A closer look at the journey to atheism of Nathan Pratt

I found a deconversion testimony by an atheist on Prayson Daniel’s blog, and I thought it might be useful to take a look at it.

But first, I want to recap some reasons why people think that God exists.

In addition to these arguments for theism, Christians would make be some sort of minimal facts case for the resurrection, one that leverages the early creed in 1 Corinthians 15:3-7. And some sort of case for the early belief that Jesus was divine.

In addition to those positive evidences, there would be informed defenses to other questions like the problem of evil, the problem of suffering, religious pluralism, the hiddenness of God, materialist conceptions of mind, consciousness and neuroscience, the justice of eternal damnation, sovereignty and free will, the doctrine of the Incarnation, the doctrine of the Trinity, and so on.

I listed these out so that you can see how many of these positive arguments and defenses that he wrestles with in his deconversion testimony, which is linked below.

So here is the deconversion testimony.

And here are some revealing snippets, under headings.

Legalist upbringing

” Being baptists things were pretty legalistic growing up.”

Anti-intellectual parents

His parents tell him: “This is the bible and its truth can’t be debated. It is what it is.”

Piety rather than apologetics

“Most of my young life I was “that” religious kid. You know him. He’s awkward looking with coke bottle glasses and horrendous hair and triple hand me down clothes. I told random kids on the bus that I would pray for them and would be mocked in return.”

Peer disapproval

“I told random kids on the bus that I would pray for them and would be mocked in return. One time I even got jumped while fishing and once they started punching me I didn’t even fight back, “turn the other cheek” was being said in my mind over and over. I got the crap kicked out of me and several months of ridicule at school over getting such a beating.

I think the most embarrassing time for me was in 8th grade science class when one kid started calling me a “bible beater” while the teacher was out of the room. He then got the entire class to mock and laugh at me. It wasn’t fun. In fact, it sucked.”

Deconversion prior to serious study of the evidence

“I think it was around 9th grade that my apathy for religion and god really started to set it. Being honest with myself I didn’t want to be the kid that got mocked anymore.”

Ineffective church leadership

“We’d laugh at our peers that were so moved by the message told by the church leaders… Everything I was seeing my peers do could easily be chalked up to a group or mob mentality. A psychological effect of emotions.”

I agree with him about this one, the church generally does nothing to form a Christian worldview, even though they have years and years to do it. And they are quite proud of this “focus on the gospel”, even as kids drop Christianity as soon as they hear intellectual objections to it in college.

Self-focus / autonomy

“The fact that our purpose of living was the blow smoke up the skirt of a god that will damn us to hell.”

Theological determinism

“The thought that a god with a plan can’t/won’t/doesn’t listen to your prayers because if your prayer isn’t in line with his plan then it goes unheard or unanswered.”

Bible difficulties

“God set up Adam and Eve for failure in the Garden of Eden. If he really didn’t want us to “fall from grace” then the tree never would have been there. He would’ve stopped the serpent from deceiving Adam and Eve. He would’ve equipped Adam and Eve with the knowledge of deceit so they could recognize when they’re being lied to.”

God’s job is to make us happy and healthy

“God would have either have had a direct hand in creating hell or allowing satan to create it with his knowledge. God created the rules by which people go to hell. He damns billions of people there. Is that love? Is that moral? Is that just?”

Accuracate knowledge of God’s character and historical actions are less important than “being good”

“Anne Frank, a Jew, is in hell because she didn’t recognize Jesus as the Son of God, but Ted Bundy, a serial rapist and murderer, is in heaven because he accepted Jesus into his heart before dying on death row. Is that fair? Is that love? Is that moral? Is that just?”

Emotional problem of evil

His brother was killed in a motorcycle accident, and his view is that it’s God’s job to keep everyone alive and happy. So this guy is reading the story of Jesus and he is saying something like this to himself when he reads the Bible, “see, the founder of Christianity has all his needs met by God and he is happy all the time, and everyone likes him and he never, ever has anything bad happen to him that isn’t his fault”. The problem of evil is one of the most responded-to problems in Christian apologetics. He didn’t cite anyone who has responded to it.

Ignorance of how the Bible defines faith

“Faith is believing in something without evidence.”

So he doesn’t even know what the definition of faith is, according to the Biblical use of the term, where faith is trusting in something you know to be true because of the evidence, e.g. – because of the resurrection, say. That was Jesus’ model of getting people to have faith in him, but apparently you can attend church and come up with a different, postmodern notion of what the word means. A definition that is pleasing to all the people in church who are there for emotional comfort, and not for truth and knowledge. His definition of faith is more like the atheist definition of faith, like they say “I have faith in the multiverse” or “I have faith in aliens seeding the Earth with life” or “I have faith that God has no morally sufficient reason for permitting this instance of apparently gratuitous evil”. Atheists project their own irrational epistemology onto Christians.

Unfamiliarity with Christian scholarship

After I realized that my friends and church leaders had no good responses to anything I was saying I started searching for good apologist books on the internet. A good book about a good reason for belief. I can’t effectively relay my shock at turning up nothing worth the paper it was printed on.”

The purpose of life is to feel happy

“I’d heard through a friend that an old acquaintance from our youth group was now an agnostic… His reply was straight forward in that he’d realized that he’d gained nothing from trying to understand, follow and love god. Since it was bringing nothing positive to his life he left it behind. He shared that we’re all trained as kids in church that we have a god shaped hole in our hearts, but that it wasn’t true. Here he was, 11 years after leaving christianity, at the happiest and most content point of his life. He told me it was okay to doubt.”

Reads simplistic books by atheists

“That book that would ultimately be one of the most revolutionary books in my life was “50 Reasons People Give for Believing in a God.””

This book is a caricature of the reasons why people believe in God. I searched for the names of top Christian apologists, and there were none. No William Lane Craig, Hugh Ross, Gary Habermas, Michael Licona, Stephen C. Meyer, Mike Behe, etc. I took a look at the 50 arguments. They were generally re-phrasings of this “I’m stupid, so I’ll believe Christianity because it makes me happy”.

I clicked on the few that I thought might cite Christian scholars, but no Christian scholars were cited. For the chapter on “fine-tuning”, the author cited Ray Comfort. And his banana argument. In a chapter on fine-tuning. The chapter on intelligent design did not cite a single scholar, pro or con. ID was not even defined.

My conclusion

Well, I’ll leave the rest of his post to you. I did a quick search on the author’s blog for “William Lane Craig”, just to see, and found nothing. Then I did a search for “intelligent design”, and found nothing. Then I did a search for “minimal facts” and found nothing. His post on his journey to atheism is here. And let this testimony be a lesson to you parents and church leaders not to fail other Christians the way this guy’s parents and church leaders failed him. You should read the comments on his post, as well.

64 thoughts on “A closer look at the journey to atheism of Nathan Pratt”

  1. This is awesome. I’m on my phone currently. I’ll be back tomorrow. Michael Behe? William Lane Craig? Hilarious.

    I’ll give your full post a read tomorrow and respond, but consider me unimpressed from what I read so far. You’ve merely shown a poor understanding of the oppositions point of view while espousing very standard and uncompelling arguments for belief in the God of Abraham. The one true God that really really does exist.

    Please.

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    1. Oh, there’s Nathan, laughing at us dumb Christians again. Especially that William Lane Craig, and his Oxford University Press books. Much better to read something by “Prometheus Books”, the well-known atheistic publisher.

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        1. I didn’t make an argument, sir. I simply responded to your assertion that William Lane Craig was someone to laugh at. His numerous publications in a prestigious academic press falsifies your notion that he is somehow laughable as a scholar.

          Book chapter here:
          http://global.oup.com/academic/product/debating-christian-theism-9780199755448

          Book author here:
          http://global.oup.com/academic/product/god-9780195166002

          Book author here:
          http://global.oup.com/academic/product/theism-atheism-and-big-bang-cosmology-9780198263838

          Peer-reviewed astrophysics paper here:
          http://link.springer.com/article/10.1023%2FA%3A1017083700096

          You can think that William Lane Craig is funny, if you like, but it says more about you than anything else.

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          1. Looking forward to being linked to death. Death by a thousands links. That’s a new one to me!

            Allow me to better explain. I’m actually a fan of WLC. In all honesty I tip my hat to the guy because he’s a master debater. Few are as laser focused as he is and he mostly chews up atheists in debates. Not because he’s right, but because of his focus and unwavering dedication to the point of the debate. He’s not prone to tangents. Even if an atheist raises a great point, he will acknowledge it and then swat it away because it doesn’t pertain to the exact topic of the debate. It’s pretty impressive to watch.

            I think the most interesting debate I’ve ever watched with WLC was with Shelly Kagan and they discussed morality. In my opinion Kagan wiped the floor with WLC. Why? Because the debate was not the template that WLC demands from his debates anymore and Kagan out witted him over and over.

            WLC, while being a master at what he does, is only good in his protected debating format. He won’t do discussions anymore and refuses to debate anyone without the proper education he deems necessary for debate. Why so elitest? He’s flat our refused to debate Matt Dillahunty time and time again and it’s because he knows his position is unsustainable when picked apart.

            I will give him the benefit of the doubt a bit though because he probably gets TONS of invites for debate.

            Also, he’s a firm believer in Divine Command Theory and that’s just disgusting.

            So, in conclusion, the guy has my respect, but only to a point. He’s super experienced, but lacks the man parts to engage in debate unless under his guidelines.

            Michael Behe is awesome because of how badly he got embarrassed in the Kitzmiller v. Dover trial where they were trying to get ID smuggled into schools. He was able to present nothing as evidence and then attempted to discredit all of scientific inquiry by just stating it and then admitting he hadn’t read any of the books brought in that are against his case.

            How could anyone take someone like that seriously? Oh, yes. I forgot. Supporters of ID.

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          2. Sorry, I didn’t even reply to the argument from authority. Believe it or not you’ve made a large case for one. You knocked everything about the scant few authors I listed in my piece, but extoled the wisdom and knowledge of the greats in theological discourse.

            When you’re doing that, and dismissing anyone less educated, you’re making an argument from authority.

            “Well we can’t take this guy seriously, he’s published by an atheist publisher AND doesn’t have the credentials to even have a valid opinion.”

            If you can’t see that then you’re a failure at critical thinking and analysis.

            Also, you’ve said very little for yourself. You’re mostly just linking to others.

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          3. Well, sir, that’s because all of my arguments are based on published research. So I link to the research. I do not do the research myself, but I have to read it, because my worldview is grounded on truth, and not my feelings about personal experiences.

            So I listed out these arguments, and you claim that you won’t reply to them because my appeals to authority are not as authoritative to you as the argument from being mocked in grade 9, etc.

            So here are the arguments for theism:

            The kalam cosmological argument and the Big Bang theory
            The fine-tuning argument from cosmological constants and quantities
            The origin of life, part 1 of 2: the building blocks of life
            The origin of life, part 2 of 2: biological information
            The sudden origin of phyla in the Cambrian explosion
            Galactic habitable zones and circumstellar habitable zones
            Irreducible complexity in molecular machines
            The creative limits of natural selection and random mutation
            Angus Menuge’s ontological argument from reason
            Alvin Plantinga’s epistemological argument from reason
            William Lane Craig’s moral argument
            The unexpected applicability of mathematics to nature

            And here are a couple of historical arguments for the core of Christian convictions about Jesus:

            minimal facts case for the resurrection
            case for the divinity of Jesus from the earliest reliable sources

            And then I listed some more arguments responding to common objections from those who pre-suppose naturalism/materialism as a faith commitment:

            the problem of natural evil
            the problem of human evil
            the problem of consciousness
            the problem of free will
            the problem of religious pluralism
            the problem of freedom/omniscience

            Your only response to these arguments is to say that you can’t believe them because I am appealing to “authority”, namely, that these arguments come from real scientists with real peer-reviewed publications, and as such are less authoritative than your personal experiences. But my arguments are not appeals to authority, they are appeals to peer-reviewed evidence from experts with academic credentials writing in the most prestigious presses and journals. As such, I regard them more highly than your personal experiences.

            So let’s take a closer look at some of those arguments.

            For example, experimental evidence regarding four of my arguments:
            https://winteryknight.wordpress.com/2013/08/29/four-ways-that-the-progress-of-science-conflicts-with-naturalistic-speculations-2/

            A recent finding related to the habitability argument:
            https://winteryknight.wordpress.com/2012/05/10/new-study-on-tidal-heating-strengthens-stellar-habitability-argument/

            Experimental evidence regarding the argument from mind:
            https://winteryknight.wordpress.com/2013/09/01/jeffrey-m-schwartz-and-the-confirmation-of-free-will-in-research-on-mindfulness/

            So there are six arguments rooted in peer-reviewed scientific literature and I want to stack those against the personal experiences and feelings in your post. Can you refute the science by claiming that I am appealing to authority, whereas you are appealing to your personal experiences as a child? Well, it’s your choice whether you do – but I’ll take the science myself.

            In my main post, I listed out over a dozen arguments. As far as I can tell, you’ve made one argument: Christianity is hard, and if God existed, he ought to make it easy on you. Well, trust in God is like a castle. You have to go directly to the scholarship in order to build your castle. One brick is going to be the cosmic microwave background radiation. Another the hydrogen-helium abundance predictions. Another the discovery of redshift. Another the ENCODE study showing that junk DNA isn’t junk. Another is going to be protein sequencing probabilities. Another is going to be the fine-tuning of the strong force in order to create stable, slow-burning stars. Another is going to be the galactic habitable zone. And so on, until you have dozens and dozens of stones taken from peer-reviewed science, history, philosophy of religion, and so on, that will stand up to the “arguments” for atheism that you outlined in your post, e.g. – “I’m embarrassed”, “God didn’t make me happy”, “Christians are dumb”, “my parents are bossy”, “my atheists friends are happy”, etc. Christianity is a worldview driven by facts, whereas atheism is a worldview driven by feelings. That’s the clear contrast that people find in examining your testimony and my list of arguments. They are looking at it and saying “he had a bad experience that he was’t prepared for, whereas WK is quoting from actual scientific data from prestigious journals like Nature and Science”. My Christian friends and I do feel sorry for you, and we are sorry that your church and parents and peers failed to make this data known to you, but we don’t find your insulting tone and emotional outbursts convincing.

            Basically, there is no easy way to Christian theism. If you just live your life in ignorance, then your faith will never survive things like peer pressure, suffering, etc. Either you are going to dig into the books and get familiar with the findings experimental science and historical arguments and philosophy of religion by reading the best publications and scholars or you are going to attack people personally and claim that their scholarly arguments are “appeals to authority”, and rest on your personal experiences.

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      1. Well, if you’re going to argue about publishers I can’t take the bible seriously because it’s mostly published by Zondervan.

        For someone that puffs his chest so much I really expected better arguments. Or at least the foresight to know where your holes in thinking are.

        Discredit a book because of the publisher? Really?

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        1. “Well, if you’re going to argue about publishers I can’t take the bible seriously because it’s mostly published by Zondervan. ”

          I want to believe that this is not a serious statement, but I’m not sure. The Bible is published by dozens of publishers and was the first book -ever- printed. It, like all old books, does not depend on a publisher for credibility (as an important work) because it has been established already.

          New books, however, do depend on their publisher for some authority – particularly scholarly works. This does not confirm all of the content as true, but it does lend credibility. That William Lane Craig is published by a University press is an indication that Craig’s arguments are taken seriously enough by prestigious universities to publish, which is far more credit than you, unfairly, seem to give him.

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          1. I’m making a case for bare theism using scientific arguments, like the Big Bang cosmology (redshift, cosmic microwave background radiation, hydroge-helium abudances) and the fine-tuning (gravitational constant, cosmological constant, strong force), etc. I cite experimental evidence from peer-reviewed journals and academic publications for my premises, and he comes back to me with the Bible and Zondervan. THE BIBLE AND ZONDERVAN.

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  2. It seems like, ultimately, in the end, people don’t believe in God simply because they don’t want to. I don’t think it gets more complicated than that.

    As you mention, there are plenty of thoughtful and Biblical answers to the problems posed (above).

    Some people would rather not look into them. They would simply rather disbelieve. To their own perdition. God save us from such a fate!

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    1. I wouldn’t call anything he raised a problem. There were no arguments in it. I just think that he expected to be able to fuel an authentic Christian life without having to read any books. That might have worked 50 years ago, but today you have to put in a lot more effort to work against the culture, e.g. – his misunderstanding of the word faith, or his expectation that it’s God’s job to make his human pets happy, etc.

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    2. (Wintery Knight – If you guys are going to continually attack me you could at least have the decent to remove comment moderation. Typical believer afraid of not being in control of information. Grow a pair.)

      CJ – I think your comment raises more issues than you realize. If you argue that my unbelief is from a desire to simply not want to believe then I can only assume that you believe because you want and need to. It’s human to see things we want to see and cognitive dissonance is a part of being human.

      Sure there’s plenty of apologetics books and I’m much more studied in them than you give me credit for.

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      1. “If you argue that my unbelief is from a desire to simply not want to believe then I can only assume that you believe because you want and need to.”

        You could assume that but you would be demonstrating how small a part logic plays in your thinking. Your assumption does not necessarily follow logically.

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          1. “Yours doesn’t either”. I made no assumption.

            You were responding to CJ. And I would assume that his observation is based upon the paucity of the arguments presented.

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  3. People use smokescreen arguments to rationalise their unbelief or rejection of God, whereas the real reason is that they do not want God to be sovereign over their lives – they want to do their own thing and “be masters of their fate” (as some have told me, not realising or wanting to acknowledge the seriousness of that fate). Self and self-will is at the heart of all sin (rebellion against God), which is why Jesus told his disciples that they needed to take up their cross and follow him, that those who love their lives will lose it. This does not sit well with those who want to be on the throne of their lives. I have encountered a number of such cases of those who have “fallen away”.

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    1. My point of writing this post was merely that people in the church and parents need to be aware that apologetics is necessary and useful for dealing with people like this, and to avoid pushing children to be more pious than their worldview warrants. If parents don’t know the good evidential arguments for theism and historical arguments for Christianity, then it’s no use complaining when the kids fall away. In this day and age, you have to know apologetics and go to a church that teaches it.

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      1. I agree, and I tried my best with my one son (in fact, since he is very strong-willed, maybe I tried too hard – should have used reverse psychology!), but he was also subject to the influence of his atheist father and atheists at school and (after he left home) university, which was where he turned his back on the Lord. My observation of his path to apostasy was that he wanted “freedom” to indulge in, um, the lusts of the flesh, so he ditched his faith and associated values, over-rode his conscience and proceeded to screw up his personal life. I also believe he never really had revelation of the grace of God, so, having previously had a sensitive conscience, he was vulnerable to self-condemnation and found it easier just to ditch it all and indulge. No reasoning worked with him – it was as though his mind had been taken over (I was reminded of Paul’s question: “Who has bewitched you, you foolish Galatians?”). There is also a spiritual aspect, when people turn away from the Lord and put themselves under the dominion of “the god of this age”.
        Dying to self is the hardest part of following Christ, but it is the path to experiencing God’s grace and abundant life in Christ..
        Some of the other cases I’ve seen are adults who apparently came to faith in Christ, but when push came to shove, they preferred the self-willed life (the parable of the Sower and the seed refers).

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      2. “If parents don’t know the good evidential arguments for theism and historical arguments for Christianity, then it’s no use complaining when the kids fall away. ”

        Just a very small nit here, WK. Let’s not dig the parents too much. Parenting is VERY hard stuff, and there is no guarantee that the children will pursue what the parent believes is the right path. The reason for this is that children, like their parents, have free will.

        Nathan freely chose his path, and let’s face it: the fact that no one could answer his objections merely means that he didn’t find the WK website, or many other resources on the internet, bookstores, and libraries. Apparently, he didn’t look very hard, unless he was on a desert island when he made his deconversion.

        That is not the parents’ fault, in totality. (I’m pretty sure that, if his deconversion story is accurate, his parents are more than heartbroken. Don’t you wonder, like me, what his relationship is like with his dad? You have eloquently explored that tendency with atheists elsewhere. https://winteryknight.wordpress.com/?s=atheism+fathers)

        It is probably the church’s fault – to some extent – but, even so, the ultimate responsibility lies with Nathan himself. My heart actually goes out to Nathan AND his parents. (However, I do agree 100% with your other sentences in this particular post.) Thanks for hearing me out – from a VERY imperfect parent.

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        1. Yeah, that was funny when he said that he could not find a thing worth reading, and then I pointed out the Oxford University Press book, and he screamed “Argument from Authority”. He’s not open-minded, he’s just really, really angry and wants to believe what he wants to believe.

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  4. This is fascinating. WK. Nathan’s testimony reads like a caricature of churches I have never been in. I have never had a Christian tell me to believe without evidence – that is the atheistic definition of faith, not the Christian one. Similarly, I was in a conservative Bible church that was, at best, lukewarm toward apologetics, yet they still had a library filled with books by classical apologetic theologians and pews full of rocket scientists who either could answer my questions (“how would you respond to an atheist who said …?”) or point me to a modern apologist to look up on the internet or in a bookstore.

    Speaking of bookstores, how in the world can you not find tons of worthy Christian apologetic books in this day and age?!? Not just modern ones, but those going all the way back to the early church. My kindle is filled with those – many of them free. Nathan’s quick dismissal belies a strong desire to “not consider the other side.” Maybe he was afraid he might reconvert?

    Laughing at William Lane Craig? Perhaps Nathan has the courage (that Richard Dawkins lacks) to debate WLC? :-) I wonder how long it would take me to convert Nathan from referring to himself as an atheist to an agnostic non-theist? :-)

    I also wonder how true his testimony is. What reason does an atheist have for not lying? And how does Nathan talk about rape and murder being evil? What is the basis for objective morality under atheism? Is Nathan “sitting in the lap of God to slap His face?” https://winteryknight.wordpress.com/2014/01/16/an-atheist-explains-the-real-consequences-of-adopting-an-atheistic-worldview/

    Don’t be too hard on Ray Comfort, WK. He is out on the street, he is preaching Hell, and he did get a Darwinist UCLA professor of biology to admit that “humans are fish” after all! That was priceless, and deserving of at least an honorable mention.

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  5. Christianity is a worldview driven by facts, whereas atheism is a worldview driven by feelings.

    Well, let’s kick that into touch straight away shall we?

    There is no such thing as ”Christianity” as you understand it for you follow Pauline Doctrine. This is about the only ‘fact’

    And if you know the bible as well as you imply then you will know full well that Jesus came to fulfill the Law. Moses’s Law.

    Jesus was born a Jew and died a Jew. The only doctrine he knew was Jewish.

    Paul never met him.

    When you say your prayers, be sure to include Eusebius, Constantine, and Theodosius, okay?

    As one of the characters in the movie Life of Brian is heard to say…“You’re making nit up as you go along”

    That just about describes the Pauline Church to a T I’d say. :)

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    1. It would be great if, instead of quoting a Monty Python movie, you could quote the work of a credentialed historian. The problem is that no credentialed historian has ever written such a thing in a peer-reviewed publication, so you can’t. Again, I am quoting peer-reviewed publications and you are quoting Monty Python. That’s what atheism is. You listened to some standup comics who made you feel smart because they made fun of people who hurt you. I don’t recommend developing a worldview from stand-up comedians, I recommend going to people with degrees in the fields and peer-reviewed publications. That’s what Christians do.

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      1. “Again, I am quoting peer-reviewed publications and you are quoting Monty Python. That’s what atheism is. You listened to some standup comics who made you feel smart because they made fun of people who hurt you.”

        The Hall of Quotes is filling up rapidly. :-) This particular one has moved into top 10 contention. The “Committee for Quotes Evaluation” is going to have to start getting picky. I will be plagiarizing your last sentence in this quote – frequently!

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    2. “Paul never met him”

      Really have you read Acts? What reason would Paul a devout Jew and early church persecutor on the fast track to become a head Pharisee suddenly start being a Jesus follower if not for the Road to Damascus conversion? Where he in fact met the risen Jesus.

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  6. As I can see this is going to be a damn mess, and since you care more about links, I’m just going to wing it in this response. I barely have the desire or energy to even respond, but here I am….better decision making be damned!

    Okay, rather than rehit on the points you already made, some of which I think are fair, I’ll just address some of these great arguments you linked as to why I believe they’re not good enough reasons to believe in any one god.

    First, allow me to fully explain, and I really hope you can understand the difference, the difference between my conclusion and opinion. My conclusion is agnosticism. I think that any intellectually honest person would have to conclude that. Nobody (you’d say god has it, but that’s laughable) has all the information needed to fully eliminate the possibility of gods. I’ve never before and never will say definitively, “THERE IS NO GOD!” It’s foolishness and unwise. I do however think it’s improbable.

    Just as you can’t definitively say “THERE IS A GOD AND I KNOW IT FOR A FACT!” You can believe with all your might that there’s a god, and there may be, but you can’t know for certain. This is why my conclusion is agnosticism.

    Can you say with certainty that there’s no Loch Ness? No leprechauns? No, you can’t.

    My opinion is atheism. Given all that we know about nature, so far, I find it unlikely that there is a god. I’m always willing and open to more information and evidence, but I’m not jumping into bed with the idea that there’s a god and most certainly not willing to associate any one god with all of this fine mess we call life and the universe.

    This is one of the biggest problems I have with apologetics or arguments for belief. Ontological reasoning and Kalam’s can only ever even get you (with special pleading of course) to a form of deism that is in no way your God of Abraham. To get there you have to make even larger jumps in thinking to conclude that out of all the gods, it’s actually yours that did it.

    Believers in the God of Abraham now have the same amount of evidence to stand on their god being the one that exists as a man in ancient Greece that was certain it’s Helios that pulls the sun across the sky. All religions are equally untainted with evidence.

    The bible is your proof? Don’t even get me started on what circular reasoning that is.

    Josephus is a favorite of proselytizers of apologetics, but he speaks briefly of Jesus and one of his passages is thought by many scholars to have been tampered with. Also, he spoke of many other deities and gods. So, I guess that they’re all real? Awesome! Let’s hear it for polytheism!

    Here’s a quote that I think highlights the problem of believing in a god in a pretty good way. I’m sure you’ll dismiss it because you know….it’s not written by a PhD.

    “If there is a Creator-God, it has used methods of creation that are indistinguishable from nature, it has declined to make itself known for all of recorded history, it doesn’t intervene in affairs on earth, and has made itself impossible to observe. Even if you believe in that God… why would you think it would want to be worshiped?” – David McAfee

    All of history we’ve moved from superstition to science. I’m not about to take an argument from ignorance seriously and throw god into whatever few gaps science has left. It’s foolish thinking.

    Now I’ll just address some of your links briefly because this has already drug out longer than I cared for.

    Kalam – This will only get you to deism. You still have to show it’s your god that did this and there’s no way to do that.

    Also, if a carpenter needs nails and wood to make a table a god would need some base material to make the universe so that analogy falls apart quickly.

    If nothing comes from nothing then where did your god come from. That logic is self-defeating. Also, arguing that your god is eternal is scapegoating the issue.

    Ontological Argument – Never been a fan of this one. Even when I was a believer. It relies too much on special pleading to build a case. Also, it, like the Kalam, tells you nothing of the god or if it intervenes so you could just be building another case for deism. Which is pointless.

    Again, you have to make jumps that aren’t possible to claim it’s your god that did this. Ever watched a debate between a Christian and a Muslim? It’s awesome. To watch two people argue over which imaginary being is the real one is hilarious.

    And while I’m sure you’ll discredit it, whenever some argue for an ontological reasoning for god I like to talk about Eric, The God Eating Magical Penguin:

    God can’t exist because of Eric, The God Eating Magical Penguin. Since Eric is God Eating by definition, he has no choice but to eat God. So, if God exists, He automatically ceases to exist as a result of being eaten. Unless you can prove that Eric doesn’t exist, God doesn’t exist. Even if you can prove that Eric doesn’t exist, that same proof will also be applicable to God. There are only two possibilities – either you can prove that Eric doesn’t exist or you can’t – in both cases it logically follows that God doesn’t exist.

    In ontological reasoning I’m sure you’d respond with something like, a being of which nothing greater can be conceived would not be edible. When I think that it makes me laugh really hard. Really hard.

    WLC Moral Argument – I spent the better part of 7 months debating with a believing friend on morality and it’s an issue I’ve grown very weary of. Not because it’s not interesting, but because of the unrelentingness of the other person in the discussion. I wrote some of my problems with that line of thinking, as well as my thoughts that morality is subjective here if you’d like my response. http://unpackthatthought.wordpress.com/2013/08/06/absolute-and-objective-morality-my-response/

    A few things I’d absolutely agree with you are: Legalist Upbringing, Anti Intellectual Parents. That’s about it.

    I disagree with every other point you make. While you’re making assumptions from a brief snippet of my 30 years on this earth I don’t fault you for making them. Maybe it’s my failing as a writer.

    I do admire your “point” in writing this post. Parents don’t let you kids fall into darkness!

    Ultimately, if someone searches for answers without the shackles of religion they’ll find a fulfilling life without the thoughts of gods. Secularism is sweeping the nation and it’s about damn time.

    I will say that the most frustrating thing about blogging as an atheist, and the unending assault from theists, is that it can be a very difficult thing to attack, as the interpretations of scripture make knowing any one believer’s personal views on the bible almost impossible to nail down. (Get the pun? NAIL down….haha!)

    While you may view the idea of hell as absurd there’s others that live in fear of burning in hell on the daily. A dear friend of mine used to have night terrors as a child as he continually saw himself burning in hell because he loved science.

    While some may acknowledge the errors of the bible and its barbarism and stress the love of Jesus, others see the bible as literal and perfect.

    There’s 30,000 denominations all from one book. You’d think a god could have written a better inspired word. With so much disagreement it’s impossible to take one view more seriously than another. That goes for all of them…the views I mean.

    It’s absurd.

    Well, that’s about it. Sorry this drug on as long as it did, but you couldn’t have expected me to just sit there and get bitch slapped without a response.

    In the future, if we interact with each other, I hope that it will be under much more civil tones and also you not trying to piggyback off of another person’s blog. I was asked by Prayson to put my story up there. You just hijacked it.

    Have some class.

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    1. Ok, I don’t usually post replies, and I’m not sure if you’ll even return to this site to see this, but I could not just let this debate go by without answering.

      When I first read your story, it caused in me a profound sadness. Sadness that you had to endure such pain as losing your brother. Sadness that when you had questions…legitimate questions, there was no one to answer them. And sadness that your ultimate choice separated you from the only one who could truly heal you. But then I was severely disappointed in your response to WK’s blog, which was nothing more than the oh-so-typical mockery common to atheists. I am glad, however, that in the end you chose to give a real reply, so that the issues can come forth. Let’s look at several things:

      1. The Cosmological Argument – You know, you are mostly correct when you state that this argument can only get one to Deism. In fact, it’s actually broader than that. Deism is only a form of Theism, which is where the cosmological argument gets you. But what I fail to understand is that if the cosmological argument holds true, then why are you not at least a Theist instead of an Atheist? The argument must have a much greater defeater than just “It doesn’t get you to Christianity.”

      2. Ontological Argument – This one is tricky. I never really liked it that much myself as a primary argument, as I felt it was too easy to argue around. Now, at some point I did some thinking on it, and had begun to scratch the surface of what looked like a more profound “robustness” to the argument, but to be honest, I seem to have forgotten that line of thought, and so the ontological argument in my opinion remains a poor primary argument. However, having said that, I do think it is still quite useful as a secondary argument in order to add further weight to other primary arguments. This is a point that some people seem to miss. Christian apologetics does not rest its case on a single argument. Instead it uses multiple arguments that when taken together, strengthen each other.

      3. The Moral Argument – Ah, yes…this is a fun one. You may be tired of discussing this one, but I’m tired of Atheists never even getting the point on this, so I guess we’re even (and I say that with humor). I read your post, and while I admit that you did come closer to understanding the argument than most, and you had some very good questions, your conclusions are just as circular in their logic (aka. “Morality is subjective, but that culture/person’s actions are wrong!”). Without an ontological foundation to base more values, good and evil simply do not exist. Nature is not moral, it just is. When a lion slays another animal, is it murder? Of course not! The lion has no notion of morality, it only knows the hunt. And if human beings are just a more evolved animal, then our actions do not have a moral dimension to them either, they just are what they are. Sure, we as individuals or as a society might decide that certain behavior is detrimental to our well-being, but in the end it’s just illusion or opinion. And what happens when you have a clash of opinions? Who arbitrates and gets to decide whose opinion wins? Whose set of values becomes moral? You are correct that part of the argument must assume that there are objective moral truths (or, at least, I’m not familiar with any arguments for their existence). You state that you know something is moral by asking yourself if the action will harm someone else. I can then ask why it matters if the other person is harmed. About the only response that you could give would be to state that it’s obvious. Exactly! That’s the point. The only difference is that the Atheist cannot answer why it’s obvious, whereas the Theist can. To truly live according to an Atheist worldview, you could never condemn or praise another’s actions in a moral light. But the funny thing is, human beings just can’t live that way. We have always had this sense that we “ought” to live a certain way. But, if in the end, good and evil are just illusions, then why should we? Why shouldn’t we do whatever we want whenever we want? You pose in your post that if we feel that way then we should just try raping and murdering and see how works, implying that we would be arrested and/or executed, of course (as it should be). But in that statement lays the crux of the matter. Under such a scenario we stop said raping and murdering because of negative consequences, not because it’s wrong. This is pragmatism, not morality. As far as the moral character of the God of the Bible, that is only an argument against Christian (or Jewish) Theism, not Theism in general, and is a subject I am not as well versed in. I would recommend a book, which while I admit I have not read it (yet), comes highly recommended to me: Paul Copan’s, Is God a Moral Monster? But, since you brought it up, I will make two quick observations, the first on the “genocide” of the Canaanites, and the second on slavery. When considering the Israelites conquest of Canaan, one must ask the question that if God is the author of life, does he not have the authority and right to take that life, particularly when he has the power to grant that life back (as he will to all human beings in the end)? And with regards to slavery, we must remember that the slavery that the Old Testament speaks of is not the same thing that most modern people think of when they hear the word slavery, which is the old American slavery in the south. The slavery that we practiced in this country broke almost, if not all the commandments God gave the Israelites concerning the practice. Actually, two more things. First, it should be noted that it was the Jews and then later, Christians who opposed and outlawed the institution of slavery. Second, there were some laws in the Old Testament that God gave/allowed only because he knew the Israelites were a “stiff-necked” people. A great example of this is divorce. Scripture is plain that God detests divorce (so much so that there are only two ways in which it’s “ok”). And yet the Old Testament law allowed divorce. Jesus was asked about this, and pointed to the rest of scripture (where it’s obvious that God hates it) as the answer. In other words, God knew that there would be certain rare instances where divorce was called for, and even if he did completely outlaw it, the Israelites would just do it anyway. And in ancient society, women had very little power or protection, so he gave a law that allowed it, so that the women would have at least something to protect them, aka. they could claim a legal divorce rather than being simply discarded.

      4. Agnosticism – I am glad to hear you making the distinction between Agnosticism and Atheism; admitting that you cannot prove Atheism. A few points, however. First is that like so many before you, you seem to have fallen into the science vs. faith trap, as if the two concepts are mutually exclusive. Everybody has faith. No, seriously, everybody. It’s just a matter of what you put your faith in. Science itself uses faith all the time. As an example, let’s look at a very common scientific law: gravity. Guess what, it takes faith to believe in gravity. Once again, I’m being serious. Now, in the case for this example, gravity has been so thoroughly tested that the amount of faith required is very, very tiny. So tiny that most people don’t even notice it, they just take it for granted. But think about it. Do we know for certain that gravity will work the same way tomorrow. No, we don’t. No amount of previous testing can give us absolute certainty that gravity will always be the same. And so we bridge that gap with a tiny, tiny, tiny bit of faith. There are also certain fundamental principles that science is built upon that must be taken on faith alone as there are no ways to test them, such as the belief that there is indeed an external reality “out there” that can be observed and interacted with. This is what is called in philosophy a basic belief, as it has no “proof” of itself, but other beliefs are built upon it.

      This is why faith, when properly understood, is not, “Believing something without evidence.” I went through a period of intense doubt myself, but when I saw the evidence I came to a different conclusion than you. I too felt a freedom of mind, as I could now believe in God without having to throw my brain into the trash can. Does it still take faith? Of course it does. But as far as I can see, it takes more faith to not believe in God than vice versa.

      5. I think what bothers me the most is how “laughable” it has all become to you. You seem to have a very flippant view as if the arguments for the existence of God are so easily defeated that a child could do it. You claim that WLC only wins his debates because he basically “cheats”, using debate tactics and not arguments. While it is true that he does focus like a laser and does have a very good debate technique, can you not see that what really wins the day is his arguments and his opponent’s lack of ability to refute them? He often gets criticized for using the same arguments over and over again so that if you’ve seen one of his debates, you’ve seen them all. Well, why is that? Because their good arguments, and they work! I cannot count the number of times I have watched/listened to a WLC debate, where his opponent mentions this and then still manages to get creamed, even though if he’s so predictable, you’d think they’d have been able to devise a knock-down argument! I also cannot count how many times I’ve seen Atheists come up to the podium right after WLC has just given his evidence for the existence for God, and then proclaim that there is no evidence for God. It absolutely boggles my mind. They don’t try to refute WLC’s arguments or evidence, they just state it as if they are the sole authority on what is and isn’t evidence. Some will water it down a bit by saying that there isn’t any “good” evidence or that the evidence has to be extraordinary. Well…if the creation of the universe out of nothing (the cosmological argument), or the fine-tuning of the universe for human life (the teleological argument), or the foundation of morals (the moral argument), or the existence of consciousness, or logic, or the laws of the universe being written in math, or on and on…If all this isn’t extraordinary, then all I can say is, “You keep using that word. I donna think it mean what you think it means.” – Inigo Montoya, The Princess Bride

      Now, I do have a confession to make here. I sympathize with you. Because I have to admit that I find Atheism to be pretty “laughable”. To believe that the universe came from nothing, life came from non-life, intelligence came from non-intelligence, morality came from non-moral matter, and that meaning and purpose can exist in a universe destined for total ruin…well, I’ll just leave it at that.
      You claim that you are open to the evidence. I honestly don’t see how, but I’ll take you at your word. So if you’d like further correspondence, you can e-mail me: vertagk@gmail.com.

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  7. Most atheists are males, and most of them began to move away from organized religion in or around the time puberty set in (as it did with me). I do not find this particularly surprising, because the pursuit of women for selfish pleasure is antithetical to most of what Christianity stands for.

    Just an observation.

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    1. Yeah, I wanted to let the verbal abuse of the atheists come out for a while, although I am blocking abusive, fact-free comments now. But I hope there is enough there for people to see how little atheists have thought about their worldview, and how their denial of objective morality causes them to be incapable of civil disagreement. You would think that seeing that they are not informed about these things, they would be humbled, but actually they just double down on ignorance and substitute insults for rational thought and evidence.

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  8. Fantastic posts, WK! But, next time, don’t let your superior peer-reviewed science and philosophy get in the way of an atheist’s (I’m sorry, agnostic non-theist or is he just another garden variety anti-Christian?) feelings, OK? It was fun to watch the spanking you delivered however. Kudos to Jon for a thorough delivery!

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  9. All, I have decided to delete some of the insulting comments by atheists that contained assertions not supported by any citation of scholars. I hate to do this, but this blog is not the place for people who have no evidence to post their insulting comments. Sorry for those who miss them. I wanted people to see the low level of intelligence and civility before I deleted them.

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  10. Don’t delete them, WK! I want other “atheists” to see how Nathan moved so quickly from “atheist” to agnostic, and how, apparently, he is now a deist – since he seems to have conceded Kalam, as Jon points out. I want to see him change his blog title to “My Journey to Deism.” The comments are so instructional, although it is true that his sidekick has a clear anger management problem. We need to stay away from malls in his area.

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      1. Thank you, sir. You do me honor. I often read your blog, but have responded only once or twice before. But when he laughed at WLC, one of the greatest Christian minds out there, I couldn’t leave it alone. Besides, I really should start responding to Atheists anyway since this is what I feel I’m called to. :)

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  11. As Aristotle said: “If I am wrong, refute me. Don’t just laugh at me.”

    The 30,000 denominations number can only be attained if you count each independent church as its own denomination. I also fail to see why this is a problem. It’s like saying that it’s bad to have thousands of differently operated and independent charity organizations.

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    1. He doesn’t know about creeds, I guess. Maybe his church never talked about them. In mine, we recite the Apostle’s Creed every so often. One Anglican church I went to did it every week!

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  12. “Allow me to better explain. I’m actually a fan of WLC. In all honesty I tip my hat to the guy because he’s a master debater. Few are as laser focused as he is and he mostly chews up atheists in debates. Not because he’s right, but because of his focus and unwavering dedication to the point of the debate. He’s not prone to tangents. Even if an atheist raises a great point, he will acknowledge it and then swat it away because it doesn’t pertain to the exact topic of the debate. It’s pretty impressive to watch.”

    WLC also has 120 hits on this phil papers database as well (plug his name here) how many do you have?

    http://philpapers.org/advanced.html

    And the reason why he wins his debates is obviously because he has better arguments than his interlocutor.

    Most of the time all the intellectual rigor that we see from the atheist side is: ‘naturedidit, therefore God doesn’t exist’

    “I’m an atheist, so this automatically means that I’m a freethinker and rational, this is because I’m an atheist that doesn’t see enough evidence for God’

    “uuuuh moral value can come from valueless matter, this is because of the magical purposeless, unconscious, unintelligent, nonrational, naturedidit mechanism is somehow sophisticated enough to create value, therefore it can beat the leap of logic, so ~God”

    Unpacking stop arguing with such emotion and maybe someone can have an intelligent conversation with you.

    WLC is good and his academic publications make a good case for this, you probably don’t like him because he makes you feel uncomfortable. So by all means stop whining as it makes you look very bad. ty

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  13. Hey Nathan,

    I’m very sorry to have read about the loss of your brother.

    Also, I have to admit that, like you, I have nearly vomited countless times upon hearing various statements out of the mouths of certain “Christians” over the years (including Pastors!).

    Yet….I’ve heard countless yak-inducing screeds from ant-Christians over the years too, so it’s kind of a wash. I’ve had to consider the evidence separately from its adherents.

    I’d like to ask “are you familiar with ‘The Universal Probability Bound’?” If so, I’d like to ask “how many layers of mathematical impossibility should we be willing to accept for any given phenomena before we infer design?”

    For the sake of illustration, I guess a corollary to that would be, if you’re playing cards and somebody starts getting Royal Flush after Royal Flush (and claims “I’m just getting lucky!”), how many successive Royal Flushes do you witness before you deduce that the fix is in?

    Cheers,

    Steve

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  14. It’s been a number of days since being at this page and man….lots of comments.

    Anyways, I didn’t really have anything I desired to add for discussion other than I did want to apologize for my tone if it was construed as harsh. I generally greatly prefer a civil back and forth and an agree to disagree mentality.

    Knight, while having good intentions, I felt went about attacking my post in a very unkind and uncivil manner. He even admitted to not being as nice as me when he linked back here from Prayson’s original post.

    It was his tone and demeanor in the post that upset me. Something as personal as this to me, surrounding the death of my brother, is not fun to see treated with such condescension. Had he gone about it another way or struck up a good discourse through email I’m sure we’d have gotten along swimmingly and I’d be following his blog.

    Instead I have to come on here and try and defend my position while working and taking care of 2 kids at home. I don’t even have the time to read all the information he linked to me.

    Just as if a believer went onto a rather visceral and condescending atheist blog and started commenting, no matter who that single believer was, they would just get buried. That’s what I felt happened here.

    Could I have better articulated my points in the original post? Absolutely! But you need to understand this was written as a piece for my friends and family. My parents both wept uncontrollably when I told them and my brother is a friggin missionary! It wasn’t written for well informed believers. It was written for your standard generic Baptist and Evangelical. It doesn’t take much to lose them as you’re all well aware.

    Do I think that some of these arguments are interesting? Sure. Do I think they’re good enough reason to believe in your specific god? No.

    Now, someone on this page may have talked about why I should believe Christianity over Islam or Hinduism so if I missed it I’m sorry. It’s too much to read through. If you have a good argument I’d like to hear it, but please…please….make sure it’s an argument for YOUR god. Not just the idea of a god or a generic god. I’m also not interested in arguments from ignorance because science hasn’t figured it out as of yet. We’re getting fewer and fewer “gaps” for gods to fill as humanity continues marching on.

    If this were Pakistan most all of these arguments could be used with the same efficiency to argue for Allah (technically the “same” god, but you get what I mean). Hell, Muslims acknowledge Jesus as a great man and that he DID do great miracles, but they don’t think he was the son of god.

    I guess. This whole page left a bad taste in my mouth and I just wanted to clear my head and be honest. I think inappropriate tones and things were done on both sides.

    I hope you all understand and that we all keep an open mind and keep thinking critically.

    As far as WLC. Here’s a good video of Bill Cooke talking about the frustration he had trying to get a different debate format with him. Of course you could say he’s lying and that he made it all up, but I’ve no reason to suspect he’s being dishonest.

    Take excellent care of each other,

    Nate



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    1. Nate,
      I have not commented on this thread and so we have no history between us. I have not belittled you and you have not belittled me. I am open to a civil conversation if you want that. We can have it in the parameters you have set – on why Christianity and not another religion. I usually do not get into online conversations with atheists since they generally are not civil. But I will accept your challenge to discuss why Christianity if you want to do that.

      You have stated that we can take theism as a given for this conversation. I take you at your word. I am under no illusion that you are a theist but if you want to bypass the arguments for theism and go to Christianity then that works for me.

      Let me be clear about my position. I am not going to PROVE that Christianity is the right religion. Anyone versed in epistemology will tell you how difficult it is to prove anything. If you need proof then this will be a very short conversation. My position is the evidence to select Christianity over other beliefs systems is substantially stronger than the evidence to select another religion or to state that all religions are the same. Remember this presupposes the assumption that there is a deity as we will not discuss that.

      Before I go into my discussion of the evidence let me tell you a little something about myself. I have been a Christian since I was 19. But about 25 years ago I underwent a crisis of faith. I suffered a personal loss that had me questioning whether God existed. I never doubted that Christ was the way to God, if God existed, due to previous information I had learned but struggled with whether to become an agnostic. In time I regained my faith but what I will present is some of the information why I was comfortable with Christianity instead of investigating another religion.

      What difference is there from Christ and other religious founders. Christ does something that is not the case with the founder of any other major religion. He stated that he would die and then come back from the dead. He said that this would show that he if from God. Now if the evidence is that Christ did just that then this warrants our attention. It also is something that we can look at evidence for. If there is no evidence that it happen then perhaps Christ is just a charismatic crazy person. So what does the evidence say about Christ’s claim of resurrection?

      It is not fair to ask you to accept the bible as God’s word. But it is a historical document. In conjunction with historians like Flavius Josephus we have some basic facts. A man named Jesus lived and was crucified by Romans. His followers made claims about his resurrection and many of his closest followers were executed for this beliefs. Soon after his death a new religious movement known as Christianity began to flourish. this is the basics of what we know without any miracles or otherworldly claims.

      Now let’s think about this. If Christ just died and did not come back then why are men dying for him. Think about this closely. These are men who knew him and they were killed in part for stating that they saw him after he died. If someone threatens to kill me because I claim that Christ rose from the dead then there is no real evidence from me allowing them to kill me. Since it happened 2,000 ago I am simply dying for what I believe. On the other hand if someone threatens to kill me because I claim that I love my wife and I let them kill me then that is powerful evidence that I love her. I am in a position to know whether I love my wife or not. These disciples were in a position to know if they saw Christ or not. Yet most of them died without renouncing their assertion that they saw him after he died.

      Remember that they walked with him for years. They did not just see someone who looked like Christ. They say Christ. And it was not just one or two of them. 10 of the 12 original disciplines and possibly others died because they would not renounce their testimony. To me this is powerful evidence of someone walking around after they had been crucified. And if that person can overcome death then why cannot that person say who he says he is – the son of God.

      Show me where other religions not only have the claim of resurrection but also powerful evidence supporting that claim. Not merely stories but people who died and should have know better. There is some circumstantial evidence such as the origin of the church and move to a Sunday Sabbath but the historical record of the disciples speaks volumes. Even when I underwent my time of doubt and wanted to drop Christianity I could not dismiss that evidence.

      This is why I am comfortable with my assertion about Christianity being the path. Not all Christians practice their faith in a Godly manner and we do have some legitimate disagreements on how to interpret our scriptures. But I am confident that this is the right path to be on even though I cannot answer all of the questions that arise in my faith. That is all for now. Hope to hear back from you.

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      1. In the first paragraph let me say when I say “they are not civil” I mean the conversations and not atheists. Certainly some atheists are not civil and some Christians are not civil. But I find too many of the Christian/atheist online conversations tiring and consisting of name calling. I try to avoid that when possible.

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  15. This has turned out to be a harder post than I thought. I have erased and started over numerous times now, trying to find a handle on it. I read Nate’s “journey” post a couple of weeks ago and was excited to find this follow-up. I was actually cheering as Nate’s arguments were demolished with unfailing logic and impeccable reason, until I finished the thread and sat back to think.

    A couple of years ago my best friend of 30+ years became an atheist, and I did not take it very well. He was the one who led me to become greatly involved in our church as a teenager (we were a couple of “those” kids), and was my touchstone for all things religious as we got older, as I walked away from the church and he continued in his faith. I never became an atheist or agnostic, I was just having fun partying and living life for myself.

    I had never been exposed to apologetics until I began researching answers to the hard questions he started throwing at me after he renounced his faith. Our boyhood church, though very loving and good intentioned, had never trained us that way. After the first WLC debate I watched I was hooked. I started reading all the apologetic books I could get my hands on, listening to podcasts, watching lectures and debates. I had recently started taking my family to a local church, more for my kid’s benefit than mine, and I was not taking it very seriously. Apologetics opened up a whole new level to my faith and got me excited about God for the first time in decades. I had my friend’s atheism to thank for that, weird.

    As I learned more I started winning arguments with my friend. I though that if I could show him that the “facts” he was basing his “keen sense of reason” on were faulty he would come around. I was informed. I was clever. I was relentless. I… lost my friend.

    I lost sight of the purpose of apologetics. It is to win people, not arguments. After I stripped all of his arguments away he was left with nothing but raw emotions. I was not prepared for that. After all, he himself kept saying it was his reason that led him away from God. It was as if I had turned him into a wounded animal, backed into a corner. Of course he was going to lash out.

    “Gentleness and respect”, that’s what the Book says. It’s so easy to loose sight of that when you are “right”. Now he will not talk to me. I was not even allowed to stand by him when his Dad died a few months ago. Sure, I won some arguments, but I lost any future chance of showing love.

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    1. Larry, I wanted to respond to you, because if there is anyone who violates “gentleness and respect” too frequently it is me, and I am not proud of that. Occasionally, I meet that standard, but not often enough, and when I do, it is only through God’s Grace. I want you to understand that the Holy Spirit works with “tough love” just as well, if not better in many cases, as He does with squishy love. I have seen this many times. (I realize that there is an optimal middle ground here to strive for.)
      In one notable case, a VERY close relative of mine came to Christ in her 8th decade soon after I had hit her hard (and I do mean hard) with John 14:6 and the apologetics to back it up. She next went to a soft love individual (let’s call him Jim) who knew the Bible, and he convinced her that John 14:6 was true, with much less evidence I might add. She complained to me that she just couldn’t receive what I had to say, to which I replied “What got you to go see Jim?” :-) Of course, this is all the Holy Spirit’s work.
      You want tough love? Look at Saul on the road to Damascus! I am NOT suggesting that we all go around and knock people about – just that there IS a time and a place for strong conviction (Eternity is at stake, right?!?), and that some people need a jolt of light before they will even consider the Source of Light. If we are merely “nice” to each other (as the world defines “nice”), well there are plenty of atheists, Buddhists, and Hindus that we can blend in with.
      Continue to show tolerance and love. Your friend IS a wounded human and he knows his worldview is failing him. He is blaming the messenger, and this is what Jesus promises will happen to us as His disciples. Guaranteed.
      Just do not overcorrect to the other extreme of showing squishy love and never mentioning the Gospel, because that isn’t love, it’s hate. If someone is about to walk off of a cliff, and we don’t speak up, it shows how little we care.
      Compassion and Blessings to you, Larry.

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      1. Hi World. I agree that ‘tough love” is a very effective method in some cases. But there are certain conditions that must be observed in order for it to be useful. In your own example you state that it was a VERY close relative you were able to help in this manner. That implies a few things. One thing is that you already had a loving relationship with this individual. Another is that this person trusted you and had faith that you had their best interests at heart. You were not some random stranger posting in an internet blog.

        “Tough love” does not mean being uncompassionate. The way Nate talks about his brother shows that there is a considerable emotional element affecting his worldview. It is clear that losing his brother caused him, and still causes him, great anguish. Unless this hurt is addressed there is slim chance that all the logical arguments in the world would make a bit of difference. He has found a way to live with his loss, and if no one shows him a better way he has no reason to change. In this thread I have seen a few people give their condolences, but the only time I have seen this problem actually addressed it was in a clinical and sterile way. The “tough love” shown on the road to Damascus was towards a dedicated professional, not towards a wounded soul.

        I want to be clear on a few things. I am not advocating “squishy” love, or unconditional “niceness”. I am advocating compassion to a person who has expressly stated that they have had a hard time dealing with a tragedy, and who deserves validation of their emotions. I do not agree with Nate’s arguments, but I am able to empathize with where he is coming from. Using evidential apologetics against a presuppositional problem can cause the Gospel to appear empty or trite. Our approach has as much bearing on the message as the message itself. It is clear from his last reply that Nate has not seen the image of Christ that is our duty to represent to a troubled world.

        I understand that we are all trying to do the best we can. I am sorry if I have sounded harsh, that was not my intention, but I also have to call it as I see it. I wish you well and pray that God blesses you and yours, you too Nate.

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        1. Larry, I was actually thinking of how you lost your friendship, not Nate’s situation, as an example of possibly justified “tough love.” I guess what I am saying is that I have lost a number of relationships over stating the harsh and offensive truth, and while delivery does indeed matter, I see a post-modern trend toward not bothering with the truth whatsoever, and that the stakes are too high to ignore same. I do know you aren’t advocating ignoring truth – that is clear.

          I agree that we should always speak truth in compassion, but that the ultimate objective here is not for us to be liked. For instance, I asked the relative I mentioned above why she didn’t tell one of her other relatives that the adultery she was committing (ultimately leading to the destruction of her lover’s family) was wrong? She replied that “then she wouldn’t like me.” In fact, this other relative most certainly would have de-friended her just as your best friend did. Truth is often offensive, even when delivered sweetly. Still we should do our best, as you correctly suggest.

          Some Christians have gone so far to say that if we are not being mocked and (wrongfully) called intolerant hateful bigots on a fairly regular basis, then we just might not be spreading the authentic Gospel. I tend to think that they are right – based on my reading of the four Gospels, the Book of Acts, and the New Testament as a whole in context. I guess I would rather be concerned about being liked by God than by friends. It does make me unpopular (I still have friends – believe it or not!), but I don’t think my happiness or likeability is the basis for my relationship to God. I realize that you are not advocating such a thing – you just want the message delivered winsomely – I’m just clearing my head on this. :-)

          My whole post above was an attempt to at least partially relieve you of the guilt of being de-friended by your best friend. (I actually was not thinking about Nate’s situation, but you are very kind to be doing so.) Blessings to you, Larry.

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          1. Thank you for your kind reply. I suppose I should have been more explicit in my first post that it was meant to be a sort of cautionary tale about the way this page has been going. It was very thoughtful of you to try to help me, and I am glad we are no longer talking past each other. I was afraid this was going to turn into a “agree to disagree” situation.

            Peace

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  16. I just wanted to leave a quick comment to redirect the conversation again to the scientific arguments and the minimal facts case for the resurrection and the philosophical defenses. I really don’t have time for someone who tries to do anything like this:

    – talk about martyrs and Foxe
    – talk about whether 2 Peter is reliable
    – talk about the Quran and Mormon scriptures
    – talk about anything other than the evidence
    – talk about the opinions of Bart Ehrman (rhetoric) rather than the evidence he has for what he affirms as historical fact

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  17. Matt, thank you for your kind and gentle reply and for the link. I did indeed read your full deconversion testimony, and it was most eloquent. If eloquence corresponded with truth, then I would be a de-convert. :-) (That’s a compliment, BTW, not a dig.) Just a few follow-up questions:

    1. Did you say that the reason that atheist scholars and debaters concede the 12 Resurrection points (of the WK citation above) was because they are charitable, or because they don’t really concede them? If the latter, can you cite scholarly research, preferably from those “inside the bubble” and outside of it, if possible, that tears down the WK citation? I cannot speak for him, but I am sure that he would de-post, or severely modify, the posting based on scholarly research – from both sides of the aisle.

    2. You say that Jesus is still in the ground. Why aren’t you out digging? (I say this sincerely.) You can make all the Bibles, “delusional” Christians, and faith-based hospitals, orphanages, homeless shelters, schools, college, and universities, etc disappear practically overnight. Then the enlightened secular unbelievers will step in to fill the void. (Except they won’t: https://winteryknight.wordpress.com/2014/01/17/is-giving-to-charity-more-rational-for-religious-people-or-atheists/)

    Truly, you will be a hero in the agnostic non-theist community – much bigger than Darwin and Dawkins, I might add. Bigger even than Russell. Again, I say this sincerely. If the Body is produced, we Christians are refuted. One and done. That’s better science than global warming, you must admit.

    3. Speaking of which, what are the refutation criteria for your current worldview?

    4. In your testimony, you bring up Abraham and Isaac, and make a comparison with abortion views. Does this mean that you are the rare agnostic or possible non-theist who is adamantly against abortion? (http://www.secularcensus.us/BlogForChoice2012)

    It seems to me that the untenable position is to state, on the one hand “Horrors! Look what Abraham ALMOST did to Isaac!” Then, on the other hand say “Let’s carry the dirty deed all the way through more than 3000 times a day in this country alone!”

    5. Finally, you make it clear that you left the bubble of Christianity behind, because you feel that it is morally and / or intellectually inferior (in some sense) to your current view. You even expressed regret to those you have hurt in the past by being in the “wrong” worldview.

    But, haven’t you merely traded one bubble for another? And, on what basis do you conclude that the one you are in now is superior from a moral standpoint? Isn’t it just a preference – you prefer vanilla ice cream over chocolate? Dawkins, Provine, and Ruse certainly say so: https://winteryknight.wordpress.com/2014/01/16/an-atheist-explains-the-real-consequences-of-adopting-an-atheistic-worldview/#comments.

    If this is true, and if you accept it, then, really, don’t you have to accept all views and be fully tolerant of them – including the Tall Tale Jews, etc? What, then, would be your purpose in enlightening those of us who are still trapped in our “bubble?” We like our bubble because it tastes like chocolate. You like your vanilla bubble. Can’t we all be friends? :-) Again, I am being 100% sincere, not snarky. I hope it comes through that way.

    Thanks for your comments, Matt – you are being very helpful, civil, and kind!

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  18. Matt: One point right off the top would be the claim of the empty tomb. The fact of an empty tomb does not mean as much as we would hope in any case, but the question of whether it is fact is an interesting illustration of the problem of apologetic slant. I am reminded of the debate between WLC and Ehrman. WLC said that a majority of scholars agree that the tomb was found empty, and that we have very strong evidence for it. Ehrman’s redirect has never (that I have found) been convincingly answered: a majority of NT scholars may consider that a fact, but a majority of *historians* do not consider it nearly so solid.

    Reply: But a historian also can focus on only one area usually of history. If they don’t specialize in NT history, then they are less informed on that regards, although more informed than the average layman. Also, I’d like to see Ehrman’s data on this. Who are these historians? What is their area of study and credentials?

    Matt: -As a statistics guy, here is the issue with consensus and majority – you have to correct for ideology. This is uniformly ignored by the apologetics community, and it undercuts the minimal-facts case, right to the bone.

    Reply: This is a common misconception. Most NT scholars believe it or not are agnostic, liberal, or some other belief. They might call themselves Christians, but they are not orthodox Christians at all. Go to SBL and survey the scholars there and see if I’m right.

    Matt: Survey Qu’ran scholars – is the Qu’ran reliable and accurate? How much would you be willing to wager against the a priori conclusion that, gee, a majority of Qu’ran scholars agree that the Qu’ran is reliable, divinely received, and historically accurate?

    Reply: Here’s what you do. See how many non-Muslim scholars will admit certain facts about the Qu’ran that lead to its authenticity. I have non-Christian scholars that agree to several facts about Jesus. What do you have for the Qu’ran?

    Matt: The problem is obvious: the people being surveyed have a theological precommitment to the texts.

    REply: Wow. John Dominic Crossan, Gerd Ludemann, Bart Ehrman, and others have a theological precommitment to the text?

    Matt: Do a majority of historians agree that the Qu’ran is accurate in its historical claims? No. What about the Book of Mormon? No. Does that mean that such scholars should be exclude from the discussion? No.

    Reply: Once again, the same problem emerges. Find me what non-Muslim scholars will grant about the Qu’ran and what non-Mormon scholars will grant about the BOM.

    Matt: No, the correct approach is to include all the scholars, and to also include the ideological commitments of the scholars in the equation. You have to include that variable. Is this being done by WLC? No. Habbermas? No, not clearly. He supposedly is including this in his ‘database’, but his collection methods are anything but well informed.

    Reply: I happen to know Dr. Habermas. Would you care to back this idea that his collection methods are not well-informed? Do you happen to even know what his collection methods are?

    Matt: The established facts are a smoke screen. Ehrman is correct – we do not have a consensus among disinterested historians that the tomb was found empty… unless you have a source that I’ve never seen on this.

    REply: There’s part of your problem. There’s no such thing as a disinterested source in ancient history. In fact, a disinterested source would not have been seen as reliable. You wrote about what you had a passion about. Most of our great information about great teachers comes from their students. Why should we expect anything different from Jesus?

    Matt: It took a good long while to ferret this out, and I was pissed when I finally realized the source of the massive disconnect between the skeptic and faith communities. Its the obfuscation that I hate, and its an obfuscation that is being sustained even under direct confrontation.

    Reply: You know, many of us here spend much time reading these non-Christian scholars and frankly, we’re not convinced they have a case. I walk away more convinced by the resurrection since the ultimate questions are not answered.

    Matt: The minimal facts argument is stymied before ever achieving liftoff. When you dig, you find the martyr-type problem underlying everything.

    Reply: Actually, NT scholars like Licona and Habermas would tell you that we don’t have the best information for the martyrs. We don’t build our case on them anyway.

    Matt: Finally, a challenge: provide a criterion by which we accept Christian eyewitness testimony, textual legitimacy, and miracle claims, but by which we can still – with a level table – reject the same type of evidence from Mormon and Islamic sources. I’m not interested in case-building. I’m interested in a legitimate fraud-detection criterion that
    actually works.

    Reply: Charles Leslie did that a few centuries ago. Have you not been paying attention? Note also that I’m fine with miracles occurring in Muslim and Mormon communities. I just want to see the evidence in each case.

    As Chesterton said, the theist believes in a miracle, rightly or wrongly, because of the evidence. The atheist disbelieves in a miracle, rightly or wrongly, because he has a dogma against them.

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    1. Just wanted to add one relevant (IMO) quote to Apologianick’s thorough reply:

      “… for while multiple attestation and dissimilarity are positive evidence for authenticity, single attestation and similarity to Christian beliefs are not evidence of inauthenticity – unless, once more, one is assuming that the Gospels are inauthentic until they are proven to be authentic on some point.” — William Lane Craig, “Reasonable Faith.”

      Craig makes this remark during his reply to Ehrman’s consideration of the historical Jesus (Chapter 7, “The Self-Understanding of Jesus”, page 295), but I believe the quote is also relevant to this discussion as it pertains to knowledge bias and / or historical revelation.

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