academic research at Glasgow university and passed my viva by successfully defending my thesis only a few months ago. My area of research is geology and my next plan is to get the findings published in an academic journal next year. Note carefully – geology, a real science, a real subject, not the vague woolly nonsense known as theology.

        So before you embarrass yourself again by spouting off ad hominem attacks like that, try stopping and thinking.

        Finally, you seem to have a problem with me asking hard questions to which you, again, condescendingly, state that I already know the answer. No I dont, I am not a mind reader. The point I am making is this:

        There are many evangelicals (and I am sure that includes you and DAR) who are always stating the need to be biblical and scriptural. Fair enough.So what happens, when something is stated in the bible in a way that is unambiguous, that is completely at odds with the known facts of the universe? How do you answer. Do you allegorise it? Claim that it loses in the translation? Or just ignore it?

        My earlier questions deal with these very down-to-earth, practical issues. Irreconcilable problems as I see them, unless you can come up with a good resolution to the problem

        Basically, I am saying that the Fall is a load of nonsense – there is not one shred of scientific evidence for a total upset in the natural order of the universe within the period of known human history. And if the Fall is a load of nonsense then everything that follows on is questionable.

        Still waiting….

      2. Colin – there is nothing stated in the Bible which is completely at odds with the known facts of the universe. Unless you are prepared to assert that you know that the only things that exist are those things which can currently be empirically proven by you! And you discount the possibility of any miracles. The very definition of miracle is that which is contrary to the known facts/laws of the universe. You have faith that there is no supernatural being and that therefore there can be no supernatural happenings. But that is a faith position, not a scientific one. Of course you are saying that the Fall is a load of nonsense. You don’t believe the Bible and you don’t want to believe the Bible. You believe in a principle that you cannot prove – that of uniformitarianism. I think the Fall makes a lot of sense in explaining the origins and effects of evil…you are forced to reduce the concept of evil to a human social construct which does not really exist. You may want to believe in a cold, meaningless and godless universe. I don’t think that fits the evidence and requires a great deal of faith – not least in your own ability to determine everything. The Fall makes sense to me. I see its effects every day.

      3. Colin

        The tone of the some of the Christians on this thread does not surprise me in the least.

        After all, Mark Twain said that if Jesus were to return to Earth today, the last thing he would ever be is a Christian.

        MSP

      4. MSp – behave yourself…I am not prepared to let my blog descend into the kind of muck slinging that is so common with the New Fundamentalist Atheists…so in future make sure your posts have a point…I won’t allow the name calling and waste of space posts (even for amusement)….have a great Christmas…

      5. David

        Consider my wrist well and truly slapped; it won’t happen again.

        I hope this reply is more constructive.

        “there is nothing stated in the Bible which is completely at odds with the known facts of the universe.”

        Really?!

        So you believe in witches and sorcerers and that they need to be killed like it says in the Bible?

        And you believe that modern science in relation to human flight without the aid of technology has proven Jesus’ ascent into Heaven and the plausibility of his Second Coming?

        As Carl Sagan pointed out, even if Jesus had left the Earth’s gravitational pull at the speed of light 2000 years old, he wouldn’t even be halfway out of the Milky Way Galaxy by now.

        No wonder we’ve waited so long for the Second Coming. He hasn’t even taken up residence at his father’s right hand yet!

        A slight misstep in your scientific research there, JC, after promising you’d be back within the lifetime of some of your followers.

        “Unless you are prepared to assert that you know that the only things that exist are those things which can currently be empirically proven by you!”

        Never mind “assert”. We KNOW that the only things that exist are those things which can currently be empirically proven by us.

        The rest is speculation about known unknowns and unknown unknowns.

        But we are not prepared to base our lives around such speculation until all the evidence is in.

        “And you discount the possibility of any miracles.”

        Yes, because the evidence for them is either terrible or non-existent.

        A proper analysis of the evidence shows that any supernatural explanation or assumption is not necessary.

        The miracles are nothing of the kind and their occurrence can easily be explained by natural causes without the need to invoke deities, the supernatural or the paranormal such as reincarnation, ESP, telepathy, near-death and out of body experiences.

        Watch a few Derren Brown shows and read Susan Blackmore’s ‘In Search Of The Light’.

        “You have faith that there is no supernatural being and that therefore there can be no supernatural happenings. But that is a faith position, not a scientific one.”

        No, it IS a scientific position.

        There is no evidence of the supernatural.

        And before you ask, yes absence of evidence IS MOST DEFINITELY evidence of absence and you CAN prove a negative.

        The absence of evidence of a 10 tonne African bull elephant in my study as I type this is absence of evidence of such a large beastie in the room.

        “The Fall makes sense to me. I see its effects every day.”

        You should read David Aaronovitch’s discussion of conspiracy theories in the modern world, ‘Voodoo Histories’.

        The mysterious and not easily explainable collapse of WTC Building 7 on 9/11 confirms the suspicions held by the 9/11 “Troof” movement towards the US government.

        The Protocols Of The Learned Elders Of Zion are still taken as authentic to this day by many anti-Semitic elements in the Middle East because it confirms their presupposed prejudices regarding the Jews.

        They too still see the “effects” of The Protocols on Israel’s actions, racist scum that they are.

        Happy Newtonmas for tomorrow, everybody!

        At least we can be sure Isaac Newton was born on the 25th of December and his life’s works have had an immeasurably positive impact on the progress of the human race.

        MSP

      6. I couldn’t let this go by.

        Colin wrote:

        “You know Hobbes , for someone who claims to be a Christian, the sneering, patronising sarcastic ad hominem,nature of your last posting is revealing. “Fruit of the Spirit” (Gal 5: 22-23) seems to be lacking somewhat. Suit yourself.”

        Firstly, you accuse me twice of ad hominem, but it appears you do not understand what that actually is. There was no ad hominem of any sort in my post. At no point did I come to any conclusion that has you or your character as a premise. My “sneering” comments, as you put it, were conclusions I came to based on your own words! Please go back and re-read them. My suggestion of your lack of suitability for academic life was my conclusion, not my premise.

        Secondly, I don’t need to know about your academic background. My conclusions were based on your bare assertions, lack of evidence and poor reasoning demonstrated in your posts here. If you demonstrated the same poor reasoning that you have demonstrated here in your academic life you would fail.

        Thirdly, you said a while ago “MSP, I can understand why you dont want to have anything to do with this “subject” I used to study it at length, in detail and tried to make sense of it. I actually know a lot of it inside out.” Since you claimed to study Christian theology “at length” and “in detail”. Forgive me for calling you out on this one, because your posts show no evidence of this whatsoever. Assertions and questions are not evidence.

        So, before I shutdown my laptop, let me say that sarcasm is actually a biblical tactic, as evidenced by the apostle Paul. And, let me also say that Scripture has very harsh words for those who distort the truth and misrepresent biblical teaching. Had you come here genuinely seeking answers my tone would be very different, I can assure you. As it is, you are here for a fight. Don’t be surprised if we … you know… fight back. Just be thankful I have not gone Pauline on you. 🙂

        Have a great Xmas!

      7. MSP appears to have over done the mulled wine this xmas. He said:

        “And before you ask, yes absence of evidence IS MOST DEFINITELY evidence of absence and you CAN prove a negative.

        The absence of evidence of a 10 tonne African bull elephant in my study as I type this is absence of evidence of such a large beastie in the room.”

        But, thats just absurd. We’re not talking about a 10 tonne African bull elephant (a material object) but supernaturalism (anything that transcends the material). Absence of evidence here allows you – at most – only agnosticism, not the 100% naturalism you espose. Furthermore, within the naturalistic presupposition (and it is a presupposition, because you cannot prove naturalism) any evidence for the supernatural is rejected out of hand. Nothing is allowed to be classed as evidence.

        Also, since “there is no supernatural” is an absolute statement, MSP will need to have scoured the entire universe to prove this statement. I’m not holding my breath. As it is, MSP holds this view a priori. It’s a philosophical presupposition.

        See the link below to observe an otherwise intelligent man descend into irrationality while defending naturalism on the premise of the “absence of evidence” of the supernatural:

      8. Hobbes

        First off, I am teetotal. And I never much cared for mulled wine when I WAS on the sauce.

        Thank you for apparently conceding that it IS possible to prove a negative at least in respect of material objects.

        As for your “defence” (more scare quotes; I love ‘em!) of supernaturalism, are you familiar with Bertrand Russell’s Celestial Teapot?

        You comments about the need to search the Universe are the epitome of Russell’s thought experiment.

        Like the people who claim that the teapot was launched into orbit in secret as told in ancient holy texts and is too small to be observed with Earth’s telescopes, rather than provide actual evidence of your claims, you have simply excused yourself of the need to provide evidence.

        Even if we cannot see or hear the supernatural with our own senses, or with the enhancements provided by technology such as telescopes or microscopes, then we should still be able to observe its EFFECTS.

        Yet all properly conducted double-blind prayer trials have come back negative and no one has ever won James Randi’s million dollar bounty for proving a supernatural or paranormal claim in the lab.

        If “atheism” is a word that we do not need, then “agnostic” is doubly so.

        Funny how you never meet any people who are agnostic about Zeus, Thor, Voodoo and witchcraft.

        I have already seen that clip of Craig and Shook, as well as their entire debate, which by the way, I would give to Shook.

        The video was clearly uploaded by a fawning Craigophile. Craig does not humiliate Shook at all. Craig is the one clutching at straws saying, “Just because there is no evidence for, or good reason to believe in supernaturalism doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist.”

        I agree that this absence of evidence doesn’t rule it out to a factor of 1, but it makes it very, very improbable and therefore the burden of proof passes to Craig to come up with better arguments and evidence.

        If Craig does so, I will re-evaluate my stance. But until them I am entirely justified in my rejection of Craig’s claims: more so in fact than Craig’s belief in them.

        And elsewhere in the debate Craig categorically stated that you CAN prove a negative and you CAN prove that there is no Santa Claus, yet he completely contradicts this stance in the clip you posted.

        But then a minute is a long time in religious argumentation.

        MSP

      9. You’ve missed my point (not for the first time). I did not in my post make any defence of supernaturalism. Your scare quotes show you didn’t understand my points. But let’s press on.

        Even Craig would agree that you can prove a negative for things for which you would expect clear evidence of its presence within a bounded space. A 10 ton elephant in the garden is just such an example. This is uninteresting, trivial and entirely besides the point. (A more difficult example is “There are no fleas in the garden”)

        You, however, confidently assert a universal claim about something you have no way of detecting (within your naturalistic worldview). Apples and oranges, anyone?

        Russell’s Celestial Teapot is a red herring (a red herring is a fallacy, I might add). It’s a red herring because I’m not asking you to believe an unfalsifiable claim. I’m asking you to STOP believing an unfalsifiable claim, i.e. the claim of naturalism.

        My attack is focused on naturalism and i) your inability to prove the validity of naturalism and ii) the logical fallacy of rejecting the supernatural on the basis of naturalism.

        You get into further difficulty when you claim that we can still see the effects of supernatural forces. I totally agree. So, I present to you the entire universe as Exhibit A in general, and Jesus Christ, the historical events surround his life, and so in, in particular as supporting evidence.

        And here is where you get into difficulty: Naturalism rejects a priori the supernatural. So, before you open your eyes, any material or physical effect cannot be caused by a supernatural force. Your presupposition of naturalism prevents you from ever acknowledging a supernatural cause.

        So, let me ask you this question: What evidence would you accept that would prove the existence of the supernatural? You know, within the naturalistic worldview?

        And, this takes the xmas biscuit. You wrote:

        “Craig is the one clutching at straws saying, “Just because there is no evidence for, or good reason to believe in supernaturalism doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist.”

        That’s hilarious, MSP. This is a matter of simple logic. Let me repeat to you Craig’s question to Shook (paraphrased): By what principles of logic do you use to believe that your conclusion follows from your premises. To make it clear:

        Premise 1: There is no evidence for A
        Premise 2: There is no good reason to believe A
        Conclusion: A does not exist

        This conclusion is simply logically invalid. The formal structure of the argument is deficient. And, to make it 100%, because the structure is deficient, such an argument is invalid no matter what A is (ie supernaturalism).

        For example (let us assume that we are ancient debaters from long ago):

        Premise 1′: There is no evidence for electrons
        Premise 2′: There is no good reason to believe in electrons
        Conclusion’: Electrons don’t exist

        As a previous poster has said, Booof!

      10. Hobbes

        Oh, boy…

        I can see that this is reducing to one of THOSE debates with an apologist and I therefore hope that this will be my last word on the matter.

        Proving that there are no fleas in the garden is provable as well, but it would take a lot more manpower and technology to find the answer. Plus you’d have to agree what constitutes “the garden” – the airspace above and the ground beneath – but it could still be done.

        It’s you who misunderstands my point. I’m saying that within a naturalistic worldview IT IS POSSIBLE to detect supernatural forces and therefore allow supernaturalism in if the evidence allows it.

        Even St Paul admitted that while God may be invisible, his actions are visible to those who wish to see them: “Ever since the creation of the world his invisible nature, namely his eternal power and deity, have been clearly perceived in the things that have been made.” – Romans 1:20 As an aside, I would like to see them. But they’re not visible to me and they’re not visible to all the other of millions of non-believers around the World.

        If DNA evidence was discovered in Palestine that Jesus had no earthly father, then this discovery would be of interest to science and form part of the naturalistic worldview if it was proven beyond reasonable doubt.

        Physics, cosmology, archaeology and geology are sciences, yet they have not verified the literal Genesis account of creation, Noah’s Flood, the Exodus and the Great Kingdom of Israel.

        And of course if JC returned to Earth tomorrow trailing clouds of glory that would convince every atheist on Earth as to the scientific truth of Christianity (notwithstanding the fact that he would be two millennia too late).

        Does that satisfy you as the kind of evidence that WOULD satisfy a sceptic as evidence for supernaturalism?

        Phrases like “logical fallacy”, “straw man” and “red herring” are straight out of the William Lane Craig’s Handbook Of Dirty Debating Tactics. They are invariably an indicator that conversation has moved into areas that the religious apologist does not want to discuss (because they do not support his case!) and therefore constitute a dismissal of the atheist’s argument without meeting the burden of actually answering it, let alone refuting it.

        See here on my own blog for my own thoughts of Craig’s inane (ab)use of “logic”.

        “And, this takes the xmas biscuit. You wrote:

        “Craig is the one clutching at straws saying, ‘Just because there is no evidence for, or good reason to believe in supernaturalism doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist.’

        “That’s hilarious, MSP.”

        Why don’t you read THE VERY NEXT SENTENCE of my last comment?!

        “I agree that this absence of evidence doesn’t rule it out to a factor of 1, but it makes it very, very improbable and therefore the burden of proof passes to Craig to come up with better arguments and evidence.”

        Your inability to read is the only comedy on this post.

        I also agree that people in the pre-scientific past were perfectly justified in not believing in electrons due to the absence of evidence. However, people can change their minds IF THE EVIDENCE REQUIRES IT. There is now good evidence for the existence of electrons and therefore people are justified in believing in their existence and totally unjustified if they do not believe in their existence.

        While I do not think there is any need to search the rest of the Universe for supernatural forces, if such evidence DID emerge one day from the farthest reaches of the cosmos, I would reconsider my position.

        Given that the avenues of enquiry I mentioned above have been explored, if not exhausted, and there is no evidence for the supernatural, the probability for the supernatural’s existence de facto is very much in the same ballpark as Russell’s Teapot, The Invisible Pink Unicorn and The Flying Spaghetti Monster.

        Now, I think this line of debating has gone on long enough. theweeflea’s original post was about Darwin’s alleged influence on Stalin. That topic was exhausted quite some time ago and has now well and truly lurched way off the rails. If you want to continue with this discussion, feel free to post a comment on a relevant post of my blog, and I will reply as I see fit.

        It’s just that I have books to read, debates and lectures to watch and posts to write.

        MSP

      11. MSP – I don’t think I could have put it better – ‘I can’t see”'” – we pray for your enlightenment and that one days your eyes will be opened! Happy New Year…

      12. MSP, I agree. Let’s call it a day here. But, I simply have to respond to the following, not for your benefit, but for those others who are reading. Send me the link on your blog (email found at my blog) and I may continue there.

        You wrote:

        “Phrases like “logical fallacy”, “straw man” and “red herring” are straight out of the William Lane Craig’s Handbook Of Dirty Debating Tactics. They are invariably an indicator that conversation has moved into areas that the religious apologist does not want to discuss (because they do not support his case!) and therefore constitute a dismissal of the atheist’s argument without meeting the burden of actually answering it, let alone refuting it.”

        That’s an astonishing attack on Craig. Whilst I lean more to the presuppostional side of apologetics, Craig’s classical approach attempts to meet the atheist on their own terms, using their own tools (ie rationality and evidence). If the atheist wishes to call this dirty tricks, then they’ve just taken away the ground under their own feet.

        Phrases like “logical fallacy”, “straw man” and “red herring” are NOT from William Lane Craig’s Handbook of Dirty Debating Tactics. They are from the the handbook of logic – even logic books written by atheists! MSP has once again shown his disdain for sound, rigorous argumentation.

        Humanism/atheism does not have divine revelation to provide knowledge of things beyond our senses. So, reason is all humanism and atheism has. After all, I think the largest atheist society in the UK is the “Rationalist Association” and I’m assuming the R word is more significant than the A word for such members. So, for one of their own to attack a Christian for adhering to rules of rationality, and attacking him for holding his opponents to the same standard, and calling this “dirty tricks” is just astonishing.

        The key point is this: a fallacious argument is a failed argument. Once an argument has been shown to be unsound or fallacious, it has been refuted.

        And, for free, here is a link to an argument for the existence of God from logic, called “Lord of Non-Contradiction: An Argument for God from Logic”:

        http://www.proginosko.com/docs/The_Lord_of_Non-Contradiction.pdf

  18. Colin
    “But that’s philosophy not science”
    /
    This is the underpinning of all your questions IMO. I think that you would prefer to discuss science rather than philosophy or Theology for that matter.
    I think the exploration of Kantian distinctions would answer most of your questions.
    (especially the prolegomena).
    And as for angels on a pinhead, this is just a cop-out for reading Aristotle properly or for dismissing him without reading him. In fact it was a proxy for criticising Catholicism which was heavily weighted on Aristotle or more correctly Aquinas’ commentaries on him.
    Incidentally, the Kantian categories are based on Aristotle.

  19. David

    Thank you for replying. And thank you for being gracious with it. I’d have a word with that elder of yours if I were you.

    The big problem as I see it, is that the Fall had to take place within the time scale of human life on earth. And that doesnt fit with the known facts. I am not sure how miracles come into it, its a simple matter of one historical event following another.Yes, uniformitarianism is an assumption, but it is based on hard evidence,I can go to numerous places round Scotland for example and look at the geological evidence of many different types of events, the same type of events occur throughout the geological record at different points in history.Things like volcanic eruptions, faulting due to seismic activity. Fossil evidence of dead creatures all the way back. These items of evidence point to uniformitarianism, not a massive catastrophe dating back to early humans.

    There are volcanoes on Io, Jupiter’s moon. also Mars (the biggest known volcano in the solar system) Did these just spring up a few hundred thousand years ago.

    I’ll grant you that mankind is pretty flawed. So is nature.Read this (warning – its hideous)

    http://personalitycafe.com/critical-thinking-philosophy/10004-hyenas-eat-baby-elephant-alive.html

    I know its a “Darwin wasp” type of tale, but, did that sort of thing only start to happen because of the fruit eating by two humans? I dont think so

    There is massive suffering and death throughout the natural world. And the evidence for it goes way back in geological time

    Anyway, thanks for listening. Have a great Christmas.

    1. Colin wrote:

      “I’d have a word with that elder of yours if I were you.”

      Why? Because I don’t conform to an effeminate form of Christianity? That I use sarcasm (along with the apostle Paul and Elijah, amongst others)? That I point out your fallacies? That I show that your assertions are not backed up by evidence? Or have I merely sprinkled my posts with polemic (an ancient – and biblical – art, I might point out) and you just don’t like it?

      Help me out here.

      Since you didn’t respond to my refutation of your charge of ad hominem, I think you might find the following article helpful (written by an atheist):

      http://plover.net/~bonds/adhominem.html

      And, on the use of polemics and tone, I refer you to this enlightening article (and enlightening comments, on the whole) on the subject of tone and polemics for the Christian:

      http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2012/08/briggs-on-tls-and-tone.html

      I’m afraid I’m not as patient as you are waiting for answers (lack of fruit of the Spirit again, presumably). So, I’ll leave those articles for your perusal at your leisure.

  20. Hobbes

    Thank you for those links. I have to say, there is some absolutely fascinating stuff in there. This may take some time…:)

    Regarding polemics, yes, I know that Christians have often been harsh in their criticism:

    That comment attributed to Luther “Rather drink blood with a papist than wine with a Zwinglian” is a cracker

    Or Campbell Morgan’s description of pentecostalism as the “last vomit of Satan”. Thats a good one as well.

    And didnt Wesley say to Whitefield “Your God is my Devil?”

    Wow….

    I still think it clashes with the fruit of the spirit though.

    Have a good New Year when it comes. And you too David! (See, I’m softening…..:) )

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