Jump to content
I didn't say I believed in the supernatural; I said I haven't ruled it out. Though I'm inclined to believe in a materialist universe, I'm not willing to discount that there may be something beyond the physical.
God does qualify as supernatural, but to believe in the supernatural is not necessarily to believe in God. I could believe in impersonal spiritual forces, as Buddhists do, without believing in a God or in gods.
How is this relevant, anyway? For the last time, we are not debating whether the supernatural, as a whole, exists; we are debating whether God, specifically, exists.
I take your point about the lack of evidence that Christians in Jerusalem saw the empty tomb and forsook Christianity. There is, however, still the possibility that the Apostles bribed the people who owned the tomb to open it and dispose of Jesus's body. Since you have yet to effectively demonstrate that the Apostles couldn't have been lying, I regard this as a strong possibility.
One more point about the resurrection: you may maintain that it is unlikely that the Apostles lied about it. You are perfectly correct to say that if the Apostles knew the resurrection was a lie, it is hard to believe they would be willing to die for Christ. You would be perfectly correct: it is unlikely, and it is hard to understand their motivations.
The alternative to this possibility, however, is that a dead man came back to life. This is not just unlikely; it is impossible. Never in recorded history has a dead body come back to life. It simply does not happen
Now, if we actually saw a dead body come back to life, we would have to accept that such a thing is possible. But we have not seen a dead body back to life; we have only the Apostles' testimony. Given the choice between believing that these twelve men were deranged enough to die for something they knew was untrue, or believing that a dead man came back to life, I will promptly choose the former.
Remember, there is some precedent for people being willing to die for a cause in which they don't actually believe: think of the Gandhi example. It doesn't happen often, but it does happen from time to time. There is no precedent whatsoever for the dead coming back to life (and if you think there is, you're taking "The Walking Dead" way too seriously). It is far more believable that the Apostles were just lying, and bribed the owner of the tomb.
"the resurrection was central to their message not a fabricated addendum to a story they wanted everybody else to believe - a "story" they knew to be false. Remember, they really believed they saw the resurrected Jesus - again as they, at least most of them, died for preaching it."
Nonsense! The resurrection was one part of a broader story of Jesus. They added it onto the rest of the Jesus story and, realizing how effective it was as evidence, they made it central to the story. They knew it was false, but it wasn't central to their understanding of Jesus. They just knew they needed the evidence to convince others.
People's dying for a cause they know to be partially false is actually precedented. Take Gandhi: Gandhi preached nonviolence, and it was quite central to his movement, yet he himself did not believe in it. He called for violence against groups he didn't like (such as the Muslims). Yet inspire of this, Gandhi was willing to go to prison, suffer, and die for his cause. Why? Because although nonviolence was central to the fiction that Gandhi created around his beliefs, it was not central to his beliefs themselves. What he really believed in was nationalism and anti-colonialism, but he decided that he needed to add nonviolence to those doctrines in order to vindicate them for other people. He preached nonviolence, but it was for nationalism and anti-imperialism, and not for nonviolence, that he died.
By the same token, the Apostles did not believe that Jesus rose from the dead. They believed everything else he had taught: original sin, redemption, the conflict between God and Satan, etc. They invented the fiction of the resurrection because they decided they needed it to vindicate the other things to other people. They preached the resurrection, but it is for the other parts of the Jesus story, and not for the resurrection, that they died.
"Why fight so hard against the existence of the supernatural?"
I have not been arguing against the existence of the supernatural; I've been arguing against the existence of God! Again, read my statements: there are "ample evidence and logical arguments against the existence of your or any other God or gods." I never said anything about the supernatural in general.
We absolutely cannot have this debate if you keep misrepresenting my position. Either read my comments and have a serious debate, or drop it!
"from a materialistic perspective nature, ultimate reality, is a closed system"
Now, to be clear, I am not a strict materialist, and I allow that something could exist outside of the material world. But even from a materialist perspective, the biosphere is not a closed system. The universe as a whole is, but the biosphere has different properties from the universe as a whole.
The biosphere, as I explained before, receives energy from the sun and from the earth's core. The universe as a whole is not receiving more energy, but one part of the universe, the biosphere, is. Thus even though the universe as a whole is losing useful energy and becoming less ordered, the biosphere is gaining useful energy and becoming more ordered.
Now, in the long run, this will end. The sun will go out and the earth's core will cool, leaving the biosphere devoid of energy. Life will end and the earth will become more disordered. But in the short run, the biosphere is receiving energy, and there is thus nothing unusual about the fact that it grows more ordered, even from a strictly materialist perspective.
"vast amounts of knowledge in the human genome. Surely, information requires an intelligent source, right?"
Not at all. The information in the human genome is simply the result of evolution. Organisms with more useful information in their genes are more likely to survive and pass on that information. Over time, the information builds up in the genome. Humans are the result of billions of years of evolution, and that is the source of the information.
"What makes you think an intelligent designer "would not" design complex systems?"
But what we do know is that many of the complexities of the human body are dysfunctional. So many parts of the human body are interdependent in ways that make survival more difficult; the same tube, for example, is used for eating and for breathing. If the human body were designed, we would expect to not find complexities like this. Rather, we would expect to find a much simpler design that incorporates, for example, more than one windpipe.
Now, you could claim that God has designed all this as part of some grand plan. But since we don't know what that plan is, we cannot assume it exists. The dysfunctional complexity of life is evidence against the existence of a designer, because we would not expect to find it in designed life. It isn't an absolute proof against God, but it is evidence.
Yes, the gospel was first preached in Jerusalem, but the Apostles quickly left Jerusalem and went to other places to preach. Paul made his way across the near East and eventually ended up in Rome. Peter said he was in Babylon (1 Peter 5:13), which most scholars believe was a code-word for Rome. Thomas made his way to India! Obviously, none of these places were near Jerusalem.
Presumably, the Apostles made a lot more converts outside of Jerusalem simply because there were a lot more people outside of Jerusalem! So within a few decades of the start of Christianity, the vast majority of Christians were indeed outside of Jerusalem, and couldn't necessarily have gotten to Jerusalem to vindicate the Apostles' claims.
As far as those Christians who were in Jerusalem, how do you know they didn't check the tomb, find that it was indeed occupied, and then forsake Christianity? We know that the Apostles converted 3,000 people on Pentecost (Acts 2), but we don't know what happened to them afterward. How do you know that they didn't go to the tomb, realize that Jesus had not risen, and then forsake Christianity? Luke would hardly have written this down, as it was not flattering to the Christian cause, but that doesn't mean it didn't happen.
"You are really rambling right now."
What a brilliant argument you've made! There's really no way I can respond to that, because it's such powerful logic. I think I'll just give up right now, since I can't possibly win if you think I'm "rambling."
Wong has a separate page to respond to the argument from the second law of thermodynamics; you can find it here: http://www.creationtheory.org/Arguments/Example10 Since I know you won't actually read it, I'll sum up his arguments for you here:
1) It assumes that a more complex system is the same as a more ordered one, but this is not the case. More complex systems are actually less ordered.
2) The second law of thermodynamics only applies to closed systems, but living organisms are not closed systems. They receive energy from elsewhere (notably, the sun and the earth's core). It is the absence of energy that leads things to become more disordered (but not less complex) over time. Since living organisms receive energy from outside sources, however, they can continue to advance and grow more ordered over time. Eventually, of course, the earth's core will cool and the sun will go out, and then life will grow less ordered over time, and eventually die out. As long as the sun and the core remain hot, however, this does not apply.
And, of course, you complete ignore the crux of Wong's argument: that an intelligent designer would not design complex systems. Again, the point of design is to make things as simple as possible so that they can function in a variety of conditions. The human body is far more complex and interdependent than it would be if it were designed.
"Also in regard to the disciples and mass hallucinations, it may indeed be possible to one extent that large numbers of people hallucinate, but it has never been shown that a large group of people have the same hallucination. Nor can it be shown that such hallucinations occur multiple times"
Nor has it ever been shown that the dead can come back to life. We're stuck with two possibilities: that people with similar backgrounds had the same hallucination, or that a man came back from the dead. Neither is terrible likely, but the mass hallucination is far more realistic. At least mass hysteria has occurred in the past, though perhaps not involving hallucinations specifically; unless I'm very wrong, the dead have never come close to returning to life.
At any rate, you still haven't responded to my point that the Apostles could have lied about the resurrection. Yes, they died for their belief in Jesus, but they could easily have believed in Jesus in general but not in the Resurrection specifically. They lied about it because they didn't believe people would take them seriously. Are you going to respond to this point, or just keep ignoring it?
The "empty tomb" canard is ultimately just a variation on the argument from miracles. It holds that because people witness miracles, events that seem to defy the laws of physics and indicate the existence of deities or of higher spiritual forces, we should necessarily believe in those forces.
Besides the possibility that those who witness miracles are often lying, as the Apostles were, there are two problems with this argument:
1) As before, just because there is something we cannot explain does not mean that the answer is outside of the physical, natural world. There could be a materialist or naturalistic explanation that we could not have found yet. For example, some 70,000 people claimed to see the Virgin Mary at Fatima. It is possible that we will find some naturalistic explanation for this: for example, that these 70,000 people experienced a mass hallucination. After all, many times in history there have been seemingly impossible phenomena that are later on explained by science, philosophy, or psychology. That's not to say that there will be a naturalistic explanation, but we cannot rule such an explanation out.
2) All religions claim miracles. Christians claim that Jesus rose from the dead, but Muslims claim that the Koran's prophecies have been fulfilled, and Buddhists claim that flowers rain from the sky to vindicate Buddhism. All of these events are backed up with witnesses, many of whom have suffered and died for their beliefs. So how do you choose which miracles to believe and which not to believe? You can't believe in all religions, as many contradict each other, so how do you decide between them.
Remember, there are atheistic religions; Buddhism is the clearest example of one. So if Buddhism is true, as many miracles seem to attest, I am perfectly justified in not believing in God.
"So then, Andrew, what is your view of ultimate reality? Do you allow for some reality other an only natural one? Is the origin of life the product of only natural process, only, in your opinion , awaiting discovery?"
I don't know. I've said before that it is possible that there are forces outside of the material world. I don't believe in them, as I see little direct evidence for them, but I don't totally discount them.
Read my comments earlier: to be an atheist is not necessarily to be a materialist. One can believe that there is a realm outside the physical world without believing that there are deities. This is how atheistic religions, such as Buddhism, can exist.
At any rate, it was never my intention to discuss the validity of materialism vs abstract spiritual forces. When I began the debate, I said that there were "ample evidence and logical arguments against the existence of your or any other God or gods." I made no claims as to the existence of the spiritual, and it was never my desire to debate it. Quit trying to divert this debate: let's focus not he existence of God, not on the existence of the immaterial.
"The assumption that the disciples lied about the resurrection is preposterous given the fact… that they gave their lives."
Nonsense: it is entirely possible that the apostles believed that Jesus was God, but didn't think anyone else would believe them. They lied about the tomb believing that, by lying, they were leading people to a higher truth. They gave their lives for Jesus because they truly believed in Jesus, even if they did not believe in his resurrection.
"It wasn’t only a claim, but a claim verifiable by the empty tomb. The record is clear. The Romans and the Jews knew where the tomb was and verification was as simple as checking the tomb."
Nonsense; the Gospels weren't published until decades after Jesus died, and the vast majority of the early Christians did not live in Jerusalem. Only a tiny minority of the Apostles' converts would have had any ability to check the tomb. There were no planes and trains back then; traveling to Jerusalem from any other part of the Roman Empire would have taken weeks.
The only evidence we have for the empty tomb is the Apostles' testimony, and again, it is entirely possible that they lied because they believed they were serving a higher purpose.
"The idea that complexity is evidence against a designer contradicts everything we know about the physical world."
Bunk! When someone designs something, the goal is to make it as simple as possible. Complexity makes the designed objected less likely to work properly because it multiplies the ways in which it can break down.
Read the article by Wong that I posted. If there were a God, we would expect human life to be far less complex than it is.
One more thing regarding the complexity of life: there are some who would argue that if life were designed, it would be less complex, not more. Mike Wong, a professional engineer, points out that when engineers design and build machines, they typically try to make them as simple and redundant as possible. Jerry-rigged machines in which each part is dependent on all the other parts' working properly are poorly designed.
Wong points out that the human body is full of complexities and interdependencies that would not make sense if humans were designed. For example, the human body uses the same tube to breathe air that it uses to swallow food. This leads to a risk of choking. If the body were designed, there would presumably be one tube for breathing and a separate tube for swallowing. Any engineer could see the benefits of this; how could a perfect, all-knowing God miss it?
These complexities make perfect sense from the perspective of unguided, atheistic evolution. Evolution is a process in which organisms must adapt their own, already-existing characteristics to changing conditions. An organism might begin using its food pipe to breathe because the benefits of breathing air outweigh the risks of choking. If the human body were designed, the designer would have made two pipes, but without a designer, the body had to make do with the one it had.
Thus the complexity of life is an argument against the existence of God, not for it.
For more information, check out this article: http://www.creationtheory.org/Obsolete/Essays-IntelligentDesign.xhtml
"There is order in the universe not chaos"
Compared to what? Terms like "ordered" or "chaotic" are comparative statements. If I say, for example, that Afghanistan is "disordered" or "chaotic," that does not mean that there is no social organization; Afghanis still have families, businesses, tribes, and other forms of organization. Rather, it means that compared to other societies, Afghanistan has less organization or order.
By the same token, when you say that there is order in the universe, it follows that you must know what a disordered, chaotic universe would look like. Unless you can show me such a universe, this is a meaningless argument.
As far as your contention that the existence of human life is improbable without God, this is just another manifestation of the fallacious "first cause" argument. As Richard Dawkins has noted, if we assume that the universe is complex, any God capable of creating it must be at least as complex. But then the question arises: who created God? If you say that God did not have to be created, that he always existed in his full complexity of his own accord, then why can we not instead say that a complex, ordered universe existed of its own accord?
As far as your argument for the historical resurrection of Jesus, all of these claims rely on the assumption that the Gospel writers were telling the truth. They claim that hundreds of people saw the resurrected Jesus, but we do not have the testimony of these hundreds of people; we have only the testimony of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
I submit that these four men, and perhaps the other Apostles, invented the story of the resurrection. I imagine that they truly believed in Jesus but, lacking evidence of his divinity, made up the story of the resurrection in order to back up their faith. They probably justified the lie on the grounds that converting people to Christianity was worth the lie. Why worry about deceiving someone if in doing so you save her or his soul?
Yes, the Apostles were willing to die for their beliefs, but that is by itself largely meaningless. Jim Jones convinced over 900 people to kill themselves, it's hardly surprising that twelve men would have died for Jesus, even if they had not actually seen evidence of the risen Christ.
As for Paul, he did not see the empty tomb; he rather had a "vision" of Jesus while on the road to Damascus. But such a vision could have a number of explanations. Perhaps Paul was schizophrenic. Perhaps he was on drugs. Perhaps he had a dream, but later modified the story so that it seemed more miraculous.
Anniversary Announcement | Birthdays Over 80 | Birthdays Under 12 | Engagement Announcement | Site Feedback | Letter to the Editor | User Submitted Photo | Subscription Request | Vacation Start Stops | Wedding Announcement Subscribe | Advertising | Media Kit | About Us | Contact Us | Archives | Search
Physical Address: 145 W. Pennsylvania Avenue, Southern Pines, NC Mailing Address: P.O. Box 58, Southern Pines, NC 28388 910-692-7271 Fax: 910-692-9382