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7/17/08

Thou Shalt Not Lie

Dan Barker is due to publish a new book entitled, “Godless: How an Evangelical Preacher Became One of America's Leading Atheists.”


I have not read the book, not run across any reviews, nor any pull-quotes, nor anything to the likes, but I can tell you that we would all do well to consider it to be full of lies.

To read/Or not to read


First let me state that I hope that one of these days Mr. Barker’s far too oft repeated arguments from authority cease and desist. We find it again in the title of the new book, “Evangelical Preacher.” I would imagine that, at least with the uninformed and too apathetic to become informed, he probably carries a lot of weight to the effect of, “Well, Dan Barker says that the Bible says. And he is an ex-preacher don’t ya know. So he must know what he is talking about. Now he is an atheist, one of America's leading, so he must really know what the Bible says and why it should be rejected. I’ll take his word for it.”

At least this is the sense that I get. How many atheists who hate the Bible and its God take the time and energy to check what Mr. Barker is stating about the Bible and its contents? How many even notice that in one single statement he complains that Jesus “did nothing to alleviate poverty” and then also complains that Jesus said, “Sell everything and give it to the poor”[1] (at any rate he is mistaken).

Generally speaking, in order to correct Mr. Barker’s statements about the Bible it requires little more than looking up the text, reading it, perhaps reading a few verses above and below the cited text for the sake of context and his errors become obvious. That is reading for grammatical context, some historical and cultural context is also helpful but I am not here referring to esoteric minutia but to very, very basic misunderstandings, misapplications and misinterpretations.

If you are actually interested in getting a sense of Mr. Barker’s lack of biblical knowledge please see my following essays:
Dan Barker’s Scriptural Misinterpretations and Misapplications

Why Freethought?

Dan Barker's Agnosis

But why do I, in admitted total ignorance of the content of Mr. Barker’s new book, suggest considering it to be saturated with lies? No, not inaccuracies, not mistakes, not errors, but straight out lies. Please understand that I am not in the habit of referring to anyone as a liar. This is because to lie is not merely to state something that is not true but knowing that you are stating something that is not true. In order to know, for certain, the a person is purposefully stating something which they know is not true requires more than mere guess work, you would have to know their thoughts and motivation (unless, for example, your corrected someone and they kept repeating a falsehood or something of the sort).

Yet, in this case I made the claim because Mr. Barker’s “ethics” force me to make the claim as a logical conclusion. How so? I personally appreciate the manner in which Kyle Butt has so succinctly stated it in his article, What “We All Know” About a Lie. In it he makes the following point regarding the relative morals for which Mr. Barker argues:

“Putting Mr. Barker’s statements together in logical form:
(1) he considers it moral to lie in order to ‘protect someone from harm;’
(2) he considers religion to be harmful;
(3) then it must follow that Mr. Barker would lie in order to dissuade a person from believing in God or religion.”



Do you know what the Talmud states is the punishment for a liar?

“The punishment of the liar is that even when he tells the truth he is not believed.”[2]

Also see, To Lie, or Not To Lie: That is the Question The Dan Barker—Reginald Finley—Matthew Davis Fiasco


[1] Both quotes from The Freedom From Religion Foundation’s “Nontract” entitled “Why Jesus?” he has moreover made the same oxymoronic statement is various debates and lectures.
[2] Tosephtha - Aboth of R. Nathan

18 comments:

  1. Is this going to be the exact same as the Loftus book? Is there just a single manuscript out there that is being republished over and over?

    In all seriousness, though, atheists would do well to run away from these pop-atheists like the plague. Put down the Barker and pick up Mackie, Oppy and Martin.

    Blech.

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  2. Since Josh mentioned it, has anyone here read the recent Loftus book? Personally I would rather stick a needle in my eye that read yet more self-promoting nonsense by apostates attempting to justify why they gave up following the Lord Jesus. Anyone who has read the New Testament knows why they did it and it’s never why they say (I agree with the thrust of Mariano’s post in that regard). However the book did seem to get a lot of positive reviews and so I wondered if that reflects anything more than the usual in-house love fest of the new atheist circle? Whilst the recent competition for intellectually-engaging atheist polemics is very low indeed, does this book really stand above the others as the reviews imply?

    Oh, and great blog by the way guys. Always a refreshing, thought provoking and entertaining read.

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  3. You know, Barker loves to ridicule preachers asking for money, and abuse is out there.

    But when you think about it, he has been living off of religion his whole life.

    After all, he and Lofutus, after abandoning Christ in these critical times, have still managed to make a few bucks off of Him.

    All I can say to them now is, enjoy the money. You have your reward.

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  4. Is this book going too be full of Misconstrued quoting and complete and utter lack of knowledge of Christian Theology and Philosophy?

    ReplyDelete
  5. Mariano wrote:
    "How many even notice that in one single statement he complains that Jesus “did nothing to alleviate poverty” and then also complains that Jesus said, “Sell everything and give it to the poor”"

    Can you please explain how becoming a poor is a solution to poverty?


    Mariano wrote:
    "he [Dan Barker] considers it moral to lie in order to ‘protect someone from harm;'"

    Would you considers it moral to lie in order to ‘protect someone from harm'?

    ReplyDelete
  6. Peter,
    I do appreciate your questions and giving me a chance to elucidate.
    Keep in mind that I ended the statement on poverty by stating, “at any rate he is mistaken.” Jesus did not declare something to the likes of in order to be a Christian you have to sell everything and give it to the poor (thereby, becoming poor yourself).
    The reason that Mr. Barker is mistaken and the reason that he is a very poor elucidator of the Bible is that, as I explain in the essays that I cited: this was a particular case, Jesus was speaking to a particular individual, Jesus told this individual that this was what was required of him in particular.
    This individual was the wealthy young ruler and judging by his reaction (he simply walked away from Jesus and we do not know anything about him) his wealth was exclusively what he relied on – his wealth kept him safe, sound, comfortable, etc.
    Jesus could tell that this was his stumbling block and so challenged him to get rid of his wealth. Also, the man had boasted, let us say, about keeping all of the commandments. Good, how about helping the poor then? The answer was no.

    As for, “Would you considers it moral to lie in order to ‘protect someone from harm'?” Let us be careful about how we define “harm” since we could find ourselves justifying all sorts of lies by a convenient and tentative definition. Categorizing “religion” (whatever that is) as harmful leaves you with wide girth as far as lying goes.
    Another reason that Mr. Barker a poor elucidator of the Bible is that the Bible is not as black and white as he thinks it is but is cognizant of circumstance, even while to falling into the category of hyper-convenient-get-away-with-it-situational-ethics.
    The Bible presents this scenario. In Joshua 2:1-25 the Bible presents a case in which Joshua sent two men to spy “the land, especially Jericho.” They ended up lodging in the house of Rahab. The king of Jericho was made privy to their presence and ordered Rahab to “Bring out the men,” but she hid them instead. She ended up responding that the men had waited until it was dark and then escaped. But she had brought them up to the roof and hidden them and later let them down by a rope through the window since her house was on the city wall. Although, it may be argued that since Rahab was not a Jew she was not under the law the point is that Mr. Barker’s view of Biblical morality is too simplistic.

    Jesus was harassed because his disciples were plucking grain during the Sabbath because they were hungry. But they were breaking the Law right? No because itinerant men had to get their food when and where they could. Jesus points out that when David and his men were without food they ate “entered the house of God and ate the showbread which was not lawful for him to eat, nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests.” (see Mark 2:23-28 referring to 1st Samuel 21:1-6).

    I recall that when I attended private Jewish school a teach stated that if you are stranded on a desert island and the only thing to eat is pig, then you eat pig.

    I hope this helps, aDios,
    Mariano

    ReplyDelete
  7. Mariano,

    Thanks for your further comments.

    You offered your interpretation that "this was a particular case, Jesus was speaking to a particular individual". Many past and present Christians have interpreted this story to be a lesson for everyone. Many early Christians actually sold everything while waiting Jesus to come back. Dan Barker's point was that Jesus “did nothing to alleviate poverty”. Even if your interpretation is right what was Jesus' answer to alleviate poverty?

    Note that Jesus advocated common ownership leaning towards communism or at least towards socialism. Is that the answer?

    I asked if you would considers it moral to lie in order to ‘protect someone from harm'. You seem to avoid the question by saying that we need to define terms, then you moved the answer to Barker's categorising of religion (simplistic view?) and situational ethics.

    So let's go back to the question.
    You initially wrote in simplistic terms without defining any terms:
    “Putting Mr. Barker’s statements together in logical form:
    (1) he considers it moral to lie in order to ‘protect someone from harm;’

    I think it would be fair that you would answer in those same terms and simplicity:
    Would you considers it moral to lie in order to ‘protect someone from harm'?

    BTW could you please consider changing the comment mode so registered users would be able to post without moderation. I know that there are some atheist trolls who might mess the system, but it only shows their own silliness. I posted a commented couple of weeks ago and it did not appear in 48h, which was not encouraging... Unmoderated discussion seem to work on ChristianCADRE and triablogue sites

    ReplyDelete
  8. other than the bible, does anyone have any compelling evidence that jesus existed?

    ReplyDelete
  9. Peter,
    Thanks for checking back. I should state that I did not interpret anything but I just read what the text stated (although I did interpret since the term means “to make clear”).
    I do not see the New Testament taking one single view such as only advocating common ownership (communism/socialism). Christianity has a way to interact with a government, within a community, between individuals, etc.
    Thus, since there are certain works that the gov does for the citizenry – we pay taxes.
    Since some people cannot work due to handicap, old age, etc. – we give charity to them.
    If you are able bodied you need to get out there and work.
    Some chose to life communally.
    Etc.
    Within all of these options, et al, there are ways to deal with poverty.

    Just to clarify, the 1, 2, 3 points were quotations from Mr. Butt (I wonder if he tells people, “Call me Kyle,” or “How about Mr. B”) and I linked to his article.

    I do not see how I avoided the question since I not only answered it but provided examples of how the Bible presents this very scenario and others that, by extension, show that there is a consideration of circumstance.
    Thus, lying in order to “protect someone from harm” is moral.
    Yet, even as I write this I am reminded of a true story retold by Ravi Zacharias in “Deliver us From Evil.” A Christian friend of his was in Communist Vietnam and was planning to escape with a number of people. Four Communist soldiers came to his door and told him that they were aware of his plans, was it true that he planned to escape? He lied and said, “No” since the truth would jeopardize the lives of those who planned on escaping with him. Sometime later the 4 soldiers came again and asked again. This time he told the truth. The soldiers responded by stating that they too wanted to escape. In such a case lying (again) may have meant the death of those soldiers.
    This issue is paradoxically not so simple and not so difficult. It is tempting to transfer lying in a life and death situation to lying in any and every situation by coming up with cleaver excuses (which we call “reasons”). Also, it is difficult to discern when a lie, even in a life and death situation, would be the right answer.
    Now to the bottom line – the morality of lying in order to protect life is not a problem for the Bible or its morality since the real problem is that skeptics and believers alike have tended to simplify the matter and overlooked the circumstantial issues.

    As far as un-moderated comments: I am not sure what “48h” is, but believe me, would love to go un-moderated since it just eats up our time. We will discuss it again and may post our response.

    Visedog,
    Thanks for the question, although I am not sure that I understand it or its purpose.
    If I understood it, the question is: other than the most well attested document(s) of antiquity, does anyone have any compelling evidence that Jesus existed? Any other document would be much, much more suspect and much, much, much less well attested. But other may choose to answer differently. Anyone? Anyone?

    aDios,
    Mariano

    ReplyDelete
  10. Mariano,

    Thanks for following this up. You stated that "lying in order to “protect someone from harm” is moral."

    Would it then follow:

    “Putting Mariano’s statements together in logical form:
    (1) he considers it moral to lie in order to ‘protect someone from harm;’
    (2) he considers atheism to be harmful;
    (3) then it must follow that Mariano would lie in order to dissuade a person from not believing in God"

    Can you now spot the logical fallacy there?



    visedog,

    Short answer is no. Long answer is study the two quotes from Josephus, especially the shorter one, which might have a seed of truth in it. Google "Josephus on Jesus". It is usually offered as the best evidence.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Peter,
    Yes sir, I can spot the logical fallacy.
    You pretend to know what I consider dangerous, you ignore the example from Communist Vietnam and you ignore my statement, “It is tempting to transfer lying in a life and death situation to…”
    My two examples were life and death situations and so is Mr. Barker’s famous (yet, falsely dichotomous bloody woman scenario).
    Now, let us assume that you proved that I do lie in order to argue against atheism.
    How far have you gone in demonstrating that Dan Barker is not lying in order to argue against theism? Not one inch. The you do it too arguments does not alleviate Mr. Barker at all.

    Miami-vicedog :o)
    Certainly consult the 27 books/letter that make up the New Testament.
    And you may also check out the following from the first century, or very shortly thereafter:
    The Mishna (later to be found within the Talmud)
    Rome catacomb inscriptions
    Polycarp
    Irenaeus of Lyon
    Justin Martyr
    Trypho
    Flavius Josephus
    Cornelius Tacitus
    Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus
    Pliny the Younger
    Theudas
    Thallus
    Lucian
    Mara bar Serapion
    Celsus
    Lucian of Samosata
    Porphyry of Tyre

    aDios,
    Mariano

    ReplyDelete
  12. Visedog,

    If you wanted a brief overview of non-canonical sources you could check out "The Christ Files" by John Dickson. It's pretty entry level stuff but in about 100 pages will summarise a large chunk of what we know about Jesus from ancient Christian, Jewish and Pagan writings. It should also introduce you to historiography which will show you why the premise behind your question is so odd.

    Cheers.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Mariano,

    I did not realise that you run a Dan Barker hate site. That seems so unchristian.

    I did not try to prove that you lie in order to argue against atheism, I just showed that you post logical fallacies to argue against atheists.


    vicedog,

    Don't bother with John Dickson. He claims that sanhedrin 43a has the words "Jesus of Nazareth" which it does not. He also claims that fragment 7Q5 is from the NT. This idea is rejected by scholars. The list goes on and on... Mariano's list does not have anything from the 1st century, except Josephus, and some of the don't even mention Jesus... And how would the catacomb writings prove that Jesus existed anyway?

    ReplyDelete
  14. Peter,
    I suppose that you did not realize that I run a Dan Barker hate site because I do no such thing.
    I suppose that if you consider it hateful to criticize someone then you are a very, very hateful person. I certainly do not see it that way and I do not hate anyone.
    It seems as if you are, yet again, basing your comments on presuppositions and ignoring statements that have already been elucidated to you.
    Having a site that critiques Dan Barker is most certainly well within the Christian ethic.
    Anyone interested in not taking either of our words for it as to the content of my Dan Barker site, please judge for yourselves: Dan Barker – One of America’s Leading Atheists
    aDios,
    Mariano

    ReplyDelete
  15. Visedog,

    Up to you how you follow this up. You could take Peter’s advice and ignore those who specialise in the field and arrive at a different conclusion to you. Seems to be the way Peter maintains his prejudices. However I hope you would feel that finding an author with expertise on the topic, surfing atheist websites to see what minor points he may have made which are contentious and then disregarding everything he’s ever written is not a very smart way to proceed. I hope you’ll be more open to seriously engaging with the issue that some of the more closed minded contributors on this blog.

    Cheers.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Honestly? I feel like this is the Cold War "The defector from the workers paradise of the CCCP does not understnad communism. He doesn't understand the intricate meanings of the writings of Marx. He doesn't..."

    Of course, phrasing it like that could be used for ALL defectors, and is thus useless. However, I was under the impression he deconverted due to theodicity.

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  17. "We would all do well to consider it to be full of lies."

    Heh. As Hitchens says, there is little to be done with arguments such as this but to underline them.

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  18. Maybe you should eskip the conclusions and ask the guy.. or just read it just to know which "lies" you reffer?

    ReplyDelete