4/30/09

The Latest Dawkins Spanking

There are two conjoined articles and one statement via a comments section that demonstrate, yet again, that the Brightest guy in the room, Prof. Richard Dawkins, leaves much to be desired in the area of well, just about everything.

Here are the relevant references:
Bill Muehlenberg, Telling Lies for Atheism

Melanie Phillips, The Truth Delusion of Richard Dawkins

The relevant comment is at Bill Muehlenberg, Dawkins, Deism and Jesus

Continue reading The Latest Dawkins Spanking...

Dan Barker - Scriptural Misinterpretations and Misapplications, part 12 of 14

This post has been moved to True Freethinker were it resides at this link


Continue reading Dan Barker - Scriptural Misinterpretations and Misapplications, part 12 of 14...

4/23/09

Atheism Spirituality

This essay will present a sampling of atheism spirituality by means of a circumlocution that begins by considering that, I suppose, it was only a matter of time: Professor Richard Dawkins quoted comedians in his book “The God Delusion” and has subsequently picked an argument with a comedian. The comedian’s “sin” against militant activist atheism is that he is not an atheist but some sort of deist.

In his autobiography, The Sound Of Laughter, Peter Kay wrote, “I believe in a God of some kind, in some sort of higher being. Personally I find it very comforting.”

Prof. Richard Dawkins stated, “How can you take seriously someone who likes to believe something because he finds it ‘comforting’?” and furthermore, “If evidence were found for a supreme being I would change my mind instantly -with pride and with great surprise. Would I find it comforting? What matters is what is true, and we discover truth by evidence, not what we would ‘like.’” Apparently, whatever sense of atheism spirituality Prof. Richard Dawkins feels it is not about a comforting feeling.

Peter Kay has written,

“I believe that a man called Jesus did walk the earth at one time but I don't think he was the superhero that the Bible makes him out to be…I think Jesus was just an ordinary person, like me and you.”

Come on now Prof. Richard Dawkins, what is not to like about that?

As one post on this issue read,

“it would help if, just occasionally, he was a tad less humourless and relentless in his attacks on all that is even vaguely religious.”


Dawkins and Kay


I am not certain that we have enough of Peter Kay’s epistemology in his statement to claim that he is actually stating that he “likes to believe something because he finds it ‘comforting.’” He may have other reasons for believing it and also find it comforting. Moreover, would it really be shocking if God existed and that knowledge was comforting?

Sean McManus noted that during a lecture at the Society for Ethical Culture, Prof. Richard Dawkins, was asked “Doesn’t God provide people some solace?” His answer was, “Isn’t that a little childish? Just because something is comforting doesn’t mean it’s true.”
Again, apparently whatever sense of atheism spirituality Prof. Richard Dawkins feels it is not about a comforting feeling.

Moreover, Prof. Richard Dawkins has stated,

“I believe that, given proper encouragement to think, and given the best information available, people will courageously cast aside celestial comfort blankets and lead intellectually fulfilled, emotionally liberated lives”[1] (italics in original).

And yet again, Prof. Richard Dawkins’ atheism spirituality is not about a comforting feeling.

Now, let us turn to another of Prof. Richard Dawkins’ boasts about atheism as he stated it to Ben Stein in the movie Expelled, “people experience freedom when they leave religion or God.”
Perhaps not comfort based atheism spirituality but sense of freedom based.

And another from, A Devil's Chaplain, “There is deep refreshment to be had…you stand to gain ‘growth and happiness’; the joy of knowing that you have grown up” (perhaps Darwin’s Chaplain should be consulted).
Perhaps not comfort based atheism spirituality but sense of deep refreshment, happiness and joy based.

Prof. Richard Dawkins also stated,

“I think there is a poetic consolation to be found in science, and I tried to give expression to it.”[2]

Perhaps not comfort based atheism spirituality but sense of consolation based.

Also, in answer to fellow atheist Jonathan Miller:

you and I probably do have…feelings that may very well be akin to a kind of mystical…I experience, and I expect you experience, internal feelings which sound pretty much like um, what mystics feel, and they call it God. If - and I’ve been called a very religious person for that reason - if I am called a religious person, then my retort to that is, “Well, you're playing with words.”, because what the vast majority of people mean by religious is something utterly different from this sort of transcendent, mystical experience […] The transcendent sense…the transcendent, mystic sense, that people who are both religious and non-religious in my usage of the term, is something very very different. In that sense, I probably am a religious person. You probably are a religious person…the sense of wonder that one gets as a scientist contemplating the cosmos, or contemplating mitochondria is actually much grander than anything that you will get by contemplating the traditional objects of religious mysticism.[3]

Now we begin to get a view at the full Monty of a very popular form of atheism spirituality by means of the “mystical…experience…internal feelings…mystical experience…the transcendent, mystic sense…sense of wonder…contemplating” and atheism spirituality is holier than thou, “much grander.”

In his article, Is Science a Religion? Prof. Richard Dawkins wrote,

…science does have some of religion’s virtues…All the great religions have a place for awe, for ecstatic transport at the wonder and beauty of creation. And it’s exactly this feeling of spine-shivering, breath-catching awe — almost worship — this flooding of the chest with ecstatic wonder, that modern science can provide. And it does so beyond the wildest dreams of saints and mystics…
Science can offer a vision of life and the universe which, as I’ve already remarked, for humbling poetic inspiration far outclasses any of the mutually contradictory faiths and disappointingly recent traditions of the world’s religions.

Now we get a better view of the full Monty of this sort of atheism spirituality by means of the “awe… ecstatic transport…wonder and beauty…spine-shivering, breath-catching awe — almost worship…ecstatic wonder” and again, atheism spirituality is holier than thou, “beyond the wildest dreams of saints and mystics…far outclasses…the world’s religions.”

What have other atheists to state on the issue?

Carl Sagan personified this sort of atheism spirituality as he began the very first episode of “Cosmos” with an utterly unscientific statement,
The Cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be.

His atheism spirituality incantation continued thusly,

Our feeblest contemplations of the Cosmos stir us—there is a tingling in the spine, a catch in the voice, a faint sensation, as of a distant memory, of falling from a height. We know we are approaching the greatest of mysteries.

Presupposing a God-free reality; why it is that atheists seek transcendent experiences, atheism spirituality, remains unanswered.
Also, in referring to our ability to “step off the Earth and look back at ourselves,” as was done by Voyager 2, Carl Sagan stated,

I find that a chilling, spine-tingling, exciting, perspective-raising, consciousness-raising experience. It's said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience.[4]

This is denotes an odd co-option of science for the purposes of filling the God shaped void in every human heart via atheism spirituality.

This sentiment was echoed by Michael Shermer whose study of evolution became atheism spirituality that is also holier than thou,

far more enlightening and transcendent, spiritual, than anything I had experienced in seven years of being a born again Christian.[5]

During his debate with Jonathan Wells “Why Darwin Matters” (video and audio) Michael Shermer referenced “the spiritual side of science” which he terms “sciensuality” this is the very definition of God replacing atheism spirituality.

Prof. Michael Ruse, who is an ardent evolutionist and an ex-Christian who has argued for the ACLU against the “balanced treatment” and professor of the philosophy of science and biology, wrote:

Evolution is promoted by its practitioners as more than mere science. Evolution is promulgated as an ideology, a secular religion…This was true of evolution in the beginning, and it is true of evolution still today…evolution as a kind of metaphysics rather than a straight science.[6]

This denotes a state sponsored, indoctrinating, tax payer funded, correlation of atheism and state form of atheism spirituality whereby “evolution” is co-opted as atheist propaganda (I noted the smuggling of atheism through the backdoor of science classrooms in this post).

Stephen S. Hall, Darwin’s Rottweiler - Sir Richard Dawkins: Evolution’s Fiercest Champion, Far Too Fierce

“Einsteinian religion is a kind of spirituality which is nonsupernatural…And that doesn’t mean that it’s somehow less than supernatural religion. Quite the contrary….It is something bigger, something grander, something that I believe any scientist can subscribe to, including those scientists whom I would call atheists…What I can’t understand is why we are expected to show respect for good scientists, even great scientists, who at the same time believe in a god who does things like listen to our prayers, forgive our sins, perform cheap miracles…I suppose my hope would be that science—the best kind of science, the sort of science which approaches the best sort of religion, the Einsteinian spirituality that I was talking about—is so inspiring, so exciting that it should be sellable to everybody…
We have something far better to offer…Why are we freethinking secular scientists not getting into that same marketplace…and selling what we’ve got to sell? Because it’s a far better product, and all we’ve got to do is hone our salesmanship to the level that they are already doing it. [italics in original]

This is, of course, all a part of the goal of many atheists, the ultimate institutionalization of atheism spirituality in the form of a one-world-atheist-neo-Pagan-religion. And it is a true and accurate vision of religion, the religion against which Christians protest: all the emotion and none of the substance.

This is also a fulfillment of the words of the apostle Paul:

…men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because the thing which may be known of God is clearly revealed within them, for God revealed it to them. For the unseen things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being realized by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, for them to be without excuse. Because, knowing God, they did not glorify Him as God, neither were thankful. But they became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man…
Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness…For they changed the truth of God into a lie…they did not think fit to have God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind (Romans 1:18b-28).

But isn’t atheism spirituality a little childish? Just because something is freeing, liberating, refreshing, joyful, consoling, transcendent, ecstatic, spine-shivering, spine-tingling, breath-catching, awe inspiring, chilling, exciting or sciensual doesn’t mean it’s true.

May we likewise state of Prof. Richard Dawkins,

How can you take seriously someone who likes to believe something, like in atheism spirituality, because he finds freedom, liberation, refreshment, joy, consol, transcendence, ecstasy, spine-shivering, spine-tingling, breath-catching, awe inspiration, chill, excitement or sciensuality in it. What matters is what is true, and we discover truth by evidence, not that in which we freedom, liberation, refreshment, joy or consolation”?

Moreover, it would be logical to ask if this “freedom” is the same sort of freedom that a bank robber, enjoying the fruits of his labor, feels once he has gotten away with it and is sipping margaritas on a tropical beach. Or the liberation felt and expressed by the domestic terrorist William Ayers when he stated, “Guilty as hell, free as a bird—America is a great country.”

Ex-atheist, the late C. S. Lewis, noted the following of a form of atheism spirituality which he referred to in terms of “Life-Force philosophy, or Creative Evolution, or Emergent Evolution”:

One reason why many people find Creative Evolution so attractive is that it gives one much of the emotional comfort of believing in God and none of the less pleasant consequences.
When you are feeling fit and the sun is shining and you do not want to believe that the whole universe is a mere mechanical dance of atoms, it is nice to be able to think of this great mysterious Force rolling on through the centuries and carrying you on its crest.
If, on the other hand, you want to do something rather shabby, the Life-Force, being only a blind force, with no morals and no mind, will never interfere with you like that troublesome God we learned about when we were children.
The Life-Force is a sort of tame God. You can switch it on when you want, but it will not bother you.
All the thrills of religion and none of the cost.
Is the Life-Force the greatest achievement of wishful thinking the world has yet seen?[7]

Thus ends the great atheism spirituality experiment.

These are some of the reasons that atheism, particularly in the forms of atheism spirituality, is a consoling delusion; it is the delusion of absolute autonomy, the delusion of lack of ultimate accountability, of subjective meaning in an objectively meaningless universe, etc.

Seeking freedom, liberation, refreshment, joy, consol, transcendence, ecstasy, spine-shivering, spine-tingling, breath-catching, awe inspiration, chill, excitement and sciensuality in atheism spirituality is indicative of atheism as a consoling delusion—atheism is the valium of the people.

[1] Richard Dawkins, How Dare You Call Me a Fundamentalist - The Right to Criticise ‘Faith-Heads’
[2] Lawrence M. Krauss and Richard Dawkins, “Should Science Speak to Faith? (Extended version),” Scientific American, June 19, 2007
[3] The Atheism Tapes, Part 4: Richard Dawkins and Jonathan Miller
[4] Carl Sagan and Tom Head, Conversations with Carl Sagan (Univ. Press of Mississippi), p. 77
[5] Whoever posted it entitled the video Kent Hovind Schools Dr. Mike Shermer
[6] Michael Ruse, “How Evolution Became A Religion—Creationists Correct?: Darwinians Wrongly Mix Science With Morality, Politics,” National Post, May 13, 2000
[7] C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, Chapter 4: “What Lies Behind the Law”


Continue reading Atheism Spirituality...

Atheism, the Bible, Rape and EvilBible.com, part 3 of 6

Please note that this series has been republished beginning here.

Continue reading Atheism, the Bible, Rape and EvilBible.com, part 3 of 6...

4/15/09

Atheism and the Columbine High School Massacre?

In the, relatively, near future I was going to mention the Columbine High School massacre but meanwhile ran across the material about the murderers contained HERE?

What thinkest thou?
Continue reading Atheism and the Columbine High School Massacre?...

Darwin’s Chaplain

Charles Darwin famously quipped about the sort of book that “a Devil’s Chaplain might write.”
I wished to focus on his imagining what the Devil’s Chaplain would write about the “low and horridly cruel works of nature.”[1]

It seems to me that it indeed would only be a Devil’s Chaplain who could write such a book (or conversely an Unfallen Angel’s Chaplain).

The Devil’s Chaplain would premise estimations as to what is “horridly cruel works” upon the very fact of being a Devil’s Chaplain. The fact of being aware of absolute good, benevolence or ethics is what would make the Devil’s Chaplain aware of, that is; capable of, estimating what are “horridly cruel works.”

Otherwise, what a sensitive and thoughtful man such as Charles Darwin would consider “horridly cruel works” would merely be biased and emotionally charged observations of the amoral and emotionally irrelevant actions of bio-organisms.

The Devil’s Chaplain is aware of whom he serves and is aware that his master is he who rebelled against that which makes estimations such as “horridly cruel works” possible.

Charles Darwin wrote the following to the biologist Asa Gray in 1860 AD:

I cannot persuade myself that a benevolent and omnipotent God would have designedly created the Ichneumonidae with the express intention of their feeding within the living bodies of Caterpillars.

The Devil’s Chaplain had succeeded in casting aspersions on God like so many cast and rolling Las Vegas dice. The Devil’s Chaplain smiled stating, “Give me a naturalist/biologist, I will give you the atheist. By the time they complete their schooling the will have gone through the atheist catechism untold times—even to the point of denying the obvious as Francis Crick and Richard Dawkins so obediently urge.”

Richard Dawkins, The Blind Watchmaker (p. 1),
Biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose.

Francis Crick, What Mad Pursuit (p. 138),
Biologists must constantly keep in mind that what they see was not designed, but rather evolved.




Let us consider Charles Darwin’s concern: to begin with, let us note that this is the sort of statement that Prof. Richard Dawkins would surely discount as being an argument from personal incredulity. What Charles Darwin is or is not able to persuade himself about is irrelevant. Moreover, not even the most fundamentalist-Bible thumping-Bishop Ussher YECs types need hold to the concept that God created the Ichneumonidae with that express intention—this is merely Darwinian theology.

Employing elegant sarcasm Scott F. Gilbert (Swarthmore College Professor of Biology, he teaches developmental genetics, embryology, and the history and critiques of biology) notes,
in addition to their usefulness in provoking disquieting notions concerning natural order and the nature of “individuality,” parasitic wasps may have important economic consequences. Macrocentrus grandii is a polyembryonic wasp that parasitizes the European corn borer. The ability of an insect to form from a holoblastically cleaving embryo should also encourage us to appreciate some of the plasticity of nature and discourage us from making sweeping generalizations about an entire subphylum of organisms.[2]


He wrote this in the context of considering that “discussions of animal development are often bottlenecked through particular organisms.”

Let us imagine that Charles Darwin decided that due to such bio-functions of bio-organisms God does not exist.[3] What has he accomplished? Ichneumonidae is still about its business and it does not have to worry about theology. Nor does it have to worry about morality anymore.

What Charles Darwin would have accomplished is to turn something which according to a very particular and peculiar theology questioned God’s character into a mere amoral bio-function. Do away with God and all, each and every, behavior is a mere bio-function which we then take upon ourselves to prefer to call “good” or “bad.”


Thus, an consistent Atheist’s Chaplain would merely consider the actions of Ichneumonidae and merely state, “What a fascinating bio-organic function” not fretting about esthetic-morality.
While a Devil’s Chaplain would say, “Delightful!”
And an Unfallen Angel’s Chaplain would say, “we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs…eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption.”

Ultimately, Charles Darwin accomplished a herculean task; he solved the “problem of evil,” at least in a particular and peculiar way.
If God exists: Ichneumonidae’s actions are evil and thus, evil exists.
Yet, if God does not exist: Ichneumonidae’s actions are a merely amoral bio-function, evil does not exist.
Thus, the “problem of evil” is, in this manner, solved by merely asking, “What evil?”

Ultimately, the Devil’s Chaplain was all too successful in preaching his message. His brimstone and fire preaching against God, against God’s indifference to the cruelty of His own creation, succeeded in causing the death of God and with God went the Devil. With the devil being relegated to the realm of mythology (the Devil’s most brilliantly successful feat) the devil’s chaplain found himself out of a job.

[1] From Charles Darwin’s letter to Joseph D. Hooker – July 13, 1856
[2] Scott F. Gilbert, DevBio – A Companion to Developmental Biology (8th ed.), chapter: Polyembryony: The Parasitic Wasps
[3] Alfred Russell Wallace, co-conceiver with Charles Darwin of the theory of natural selection, wrote:
“‘I fully accept Mr. Darwin’s conclusion as to the essential identity of man’s bodily structure with that of the higher mammalian, and his descent from some ancestral form common to man and the anthropoid apes,’ he conceded. However, man’s intellectual powers and moral sense, among other things, he said, ‘could not have been developed by variation and natural selection alone, and…, therefore, some other influence, law, or agency is required to account for them.’ Darwin was naturally upset by what Wallace called ‘my little heresy,’ and he wrote to Wallace in 1869 lamenting, ‘I hope you have not murdered too completely your own and my child.’”
[Roger Lewin, Bones of Contention (New York, NY: A Touchstone Book published by Simon & Schuster Inc., 1987), p. 310]


Continue reading Darwin’s Chaplain...

Atheism and Science : “Love the Lord Your God With All Your Mind”—Matthew 22:37

To babies, objects ought to obey the laws of physics

And I wondered why New Scientist is referred to as the National Enquirer of science.

Michael Brooks[1] wrote a wonderful explanation of just how much fun you can have telling quaint stories while making a living as a scientist. Oh no, no, no! Do not misunderstand, I know that this is how science is done: presuppose atheism, employ the evolution of the gaps and then tell tales about how evolution could have done something. Really, I get it; the article merely set out to elucidate the evolution of the God idea, religion, etc.



The basic premise is speculation about how “religion emerges as a natural by-product of the way the human mind works.”

Paul Bloom, psychologist at Yale University, states, “There's now a lot of evidence that some of the foundations for our religious beliefs are hard-wired.”

Michael Brooks wrote that Paul Bloom “and colleagues have shown that babies as young as five months make a distinction between inanimate objects and people. Shown a box moving in a stop-start way, babies show surprise. But a person moving in the same way elicits no surprise. To babies, objects ought to obey the laws of physics and move in a predictable way. People, on the other hand, have their own intentions and goals, and move however they choose.”
This is interesting and rather odd; how do babies distinguish inanimate objects from people? Babies see all sorts of inanimate objects moving, apparently, under their own power/volition: fans spinning, trees and curtains being blow by the breeze, the whole world rushing by outside of a car window, (and if you are at my home) other kids throwing various toys, etc.

Michael Brooks further notes that “There is plenty of evidence that thinking about disembodied minds comes naturally. People readily form relationships with non-existent others…adults often form and maintain relationships with dead relatives.”
To this I can attest as atheists have an odd habit of addressing dead people whether they are telling the late to Carl Sagan that they will miss him, Richard Dawkins telling the late Douglas Adams that he misses him or Dan Barker saying “Happy birthday Charles [Darwin]!”.

Justin Barrett anthropologist at the University of Oxford, states, “Children the world over have a strong natural receptivity to believing in gods because of the way their minds work, and this early developing receptivity continues to anchor our intuitive thinking throughout life.”

Jesse Bering, Queen's University Belfast, UK, “considers a belief in some form of life apart from that experienced in the body to be the default setting of the human brain.”

Pascal Boyer, a psychologist at Washington University in St Louis, Missouri. Boyer points out that people expect their gods' minds to work very much like human minds, suggesting they spring from the same brain system.

This is interesting; does “they spring from the same brain system” mean that a fictitious God springs from our brain; man making God in his image? Or that man springs from God’s brain; God making man in His own image. Interestingly enough the Bible has God stating,
For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9).

Let us take a moment to consider how a true scientist elucidates the matter:


Deborah Kelemen of the University of Arizona in Tucson asked 7 and 8-year-old children questions about inanimate objects and animals, she found that most believed they were created for a specific purpose. Pointy rocks are there for animals to scratch themselves on. Birds exist “to make nice music”, while rivers exist so boats have something to float on. “It was extraordinary to hear children saying that things like mountains and clouds were ‘for’ a purpose and appearing highly resistant to any counter-suggestion,” says Kelemen.”

Poor foolish children someday they will be scientifically and philosophically enlightened enough to finally realize that absolutely everything in the universe is the meaningless stuff of accidents, having been derived from an uncaused first cause; eternal matter—the omnipotent maker of all things.

Deborah Kelemen is also said to have “found that adults are just as inclined to see design and intention where there is none.” This statement which logically begs the question: how do you know there is no design or intention? However, it was a generic remark and so it is not know precisely to what they were referring.

Pascal Boyer “is keen to point out that religious adults are not childish or weak-minded.”
As for atheists; Olivera Petrovich, University of Oxford,
adds that even adults who describe themselves as atheists and agnostics are prone to supernatural thinking. [Jesse] Bering has seen this too. When one of his students carried out interviews with atheists, it became clear that they often tacitly attribute purpose to significant or traumatic moments in their lives, as if some agency were intervening to make it happen. “They don't completely exorcise the ghost of god - they just muzzle it,” Bering says. The fact that trauma is so often responsible for these slips gives a clue as to why adults find it so difficult to jettison their innate belief in gods, [University of Michigan in Ann Arbor anthropologist Scott] Atran says.

On the other hand, various atheists from Charles Darwin to Ted Turner turned trauma, in their case the death of a loved one, as occasion to reject God’s existence since, for whatever reason, their preferred theologies would not allow for the trauma to occur if their concept of God existed.

So if religion is a natural consequence of how our brains work, where does that leave god? All the researchers involved stress that none of this says anything about the existence or otherwise of gods: as Barratt points out, whether or not a belief is true is independent of why people believe it.


Olivera Petrovich believes that “children tend to spontaneously invent the concept of god without adult intervention: ‘They rely on their everyday experience of the physical world and construct the concept of god on the basis of this experience.’” Thus, the ultimate experiment is conceived of as posing the question, “Would a group of children raised in isolation spontaneously create their own religious beliefs?” Although, this will not be carried out in the foreseeable future at least, not as long as those meddlesome funda-thumpin'-evang-YECists keep squelching the establishment of “science” and prohibiting the free exercise thereof.

Interestingly, one could take all of the various experiments, studies and opinions stated in the article and simply say, “Oh, so that’s how God directed supernatural selection so as to give us the ability to recognize His existence” or “Of course, we are hard-wired, by our Creator, to conceptualize His existence.”

[1] Michael Brooks, “Born believers: How your brain creates God,” 04 February 2009


Continue reading Atheism and Science : “Love the Lord Your God With All Your Mind”—Matthew 22:37...

4/14/09

Are Atheists Healthy, Happy, Moral, etc.?

I thought that it may be of interest to glean some information from various Barna Group studies with regards to the lives of atheists and their views on various issues. Following will be other interesting tidbits.

Note that the following categorizations are my own while the hyperlinks to the Barna Group updates are the titles given to the updates by the Barna Group.

I have categorized thusly:

Charity
Morality
Social / Societal / Political Issues
Relationships
Atheism as Anti-Theism


The tidbits will cover:

Religious Wars
Misc
Sexuality
Incarceration
Life Expectancy
Charity
Bright Family Values


Charity:
New Study Shows Trends in Tithing and Donating - April 14, 2008
Christians tend to be the most generous group of donors. An examination of the three dominant subgroups within the Christian community showed that evangelicals, the 7% of the population who are most committed to the Christian faith, donated a mean of $4260 to all non-profit entities in 2007.
Non-evangelical born again Christians, who represent another 37% of the public, donated a mean of $1581. The other 42% of the Christian population, who are aligned with a Christian church but are not born again, donated a mean of $865. Overall, the three segments of the Christian community averaged donations of $1426.
The Christian giving was divided between Protestants (mean of $1705) and Catholics ($984).
In contrast, Americans associated with non-Christian faiths gave away a mean of $905 during 2007. Atheists and agnostics provided an average of $467 to all non-profit organizations.

Americans Donate Billions to Charity, But Giving to Churches Has Declined - April 25, 2005
In 2004…Barna’s national study found that the people least likely to donate any money at all were…atheists and agnostics…A quarter or more…failed to give away any money in 2004.

Americans Are Misinformed About Poverty, But Widely Involved in Helping the Poor - June 25, 2007
Atheists and agnostics emerged as the segment of people least likely to do anything in response to poverty. They were less likely to engage in eight of the nine specific responses measured, and were the faith segment least likely to participate in eight of the nine responses evaluated.

The “nine specific responses” are the following:
giving material resources (such as clothing or furniture) directly to poor people

donating money to organizations that address poverty

giving food directly to a poor person or family

spending a "significant amount of time" praying for poor people

donating time to personally serve needy people in the community

visiting institutionalized elderly or sick people who are not family members

donating money to organizations that address poverty in foreign countries

serving as a tutor or friend to an underprivileged child

helping to build or restore a house for a poor family

Morality:
Young Adults and Liberals Struggle with Morality - August 25, 2008
exposure to pornography, using profanity in public, gambling, gossiping, engaging in sexual intercourse with someone to whom they were not married, retaliating against someone, getting drunk, and lying…
among skeptics (atheists and agnostics) participation in the eight behaviors ranged from a low of 11% (retaliating) up to a high of 60% (using profanity). While evangelicals averaged 6% participation in each of the eight behaviors mentioned, skeptics averaged five times that level (29%).
Other common acts among skeptics included exposure to pornography (50%), gossip (34%) and drunkenness (33%). People associated with faiths other than Christianity were twice as likely as evangelicals to engage in the behaviors explored.

Donating, Drinking, Depression and Devotion – Barna Survey Explores Changes in People’s Holiday Behaviors - December 15, 2008
Small but significant percentages of people said they would…drink more alcoholic beverages during the holidays, led by the under-25 crowd (12%), atheists and agnostics (11%) and liberals (11%).

Faith Has a Limited Effect On Most People’s Behavior - May 24, 2004
Atheists and agnostics were the group most likely to do each of the following:
recycle used materials
visit an adult-only website
view pornographic media
get legally drunk
have sexual intercourse with someone to whom they are not married
Adults without a faith preference [“i.e., atheists and agnostics”] were the segment least likely to do each of the following behaviors:
volunteer at a church or non-profit organization
stop watching a television program because of its values or viewpoints
fast for religious reasons
do at least 30 minutes of physical exercise in the past week

This segment has grown more quickly than any of the other five faith segments in the U.S. during the past decade.

I am not certain how or why recycling got mixed up with porn—unless they mean recycling porn.

Social / Societal / Political Issues:
Born Again Adults Remain Firm in Opposition to Abortion and Gay Marriage - July 23, 2001

abortion should be legal in all situations…40% of atheists.
abortion should either be illegal in all instances or illegal in all but a few special circumstances…30% of atheists.
44% of atheists…contend that a person is born into homosexuality.
The data clearly underscore the breadth of the gap in moral views between those associated with Christian churches and those associated with non-Christian faith groups or atheism.

How "Christianized" Do Americans Want Their Country To Be? - July 26, 2004
55% of atheists and agnostics said this was a good idea to eliminate the Ten Commandments from government buildings…
37% of atheists and agnostics support the call to remove the phrase "In God We Trust" from the nation’s currency…
40% of atheists and agnostics side with the proposal calling for "removing the phrase ‘one nation, under God’ from the Pledge of Allegiance"…
35% of atheists and agnostics “were comfortable with the [‘F-word’] word being used on broadcast channels.”

Relationships:
Americans Just Want a Good Night of Sleep - October 16, 2006
Atheists and agnostics…were also the least likely to look forward to spending time with friends.

Americans Identify Their Most Important Relationships - March 17, 2008
Atheists and agnostics were most likely to rate their workplace as their top network

Survey Reveals the Life Christians Desire - July 21, 2008
Atheists and agnostics…stood out as…least likely to find living near family and relatives to be highly desirable (43%, compared to 63% national average).
The religious skeptics were also much less likely to be driven to have a clear sense of purpose in life (55%, compared to 77% of all adults) or to want just one marriage partner for life (58% versus an 80% U.S. average).
They were also less interested in making a difference in the world (45%, versus 56% nationally) and in having close friendships…

American Individualism Shines Through in People’s Self-Image - July 23, 2007
The gap between born again adults and people of no faith (i.e., atheists and agnostics) was equally substantial. Not surprisingly, the born again contingent was much more likely to see themselves as servants of God, deeply spiritual, supportive of traditional family values, and concerned about American morality.
However, the religious segment was also distinguished by a greater likelihood of being active in their community; believing that they are making a positive difference in the world; are less likely to be turned off by politics; have greater clarity about the meaning and purpose of their life; and are much less adaptable to cultural change.
According to George Barna, “…atheists, whose fundamental dismissal of social conventions and participation in favor of more self-centered views and behaviors…"

Atheism as Anti-Theism:
Atheists and Agnostics Take Aim at Christians - June 11, 2007
A new evangelistic movement has emerged in America. Yet this effort does not spring from those loyal to a particular faith or religious view. The new evangelists are atheists. People who have determined there is no God or who doubt his existence (a group commonly known as agnostics) are adopting a more aggressive, intentional effort to discredit the notion that God exists and to critique people of faith…

most atheists and agnostics (56%) agree with the idea that radical Christianity is just as threatening in America as is radical Islam…

five million adults unequivocally use the label "atheist" and, when asked to describe the nature of God, staunchly reject the existence of such a being…

One of the most significant differences between active-faith and no-faith Americans is the cultural disengagement and sense of independence exhibited by atheists and agnostics in many areas of life. They are less likely than active-faith Americans to be registered to vote (78% versus 89%), to volunteer to help a non-church-related non-profit (20% versus 30%), to describe themselves as "active in the community" (41% versus 68%), and to personally help or serve a homeless or poor person (41% versus 61%)…

one of the least favorable points of comparison for atheist and agnostic adults - is the paltry amount of money they donate to charitable causes. The typical no-faith American donated just $200 in 2006, which is more than seven times less than the amount contributed by the prototypical active-faith adult ($1500).

Even when church-based giving is subtracted from the equation, active-faith adults donated twice as many dollars last year as did atheists and agnostics. In fact, while just 7% of active-faith adults failed to contribute any personal funds in 2006, that compares with 22% among the no-faith adults…

atheists and agnostics were more likely than were Christians to be focused…on acquiring wealth (10% versus 2%)…One of the largest gaps was the perception of being "at peace," a description less frequently embraced by no-faith adults (67% versus 90%)…

David Kinnaman, the president of The Barna Group, directed the study of the lifestyles and habits of no-faith adults in America, and pointed out some of the implications of the research. "…Proponents of secularism suggest that rejecting faith is a simple and intelligent response to what we know today. Yet, most of the Americans who overtly reject faith harbor doubts about whether they are correct in doing so. Many of the most ardent critics of Christianity claim that compassion and generosity do not hinge on faith; yet those who divorce themselves from spiritual commitment are significantly less likely to help others.

‘Ironically, however, both atheists and committed Christians share one unusual area of common ground: concern about superficial, inert forms of Christianity in America…

Tidbits:
Let us papoose some studied studies as Vox Day considers various atheist claims and provides elucidation. These are taken from Vox Day’s book “The Irrational Atheist” (Dallas, TX: BenBella Books, Inc., 2008).

Religious Wars:
It may be of interest to note that the Encyclopedia of Wars (New York: Facts on File, 2005) was compiled by nine history professors who specifically conducted research for the text for a decade in order to chronicle 1,763 wars. The survey of wars covers a time span from 8000 BC to 2003 AD. From over 10,000 years of war 123, which is 6.98 percent, are considered to have been religious wars - [gleaned from p. 103]

Misc.:
“there is a plethora of evidence that a comparison of all atheists to all Christians will not favor the former, whether one looks at crime rates, divorce rates, birth rates, democratic participation, or charitable giving.” [p. 182]

Vox Day’s Footnotes:
“See chapters IV and XIII for evidence in support of this statement.”

Sexuality:

“[Sam] Harris claims that religious prudery contributes daily to the surplus of human misery while bemoaning the existence of AIDS in Africa and other sexually transmitted diseases in the United States. But this widespread disease is the direct result of the sexual promiscuity that Christians condemn as immoral and which Harris praises as the pursuit of happiness. More to the point, scientific research shows that religious individuals are both happier and more sexually satisfied than non-religious individuals.” [p. 119-120]

Vox Day’s Footnotes:
“‘This kind of pattern is typical—religious involvement is associated with modest increases in happiness.’ Nielsen, M. E. (2006) “Religion and Happiness.” Retrieved 20 May 2007 from http://www.psywww.com/psyrelig/happy.htm.”
“‘Previous research has produced mixed results. Davidson et al. (1995) reported that religious commitment (as measured by frequency of church attendance) did impact on ‘physiological’ sexual satisfaction, but not ‘psychological’ satisfaction. Davidson and Moore (1996) found no relationship between sexual satisfaction and religiosity among female undergraduates. . . . The three items related to religiosity, when considered together, did account for a small, but statistically significant amount of the variation in sexual satisfaction.’ M. Young, G. Denny, T. Young, and R. Luquis. ‘Sexual Satisfaction in Married Women,’ American Journal of Health Studies, 2000.”


“Sam Harris cannot be trusted with statistics…Sometimes such deception is easy to detect. While talking about the spread of sexually transmitted diseases in The End of Faith, Harris cites a study showing that abstinence-pledged virgin teens were more likely to engage in oral and anal sex in an attempt to create the impression that those teens were more likely to contract an STD. What he neglected to mention was that while the study showed that 4.6 percent of the abstinence-pledged teens contracted an STD, this was 35 percent less than the 7 percent of non-pledged teens who also acquired one.” [p. 127]

Vox Day’s Footnotes:
“Martin, Samuel, ‘A Two-Letter Word for Little Miss Pure: It Begins with N.’ The Times, 26 June, 2007”

Incarceration:

“I previously referenced the number of atheists being held by the prison system of England and Wales, where it is customary to record the religion of the prison population as part of the Inmate Information System. In the year 2000, there were 38,531 Christians of twenty-one different varieties imprisoned for their crimes, compared to only 122 atheists and sixty-two agnostics. As Europe in general and the United Kingdom in particular have become increasingly post-Christian, this would appear to be a damning piece of evidence proving the fundamentally criminal nature of theists while demonstrating that atheists are indeed more moral despite their lack of a sky god holding them to account.” [p. 19]

Vox Day’s Footnotes:
“There are some silly bits of information floating around the Internet claiming to prove that Christians are fifty times more likely to go to prison than atheists. Of course, by cherry-picking this data, one could claim that English and Welsh Christians are 315 times more likely to go to prison than atheists and be superficially correct. One would have to be an intellectually dishonest ass to do so, though.”


“However, there also happened to be another 20,639 prisoners, 31.6 percent of the total prison population, who possessed ‘no religion.’ And this was not simply a case of people falling through the cracks or refusing to provide an answer; the Inmate Information System is specific enough to distinguish between Druids, Scientologists, and Zoroastrians as well as between the Celestial Church of God, the Welsh Independent church, and the Non-Conformist church. It also features separate categories for ‘other Christian religion,’ ‘other non-Christian religion,’ and ‘not known.’ At only two-tenths of a percent of the prison population, High Church atheists are, as previously suggested, extremely law-abiding. But when one compares the 31.6 percent of imprisoned no-religionists to the 15.1 percent of Britons who checked ‘none’ or wrote in Jedi Knight, agnostic, atheist, or heathen in the 2001 national survey, it becomes clear that their Low Church counterparts are nearly four times more likely to be convicted and jailed for committing a crime than a Christian.” [p. 20]

Vox Day’s Footnotes:
“3.84 times more likely, to be precise. Census, April 2001, Office for National Statistics. While Christians account for 39.1 percent of the English and Welsh prison population, they make up 71.8 percent of the total population.”

Life Expectancy:

“Studies have shown that those without religion have life expectancies seven years shorter than the average churchgoer,[*] are more likely to smoke, abuse alcohol, and be depressed or obese,[**] and they are much less likely to marry or have children. Their criminal proclivities strongly suggest that they are less intelligent on average than theists and High Church atheists alike, and they also outnumber their High Church counterparts by a significant margin, as the following table of various polls demonstrates:” [the table to which he refers are found on p. 20]

Vox Day’s Footnotes:
* “‘Religious attendance is associated with U.S. adult mortality in a graded fashion: People who never attend exhibit 1.87 times the risk of death in the follow-up period compared with people who attend more than once a week. ’ Hummer R., Rogers R., Nam C., Ellison C. G. ‘Religious Involvement and U.S. Adult Mortality:’ Population Research Center, University of Texas at Austin. 1999.”
** “Although it seems that Baptist women who read Left Behind novels but don’t go to church regularly are the most at risk for excess poundage. Krista M. C. Cline and Kenneth F. Ferraro, ‘Does Religion Increase the Prevalence and Incidence of Obesity in Adulthood?’ Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 2 (2006): 269”

Charity:

“It has been established that Christians give three times more to Charity[*] and are less criminal than the broad spectrum of atheists; experiments at the Economic Science Laboratory suggest that this might be because they believe that their actions are known to God. In variations on an envelope experiment designed to test random charity on the part of a subject who was given ten dollars as well as the opportunity to share it anonymously, the knowledge that the experimenter was watching increased the subject’s likelihood of giving by 142 percent and the amount given by 146 percent.[**]” [p. 145]

Vox Day’s Footnotes:
* “‘In 2000, religious people gave about three and a half times as much as secular people—$2,210 versus $642.’ Ben Gose, ‘Charity’s Political Divide,’ The Chronicle of Philanthropy. 23 Nov. 2006”
** “Landsburg, Steven. ‘Stuffing Envelopes’: Reason, March 2001. The dollar difference increased from $1.08 to $2.66 if the subject thought the amount of his contribution would be known to the observer.”

Bright Family Values:

“Dennett further claims that ‘brights’ have better family values than born-again Christians based on ‘the lowest divorce rate in the United States’ which depends on the flawed 1999 Barna study instead of the 2001 ARIS study he makes use of later in the book, a much larger study that reaches precisely the opposite conclusion. It is certainly a quixotic assertion, considering that these family value atheists are half as likely to get married, twice as likely to divorce, and have fewer children than any other group in the United States. [p. 188]

Vox Day’s Footnotes:
“Barna calculated divorces as a percentage of the entire group, not as a percentage of marriages within that group. Since according to ARIS 2001 more than half of all atheists and agnostics don’t get married, this is an apple-orange comparison. If one correctly excludes the never-married from the calculation, then atheists are 58.7 percent more likely to get divorced than Pentecostals and Baptists, the two born-again Christian groups with the highest rate of divorce, and more than twice as likely to get divorced than Christians in general.”

Continue reading Are Atheists Healthy, Happy, Moral, etc.?...

Dan Barker - Scriptural Misinterpretations and Misapplications, part 8 of 14

This post has been moved to True Freethinker were it resides at this link


Continue reading Dan Barker - Scriptural Misinterpretations and Misapplications, part 8 of 14...

4/13/09

Notification of Upcoming Posts on EvilBible.com Rape and the Bible

FYI: the series mentioned herein has been posted beginning at this link.
Continue reading Notification of Upcoming Posts on EvilBible.com Rape and the Bible...

Atheism and the Continuing Public Image Shim Sham Shimmy: the Atheist Community of Topeka Give it a Shot

Sometimes, actually, quite often, I wonder if I am misreading or making too much of something> But then again I think that sometimes some atheist are such the deep-within-the-box thinkers and so busy elbowing each other in the ribs at the expense of Christians that they think that they are making sense when they are not or have discovered something that is widely known—such as when it was discovered that the universe had a beginning and Judeo-Christians said, “Thanks for catching up.”

The Promulgations:
For example, President of the “Atheist Community of Topeka,” Lee Tibbetts whose “near-weekly events draw upwards of 30 people” said,

It's about opening up the dialogue and letting the nonreligious people know they are not alone and getting the religious people to know that not everyone has the same beliefs[1]

Show of hands: does any religious person, particularly in a first world country complete with cable TV, the internets, newspapers, etc. not know that not everyone has the same beliefs?
Anyone? Anyone?

Jan Williams, a member of the Atheist Community of Topeka, examples a very sad story,

As a young girl, the ACT member believed in a God with the power to change lives. She waited patiently for him to work through her depressed mother, to lift her up and heal whatever ailed her mentally.
‘I thought if I were a Christian, if my mother were a Christian, we would be good and that would help my mother. It didn't,’ she said.

As sad as the story is and as emotive as it is and as empathy inspiring as it is it ought not remove truth and common sense from our minds as they are they are flooded with emotions.
Her statement actually tells it all; did you note her qualifying term? She stated, “I thought.” Now, why was this something that she thought?
Was it simply a common sense conclusion? Perhaps.
Was it poor preaching of the health wealth, name it and claim it, blab it and grab it sort? Perhaps.
We simply do not know. However, the notion that if I were a Christian, if my mother were a Christian, we would be good and that would help my mother is simply not a part of Christian theology. Thus, on a purely logical and theological level Christianity should not be rejected for not delivering on a promise that it never made.

Consider that, without much detail, we learn that Paul the apostle wrote,

lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure.
Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me.
And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.”
Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong (2nd Corinthians 12:7-10).

We certainly do not know the circumstances in which Jan Williams and her dear mother found themselves and so I do not directly correlate them with Paul. However, it is specifically this sort of biblical teaching, Christian preaching, that are a defeater to the “I thought if…” concepts.

But why choose the unbiblical, unChristian, illogical route then? I certainly do not know.
Why not be like Job’s wife who urged him thusly,

Do you still hold fast to your integrity? Curse God and die! (Job 2:9).

Moreover, consider the following syllogism:
1) if I were a Christian, if my mother were a Christian, we would be good and that would help my mother.
2) But it didn't.
3) Therefore, God does not exist.
Yet, since the first premise is erroneous the syllogism is fallacious.

Yet, consider the syllogism again and then ask yourself what results from it. No, I do not mean that it results in fallacy or in a lack of belief in God. I mean; what does it accomplish?
Did rejecting God cause her mother to be healed?
No.
Did embracing atheism result in her mother’s healing?
No.

Thus, her mother is still ill and now Jan Williams does not even have God to blame anymore.
So what was the result? It is no longer evil that her mother suffers—it just is—a bio-organism is malfunctioning and will someday simply cease to move about.

Atheism, being merely an ethereal idea, does nothing about evil but only either makes it worse or pretends that it does not exist. The fact of evil in the world is one of the best reasons for rejecting atheism.

And now we see that the difficulty in dealing with the “problem of evil” is not that it is logically, theologically, philosophically difficult but emotionally difficult—I just had the unpleasant task of pitting tangible and empathy inspiring emotions versus ethereal concepts, logical as they may be.

Rejecting the God of the Bible for unbiblical reasons is actually a common trend. For example, “Seattle Atheists” President, Paul Case (of whom I wrote here),

began questioning the claims church leaders made: that they were visited by prophets and that they had cured a man with AIDS.[2]

As for being cured of AIDS; if someone was then praised be Jesus and if there is medial evidence then all the better. Of course, if someone was cured of AIDS they could care less that atheists demand evidence.
Yet, what caught my attention what that he questioned that the church leaders were visited by prophets. Indeed, the Bible enjoins him to question such things and he should not have rejected the Bible or the God of the Bible because the church leaders were making unbiblical or non-biblical claims.

Jan Williams further stated that,

breaking from what was a “very religious family” was difficult. Pressure, whether external or internal, was strong. The Topeka group is in stark contrast to that. Williams said despite a wide spectrum of where members are in their beliefs, everyone is “totally accepted.” “You don't have to act a certain way or be a certain way,” she said. “Whoever I am is fine.”

I can only imagine that this statement will die the death of one thousand qualifications. “You don't have to act a certain way or be a certain way…Whoever I am is fine.” Really, so at the meetings she could say, “Hey, what are you guys snacking on today? Donuts! Oh, ok, that is fine for you. What? Me? Oh, I am cannibalizing a baby.”

Atheist Community of Topeka President Lee Tibbetts,

said as a young man, he began researching numerous religions but never found evidence sufficient to warrant his belief.

Yet, he has found evidence that a serendipitous chain of accidents that resulted in the Big Bang and, eventually, the formulation of the bio-chemical thought that there is no sufficient evidence to support any religious claim—fascinating!

Another fascinating fact is that while many atheists seek to establish a one world atheist religion they may not have to put much, or any, effort into it. Consider that “Rev.” Michael Jamison, of Unity “Church” of “Christianity,”


Granted, he said his church isn’t in the mainstream. He said atheists’ views of God are closer to his than most Christians’ “goofy” idea of God as a single entity or person. For him, God is science and nature. “Even though they say they don’t believe in God, what do they believe in is in fact God,” Jamison said.

Note that Mike Williams, husband of Jan Williams, presents us with a virtually picture-perfect-poster-boy (literally)-image of many, many atheists as it is reported that he,

remembers being 4 years old and his mother saying to him that God is everywhere, he created everything. “I didn't have the vocabulary to argue, but even then I thought it was utter nonsense,” he said.

Indeed, his intellect, rationale, thinking, logic, reason, philosophy, theology and science have not evolved beyond the 4 year old level.
Perhaps, his mother could have rephrased “God is everywhere”; is it perhaps more accurate that God is not restricted by locality as natural theology, or general revelation, and inferences derived from scientific observations suggest.

What Saith They?
Lee Tibbetts,

said his group can play a vital role in shedding light on what he said was a taboo subject. So taboo, in fact, that numerous members contacted for this story didn't want to talk for fear of the stigma.

He and Mike Williams,

said the group doesn’t seek to ‘deconvert’ people but rather to raise an awareness of the growing numbers…of Americans with “no religion.”

That certainly is an interesting way of putting it, “Hey, no, no, no, maaaaan; I do not want you to deconvert but do want you to know that what you believe is utter nonsense—peace out!”

As usual, their website says it all:
The “A” for the Richard Dawkins militant-atheist-activist “Out Campaign.”

A photo of the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s “Imagine No Religion” billboard—do not have to image but only have to read the history of the last century (see here and here for relevant posts).

News of a group of Germany atheists “trying to change a religious holiday to ‘Evolution Day.’”

They typical list of tolerant and compassionate books, Christopher Hitchens’ “God is Not Great,” Richard Dawkins’ “The God Delusion,” etc., etc., etc.

And an ad for our old friend “Sam Singleton Atheist Evangelist” (see bottom of this post for details).

Sorry to say but another attempt at public relations atheism has given up the ghost.

[1] James Carlson, “Atheist group slowly evolving,” The Topeka Capital-Journal online, April 4, 2009
[2] Janet I. Tu, “Local atheists lift their voices in Metro bus ads,” The Seattle Times, March 29, 2009

Continue reading Atheism and the Continuing Public Image Shim Sham Shimmy: the Atheist Community of Topeka Give it a Shot...

John Horgan and Francis Collins - The Scientist as Believer

John Horgan, who wrote the article which I reproduced here, had occasion to interview Francis Collins who headed the Human Genome Project.[1] It was an interview from which some interesting, telling and typical statements came forth.

Interestingly, and or perhaps oddly, John Horgan mostly asked Francis Collins theological questions. I was not aware that scientists who were also believers were supposed to be instant theologians but apparently the atheist illogic is that believers should be all knowing because they claim that God is all knowing.

John Horgan stated,
“I must admit that I've become more concerned lately about the harmful effects of religion because of religious terrorism like 9/11 and the growing power of the religious right in the United States.”

This same sentiment has been expressed by virtually every new atheist activist type. Some were atheist activists before but where spurred on, many to stardom, by the attacks and some, such as Sam Harris, began his career as a professional atheist activist on the very eve of 9/11.

Yet, I do wonder if this was a reason or an excuse. Perhaps such an emotionally shocking event did cause them to be suddenly ceased upon by a specific concern about “religion,” “faith,” or—insert alternate term here. Yet, why religion, why faith, why God? Why not other motivating factors such as disputations over territory, struggles for power, fighting for resources, Darwinian struggle to survive as the fittest, etc.?
Had the failed to notice somewhat likewise events in the past? Had they not noticed that, for example, one of the many motivating factor behind Communism was, as explicitly claimed by its founders and leaders, atheism?

Why not make their living by writing, “The Atheism Delusion,” “Materialism is Not Great – How Atheism Spoils Everything,” “The End of Atheism,” “Breaking the Spell – Atheism as a Natural Phenomenon,” etc.

Why not make their living by writing, “The Politics Delusion,” “Territory is Not Great – How Resources Spoils Everything,” “The End of Darwinism,” “Breaking the Spell – Various Motivating Factor for Disputation as Natural Phenomena,” etc.

In any regard, Francis Collins point out the fallacy,
“What faith has not been used by demagogues as a club over somebody's head?...we shouldn't judge the pure truths of faith by the way they are applied any more than we should judge the pure truth of love by an abusive marriage…We shouldn't blame faith for the ways people distort it and misuse it.”

John Horgan stated,
“Many people have a hard time believing in God because of the problem of evil. If God loves us, why is life filled with so much suffering?”

Francis Collins responds by stating,
“That is the most fundamental question that all seekers have to wrestle with.
First of all, if our ultimate goal is to grow, learn, and discover things about ourselves and things about God, then unfortunately a life of ease is probably not the way to get there.
I know I have learned very little about myself or God when everything is going well. Also, a lot of the pain and suffering in the world we cannot lay at God's feet. God gave us free will, and we may choose to exercise it in ways that end up hurting other people.”

Yet, John Horgan points out that,
“Physicist Steven Weinberg, who is an atheist, asks why six million Jews, including his relatives, had to die in the Holocaust so that the Nazis could exercise their free will.”

To which Francis Collins states,
“If God had to intervene miraculously every time one of us chose to do something evil, it would be a very strange, chaotic, unpredictable world. Free will leads to people doing terrible things to each other. Innocent people die as a result. You can't blame anyone except the evildoers for that. So that's not God's fault.
The harder question is when suffering seems to have come about through no human ill action. A child with cancer, a natural disaster, a tornado or tsunami. Why would God not prevent those things from happening?”

I certainly do not know but I can suspect a few things about Steven Weinberg’s conclusions. Firstly, note the emotive level jumping from generic evil suffering to the Holocaust. I am not claiming that mentioning the Holocaust is somehow verboten and can also empathize having had some of my relatives murdered by Nazis.

Steven Weinberg actually stated,
“It seems a bit unfair to my relatives to be murdered in order to provide an opportunity for free will for Germans, but even putting that aside, how does free will account for cancer? Is it an opportunity of free will for tumors?”[2]

I do not know about a tumor’s free will but Darwinian mutations have provided tumors with the benefit of living by killing—once the host body dies the tumor dies too, just like us all.

I tend to argue that atheism does nothing about evil.
That is actually makes it worse by guaranteeing that it is for nothing—no ultimate purpose or meaning.
That it cannot be ultimately redeemed.
And that, actually, it serves a very beneficial purpose and meaning since it is for the enjoyment of the evildoer.
Moreover, if the evildoer gets away with it, they simply got to enjoy themselves, period.
However, now I will argue that, in a way, atheism is the ultimate answer to the problem of evil: atheism can simply make evil go away.

Steven Weinberg did not state whether he:
1) Outright rejects free will.
2) Rejects it only when it is considered as part of theology.
3) Accepts it within his particular atheistic worldview.
4) Opts for a predeterminism of some sort—no free will.
5) Or, other.

Yet, the bottom line appears to be:
If there is free will: evil is inevitable.
If there is no free will: evil is inevitable.
Therefore: evil is inevitable.

Yet, atheism can simply make evil go away by appealing to absolutely materialistic processes: evil is merely a part of nature. Steven Weinberg stated that “a certain capacity for pleasure would readily have evolved through natural selection, as an incentive to animals who need to eat and breed in order to pass on their genes.”
Likewise, evil is what we call suffering and suffering amounts to a particular bio-organism’s interpretation of certain sensations or bio-feedback. As Prof. Richard Dawkins stated when it was put to him this way, “your belief that rape is wrong is as arbitrary as the fact that we’ve evolved five fingers rather than six.”
His response was, “You could say that, yeah.”[3]
John Horgan further presses the point thusly,
“Some philosophers, such as Charles Hartshorne, have suggested that maybe God isn't fully in control of his creation. The poet Annie Dillard expresses this idea in her phrase ‘God the semi-competent.’”

To which Francis Collins responds,
“That's delightful-and probably blasphemous! An alternative is the notion of God being outside of nature and time and having a perspective of our blink-of-an-eye existence that goes both far back and far forward. In some admittedly metaphysical way, that allows me to say that the meaning of suffering may not always be apparent to me. There can be reasons for terrible things happening that I cannot know.”

This is a point that I will not belabor here since I will tackle it in the near future with regards to arguments made by Quentin Smith. Suffering comes up again later in the interview.

But what of the question of free will in an absolutely materialistic universe? John Horgan asked about that,
“Freewill is a very important concept to me, as it is to you. It's the basis for our morality and search for meaning. Don't you worry that science in general and genetics in particular and your work as head of the Genome Project-are undermining belief in free will?”

Francis Collins states,
“You're talking about genetic determinism, which implies that we are helpless marionettes being controlled by strings made of double helices. That is so far away from what we know scientifically!
Heredity does have an influence not only over medical risks but also over certain behaviors and personality traits. But look at identical twins, who have exactly the same DNA but often don't behave alike or think alike. They show the importance of learning and experience-and free will.
I think we all, whether we are religious or not, recognize that free will is a reality. There are some fringe
elements that say, ‘No, it's all an illusion, we're just pawns in some computer model.’ But I don't think that carries you very far.”

John Horgan asked,
“What do you think about the field of neurotheology, which attempts to identify the neural basis of religious experiences?”

Francis Collins explains,
“I think it's fascinating but not particularly surprising. We humans are flesh and blood. So it wouldn't trouble me-if I were to have some mystical experience myself-to discover that my temporal lobe was lit up. That doesn't mean that this doesn't have genuine spiritual significance.
Those who come at this issue with the presumption that there is nothing outside the natural world will look at this data and say, ‘Ya see?’ Whereas those who come with the presumption that we are spiritual creatures will go, ‘Cool! There is a natural correlate to this mystical experience! How about that!’”

This is where the erudite elucidations of the preeminent jack of all trades, John Cleese, comes in to play:



This is where all of Sam Harris’ studies in neuroscience will bring him to naught. He is studying to become a neuroscientist not in order to become an unbiased researcher but in order to attempt to prove his particular brand of atheism (See the “Pseudo-Scientific Complex” section of The Sam Harris Trivector). It may one day be shown that God designed us with a receptor in our brains that allow us to perceive God, to perceive other dimensions and or non-physical entities.
Back to, and ending with, suffering as John Horgan asks,
“I'm really asking, does religion require suffering?
Could we reduce suffering to the point where we just won't need religion?”

Francis Collins retorts thusly,
“In spite of the fact that we have achieved all these wonderful medical advances and made it possible to live longer and eradicate diseases, we will probably still figure out ways to argue with each other and sometimes to kill each other, out of our self-righteousness and our determination that we have to be on top.
So the death rate will continue to be one per person, whatever the means.
We may understand a lot about biology, we may understand a lot about how to prevent illness, and we may understand the life span. But I don't think we'll ever figure out how to stop humans from doing bad things to each other. That will always be our greatest and most distressing experience here on this planet, and that will make us long the most for something more.”

I would be interested in asking the following questions:
Does atheism require suffering?
Could we reduce suffering to the point where we just won't need atheism?
Atheist, to this very day in which the problem of evil is dead, still, in virtual ubiquity, claim that evil and suffering are the best evidence of God’s non-existence.
What if they could no longer play upon our fears?
What if they did not gain numbers by benefitting from human suffering?
What if they no more encouraged others to blame God for their suffering to the point of having them reject God only to keep on suffering but this time with the disadvantage of not having God to blame for it any longer?

For the reasons outlined above; the fact of evil and suffering in the world is one of the very best reasons for rejecting atheism.

Steven Weinberg stated:
“I have to admit that, even when physicists will have gone as far as they can go, when we have a final theory, we will not have a completely satisfying picture of the world, because we will still be left with the question ‘why?’
Why this theory, rather than some other theory?
For example, why is the world described by quantum mechanics? Quantum mechanics is the one part of our present physics that is likely to survive intact in any future theory, but there is nothing logically inevitable about quantum mechanics; I can imagine a universe governed by Newtonian mechanics instead. So there seems to be an irreducible mystery that science will not eliminate.
But religious theories of design have the same problem.”

[1] John Horgan, “Francis Collins The Scientist as Believer,” National Geographic, Feb 2007, p. 34-39
[2] Steven Weinberg, A Designer Universe?
[3] At 4:56 into Dawkins Interview with Justin Brierley

Continue reading John Horgan and Francis Collins - The Scientist as Believer...

4/12/09

Dan Barker - Scriptural Misinterpretations and Misapplications, part 7 of 14

This post has been moved to True Freethinker were it resides at this link


Continue reading Dan Barker - Scriptural Misinterpretations and Misapplications, part 7 of 14...

GUEST BLOGGER: Answering Easter Contradiction

Happy Easter!
He is risen!

Appropriately, our special guest blogger is Pastor Stephen Kingsley whose website and blog are foud at The Easter Answer.
Following is his contribution:

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When considering statements about things that are said to have happened, contradiction is a simple logical test for truth. Say you strike up a conversation with a man you meet at the coffee shop and he says, “I was in Chicago yesterday at noon.” But then a moment later he says, “I was in L.A. yesterday at noon.” You raise your eyebrows and start looking for an exit. One of his statements might be true, but one is certainly false. Not only that, his integrity is so diminished, you’re not likely to trust anything else he says.

Now what if this same truth-tester is applied to the Bible’s most important story? Dan Barker is the co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation. In his 1992 book, Losing Faith in Faith (FFRF, Inc.), he challenged Christians to assemble the various resurrection accounts in the Bible together as one consistent narrative. I was personally confronted with this in April of 2003 when a skeptic in a nearby university town published his own abbreviated version of Dan Barker's “Easter Challenge” in the Letters to the Editor section of our regional paper.
Dan Barker and Nielsen’s ultimate hope is the de-conversion of Christians, or at the very least a de-spiriting of our Evangelical zeal. However, their challenge has had the opposite effect on this small town pastor—I am more persuaded than ever. Although I am not a scholar, I will add this claim too: I have succeeded in answering their challenge. This article contains a foundational piece of my argument.

The resurrection of Jesus is central to Christ, and Christ is central to Christianity. If indeed the details of the first century records surrounding the great claim Christianity is founded upon are contradictory, their reliability is tarnished. The thrust of this article is to introduce the reader to a unique way of reconciling what seems to be the most difficult problem concerning what happened on Easter morning. It is fair to examine the accounts of the post-resurrection appearances for contradiction, but given their importance, the charge of contradiction should not be leveled against these witnesses unless it can be proved with certainty. The prosecution has made its case. I’m writing to offer mine.

It should be clearly noted what Dan Barker is and is not asking for. Had his challenge limited a solver to a juxtaposition of the texts—laying them out side-by-side—and explaining the conflicts, it would be impossible to champion. Here is why. When each account is read as its own complete telling of the story, our natural assumptions are imposed upon the intended meaning of each writer’s timeline. The clearest example of this is found in Luke’s Gospel, near the end of chapter 24. Jesus appeared to the disciples on the afternoon of Easter, something no critic disputes.
However, following the record of his speech to the group, in vs. 50 and 51, Luke writes, “And He led them out as far as Bethany, and He lifted up His hands and blessed them. While He was blessing them, He parted from them and was carried up into heaven.” If a rule were invented that required Luke’s narrative to be considered as its own complete story, as if it were indivisible and encased in steel, we would be bound to conclude that the ascension of Jesus happened on the afternoon of Easter, immediately after his appearance to the group. That puts Luke’s record in absolute contradiction to Acts 1, which states that Jesus appeared to the disciples over a forty-day period and then ascended to heaven.
Nevertheless, on this point and numerous others contradiction can only stand as long as a rule of indivisibility might be imposed. Were such constraints enforced it would be a violation to add the data from the accounts together to form a complete picture. There really is no such rule—not here or in any learning situation. It is only natural to gather information in pieces and make adjustments in our understanding as knowledge is added to knowledge, but critics, eager to prove contradiction in the Bible, would love to make this rule a requirement. This impossibly high standard, they might suggest is justified when it comes to the Bible because it is held to be divinely inspired. Even if inspired, it is yet of human speech with all its natural limitations and cultural norms.

Considered together, it is easily observed that the literary method of the Gospel writers was to list events according their interests without noting the passing of time in-between. Here, the writer of Luke jumped from the Easter afternoon group appearance of Jesus to his ascension forty days into the future. It is evident then that his interest was not when it happened, but that it did. It is dishonest to insist that Luke’s failure to specify when the ascension happened is equal to his having begun vs. 50 with the words, “And that same day …” He did not. The same weakness exists in trying to argue that because Matthew only mentions one resurrection appearance of Jesus to the eleven on a mountain in Galilee that it is equal to his having used words to the effect of: “Jesus only appeared to the disciples once ….”
Likewise, with trying to argue that because Paul failed to list the appearance of Jesus to Mary Magdalene, the other women, or the two men on the road to Emmaus in his list in 1 Corinthians 15:3–8 that this is equal to his having used the word “first” with his listing of the appearance of Jesus to Peter as the first one on his list. He did not. If he had, contradiction would be proved, case closed, and we would be left to deal with whatever that may be taken to mean. You can argue that the word “first” is implied, but contradiction is too serious an issue concerning something so important to allow the accusation to stand as valid where it cannot be proved.

When specifying the conditions of his Easter Challenge in his book Losing Faith in Faith (1992 FFRF, Inc.), Dan Barker places no restrictions which would limit the matter to one of a mere comparison of the accounts. It is as if he is saying: “Even if I allow you the greatest possible liberties, you still can not produce a successful answer.” His challenge is generous in its fairness. He writes:


The conditions of the challenge are simple and reasonable. In each of the four Gospels, begin at Easter morning and read to the end of the book— Matthew 28, Mark 16, Luke 24 and John 20–21. Also, read Acts 1:3–12 and Paul's tiny version of the story in I Corinthians 15:3–8. These 165 verses can be read in a few moments. Then, without omitting a single detail from these separate accounts, write a simple, chronological narrative of the events between the resurrection and the ascension: what happened first, second, and so on; who said what, when; and where these things happened. (Dan Barker, Losing Faith in Faith, 1992 FFRF Inc., “Leave No Stone Unturned,” p. 178.)

The method Dan Barker requires takes us beyond wrestling with the assumptions we might be prone to impose upon the timeline of each account when read separately. We are to take all the data from all the accounts, all 165 verses, and bring it all together into one list—“a simple chronological narrative.” Beyond being fair, it is the only legitimate test for contradiction that could bypass suppositions about the intent of the writers and get down to the actual details, the exact words and specific phrases the five writers used in their compositions.

Dan Barker calls himself “your friendly neighborhood atheist,” and having worked on answering his challenge for several years, his fairness in issuing the Easter Challenge is something I’ve come to appreciate. Having answered his challenge, I sent him my solution in February of 2008, fourteen months ago as I am writing now (April 2009). He has not yet dealt with whether the pieces logically fit (in his judgment) as I put them together. I hope he’ll judge fairly according to the rules he made, but I’m not sure.
He was promising to get around to a serious response, but in his latest e-mail he said that he had read enough of my book to see I had done such great damage to the intended meaning of the text that he was not so excited as to make answering me a priority. When he does respond, I can hope he will deal with the one issue his challenge concerns, the “single chronological narrative” he asked for with all the details of all the events woven together consistently.

[I, Mariano, must interrupt for a moment to note that the good pastor does not seems to realize that in the eyes of pseudo-skeptical atheists Dan Barker will be victorious if he does not bother responding seeing as lack of response would mean, for him, that Pastor Kingsley is simply to far beneath him to even dignify with a response]

While the previous example about the ascension of Jesus in Luke and Acts can be resolved with simple addition, there are more difficult contradiction issues to confront in the resurrection accounts. In this article, I will deal with what many would consider the most troublesome—the problem of Mary Magdalene. The resurrection is the subject of the Easter story, but Mary Magdalene is the protagonist and tracking her footprints through the breadth of the story is challenging. At the heart of the difficulty is the difference between John’s account and the Synoptics.




The conflicts begin to pile up in classic harmonies when John’s account of Mary is taken to somehow coincide with the other records of what the women did on Easter morning. Under this common view, the women begin their trip towards the tomb together at “as it began to dawn” (Mt. 28:1) and “early … while it was still dark (Jn. 20:1).” The angel descends and rolls away the stone (Mt. 28:2–4) and by the time the full group of women arrive at sunrise (Mk. 16:1–4 and Lk. 24:1,2) they find the stone missing. So far, no real problem presents itself. However, it is at this point where the accounts diverge into two different stories. In nearly all exegesis through history the explanation is that Mary left the other women (either upon seeing the missing stone or having entered the tomb) and ran to tell Peter the alarming news that Jesus’ body was missing (Jn. 20:2). With this, John’s storyline contains a lengthy and detailed record of Mary’s solo adventure apart from the other women. Meanwhile, per Matthew, Mark and Luke the women encounter the angel(s) in the tomb, run from the tomb, etc.

At the very least, we’re confronted with the trouble of trying to excuse all three Synoptic writers for strongly implying Mary’s presence with the other women, when clearly, under the model commonly presented in telling the story, she fled the scene after they arrived at the tomb. Nevertheless, if we are to believe Matthew (as we should), Mary is clearly implicated as being present and accounted for in all he describes. This includes her listening to the angel’s speech, running from the tomb with great joy to go tell the disciples, and even seeing Jesus with the other women and holding him by the feet as they worshipped him. We cannot simply strip her from Matthew’s account unless we are willing to say his portrayal is inaccurate and his reporting careless. This problem pleads for a solution.

When the details are compared in each Gospel the standard sunrise Easter story clashes like our family cat pouncing on the keyboard of the piano. The complexity is not the problem; it is the difficulty of saying with certainty what exactly happened. And if there is any single place in the Bible we could wish for clarity, it is here. Among Christian scholars, the problem has been labeled as “notorious” and for many, impossible to reconcile. It does not leave the accounts absent of historical relevance, but casts a shadow nevertheless upon the reliability of the biblical record of what really happened on Easter, the day Christianity was born.

I would like to propose a new approach to the problem and a different model, one that appears to be unique to others and offers what may be a simple solution that is more fully developed in my book The Easter Answer. Rather than dealing with a tight knot of activities piled atop one another at the site of the tomb shortly after sunrise, reasons exist to support the view that John’s narrative of Mary Magdalene’s experiences (without the other women) happened before sunrise. Then, afterwards she later met up with the other women and went along as a full participant in their famous Easter sunrise epiphany. It requires the allowance of gaps of times between some of the events and a careful re-thinking of both temporal phrases supplied by the writer of Matthew in 28:1.



The premise of The Easter Answer is that the resurrection event described in Matthew 28:2–4 happened between midnight and 3:00 a.m. on Easter morning. This position can be reasonably supported in Scripture from several angles. The exact time is not so important as is the fact that if the removal of the stone (indicative of the resurrection) by the angel happened earlier than is commonly held, it allows for John's accounting of Mary's Easter experience to commence, quite naturally, at the time he plainly describes in 20:1: “Now on the first day of the week [Easter Sunday] Mary Magdalene came early to the tomb, while it was still dark, and saw the stone already taken away from the tomb.”
Commonly, “while it was still dark” is bent towards sunrise. A common explanation might go like this: “Well it wasn’t really dark, but still somewhat dark when the women began their trip to the tomb. It was likely a long walk and it was more dark than light when they started out. By the time they arrived it was just after sunrise.” But notice John 20:1 is quite explicit in that it does not say Mary was starting her trip, but rather “came early to the tomb, while it was still dark ….” Let’s start here with a fresh view and consider that John means exactly what he says, that Mary was alone and came to the tomb early in the morning when there was no evidence of daylight in the sky. For the sake of discussion, let’s assign our modern timekeeping to the plainest meaning of the writer’s words and assign her arrival at the tomb at 4:00 a.m. and place sunrise at 6:00 a.m. This 4:00 a.m. guess is consistent with John’s temporal phrase in 20:1. The next step is to examine the other Gospels for agreement.

Initially, Matthew 28:1 seems to present a formidable obstacle to this view. Quite plainly it seems to state the women (Mary Magdalene and the other Mary) “came to see” the tomb just before daylight on Sunday morning. This is followed by vss. 2–4 which describe the angel’s appearance and his rolling away of the stone. We could try to solve this problem by rearranging the sequencing, moving vs. 1 below vss. 2–4 so that it follows the angel’s rolling away of the stone. However, such a move would invalidate the case we are trying to make in favor of the accounts. Such a maneuver is unnecessary anyway once we dig deeper into the temporal phrases of vs. 1. Here it is from the Updated NASB of 1995:

(Mt. 28:1) Now after the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to look at the grave.

We are going to take a careful look at the two back-to-back temporal phrases in verse one. First things first: “after the Sabbath,“ and then the second: “as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week.“ A review of various English translations reveals a problem with the first phrase. It is translated two very different ways. When I first began studying this, I started with my personal favorite, the King James Version. Here is how it begins the verse:

(Mt. 28:1 KJV) In the end of the Sabbath....

“In the end of the Sabbath” has a decidedly different meaning than the “after the Sabbath” from in the U-NASB. The Jewish Sabbath ended then with the setting of the sun; then “the first day of the week,” began. This is yet true for orthodox Jews. Rabbis teach that the switch from one 24-hour day to the next happens as soon as three stars can be counted in the evening sky. This is especially true for observant Jews marking the beginning and ending of the Sabbath day. “Sabbath” is a Jewish term and must be reckoned accordingly and the phrase “in the end of the Sabbath” must be taken to mean the closing moments of the Sabbath day, just before the sun dropped below the horizon.

If we reach far back into ancient English Bible translations, this first phrase in Mt. 28:1 was supplied as “in the evening of the Sabbath” by Wycliffe and in the Cloverdale Bible. There are others to consider. For example in the 1901 American Standard Version the first phrase is translated:

(Mt. 28:1 ASV) Now late on the Sabbath day....

The original source material for the NASB was the ASV. It is not too surprising then that when the NASB first hit the market in 1971 it too supplied the first temporal phrase of Mt. 28:1 as “Now late on the Sabbath....” However, by the time the Updated-NASB was published in 1995 the translation was changed to “Now after the Sabbath….” This is also how the first phrase appears in the New King James Version and the New International Version. Which is right, “late on the Sabbath” or “after the Sabbath”? One certainly indicates the described event happened before sunset on the Sabbath, and the other some time after it ended.

At issue for translators in Mt. 28:1 is the Greek opse, used here as a preposition with the genitive. Upon discovering the translators of the NASB had changed opse here from “late” to “after” I wrote to the owners of the copyright, the Lockman Foundation, and asked its editorial board why the decision was made. I received permission to quote their answer and put it in my book. They say translators were attempting to find reasons to justify the change so that the phrase would be consistent with the other Gospel accounts. It is obvious then they were looking at the description made by Mark and Luke of the trip by the women to the tomb at sunrise, and trying to find a legitimate way from the Greek to make Matthew agree. This is understandable, and even commendable if such a change is warranted. In Mark 11:19 and 13:35, and in the Septuagint in Genesis 24:11 opse is used to indicate evening. According to the Lockman Foundation, Greek Lexicons allow it to be translated “after” when used as a preposition, but there is no evidence in Greek literature that this appeared until the second century. What is clear from their comment is there was nothing that required the change.

Clearly, deciding how opse should be translated in Mt. 28:1 is difficult. Given the lack of certainty, it is reasonable to allow exegetical considerations and the statements of other Gospel writers to influence the decision. “Late on the Sabbath” does not fit with Mark 16 and Luke 24 (the women arriving at the tomb after sunrise Sunday morning), but what if “late,” “in the end,” or “evening” is the right translation after all? What if Matthew really was writing about a different trip by the Marys “to see” the tomb just before the Sabbath ended; a similar kind of trip, but one distinctly independent and specifically unrelated to the trip at sunrise described by Mark and Luke?

As for the Aramaic, Murdock (1851) translated the first phrase: “And in the close [evening] of the Sabbath …” Lamsa (1940) has: “In the evening of the Sabbath …” And Murdock’s revised NT reads: “And in the evening of the Sabbath as it was dusk …”

Let’s now take a look at the second phrase and see if it is of any help in deciding between “late on the Sabbath” or “after the Sabbath” in the first phrase. In nearly all English Bibles, it reads the same: “as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week.” A casual reading certainly seems to be referencing Sunday morning just before sunrise. This is the meaning usually granted the phrase, but is that what it is really saying?

The five words, “as it began to dawn,” are from the Greek word epiphosko. In Mt. 28:1 as an active participle, it is epiphoskouse. The etymology of epiphosko is easily discerned: epi—upon, phosko—light, quite literally, “upon-light.” Knowing this, it is easy to see why translators chose “as it began to dawn.” The word “dawn” seems an excellent choice here, and it is, but do not jump to the conclusion that “just before daylight” is its required meaning. Amazingly, while epiphosko could easily be used of the approach of daylight in the morning, it turns out to be quite similar to our use of the word “dawn.” We use “dawn” for the rise of any new thing; even an idea as in “it dawned on me.” We speak of “the dawn of history,” or “the dawn of a new era.” None of these common uses for dawn have anything to do with the rising of the sun in the sky. In the only other use of epiphosko in the New Testament, like our use of the word “dawn” it is used idiomatically concerning the arrival of a new period of time, a 24-hour day. It appears in a temporal phrase in Luke 23:54. Here the writer is narrating the scene of two men hastily burying the body of Jesus. Since the Sabbath was approaching, it was important that they finished the job before sunset. Luke carefully indicates the day and time as follows:

(Luke 23:54) And it was the day of the Preparation [Friday] and the Sabbath drew on.

“Drew on” above is the Greek epiphosko, the same word translated “as it began to dawn” in Mt. 28:1. In Lk. 23:54 other translations provide it as “drew near.” Darby has it as “was coming on.” In Luke the subject of the verb epiphosko is the Sabbath. In Mt. 28:1 the subject of epiphosko is “the first day of the week [Sunday].” Both are important temporal phrases. In Luke the action being indicated is that the Sabbath was about to begin, which we know to be at sunset. What do we do then with Matthew? It seems consistent to allow it to influence its subject (the first day of the week) in the same way. “As it began to dawn” is quite appropriate. The 24-hour day, the new day, was beginning to “dawn” with the setting of the sun.

One other point is worth noting. Knowing the day ended at sunset, if the second temporal phrase of Mt. 28:1 was really a description of the moments just prior to daylight in the sky Sunday morning, it would not say “dawn toward the first day of the week,” it would say “dawn on the first day of the week.”

Still unconvinced? Let me tip the scales further by pointing out that the women’s purpose in going to the tomb at sunrise on Easter morning as described by Mark and Luke was to complete the task of spicing the body of Jesus. However, Matthew makes no mention of spices. He describes their purpose as “to see the grave.” A minor distinction, but worth noting.

So clearly, from the Greek text we have ample reason to see the two back-to-back temporal phrases of Mt. 28:1 as standing in agreement with one another in depicting, that near the end of the weekly Sabbath, the two Marys went “to see” the tomb, just before the beginning of the new 24 hour day, the “first day of the week,” was about to “dawn” with the setting of the sun.

Assigning that meaning to the timing of the trip by the Marys to see the tomb Sabbath evening, Matthew’s style emerges as overtly choppy in manner of reporting in the first several verses of the chapter 28. Comparing his account to the others, the arrangement is complex, but it can be shown he supplied no detail that cannot be suited to the facts of the other texts. In verses five through seven, Matthew records the speech of the angel to the women, but this can easily be shown to be the identical speech (with a few added words) spoken by the angel as recorded in Mark’s account (Mk. 16:6.7).
It’s complicated, but the details from both accounts compliment one another concerning this angelic being with the appearance of a young man. At some point (Matthew doesn’t say when) he rolled away the stone and sat on it; but by the time the women entered the tomb after sunrise, he was seen (likely less fearsome in appearance) sitting on the right side (Mk. 16:5) where the body of Jesus had laid. Any supposed conflict resolves with a recognition that several hours passed between Matthew 28:1 (just before sunset Sabbath evening) and the actual delivery of the angel’s speech to the women. Mark confirms the speech as identical to Matthew’s and that both Marys were present (with other women by that time) to hear it. Matthew’s facts may be seen as true, and so can Mark’s. Both compliment, confirm, and complete one another. There is no unbearable contradiction here, only the melody of orchestrated harmony.



What was the writer of Matthew’s Gospel trying to accomplish with such a specific double-duty description of the day and time in 28:1? He is establishing an important fact—at the end of the Sabbath the women looked upon the tomb and without any reaction from them at that time we may safely infer that they found everything as expected. In 28:1, Matthew establishes the watchful concern of the women, certifies to us that they knew where the tomb was located; that they could make their way to it and identify it; and that it was sealed as the Sabbath day ended. In this way, in one verse, the writer dressed the stage for history’s most important day and the event that has affected the world as none other, the resurrection of Jesus.

As an aside, it is worth noting here that there are some Bible-studying groups around that, discerning the strong possibility that Mt. 28:1 depicts the closing moments of the Sabbath, take the position the resurrection happened then, as the two Marys walked to the tomb that evening. This theory breaks down for several reasons:

1) There is no tradition to support such a claim
2) Mark 16:9 plainly states, “Jesus was risen early the first day of the week.”
3) Proponents of the Saturday afternoon resurrection theory believe Jesus died and was buried on Wednesday afternoon, but that does not square with the reckoning of the Emmaus witnesses who said: “Besides all this, it is now the third day since these things came to pass (Lk. 24:21).” Had Jesus been crucified on Wednesday, by the common reckoning of that day the witnesses would have said it was the fifth day since these things (the crucifixion of Jesus), not the third.

If it may be granted from what we know about Mt. 28:1 that Mary Magdalene visited the tomb (with the other Mary) and looked upon it at say 5:45 on the evening of the Sabbath just prior to sunset (6:00 p.m.), and from Jn. 20:1 that she returned to find the stone missing at 4:00 a.m. the next morning (Easter Sunday), when then did the angel of Mt. 28:2–4 make his earth-quaking entrance and bright showing? Matthew does not specify when this happened, only that it did. Granting that Mary found it open by 4:00 a.m. Sunday morning, there is more data to consider. Mark 16:9 plainly states: “Jesus was risen early the first day of the week….” and this can be taken to have happened just before the angel rolled away the stone. Jewish reckoning allows that part of a day could count for a full day. Jesus died on Friday afternoon, was dead from about 3:00 p.m. until sunset (enough of the day to count as a whole), and in the grave the full 24 hours of the Sabbath, and rose “the third day.” (See: Mt. 16:21, Mt. 17:23, Mt. 20:19, Mt. 27:64, Mk. 9:31, Mk. 10:34, Lk. 9:22, Lk. 13:32, Lk. 18:33, Lk. 24:7, Lk. 24: 46, Jn. 2:1, Acts 10:40, Acts 27:19, and 1 Co. 15:4).
Pinning the angels’ rolling away of the stone to the resurrection event between midnight and 3:00 a.m. covers “early the first day of the week” of Mk. 16:9 and puts the event far enough into the first day of the week (Easter Sunday) to easily qualify for reckoning it as a day, i.e., “the third day.” If we are looking for the story to make the best sense possible (and why not?), it’s reasonable to allow that the Mt. 28:2–4 event happened long enough before Mary came to the tomb (proposed as 4:00 a.m.) for the soldiers to regain consciousness (having passed-out for fear of the angel) and to flee the scene. That too makes for a more plausible picture than if Matthew 28 is read as its own independent complete story. Doing so requires seeing the two women bravely walking through the midst of the fallen soldiers and up to the angel sitting on the rock he had just rolled away. Breaking Matthew’s narrative into pieces and weaving it in with the others, makes much more sense.

From the model I’m proposing, Mary Magdalene’s action-packed Easter morning began with her alarming discovery of the stone missing from the tomb when she came to it on Easter morning “early … while it was still dark (20:1).” Then, all that John records of her down through vs. 18 (and confirmed in Mark 16:9–11) may easily be seen as happening before sunrise, before she joined the other women and made the journey with spices to the tomb, arriving after the sun had risen. There are other questions to be raised here and other complications to sort through, but, for now, suffice it to say that, by carefully noting the temporal phrases from the text, the greatest difficulty of the Easter story may be unraveled. The tight knot of complications under the traditional model with so many things happening among the women just after sunrise can be stretched out over a long period of time. From this beginning, it is possible, using the same approach, to ultimately bring all 165 verses from all five writers together and demonstrate the consistency that has always been there.

In closing, we would do well to remember that the ancients had no modern timekeeping devices, no easy way to measure hours or communicate the passing of time. Given our strictly regimented schedules, deadlines, and expectations for punctuality, it is difficult to imagine life without the modern 24 hour clock. However, such was their world and the writers dealt with it as best they could. As previously stated and reasonably observed, the writers listed the events that occurred to them (or that the Holy Spirit inspired) while jumping from one to a distant other without favoring the reader with any simple means of knowing such a leap through time was being made. As moderns, we expect more. We can easily criticize their style and express our disappointment, but is that really fair? Regardless of our bias, it seems our task is to honestly evaluate their words and try to understand their best meaning. Clearly, each writer gave us a partial report and each lacks specificity. The overall arrangement is extremely complex and puzzle-like. Personally, I find the complexity far more compelling and of stronger evidential value than if it was all quite simple and boring. The tension felt as the accounts seem to clash with one another when merely compared, finds resolution as they are carefully brought together into one narrative. I hope you find it as amazing as I do.

For more on reconciling the resurrection accounts visit http://www.easteranswer.com/. The “Solve It Yourself” page provides more help for Bible students, including a free PDF file with a chart from the book that lists all the resurrection appearances of Jesus, including times and Scripture references. “The Easter Answer” book is 81 pages. To see what readers of the book are saying about its success or failure in answering Dan Barker’s “Easter Challenge” see the page titled “Cast Your Vote.”

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