It’s been a while since I have had an extended dialogue with an Atheist. I wanted to share one I recently had in the comment section of my most recent post.
I share it for a couple reasons. It remained civil. We were at times blunt, but conversations of this nature require that. Certainly, much of Jesus’ language falls into a similar category.
However, given Jim’s shotgun approach (technically a logical fallacy) a lot of good ground is covered, and so my desire is that my responses to his claims and questions would be helpful.
The conversation is still ongoing. All I have edited is the grammar, no content has been removed or added. If you are interested in seeing how it finishes, keep an eye out in the comment section. I likely won’t respond to much more. He began by saying…
Which God and which scripture should I choose here? The elastic immorality of the Old Testament which is ripe with slavery and genocide and cruelty or the Quran? BTW, Jesus didn’t invent the golden rule so your entire argument is blah after the first paragraph. Ancient Egypt.- circa 2000 BCE “Do for one who may do for you, That you may cause him thus to do.” – The Tale of the Eloquent Peasant 109-110,
Hebrew Bible – circa 700 BCE “You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against your countrymen. Love your fellow as yourself: I am the LORD.”
Zoroastrianism.- circa 600 BCE “That nature only is good when it shall not do unto another whatever is not good for its own self.” – Dadistan-i-Dinik 94:5,
Buddhism.- circa 500 BCE “Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful.” – Udana-Varga 5:18,
Confucianism.- circa 500 BCE “What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others.” Analects of Confucius 15:24,
Socrates.- circa 400 BCE “Do not do to others what would anger you if done to you by others.”
Jim, before commenting, I appreciate you very much for taking the time to read my blog. I have an incredibly small audience, so it really does bless me, even in the midst of disagreement.
“Which God and which scripture should I choose here?”
There is only one God, so you should choose the one that actually exists, and has made Himself known with undeniable clarity to each of us (Romans 1: 18-32). He has revealed Himself in 66 books, known to us because they are self-authenticating in their very nature.
“The elastic immorality of the Old Testament which is ripe with slavery and genocide and cruelty…”
It’s very ironic hearing an Atheist criticize an ethic for being “elastic.” Elastic morality is a central and necessary tenet of Atheism. Your worldview openly affirms a subjective, constantly changing moral code which adapts to new information and different societies. No moral code is more elastic than Atheism’s attempt to provide men with a code of conduct.
The word “immoral” does not even belong to your worldview. What could possibly be objectively immoral within a worldview framework that offers no objective moral code? Without God, immorality does not exist. As Richard Dawkins says, all there is is blind pitiless indifference, but not immorality. For example, you list slavery, genocide, and cruelty, as being “immoral.” Says who? What gives you the right to tell a foreign culture and a foreign people group how they ought to have behaved?
“or the Quran?”
The Quran is a little late in the game to even be considered. It does not bear the divine qualities, nor testify to a divine nature, but it is riddled with contradictions and inconsistencies, not only internally, but most importantly, with the clear teachings of the prophets of the Old and New Testaments, the very ones it claims to represent, and continue revelation for. In other words, the Quran must be rejected because it contradicts the known Scriptures which came before it.
“BTW, Jesus didn’t invent the golden rule so your entire argument is blah after the first paragraph.”
It’s shame you thought this, because you clearly did stop reading after the first paragraph. I know you stopped reading because nothing in my argument ever came close to stating that Jesus invented the Golden Rule (GR). In fact, I actually stated the exact opposite. So, the rest of my article, on that standard, is not “blah.”
First of all, I do not believe morality is “invented” but “revealed.” You use that word invent because it’s tied to your worldview. In your worldview, there is no such thing as morality, so it must be invented by people. In my worldview, morality is a description of the immutable character of God. God reveals His nature and laws to us, but they are never invented; they are discovered.
But to the point, had you finished the blog you would have read me stating that Jesus grounds the GR in the Old Testament. Therefore, I affirmed that the GR predates Jesus’ earthly ministry (not Jesus, as He is the eternal God.) Jesus did not invent the GR and did not claim to, but instead claimed that his formulation of the GR was a summary application of the Old Testament Law. That is my very thesis.
However, even if I did claim Jesus invented the GR, I don’t know how that nullifies the points about Atheism I made.
In response to your comment about the historic religions that affirmed the GR, it is difficult to know how to reply as I don’t have enough context to know what the point you’re trying to make is. If you’re trying to prove “Jesus did not invent the GR” as you stated earlier, then I responded to that already.
Here are a couple other points I can make about this historical reflection:
- It actually affirms the biblical worldview when other religions have similar laws. For the Bible teaches that God wrote a base level of Laws on the human heart (Romans 2). Therefore, aspects of God’s Law have been divinely revealed through innate human nature. To be human is to know God, for His Law is part of who we are. Thus, the fact that there are basic laws we all agree on only affirms what the Bible says God has done. The difference is, only Christians can justify this innate knowledge. The other religions above cannot.
- It also makes sense that other religions would adopt certain aspects of Christianity (or Judaism at that time) because Truth is valuable. In other words, there is a reason people make counterfeit dollar bills rather than counterfeit monopoly bills. Dollar bills are worth something, monopoly money isn’t. So when people want to copy something, they copy things of worth.
So, it makes a lot of sense the pagan religions of the ancient world would steal laws and narratives from God’s revelation, because what God has revealed is worth something.
Well you are special. It just shows that Christianity is nowhere near original and is a compete copycat of pagan, Egyptian, Norse and Greek mythology enforced to stay by Constantine. There have been no less than 15 near identical stories predating the Christ story. But this one, this one is the real one. You’ve got some reading to do. You have the burden of proof as you are claiming a god exists. I say there is nothing. Prove it. No one has shown a shred of evidence so far but belief, and if you do learn enough about the fallacies of your faith you’ll be an atheist too. You’re on the road to it. Welcome to the minds of the free.
The Bible refers to me not as being special but forgiven.
“It just shows that Christianity is nowhere near original and is a compete copycat of pagan, Egyptian, Norse and Greek mythology.”
What “just shows” this? How does the fact that Jesus claimed the Prophets (who predate Greek and Norse mythology) taught to love our neighbor show Christianity stole from religions hundreds of years in the future?
“…enforced to stay by Constantine.”
I really do not say this to be rude or condescending, but it really does shock me that your view of history is so skewed. It’s truly been years since I have heard this claimed, even from non-Christians. It is historically indefensible that Constantine enforced Christianity on the world. That is why I find your comment, “You’ve got some reading to do” to be very ironic. I am not the one spouting outlandish historical revisions on the same level as The Da Vinci Code.
“There have been no less than 15 near identical stories predating the Christ story.”
This is not true for 3 reasons.
- This is a common talking point, but in reality, every story which people today claim resembles the Christ story, when actually examined, does not mirror it very well at all. Since you believe positive claims require the burden of proof, the onus is now on you to give me 15 stories, minimum, and an accurate view of the Christ story, and then show how they are “nearly identical.” Again, I hope you’re regretting that “You’ve got some reading to do” comment by this point.
- Most of the stories you have in mind do not predate the Christ story, because the Christ story was first told in the Garden and continued to be prophesied for thousands of years prior to Christ’s incarnation. The realization of the story took place two thousand years ago, but the story itself was told many thousands of years before that. Thus, if your presupposition is that which ever story was told first is the original, then your 15 mythologies copied the Christ story, not the other way around. Which brings me to the 3rd point:
- I said earlier that copycats copy valuable things. To be in the counterfeit business you have to make a product that resembles a valuable thing. Christian truth is inherently valuable, so it makes sense other religions would try so hard to look like us.
“You have the burden of proof as you are claiming a god exists. I say there is nothing.”
This is a common misunderstanding among atheists about the burden of proof. However, yours is the best example I can find because you blatantly contradict yourself when others do so only implicitly.
Notice how you claimed I have the burden of proof because I made the positive claim that God exists. But you then followed it up with a positive claim yourself, “I say there is nothing.”
This means you bear the same burden. You made a claim “nothing” exists. Prove it.
The burden of proof falling on the positive [claim] is true when it comes to formal debate propositions and legal hearings. But in general debates about ultimate’s, EVERYONE has a worldview which needs proving. This is an inescapable reality. Every person has implicit positive understandings about reality. Therefore, everyone bears the same burden of proof. Even those more agnostic than you still have a burden of proof. If someone were to claim, “There may be a god, but I don’t know” that person (although the Bible says they are lying) has still made an implicit positive claim. The claim is this: “Since god may not exist, it’s possible that the reality we exist in could exist without God.”
They must now prove their positive claim, that things like science, love, reason, knowledge, ethics, etc. can all have a foundation apart from God. We all bear a burden of proof.
“Prove it. No one has shown a shred of evidence so far but belief.”
I’ll bite. The proof that the Christian God exists is that without Him you cannot prove anything. My proof is proof itself.
Only the Christian worldview can make sense of intelligibility. All of the things that make the concept of “proof” meaningful are found in Christ. Apart from Him, you cannot justify your presuppositions about the nature of proof. Evidence requires an intelligible universe. It requires things like knowledge, reasoning, induction, laws of nature, laws of logic. None of these things can be justified outside of Christ. Therefore, the proof of God is found in the fact that you think proof is possible.
“and if you do learn enough about the fallacies of your faith…”
There are none. However, what’s ironic is fallacies require absolute laws of logic. What is logic? Logic is universal, unchanging, and immaterial. Your worldview demands the universe is only material, and constantly evolving. Thus, the very fact that fallacies exist denies your worldview.
“…you’ll be an atheist too.”
No, I won’t be. It’s actually impossible since Atheists don’t even exist (Romans 1: 18-32).
“You’re on the road to it.”
Actually, I am on the road toward eternal life (Matthew 7: 13-14). And you are commanded by God to join me on this narrow way (Acts 17: 30).
“Welcome to the minds of the free.”
To the contrary, all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are found in Christ (Colossians 2: 1-3). Any philosophy are worldview not founded on Christ is empty and deceitful (Colossians 2: 8). Those outside of Christ are the ones whose minds are darkened, and their thoughts are foolish and futile (Romans 1: 21-23). Our minds are not renewed until Christ sets us free (Romans 12: 1-4). Thus, you are the one enslaved; I am free.
I don’t have time to write a whole book in reply to this If the Quran in not old enough to legitimize a religion for you, then neither is the Bible. The 66 books you mention are easy enough to dismantle. Which translations suits you best? Let’s start there. One point at a time. You seem to be running the Gish Gallop gambit. Or is it argumentum as nauseum?
“I don’t have time to write a whole book in reply to this”
That is understandable. I do not either. Feel free to remove yourself from the conversation whenever. I will not take it as a sign of cowardice or defeat, as I too am bust.
“If the Quran in not old enough to legitimize a religion for you, then neither is the Bible.”
The Bible is far older than the Quran. The New Testament by a good 4-5 centuries, and the Old Testament by some thousands of years.
However, I think this missed my point. I was not saying the basis of truth is pure historical age. God was free to reveal Himself progressively, and the newer revelation was not less true than the older. The point that I was making was the Quran came so late, that there is nothing reasonable about overthrowing hundreds of years of known Christian Scriptures and known Christian beliefs [and history], many of which the Quran commands its followers to adhere to. I was saying the Quran is too new to be a legitimate Old Testament sequel, I was not saying it was too new to be true.
“The 66 books you mention are easy enough to dismantle.”
LOL. Ya… our presuppositions certainly affect how we view history’s hundreds of years of attempting to do this.
“Which translations suits you best? Let’s start there. One point at a time.”
I’m not sure how this is relevant. I preach from the ESV. But I believe most of the modern translations to be accurate and reliable (NKJV, NASB, NIV, etc.) I reject paraphrases like the Message and the NLT.
“You seem to be running the Gish Gallop gambit. Or is it just argument ad nauseum?”
I cannot believe this. I have literally engaged only in a point by point response to everything you have said. Therefore, any Gish Gallop, Shotgunning, or argument ad nauseum is being done by you.
You can’t prove the Bible is true by quoting the Bible There is no proof of prayer or god answering prayer. People give him credit for all the good and excuses are made for the rest. Prayer is just one “worldview” I have that in the end was false hope and promises that never came to fruition. Ever! When you look at what is actually claimed and hoped versus what happens is a huge disparity. Every iota requires deep explanations and apologetics. It not true.
“You can’t prove the Bible is true by quoting the Bible.”
I never did that. I quoted the Bible as true, but I did not prove the Bible by quoting it. That wasn’t the structure of my argument. However, when dealing with Ultimates, circularity is inescapable. I can prove this with one easy request:
Prove to me your reasoning faculties are reliable, but don’t use your reasoning faculties to do so.
See how impossible that is? Same goes for my ultimate authority. If I were appeal to anything else, then I would be disproving my ultimate authority is ultimate. You cannot prove your car is the fastest car in the world by having a tow truck tow it down the speedway very fast. You cannot prove you are the strongest person in the world by utilizing someone else’s strengths. Whichever is ultimate will have to vindicate itself, from itself.
“There is no proof of prayer or god answering prayer.”
I don’t think you need that first part. There is proof of prayer. People pray all the time. I think you just needed the second part.
Remember earlier when you accused me of running the Gambit? Ya… I never appealed to prayer as my proof.
“People give [God] credit for all the good and excuses are made for the rest.”
This is actually very true. I agree this happens. But what some people do is irrelevant to whether the Bible is true, Some scientists are weird people. Does that make the enterprise of science unreliable?
“Prayer is just one ‘worldview’ I have that in the end was false hope and promises that never came to fruition. Ever! When you look at what is actually claimed and hoped versus what happens is a huge disparity.”
Perhaps God was not listening due to your idolatry of heart (Is. 1: 10-17). Or, perhaps your theology of prayer (it’s purpose and our expectations) was not formed biblically. Don’t blame the fork when you try to use it like a spoon.
“Every iota requires deep explanations and apologetics. It not true.”
This is due to the constant attacks. Secondly, are you saying you would be more likely to bow your knee to Christ if His revelation were more simple? That would seem to discredit it more than verify it.
Again, I don’t know why we are talking about prayer, but prayer being a theological concept we can dive deeply into and ask difficult questions about hardly disqualifies it from being true. How much of known quantum physics do you deny because it requires so much explanation?
24 thoughts on “My Conversation with Jim the Atheist”
Wow, you put a lot of effort into that post. I’m sorry, I thought both your arguments were weak. I’ve read justin martyr, and other ante nicene fathers. Conflicting translations in some cases but they all seemed to agree on the point of other religions appearing nearly identical. The argument used by church fathers to reject those pagan faiths was twofold. Firstly, they said the story about Jesus was actually true, secondly, they claimed the devil gave the story to people centuries ago to mislead the people when the true religion arrived. The one argument they didn’t make was the pagan stories and the christian story were different in practice or doctrine.
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When you say “both” my arguments, which are you referring to specifically?
Sorry, yours and the atheist
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Well, I’m glad we have 50% agreement!
Assuming the argument about the Fathers (I still maintain the myths presented to me are not like Christ’s story at all), what are your thoughts on the argument I made twice that I would somewhat expect attempts at copy-cats? In other words, the argument made was arguing from counterfeits, to the non-existence of the authentic.
Because their is counterfeit money that looks just like real money, there cannot be real currency. — That’s illogical.
Because there are counterfeit Christ stories that look just like Christ’s story, the authentic Christ story does not exist. — That too is also illogical, yes?
I agree that people have common myth stories because their is an eternal kernel of truth embedded in our psych. Why and how those ideas are manifested we will have to agree to disagree. Even when I was a Christian I didn’t buy the apologists position that Jesus always existed and is talked about in Genesis when God is used in plural. I think a better explanation is found in the book Who Wrote the Bible?
What’s your justification for this eternal shared psyche? How do you account for this given your rejection of the Christian Scriptures?
In genesis Adam is told he will die if he eats from the tree of wisdom. Yet he doesn’t suddenly die. What changes? He becomes aware of his nakedness? I think this is allegory and explains why we have a shared psyche. (Forgive me if my Biblical quotes are wanting , been many years) Anyway, Adam became AWARE of death, of self. Before this there was no sin because we were unaware. Our myths are attempts to understand the world and make the fear of death less. The Jesus story was a copy but the underlying message has always been.
This is where you lose me. And yes you are trying to prove the existence of god with the Bible which is a nonsensical approach. You said “There is only one God, so you should choose the one that actually exists, and has made Himself known with undeniable clarity to each of us (Romans 1: 18-32). “. What is undeniably clear? That the Bible says so. Cmon man. This invisible, incomprehensible, all powerful god outside time and space is almost a shoe-in definition of imagination. You seem to have a lot of faith in the book, but that doesn’t prove any existence at all. 2,999 gods to go. I spent 50 years a believer and when I sat down and went point by point from prayer to scripture to heaven and creation it all required a lot of excuses and hairsplitting explanations to make any of it make sense. Not a science guy and I’ve never read an atheist book to date. It was all a matter of simplicity for me. It doesn’t make any sense or benefit me in any way at all. Stunting and darkening the minds of the masses with pious racism, and death has surrounded it it’s entire existence.
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I would also argue that the Universe appearing from nothing to become something is even more unimaginable is it not? To be frank, there is more faith required to believe in something coming from nothing; than there is to believe something that has always existed and brought all other things into existence, no? God makes it clear that our concept of time was started by Him. How is it “more” far fetched and “imaginative” to believe that time does not apply to Him, that maybe our Universe was designed, than it is to believe that the Universe just appeared? Look at your cell phone, or your computer as you read this. What are the odds that it can form itself (even given billions, heck let’s give it trillions of years)? Seriously…consider that. Yet even the simplest of single celled organisms are far more complex than the greatest of any invention of man.
Also as Collin said, you too are burdened with the concept of proving your beliefs as well. And correct me if I’m wrong, I don’t want to put words in your mouth, but you implied you felt God needs to prove Himself. Frankly, how should He do that?
Come down in a pillar of fire and guide His people? He did that. Split the Red Sea to help His people to dry land? Bring loved ones back from the dead? Allow Himself to be slain, raise Himself from the dead and tell all who saw Him He is God? He did do all that! But miracles do not make believers. If you pray and God answers your prayer exactly as you want Him to you will believe? Yeah right. You’ll explain it away as a coincidence. Remember during Moses’ time God did great wonders and miracles for people. What did they do moments after that? Built a golden calf and claimed that to be their new god. Miracles and prayers do not make people believe in Him. There is something deeper required. An understanding that God says people will not understand until they know Him. (1 Cor 2:12 and Col 1:9) And note: I said know God, not just merely believe in Him. Even the devil “believes” in God… Above all, I believe this is an understanding all can obtain should they simply try. I cannot explain it to you though. It’s like trying to explain the color red to a man who is blind. It’s something you need to just “see” for yourself. As Collin said, I too hope I can someday call you brother as you join us on the hard and narrow path. It’s not easy, you will be mocked and hated for your beliefs. You will be cast down and it will not be a happy life. But it is a joyous one. And it is a filling one. A purpose knowing you are not a robot. That the summation of who you are is not mere chemicals reacting with chemicals, but a child of the one true God who made you with the intent to do something amazing. Who loves you despite your flaws and has given Himself in recompense for your shortcomings and sins so that you can be with Him for all eternity.
Anyways, I thank you for the challenging thoughts and hope I have said nothing that you find abrasive and condescending. Christians are no better than non-believers. We simply know that, through God, we have been saved. By no works of our own have we “earned” our way into heaven. So I hope I did not seem haughty in my response to your thoughts, or “more holy than thou.” Anyways…Take care, and though you think it will do no good, I will pray the best for you and your life.
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I’ll touch in just two points for now. God could prove himself but he hasn’t. You could try but you can’t. All you have is belief. I do not believe it. I lived it 50 years and nothing works as it is propped up to work. Miserable toil and guilt without results. The only reason to believe is you choose to. I do not know how the world was created. If Big Bang and evolution are off the mark, it doesn’t mean any religion is right. Secondly, Abrahamic religions have stunted social equality and they have fought science and equality every step of the way. The only difference between Abraham and Muhammad and the apes, is the apes couldn’t write their ideas of controlling territory, food, sex and dominance. Religion is political Control through the all watchful eye that is not there.
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I too was a lot like you. This is my post tonight. https://thecommonathiest.wordpress.com/2018/02/08/the-way-it-was/
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“Come down in a pillar of fire and guide His people? He did that. Split the Red Sea to help His people to dry land? Bring loved ones back from the dead? Allow Himself to be slain, raise Himself from the dead and tell all who saw Him He is God? He did do all that!”
Yes! Having these things happen before our eyes would indeed constitute proof. Reading words written thousands of years ago by unknown authors in a book fraught with errors does not constitute proof. It is hearsay and it’s unbelievable hearsay at that. It’s unfortunate that none of us were alive to witness these things since they were “one and done” events, never to be repeated. Faith is fine, if you have some truth to go on. Old stories like these require more than faith. They require you to throw everything you know about reality out the window in order to even begin to contemplate accepting these stories as truth. I had trouble believing them when I was a Christian. Now that I’m no longer a Christian, and armed with the knowledge of the Bible being written by men, for men, I certainly don’t believe it now.
I am in the “prove it” group now. You won’t win over skeptics or former Christians with “trust the Bible” when they are already distrusting it. “But Jesus rose from the dead!” Did he? Where do we see evidence of that? The Bible. “God performs miracles!” He does? When and where did that happen? The Bible. Without a book, Christianity crumbles. With it, unbelievers are bound for Hell and are immoral. Thank God for missionaries and evangelicals, right? I used to be “saved” but now I’m staring at a eternity on the hot seat.
After 100 years not even a pottery shard. Here’s what Jews are thinking of Moses http://m.jpost.com/Opinion/Op-Ed-Contributors/The-Exodus-Does-archaeology-have-a-say-348464
Interesting article. I can see why Jews don’t want to talk about it. I also see why Christians are quick to dismiss ideas contrary to theirs or ignore them altogether. It’s hard to defend the indefensible.
Not sure where you are from but info like this is suppressed by all types of clergy in the US. I here other places have moved past this. I have a link from John Zande I’ll send you. It shows what a 40 year settlement of 600,000 to 2million you’ll look like.
I’m from New Hampshire.
Washington state near Canada for me
I’m about a four hour drive from Canada
Me too. We’re at 48.5n. Lol. Neighbors!
I knew we had something in common.
I’m about an hour though from BC
I’ll see your one hour BC ride and raise you a 2 hour trip to Boston. 🙂
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My daughter is going to Boston soon with upward bound. School excellence program. Pretty cool.
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https://thesuperstitiousnakedape.wordpress.com/2016/06/26/kadesh-barnea-gaza-the-exodus/. This is superior evidence than the exodus