I responded to comments by our resident cultist, Don Camp, who replied with the following (and more: see comments). I want to pick up (in blue) on some of the points he makes:
I originally asked Don: why is it that whenever anyone asks you to provide evidence for your beliefs, or to confirm what those beliefs actually are, you invariably side-step the issue.
Don: That seems to be the procedure (your procedure, Don?) here and on most atheist blogs, I might add. I really think that I have answered that question clearly enough to be understood (you’ve responded to some questions but have provided evidence for very little of what you’ve claimed. Bible quotes are not evidence.) If not, there is my blog post. But I would ask the same and have of all of you. What do you believe to be true about life and reality? And why or what evidence do you have to support that belief?
Don, there’s ten years’ worth of blog posts on Rejectingjesus, many of which are about what I believe and the evidence I have for those beliefs. I’m not going to reiterate all of them here for your benefit. If you’re interested you could read the posts here, here, here, here and here. I suspect you’re not though; this is just another tactic to deflect the question away from yourself. Don’t you think it reasonable when you launch your sermonettes on other people’s blogs that they ask you to supply evidence for the beliefs you’re promoting?
Don: I usually get what, I believe, Ark said when I asked about his evidence for Materialism: Everything we know has natural causes, so to presume that the whole universe has a natural cause reasonably follows. (My paraphrase) That is honest and clear. But that is the very same kind of evidence I’ve provided for my worldview. You, Neil, have not provided even that much. Usually I get something like: Atheism, is about what we don’t believe, and we don’t believe there is evidence for God. The trouble is that is negative that conveniently sidesteps the question.
So you do get answers to your questions (so what you moaning about?) I concur with Ark. However, you do not provide the same sort of evidence. You generally rely on the argument from incredulity: I can’t see how something so amazing as the universe could have come into existence on its own, therefore God must’ve done it.’ This is not evidence. You then make the further unfounded claim that this God must be your God who magically created everything via the agency of his Son. Whatever this means, it is not evidence. (Before you say you don’t do this, just check out your further comment below.)
Neil: How about answering my question: do you subscribe to Paul’s first century view that ‘the world’ is governed by wicked powers and principalities that hover around us causing all sorts of mayhem…
Don: No and Yes. No, I don’t think that people are governed by those powers, but they are influenced by them. Yes, I believe there are powers that influence people. And I believe that people can so give themselves to that influence that I would say they are governed by them. (my emphasis). So no prevarication here then! Now how about answering mine. Do you believe that reality is purely material? See above and the posts I directed you to. There is no evidence for the supernatural.
Neil: Could only a blood sacrifice, in God’s eyes ameliorate (the effects of these demons)?
Don: No. Those powers do not cause sin. We do. (And that I believe is really Paul’s view.) Right. So you know what was really Paul’s view, which, it turns out, is not the one expressed in Ephesians 2:1-3 & 6.11-13. (Addendum: it’s widely acknowledged that Paul didn’t actually write Ephesians. It’s a later forgery based on Colossians.)
Don: No. I believe that only forgiveness can ameliorate sin. The sacrifice of the Lord Jesus is the act of forgiveness made visible. Does your believing make it so? Where does the bible actually say this?
Neil: where is your evidence that this (Paul’s worldview) is reality?
Don: I am not sure what “this” means. There are too many possible referents. If you replace that with a specific, I’ll answer.
It’s clear and specific, Don. We were discussing Paul’s worldview. I asked if you believed it and if so, what evidence you had that ‘this’, Paul’s demon-infested world, was real. You’re side stepping again.
Me: Or how about answering Ark’s question about whether you believe Jesus was the creator of the universe and what evidence there is for such a belief?
Don: I don’t recall that question exactly (!) But the answer is I believe that God created the universe through the agency of his Son and the earth within it. (And I think that is the crux of our differences). You’re not kidding.
Don: Evidence “succinctly” is, to use a metaphor, his fingerprints are all over it. Is a metaphor evidence? I don’t think so. It’s a literary device. In any case, every other religion that claims a creator God says the same thing.
HOW DO YOU THINK THE UNIVERSE CAME TO BE, AND WHAT EVIDENCE IS THERE FOR SUCH A BELIEF? AND HOW DO YOU ACCOUNT FOR THE DYSFUNCTION OF HUMANITY THAT CAUSES ALL THE CHAOS AND DESTRUCTION MORALLY AND SOCIALLY? AND FINALLY, WHAT IS THE REMEDY?
My God. You’re gone all caps lock. In answer to your very important questions, see my response above. To summarise:
It is largely irrelevant what I THINK about the origin of the universe. It’s possible, however, that the universe has always existed in some form. You claim this for your God when there’s no evidence he exists; assuming those same qualities for something that does is a more realistic prospect. It is indeed what a number of scientists think. (I expect you’ll know better).
The ‘dysfunction of humanity.’ Is it dysfunctional? Many of us are kind and decent. Humanity is what it is, and it is what it is because we’re evolved primates.
The remedy for what, Don; for what we are? It’s quite likely there isn’t one. Jesus certainly isn’t it. History teaches us that Christianity has only provided some of us with an excuse to behave even more reprehensibly (Putin claims to be a Christian albeit a Catholic; he says one of the reasons he’s invaded Ukraine is to impose traditional Christian values on the country.) If anything is going to improve us, it’s education; it has civilised us to a significant extent but still has a lot to overcome.
That’s it. Now go and read those old posts before writing your next sermonette.
The big question, “What to believe and why?” I one of your posts I looked at I saw the line: “There are no supernatural beings.” I think that is true because I think there is no supernatural anything. Religions and gods can only exist if the supernatural realm of heaven exists. This imaginary realm is created by a child’s mind when they hear stories if imaginary creatures. When Father-in-heaven comes along this imaginary realm becomes divine. It’s all a dream and all religions are fraudulent because of it. GROG
Neil: It’s possible, however, that the universe has always existed in some form.
Don: It is possible? And that is evidence?
Essentially, Neil’s musings related to the universe contain as much validity as your beliefs about it.
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I might give you that. And if that is all there is we would both be thinking “possibly.” But that is not all there is.
Sure it is, Don. as we, as in humankind, don’t actually know how the universe came into being. While I linked to scientific evidence for the hypothesis that the universe has always been around (you did read it, didn’t you?) all you refer to is stuff made up by pre-scientific zealots who made everything up as they went along. These were men who believed the world was created by a god to be the centre of a very small creation, which was, at the same time, dominated by evil spirits and demons.
You like to pretend that that cosmology is as legitimate as anything science proposes, but it isn’t. It’s easily disprovable hokum. Your worldview, of magic, gods who talk to us in our heads and supernatural phenomenon is puerile nonsense.
You’re losing here, Don, by a very long way, just as you lost similar arguments on Debunking Christianity.
You’re not waving but drowning.
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The idea of an eternal universe has been around a long time, since the Greek philosophers at least. It is primarily a philosophical proposition and not scientific. It has not been tested nor probably can it be. Scientists can speculate or create hypotheses, but they run into the brick wall of the unknown. The only reason it survives is that scientists and most of the rest of us are committed to the principle of cause and effect and hang on to that even when no causes can be known.
But the origin of the universe is not the only question. The other, or one of the others, is how did the universe obtain its present form? The near consensus at the moment is that the universe began as an undifferentiated mass fourteen billion years ago, give or take, and expanded to its present immense size, as an incredibly complex multifaceted universe that apparently continues to expand and, according to Neil deGrasse Tyson, will probably continue to expand forever. How did that happen?
It happened because the original mass was governed by four fundamental forces and by a variety of laws, among them entropy, that were balanced almost perfectly. That sometimes leads scientists to say that the universe is finely tuned.
In addition, those forces and laws had to have been in place at the very beginning while the universe was an undifferentiated mass, not even atoms. Yes, the strong nuclear force had to exist before atoms. Gravity had to exist before the big bang. They are not a product of the development of the universe. So, how can that be?
As you know one of the present speculations (not a hypothesis because it is untestable) is a multiverse. A multiverse allows for there to be something before the universe. But that only pushes the question back a step, or an infinite number of steps. And there enters chance. If there is an infinite number of universes there are an infinite number of chances that one might be like ours. But even that is speculation. Why not an infinite number of universes just like ours? Oh, but wait. That eliminates chance, doesn’t it. And chance is the philosophical cornerstone of your cosmology.
Statistically, chance is far, far less an explanation for the things as they are than purpose. So, you may continue to believe in chance. As for me, I’ll bet on purpose.
Good for you. So what is the purpose of the universe?
Addendum: I mentioned entropy as one of the laws because entropy allows for life. No entropy, no flow of energy, no life.
Neil: So you know what was really Paul’s view, which, it turns out, is not the one expressed in Ephesians 2:1-3 & 6.11-13.
Don: Your addendum indicates you are quoting Paul while not quoting Paul. Nice trick. But in any case, neither passage tells me that Satan or the demons cause me to sin. We follow (Eph. 2:2). We are not dominated by Satan – unless we choose to put ourselves under his control.
Yes, quoting ‘Paul’ who isn’t Paul. That’s one of the wonders of God’s inerrant Word: it relies on fakes and forgeries. That’s some God you got there.
So you say, Neil. I am still of the opinion that Ephesians is or represents Paul.
Gotta add: You all make a huge deal about the Gospels being unsigned. I have to wonder, if they were ,would it make a difference for you?
Who mentioned the gospels? Side step #392.
Neil: We were discussing Paul’s worldview. I asked if you believed it and if so, what evidence you had that ‘this’, Paul’s demon-infested world, was real. You’re side stepping again.
Don: Everyone who opposes God and hates him is proof of Satan’s reality and influence.
I don’t think anyone here “opposes god” … we just don’t believe “He” exists. Thus … no god … no satan.
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You could fool me. It certainly sounds like it at times.
Opposing God is also opposing his rule and his saints. Sometimes that is in the guise of believing in God, as we are seeing in Putin and saw in Hitler, while destroying those who represent him and his rule. Sometimes that is in a cool remote intellectual and philosophical argument, as most atheists do. Sometimes that is as charlatans leading people into error, as Jim Jones did.
Actions speak louder than words.
Aah, the no true Scotsman argument. What took you so long, Don?
The no true Scottsman fallacy is not a fallacy in this case if it is a basic fact established in n scripture. And it is. It is everywhere.
What do you think of Paul’s own distinction between those who are genuine and those who are false Christians?
For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things. (Phil. 3:18,19)
Quite. You can’t ‘oppose’ or hate a fictional character. You can’t be in thrall to his make-believe arch-enemy either. Don says we could’ve fooled him but of course we already know he is very easily fooled.
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How do you deal with the problem of evil if there is not an evil influence? “Humanity is what it is” seems to me to fall somewhat short. How do you explain the Putins and Hitlers and Stalins etc. and etc.? Why do we even use the word evil? Evolution? Many may be kind and good, but what about the rest? What about the gang shootings. What about the murders? What about the child abuse? Evolution did not produce this in other species. Why in “evolved primates”? Or should we actually be using the word “evolved”? Isn’t devolved a better description?
Right. That’s us told. I’m afraid the more you write, Don, the more unreasonable, in the literal sense of the word, you seem and the less attractive Christianity appears.
I am not interested in making Christianity attractive. I am interested in calling attention to the truth.
OK, so you like the truth. The Truth is … Satan does not exist. And if you TRULY study the scriptures related to him (and not be swayed by Christian legend), you would know this IS the Truth.
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I am sure Satan loves that.
HA! Your indoctrination is showing! 😄
Yes it is, as is yours. The challenge we both have is sorting those out. So doubt your indoctrination and then doubt your doubts.
Since the out-of-the-womb experience consists of NO belief, please explain what process takes place for a child/person to become a “believer”? I feel quite certain the term is indoctrination (i.e., teaching/instructing the individual about god or gods).
And you don’t think the government schools do any indoctrination? In n America the government schools increasingly teach materialism.
My point is … we start out as blank slates. What we accept as “truth” comes through education/teaching as we grow and become adults — whether it’s religion or “government schools.”
And it’s obvious you are dodging this truth.
So you do believe in Satan, devils, demons, supernatural powers and principalities. You split hairs about the effect these beings have on us, but nonetheless, you think they’re real.
So far we have these, voices in your head and a conviction the universe was made with ‘purpose’ as evidence for your God. Any more magic or whimsy you’d like to add?
Yes. I do. I did write the Christian Manifesto blog. You’re welcome peruse. http://biblicalmusing.blogspot.com/2022/04/a-christian-manifesto.html
Don, just an FYI … your BLOG is “biblicalmusing.” Your POST is “christian-manifesto.”
Obviously I have evolution all wrong. I thought that natural selection resulted in a species more adept at survival. So how did evolution result in men who murder 12 million people? How did evolution result in societies with people at war with each other? How did evolution result in self-destruction behavior that is plaguing America? But then evolution did create cancer. Maybe this evil is just a cancer.
You have got it wrong, Don. It is not about species survival; it is about individual survival or at most the tribe’s or herd’s survival (see Dawkins, The Selfish Gene etc). Fights over territory, mates, resources all stem from this. Evolution is a far better explanation for human behaviour, including our (sometimes) selfishness, greed and aggression than a mythical couple’s disobeying God in a mythical garden. Our intelligence is the only thing that gives us the potential to overcome these behaviours, but unfortunately doesn’t always.
I’d love it if Christianity’s explanation of life, the universe and everything were true, but given science’s far better explanations, I simply can’t any more. The supernatural just doesn’t cut it, and in any case leaves us with the appalling behaviour of many who profess their commitment to it. Belief in God hasn’t, sad to say, moved us on from our animalistic behaviours very much at all. Those who have managed it have done so through their own efforts and by improvements in our socialisation.
I’m not interested in arguing about this any more, Don. If you want to believe in unverifiable entities and magic formulae, that is up to you. But the evidence suggests that two thousand years of Christianity haven’t benefitted us very much at all.
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Neil: It is not about species survival; it is about individual survival or at most the tribe’s or herd’s survival
Don: If there is no individual survival there is no species survival. And if there is no species survival there is no individual survival.
Neil: Evolution is a far better explanation for human behaviour, including our (sometimes) selfishness, greed and aggression than a mythical couple’s disobeying God in a mythical garden.
Don: I don’t think so. I think evolution has a fairly good explanation for animal behavior, but no answer at all for human behavior.
Neil: The supernatural just doesn’t cut it, and in any case leaves us with the appalling behaviour of many who profess their commitment to it.
Don: I won’t argue that there is appalling behavior, though not particularly any more by those who profess commitment to Judeo-Christian truth than those who do not. Though I can’t understand why you would call it appalling if it is simply natural. But the Judeo-Christian view of reality has a better explanation. Evil is evil because it is a departure from the good to a selfish orientation toward life and others. (Good is just as hard to explain by evolution as evil.)
As far as how Christianity has benefitted us, I’d argue that we have societies that recognize what is moral because of the influence of Christianity and Judaism before it. The laws that God gave the Jews really are the foundation of our modern societies and we usually measure what is right and wrong by them. I doubt you can do better than love God with all you are and your neighbor as yourself. Beyond that we recognize basic morality because there is an absolute moral standard which every thinking individual can apprehend. That is not a product of evolution. It is part of who we are as beings made in the image of God.
Oh Don. You know better than Dawkins, Ehrman, Carrier… just about everyone. They’re all out of step but you.
I am not sure how you interpreted Dawkins, but yes, I was raised on a farm, and I know that one breeding pair with their offspring bred within that family over generations is a one way trip to oblivion. That is true for animals and plants. It is simply not viable.
What happens is that you breed for weakness, and eventually the family dies out. A species and every member of that species depends on the genetic mixing and interchange of a large population to survive. But Dawkins knows that, so he cannot mean what you interpreted him to mean.
There we go – you’re right again. Your nonsensical interpretation is not what I said Dawkins said and of course not what he did actually say.
He writes in the Selfish Gene: “We can now see that the organism and the group of organisms are true rivals for the vehicle role in the story, but neither of them is even a candidate for the replicator role. The controversy between ‘individual selection’ and ‘group selection’ is a real controversy between alternative vehicles… As it happens, the outcome, in my view, is a decisive victory for the individual organism. The group is too wishy-washy an entity.”
You’ve not read him of course, so it’s no wonder you go off on the tangent you do.
That’s definitely it from me, Don. I’ve tried to be kind but your determined ignorance is too much for me. If you want to comment further you can do so on three conditions: you must be addressing the post in question; you must not insult other commenters by declaring they’re of Satan, bound for Hell or variations thereof; you must not simply be proselytising.
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