Ping Pong with a Bible Believer

As most readers of this blog have noticed, there is a user who goes by the names “bibelverse” and/or “Gnade” who is not interested in rational discourse, but rather robotically repeating Bible verses and dogmatically asserting the truth of his personal beliefs without the support of reason. Most of his comments have nothing to do with the thread in which they are found so I am creating this thread so he and his primary adversary Michael Free can freely carry on without interrupting the other conversations.

Posted in Bible Wheel | 27 Responses

Flipping Fundamentalism Off

Is there such a thing as a “former fundamentalist” or do fundamentalists simply switch sides? Is fundamentalism more about the psychology of belief than its content? Can the “fundamentalism bit” be flipped off? Former Conservatives become radical Liberals. Former alcoholics become strict teetotalers who oppose all drinking. Have I fallen into that trap? I don’t think so, but apparently some do, or perhaps they just think it is an easy way to attack my conclusions without addressing my arguments. I received this critique in the thread under my article Debunking Myself: What A Long Strange Trip It’s Been. I will respond to James line by line:

You claim that, because of limited understanding or information, you were once certain that those things you once believed were air-tight, but now are wrong- and WHY? Because you claim you later re-thought and re-examined your former conclusions with a new insight which brought you to a different and unbiased conclusion.

That’s not what I claim at all. It appears you did not read my article before commenting on it. The certainty I felt did not come from a “limited understanding or information.” It came from years of magical thinking (taking coincidences as evidence) reinforced by cognitive biases like confirmation bias and selection bias (cherry picking). In effect, I hypnotized myself by fixating my attention on the pattern of the Bible Wheel for many years. That was the basis of my illusion of certainty, as explained at length in the article you are supposedly responding to.

My point is, you may still be lacking in information (no one has all knowledge) that may yet prove that your present conclusions, which you now seem to be certain are air-tight, may equally be just as flawed. If, as you seem to be offering here, the opportunity for someone to introduce logic, reason, or information to the contrary, then would you be objective enough to accept it? If so, then I assume you would equally be objective enough and willing to change your present conclusions, right?

I have always been open to new information. My fundamentalism was not based on closing my eyes to evidence (like creationists who deny evolution and the age of the earth), but rather focusing on The Pattern I thought “trumped” all the contrary evidence. I freely admitted that there were problems in the Bible I could not explain, but felt they were nothing compared to the evidence of the Bible Wheel. My confidence was amplified by the lack of qualified critics. Almost all the criticism I received consisted of nothing but empty assertions and mindless mockery. I rarely met anyone who even tried to rationally challenge my claims. And so I had to fulfill the old saying, “If you want a job done right, do it yourself.” I recorded the process in this series of articles:

Contrary to your assertion, I did not reject my old beliefs because of “new information” but rather because of blatant cognitive errors and biases as explained in those articles.

Also, if you are equally admitting that it IS possible that such new information may be out there somewhere to cause you to change your present conclusions, then why the insults hurled at a God that may yet be proven to exist?

I’m not “hurling insults” at a God I don’t believe exists. I am exposing the absurdities and moral abominations attributed to him in the Bible, and how the attempt to justify them tends to corrupt the minds and morals of believers (as explained in my article The Art of Rationalization: A Case Study of Christian Apologist Rich Deem). If we begin by assuming that any real God must be rational and just then what is there to fear? I am confident that a real God would be big enough to handle the misdirected insults of one of his puny little creatures, and sufficiently intelligent to understand that my disdain for the behavior attributed to him in the Bible is fully justified. The Bible says he commanded genocide, established sexism, instituted slavery, and treated people with great cruelty, irrationality, and injustice. If you want to challenge these assertions a good place to start would be The Inextricable Sexism of the Bible and the “Art of Rationalization” linked above.

IF, however, you are CERTAIN that such logic, facts or reason cannot possibly exist, then is that not also supremely irrational?

Why do you write “CERTAIN” in all caps? Rational people know the limits of certainty, that it’s always a matter of probability based on logic, facts, experience, intuition,interaction with others, etc. Very few things are “certain” in a way implied by all caps, and certainly not any claim about the existence of an undetectable god invented by primitive superstitious men. You appear to be asserting an extreme form of skepticism that says it would be “supremely irrational” to be “CERTAIN” about anything. Do you really believe that Allah is as likely as Yahweh? Or that the Tooth Fairy could be the True God? If not, is your certainty on those questions “supremely irrational?”

Why even continue your threads of discussion here, to be so elitist in your thinking as to believe that no one could possibly produce such facts or information? Wasn’t that also your position long ago when you were so certain the facts behind your Bible-Wheel were indisputable?

Elitist? Where did that come from? If it is “elitist” to base arguments on logic and facts, then I guess I am that.

Your comment is an empty generalization. There is nothing for me to answer. If you think you have some evidence, then please present it. If you think I have failed to adequately answer any “facts or information” supporting Christianity, then please expose my error. Empty assertions mean nothing.

Why continue discussion? Because I find it fascinating. Because I value criticism and enjoy a challenge. I learn a lot and it helps keep my mind sharp.  Because I spent nearly two decades on this topic, and so it is a part of me. Because I want to help other people find freedom from the bondage of self-delusion. Because I am trying to help clean up a mess I helped create. Many people think that the Bible Wheel confirms their religious delusions.

Your complaint seems to be that I am an “elitist” because religious people can’t support their assertions with logic and facts.

It seems, however, that your conclusions are an admission that you now think you have enough knowledge and have finally “ARRIVED” so that NO new facts or information could EVER be produced by anyone to bring you to a change of mind.

I think no such thing. Your entire argument is based on a ludicrous straw man caricature of my position. Not one word you wrote relates to anything in my articles about why I reject my former beliefs. Not. One. Word. You are simply asserting that any certainty is “closed minded.” By your logic, you must believe that Allah is as likely as Yahweh or the Tooth Fairy. Fine logic you got there James.

I fear for you. If you are so certain that nothing can be presented to change your mind, then what is the purpose of these discussions? Is it to prove to your readers, or to yourself, that there aren’t any facts left out there to change your mind? Who, really, are you trying to convince? Are you trying to convince people that the Bible is flawed, or are you really trying to convince everyone that YOU have the FINAL ANSWERS??? Your logic, to me, is illogical. Yes, it is ILLOGICAL to think that you can possibly know all things in this life to the point of absolute certainty about anything – and, if that is true, then there is reason enough never to stop investigating! Not everyone who believes in the existence of God is ignorant of the facts, and there are enough respected scientists and critical thinkers out there who have come to just the opposite conclusion than you came to, for they conclude that there IS a God, and that there HAS TO BE a Creator, and that it is the One we read about in the Bible!

Well there you go. The Full Monty Straw Man. I have never claimed to “know all things.” It is not illogical to have a measure of certainty based on logic and facts. If you want to challenge my arguments, then challenge my arguments! Don’t just spew out generalities with no content. I dare ya.

It is particularly ironic that you end your attack on certainty with an all caps assertion that there are some “respected scientists and critical thinkers” who claim “there HAS TO BE a Creator.” How could you fail to see that the all caps “HAS TO BE” represents a “CERTAINTY” that is, by your logic, “supremely irrational?”

And of course, your fallacious appeal to the authority of “respected scientists and critical thinkers” adds nothing to your argument. There are plenty of nutty professors out there. Here are a few examples:

If you want to actually challenge something I’ve actually written, you know where to start.

Posted in Bible Wheel, Debunking Bullshit, Losing My Religion, Why Christianity is False | 4 Responses

Is there Evidence for God? Conversations with Wesley Steinbrink

The comment stream under my article Debunking Myself: What A Long Strange Trip Its Been diverged to the question of “evidence for God” presented by Wesley Steinbrink so I moved his comments to this new thread (link) and will be answering here.

Where is the evidence for God?

There is evidence in creation…
Kinesin – found in animal, plant, and fungus cells.
How can you explain that micro machine?
How can you explain all the newly found micro machines?

The fact that science cannot explain all facts is not evidence for any God. This is nothing but the long refuted “God of the Gaps” argument.

There is evidence in the Big Bang…
How was order to come out of such a chaotic event?
How did we end up on a co-rotational radius
(steady for millions of years) of a spiral galaxy
in between the less safe radial arms?

The Big Bang directly contradicts the creation myth in the Bible. There is, therefore, nothing more ironic (or absurd) than Bible believing Christians appealing to it as evidence for their God. The first verse is false because the earth was formed about nine billion years after the Big Bang not “in the beginning” at the same time as the “heavens.” Likewise, it is ludicrous to assert that the sun and stars were created on the “fourth day” after the supposedly simultaneous creation of the “heaven and earth” in the “beginning.” There is no concordance between science and the Biblical creation myth.

This again is nothing but a “God of the Gaps” argument. The “order” of nature is explained by the existence of natural laws. We do not need to invoke God to explain how raindrops refract light to create a rainbow. We do not need to invoke God to explain the existence of thunder and lightning. More sophisticated believers try to argue that the laws themselves are in need of explanation, but that fails because the laws can be accepted as eternal and necessary, just like the God proposed by the believers. This is a much simpler hypothesis that accounts for all the evidence so it is to be preferred over the extravagant and insufficiently motivated assumption of an anthropomorphic magic man in the sky.

There is evidence in the Big Bang…
Logical inference concerning what kind of Being
is behind / beyond the Universe and its making
see “Show Me God” by Fred Heeren

Fred Heeren asserts that “the Being must be outside of time and space” (source). He simply ignores the fact that his assertion is logically incoherent and hence impossible to believe. The problem is that any act, such as the act of creating, necessarily entails time. If God were timeless and chose to create the universe, he would have to go from a state of “not having created a universe” to a state of “having created a universe.” That implies he was not timeless and we see that Heeren’s assertion is self-contradictory and necessarily false. And even if such a God were logically possible, it would irrelevant since it is nothing like the anthropomorphic God described in the Bible.

Fred Heeren is a fascinating fellow.He is a legitimate science journalist who has had articles published in Scientific American, Nature, the Smithsonian, and other prominent publications. He is an old earth creationist firmly convinced by the evidence for evolution. He the president of evolutionstory.com (Day Star Research). He wrote a booklet called Ending the War on Science and Culture: When Christians Act Childish, Everyone Loses.

My work on science news stories has given me the opportunity to become acquainted with the work of cosmologists, paleontologists, and biologists around the world. It’s also helped me see the way their discoveries are misunderstood by those who view them as a threat to their faith. Having seen the fossils coming out of the ground for myself (seeing, for example, hominids demonstrating increasing cranial capacities over time), I have firsthand knowledge of how we know what we know about hominid evolution. At the same time, having once been “grounded,” first in young earth creationism and later in Intelligent Design thinking myself, I also have firsthand knowledge of the struggles of religious conservatives. But I’ve learned how unnecessary those struggles are. Now I’m excited about getting the word out about what I’ve learned—from God’s world, from God’s Word, and even from God’s atheists.

It is quite ironic that anyone would cite Fred Heeren in support of the idea that science provides “evidence for God” since Fred Heeren says exactly the opposite. Here is the description of his beliefs (source):

Heeren believes that people of faith should not try to scientifically prove God. After all, if science had such a power, what worth would faith have? Heeren says that science is powerless to coerce either belief or unbelief. But the sense of wonder it excites in people of all beliefs may inspire them to further investigations beyond science, in philosophical or religious realms.

Returning to Wesley’s comments:

There is evidence in the longevity of the Israelites…

How did they survive as a people without a nation?

It is exceedingly ironic to appeal to the nightmarish history of Israel as proof that their loving and trustworthy God has been watching over them! This video says it all: Inmates in Auschwitz put God on Trial.

I see no evidence that requires a supernatural explanation. Believers simply cherry pick the Bible for quotes from God that support what they want to believe while ignoring all the failed promises. For example, the Bible quotes God as plainly stating that there never would be a time when a son of David was not sitting on the throne of Israel:

Thus says the LORD: ‘If you can break My covenant with the day and My covenant with the night, so that there will not be day and night in their season, ‘then My covenant may also be broken with David My servant, so that he shall not have a son to reign on his throne, and with the Levites, the priests, My ministers. (Jeremiah 33:20-21)

That promise has failed for over two thousand years. And there are hundreds of similar failures. For example, Hugh Ross (another old earth creationist who makes very similar claims as Heeren) , asserts that there are “about two thousand prophecies fulfilled to the letter – no errors.” His assertion is literally insane (there’s no nice way to say it), as I proved in my article Two Thousand Reasons to Believe that Dr. Hugh Ross Might Not Be Entirely Credible. Simply stated, it is simply irrational to believe the Bible is trustworthy.

There is evidence in the Dead Sea Scrolls…
They contain Isaiah 53 and Psalm 22 with prophecy
of Christ that Jesus could not fulfill by Himself.
Consider that the Dead Sea Scrolls were carbon
dated placing them before Jesus was on earth.

The fact that those stories were written before Christ proves nothing. There was nothing to stop the gospel writers from making up stories to fit bits and pieces they cherry picked from the Old Testament. For example, we have no evidence that the Roman soldiers actually divided his garment. And many stories are obvious inventions based on elementary misunderstanding of the Hebrew text, such as the riding on multiple donkeys into Jerusalem and the “virgin” in Isaiah 7:14, which is an exceedingly egregious case of cherry picking and ripping text out of context.

There is evidence in the Resurrection being true…
Would all the disciples die for a lie?
The Roman soldiers were very practiced at crucifixion.
Many saw Him and illusions are not shared by many people.
The extra-Biblical writings tell the story of the Gospels
in the main details.
Many have tried to disprove the Resurrection and have not
been able to. see “More Evidence that Demands a Verdict”
by Josh McDowell – also see “Never Thirsty.org – Historical
Quotes about Jesus”
for what can be seen by extra-Biblical
sources about Jesus.

As explained in my previous post, you are simply assuming the Bible is true to prove the Bible is true. There is no evidence of any kind that there were any apostles going about Jerusalem preaching Christ crucified shortly after the purported event. Those stories were made up many decades later. Paul, writing in the 50’s and 60’s, shows no knowledge of most of the biographical events reported in the Gospels. Joseph Smith shows how a conman could make up a religion out of whole cloth and now there are millions of deluded Mormons. If he could do that in an age of photographs, newspapers, and fact checkers, why would anyone believe what the followers of Jesus wrote decades after the supposed events? The New Testament is a collection of religious tracts written for the express purpose of convincing people to believe, just like the Book of Mormon and other writings of Joseph Smith. Arguments like McDowell’s are utterly worthless in light of these facts.

There is evidence from the conscience that we are each given.

see “Mere Christianity” by C.S. Lewis

The moral argument for God is a total failure. Morality is objective because it is based on reason. It has nothing to do with any God. Even if God existed, morality would exist independently of God. I develop my moral theory in a number of articles:

The Logic of Love: A Natural Theory of Morality

Why Most Animals Are Not Philosophers: Fatal Flaws in Dr. Craig’s Moral Argument for God

Morality is Objective, like a Pair of Scales: Another Fatal Flaw in Dr. Craig’s Moral Argument for God

There is evidence in this – Sincerely ask the Lord Jesus to make himself real to you.
You will see unmistakable results.

Been there, done that. I was a fundamentalist Christian for 17 years who described himself as a “blood-bought Bible-believing born-again non-denominational Trinitarian Christian.” I prayed every day for many years. Contrary to your assertion, the results were the essence of error, since they were based fundamentally on cognitive errors such as cherry picking, confirmation bias, and believing in things for which there were no evidence.

 

 

Posted in Christianity, Losing My Religion, Why Christianity is False | 381 Responses

On the Couch with Psychoanalyst Terry Blanchard

Terry Blanchard is a long time reader who had a lot to say about my previous article Is God Trustworthy? The Root of Religious Delusion. His comments involve a lot of “psychoanalysis” of my motives, so I cast him in the role of a doctor.

The Doctor Begins: Am I just an impatient petulant child?

There is something missing from your analysis here. Readers of your forum with long memories will recall the two anecdotes you posted describing the two key events which led to your loss of faith. In the first, you were walking up a hill carrying your son, when you hurt your ankle. In pain, you prayed for immediate relief, but the pain did not cease in that moment as you requested. The second incident concerned your son and a stomach complaint, which again, was not instantly healed when you prayed for this to happen.

Out of interest, how is the ankle now? And your son? Hopefully both turned out fine. If so, then one might be tempted to suggest that your prayers were answered, but just not in the time-frame that you requested.

Wow Doc, you have a prodigious memory. As far as I know, I mentioned those two events only once in passing in a post on my forum three years ago. I can’t imagine where you got the idea that those were “key” events. I mentioned them in a reply to a member “CWH” who started a thread called Why Pray? They were meant as nothing but personal illustrations of the vanity of prayer. CWH, like many fundamentalist Christians, had been claiming that God was communicating his displeasure with America through weather patterns. He said that we should pray more to get back under God’s good graces. Here is how I answered: Read More »

Posted in Losing My Religion, Why Christianity is False | Leave a comment

Is God Trustworthy? The Root of Religious Delusion

Religion was invented when the first con man met the first fool. ~ Mark Twain

Someone who is trustworthy in a small matter is also trustworthy in large ones, and someone who is dishonest in a small matter is also dishonest in large ones. ~ Luke 16:10

Christianity is founded upon the idea that God is trustworthy. That is its central claim. If God is not trustworthy then Christianity is false. But there is no proof that God even exists, let alone that he is trustworthy. So the first question is, what do Christians mean when they say that God is trustworthy? Here is a typical example from Christian artist and author Richard Gunther: Read More »

Posted in Why Christianity is False | 36 Responses

Debunking Dan Gleason, the “Jesus is a Circle” guy

The early Christian Sacred Geometers called a circle with a circumference of 888 units “the living Jesus” because the diameter of his circle is 282 units, which is the gematria value of the Greek word bios (BioV), meaning “earthly life.”

~ Daniel Gleason, www.jesus8880.com

The quote above typifies the raving lunacy Daniel Gleason publishes on his site. There is not one shred of evidence that any early Christians drew a circle with circumference of 888 units and called it “the living Jesus.” How then could he make such an assertion? The answer is simple; he believes his numerology proves that’s what they must have been doing. He has since changed his words to “may have called” in response to my email asking for his justification. He said he would restore the original assertion after his book with his numerological proofs is published, as if mere numerology, without any textual or historical evidence, could prove what early Christians actually did and said. Read More »

Posted in Debunking Bullshit | 378 Responses

The Isaiah-Bible Coincidence Debunked

MERE COINCIDENCE is the primary “evidence” that convinces most people of the truth of such religious beliefs as “God answers prayers” and “prophecies have been fulfilled” and “God designed the Bible.” Any random coincidence that “confirms” what one wants to believe is accepted as “evidence” while everything else is ignored. Years of habitual magical thinking, accepting mere coincidences as evidence, leads to strong delusions. That’s why people believe weird things like Astrology, Tarot, Numerology, and the Bible Wheel.

The Isaiah-Bible Correlation is another such coincidence that I presented as strong evidence that “confirmed” the exact order and content of the books of the Protestant Bible. Many Christians have noted that the 66 chapters of Isaiah naturally divide into groups of 39 and 27, just like the 66 books of the Bible naturally divide into 39 chapters of the Old Testament and 27 of the New. I independently noticed this in 1993. For more than a decade I made it a habit to always check for any correlation with Isaiah when studying the Bible. Over time, I accumulated enough “connections” to convince me that it could not have happened by chance. Did I have any actual statistical data? No. All I had was “intuition” based on “obvious connections” and, of course, the presupposition that the Bible was designed by God. Read More »

Posted in Bible Wheel, Debunking Myself | 11 Responses

Debunking Myself: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

We form our beliefs for a variety of subjective, personal, emotional, and psychological reasons in the context of environments created by family, friends, colleagues, culture, and society at large; after forming our beliefs we then defend, justify, and rationalize them with a host of intellectual reasons, cogent arguments, and rational explanations. Beliefs come first, explanations for beliefs follow.

~ The Believing Brain, by Michael Shermer

Having produced this website with thousands of pages promoting the Bible Wheel bullshit, it now is my pleasure, duty, and honor to debunk as much of its error as I am able. It’s not that everything I wrote was wrong. Not by a long shot. My errors were much more subtle than that. They were based on features common to the believing brain: a strong confirmation bias coupled with a habit of looking for meaning in coincidences. I began with a belief that the Bible was the “inspired Word of God” and was inclined to accept any pattern that seemed to confirm that presupposition. I had more than enough raw material to work with because the Bible is an exceedingly rich book filled with numinous symbols and a universal myth spanning Creation, the Fall, and the New Creation. Countless believers before me found their own idiosyncratic “patterns” that convinced them of its “divine design.” There are good reasons so many people find it seductive and compelling. It provides a framework to make sense of the world … so long as it’s not examined too closely in the light of logic and facts. Read More »

Posted in Bible Wheel, Debunking Myself, Losing My Religion | 41 Responses

The Bible Wheel: Patternicity on Steroids

Why do people see faces in nature, interpret window stains as human figures, hear voices in random sounds generated by electronic devices or find conspiracies in the daily news? A proximate cause is the priming effect, in which our brain and senses are prepared to interpret stimuli according to an expected model. UFOlogists see a face on Mars. Religionists see the Virgin Mary on the side of a building. Paranormalists hear dead people speaking to them through a radio receiver. Conspiracy theorists think 9/11 was an inside job by the Bush administration. Is there a deeper ultimate cause for why people believe such weird things? There is. I call it “patternicity,” or the tendency to find meaningful patterns in meaningless noise.

~ Patternicity: Finding Meaningful Patterns in Meaningless Noise,
by Michael Shermer (Scientific American, Dec 2008)

In my recent post If I am an Atheist, why have I kept the Bible Wheel site up? I answered that question as follows: Read More »

Posted in Bible Wheel, Bible Wheel Book, Debunking Myself, Losing My Religion | 2 Responses

Battle of the Bible Wheels: Catholic vs. Protestant

The spell is broken. I am awake. As discussed in yesterday’s post, Debunking Myself, I can now see, understand, and explain the psychological forces and cognitive errors that led to my false belief in the Bible Wheel. This leaves me with the informative and entertaining task of debunking all the outrageous claims I made during my years as a believer.

Today’s project is to debunk the Bible Wheel Challenge which I believed was invincible proof of my claims. Here is how I stated it: Read More »

Posted in Christianity, Debunking Myself, Losing My Religion | 12 Responses