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Facebook Debate 01: Andy vs. Anthony (round 1)

09 Nov Posted by in Debates | Comments
Facebook Debate 01: Andy vs. Anthony (round 1)
 

Lately I have been getting requests from people to help them with their debates against theists, due to the fact they have hit a wall and do not know how to proceed. Because most debates between atheists and theists appear follow a similar pattern, making my personal debates public might be of some assistance to those struggling to find the proper ammunition to respond to theists’ claims. Now, I do not claim to be a master debater (sorry I just had to do it), but I hope the information I have provided here can perhaps inspire others.

Hopefully, this debate will be the first of many to appear on this site. The following dialog is taken from a conversation I had on facebook. I am Andy (atheist) and I am debating an old acquaintance from high school, Anthony (Christian theist).

——————————

Anthony:

‎”If you’re a true Christian, you love the Bible.”

John MacArthur

Love it! If you don’t believe it, go read Psalm 119.

 

Andy:

I find Psalm 137:9 to be much more interesting.

 

Anthony:

This was in response to the horrible things that the Babylonians had done to the Jews while in exhile. Unfortunately, Andy, the Babylonians had done the very same thing to the Jewish children and ummm, not to minimize the severity, but such was not uncommon in ancient warfare. Read 2 Kings 8:12 for example where Elisha prophesied that the very same type of thing would be done to the children of Israel by Ben-Hadad. Keep in mind, this was men acting.

And I hate to tell you this, but when God acts, it doesn’t matter what He does, because He is just and right. And also keep in mind that God does not tell Christians to carry out violence on his behalf so PLEASE don’t try to compare it to Islam. It is tired and old

 

Andy:

I see, so in Numbers 31 where God personally tells Moses how to divide the spoils of war, which included 32,000 virgins, we are to assume Gods allowance of murder, theft, and rape to be “just and right”?

 

Anthony:

I am not going to get into a long drawn out debate with you on my wall. I will respond to this one and it will be the last time. I will concede to you that i have not read Numbers in full yet, so my apologies if i am mistaken. But I have opened up to where you referred to and read it. The adults and the male children were killed for causing the Israelites to sin against God (v. 15) and to prevent the Midianites from ever becoming a nation again as judgment. Therefore, this was God’s justice against the Midianites.

Secondly, the virgins, whom it would appear that you sggest were kept for rape or whatever, were actually spared and taken with the Israelites so that they may have a means to live, and to marry the soldiers. It says nothing of rape. Killing is not murder if it is done for a just cause (justice then was carried out much different in ancient days than it is now…have you considered the death that Jesus Christ himself died? Not to mention, things like world war 2. would you consider that war JUST on the allied part against the Nazi’s?) And taking “booty” from the spoils of war was nothing uncommon EITHER. Now, that’s the end of the debate.

 

Andy:

‎‎”end of debate”? Hmm, you won’t even permit a rebuttal? Numbers 31:7-18 states, “Now kill all the boys. And kill every woman who has slept with a man, but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man.”

God is not just killing the sinners, he is killing innocent children who were never even given the opportunity to sin. How much sinning do you think toddlers have done? Furthermore, God specifically states to kill EVERYONE but the virgin GIRLS. Remember, the little boys were the first to go. The reason for this being, God was providing his soldier with new breeding stock. The virgins we counted among the cattle and the donkeys. They were not considered people, they are treated as objects to be “divided” among the horde.

In Deuteronomy 21:10-14 we learn how to marry a girl that has been captured in war. She is allowed only a month of mourning her slaughtered mother and father before she is expected to engage in her wifely duties, aka sex. How many girls do you know that would want to marry the very man that has slaughtered her family? One can only assume these girls didn’t WANT to get married and have sex with the Hebrew soldiers, and that is tantamount to being a sex-slave. Look, I don’t mean to troll all over your posts. But you’re literally plastering my news stream with religious propaganda. I just felt compelled to say something, that’s all.

 

Anthony:

It is the end of the debate because i do not feel like having this debate tonight Andy. I posted something on my wall, you gave a sarcastic response and i answered it. Then you rebutted. and i answered. I am a Christian OBVIOUSLY. If you do not like the things I post, feel free to unfriend me. Otherwise, this can go all night and i simply need to be up in the morning friend.

 

Andy:

Yes, that is obvious. But it’s all good. Just remember this is a public forum. You’re making posts that you want people to see and respond to. Clearly, not everyone is going to agree with you, and of those who don’t some might respond as well.

 

Anthony:

You are correct Andy about it being a public forum. I am sure though that nothing I say will change your mind, and nothing you say is going to change my mind. I am the worse kind of Christian. I came to Christ in my 20′s after a life of agnosticism and atheism lol.

You probably remember that i thought Marilyn Manson and that junk was just so awesome. I am not one who was just “raised” that way lol. And it really is true that it is hard, VERY hard to understand some of thiese things that you bring up apart from being a believer. Dude, I am just going to tell you now. It was a 180 in the blink of an eye for me when i repented and put my faith in Jesus Christ. I would die before i would deny Him, and it would not be by my own power. When the NT says that God will lead into all truth and unblind as it were, it is not lying. I am a vile sinner who was BORN that way. From the minute i was born my idol was ME. I know my own depravity and the fact that i deserve hell.

If you knew my inner man from a child on up you would never have been my friend. And the Bible actually says this is true of all of us. I serve a God who came to earth and paid with his blood for heaven and said nothing i do can ever earn that. This life can end right now for all i care. I have an eternity i didnt pay for. Faith in Christ alone is what saved me and i knew it when it happened roughly about 8 yrs ago. And i have never turned back nor could i if i wanted to. Once you experience God, you have no doubt. You can believe what I am saying or not believe it; but it is the truth in my life. Have a good night Andy!

 

Andy:

Hmm, it makes me sad to hear things like “I am a vile sinner who was BORN that way” and “i deserve hell”. I believe just the opposite. We are all born as a blank slate and the prejudices and superstitions we experience are imparted to us by our forebears. I still cannot grasp how anyone could believe an innocent baby is actually born “vile” and “evil”. Anyway, I never engage anyone with the intent of changing their mind, but perhaps exploring new perspectives. I enjoy learning about religion and philosophy, but I respect science even more. Take care.

 

Christine: 

Yea, it is a sad truth

 

Andy:

‎Christine, correction — it is your sad opinion.

 

Christine:

No, Andy, that is your opinion. I don’t have an opinion on it. I believe the Bible.

 

Andy:

No, Christine, truth is based on facts. Unless you can objectively prove babies are born evil with some kind of physical evidence, aside form words in a book, then I am afraid it IS your opinion. You cannot just make a statement with the only thing backing it up a collection of words. If that were so, then you must consider the Baghavad Gita to be just as legitimate as the Bible.

 

Anthony:

I know i said i was going but i cant help myself lol. About people being born “blank slates” Andy, have you ever considered how we put all of our effort in trying to teach a child to be good? You don’t have to teach he or she to be bad…it seems to just happen naturally, does it not? Parents spend massive amounts of time trying to teach young children how to behave because they are just naturally selfish. I am not suggesting God throws babies into hell. While he may allow them to die in this life time, he does not cast them into hell. They are not able to qualify for the plan of salvation, which requires the ability to know right from wrong.

God is kind according to what the Bible says of Him. And King David lost his baby and said his child would be in heaven. We become candidates for the gospel or hell once we reach our level of accountability which might be different for each one of us. One person may become aware of his sin at a young age and another who say might be mentally challenged or something, may never reach that ability and therefore be in God’s grace by default. But the fact that we are sinful and rebellious from birth is empirically testable. Don’t believe me? Go to Chuck E. Cheese! Respond if you like. I really do have to go now! just couldnt help myself. Will get back with you tomorrow after work if you respond.

 

Andy:

Yes, I completely agree that great effort must be taken to teach children right from wrong, but that does not mean they are evil. Children are not mature enough to make informed decisions. You gave the example of the mentally retarded. If someone with a very low IQ (in most states it’s 70) commits a crime like stealing something, you cannot in good conscious fault them for it, because there is no intent and thus there is no real accountability. Like you said, they remain in “God’s grace by default”.

So why shouldn’t the same hold true for children? For the most part, the actions of children are governed by impulse. What you perceive as “selfishness” is in reality a child’s inability to fully realize the implications of his/her actions. You can only describe an action as being immoral or evil when the person committing the act does so with malicious intent.

Indeed, the difference between first degree and second degree murder is “malice aforethought”. We wouldn’t put a mentally retarded person in jail for stealing something, so why would you label the actions of a child as “selfish” when they simply haven’t yet grasped the culturally accepted way of conducting themselves.

Furthermore, how could you ever label a newborn as “vile” and “evil”? The only intent they have consists of a few rudimentary reflexes to suckle, grip, and smile. It really is beyond me.

 

Anthony: 

If children were not innately evil, why would any effort need to be made to teach them right from wrong at all? They would just behave perfectly from the start. “Informed Decisions” is a subjective term because it can mean different things to different people. I have a fixed standard, what I see as the word of God. But without anything above and beyond man, man becomes the measure of all things and then you end up with a billion different concepts of right and wrong and then who are you or anybody else to say anything is good or bad? So, I do adhere to a standard that I subject myself to.

Otherwise, it is simply my idea vs. yours and therefore would make perfect sense why you come at it from the perspective you come at it from. My standard says a violation of the law is a violation of the law. It is true the somebody who steals but is mentally retarded may not be held to the same standard when it comes to justice as a fully mentally capable person because of the knowledge and intent factor. However, simply because this is true does not mean the law is not broken. And this is so with children, agreed. And that is exactly how God handles such cases as i said.

Though they break the law, he is merciful because they are mentally incapable of understanding the reality of it. They fact that they act that way by default i believe shows something is off. A blank slate should in fact be a child who acts completely neutral even if he is immature. After all, he is a blank slate and not bent one way or the other. Those impulses are that innate selfishness. We, Biblically, are to train up our children in the way they should go because indeed, you would have a monster after 10 yrs of absolutely no discipline or correction.

By man’s standard, we are all good. But when the rich young ruler approached Jesus, he called him “Good teacher” and Jesus responded, “Why do you call me good? No one is good, accept God.” The man said “how do i get to heaven?” Jesus said, keep the commandments. the man self righteously said he had done this since birth. So Jesus said ok then. Go sell all that you have and follow me and you will be saved. And the man left sorrowful because he was rich. Jesus uncovered the fact that the man had not kept the law, his idol was his money.

Jesus made it CLEAR in the sermon on the mount that the ten commandments were not just based on outward behavior but the intentions of the heart. He said if you look with lust you commit adultery in your heart because it is the intent. He said if you hate your brother you are a murderer. Simply the fact that we desire to lie, cheat, steal, commit adultery, envy, etc shows the reality of our inward state. The Jews of His day, the Pharisees, were VERY religious indeed. They kept the law outwardly to a T. But he called them white washed tombs and hypocrites. Self righteous and murderous.

The bottom line is this, IF GOD CREATED US, He has rights to us. And we have violated and continue to violate every single one of his laws day in and day out non stop. But the good news is that he loves us anyway and came and lived a perfect life we could never live in order to fulfill the law (for since sin entered the world through one man, Adam, so life entered the world through the second Adam, Jesus Christ) that if we repent of our sins and put our full faith and trust in him he will save even us to see a perfect world to come.

Without him, hell is just. It is just because of the authority who has been offended. If i lie to a friend nothing much will happen really. I might have a turbulent relationship. If i lie to the police, i could go to jail. If i lie to the president i could face death if it be treason. If God indeed exists, he is infinitely high and holy and righteous and who would we be to question Him? And to offend such an authority would merit an infinite penalty.

 

Andy:

Like I said, the decisions of young children are governed by a series of fleeting impulses. When children see something they want, they take it, because they do not know any better. We are neither born inherently good nor inherently bad, so the concept of “stealing” has absolutely no meaning to a child.

Let’s think about what it means to steal. Why is stealing wrong in the first place? Well, you are denying someone access to their belongings against their wishes. Stealing implies prior ownership. If a child sees a ball laying in the middle of a field with no one around for miles, the ball is presumed lost and has no owner. There is no conceivable way to return the ball to its previous owner and thus taking the ball is not considered “stealing”. However, if a child takes a ball right from another child’s hands, then that IS considered stealing, because it is directly violating access to one’s personal belongings.

How do you expect a child to understand this? A child sees a pretty object and it’s initial impulse is to play with it. The child does not first stop to consider whether the object belongs to someone and how that person might feel if they were to be denied access to their belongings. Wouldn’t you agree these are fairly advance concepts for a toddler to ponder?

You cannot just claim, “the default position of any child is that of evil”. You must consider the cognitive and psychological development of the child in question. The impulses of a child are merely to play, explore, and eat. If anyone or anything obstructs the gratification of those impulses the child becomes upset. But they do not know any better! Indeed, children are incapable of even understanding the concept of death until age six, so how could you expect them to grasp the moral implications of murder?

The problem you are running into is that you are trying to compare a child to an adult. You have the exact same impulses as a child, but you curb them because you know better. Adults can get cranky when they want something to eat, just like children, but we don’t throw a tantrum or go up to the first person we see and rip the sandwich out of their mouth. Adults can wait indeterminate amounts of time before we finally get food because we have control over our impulses. We might also also really like our friend’s new car, and that’s all we think about for the next week. But we don’t steal it from them because we understand the moral and social implications of such an action.

You claim that morality is “fixed” and that there is an “objective standard”. But if that were so, you would have to constantly run to consult the Bible every time you encountered a moral dilemma with which you are unfamiliar and you would be incapable of reasoning anything for yourself. The Ten Commandments are simply ten rules, with half of them being about the proper way to worship God. There is nothing about molestation, rape, or even slavery. In fact, the Bible actually promotes slavery throughout Exodus and Leviticus, as well as promotes the death penalty for such crimes as working on the Sabbath and non-belief. If we really took our cues from the Bible then the world would be a much different place.

But the Bible is not the end-all-be-all of moral and ethical truth. In fact, the Bible is severely limited in its moral relevance to a modern society such as ours. What does the Bible have to say about the issues of insider trading or a patient’s right to deny life-saving treatment? The Bible cannot consult us on modern-day concepts like standards of practice within the financial sector, jurist ethics, medical ethics, and so on.

In fact, ethics were a major focus of study throughout the Hellenistic world many hundreds of years Before Christ. At the time the Hebrews were writing Psalm 137 and cursing Babylon, the Greeks were experiencing a Golden Age of art, medicine, literature, mathematics, and philosophy. You have great thinkers like Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle that thought/wrote extensively about ethics and moral reasoning, and they were Pagans! Therefore, the proposition that your fixed morals come from God, specifically the God of Abraham, is completely unfounded, for how did the Greeks reach such heights of cultural achievement while believing in false gods like Zeus and Apollo? Shouldn’t their society have been in chaos and lawlessness from the very beginning?

Indeed, we see many orderly, law-biding societies that existed hundreds and thousands of years BC and even more that existed at the time of the Roman Empire, and beyond, that did not follow the doctrines of Judaism/Christianity. If morality is fixed and only comes from God, why weren’t all these societies’ conflicting morals causing ruin and chaos?

Hmm, this is getting long. I will stop here, but if you would like an explanation of how we actually know right from wrong I’d be happy to provide it. Morals are ultimately subjective, but our subjective understanding of right and wrong reveals many objective truths about promoting societal well-being and preserving personal autonomy.

By the way, I like your analogy of lying to a friend, police, president, and God. I hadn’t heard that one before. :) And I understand what you are saying about Jesus. He taught us to reject physical riches and only concern ourselves with the spirit. But there were many men saying the exact same thing hundreds of years prior, such as Buddha and Socrates. I get very inspired when I read the works of Plato, as there are many enlightening concepts to be found, but the philosophies of Christianity are muddied with all this confusion about sin and that babies are born evil, which is contrary to everything we know from the study of ethics and cognitive development.

 

Anthony:

Dude, you just covered so much there that I am not even going to try to attack it here. It would be great to be able to have an actual discussion. I would love to discuss everything there because I have heard it and I can respond.

so I will keep to the child thing for the time being. You claim children simply do not know any better and this is true. But I say, as the Bible teaches, mankind doesn’t become a sinner by sinning. He sins because he is a sinner. That is the thing Christ thumped over and over again. It is not morality and you miss that point. The NT says the law was put there that we may see our sinfulness; not attempt to keep it to be saved. You had better be absolutely perfect if you take that approach.

To say ignorance of a crime makes it lose its meaning cannot be true. Try that when you have a bad speedometer and get pulled over for speeding. You thought you were doing fine when in reality you were speeding and the law doesn’t care. The enforcer then can choose to let you go but he doesn’t have to.

Our views will never mesh because they both rest on improvable presuppositions that contradict one another. So ultimately it is about which foundational presupposition best explains the things we see.

And the simple response to the thing about the Bible being irrelevant, morally limiting, etc. is that as an unbeliever you can’t understand anyway. That’s not me, the Bible says unbelievers are blinded to the things of God. And as an ex unbeliever, again I can attest to that.

About slavery. The only slavery in the Bible in the sense your thinking of was the Jews in egypt and God crushed the Egyptians for it, and the greek word duolos in the nt referring to Christians as slaves of Christ (usually erroneously translated servant in the nt). I forget the Hebrew word in the ot when God tells how to treat slaves but it is referring to bondservants — those working off a debt. And the Ot law was much more reasonable than the nations surrounding them. Jesus used slavery in some parables as illustrations to make points because they would be very familiar with the roman pagan practice of slavery. But he never condoned it.

I would also suggest you go listen to the Christian side a little from some good Christian apologists (defenders) such as Ravi Zacharias, Josh MacDowell, Norm Geisler, Frank Turek, and many others. You don’t sound like you have heard the Christian arguments otherwise you wouldn’t bother debating me because you would have heard the best arguments and either agreed and had no need to debate, or would have rejected them and not wasted your time. They can satisfy your questions much better than me. Especially Ravi. A brainiac extordinaire. He has dealt with every one of your objections you have given so far and can handle them much better than I.

 

Andy:

Yikes, this turned out to be a little longer than I expected. First I will address the issue that babies are born evil, and then I will respond to your statements about slavery.

You said, “To say ignorance of a crime makes it lose its meaning cannot be true.” I completely agree, but please do not misconstrue ignorance for incapacity. Your analogy of the broken speedometer does not apply to the scenario of the child. Although you’re pulled over for speeding due to a broken speedometer, it is still your responsibility to maintain a properly functioning car. Your ignorance of the speed is not a viable excuse, because you still have the capacity to know your actions are wrong and you neglected your responsibility to abide by the law, regardless if you were aware of the speed or not.

However, the circumstances surrounding the intent of children are much different. Children are not aware of their actions — they cognitively lack the capacity to understand the concept of theft. Therefore, your perception that a child’s actions are selfish cannot be supported. Selfishness implies intent — that the child is aware of his/her actions and is intentionally neglecting a previously understood responsibility to follow the rules. Through the study of behavioral science we can objectively determine that children lack the cognition to understand the rules, let alone follow them, thus they are not born with the capacity to perform evil deeds.

As for slavery, this happens to be a subject with which I am very familiar. You mentioned you’ve seen many of these arguments before, which I find surprising since you are using the same apologetics I have encountered every single time I’ve debated this subject.

I find slavery to be so interesting because of the Bible’s blatant hypocrisy on this topic. At the beginning of Exodus the Hebrews are slaves in Egypt; however, in Exodus 12 Moses leads them to freedom. Now, what is so fascinating is that just eight chapters later, in Exodus 20, Moses receives the Ten Commandments and there is no stipulation about not having slaves! The Hebrews experienced such hardship under Pharaoh that one would expect God to not want a similar fate to befall other groups of people. Imagine the amount of pain and suffering that could have been avoided over the past 4,000 years if there were an eleventh commandment stating, “Thou shall not keep slaves”.

But no such command exists; in fact, quite the opposite. In Exodus 21:2-4 (the very next chapter after receiving the Ten Commandments) the Torah states:

“If you buy a Hebrew servant, he is to serve you for six years. But in the seventh year, he shall go free, without paying anything. If he comes alone, he is to go free alone; but if he has a wife when he comes, she is to go with him. If his master gives him a wife and she bears him sons or daughters, the woman and her children shall belong to her master, and only the man shall go free.” (Exodus 21:2-4)

The male “HEBREW servant” (keep that stipulation in mind) shall go free but his wife and all his children remain with the master. That does not seem like indentured servitude to me, does it to you? In fact, in Leviticus 25 we learn how to obtain slaves:

“Your male and female slaves are to come from the nations around you; from them you may buy slaves. You may also buy some of the temporary residents living among you and members from their clans born in your country, and they will become your property. You can bequeath them to your children as inherited property and you can make them slaves for life, but you must not rule over your fellow Israelites ruthlessly.” (Leviticus 25:44-46)

It’s right there, in black and white, the Bible claims we can “buy some of the temporary residents living among you and members from their clans born in your country.” Furthermore, the Bible states we can give slaves to our children as inherited property and we can make them “SLAVES FOR LIFE”. This passage completely contradicts the apologetics that slaves only remain in bondage for a few years or that slavery in the Bible was more akin to indentured servitude, where slaves work until they can pay off a fine.

Also note the added instruction to “not rule over your fellow Israelites ruthlessly”, which appears to be a stipulation intended to counteract the ruthless nature in which we ARE allowed to treat slaves from other nations. Indeed, Exodus 21 instructs us on the proper way to beat our chattel:

“If a man strikes his male or female slave with a rod and he dies at his hand, he shall be punished. If, however, he survives a day or two, no vengeance shall be taken; for he is his property.” (Exodus 21:20-21)

There are many more such passages that address slavery, but in every single verse the concessions are always directed toward Israelite slaves — foreign slaves never have any rights. Once a foreign slave has been captured and placed into bondage the Bible makes their situation very clear, they are to be “slaves for life”.

In Ephesians 6:5 we can find an example of how the NT regards the issue of slavery, “Slaves, obey your earthly masters with deep respect and fear. Serve them sincerely as you would serve Christ.” Although the NT neither promotes nor condemns slavery, we can see that this act is certainly accepted as a away of life for certain people. We find no moral outrage on the part of Jesus, and although there were many opportunities to condemn slavery, throughout the NT he remains oddly silent.

I think we’ve seen sufficient evidence the Bible literally condones and regulates the practice of slavery, the same type of slavery that is outlawed by the Thirteenth Amendment. Now, I must ask the question, how do you know slavery is wrong? If morality is fixed and absolute, and only prescribed by God, why shouldn’t we have the right to take slaves from other nations, as the Bible allows? If morality is fixed then we cannot say, “What was good for one time period is not good for the next” — that would mean morality is arbitrary and we can do away with God’s laws whenever we feel like it. Exactly how do we know slavery is morally wrong?

I am familiar with a few of the apologists you have cited, but I will take a look at the ones I do not know. However, if you can, please point me to any information that explains how the ancient Greeks were able to develop such a highly refined understanding of ethics while worshiping pagan gods. I’ve yet to find an acceptable rebuttal.

 

Anthony:

Appreciate it. It ends here. I am worn out from trying to answer all of these things. I directed you to people much smarter than myself for answers to your questions. In the end, you have probably heard them, and you reject them obviously.

I, on the other hand, am not only convinced to my own satisfaction that the God of the Bible is the true God. And more so than that, I have been born again. You can explain that away all you like, call it turning over a new leaf, or bought into some lie, whatever you want to call it. It does not compare. You cannot crawl inside my body or mind and experience it yourself.

Paul makes it CLEAR that God and the cross of Christ are foolishness to the world and that God chooses the base things of the world, the small things of the world, the not so brilliant in the world so that in the end, no man can boast. ! Corinthians 1-2.

I have enjoyed it, but i am worn out from it. I commend you because you are the only atheist yet to make my head hurt. Not because I don’t know the answer or don’t know where to find the answers, but because of the persistence. As i jokingly posted earlier, it baffles me the lengths you atheists will go to argue against something that you do not even believe exists to begin with. Have a good night.

P.S. I thanked God for you today because, I realize that if i am to be used by him, I do need to be prepared to handle real challenges. And you have been one. As iron sharpens iron.

Oh, and one thing though sir, you might want to think about. Just because you perceive God as being mean, unjust, etc, in your human eyes, you need to carefully decide whether or not the God is REAL. None of that matters if He isn’t real. And if He is real, then I would say we are the finite ones who don’t have a clue what we are talking about. I didnt post that to continue the debate but as something for you to think about yourself. Whehter you find God mean, cruel, contradictory, or whatever in the end does not matter. IF He exists, then we are the wrong ones.

 

Andy:

Sorry, I didn’t mean to make your head hurt. :) I can see you’re not up for a debate of this nature, so I won’t press on. However, let me address a couple points you made. You said, “As i jokingly posted earlier, it baffles me the lengths you atheists will go to argue against something that you do not even believe exists to begin with.”

That’s not quite what I am doing. The question of God goes much deeper than me railing against something I don’t believe in. You don’t see me trying to disprove Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy. Actually, you cannot disprove a negative, but that’s beside the point. There is no moral, philosophical, or scientific implications for the existence/non-existence of fictitious characters such as those. The issues we are addressing go to the heart of philosophy, the basis of morality, and it is the dividing line between our two world-views.

Christians claim the Bible is flawless and the basis of morality emanates from God, because God is good and just. But none of that is true. The Bible is full of inconsistencies, contradictions, and much of the books have been manipulated and re-edited for political gain. If you know the history of Christianity and how the Bible was written, then you’ll agree. But if you are not familiar with the circumstances surrounding the creation of the Bible, then let’s not even go there.

However, we don’t need a history lesson to see all the injustices contained in the Bible, like slavery, rape, child murder, and genocide. How can a just and all-loving God allow this, let alone perform many of these actions Himself. If morality is derived from God, if everything that is good must emanate from God, then how is it even possible for God to inflict harm on anyone, to cause anyone even an OUNCE of suffering? Something that is infinitely pure cannot engage in impure acts.

Now you might be thinking God can do anything, God created us so he has the right to inflict whatever pain and suffering he wants. Although that might be true, if God cannot even follow the moral standard he has setup for us, then morality is completely arbitrary! Good is however God defines it. Good can be loving your neighbor, as well as stoning him for working on the Sabbath (Exodus 35:2).

I believe from our discussion you have come to see what I mean, because your closing statement was, “Whether you find God mean, cruel, contradictory, or whatever, in the end it does not matter.” So are you telling me even if the Creator was a Satan-like figure, full of jealousy, injustice, vengeance, and wrath, the simple fact he exists demands our worship of Him? There is nothing saying God HAS TO be good, and according to the Bible he really isn’t, so what baffles ME is why anyone would want to worship a God like that. Essentially what you are saying is that you’d worship Satan if you knew he was responsible for your creation.

But the real problem is that those who “think” they know the mind of God are spreading misinformation and teaching others that it’s okay to reject scientifically verified evidence in favor of faith-based opinions. That’s not right, especially when it comes to issues such as gay rights, stem cell research, teaching intelligent design in schools, and making other faith-based legislature that affects everyone, not just the Christian Right. It is for this reason I think about and discuss religion, not because I hate God or that I am trying to justify living some kind of horribly sinful life. The question of God and the meaning of existence is not Christian real estate — it is an important philosophical question to anyone with a thinking mind.

 

Anthony:

Andy, sorry about last night. I had a headache and didn’t feel like responding. I am going to get to the root that i wish I had thought to get at from the very beginning.

We both are operating from different foundations and presuppostions. I presuppose the Bible to be true and therefore, I operate from that starting point. Therefore, I believe the holiness of God, I believe in the depravity of man, I believe in a biblical view of justice, mercy, sin, man, God etc. You start off with a concept of a world without God where man is a blank slate and a understanding of justice, psychology, history, etc that is secular.

Some of the things that you say are so horrible in the Old Testament indeed are hard to understand and justify in your worldview. That’s why this debate should never have started there. Because it cannot be reconciled with your view of God and man and this world. Therefore, me arguing on that level is counterproductive.

Understand that we both operate by faith. You BELIEVE things that you cannot prove and that is where you start your reasoning. I believe in a thing that ultimately, I cannot prove, namely the Bible. And that is where I start MY reasoning. We are on two different planets.

 

Andy:

It’s perfectly fine if you accept the Bible as being true. However, if you maintain the Bible is true, then you must also accept God’s cruel nature exactly as it appears in the pages of the Bible.

As for what I “believe”. I really dislike that word because there are so many implications attached to it, but I will not go into that now. I do not “believe” in anything that cannot be supported with scientifically verifiable evidence. I “believe” in the POSSIBILITY of God’s existence just like I believe in the possibility of life on other planets, but I do not have faith aliens will visit me in the night and impart me with the secrets of the Universe.

The same holds true for the Big Bang and abiogenesis. I do not have enough information to formulate a “belief” about those topics, therefore I cannot say with any certainty how those events occurred or if they even did. I am fully aware of the limitations in my knowledge and I do not presume to have all the answers. However, this is in stark contrast to theists that claim to have many answers that are simply unknowable. Nothing about our physical reality can support the cosmic knowledge you obtain from the Bible. The most obvious of these is how you know there is only one God. Yes, I know the Bible says so, but what is it about the nature of reality that supports this belief? It’s just one big mystery, and the fact you harbor a belief in your medial prefrontal cortex does not give you a special link to God that I and other non-believers do not possess.

The reason I do not accept the Bible as being true is because much of it has been historically and scientifically proven to be false. Life didn’t magically spring into existence containing fully formed animals over the course of six literal days, with birds, fish, and aquatic mammals appearing before reptiles and another terrestrial mammals. There was also no such thing as a world-wide Flood, language did not develop at the Tower of Babel, and I could keep going. The point is that I do not accept the Bible because there is no evidence to support it. However, I do accept Relativity and the mechanisms of Evolution because there is a wealth of evidence that consistently and accurately supports these theories, year after year after year.

But I am curious, what do you think I “believe” in that cannot be supported by evidence? As far as I can tell, I have written nothing that would allow you to formulate that conclusion.

 

Anthony:

It dawned on me why I got the headache. I am appealing to an authority you reject in the first place to answer the questions you originally brought. It is like boxing the air or spitting in the wind. The whole idea of God was never established and that should come way before we even discuss the Bible. Indeed, I have not even explained why I believe in a god at all in the first place.

So I have done myself three dis-services in this whole thing: appealing to an authority that you already reject instead of backing up and laying that foundation, responding off the cuff as I have been, and often misunderstanding your approach. I am often in defense mode, it is one of my biggest faults and goes to show the pride that I have misplaced in myself.

I would submit to you that in your last post you made many many assumptions about quite a few different things, but I am glad it moved back a few steps because that is where we need to start. I am going to approach the response differently, now that I am not so much in defense mode but am more comfortable. If you grant me the time, I will respond as a person with my degree of ADD should and take my time and hit what you just posted point by point so that you can begin to at least see my reasoning more clearly. The reason you haven’t is indeed my fault. I will take my time in paper form first probably. And revise it, etc.

Give me a couple of days to get it together and I will address everything you just posted. In the mean time, there is a video on my wall called “Does God Exist?” A debate between Christopher Hitchens and Frank Turek. I cannot give a better basis for why I believe in a God in the first place (any god at all, that is) than he gives. If you reject his arguments for why God does exist, then there is no point debating whether that god is the.God of the bible, and whether what he says about man is true or whether his actions are just, etc. if you reject those basic arguments and cannot even see them as logical or rational then there really is no point in debating further.

Many prayers have been answered for me since i became a Christian. The latest one i prayed about a week ago saying basically, “Lord, I used to love being equipped to be ready to give answers for the hope that i have in accordance with your word in 1 Peter 3:15. But the past few years I have not been so passionate. Please reignite my passion for apologetics.” And then came you to debate and get me to digging around again and stirring up my love of God that much more and giving me my desire to “be ready” again! Thanks for being God’s answer to my prayer. LOL. You can say it was coincidence i dont mind. I have started. And I am literally going point by point so this is going to be a slow process. Continue to be patient as i prepare my answers, and as God grows me more in faith ;)

 

Andy:

Interesting, because I have never prayed and, statistically speaking, about half the time I get what I want and the other half I don’t. However, if I put in hard work and strive for what I want I typically get it. That’s kind of funny isn’t it?

However, your comment reminds me of a very good book by Bart Ehrman, called “God’s Problem”. Are you familiar with this scholar? He once made the astute observation that when he sees Christians praying and giving thanks for their food it must mean they are doing something right, for God is bestowing blessings upon them, giving them enough to eat and providing for their families.But if that is indeed true, then there must be many more people out there that are doing something wrong, for they are not receiving God’s blessings and they are not getting enough to eat. According to Bread.org, there are 6 million children that die of hunger every year — that’s over 16,000 children every day, 1 child for every 5 seconds!!! What are these children doing wrong? Oh that’s right, they were born… born evil, right?

I don’t mean to be condescending, but this is a very real issue affecting very real people, and it’s extremely troubling if you put faces to the statistics. These are not just quick deaths, but slow and agonizing deaths from starvation. I find it so hypocritical when celebrities thank God for their success and fame, while men, women and children across the world do not have clean water or even enough food to sustain their lives. Are we so blind to reality that we have the audacity to think our prayers of “Please God don’t let it rain today” are being answered over the needs of a child that is dying from hunger every 5 seconds?

You claim to have had your prayers answered through me, and many more people claim to have been cured of cancer and other disease that are well-known to regress on their own. However, whenever we examine a condition that could NEVER resolve itself on its own, such as mental retardation or amputation, the prayers of Christians ALWAYS fall on deaf ears. Yes, I have heard all the apologetics for this, but just because someone, somewhere was able to muster up a response doesn’t mean they have resolved the issue.

The problem of suffering is older than the Bible itself.  Scholars since the era of the Torah on throughout Christianity have been dealing with the problem of suffering. However, the issue of suffering too large for me to explain here. I suggest you read “God’s Problem” by Bart Ehrman. I can give you the book if you want it.

But quickly, the problem of suffering is the entire reason a figure such as the Satan was invent and why his appearances get increasingly get more frequent as you move from Genesis to Revelations. At first the early Jews believed God was responsible for inflicting suffering upon them for their misdeeds. However, the Jews faithfully did what God wanted and STILL lost battles or were captured by their enemies. Therefore, it did not make sense that God should be responsible for their suffering.

Then it dawned on scholars that there must be an external agent responsible for their suffering. Over time the concept of Satan grew, but he was never a prominent figure in monotheism until the sensationalistic sermons of the Medieval era. That is why in Genesis “Satan” is nothing more than a lowly serpent that had his leg’s removed as punishment for his deeds. In Job he is a part of God’s court, an antagonizer that has no real power of his own. Satan must literally ask God for permission to inflict suffering upon Job. But in Revelations Satan is an overlord of the underworld that will bring about an apocalypse and all non-believers will be left behind in the rapture to experience 7 years of suffering and torrent at the hands of the Anti-Christ.

 

Anthony:
It it a complete and utter misunderstanding of theology or why we even pray to begin with on your part and on the part of this author you are referring to. I will work it into what is going to end up being a miniature book already in the response i am prepariing for your other comments.
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Note:

Anthony has since written his response on slavery, which can be found at this link: Anthony’s Apologetics on Slavery
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