Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

A review of The God Delusion. By Richard Dawkins. Part 1.

Dec 29, 2006

Bantam Press, 2006.

Many years ago when I read the short volume by atheist Bertrand Russell, Why I Am Not a Christian, I thought: there is not much substance to this. Generalisations, straw men, red herrings and misrepresentations seemed to characterise the book. In many ways that is how I regard Dawkins’ book. It is longer, more sophisticated and more comprehensive, but it bears the same traits as found in Russell’s 1927 tract.

Indeed, there are atheists and there are atheists. The garden-variety don’t like religion, don’t like God and don’t like people who do. Then there is the especially hard-core variety. These are atheists who are on a mission, an evangelistic crusade to save the world from religion. They hate religion and are convinced it must be eradicated at all costs. Such atheists have every bit as much zeal and fanaticism in their secular jihad as a religious person ever will. Richard Dawkins is a classic example of the atheist storm-trooper.

The Oxford biologist has been spewing forth anti-religious bigotry and animosity for some time now. His newest book is no exception. It continues his passionate crusade to rid the world of every last vestige of religion. For in Dawkins’ eyes, religion is the source of all evil, while atheism is the path of enlightenment, brotherhood and liberation.

Thus his new 400-page polemic is a wholesale diatribe against God and religion, and a frontal assault on anyone who is ‘stupid’ enough to believe in anything other than what his atheist weltanschauung allows. As such, there are two things a reviewer must contend with here. One is the actual content of the book and the arguments presented. Those will be addressed in due course.

The other is the overwhelming arrogance, pomposity and self-assuredness of the author. He can admit to no wrong, and will not allow any quarter from his enemies. There is just one choice. One must either believe Dawkins and his atheism, or one is deluded. It is as simple as that. There is no middle ground. One is either a blind, ignorant fool who is overwhelmed by delusion, or one sees the light through the lens of atheism.

It would seem that such fundamentalist intolerance would be enough to make many question whether in fact his arguments are all that decisive. If a believer were to argue in such a belligerent and intolerant fashion, most atheists would dismiss him out of hand, regardless of how sound his argumentation might be.

Indeed, Dawkins even justifies his belligerence. He says that there is nothing about religion that deserves any respect, and none should be shown to it. Of course he seeks to be an equal opportunity offender, bagging all religions along the way. But the Christian religion seems to bear a disproportionate brunt of his rage. Indeed, I lost count of the number of times he equates religionists in general, and American Christians in particular, with the Taliban.

But leaving aside the sheer nastiness and arrogance of the author and his style, it is to his actual content that the reviewer must now turn. And a 400-page book cannot adequately be assessed in a short review like this. Thus not every aspect of the book can be covered. But some key themes will be examined, especially as they impact on Christianity, since that is the camp I belong to.

The Bitter Assault on Christianity

Christianity certainly seems to get the bulk of Dawkins’ bile and venom. It is to Christianity that the most attention is spent, and the most bitterness and rancour is noticed.

While his attacks on Christianity are scattered throughout the book, there are two main places where he specifically targets the world’s largest religion. The first is in a chapter on arguments for God’s existence. The traditional arguments, such as the cosmological or ontological arguments, are given swift and sophomoric treatment by Dawkins (he thinks he has completely destroyed them in nine brief pages), and his criticisms would not pass a Theology 101 exam. But in this chapter he has a short section on “the arguments from Scripture”.

In six short pages he smugly assumes he has demolished the case for the authority of Scripture, particularly the reliability of the gospels. He claims the gospels “are not reliable accounts of what happened in the history of the real world”. He compares them to The Da Vinci Code and says both were “invented, made-up fiction”.

His superficial assault on the gospels are wrong on almost every count. He claims they were “written long after the death of Jesus, and also after the epistles of Paul”. While the gospel of John was probably written sometime in the 90s, Mark could well have been written in the late 50s or early 60s. Matthew and Luke also were written sometime in the 60s. And the writings of Paul were most likely penned between the late 40s and the mid 60s.

Thus all the gospels were written within 30 to 60 years of Jesus’ death, while Paul’s writings were penned even earlier. This is actually quite a remarkable fact, placing the historicity of Jesus on more sure footing than almost any other historical figure of antiquity. Not only are these documents written very close to the time of the actual events, but we have many thousands of portions of the New Testament documents as well. Who else do we know of living so long ago having such reliable testimony?

Yet Dawkins persists in his kindergarten criticism: The gospel writers “almost certainly never met Jesus personally”. Luke probably did not, but John was part of the inner circle of Jesus, along with Peter, whom Mark draws upon. And Matthew was most likely one of the twelve.

If this is the best Dawkins can come up with, utilising such juvenile arguments and sloppy scholarship, then one has to wonder just how reliable he is on other themes addressed in this book.

The second major assault on Christianity comes in a chapter in which he seeks to demonise the Old and New Testaments. In each he selectively picks out a few incidents which he does not like, and then seeks to assure us that the whole of Scripture is this terrible, and it all can therefore be dismissed.

As to the Old Testament, he says it is “just plain weird” with parts of it “systematically evil”. For example he dismisses the story of Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac as a “disgraceful story” about “child abuse and bullying”. Acts of God’s judgment are described as “God’s jealous sulk,” “God’s maniacal jealousy,” “ethnic cleansing” and “genocide”. Yahweh is simply a “cruel ogre” and a “monster” according to Dawkins.

Interestingly, in a different part of the book, he maligns creationists for “gleefully quoting out of context”. Yet this is exactly what Dawkins does throughout this whole section of his book. Ignoring context or even at least featuring instances of God’s love and mercy to gain some perspective, he simply picks a few examples of what he sees as God’s nastiness and ugliness.

But the New Testament is not much better according to Dawkins. Consider the heart of the Christian faith, the atonement. The cross of Christ is too much for Dawkins. It barely exceeds the “viciousness” of the Old Testament. The atonement is just plain “vicious, sado-masochistic and repellent,” is “morally obnoxious,” and should be dismissed as “barking mad”.

He makes so many major blunders here that one doesn’t know where to begin. He makes the rather strange claim that much of what the four evangelists wrote “was simply rehashed from the Old Testament”. While they wrote in a setting of first-century Judaism, the main topic of the gospels, Jesus’ life and message, was far from just old Jewish thinking. While based on what went before, and certainly the subject of fulfilled prophesy, it was the radicalness and uniqueness of his message that finally got him killed.

The Jews of his day saw his message as revolutionary, overturning traditional Jewish understanding. While based on and flowing from Old Testament teachings, it was in fact a radically new and distinct spin on things.

He also makes this bizarre claim: In both Testaments “‘Love thy neighbor’ didn’t mean what we now think it means. It meant only ‘Love another Jew’.” Of course everything about Jesus – both word and deed – argued just the opposite. It was God’s unbounded love that he taught, a love for all people, not just God’s covenant people. The parable of the Good Samaritan is just one of many examples. And Dawkins doesn’t even try to base this weird claim on any theologian, simply on one evolutionary anthropologist.

Indeed, who does he consistently rely upon in these sections of his book as his authoritative sources for such claims? He simply appeals to several theological liberals and skeptics as his ‘experts’. People such as John Shelby Spong, A.N. Wilson, Robin Lane Fox and Thomas Jefferson are the best he can muster for his attacks on Scripture and his offbeat remarks about Christianity. Such fringe writers come nowhere near representing mainstream scholarship on these questions. He simply picks and chooses those who happen to agree with him, while ignoring the vast amount of scholars who take a much different approach.

For all of his hatred of Christianity, Dawkins has to go much further if he wants to offer an intellectually satisfying debunking of this faith. His arguments are simply shallow and unconvincing. They are also poorly argued, with hardly any substantial documentation or evidence.

At most, his arguments tell us more about his own twisted temperament, and his anti-Christian bigotry. They certainly do not offer us a telling critique of the Christian faith.

Part 2 of this article is found here:

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118 Responses to A review of The God Delusion. By Richard Dawkins. Part 1.

  • Maybe there is a lesson in the fact that Dawkins directs most of his efforts against Christianity. Could it be that Dawkins is unknowingly a pawn of an unacknowledged and unseen spiritual power that has as his chief end a desire to keep men from a knowledge of the Truth? If so, Dawkin’s none too subtle efforts may well backfire in this regard.

    Ewan McDonald, Victoria

  • “Never mind the millions of people killed in the name of atheistic utopias, be they Stalin’s, Hitler’s or Mao’s”.

    As opposed to the millions more people killed in the name of aesthetic utopias by religion?

    Paul Hinderer

  • Bill, I can’t help but think that the fact you think one of our great philosophers, Betrand Russell, wrote books with little or no substance, indicates that you indeed have no idea what constitutes real “substance” yourself. I have just read your article on and must say that it is rare for to publish such an anger driven unsubstantiated rant. Should you not be turning the other cheek, and encouraging Dawkins to speak out further? If he is wrong then he will expose himself, and naturally your god will smooth the process. As for your comments on atheists, they are the only group of people in the world that I can see arent killing other people in the world, in the name of what they beleive is “right”. Right being a construct which as you so accurately point out was defined in Western Society by none other than religion!

    Your article does not even seem to follow a logical train of thought. Please stop publishing things for the good of our children (whether they be religious or not).

    Sucal Nosagref

  • Thanks Paul
    But you are simply incorrect here. We know that in one century alone, at least 100 million people were killed by these three tyrants. If you put all the religious killings in human history together, the figures would still not be that high.

    Of course it is a shame when religious people do kill. But even here distinctions need to be made. It can be argued that some religions do encourage violence and bloodshed. But it is clear that the Christian religion at least forbids murder. Killing as in self-defence and just war is another matter altogether. But to kill someone in the name of Christ runs contrary to New Testament teaching.

    But the facts of history are quite clear. Our atheistic regimes have been history’s greatest killing machines.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Ex 14:4 And I will harden Pharaoh‘s heart, that he shall follow after them; and I will be honoured upon Pharaoh, and upon all his host; that the Egyptians may know that I am the LORD.
    Dawkins is so quotable because he is so illogical. God is using Dawkins to expose atheism masquerading as science, to wake up the church and bring glory to himself.

    Tas Walker

  • Thanks Sucal

    But I did not say that Russell was without substance, just that his 1927 volume seemed to be lightweight in its arguments.

    And I am not sure what turning the other cheek has to do with all this. Dawkins has written a book attacking the beliefs of billions of human beings. Surely if he wants to make his attack public, I have a right to offer my assessment of his remarks in the public arena as well. That is what living in a democracy is all about.

    And as I already wrote, atheists have been responsible for more killing in the world than any other group. Hitler and Stalin, for example, certainly did believe in what they were doing, and they certainly did believe they were right.

    And if you are trying to make the claim that being right is simply a “construct,” then why should I pay any attention to your remarks? I presume you believe you are right. If not, why do you write at all?

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Three points:

    1/ These dictators you refer to did not take power on the platform of atheism. The rose to power to repress the hideous and corrupt regimes that preceded them. They were not atheist revolutions and to argue this to prove your point is just wrong and misleading and shows a lack of understanding of the political climates of those respective times.

    2/ Secondly you miss the premise of Dawkins book and that is simply that God is a delusion; a cultural relic of simpler times to explain what was then unexplainable.
    There is no God, never has been and never will be. You don’t need a god to explain how we got here. The systematic explorations of science can more than adequately explain us and our universe. We are fluke of fortuitous chemical reactions, nothing more, nothing less.

    3/ The most potent argument against god is thus. If you are born in Israel you will most likely become a Jew, if you a born in Italy you will probably become a Roman Catholic, and if you are born in a liberal democracy like Sweden, free to explore ideas and concepts you will likely become an atheist! What does that tell us? It tells us that religion is nothing more than cultural. There is no god gene otherwise why don’t we all pray at the same altar?

    You don’t need religion to be good person. I am not religious but I am a good person.


    Ross Corrigan

  • Thanks Ross

    But you really have me puzzled here. You say, “We are [sic] fluke of fortuitous chemical reactions, nothing more, nothing less”. Then you go on to say you are a good person. What exactly does that mean? What is goodness? How do you measure it? What is the standard of goodness? How can one even speak of good if we are just a bunch of chemical reactions? Chemical reactions are neither good nor bad. They just are. Or as Dawkins said in River Out of Eden, “The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind pitiless indifference.” At least he was consistent here. There is no such thing as good and evil in a purely reductionist view such as his or yours.

    And your third point is hardly a winner. Instead, it is a common logical fallacy known as the genetic fallacy: confusing the origins of an idea with reasons for believing in an idea. The origin of one’s beliefs hardly count as a verification – or repudiation – of them. Some people are also born in atheist homes. So what?

    I happened to be born in a nominal religious home, only to reject that upbringing. I later examined the evidence and then made a choice for theism, specifically Christianity.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • A beauthiful example, Bill, of why the world would be a better place if not infested with religious belief systems:

    “THE Exclusive Brethren sect has tried for almost four years to cover up the sexual assaults of two girls, protecting the abuser, ostracising the victims and blaming their mother….”

    Andrew Lake

  • Thanks Andrew

    I have not printed all of your long rehearsal of the Brethren story, as this news item is fully available in the public domain. But the story in itself does not demonstrate the case for eliminating all religion, or that the world would somehow be a better place without religious belief.

    I can also cite any number of media accounts of corrupt cops, bribe-taking judges or wayward school teachers. Should we eliminate the police, disband the judiciary, or close all our schools because some have corrupted and/or tarnished those professions?

    The fact that some cops go bad does not mean that policing in general is to be rejected. In the same way, if some believers screw up big time, that is a shame and a tragedy. But it tells us nothing about the truthfulness or usefulness of that particular religion.

    Atheists also commit sexual assaults. But that is not the sole basis for judging whether atheism is ultimately true or false.

    Granted, when people who should know better – eg., Christians – commit acts contrary to their faith, then it is scandalous and deplorable. But the truthfulness or otherwise of Chrsitianity must be judged one more grounds than just the misrepresentation and aberration of the faith by some believers.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Hi Bill,
    “Granted, when people who should know better – eg., Christians – commit acts contrary to their faith..”

    The knowledge that something is wrong and immoral and the will to “do the right thing”, is not contingent on any “faith” or given by some mandate in a holy book – it’s an understanding that any normal thinking person has.

    Paul Hinderer

  • Thanks Paul
    But Hitler thought what he was doing was right. So did Roosevelt as he sought to stop him. They both could not be right on the same issue. Who decides what is right and wrong? Is there a standard which people can appeal to? I still fail to see how philosophical naturalism can give us any standard of right and wrong.

    And who decides what a “normal thinking person” is? Presumably you think I am wrong and you are right. And vice versa. So who is being a normal thinking person here? How is truth determined? In a totally material universe, there is no ultimate truth or right and wrong. Things just are and that is the way it is.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Bill,

    Your reasoning is sound, if one is to measure right from wrong, then there has to be a measuring stick. One person can not measure himself against another. It would be like a white sheep in a green paddock comparing itself to another white sheep in the same paddock; saying ‘I’m whiter’. However, when the white snow falls, both sheep are dirty brown.

    Obviously, humans are different from animals, humans have the ability to greater reasoning, and we have a conscience. We set-up court systems and have laws that govern our behaviors; we demand justice.

    So, has there ever been a person who demonstrated moral perfection throughout history? There was one man. But we couldn’t stand such a man; he was too ‘good’ for us. And within 33 years of his life, we crucified him.

    Check him out! I challenge anyone who is sincerely seeking the truth to examine personally the life of Jesus, including his teachings, his miraculous acts, his prophecies, his virgin birth, his resurrection, and his claims of his coming again.

    Truth stands the test of time and lies are soon exposed. Truth is like a rock: it’s unmovable.

    I heard someone say that ‘the highest form of human maturity is for a man to take full responsibility for the things that he says and does’. Let every reader of this be ready to give an account of his or her own life in comparison to the Jesus of the Holy Bible.

    Michael Dawson, Melbourne

  • Bill, Claiming that Atheism had in some way contributed to the killing of millions of people is just wrong. I have seen this point of view rolled out on a number of occasions and it is disappointing. I would be interested to read any comments made by any of the above mentioned that Atheism was the/part reason why they were killing people. I have never found any. I think we can agree that these people were just absolute tyrants. For them, believing or not believing in any particular god was irrelevant. Out of interest, wasn’t Stalin a seminarian in his early years? I will counter your argument with the following. Some Catholic priests have been known to molest children. This is fact. Therefore can I conclude that all Catholics are divots that want to molest children? Of course not. It is just silly. Being a Catholic has nothing to do with molestation of children likewise being an Atheist has nothing to do with mass genocide. Inferring there is some form of relationship is not correct.

    Ben green

  • Hi Michael,
    You can not bandy around stories, call them “truth” and make them stick just because you believe. What do you know of the lives that other people have lead and the sacrifices some have had to make? And, is that important anyway? Is someone dying on a cross with the belief that he is the son of God more important than someone dying after a life of hardship, toiling in a field all day just to put food on the table to feed the ones they love? Who has made the greater sacrifice? In neither case is it one life for many – its just one life.

    I respect your right to believe whatever you like. However, if you are sincere about “seeking the truth” you need to realise that, giving up one’s life is something we all eventually do. Not for some greater good, not for some reward. If, in the process we make a difference, well and good for those who benefit and – if you want to venerate a particular guy out of the thousands that died on crosses and use his life as an example to hold your life up to, that’s cool. But don’t organise it into something it’s not and call it “religion”.

    Paul Hinderer

  • Bill and fellow correspondents,

    I think that we have collectively shown by example in the above posts that ultimately we do indeed have to rely on reason, logic, common sense to make our decisions as a species which lives in social grouping(s) AND which is INCLUSIVE of a diversity of individual ideas, experiences and opinions.

    The IRA bombings were eventually ended through a negotiation process in which the British government did a deal with a terrorist organisation.

    In Iraq the Isalmic sects will have to find common ground if there is to be peace in the country.

    What sets most religion apart from someone who is an atheist is that a component of FAITH is added to this. Faith is irrational in that it requires the believer to suspend their logic and reason and take that infamous “leap”. It thereby is divisive in that people then are obliged to group into differing sects and promote/defend their position in a manner which ultimately is beyond reason and all too often involves intolerance and violence.

    You yourself, Bill, are obviously paranoid about Islam (see links from this web site) and yet to me as an atheist you are no different being a fundamental right wing christian to being a fundamentalist muslim. In fact to me you are BOTH extremely disturbed in that you put your faith above your reason and thereby risk dividing yourself from others and indeed denigrating others on the basis of their own faith or lack of it. You are also determined to show that your TRUTH is the only TRUTH….

    Andrew Lake

  • Bill,

    Having just read your article on “The God Delusion” on, I was interested to read your comment “I am not aware of any hospitals or charitable works set up by atheists.”. You aren’t looking very hard then, considering two of the single most generous philanthropists of our time, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett are both atheists. Quoting Peter Singer: “Interestingly, neither Gates nor Buffett seems motivated by the possibility of being rewarded in heaven for his good deeds on earth. Gates told a Time interviewer, ‘There’s a lot more I could be doing on a Sunday morning’ than going to church. Put them together with Andrew Carnegie, famous for his freethinking, and three of the four greatest American philanthropists have been atheists or agnostics. (The exception is John D. Rockefeller.) In a country in which 96 percent of the population say they believe in a supreme being, that’s a striking fact.”>. (Reference
    Having not read ‘The God Delusion”, but about to, I’ll save comment on the book for when I’m better informed. However, your unsubstantiated generalisations (…And as I already wrote, atheists have been responsible for more killing in the world than any other group) and narrow view of atheists (…The garden-variety don’t like religion, don’t like God and don’t like people who do.) mean that I will go elsewhere for a critique of the book. I’m an atheist, but respect the right of all people to believe whatever they like.

  • Thanks Ben

    It is not very helpful to mention that Marx, or Stalin, or Hitler may have had a religious upbringing. What really matters is the worldview they embraced as adults There is no question that Stalin was an atheist, as even Dawkins admits.

    The discussion about how dangerous atheism had been arises because the atheists keep making claims about how bloodthirsty religion is. But simply in terms of pure numbers, atheist ideology has accounted for far more deaths than religious ideology. Again, religions such as Christianity are not meant to be spread by force, and when believers seek to do so, they are misrepresenting and going against their own faith. But when atheistic Marxists kill, for example, they have full warrant to do so from their own ideology. Simply read Lenin for starters.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Thanks Kathryn
    But I need to call your bluff here. Are Gates and Buffet in fact atheists, or simply agnostics? I would like to see how they actually describe themselves in this regard. If you have quotations from them in which they say they are atheists, please provide them. If you cannot provide them, then you may wish to retract your statement.

    But even if they are atheists, my concern is this. It is one thing for any billionaire – be they an atheist or a believer – to sign a few large checks and donate to various causes. In one sense, that is not much of a sacrifice.

    My point was that the history of people actually getting their hands dirty, of actually doing the hard work of dedicating their lives to helping others in a sacrificial nature – be it helping in prisons, in hospitals, in slums, and so on – has mainly been religious folk, and quite often, Christians. Much of this hard, unheralded and often thankless work has been undertaken in the name of religion, often in the name of Christ.

    As to your last line: “I’m an atheist, but respect the right of all people to believe whatever they like.” Two things: In that case I trust you respect my right to argue my case, especially when it comes under heavy attack by people like Dawkins. But also, do you really mean that? So you have no problem at all with Hitler believing in what he did to the Jews? You have no problem with people who believe rape is OK? You don’t mind the beliefs of suicide bombers?

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Hi Bill,
    Can the idea of “religion” exist without believers? Is your God still going to be there if no one believes in him? If so, let’s put aside accusations of whether someone is an atheist or agnostic and look at what is really being said in “The God Delusion”.

    Dawkins is against organised religion in all its forms. One of the characteristics that distinguish organised religion from other beliefs, say for example, the Flat Earthers or Crop Circles Are Not Us, is the unwavering desire to get other people, including children, to believe exactly the same thing. A characteristic that “religion” does have in common with the above two examples, is that the ideas encapsulated in their systems of belief are based on constructs of the imagination, (someone’s imagination) that do not withstand reasonable scrutiny, whether scientific or intellectual. The argument for design always breaks down. When this happens, those of faith usually take a moral stance and call all non-believers potential rapists and accuse them of being incapable of appreciating concepts such as “beauty” and “altruism”.

    You keep referring to Hitler like the example of him is actually supporting your argument. Hitler knew that “control” and a “willingness to believe” was the key. To accomplish this the Nazis used the idea of “religion” as their control model. Never mind whether he believed in God, that’s irrelevant. The point is, he showed how unquestioning belief, conformity and obedience to a cause, can erode moral identity and dehumanise the masses.

    The fact that it worked so quickly and easily, should stand as a warning to all mankind – that organised religion is a dangerous. Why?

    Because people want to believe.

    Paul Hinderer

  • “But simply in terms of pure numbers, atheist ideology has accounted for far more deaths than religious ideology.”

    Why pure numbers?

    Why quantity? Why have you suddenly decided that total amount is what matters, and not percentage amount?

    In terms of total numbers, modern medicine probably kills more people by malpractice than no medicine killed in stone-age times. Does this make modern medicine undesirable?

    Obviously the only way any sociological effect can be measured is in percentage terms. This is self-evident.

    Perhaps you could ask yourself why you suddenly felt the need to switch to absolute terms.

    Then you could address your sudden desire to count agnostics as on your side. Why you would pretend they support your side more than they support the other side is incomprehensible. Isn’t the entire point of agnosticism that they aren’t on anybody’s side?

    Why have you suddenly decided to count even agnostics as support?

    Are these the sorts of rhetorical tactics you support when discussing any other subject? I doubt it.

    Perhaps you could ask yourself why you change your own standards when discussing this particular subject.

    Michael C. Planck

  • Bill,

    I think regardless of whether Gates, Buffett et al describe themselves as agnostics or atheists does not detract from the worthiness or otherwise of their actions. Brief research would seem to indicate that Gates is more in the agnostic camp, whereas Buffett would be more in the atheism camp. However, the point is that they are not being charitable in the name of a religion.
    To deride, or diminsh the nature of the charity provided by these billionaires, as “not much of a sacrifice”, seems harsh! The work of those at the coalface would not be possible without the support of those with money. Gates has given away around 35% of his wealth currently, Buffett will give away 85% – that amount of money will do a huge amount of good, so what is the point of implying that it is somehow not as important as the “dirty work”?

    And whilst historically much, if not most, charitable work was done in the name of religion that may have been because most poeple in Western Civilisation were, at least nominally, part of some form of organised religion. Participation in organised religion is declining in Western Civilisation, and there has been a concurrent rise in secular organisations such as the Red Cross, Médecins Sans Frontières, Amnesty International, and Oxfam who are out there doing the hard work. Hence, I would theorise that there is an inherent good in people that means that charitable work will always be conducted, regardless of religious motivations.
    And yes, I do honestly respect the right of all people to BELIEVE whatever they like. I respect your right to argue your position, as much as I respect Dawson’s right to publish a book containing his beliefs. Hitler could believe whatever he liked, it was his actions that were wrong. I don’t believe we, as a society, have any right to regulate beliefs – however when those beliefs translate into actions that harm others, then society does have the right to regulate those actions.

    Kathryn Burr

  • I think the question of delusion comes down to a very simple one. If one believes the earth is only a few thousand years old, and not millions, against the massive weight of all available evidence, then one is truly deluded. The flat earth believers of the past, look positively sane and rational by comparison.

    Chris Mayer

  • Dear Bill
    Its interesting how clear and simple life is as a Christian, I know for me the ranting and ravings of people like Dawkins has absolutely no effect, my belief is rock solid. Perhaps we should reveiw books like “The Language of God” written by Francis S Collins (a Scientist and head of the human Genome Project) who gives a clear and respectful case of why he believes in God. Believers can reinforce their belief through the knowledge in this book and or nonbievers can make up their own minds without being shouted at.

    Bruce Preston

  • Hey Paul,

    What I believe (subjectively) doesn’t matter, I can only share what I know (objectively) and let you do your own thinking.

    I know very little of the lives of the billions of people and the lives that they have all lead. But of the man who stands out throughout all of history as the dominant figure, I feel that this should be of great importance to know; both the person and work of this man. Especially if his sayings immediately affect us both and our society! Shouldn’t you agree?

    For a man to work for an income, so that he and his family can eat, drink and have a place to live is of utmost importance. I agree with you. The greatest sacrifice is demonstrating selfless love; for a man to lay down his life for someone else (as a father for his family).

    However, if Jesus the person actually believed that he was the Son of God, and he propagated it, he demonstrated it and was willing to die for it. Should this not be of interest to all peoples? Considering that there can only be 3 logical conclusions to his claims; he was lying, he was a lunatic or he was telling the truth. What do you believe? If you don’t know I suggest you do some searching and find out, while you still have time.

    Interestingly enough you can visit the burial places of figures of other faiths and see where they now lay, except that of Jesus. Why would you think that this is so?

    I agree with you whole heartedly that we are all apart of the ultimate statistic; 10 out of 10 of us will die. You and I included. Whether or not we have decided to seek out the truth of life every man must be ready to give an account of his life on the great Day of Judgment. Do you understand the purpose of life? What do you think happens after someone dies?

    In life you will be remembered for the things you say and do. Surely a man’s life consists not in the abundance of his possessions, for what would it profit a man if he gained the whole world and yet lost his soul?

    What you believe and why you believe it is important to you, because out of your beliefs you will speak, act, develop character and affect your destiny.

    Michael Dawson, Melbourne

  • If as Paul says above, “organised religion” is characterised by “the unwavering desire to get other people, including children, to believe exactly the same thing”, and that “the ideas encapsulated in their systems of belief are based on constructs of the imagination, (someone’s imagination) that do not withstand reasonable scrutiny, whether scientific or intellectual”, then evolution must surely be the mother of all religions!

    Not content with having a virtual monopoly in schools and universities, evolutionists are now even running “atheist summer camps” to indoctrinate even more children with their myths.

    Ewan McDonald, Victoria

  • Chris Mayer said: “I think the question of delusion comes down to a very simple one. If one believes the earth is only a few thousand years old, and not millions, against the massive weight of all available evidence, then one is truly deluded. The flat earth believers of the past, look positively sane and rational by comparison.”

    What I just don’t get about evolution is … what purpose or function are partially developed sexual organs meant to have served? LOL!

    For some reason, I can never get an answer to that one! 😉

    Frank Gashumba, Melbourne

  • Hello Bill,
    You stated that Hitler and Stalin were atheists that killed a lot of people due to their atheistic hedonism.
    In regards to Adolf Hitler his elite SS troopers wore buckles “Gott Mit Uns” or God with us.
    from Mein Kampf “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.”

    Also from Mein Kampf: “Whether Protestant pastor or Catholic priest, both together and particularly at the first flare, there really existed in both camps but a single holy German Reich, for whose existence and future each man turned to his own heaven.”

    Adolf was raised a Catholic so, can it not be argued, he became bent on destruction from the bloody old testament?
    To brand Hitler as an atheist just to make a point is the kind of thing Richard Dawkins is talking about. People making decisions (sometimes important ones) based on little to no fact.

    And the funny thing is I never heard Stalin say let’s kill some people until they declare they are atheists…Crusades, Jihads…now that’s a different story altogether.

    You argue that christiandom (is that a word?) was not spread by force? Rome, Europe The Middle East! How about Islam..ah right not your religion so it’s wrong anyway. Blame Satan!

    I would argue (in America anyway) Christiandom is trying to assert itself into all areas of peoples lives (by force AND violence) Abortion clinic workers are shot in the name of Christ. Homosexuals are persecuted and in some schools teachers are proselytizing!

    I feel like Im ranting, sorry, but I think people should do a bit more research before spouting out what Historical figures have done and in what name they did it in.

    Brian Scott, Suffolk, UK

  • Hi Frank,
    “What I just don’t get about evolution is … what purpose or function are partially developed sexual organs meant to have served? LOL! For some reason, I can never get an answer to that one!”

    Maybe it’s because people think you are joking. Partially developed sex organs are needed because human beings need fully developed sex organs – and sex organs , like all organs, do not spontaneously appear.

    If you are referring to how sex organs and the method of reproduction in human beings “evolved” or “came to be”, meaning that you find it hard to reconcile the fact of the finished product, so to speak, with the idea that we all came from something much simpler – well, you only have to look at the evidence before your eyes. In the case of humans, a baby develops from a fertilised egg. If all goes well, partially developed sex organs develop into fully developed sex organs, unless, for some reason, the process halts.

    This is not theory but fact.

    Paul Hinderer

  • Dear Frank,

    The question of ongoing function in the evolutionary process (your “partially developed sex organs” argument) is dealt with extrensively by evolutionary scientists and the relevant literature is freely available for you to consult at your convenience.

    Ironically, one of the most comprehensive and accessible writings on this question are by none other than Richard Dawkins – try reading his book “The Blind Watchmaker” and come back to us with a reasoned rebuttal if you are able.

    You might also like to consider that as our evidence of past life through the fossil record accumulates with ongoing research effort, we often find increasing examples of “intermediates” (what people call missing links), which exemplify transitions of form and function through evolution. You might like to look up recent work on the evolution of birds for example. There was a time when the only intermediate known was the Archaeopteryx (a small dinosaur with feathers!), but now with more recent fossil finds with many examples, showing that it is indeed possible for key features with adaptive function to evolve. The evidence is there – it can be touched, photographed, etc. Similarly, the number of intermediate types for the evolution of land vertebrates (animals with backbones), which we have found recently has grown in number.

    Of course, those of religious faith have long arugued (wrongly) that such missing links do not exist. Inevitably, science has triumphed over religious ignorance in this regard, because, once again, faith is counter to reason and thus will always be found wanting as scientific endeavour uncovers greater understanding of the world around us whilst effortlessly dispelling the myths and mistruths conjured up to fool the faihtful flock.

    Incidentally, it is a trap to be too simplistic about how function and evolutionary optisimisation of function are interpretetd. This also is no problem with a considerable body of work in the scientific literature. This is too is available to all to read and scrutinise in any major university science library.

    If you really want to find the answer to your question I would be pleased to start you off on a productive literature search.

    Andrew Lake

  • Frank Gashumba said: “What I just don’t get about evolution is … what purpose or function are partially developed sexual organs meant to have served? LOL!

    For some reason, I can never get an answer to that one! 😉 ”

    So in other words you have no interest in actually researching that and finding some answers, you would rather just parade your lack of knowledge around as some kind of ‘killer blow’ for evolution.

    Chris  Mayer

  • I have read “The God Delusion” and also the excellent book by Sam Harris “The End of Faith”. I take issue with your comments about Dawkins’ style; it is not arrogant to state an opinion in a scientific style, especially when Dawkins is a scientist. It offends you because you disagree. Dawkins is not criticising Christianity alone either, nor is his book part of a Jihad!
    Talking about arrogance…isn’t it a tad arrogant to go around like many Christians (or Muslims, etc) claiming that if you don’t believe in our God, you’ll go to hell forever?
    Regards, Steven Adlard

  • The comment made by ‘Sucal Nosagref’ beggars belief; [“As for your comments on atheists, they are the only group of people in the world that I can see arent (sic) killing other people in the world, in the name of what they beleive (sic) is “right”.]

    This comment admittedly may have been penned by a novice or someone with an axe to grind seems to reflect an unwitting allegiance to grass root humanistic bias.

    As a Christian I can freely admit to abuses that have been undertaken by both Christians and with the many godless people who claim to be Christian so that they can justify their wickedness; but to say that ‘atheists are not killing anyone else in the world…’ defies any semblance of logic.

    With even a cursory glance at contemporary African and Middle Eastern politics, it is not difficult to empirically state that violence, killing and even genocide is the natural outworking of an atheistic leader who bitterly resists the work of God within his nation and is particularly true when such a leader rejects Gods work when it applies to his own heart.

    Barry Fleming, Melbourne

  • Thanks Steve

    Let me just make a few observations about hell. If there is indeed a God who created all things, then the arrogance comes from us, his creatures, and not him, when we tell him to get lost and say we can do a better job of running the universe, or our own lives. The height of arrogance is for the creature to tell the creator to butt out.

    And given that God has done everything possible for us to have a restored relationship with him, if we reject that provision, that does not leave us with many other options. If God is love, to reject God is to reject that love. If you say I will take anything but God and his love, that is exactly what you will get. Hell in a real sense is simply the absence of God and his love. A place of total selfishness, pride and hatred.

    No one is sent to hell. Our final eternal destiny is fully in our own hands. We decide our own fate by the choices that we make. Again, if the Christian truth claims are true, it is not arrogance but love that drives believers to tell others about the grace of Christ, and to warn about what happens when Christ and his extended love are rejected.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Thanks Brian
    But I have already discussed Hitler here and in other posts/comments. Even Dawkins provides many quotes of his denouncing Chrsitianity.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Thanks again Andrew (31/12)

    I again had to shorten your overly-lengthy comment. I have already addressed the issue of faith and reason. I reject the false dilemma you seek to create here. For a biblical Christian, there is no division between the two. Indeed, rational faith is how one can describe the Christian understanding of faith. It is a faith informed by, and based upon, reason.

    Again, even non-believers like Professor Rodney Stark have argued convincingly that it was the unique dependence upon reason as found in the Christian religion that gave birth to modern science and the triumph of the West. (See for example, The Victory of Reason, Random House, 2005.)

    So your attempt to drive a wedge between faith and reason just does not stand up here.

    Yes I do have a problem with Islam, on two counts. Militant Muslims engaged in suicide bombings and terrorism (a minority of all Muslims), should be a concern to us all. Also, if Islam is true, then Christianity is not. It is a matter of competing truth claims. I happen to subscribe to the one, and therefore reject the other.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Regarding the issue of partially developed sexual organs … oh dear. I’m embarrassed for y’all. In case you missed it, that was a reductio ad absurdum. At least Paul Hinderer had a go at answering the question. But then again, he obviously missed the reductio ad absurdum in attempting an answer.

    Now I’m gonna have to get y’all to stop and think for a second. Try and see whether you can offer a solution to this unfortunate problem, since its implications were not apparent to y’all in the question originally posed. I’ll elaborate by asking the following:

    With partially developed sexual organs, how are animals expected to have reproduced in between the transition from one form of reproduction to another? This, I need not add, would have involved aeons of time. After all, we would have needed with humans, for example, a vagina and womb and what have you already prepared to receive insemination via the male’s reproductive organs — not partly prepared or almost-ready-just-give-us-a-few-more-millennia prepared female sexual organs. Sexual organs would have to be ready-made, complete, and so, incidentally, Eldredge and Gould’s “punctuated equilibria” hypotheses doesn’t offer an answer to my question, since it still posits transition periods spanning millennia (in case you were hoping to offer their fantastic theory as an answer!).

    Y’all are stuck. So much for being an “intellectually fulfilled atheist”! This hurts me more than it hurts you — call it Christian sympathy or whatever.

    Frank Gashumba

  • My comments are of a non-specific, general nature of the subject concerning God’s existence.
    We pride ourselves in our intelligence, however, there are so many things that we cannot explain. We are confident to deny God’s existence mainly due to our inability to perceive his existence. Some atheists I have met who had unplanned and unsolicited spiritual experiences could not explain their change of heart using the logical argument approach. Some things are like that.
    The more we understand spiritual reality, the less inclined we are to engage in futile rhetoric. If we follow the tradition of logical argument for everything in life, we will never satisfy our inner desires for original beauty, truth and goodness. We may follow the Protagorian or individualist view of life, but we may never be truly happy. Most deniers of spiritual truth are not happy within themselves and are lacking the inner peace commonly found in genuine religious or spiritual people. Those who choose to close the door to their inner life will experience regret and frustration later. If I may advise those in denial of God’s existence, I would encourage you to simply live for the sake of others and serve your fellow human beings with a heart of a parent – then you will understand the heart of God and you will be amongst the wisest of the wise.

    Michael Treacy

  • Hey Steven,
    If a policeman entered your house and stated that ‘you are going to go to jail for a very long time’; this wouldn’t make sense.
    However if the policeman entered and stated that you had broken the law, and he produced evidence against you and then told you that you were going to jail; well this would make sense. There would be a penalty for breaking the law.
    You may or may not have heard the full ‘good news’ of the Christian message. We have all broken God’s laws the Ten Commandments, the Sermon on the Mount and our conscience tell us when we do wrong. So God’s just place of punishment for all lawbreakers is Hell.
    But God demonstrated his love for you Steven (and I), in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. He paid the price for our sins, and he restored the broken relationship that we broke with God. So now you have an opportunity today to have your sins forgiven and go to Heaven if you repent and place your trust in Jesus. He loves you Steven.

    Michael Dawson, Melbourne

  • Bill,
    You speak of Christian “truths”(sounds like a testimony rather than an analysis). What are they? The Earth is flat? Women should submit to their husbands? The sky is filament with doors in it for rain? The Sun revolves around the earth? Men have one less rib than women? Virgin birth? Myths that barely differ from other primitive society teachings.
    The problem with religion Bill is simple. It doesn’t make any sense at all. Noah’s Ark? Are you really believing this tale? The two conflicting “how the world began” Genesis scriptures.
    I am an atheist based on evidence and the power of nature. I do not set myself apart/above the natural world as many christians would have me do. I think we are part of this eco system not rulers over it.

    People of Faith like to fall back on the ole standby(s) “God speaks to me”, “if you reject God you are in darkness of selfishness, pride and hatred” so every other religious person that isn’t the same type of Christian as you must be selfish? God doesn’t speak to them? (funny, they claim he does)

    When you stack up the evidence of scientific study and faith based “reason” it’s a no-brainer except to those of faith they,in my opinion, are so prideful and biased they can only see the flat-earth.
    And to Barry Fleming,
    Take another “cursory” look at Darfur,Somalia,Ethiopia and Kenya. You will see not only factions that began fighting under Gods name but the fact that the divisiveness of religion forever exacerbates a dilemma.

    Brian Scott, Suffolk, UK

  • Brian Scott, If you think athiesm had nothing to do with the totalitarian regime in the Soviet Union, you should try reading Marx, Engles and Lenin.
    Lenin wrote: “Our program necessarily includes the propaganda of athiesm” Marx wrote “Religion is the opium of the people” and also “Communism begins where athiesm begins”.
    Lenin declared “All religious ideas are an abomination” and also “a necrophelia” and “Christianity is akin to venereal disease”. The fact that Lenin and Stalin and others locked up Christians in mental hospitals and freezing labour camps and destroyed and desecrated churches should convey the fact that people were persecuted by the millions, and schools were banned from mentioning God. A pregnant poetess Anna Gorebskaya was imprisoned for years for writing a religious poem. It is incredible that anyone could argue that the USSR was not founded on athiesm.

    AA Hoysted

  • Frank

    Regarding your argument/question about ‘partially developed sexual organs’, I fail to see why you assert that there must be ‘all or nothing’.

    Once an organism is multi-cellular, there is an advantage to division of labour among cell types. All that is required for a primitive ovary or testis is a loose aggregation of cells that are still reproductively capable.

    Regarding the uterus, you must remember that early fertilisation is external as in fish, the early uterus is merely a passage to the outside. Once you leave the handy water based environment, external fertilisation becomes more tricky – amphibians return to the water to circumvent this problem and over time at least two other main solutions evolved, the reptile and bird way of providing the egg with a protective covering and the mammal way of retaining it – note that the external method is still available to you whilst evolving a more advantageous alternative…

    As for the phallus, look at chickens. A rudimentary phallus still gets your seed closer to the egg than no phallus.

    This is necessarily over-simplified to keep it short, but my recommendation to you is to take a course in comparative anatomy – the progressive modifications are impossible to miss.

    Brian Scott,Suffolk,UK

  • Thanks again Brian

    The basic truth claims of Christianity are these: There is an all wise, all-loving and all-powerful God that exists. Being one God in three persons, loving relationships have been taking place within the Godhead throughout eternity. God created mankind to enjoy relationship with him. Mankind rejected the creator God, and brought misery and alienation upon himself and others. God the father sent his son to pay the price for our rebellion. The way is now clear for anyone who so chooses to have a restored relationship with God. Acknowledging our sin, accepting what Christ has done on our behalf, and allowing his rightful place as Lord of the universe is the means by which we regain our relationship.
    The gospel is simply an old-fashioned love story. Every good love story has three parts: boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy wins girl back. A simple, yet profound, set of truths. When your rugged and reductionist materialism no longer satisfies, I invite you to experience for yourself the liberating message of the gospel.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Hi Frank
    In the sense that you are meaning, there’s no such thing as “partially developed sex organs”.

    Your difficulty in understanding this concept goes to the core of “intelligent design”. You are approaching the problem from the point of view that there is an end condition that you call “fully developed” – any stage leading up to that condition you consider “partially developed”.

    In other words, you think that man, in his present form, was designed – and, from that, you seem to have the impression that evolutionists are saying that man formed over time and existed in many instances as a partially developed creature.

    I do not know the image that forms in your mind when you visualise what you are thinking, but, whatever it looks like, it certainly doesn’t resemble anything a scientist has seen or studied.

    The “partially developed sex organs” you refer to were always fully developed, if they weren’t they wouldn’t have worked and the creature would have died out.

    Not only did they work but they got better and more efficient. As they evolved they changed – changes that did not translate to an advantage, seen as an advantage to procreate, failed to be passed on. If you follow this line of reasoning – there’s no ambiguity in what evolutionists are saying

    Paul Hinderer

  • The ONLY barrier to truth is assuming you already have it.

    Christians believe in God but also have for themselves subjective evidence which started their pursuit of God. At some point they ran into objective truth in order to logically justify their faith in the unseen God. There is a paper trail intentionally started by God in the Gospels which can be traced to a final decision. People either go where the evidence leads or barricade them self in presuppositions and shield them self from truth?

    I’m not saying the evidence will lead you to becoming a Christian – I’m making a simpler point – don’t superficially skim over information looking at the most shallow and simplistic material.

    In the Crucifixion of the Jesus (as apposed to the sadomasochistic Cruci-fiction of Jesus by Dawkins), I would liken it to a pregnant woman giving birth. Both the woman and her spouse know that the birth will be extremely painful but look at it as a joyous pain because of the love they have already developed for the fetus. The pain and turmoil is the lot of the wife, the husband can do nothing but support and comfort.

    Jesus came to this Earth – born a human – willingly confined to the natural boundaries of a human life and taught the words of His Father which were intended to make the world pregnant for salvation. No pregnancy can come without pain. Jesus suffered, died and was buried and then was resurrected according to the bible. The joy set before Jesus was the salvation and birth of God’s church and the pain of the pregnancy was the Cross.

    Joshua Ferrara

  • Ross Corrigan’s post provides the background of a cultural norm that was blown apart and gives evidence of something remarkable.

    Normally one might expect that if a person were to be born in Rome or or Greece or Israel, one might by and large follow the culture and religion of one’s home land. And if the sword of a different culture or religion were at the throats of one’s compatriots, they might dig their heals in or take on the religion and culture of the sword bearers.

    Now explain why the opposite happened, not in one country only, but in the whole of the Roman Empire, despite the sword.

    Michael Casanova

  • AA Hoystead

    You are implying that Atheism is an Ideology. a definition is in order. Atheism is the disbelief in the existence of a deity or deities. no more no less.

    To imply that because someone denies something then he must become Stalin-esque is an infantile argument. I’m sure Stalin didn’t believe in unicorns either, is this the root of his brutal reign?

    You wrote ‘Lenin wrote: “Our program necessarily includes the propaganda of atheism” Marx wrote “Religion is the opium of the people” and also “Communism begins where atheism begins”. So what? Stalin created a ‘cult of personality’ so it can be argued he was thought of as a God himself.

    The fact that Science in the Soviet Union was under strict ideological control, along with art and literature, shows a complete disagreement with sceptics of your faith. The Great Purge of the 1930’s by Stalin and co. killed any who opposed him. I don’t find it surprising that he made statements about religious ideas being an abomination, makes sense really, if he wants to control a party and a nation all ideas should come from him. (Sound familiar?)

    My point is athiesm is not a dogma,political party,movement,religion or doctrine it is simply disbelief in deity.
    Religion IS a doctrine and a dogma. This,I understand, is hard for Faith people to grasp as they find it difficult to accept that someone can live without ideologies.

    Brian Scott,Suffolk UK

  • Thanks Brian
    But all belief systems can become ideologies. Marxism is a classic case of a set of beliefs turning into a dogmatic ideology. And the atheist crusade of Dawkins, et. al. has also devolved into a dogmatic ideology. It appears that your own atheist dogmatism and ideology is blinding you to this fact.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Hi Bill,

    Sorry, I’ll try to be brief. Your faith causes you to attach to ideas and concepts, which are demonstrably untrue. This is not rational behaviour! It is delusional behaviour, which is Dawkin’s ultimate point.

    Your faith is irrational in that it promotes ignorance (look at the posts above from your supporters who have to attempt to deny the realities of scientific discovery to protect outdated and irrational concepts and are terrified that others be taught science!). The irrationality of fundamental christianity and its antediluvian attachment to creationism has been repeatedly been exposed through a succession of court cases (eg the Arkansas trials).

    Your faith is irrational in that it tries to protect itself from critical analysis and has through history sought to control the flock.

    Your faith is irrational in that it seeks to impose a set of ideas and tell people what to believe in rather than promote the capacity of the individual to develop their own personal mental capacities to make up their own minds.

    Your faith is irrational in that it does not afford respect to people of alternate faiths – you know that christianity does not “own” the essential concepts of compassion and loving kindness – these are common to other religious sects and pre-date christianity by at least 500 years.

    Your faith is irrational in setting itself up for conflict with others, despite claiming a position of understanding, loving kindness, etc.

    Andrew Lake

  • Bill,
    I think you are misusing the English language. Marx may have laid out sets of rules (I’m not read on Marx unfortunately) but that is separate from his belief about deities.

    There is no atheist dogma as definitions they are mutually exclusive. Marx doesn’t say “this is how you must be to be an atheist” nor does Dawkins. You either dibelieve or believe.

    The dilemma is as I stated. People of faith find it so inconcievable that someone can live without it, So they tend to attribute the same principals of religion with the idea of being atheist. They in fact refer to atheist as a religion…weird.

    The fact that I believe there is no supernatural, all loving entity is based on observable evidence. I believe the theory of evolution the same as I believe the theory of gravity.

    Your dogma is clear, jesus is the only way for entrance into heaven. We are all sinners ‘original sin’. Jesus did supernatural feats. This is only a few samples of your dogma. Can you demonstrate dogma for someone who does not believe in a deity or deities?

    As far as the ‘atheist crusade’ I prefer atheist jihad.

    Brian Scott, Suffolk, UK

  • Bill,

    As you well know and practice we are instructed by the Paul the Apostle to gently instruct those who oppose us that God my grant them repentance to acknowledge the truth. In my early college days I took a course called death and dying at the State University. I was the only vocal believer in Jesus Christ in the class and was surrounded by committed but mostly philosophically honest atheists. The instructor, who was openly antagonistic belief in Jesus, asked the class if anyone feared death. To their credit, the more vocal atheists all expressed great fear of that future and final arbiter of all belief systems. Years later I have yet to encounter an atheist in an honest one on one private conversation that would not admit the same.
    As far as the constant drumbeat that one must necessarily be at odds with science if you deny naturalistic evolution, I recommend an article by George Gilder Evolution and Me:
    Gilder’s penultimate point? “Wherever there is information there is a preceding intelligence.”

    Sincerely, Curtis Clements, Florida, USA

  • Bill,

    I found this article interesting..entitled “The Blind Faith of Atheism”: 

    Also check out Dr. Norman Geisler and Frank Turek’s book, “I Don’t Have Enough Faith To Be An Atheist.”

    Joel Griffith

  • Hey Michael Dawson,
    Your analogy about the Policeman falls somewhat flat when you raise the issue of evidence….there is almost no evidence that Jesus existed, none he performed any miracles, was born of a virgin, etc, apart from a bunch of stories written well after his supposed death, which appear to have as much veracity as “Jack and the Beanstalk”. So thanks for letting me know I should repent, but I’ll stick to the facts and live a decent life based on humanist principles.
    Regards, Steven Adlard

  • Thanks Steven
    But if you are really open to truth and reason, you would examine the sources of those stories. The reliability of the New Testament and the gospels in particular is quite strong indeed, more so than almost any other ancient document.
    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Thanks Andrew (2/1/07)

    You have been given a pretty good run here, yet you keep rehearsing the same sermons. Let me respond one last time. Biblical Christianity is rational and reasonable. It involves examining the evidence and making commitments based on that evidence.

    Also, everyone exercises faith everyday, even you. Every morning when you wake up and put your feet on the floor, you have faith that it will support you. When you turn on your computer you have faith that it will work. In both cases we only have a high degree of probability, not absolute certainty. That is the way most of life works.

    So please spare us this nonsense that your side is somehow only dealing in rationality and our side only in faith. Such simplistic false dilemmas contribute nothing to the debate. They only demonstrate how dogmatic, reductionistic and narrow-minded philosophical naturalism is.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Thanks Brian (2/1/07)

    With all due respect, your comments are becoming a bit of a broken record. Let me address your concerns one final time.

    The US Supreme Court ruled that secular humanism is a religion, and rightly so. The truth is, it has all the trappings of religion, complete with dogma and priests (‘There is no god and Richard Dawkins is his prophet’), sacred writings (The God Delusion, eg., which become sacrosanct and untouchable), teachings which cannot be questioned (philosophical naturalism, etc.), and militant fundamentalism (forever attacking religionists), and so on.

    Such secularist militants are every bit true believers in the fullest sense of the word.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Thanks Bill,

    I dont think the gospels are as reliable as you think. And there is far more evidence for the historical existence of Socrates than Jesus…why don’t you follow his beliefs?

    Steven Adlard

  • Thanks Steven
    But I must call your bluff here. We know almost nothing about the historical Socrates. Most of what we know about him comes through Plato’s dialogues, just as most of what we know about Jesus comes from the New Testament.

    While we only have a handful of manuscripts of Plato, and they date some 1300 years after they were first written, we have nearly 5,400 manuscripts of the New Testament (either parts, books or the entire corpus) which date between 50 and 225 years after they were first written.

    If you were genuinely interested in evidence and reason, you would be avidly reading the New Testament, given its high degree of reliability.

    And while I have a great deal of respect for Socrates, it is not a question of following his teachings. The issue is, Socrates never claimed to be God, never claimed to be the source of mankind’s redemption, and never claimed that what one thought of him would determine one’s eternal destiny. All those things are true of Jesus Christ however.

    I hope you can put aside any prejudice and tunnel vision you might have, and check out the gospel claims. If it is evidence that you are so concerned about, there is heaps there. Will you follow the truth wherever it leads? Or will pride stand in the way of making an honest search for, and assessment of, the truth?

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Thanks Bill,
    Plato was a little closer in time frame to Socrates than John or Luke was to Jesus.
    Socrates never claimed to be a God..correct. Muhammed claimed to represent God, as did thousands of others throughout history. If I claim to be a God, and come up with a few good yarns, does that make me a God too?
    I’ve read a lot of the Bible (I was raised in the Church) and it is full of contradictions, dodgy moral codes, fairy tales, murder, sexism and bigotry. So I don’t have tunnel vision about it, as you put it, rather the “scales have fallen from my eyes” and I chose to view things as though they can or could be proven, and base my morals on humanist principles, rather than the imaginary dictates of a God.
    Regards, Steven Adlard

  • Bill said:

    “I hope you can put aside any prejudice and tunnel vision you might have, and check out the gospel claims. If it is evidence that you are so concerned about, there is heaps there. Will you follow the truth wherever it leads? Or will pride stand in the way of making an honest search for, and assessment of, the truth?”

    And yet somehow you manage to close your mind to the wealth of evidence that now exists accross numerous scientific fields to support evolution, and the age of the universe. If you cannot see the blantant hypocisry in what you are preaching, then you are truly blind, and will always remain so.

    Chris Mayer

  • Brian Scott, When Communist leaders attack religion, support athiesm, and then brutally persecute believers for more than 70 years [starting in 1919] I think that my point is proven.

    Soviet Russia was an athiestic regime from Lenin to Stalin AND BEYOND. It didn’t end with the death of Stalin, His successors carried on. The “cult of personality” doesn’t explain it.

    AA Hoysted

  • Thanks again Steve

    But I must continue to hold you accountable. Plato died 52 years after Socrates died. The same can be roughly said of the four gospel writers (but some even sooner). While we do not have exact dates for all of them, most were either contemporaries of Jesus, or were born while Jesus was alive (John seems to have died the latest, near the end of the first century). So you are grasping at the wind here.

    And the important point is the overwhelming manuscript evidence we have here, which you seem uninterested in.

    And Mohammed only claimed to be a prophet of Allah. He never claimed to be God. That would be blasphemous for any Muslim to even contemplate. Yet this is exactly what Jesus claimed about himself.

    As to other people claiming to be God, fine. Check out the evidence that they offer. What miracles have they performed? What prophecies have they fulfilled. Have they risen from the dead? All claims need to be examined, but some are more serious than others.

    You say you have chosen to reject the Bible and your church background. That is up to you. But given your lightweight arguments here, it seems that it is not primarily evidence nor rationality that has informed your choices.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Steve, you continue to enlist moral terms in your arguments even though your worldview can posit no objective definition of those terms. You are borrowing your definitions for terms such as “murder” from the Bible.

    Ewan McDonald, Victoria

  • Dawkins fatally undermines his credibility in his latest misotheistic rant by praising that nonsensical “The God Who Wasn’t There” DVD by that emittered apostate Brian Flemming — see He is also enamoured with Sam Harris’ Letter to a Christian Nation” with equally execrable scholarship

    Dawkins also pushes the “Hitler was probably a Christian” nonsense, totally ignoring that the Nuremberg prosecutors thoroughly documented the Nazi plan to exterminate Christianity

    And while Dawkins, like some bloggers here, claims that Stalin didn’t come to power on a platform of atheism, he ignores his horrific persecution of non-atheists simply because they were non-atheists.

    Jonathan Sarfati, Ph.D., Brisbane

  • Honestly! Please give us all a break! Atheism is a belief system like any other. Debating whether more people have died under one banner than another is purile.

    I have attended for 17 years a couple of churches as a Christian – the pettiness, control and cruelty and just plain lack of love of some of the people (and pastors) within them has at times caused me much pain – but that no more goes to prove or disprove the existence of God than the fact that I know some very nice people who are not Christians. Once again not the point – the maker cannot be judged to exist or not exist by whether his creation is nice any more than a dog owner can be judged because his Doberman Pinscher bit someone (as a friend’s did me many years ago).

    One obvious question is that if we are nothing but organisms then what is love? Love is a creative force which must come from somewhere and be based on some platform other than chemical makeup. God is love – and he showed that through his Sacrifice, and he continues to show that every single day to those who draw near to Him. It is an incredible experience let me tell you.

    Christians have as much a wealth of historical evidence to draw upon in terms of their faith as athiests have a wealth of circumstantial evidence to draw upon in terms of proving evolution. The *theory of evolution* is still that – a theory. Adaption within the boundaries of the given biology of a species of animal is fine and has been shown to occur, but the theory of evolution has (and cannot) be proven empirically since we have never seen nor will ever see conclusive evidence of one species mutating into another species.

    The existence of God cannot be proven empirically (see, touch, smell) because that is the point. But I, and hundreds of millions of others daily experience real relationship with an unseen God, miracles, and evidence of the spiritual realm. If you don’t then maybe that is because you have not opened your mind to the possibility of the spiritual realm. Sitting in a church pew doesn’t necessarily do anything toward achieving that either depending on the church. A simple heartfelt prayer for God to reveal himself to you is all it takes, if you dare.

    It comes down to faith for everyone. All people have faith in something and that is that. As Monty Python says “There’s nothing an agnostic can’t do if he doesn’t know whether he believes in anything or not.”

    Garth Penglase

  • Sucal Nosagref misses the point that Bill made about Bertrand Russell. The apologist Michael Green a few decades ago likewise stated his great disappointment with Why I am not a Christian because Green had previously been impressed by Russell’s brilliance in other works. His famous paper “On Denoting” is a classic in logic. But his anti-Christian book was just as superficial as Dawkins’. And even before reading Bill’s review, I thought that I’d seen better 1st year philosophy essays on the existence of God.

    Sucal also manages to wrench the “turning the other cheek”. This is to do with personal insults. Conversely, the Bible commands what Bill has done: give reasons for our faith (1 Pet. 3:15), contend earnestly for it (Jude 3) and demolish opposing arguments (2 Cor. 10:4-5).

    Jonathan Sarfati, Ph.D., Brisbane

  • Bill,
    I just read some of the info. on the supreme court descision.

    For the record I do not belong to any secular humanist club/religion/society that meets on Sundays and does chuchy things. That was what helped the court to define a religion.

    You cannot extrapolate secular humanist from atheist. sorry.

    Brian Scott

  • Many of the believers seem to continually quote the bible as a historically accurate document, as if that is some kind of slam dunk in their favour.

    A historically accurate document from hundreds of years ago would tell us the earth was flat, are we supposed to still believe the earth is flat?

    Similarly, what was written 2000 years ago suffers from even more problems of primitiveness. The document may well be an accurate representation of what people back then honestly felt and believed, but how on earth does that make it correct today? The people back then used the *few* explanations they could possibly come up with. With the progress of science and technology, and the closing of so many of ‘god’s gaps’ by time, it beggars belief that people can believe as gospel things written so long ago.

    Why is it that the bible, the word of god, was unable to predict any of the technological advances we now take for granted, which replace primitive explanations?

    Chris Mayer

  • For the information of Brian Scott, last year, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Wisconsin prison officials violated an inmate’s rights because they did not treat atheism as a religion:

    “Atheism is [the inmate’s] religion, and the group that he wanted to start was religious in nature even though it expressly rejects a belief in a supreme being.”

    Jonathan Sarfati, Brisbane

  • Thanks Chris

    Your concerns might be valid if the Bible was solely a human creation. But we would argue it has a human/divine authorship. More specifically, the 66 books of the Bible were written by men, and the books reflect their personalities and culture, etc. But they were also inspired, guided, borne along by, the spirit of God in what they wrote.

    Also, you are guilty of chronological snobbery. Simply because something is old does not make it less valuable or true than something that is new. Moreover, you misunderstand human nature. People were not necessarily more gullible or superstitious back then. For example, the people who most doubted (at first) that Jesus had come back from the dead were his own disciples, who had been with him for three years. These men were as sceptical and cynical as any modern person can be. But they soon became convinced that Jesus had indeed risen from the dead. (They touched him, ate with him, talked to him, etc.)

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Jonathan,
    I merely did a cursory look for the Wisconsin court ruling.
    I found this ‘The Court did not rule that atheism is a religion. Instead, the court ruled that, for First Amendment purposes, atheism is a religion for Kaufman. ‘

    Here is the deal. If the inmate felt it was religious to call himself an Atheist and the court ruled that his group/get together was religious in nature…do you really need an explanation here?

    There is a vast difference between disbleif in diety and christian/muslim/jew

    I don’t believe in hocus pocus, harry potter, supernatural beings. If you insist on saying Im religious I suppose I’m stuck with your ignorance.

    And sorry Bill, the writings about Jesus rising from the dead are fallacy. Jesus nor any other supernatural being has risen from the grave. You do not believe that Muhammed flew off to heaven? You do not believe Vishnu maintains the universe? How about Joseph Smith and the seer stones? All of this you can discount, but claim others are ‘living in darkness’ or ‘blinded’ when they say it’s all the same distortion of reality just different names and circumstances.

    Brian Scott

  • Thanks Brian
    “The writings about Jesus rising from the dead are fallacy”. That is merely an assertion you have made. What we want is your evidence, your proof. After all, you are the one always going on about science and reason and evidence. So produce it. You have made a claim, now back it up.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Thanks Michael (1/1/07)

    But I nowhere claim that agnostics are on my side. You have made that claim about me. I have simply called the bluff of those who list certain people as atheists, when in fact they may not be atheists at all. I am just trying to keep folk honest here.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Brian, that is just double talk. But it’s typical — when atheists want what that Wisconsin crim did, or tax deductions, then atheism is a religion. But when it comes to expelling “religion” from public life, then atheism miraculously ceases to be one. As the ruling said, the crim’s group was “religious in nature”.

    And I didn’t notice any refutation of the claim that Jesus rose from the dead, e.g. Leading apologist William Lane Craig explains that the Resurrection of Jesus Christ is the best explanation for a number of historical facts. Craig lists four: The burial, empty tomb, post-mortem appearances, and the origin of the disciples’ belief (see his debate with apostate Bart Ehrman (PDF)). James Patrick Holding, founder of Tekton Apologetics Ministries, explains 17 factors that meant Christianity could not have succeeded in the ancient world, unless it was backed up with irrefutable proof of the Resurrection (The Impossible Faith: Or, How Not to Start an Ancient Religion).

    Brian merely illustrates G.K. Chesterton’s point:

    The believers in miracles accept them (rightly or wrongly) because they have evidence for them. The disbelievers in miracles deny them (rightly or wrongly) because they have a doctrine against them.

    Jonathan Sarfati, Brisbane

  • Hi Bill,
    As to your question, “Who else do we know of living so long ago having such reliable testimony?”:
    May I draw your readers to the Alpha manual. The issue is on page 4 of the 2000 revised edition where Herodotus, Thucydides, Tacitus, Caesar’s Gallic War, Livy’s Roman History, etc., are statistically compared with the New Testament. The number of copies is much greater and the time span between action and writing is much closer to the event in the case of the New Testament than in any of the other documents which are regarded as historical.

    Stan Fishley, Melbourne

  • Thanks Stan

    Yes, that case was made so well by New Testament scholar F.F. Bruce way back in 1943 in his now classic, Are the New Testament Documents Reliable? The book has been republished numerous times, and it deserves careful reading, especially by our atheist/skeptic friends, if they in fact are genuinely interested in the evidence, and pursuing the truth wherever it leads.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Bill and Jonathan,
    First off I must say, this is the most civil discussion I’ve had on this topic in a forever. 🙂

    That said: The idea of miracles is not monopolized by Christians. The fact that I cannot prove that Jesus was dead and resurrected does not therefore mean it happened. The ‘evidence’ is contrived and relies on writtten words and accounts of people that were directly affected by Jesus. Many a con-man or charlatan has duped a crowd.

    I cannot prove that Jospeh Smith did not have magic stones, can you? Your answer is No, I’m confident.

    Do you believe Joseph Smith had magic stones from God? Your answer is No I assume.

    You talk about what atheist’s want as if there is a doctrine for it. As far as tax deductions I’ve gotten NONE due to not believing in fairy tales. Benny Hinn however, he’s had quite a few deductions.

    Atheist only means disbelief in god(s). How many times do I have toi say this? David Koresh claimed he was the messiah head of the biblical house of David. He was a Theist. Bal Gangadhar Tilak is Hindu a Theist. You are Christian a Theist.

    I find the belief in those things akin to fairy tales. hence Atheist. That’s it I’m afraid. The only reason I debate this is because I find it fascinating what people believe and how they rationilize it.
    Flat Earthers, witch hunts, inquizitions, crusades, jihads, fatwa, young earth, ID, etc..
    Every time science takes another step forward in the complex world and universe we live in the religious leaders stab back with myth and fear. Science makes mistakes. Paradigm shifts work through that. Religious Dogma stays the same.
    Another thing that bugs me is the idea that we are seperate from the animal kingdom. That is immoral and just plain factually wrong.

    Brian Scott, Suffolk, UK

  • Thanks Brian

    But you cannot be left off the hook that easily. You have done a lot more than just insist upon your atheism in your various posts. For example, you have tried to argue that your camp is based on evidence and reason, and that ours is all superstition and faith. You have not yet proved this case by any means. And in fact, you seem to keep proving the opposite.

    You have made a number of claims, most recently that “The writings about Jesus rising from the dead are fallacy”. Yet when challenged to back up these claims, you shrink back, and fail to come up with the goods. And now you claim, among other things, that “The ‘evidence’ is contrived” for the resurrection. Once again, you make an assertion without proof. Show me the evidence please.

    And of course it does not follow that just because there have been conmen, that everyone else is a conman. Each person’s claims need to be assessed on their own merits. I hope one day you will genuinely examine the evidence for Christ, instead of just dragging up red herrings and second hand – and discredited – objections.

    As I told another atheist, I would suggest two inexpensive paperbacks by Lee Strobel. A former atheist, he set out to examine these very questions, and was surprised with what he discovered. The books are: The Case for Christ (Zondervan, 1998) and The Case for Faith (Zondervan, 2000).

    As to some of your other claims, what about this one?: “the idea that we are seperate (sic) from the animal kingdom … is immoral and just plain factually wrong.” In what sense do you mean ‘separate? And why immoral? What is morality? What is its source? Who decides? If matter is all that matters, then how can you even talk of morality? If we are all just animals, then morality must just mean the law of the jungle, or the survival of the species. Or do you in fact admit to reality beyond the material realm?

    If you only wanted to say that atheists do not believe in god(s), you have already said that. But you have been trying to say much more, yet without any support or evidence. So we are calling your bluff. You keep claiming that religionists simply make wild assertions with no backing, yet we see this happening on your side of the debate all the time.

    PS: Yes indeed, debates should be civil, thanks.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Chris Mayer 3.1.07 / 6pm said: “Many of the believers seem to continually quote the bible as a historically accurate document, as if that is some kind of slam dunk in their favour. A historically accurate document from hundreds of years ago would tell us the earth was flat, are we supposed to still believe the earth is flat?”

    Chris, firstly, are you assuming that historical accuracy is not definitive? That is, are you making a sweeping generalisation that “there is no such thing as Absolute Truth”? Or are you merely challenging the historicity of the Biblical documents?

    Second question: what evidence do you adduce for the claim in par 2? Where is there a reference to flat earth, other than in a phenomenological sense ie. from the viewpoint of an observer (scientists and meteorologists still talk about ‘sunrise’ rather than ‘Earth rotation’, don’t they?)

    Thirdly, the Biblical documents date back more than “hundred of years.” Theories of a flat earth post-date the Biblical record, and are found mainly in the mediaeval period of European history, I believe.

    John Angelico

  • Bill,

    I have made some claims here that you wish me to qualify with ‘fact(s)’. You know that I cannot prove that Jesus didn’t revive from being dead. It is There are many mythical ideas and ‘truths’ that I cannot disprove. That fact does not give rise to authenticity of the claim.

    Science for instance doesn’t have all the answers in regards to life. Science is not necessarily a body of ‘facts’ as a method of establishing verifiable claims about earth, life, universe, etc. Science (as of today) cannot tell us which thing is moral or which is immoral. People in Africa think it is perfectly and justifiably moral to kill an opposing tribe/religion.

    Hijackers 9/11 I’m sure felt there attack on World Trade Center was a ‘just war’ to coin a phrase. So? That doesn’t make it so. Where did I get my moral basis? I believe most of my moral ideas came from life experience, study, and discourse with others and to be honest evolution theory itself. Once you see how we fit into the Eco System it makes it that much harder to impose our selfish acts upon the natural world. We are causing animals to become extinct, and we damage our environment without a care. Why didn’t Jesus talk about this? Or did he that I’m unaware? Jesus never eluded to the fact that we share 98% of our Genes with Pygmy Chimps
    I cannot prove morality or show it on a graph and you know it. If I said 10^100m from here there is a dog barking on a tiny moon could you disprove that? You cannot it is an un-provable argument. It is a bit suspect and easy to say it was magic’d into existence by this Omni creator though. And you, as a Christian, are not the first or alone in having superstition. You laugh at the tribe’s in Africa/South America that still believe in Sun Gods yet you find it hard to believe that your (and the bible) claims of ‘miracles’ are false.

    I will read those books when I can get some time, thanks. (Moving back to the States)

    I don’t think saying “I believe that rising from the dead defies all natural laws therefore it hasn’t been done” is making a ‘wild claim’ it is deductive and makes sense. I also don’t think it’s a ‘wild claim’ to say Vampires do not exist for the same reasons.

    As scientific knowledge expands it has challenged many religious doctrines and beliefs. You know this of course. I do not believe that christians/muslims/hindu/etc. are all horrible because of their faith. I do, however, think that faiths in order to preserve themselves will preach falsehoods as fact (flat earth/young earth).

    I have never denied that the bible has historic evidence of truth. So and so may have begat so and so, a fight between peoples may have occurred and there may be archaeological evidence. King Arthur has archeological evidence of his existence. There is historical truth there. Does this mean that I accept ‘miracles’ by King Arthur (sword in stone). I do not. This is a crude analogy as I am not a historian. But when you tell me that virgin births/dead rising/water to wine/noahs ark (animals 2 by 2 are they serious?) I say no thanks.

    When you make extraordinary claims ‘miracles’ it requires extraordinary proof. That is not my statement but it fits.

    Brian Scott, Suffolk, UK

  • John Angelico said:

    “Chris, firstly, are you assuming that historical accuracy is not definitive? That is, are you making a sweeping generalisation that “there is no such thing as Absolute Truth”? Or are you merely challenging the historicity of the Biblical documents?”

    No, that is not at all I am saying. I am saying that people who believe in the bible are saying that historical accuracy IS definitive. I am saying that I think there are a number of reasons to place a whole heap of doubt in one’s mind about whether the bible is true or not.

    Here is a different reason for doubt. Ever played a game of ‘Chinese Whispers’? Seen how easily a simple message can be mutated by a very small group in a short time? Are all bible believers going to stand up and say that the scriptures the Bible is based on have survived perfectly intact, with *no* translation or interpretation errors for so long? If people are going to quote ‘divine authorship’ again then really there is not much someone debating from a rational standpoint can say to that. However if you are going to accept that maybe there have been errors (lets say for example: translating ‘youg woman’ to ‘virgin woman’) are you really confident beliving in a book that possibly is not the word of god as first written.

    Another question. Where is the mention of dinosaurs in the bible? I guess God felt he didn’t want to trouble people with that little detail. Amazingly convenient given nobody on earth at the time knew they had ever existed.

    Chris Mayer

  • Actually, the idea that the church ever taught the flat earth is a lie, as documented by historian Prof. Jeffrey Burton Russell in his book Inventing the Flat Earth: Columbus & Modern Historians (see Summary). He documented many leading church writers explicitly taught a round earth, such as Bede and Aquinas, while finding only obscure writers that could be counted on one hand who taught a flat earth (how many have even heard of Cosmas Indicopleustes?). By the times of Columbus and Galileo, the roundness of the earth was not even an issue for anyone.

    Jonathan Sarfati, Brisbane

  • Atheism is not non-belief in a god, but an active belief that God doesn’t exist. The article ‘atheism’ in Encyclopaedia Britannica 1:666, 1992, reflecting the usual definition in philosophy, begins:

    Atheism, the critique or denial of metaphysical beliefs in God or spiritual beings. As such, it is the opposite of theism, which affirms the reality of the divine and seeks to demonstrate its existence. Atheism is to be distinguished from agnosticism, which leaves open the question of whether there is a god or not, professing to find the question unanswered or unanswerable; for the atheist, the nonexistence of God is a certainty.’

    Also, atheists assert many affirmative statements without proof, eg. that the universe is either eternal or came into existence uncaused, non-living matter evolved into living cells by pure undirected chemistry, complex specified information arose without intelligence, design features arose without a designer, moral sensibilities arose out of amoral matter, etc.

    Jonathan Sarfati, Brisbane

  • Thanks Brian

    But what you have been demonstrating to us in your various comments is the typical atheist set of tactics: never offer any justification or evidence for one’s atheism. Instead, simply lob reckless charges against theists, demanding a response from them, thereby taking pressure off one’s self and one’s position. And when asked for evidence for any claims made, simply backtrack, change the subject, or sheepishly admit that there is no evidence.

    Thus this exchange had been very helpful in demonstrating the paucity of the atheist assault.

    And I am glad you concede that “Science for instance doesn’t have all the answers in regards to life.” So might religion be one of those areas where we can also get some more answers?

    As to your morality, you say, “I believe most of my moral ideas came from life experience, study, and discourse with others and to be honest evolution theory itself.” But Hitler could say exactly the same about his morality. So could anyone. How then does one adjudicate between these conflicting moral views? Unless there is an objective standard of morality outside of ourselves, we have no way of saying our morality is any better than anyone else’s. But of course philosophical naturalists deny the existence of any objective moral standard.

    Then you speak disapprovingly of “selfish acts”! But Brian, according to your worldview, we are simply a collection of selfish genes. So why should you be surprised at, or upset with, selfishness? That’s just the way life is.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Chris Mayer’s comparison of biblical transmission with ‘Chinese Whispers’ shows how parochial he is. This game works well in our present graphocentric society, but Chris fails to realize that it would flop in a predominantly oral society — such as 1st-century Israel.

    The Jews valued oral tradition, and Jesus’ teaching was repeated and designed for easy memorization (that’s one reason they are so memorable today), so according to scholar Birger Gerhardsson, would “ensure excellent semantic recall”. A further check on the reliability of transmission would be other things that totally invalidate the “Chinese whisper” analogy, such as multiple witnesses, including hostile ones. See also On the Reliability of Oral Tradition.

    Jonathan Sarfati, Brisbane

  • Bill said:

    “But what you have been demonstrating to us in your various comments is the typical atheist set of tactics: never offer any justification or evidence for one’s atheism.”

    That is because *not* believing in anything is the default position. It is up to the believers to justify, not the non believers. The fact that believers continually raise this point is quite startling. By the way I have a little magical unicorn sitting on my shoulder. Please let prove to me why you don’t believe that. It is true to me.

    If science worked by the rules you are trying to lay down, we would have advanced nowhere!

    “Science for instance doesn’t have all the answers in regards to life.” So might religion be one of those areas where we can also get some more answers?”

    This has been said throughout time, and slowly science finds answers for things which in the past did not have answers. Have we hit the end now Bill? Is there nothing left? Science has done all it possibly can. Everything you believe as being attributed to god, science will never find an answer for. How many people have thought that all throughout the ages, and been proved wrong, again and again?

    Chris Mayer

  • Johnathan Safarti said:

    “Chris Mayer’s comparison of biblical transmission with ‘Chinese Whispers’ shows how parochial he is. This game works well in our present graphocentric society, but Chris fails to realize that it would flop in a predominantly oral society — such as 1st-century Israel.”

    So are you willing to stand there and say not *one* thing, not even one tiny part of the bible has been mistranslated or misinterpreted throught time?

    If the answer is yes, then might point is moot to you. If the answer is no, then the door is suddenly wide open.

    Chris Mayer

  • Thanks Chris

    You have again nicely demonstrated just what I said. By claiming you do not believe in anything, when in fact you have all kinds of beliefs, you thereby do not have to offer any rationale or justification for any of them. It’s a neat little trick which atheists have been trying to get away with for years.

    You simply do not want to declare your hand, so of course your position “wins” every time by default. You do not have to prove anything. You just make this absurd and deceptive claim that you believe nothing.

    But militant atheists have zillions of beliefs: they believe there is no god; they believe human reason alone is sufficient to discover all truth; they believe in philosophical naturalism; they believe there are no moral absolutes; they believe that science alone has all the answers; they believe there is no life after death; and on and on it goes.

    For people like Dawkins, atheism is far from just a negative assertion, it is a complete belief system, an entire worldview, entailing all kinds of philosophical presuppositions, such as materialism, empiricism, and so on.

    Most of the leading atheists have admitted as such. Atheist philosophers such as Marx have declared that rejection of God cannot take place without certain philosophical presuppositions and beliefs.

    And your belief in the perfection of science is so quaint and unreasonable. Not only have many scientists and scientific theories been proven wrong time and time again, but the more intellectually honest and humble scientists and philosophers of science are the first to admit that science does not explain everything, and that it is not the end all and be all of life.

    To live in such a narrow reductionist box is like living one’s whole life colour blind, all the while believing black and white is all there is. A pitiful existence really.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Thanks again Chris

    But you come up with yet another straw man. (Your side seems to have an endless supply of them!) I do not know of any Christian who has ever said that the Bible has never been “mistranslated or misinterpreted through time”. And if they have, they are wrong.

    As with any historical document, one seeks to get back as close as possible to the original manuscripts. That is what the science of textual criticism is all about. As someone so devoted to science, you should know all about this.

    You might as well argue that we should dismiss The God Delusion out of hand because one day someone is bound to mistranslate or misinterpret it.

    Dogmatic atheists really should to try to come up with more compelling and rational argumentation, instead of their usual kindergarten variety.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Hi Bill,
    If I say to you that I know someone who died and was buried a couple of weeks ago, then rose from the dead last Monday and was seen drinking down at the local pub on Tuesday night – what would require to believe that it is the truth? What method would you use to convince yourself that I wasn’t in fact pulling your leg?

    Paul Hinderer

  • Chris Mayer, the usual rule is to give the benefit of the doubt to the document, not the critic. This especially makes sense given the documented reliability or oral transmission in oral cultures. It’s up to you do demonstrate that a single doctrine of Christianity rests on a disputed passage.

    Jonathan Sarfati, Brisbane

  • Thanks Paul

    Of course I would use the same method that you or anyone else would employ. One would first need to verify, using appropriate medical means and so on, that the person had actually died. Then one would seek to verify that the person was indeed alive. But since you are the doubting Thomas here, you tell me what specific methods you would employ.

    And since your next question will be, did this verification take place with Jesus, I would answer yes. The topic of the death and resurrection of Jesus, and the various bits of evidence for it, has been carefully examined by many authorities. I can point you to any number of books if you are really interested in a rational discussion of how we know he died, was buried, and rose again.

    If you are asking more than just rhetorical questions, and are indeed really trying to pursue this topic with an open mind, than just one book might be a start. An inexpensive paperback by Lee Strobel, a former atheist who set out to examine these very questions, and was surprised with what he discovered, is: The Case for Christ (Zondervan, 1998).

    Why don’t you read that first then get back to me? I trust your mind is not already made up, without even bothering to examine the evidence.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Hi Bill,
    I’ve seen the signed death certificate and 200 people in the pub saw him order a gin and tonic. Why don’t you just take mine and their word for it?

    You would have no trouble believing me if I told you I owned a flat screen TV but, the death and resurrection thing is a huge stretch of credulity isn’t it. I mean, let’s face it, barring a huge con or publicity stunt, if this is true, for it to have actually happened…… I mean, what are the odds?

    But, preposterous as it sounds, you’re not dismissing it out of hand (presumably because you believe that this wouldn’t be the first time something like this has happened). In fact, you are prepared to look into it: “One would first need to verify, using appropriate medical means and so on, that the person had actually died. Then one would seek to verify that the person was indeed alive.”

    Personally, I wouldn’t waste my time – and surely, neither would you. You know it’s impossible. If you are prepared to give stories like this the benefit of the doubt, you’ll spend the rest of your life looking into them.

    Or else, just take them on faith.

    Paul Hinderer

  • It seems to me that life doesn’t make any sense at all, UNLESS it is regarded as a trial, a test for a better life to come.

    AA Hoysted, Victoria

  • Chris Mayer asked about dinosaurs and the Bible. Yes there are mention of dinosaurs in the Bible. See this:

    Ewan McDonald, Victoria

  • Bill Muehlenberg 5.1.07 / 3pm responded to Chris Mayer thuswise (pardon the Gilbertian slip): “But you come up with yet another straw man. (Your side seems to have an endless supply of them!) I do not know of any Christian who has ever said that the Bible has never been ‘mistranslated or misinterpreted through time’. And if they have, they are wrong. As with any historical document, one seeks to get back as close as possible to the original manuscripts. That is what the science of textual criticism is all about. As someone so devoted to science, you should know all about this.”

    To which I would add that the reliability of past transcription work has been verified by the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, dated reliably to about 100 BC, and pre-dating previously used copies by around 1000 years.

    By comparison with those previous copies of the Old Testament, scholars have been remarkably impressed with the consistent accuracy of the copying processes over that 1000 years, and have found few textual changes to be required.

    Likewise for New Testament copies, as has already been said, the oldest date from very close to the apostolic era. I hold to a view that the entire NT corpus was completed before the fall of Jerusalem, but I know I’m in a minority there. Nevertheless, the two oldest complete copies are dated at less than three hundred years later.

    The number of copies available to scholars for cross-checking, and assessing the most likely reading of the original text means that historically (and dare I say it, scientifically) we can have very high confidence that the text used for our current translations is as close as we can get to the original.

    As Bill said, mistranslations and misinterpretations are possible – even by atheists, and including about flat earth theories – but that is separate from someone such as yourself coming to grips with the historical reliability of the Biblical documents.

    That actually depends on the answer to my first question, which you have sidestepped.

    Unless one holds to an idea of Absolute Truth, it’s hard to see how you can argue for anything to be definitively valid or invalid. If you don’t have that as a launching pad, your entire first point fails.

    We’re having a good discussion, but my question remains: what do you answer?

    Oh, and yes, dinosaurs are represented by expressions translated as “behemoth” and “leviathan” but since the Bible is not a taxonomic textbook, I don’t think there will be many references to them.

    John Angelico

  • Thanks Paul

    There is a difference between true science and scientism. True scientists are interested in truth, and will follow and test the evidence wherever it leads. They are humble, recognising that they do not have all the answers, and are open-minded, willing to pursue new information.

    Those committed to scientism, on the other hand, have their minds already made up and are not really interested in the truth or evidence. Dogmatism, not reason, tends to be their strong point. They have a philosophical pre-commitment to certain unprovable beliefs, such as naturalism and empiricism. They are not willing to look outside of such reductionist boxes.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Bill said:

    “Those committed to scientism, on the other hand, have their minds already made up and are not really interested in the truth or evidence. Dogmatism, not reason, tends to be their strong point. They have a philosophical pre-commitment to certain unprovable beliefs, such as naturalism and empiricism. They are not willing to look outside of such reductionist boxes.”

    How you can say that and keep a straight face is beyond me.

    Chris Mayer

  • Thanks Chris
    Fortunately there are some humanist Darwinians who are more honest than others. Take for example the 1997 remark of geneticist Richard Lewontin, who you would undoubtedly be aware of: “We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs . . . because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism.”

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • I personally think it is likely there is a God.
    When reviewing the opinions of the strong atheist, as represented by Dawkins, a couple of things strike me.
    1) They rather dishonestly try to say that atheism is not a belief, or alternatively that it is the only belief you can have based on evidence.
    2) That the link between atheism and destructive atheistic ideologies such as Stalinism is purely coincidental. The link between theism and destructive theistic ideologies (fundamental Islam, Spanish inquisition etc.) on the other hand is intrinsic.
    3) That human traits traditonally guided by religious belief, such as morals and empathy, can simply be explained by evolution and our desire to propogate our genetic inheritance in those most similar to ourselves. Our apparent desire to fight, discriminate against and oppress one another, on the other hand, can in many cases, simply be explained by collective religious zeal.

    These are just a few of the inconsistencies which leap out at me.

    I’m actually less inclined to discount God after reading the God Delusion than I was before. I wonder if Dawkins is a closet christian?
    John Muir

  • john said:

    “They rather dishonestly try to say that atheism is not a belief, or alternatively that it is the only belief you can have based on evidence.”

    This has been covered ad-nauseum. It is totally ridiculous to say that the non belief in something *you* believe in, is itself a belief.

    “That the link between atheism and destructive atheistic ideologies such as Stalinism is purely coincidental. The link between theism and destructive theistic ideologies (fundamental Islam, Spanish inquisition etc.) on the other hand is intrinsic.”

    That is a total straw man (and a frequent one). Saying that Stalinism was *in the name of* atheism is highly debatable. Saying that The Spanish Inquisition, and fundamentalist Islam are *in the name of* religion is certainly not debatable at all. Pretty simple distinction.

    “That human traits traditonally guided by religious belief, such as morals and empathy, can simply be explained by evolution and our desire to propogate our genetic inheritance in those most similar to ourselves. Our apparent desire to fight, discriminate against and oppress one another, on the other hand, can in many cases, simply be explained by collective religious zeal.”

    This is an even bigger strawman, which is certainly not a claim made in general by atheists, and certainly not what is claimed in The God Delusion.

    Please feel free to come up with some actual inconsistencies.

    Chris Mayer

  • Chris Mayer is rather clueless, which is not surprising from a follower of philosophical neophyte like Dawkins who admires the nonsense of Brian Flemming.

    He conveniently redefines atheism as a non-belief, whereas atheism is an active belief that God doesn’t exist. The article ‘atheism’ in Encyclopaedia Britannica 1:666, 1992, reflecting the usual definition in philosophy, begins:

    ‘Atheism, the critique or denial of metaphysical beliefs in God or spiritual beings. As such, it is the opposite of theism, which affirms the reality of the divine and seeks to demonstrate its existence. Atheism is to be distinguished from agnosticism, which leaves open the question of whether there is a god or not, professing to find the question unanswered or unanswerable; for the atheist, the nonexistence of God is a certainty.’

    The entry on ‘atheism’ in the Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, probably the preeminent reference tool for philosophy, begins:

    ‘Atheism is the position that affirms the nonexistence of God. It proposes positive belief rather than mere suspension of disbelief.’

    And while atrocities committed in the name of Christ were inconsistent with his teachings, the far greater atrocities by God-haters last century were consistent with their atheistic philosophy.
    Jonathan Sarfati, Brisbane

  • Hi Jonathan,
    So these “atrocities committed in the name of Christ” – what happened there and how are they any different to atrocities committed in someone else’s name? Perhaps we should sort our atrocities into orders of magnitude and see if that makes us feel better. How about an atrocity scale from bad to worse? Where do we start? Seems to me that the murdering atheistic tyrants you speak of, got their inspiration from the many examples of successful purges and cleansings carried out in the name of religion. Hey, if they can do it in the name of their God, surely their God wont mind me following in his footsteps.

    “inconsistent with his teachings”? Surely the fact that more than one person got it wrong would suggest that something is wrong with the material.
    Paul Hinderer

  • The lack of logic in Paul Hinderer’s latest offering is glaring, but then what can we expect if we are just rearranged pond scum?

    How plain do I have to make it? if Jesus said “love your enemies” and made no commands about torturing heretics, then those that violate these commands are acting inconsistently with His teachings. And the fault is thus hardly with His teachings but with those that failed to follow them! Good grief, if PH taught his children not to steal, and they stole, would that mean that PH’s teaching was wrong?
    Jonathan Sarfati, Brisbane

  • Hi Jonathon,
    “if Jesus said “love your enemies” and made no commands about torturing heretics, then those that violate these commands are acting inconsistently with His teachings”

    Its amazing you can not see the irony in your choice of the word “heretics”. Do you know what a heretic is? The generally accepted meaning of a “heretic” is a person holding a belief or practice contrary to the orthodox doctrine of the Christian Church. So, if not the church, who do you think persecuted heretics? Other non-believers?

    You realise of course, that without religion there would be no heretics.
    Paul Hinderer

  • Thanks Paul

    But since neo-Darwinism and philosophical naturalism are the reigning religions of the intellectualoids today, there are plenty of heretics there as well. Consider just one, of many: When a scientist at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington, Richard Steinberg, dared to challenge the reigning orthodoxy, he was promptly given the boot. Steinberg, who holds two PhD’s in biology, was the editor of a Museum publication that printed an article on Intelligent Design which had been reviewed by scientific peers prior to publication. For his efforts he was quickly shown the door by his tolerant Darwinian colleagues. So much for openness, tolerance and letting the evidence take us where it leads.

    Many more such examples of persecution by naturalistic scientists can be documented. The secularist/Darwinian religion is as savage on dissent and those who would question the PC line as any religion.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Paul Hinderer fails to note the distinction between a heresy and a heresy. It is perfectly reasonable to refute heresies, this does not entail persecution of heretics. But it is not surprising that PH would overlook this obvious distinction, because the new “tolerance” of Political Correctness likewise proclaims that attacking a viewpoint is ipso facto an attack on those who hold it. See also “The Intolerance of Tolerance” By Gregory Koukl.

    Bill has ably shown that evolutionary scientism has its fair share of persecuting “heretics”, and that atheistic communist regimes persecuted dissenters from their atheistic faith.

    Jonathan Sarfati, Brisbane

  • Pingback: The Blasphemy Challenge: Book reviews of "God Delusion"
  • Lets pretend that you are God. Who would you ask the gate keeper to be allowed into paradise.

    a) The guy who has spent his whole life supping up to him in order to gain entry?

    b) An athiest who was moral for moral’s sake?

    I know which I would choose.

    Be a man. Except the fact there is no God. This is it you are going to die, the end. Now go forth and be good, for goodness sake!

    Martin Bennett

  • Thanks Martin

    But it is exactly because you are not God that you think as you do. You think you are simply good enough. Thus you have a low view of sin and a high view of yourself – just what will keep you out of heaven.

    Jesus said he came for the sinner, not the (self) righteous. He said the sick have need of a doctor, not those who think they are well.

    The biblical view is that all of us are sick; none of us measure up. All our own righteousness is so much rubbish. But of course such an assessment cuts across human pride and selfishness.

    Thus those who find themselves missing out on heaven will find they have only themselves to blame. One either allows God to be God, or one foolishly pretends that he or she is God. I am afraid the universe is only big enough for one God.

    Or as C.S. Lewis put it, “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, in the end, ‘Thy will be done’.”

    It has nothing to do with “supping up to him” but everything to do with humbling ourselves, recognising our overwhelming need, and bowing to the rightful boss of the universe. But as long as we pretend we are the boss, there is no hope.

    And what does it mean anyway for an atheist to be moral? If morality has to do with doing that which is right, then finding out what is right and then doing it is the first step. And letting God be God would be top of the list, it seems to me, not fooling ourselves into thinking we are the king of the castle.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Dawkin’s delusion

    I have just commenced reading this book and I can sum it up in 2 words, DAWKIN’S DELUSION. I think Dawkins attempt to discredit the wisdom of the ages is noteworthy but it is a bundle of simplistic arguments against God who cannot be defined. It is like an ant trying to explain the origins of man. I however have increased in knowledge of how the atheist camp thinks and argues and for this I am thankful. No amount of rational arguments can shift strong belief that is not just based on rational thinking. It is more then that. It is spiritual and only the spiritual can see while the rest continue like the blind man, going round in circles.
    John Mathai

  • John, as I understand your post, you mean that religious faith is not based on rational thinking, and as such, is impervious to logical argument. Maybe you meant that about atheist thinking but I don’t think so. Anyway, if I understood that correctly, than you can not dismiss Dawkins’s book as simplistic arguments, They are rational arguments.

    If you want to declare your beliefs to be impervious to rational argument — to be, ergo, irrational, that’s your business. And if your God cannot be defined, then I supposed that is indeed beyond rational argument. This is an excellent example of the orbiting teapot analogy described in Dawkins’s book, or the invisible dragon in Carl Sagan’s “Demon-Haunted World.” When you assert something that no conceivable test could prove or disprove, you are, in Wolfgang Pauli’s words, “Not even wrong.”

    John, Bill, anyone, on my own blog I reviewed this book, and ended with an open invitation to anyone capable of raising rational objections to it, anyone who can explain, logically, why to believe in any particular religious faith. I’ve not seen it done.

    Dave Brown

  • Thanks Dave

    There are plenty of good reasons for faith available. You might start with Antony Flew’s new book, if your mind is really open.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • I’m really tired of religious people assuming that atheists don’t believe in anything, how they’re spiritually lost and how their lives are empty. And on top of that we’re supposed to have no sense of moral values. It’s really insulting.

    I also don’t understand why the burden of proof is apparently on the atheist and not the believer. We’re the lost souls that need guidance, remember? There are hundreds or religions out there. Pitch yours to me. Help me decide. But remember, I don’t do leaps of faith and if you have no scientific evidence, I’ll come up with my own spiritual answers, and they, like scientific theories, would naturally be replaced if better ones came along. For such is life and it’s fantastic.

    PS: I read some of the Bible. But I stopped when men started knowing women. I just lost interest.

  • Thanks Jamie

    It all boils down to what is true and what is not. The truth claims of Christianity can be weighed and assessed, and a good case can be made for Christianity’s truthfulness, coherence and relevance. I have sought to make that case here, as have others. It is a question of how open-minded you are, and if you are really willing to follow the evidence wherever it may lead.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Dear Bill
    I have been reading your god-delusion website with interest. I thought your critique of the book one of the best and most readable I have seen – I’ve been browsing the net over the last couple of weeks, as some family members praised the book. I’m not looking to debate the subject wih them, but I wanted to be informed. By the way, I’m a Catholic.
    I saw your appeal for help on your part 2 site As I am filled with admiration for the knowledgeable and charitable way you respond to so many posters, I would like to help, in a small way. I don’t have much spare time, although I’m retired, but think I could help in the 2 ways you suggested – praying for athiests and replying to them in a kindly way.
    Let me know what you’d like me to do. God bless.
    Eileen Boyldew, Canberra

  • Being killed in the name of religion or not doesn’t change anything. Two thirds of the world’s population is religious, so any killing on the earth is basically more probable of being religious.

    Blaming religion for genocide is the same mistake of blaming any Muslim for being a terrorist. It’s ethnic profiling.

    Does religion have something to offer? I believe so. Can it be easily debunked? That depends if you study it or not. Christianity has stood the tests of time both theologically and through textual criticism. However, does the Crusades and Inquisitions and all the mass genocide blemish its image? Of course. The church isn’t perfect. But God is.

    Justun Chan

  • Hello Bill, I must admit that I admire your incredible commitment in seeking to deal with those robots who are, so we are led to believe, like us Christians, the victims of some fluke event that began an unguided and purposeless process that, according to professor Dawkins, only has the survival of the fittest in mind. He also tells us that this being the case there is no justification for ethics etc and we don’t have free will.
    He, like his followers, it would appear, believe that they are gods as they have accidentally been endowed with the truth by the process of natural selection a process that eliminates rather than creates.
    PS Hitler stated that “Christianity is the product of sick minds” and believed that this was due to a virus that was in need of eliminating as it was deemed to be impeding the process of evolution and human perfection.
    PSS When the anti-Christian squad draw our attention to the crusades and such things as child abuse they cannot quote a single reference from the New Testament that incites any form of violence or abuse. They certainly haven’t any solid reason for objecting to any aspect of human behaviour or beliefs that, according to their faith, are the result of an unguided and purposeless process.
    John Suffolk, Uk

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