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:

The main reason is because it is a rare and highly detailed record of the process of deconversion. I began this site in 2001 when I was a fully convinced believer who described himself as a “a non-denominational blood-bought Bible-believing Trinitarian Christian” (see my old FAQ). My transformation, which was a slow process that spanned a few years, is recorded in thousands of articles and posts here on my site, blog, and forum (which began in 2007 and now has about 56,000 posts). It is a very rich resource for personal insight as well as the psychology of belief. I am particularly interested in the role cognitive biases play in the maintenance of unjustifiable beliefs. This has been the focus of many of my recent articles, especially The Art of Rationalization: A Case Study of Christian Apologist Rich Deem.

Consistency is key to avoiding cognitive bias, so I try to apply the same standards to myself as those I criticize in my articles. Was I simply deluded as so many Christian apologists seem to be? This site provides a lot of raw data to help answer that question. I may, of course, find myself hoisted by my own petard. If so, so be it!

As it turns out, I have indeed been hoisted by my own patternistic petard, and I couldn’t be happier for it. I’m actually getting rather giddy debunking myself. The world brightens as blinders constricting my vision to the limits of The Pattern fall from my eyes. Belly laughs erupt as I recognize the folly of my former beliefs. This happened the other day when my wife Rose and I read some of my old writings. We laughed loud and clear for at least 15 minutes. I felt refreshed for days. It reminds me of the last scene in the movie Steppenwolf when Harry laughed along with his judges and so broke free from oppressive fantasies in the Magic Theatre of his mind.

One of the most effective ways I have found to “break the spell” of patternicity is to compare my patterns with contrary patterns promoted by other believers. Like the story of The Three Christs of Ypsilanti in which psychiatrist Milton Rokeach brought together three men who each claimed to be Jesus Christ and confronted them with one another’s conflicting claims, bringing myself face to face with similar but contrary claims helps me see that mine were not really different than theirs, especially when theirs strike me as obviously false and easy to refute (which they usually do, since they are not, after all, my patterns!). And so I free myself.

The Bible Wheel Pattern

bw_500The Bible Wheel is a powerful matrix for patternicity. History is littered with circles filled with symbols and geometric forms created by mystics entranced by sacred texts presumed to be divinely inspired. One of the oldest examples is from the ancient Jewish mystical text, the Sepher Yetzirah (Book of Formation) which explains how God created the world through “32 mystical paths of wisdom” consisting of the first ten natural numbers and the 22 Hebrew letters. The text says that God put the 22 letters “in a circle” and by them “depicted all that was formed and all the would be formed.” I was using this circle to categorize the symbolic meaning of the Hebrew letters when I noticed that the 66 books of the Bible could be displayed as three wheels within the wheel of 22 Hebrew letters. And so the Bible Wheel, a modern incarnation of this ancient concept, was born. I explain how this happened in my article Debunking Myself: What A Long, Strange Trip It’s Been.

My primary claim was that God designed the entire Bible on the pattern of the Hebrew alphabet. My evidence consisted of examples of “connections” between the themes and content of the books on a given Spoke with the symbolic meaning of the Hebrew letter. As we shall see below, my claims were far from unique.

Contrary Pattern: The Mystery of the Menorah and the Hebrew Alphabet

mystery_of_the_menorahThe authors of this book make essentially the same claim as I did, with one very important difference. They condensed the 39 books of the Old Testament into 22 so they could correlate them with the Hebrew alphabet. They then claimed, as I did, that God designed the entire Bible in accordance with the sevenfold pattern of the Menorah and the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet. Their enthusiasm was extreme, just like mine. They thought they had found patterns that proved the divine design of the Bible, and they repeatedly asserted that the pattern “fit perfectly.” For example, here are a few snippets from the Foreword to their book:

  • The concept put forth in this book will give you a renewed appreciation for the divine design of the Bible.
  • When we first saw this amazing truth, we were filled with a sense of God’s majesty and perfection.
  • The truth of the Bible’s divine inspiration emerged with new meaning.
  • The correlation matched perfectly!
  • Once again, we found a perfect match!

Their claims, and the enthusiasm it evoked in them, were much like mine. They even put the Hebrew alphabet in a circle on the cover of their book. But there was one little difference – the correlations they found were between entirely different letters and books! This really disturbed me when I was a believer because it gave weight to the skeptics claim that patterns like mine could be found no matter how the books were arranged. I now see they were right. Claims of “perfect correlation” are false and misleading because they represent a tiny cherry-picked collection of “hits” from a vast ocean of misses that they ignored. It is a textbook example of confirmation bias, just like the Bible Wheel.

Contrary Pattern: The Original Bible Restored, by E. L. Martin

restoredbiblebookIn this book, Ernest Martin “restored” the Bible to its “original” structure by following the pattern of the modern Tanakh (Hebrew Old Testament) and the “manuscript order” of the New Testament books. He then enumerated the books in a unique way to arrive at the “perfect” number 49 = 7 x 7 (which is so much better than 66 since that is based on the number of imperfect man (6) and too reminiscent of 666 for numerological comfort).

Martin then displayed his 49 book Bible in a symmetric chart based on the number 22 which he related directly to the Aleph and Tav (first and last letters of the Hebrew alphabet). He represented the symmetry by displaying a perfectly balanced scale with the number 22 on either side. This really disturbed me when I was a believer since it directly challenged my claims concerning the uniqueness and improbability of the “divine design” I had found in the Bible Wheel. And worse, the symmetry was based on the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet, just like mine! I dealt with this challenge by writing a scathing refutation (see here).

restoredbible

It is easy to see why believers would find this pattern convincing. Martin carefully designed it to be based on the numbers 7 and 22. He amplified the connection with the number 7 by selectively grouping his 49 (7 x 7) books into 7 divisions, much as I did when I created the Canon Wheel. We both thought that the product of our selection was “no accident.” Here is what he said (source):

This number 49 is, of course, 7 times 7, and seven represents the symbolic number of completion or finalization. One could spend many pages giving biblical references concerning the significance of the number seven. … Why are these sevens and multiples of sevens important? They show that it was no accident that the total number of Old and New Testament books came to 49 in number (7 times 7) in the enumeration maintained by the early Jewish and early Christian authorities. But there is more to it than that. There are also (as Christ taught) three divisions to the Old Testament:

  1. The Law,
  2. The Prophets, and
  3. The Writings’ (the Psalms) Division.

To these can be added the four divisions of the New Testament:

  1. The Historical Books [Gospels and Acts],
  2. The seven General [or Catholic] Epistles,
  3. The fourteen [2 times 7] epistles of Paul, and then
  4. the final Book of Revelation.

When one adds the three divisions of the Old Testament with the four of the New Testament, we arrive at seven divisions for the complete Bible. This seven-fold division was no accident.

No accident? No shit! Martin carefully selected the seven divisions to fit his pattern. There were many possibilities he rejected in the process. And his divisions are not consistent. He arbitrarily grouped the Gospels with Acts to create one division, but then arbitrarily divided the Epistles to create two divisions. Note also that he emphasize the number 7 in the latter while ignoring the number 5 in the former.

cw_500Martin’s selection process is particularly intriguing to me because I did essentially the same thing to create Canon Wheel. Like him, I used lots of arguments from history and the Bible to establish the validity of my selection (see here and here). Here are the divisions I used. Only two are the same as Martin’s:

  1. The Law (Torah)
  2. Historical Books (Joshua – Esther)
  3. Wisdom (Job – Song of Solomon)
  4. Major Prophets (Isaiah – Daniel)
  5. Minor Prophets (Hosea – Malachi)
  6. NT History (Gospels and Acts)
  7. Epistles (Romans – Revelation)

These seven divisions form a very nice pattern when displayed on the Bible Wheel. I said it revealed the “sevenfold symmetric perfection of the Holy Bible.” I considered this to be over-the-top irrefutable proof of divine inspiration. I now see it as the product of selection bias.

Contrary Pattern: The Roman Catholic Bible Wheel

When I was a believer, I thought one of the most significant features of the Bible Wheel was that it settled the centuries-old dispute between Catholics and Protestants concerning the canon of Scripture. I was convinced that the Bible Wheel patterns proved it was designed by God and so necessarily excluded the Catholic canon with its “extra” deuterocanonical books. I just “knew” there could be no pattern, but never actually bothered to check. I have now checked, and much to my surprise I found it very easy to make a Roman Catholic Bible Wheel. I simply followed the order of books as listed in the Vulgate (same as the Douay-Rheims version), and followed the tradition of counting Jeremiah and Lamentations as one to give a total of 72 books. These books can then be displayed on three wheels within a wheel of 24 spokes, corresponding to the 24 letters of the Greek alphabet. Thus, Catholics can claim their Bible is “sealed from Alpha to Omega” just as I claimed that that Protestant canon was “sealed from Aleph to Tav.” Only their claim has a much better ring to it, given that the Alpha and Omega are descriptions of the divine found within the text itself and are ubiquitous in ancient Christian art and literature as seen, for example, in the Chi Rho I placed in the center:

RomanCatholicBibleWheelChiRhoI compare the Catholic and Protestant Bible Wheels in my article Battle of the Bible Wheels.

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 | Leave a comment

Debunking Myself: What A Long Strange Trip It’s Been

Sometimes the light’s all shinin’ on me
Other times I can barely see
Lately it occurs to me
What a long, strange trip it’s been

Truckin’, by the Grateful Dead

For many years I felt “the light was all shining on me” through the patterns I saw in the Bible. They seemed so obvious and incontrovertible I could not help but describe them as “blazing like the noontime sun in a cloudless sky.” I had no shadow of doubt. I believed the Bible Wheel was literally “perfect” and could withstand any criticism. It was to me the “Divine Seal and Capstone of Holy Scripture” designed by God himself and that’s what I boldly declared on the banner of the original version of this site:

www.BibleWheel.com

That banner stood over about a thousand pages of “evidence” I had laboriously collected over a period of about fifteen years. It was all I could think about. It was all I talked about. It was my calling from God. I was a true believer. I thought the Bible Wheel fulfilled two passages from Zechariah which I called the Capstone Prophecies. Here are my opening words from that article:

Divine Revelation is True Light. When the Spirit of God illuminates His Word, we know His Truth with the same certainty a blind man would have if he received sight. Everything suddenly comes into focus with perfect clarity. We can walk without stumbling in the Daylight of God’s Word. All the pieces effortlessly fit together with supernatural grace when the vision of the Whole is received. Ten thousand witnesses lift their voices in unison to confirm God’s Word. There is no perplexing doubt, no confusion. Scripture super-abundantly conforms to its own reiterative command that “every word” must be established “in the mouth of two or three witnesses” (Deut 19:15, Mat 18:16, 2 Cor 13:1). There is nothing but light, Light, LIGHT that drives out any shadow of darkness. The Gates of Heaven are thrust open; the Divine Perfection of the Holy Word shines like the noontime sun in a cloudless sky for all to see. This is the overwhelming power of God’s prophetic Capstone. Enigmatic clouds that have shrouded the self-reflective prophecies of God’s Word given within the Word itself, such as Ezekiel’s Wheels and Zechariah’s Stone, simply evaporate in the light of its blazing glory.

The Hypnotic Bible Wheel

The Bible Wheel, the Object of my Fascination

Those words accurately represented what I believed when I wrote them. At the time, I thought they were based on objective evidence. Now I see them as produced by a mind that had utterly hypnotized itself with an amazing “Alphabetic Wheel” of “God’s Word” – a kind of “decoder ring” on supernatural steroids, a coded set of circles within circles encompassing the entire Bible from Aleph to Tav, from beginning to end, in imitation of its own description of the Creator as the Alpha and Omega. It is hard to imagine a more mesmerizing object. It transfixed my mind for over a decade.

Though I didn’t realize it at the time, I expressed the essence of my self-induced hypnotic fixation when I said “Everything suddenly comes into focus with perfect clarity. All the pieces effortlessly fit together with supernatural grace when the vision of the Whole is received.” That is how it felt to me. That is the subjective experience of a “true believer.” There is no room for doubt when all available attention is focused on The Pattern (and the carefully selected set of facts that confirm it). Read More »

Posted in Bible Wheel, Christianity, Losing My Religion | 33 Responses

Why I Quit Christianity: Part 2

I posted my first article Why I Quit Christianity on August 8, 2011, after nearly two decades as a convinced Bible believing Christian. A lot has happened since then and the comment stream under that post is full with over 350 comments, so it seemed like a good time to repost it. It is particularly relevant now because I have finally found an answer to the questions I posed at the end of the article:

In my next post, I will begin reviewing the Bible Wheel book to see what it looks like without my “blinders” on. I am very curious because as far as I know, all the evidence for the apparently “supernatural” design in the Bible remains true. This is the great mystery that now confronts me. The evidence for the Bible Wheel remains despite the obvious flaws in the Bible. So what does it mean? I don’t know yet, and before trying to come to a conclusion, I feel a need to critique my own book with the same honesty I have critiqued the Bible upon which it is based.

As it turns out, most of the “evidence” for the Bible Wheel was nothing but a massive collection of cherry picked “coincidences” that supported my preconceived conclusion of design. It is a textbook case of “confirmation bias.” This is the topic of my following article called Debunking Myself: What A Long Strange Trip It’s Been. Here now is my old article “Why I Quit Christianity”:


Read More »

Posted in Christianity, Losing My Religion | 26 Responses

Is the Genocide in the Bible Justified?

I recently received this response to my article Why I Quit Christianity published a few years ago (August 8, 2011). The writer identified himself as Timothy.

Richard,

I really appreciate your open heart on the subject of Christianity. What exactly does that mean? Christianity was identified as the culprit during the dark ages of Catholicism trying to stamp out Protestants who opposed the “True” Church with valid arguments against her (aren’t you glad you don’t live in that era). Personally I didn’t see that as “Christian.” Your arguments against the God you understand presented in the Bible have fallacies to them. The passage you have quoted attributing God to killing the men, women, and children, and requiring His chosen people to do this immoral dastardly deed, is taking it completely out of context. These same people in the promised land were given warnings prior to that time to change their ways. Their lives were totally all about satisfying their flesh, which took on all forms such as listed in the book of Galatians in the passage of the “works of the flesh.” The Amalekites and all the other “ties” are examples to us of the flesh, and is why Paul wrote that the flesh has to die (all of it) in order for the Spirit to live. It is a brutal thing, but necessary.

Hey there Timothy,

Yes, I am very glad I don’t live in an era when Religion rules and people like me could be freely killed for the “crime” of speaking freely. But your distinction between Catholics and Protestants is fallacious because both are known to have killed people deemed heretics. Take a look at this page entitled Protestants Have Killed Many More Catholics!. You slay yourself with the sword you raise against your religious adversaries.
Read More »

Posted in Biblical Issues | Tagged , | 75 Responses

If I am an atheist, why have I left the Bible Wheel site up?

After leaving a comment on Sean Carroll’s blog relating to the debate he had yesterday with William Lane Craig, I received this comment in the thread under my article Why I Quit Christianity:

Hey Richard,

I found this website through your comments on Sean Carroll’s blog. After learning about The Bible Wheel (TBW), I must say that I am fascinated! What an interesting concept!

What I am really curious about, however, is this: why leave TBW website up? Are you happy knowing that Christians can still use it to defend their faith? Or, do you have a hard time pulling it down because you spent countless hours on it? Maybe you leave it up in hopes that people will find “version 3.0″ and leave the faith like you did? I am guessing reason #3 as you clearly go to great lengths to address all of the Christian comments that are clearly aimed at re-saving your soul. Maybe you are hoping to further introduce doubt?

Am I way off? Is there another reason?

Thanks,

Mike S.

Those are good guesses but yes, there are other reasons. The main reason is because it is a rare and highly detailed record of the process of deconversion. I began this site in 2001 when I was a fully convinced believer who described himself as a “a non-denominational blood-bought Bible-believing Trinitarian Christian” (see my old FAQ). My transformation, which was a slow process that spanned a few years, is recorded in thousands of articles and posts here on my site, blog, and forum (which began in 2007 and now has about 56,000 posts). It is a very rich resource for personal insight as well as the psychology of belief. I am particularly interested in the role cognitive biases play in the maintenance of unjustifiable beliefs. This has been the focus of many of my recent articles, see particularly The Art of Rationalization: A Case Study of Christian Apologist Rich Deem. Consistency is key to avoiding cognitive bias, so I try to apply the same standards to myself as those I criticize in my articles. Was I simply deluded as so many Christian apologists seem to be? This site provides a lot of raw data to help answer that question. I may, of course, find myself hung by my own petard. If so, so be it!

This leads to my second reason: the Bible Wheel remains a mystery. Most if not all of the evidence I collected over the span of fifteen years remains valid as far as I can tell. The only thing that has changed is my interpretation of it. When I review my old arguments they seem to be based on objective evidence and good logic. So I am mystified. I totally reject any interpretation of the Bible that attempts to justify the abominable and irrational behavior of Yahweh and I cannot believe that he is the “true God,” yet I cannot reject the evidence that there is some sort of “design” in the Bible that was not put there intentionally by the folks who put it together. So it demands an explanation. I have explored an evolutionary explanation based on a scribal selection process (which could have involved both conscious and unconscious elements) but I am not really satisfied with that solution. It seems promising because the Bible Wheel is not nearly as good as it could have been if it were designed out of whole cloth by an intelligent agent, yet it does appear to be optimal given the sixty-six books. This is similar to the kind of “design” we see in biological organisms that evolved but I don’t think it can account for all the evidence.

Another reason I leave it up is because I do a lot of online debating and it provides good evidence that I really was a Christian and I reference much of what I wrote when defending my reasons for rejecting the faith.

And another reason to leave it up is because it is a part of the “global mind.” It’s been thoroughly indexed by Google and so the information will remain in the public sphere no matter what I do. By keeping it up, I have a better chance of informing people of where I now stand, and why.

Finally, you asked “Are you happy knowing that Christians can still use it to defend their faith?” My answer is no, I am not happy about it but neither does it concern me. My book was based on logic and facts and I wrote it in the integrity of my heart and mind. If it catches on amongst Christians it may influence them to think in terms of integrity, evidence, logic, and facts and that is never a bad thing. So if it has any influence amongst believers, perhaps it will function as a logical “Trojan Horse,” causing them to accidentally think before they realize the danger that poses to their unjustified beliefs. There is no way to know the ultimate effects our intentions; the best can lead to horrible results, and vice-versa. And besides, there is nothing I can do about it anyway since the information is already out there. So the best thing to do is to accept who I was and roll with who I am in the integrity of my heart and mind. That’s what makes me happy.

 

Posted in Christianity, Losing My Religion | 49 Responses

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

There is a pervasive confusion about the meaning of morality shared by believers and skeptics alike. Theists typically assert that nothing could be “really” right or wrong without an authority – a God – to define it as such. Atheists often accept this premise and so conclude there is no objective morality. Meanwhile, neither side has said a single word about what morality actually entails. They don’t seem to notice that morality is based fundamentally on concepts like fairness, equity, and justice which are objectively defined and measurable properties.

Lady Justice

Lady Justice

What determines if something is just or unjust? The answer flows immediately from the definition of the word. Here are some representative samples from various dictionaries on the net:

JUST (adj)

  1. Guided by truth, reason, justice, and fairness
  2. Done or made according to principle; equitable
  3. Conforming to high moral standards; honest
  4. Having a basis in or conforming to fact or reason
  5. Fair or impartial in action or judgment

Justice is grounded in reason, rationality, truth, and fairness. For a judgment to be just it must correspond to reality which is why it is objective (as opposed to subjective). Justice, fairness, and equality all lie at the root of our moral intuitions. Indeed, the word iniquity is based on the Latin root iniquitas which literally denotes unequalnessunevennessinjustice. Something is just and moral if it is equitable, fair, reasonable, impartial. It is an objective property no different than the objective fact that two authentic coins of the same denomination have the same weight. That is why Lady Justice, an allegorical personification of the moral force in judicial systems, is pictured with a scale. Nothing is more objective than a scale. She wears a blindfold because justice must be impartial and objective, which means she ignores any factors not specifically relevant to the thing being judged (weighed, in the metaphor of the scales).

Morality is grounded in rationality and so is, by its very nature, objective. It is taught to children throughout the world in some form of the Golden Rule which tells us how to tap into our moral intuitions by putting ourselves in the place of the other. This helps us be impartial and fair and promotes mercy, compassion, kindness, and empathy. The Golden Rule stands “in light of its own reason” as explained by Professor R. M. MacIver in his article The Deep Beauty of the Golden Rule (provided online by Google Books):

Do to others as you would have others do to you. This is the only rule that stands by itself in the light of its own reason, the only rule that can stand by itself in the naked, warring universe, in the face of the contending values of men and groups.

Rationality and the Golden Rule are the foundation of morality as explained in my articles The Golden Rule and the Foundation of Objective Morality and The Logic of Love: A Natural Theory of Morality. See also my wife’s article, Justice: The Root of Morality, on her blog GodAndButterfly.net.

The Moral Argument for the Existence of God

On page 172 of his book Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics Dr. William Lane Craig stated his Moral Argument for God as follows:

  1. If God does not exist, objective moral values and duties do not exist.
  2. Objective moral values and duties do exist.
  3. Therefore, God exists.

His argument is immediately susceptible to Euthyphro’s dilemma: Is something morally good because God says so, or does God say so because it is morally good? The first possibility implies morality is arbitrary, while the second implies it is objectively true independent of God. Either horn of this dilemma destroys Craig’s moral argument so he needed to find a third option which he developed in his article Euthyphro Dilemma Once More where he splits the horns by asserting that “God’s moral nature is the paradigm of goodness; what is good or bad is determined by conformity or lack thereof to His nature.” Craig asserts that there would be no meaning to words like “good, just, true, or fair” if there were no God. He then presents this question by a reader “James”:

If God’s nature rejects the raping of little children, but it is not an arbitrary rejection (rejected for no reasons), then would this not mean that God’s nature is good in accordance with good reasons? In other words, can we not say that God’s nature is necessarily opposed to the rape of children BECAUSE in every possible world it causes injustice and injury to the victim (i.e. good reasons)?

Here is how Craig responded:

I’d respond that there certainly can be reasons for what God commands. For example, He forbids raping little children because it would be unjust and injurious to them. But then the deeper question is, “Why is it wrong to cause injury to innocent persons? What determines what is just or unjust?” Eventually such questions must find a stopping point in the character of God. Kindness is good because that’s the way God is; cruelty is evil because it is inconsistent with God’s nature. Therefore He issues commands that forbid behavior which is cruel and prescribe behavior which is kind. Rape is cruel, not kind, and therefore it is forbidden by God and therefore wrong.

Craig’s question “What determines what is just or unjust?” exposes the rank absurdity of his assertions. He appears to be profoundly ignorant of the meaning of basic moral terms like “just” and “fair”. As a supposed “philosopher” such ignorance is inexcusable. The job of a philosopher is to take concepts like justice and unpack them in terms of things that are commonly understood, such as a scale which is a universal symbol of justice. His assertion that we could not determine the difference between just and unjust without ultimately appealing to God is as ridiculous as saying that scales would cease to function if God did not exist. Likewise, we need not appeal to any God to understand why it is wrong to rape children. Craig addressed this point as follows:

You rejoin, “Must we conclude that the reasons to not rape (unloving, unjust) would cease to exist if there was no transcendent, necessarily, good nature in existence?” Yes, in the sense that in the absence of God it’s not evident that cruelty would be wrong. Activity that looks very much like rape goes on all the time in the animal kingdom but without any moral dimension to the act. On atheism that’s all we are—just animals, relatively advanced primates, and it’s hard to see why human activity should have the moral dimension that is missing from the activity of other animals. So while rape in the absence of God would still be injurious, cruel, and demeaning, there wouldn’t be anything, so far as I can see, that would make an action having those properties morally wrong. One could try to defend some sort of atheistic moral Platonism, I suppose, but then one must answer my three-fold critique of Atheistic Moral Realism in Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview.

Craig said that “it’s hard to see why human activity should have the moral dimension that is missing from the activity of other animals.” This is the fundamental flaw in his moral argument. He falsely asserts that humans would be nothing but animals under atheism, as if we would lose all human capacities of language and logic if there were no God. He repeats this error in almost every presentation of his moral argument. He usually puts on a very pained look on his face, and whines on and on about how he just can’t “see” how, under atheism,  humans would have a “moral dimension.” I addressed this error in gruesome detail in my article Why Most Animals are not Philosophers: Fatal Flaws in Dr. Craig’s Moral Argument. There is no excuse for Craig’s continued error on this point. He is simply incorrigible. He has been corrected by many professional philosophers, as seen, for example, in this clip from his debate with Shelly Kagan:

Posted in Christianity, Moral Theory | Tagged , , , , , | 72 Responses

David comments on the Bible Wheel and Why I Quit Christianity

I received this comment from David in the (very long) thread under my article Why I Quit Christianity.

Hi Richard, my honest and completely unsolicited opinion: I think you got burned out! The Bible Wheel patterns are unmistakable and can’t possibly be explained by cognitive bias if others independently notice them, but you may never again be in a headspace where you can accept the most clear explanation. You ever see when rock bands are interviewed about their last hit album and they always look like they want to punch the interviewer in the face because they’d rather talk about their new material? You were doing this for over a decade.

Hi David,

Thanks for taking time to share your insights. But just so you know, I actually did “solicit your opinion” by writing my article on my blog and enabling comments. I’m glad you took me up on my offer.

It is true that I worked intensely on the Bible Wheel research, website, and book for over a decade, and I suppose that would take a toll on any man, but I can’t say that I ever felt “burned out” about it. The Bible Wheel was always a fresh and invigorating study, and it remains intriguing to me now even though I completely reject the concept of a theistic style God. I debate Christians regularly on my forum, and constantly notice the same kind of powerfully meaningful connections that convinced me that the Bible was “God’s Word” what I was a Christian. The only difference now is that I don’t see Yahweh as a viable explanation of anything, let alone “the most clear explanation”. From my present perspective, the God of the Bible is a philosophical, moral, and scientific impossibility.

Also, having Christian beliefs is inherently stressful even if we don’t make them public. The bible makes it pretty clear that God doesn’t really like us and that we don’t really like him. It doesn’t matter if he occasionally loves us. If he flies off the handle on occasion and abuses us, but then turns around and lavishes us with generosity, this is too unstable to work around. If we feel obligated to witness, it creates resentment.

I love your honesty, and I must agree; the biblegod does not much like his creation, and I can’t imagine why any human would much like him. He is capricious, irrational, demanding, vengeful, and worst of all – utterly untrustworthy. So untrustworthy, in fact, that it’s as if he didn’t even exist! The idea that “God is trustworthy” is the most explicit and incontrovertible proof that Christianity is fundamentally delusional. If God were half as trustworthy as the average dentist there would be no debate about his existence.

None of this has anything to do with the truth of his existence though. I don’t think your points above about doctrine of hell or abominations really have much logically to do with belief. I don’t disbelieve the existence of a lion because he mauls a gazelle. I just keep my distance from the lion. Even if you say it contradicts God’s own statements about himself, this doesn’t have much logically to do with belief. People don’t become nonexistent if they self promote.

I guess I’m saying I think you are somewhat confusing what you want to be true with what you suspect to be true deep down.

I don’t see how you can separate “belief in God” from the moral abominations attributed to him. There is no doubt about the existence of the lion. The same cannot be said of the biblegod. And more importantly, many of the claims the Bible makes about God are demonstrably false, such as the idea that he created heaven and earth and Adam and Eve, or that there was a global flood. Couple this with the primitive irrationality and immorality attributed to him, and again we see that he is not a viable explanation of anything, whether it be creation or the Bible Wheel.

What do you think I “want” to be true? I remember once years ago, around 1993 in the Blue Moon Tavern in Seattle, when I was just getting turned on to Christ and the Bible. I was a “stealth evangelist” hanging out with my old drinking buddies, trying to “turn them on” to the beauty I saw in Christ and the Bible. So we were chatting one day, and I led the conversation to things we would “want” to be true, and opened my Bible and read this:

1 Peter 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,  4 to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you,  5 who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

I read that, caught my friend’s eye,  and said “I’m not asking you to believe this, but wouldn’t you want it to be true?” He nodded. Then we clinked our glasses and took a hit of beer. All this to say that I am very familiar with the difference between what I want to be true and what is actually true, and I don’t think that is what’s going on with me. I wanted it to be true, and I had the Bible Wheel to prove it! No one has ever successfully shown any systematic error or fundamental flaw in the Bible Wheel. I cannot refute it myself. But neither can I believe in the God of the Bible. So I am mystified.

The quality of your life has improved. You’ve relaxed and you’re healthy. I’d take this over going nuts like Jeremiah or Ezekiel. How many of us visiting your site and posting with you actually cared about your well being? Seriously, what’s more important – proving the truth of existence in a heated internet debate or walking through the woods with your wife? I tried showing some of the Bible Wheel patterns to believers before, and I abruptly stopped when I didn’t get a reaction anything like what I expected. It’s not worth it – it’s too much. You either have the eyes and ears or you don’t.

Reading your comments reminds me how I was “burned out” to a degree without really knowing it. Burned out from the endless abuse (mindless moronic mockery) I received from almost all Christians I ever encountered online. But now I understand why. Christianity, like all dogmatic religions, is a mind-killer. It tends to corrupt the minds and morals of believers. It breeds a contempt for the truth. It was folly to expect evidence would mean anything to such people.

If you revisit the Bible Wheel material someday, my honest advice is: Don’t cast your pearls before swine. Don’t feel the need to carry water for God. Screw the Christian community – too many scribes and Pharisees. Don’t feel the need to ignore science or hippie lifestyle or whatever else. It’s not about a grand system of beliefs, it’s about taking care of yourself. You’re only human. Best wishes.

Nice advice! Thanks. That’s half the problem I am sure – I forgot who I was because the only people who responded to my work were fundamentalists, and I (unfortunately) am prone to a certain kind of “fundamentalist” thinking (black and white certainty). That’s why I enjoy mathematics I suppose. Every vice has a corresponding virtue, ya know? In any case, I take your advice to heart, and am happily enjoying coming backing to my senses, grounded in who I am. The Bible Wheel remains …. a mystery! And I’m good with that.

I’m really glad you took time to share your thoughts David,

All the best,

Richard

 

Posted in Bible Wheel | 44 Responses

The Problem with Religion: It aggravates pre-existing intellectual and moral failings

It’s fascinating to be a former Christian with a blog that records my transition from believer to freethinker. I get a constant stream of comments that reveal how dogmatic religions tend to corrupt the minds and morals of believers. Such messages consistently confirm the validity of my choice to quit Christianity. I recently received a rather extreme example from one Norm Robichaud in response to my post Answers for Amber on Why I Quit Christianity:

First, to all Christians who read this: PRAY FOR MR. McGOUGH and his family! (I say we gang up on him) :)

Okay, now my rant.

I’m honestly not sure why I’m even bothering. I guess my suspicions have been confirmed and I have to say, I’m a little heartbroken. I’m not going to bother with logical arguments because that’s what got you into this mess in the first place. You need to drop logic and ‘smart-ness” and go direct with your heart rent open.

You can be pretty sure you are talking to a religious fundamentalist if they begin their argument with a rejection of “logic” and “smart-ness”. How is anyone supposed to discern between truth and falsehood without intelligence and rationality? Would they say the same thing to a Muslim or Mormon? Would they accept the burning in the bosom as sufficient “evidence” to justify a belief in Mormonism? Of course not. This is an obvious double standard, one of the primary signs of delusional thinking as described in detail in my article The Art of Rationalization: A Case Study of Christian Apologist Rich Deem. This is not only a psychological disorder: the chronic attempt to believe things that just aren’t true can lead to physical brain damage. Read More »

Posted in Losing My Religion, Why Christianity is False | 21 Responses

It’s May 21 – The Harold Camping Delusional Doomsday Memorial Day

IJudgment Day May 21 Billboardt’s been two years since Harold Camping had his judgement day. He had spent years proclaiming that “the Bible guaranteed” that the Rapture would happen on May 21, 2011, to be followed by five months of terror on earth known as the “Great Tribulation” before the final destruction of the entire universe. He declared his prediction could be wrong only if the Bible was wrong which was, of course, inconceivable to his fundamentalist audience. Day after day he thundered from his radio studio “THUS SAYETH THE LORD – IT. IS. GOING. TO. HAPPEN.” The absolute certainty of his “Gospel” was the opium craved by his religiously programmed followers. And  like a highly skilled drug pusher he made a killing to the tune of 80 MILLION DOLLARS in just five years from 2005 – 2009 selling his doomsday message to his utterly deluded followers. That’s some serious cash from the best cash cow of all time – religion.

The really amazing thing is that it took Harold Camping about nine months to admit he was wrong, and even then he blamed God saying that He had the prerogative to mislead his faithful servants (read Harold Camping and his followers) for his own divine purposes. And crazier than that, there are still followers of Camping on www.ebiblefellowship.com/ that declare his end-times calendar is perfectly correct! Such is the madness of religion.

Posted in Why Christianity is False | Tagged , | 4 Responses