So the ever-vigilant Rodins assures us that what we read his own original work. Unfortunately, it’s obvious.
THE ARGUMENT FROM AUTHORITY – to be honest, I’m not even sure this needs a response, given that the highest (however irrationally) conceivable Argument from Authority is claimed by the religious and superstitious themselves, especially on matters as thorny as the moral authority behind the genocides of the Old Testament. The fact that a christian even raises this as a criticism of non-believers demonstrates a hubristic blind spot in his moral and ethical field of view. That aside, argument from authority is not a reliable tool in any debate, but certainly not for the reasons provided by our God-fearing critic. I encourage non-believers to avoid using it in the form of name-dropping, which is all the Christian position is. Used as an observation of behaviour of a defined group is quite another matter, though, and Harris is justified in his observation of an extremely high correlation between disciplines of rational enquiry and non-belief, especially when the group cited represents such a wide cross-section of rational thinkers.
This ignores the majority of points I, and in fact Vox Day, made. Atheists love to claim figures like Einstein and others to bolster their argument AGAINST religion, and it is a very poor argument indeed. Einstein was a great physicist, not so much a metaphysicist, so either camp claiming his statements in support of their view is fraught with difficulties: he was simply not an expert.
The fact that Harris mentions 93% of the Academy of Science being atheists is irrelevant. All it means is that they do not believe in God. No more and no less.
THE ARGUMENT FROM LACK OF EVIDENCE – this inevitably descends into the old “absence of evidence isn’t evidence of absence” line, and has been well covered by rationalists before. Suffice it to say that when a phenomenon is identified by a believer that he or she feels is evidence for the existence of God, the standard of evidence assumed is far too low for such an important idea, or there is a fault in the believer’s reasoning. For example – “creation itself is evidence of the existence of God”; no, it clearly isn’t, because the absolute best such an argument could possibly establish is that there was some “prime mover” whose identity or nature is unknown. It could have been a natural process outside of our universe, itself initiated by a further natural process, each initiated by a precursor for as far back as one cares to consider, each one making the “creator-deity” ever more distant. It is simply not an argument for the existence of Jehovah, Jesus or the bible. Indeed, the most basic error made by promoters of this creation-as-evidence idea is lack of awareness of the distinction between a deistic creator and a theistic entity that intervenes in the world.
You’re putting thoughts and words in my article that were never there in the first place. Show me evidence, YOUR evidence, that the Big Bang occurred, or that evolution occurred. You take these matters on faith: faith that the people who followed certain procedures and tested them were being honest. But you’ve never personally seen the evidence.
So you’ve made the leap from, ‘I do not believe in the existence of God or gods’ to ‘There is no God.’ Once you’ve made a statement as sweeping as that, the burden of proof rests on you. Saying you don’t believe is fine, that makes you an agnostic. Saying there is no God makes you an utter fool, because you cannot prove it in any way whatever, no matter how hard you try.
THE ARGUMENT FROM HALLUCINATION – well, it was pointed out by CyberMatrix that the phenomenon of sleep paralysis quite adequately accounts for the nocturnal visit by Jesus that tyronehmler claims occurred. Even if it doesn’t quite fit the description offered by our imaginative friend (he will doubtless argue that the differences matter), judicious application of Occam’s Razor tells us that such “hallucination” is by far the better explanation. The counter-examples offered by Tyrone Day are simply arguments from incredulity insofar as they are offered by a superstitious person ignorant of the depths of the human psyche.
Again, you’re ignoring the evidence offered here by 70 000 people who witnessed, simultaneously, the appearance of the Lady of Fatima, or the million or so people who saw lights sweeping silently across the Tokyo night-sky.
As much as I put my trust in God, you put your trust in science and, although we’ve benefited greatly as a result of science, it remains a tool in the hands of fallible humans. No more, or less.
THE ARGUMENT FROM TEMPORAL ADVANTAGE – this I can agree with, I do think it’s a weak argument to say that had Galileo known what we know today, he would have been an atheist. What I would say, though, is that culture can be far more compelling than knowledge when it comes to religion, and Galileo lived in a culture that was so immersed in belief and superstition that it may have been hard to tell the wood from the trees. We see the same phenomenon at play today when believers exercise their own argument from authority by listing the names of scientists who are christians – humans have a brain that successfully compartmentalizes reality from desire (ask any adulterer!), and Galileo would certainly have been little different.
I will also add here that for a promoter of rational thought, free from fallacy, to make the following statement is an embarrassment to the point he’s trying to make: “To assert that the greatest minds of the past, the original thinkers who weren’t afraid to challenge either orthodox dogma or the intellectual conventions, would automatically abandon their faith in favour of a status quo professed by the masses of over-specialized, under-achieving scientific mediocrities of today is not only a completely baseless assumption, it is egotistic wishful thinking”.
Again, show me a scientist outside the field of Quantum Physics making these gigantic strides today and I’m afraid you’re up against it. And even the quantum physicists are only building on the platforms laid by men like Max Planck.
Why ignore the fact the researchers on the Encyclopaedia of DNA Elements project discovered twice as many RNA transcripts and ten times more DNA transcripts than expected? Surely this is something important to counter? Or is it easier to attack me personally?
THE ARGUMENT FROM FICTION – well, the defence offered by Tyrone Day is laughable. To suggest that “…the Bible has not only proven to be a more reliable guide in many instances than the current state of secular science as well as an accurate historical document, but sometimes a better predictor of future events than the experts on the subject” is an idea based on other well-known fallacies, those of selective interpretation and confirmation bias. In citing an instance in which there was a correlation between a biblical interpretation and reality, he has discarded the countless instances in which there has been no correlation at all. Harold Camping, anyone?
I did present an entire article on fulfilled Biblical prophecy, which was, of course, scorned, but here come some doozies anyway.
Isaiah mentions Cyrus by name, 150 years before he was born: Daniel predicts the entire course of human events accurately, up to the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. Isaiah predicts the destruction of Tyre and Sidon, exactly as it happened, and all these events are borne out by contemporary sources. There are too many fulfilled prophecies to even mention in this article, but anyone can check them out and, if they’re honest, which you lot are certainly not, you would have to draw the conclusion that these things couldn’t have happened by luck. Ask any mathematician the probabilities, and they become infinitely high.
THE ARGUMENT FROM THE UNFAIRNESS OF HELL – again, the comparisons offered are superficial and not appropriate to the idea under discussion. A better set of real-world choices might have been between a long, happy life in a delightful rural setting with family and friends, versus a sojourn in a Nazi concentration camp – for all eternity. This is a classic strawman that has been offered by Tyrone Day, ignoring the key aspects and implications of the “choice” provided by his god. For example, the clear implication that friends and family that believers love may be destined for the “hot place”, yet said believers entertain an entirely normal life relationship with them in apparent denial of the reality. To top it all, Christians can’t even agree between themselves as to the nature or even existence of this hell. So the criticism fails, not least because he has failed to address the issues surrounding the limiting of free will implicit in his rebuttal. He also makes the error of so many believers (e.g. “why do you quote the bible so much if you don’t believe in it?”) in thinking that atheists accept the notion of a hell – we don’t. So it’s a moot point.
This argument falls flat, because it’s unimportant what Christians think: what does the Bible say? For Christians there is no other authority, and if there is, one has to question their beliefs, as the Bible is quite clear on It and It alone, being the Word of God and the Word of Truth.
If God exists as the Bible claims He does, then hell is completely fair.
If he doesn’t, it’s a moot point and not worth discussing.
THE ARGUMENT FROM GOD’S CHARACTER – I find it very difficult to take this argument seriously: “I find it very difficult to take this argument seriously, given how the first words out of every angel’s mouth seems to be ‘Fear not!’ Unbelievable. How is a defence, from a book non-believers don’t accept, an argument? The question of Yahweh’s personality has been dealt with frequently. We have shown that he was the creator of evil (look under this author’s News24 avatar for a number of in-depth analyses). We see instances in the Old Testament where Yahweh commands the most immoral and gratuitously violent actions by his “chosen people”, and believers are unable to provide a coherent argument as to why these should be considered moral actions. Indeed tyronehmler is perhaps the most ardent genocide denialist on this forum, on the incredibly specious basis that despite their “wholesale” scale and horror, the events do not qualify as genocides because of a definitional problem – he prefers the use of the general dictionary definition in preference to that employed by international lawyers and the United Nations itself. Indeed, his argument is used by real genocide denialists today – the vicious, cruel mass murderers we see in the news. The Argument from God’s Character is a very powerful one and shows up the greatest contradictions in the bible that is considered to be the inerrant word of God.
Again, we are presuming here that God exists and all the attributes He is shown to possess are true, then we have no complaint if He decides He’s had enough of our loathsome behavior and wipes us out. He’s God, and we’ve offended Him constantly and without end.
If this God exists, I’d just like to see Christopher Hitchens or Bertrand Russell wagging their fingers in God’s face. They wouldn’t presume to do that with a Prime Minister, but here they presume to say they would to it to God.
THE ARGUMENT FROM MORAL EVOLUTION – to move the argument onto actual evolution as Tyrone Day does is a strawman. The question is whether morals develop within society without a divine influence, specifically the bible (“The idea that morals are not defined by sacred texts but have instead evolved naturally”). Well, the assertion that sacred texts are required is obviously untrue, since morality in the broader sense is the result of societal learning – every society has an established morality, you might not agree with it, but it’s there. And that morality develops on the basis of what individuals and the group consider acceptable and practical. Biblical morality is no more than “a” moral framework, codified and heavily interpreted. I mention this last point since the morality exercised by the god of the bible is thoroughly reprehensible and wicked, and it is simply a matter of interpretation that his examples should not be followed by humans.
Let’s have a look at human morals and their development on a societal level. Why is female circumcision wrong? Because you feel it’s wrong and abhorrent? When male tigers eat their young, is it wrong? Wolverines? People? If so, why? If we evolved this morality, then surely the idea of the San and the Innuit leaving the very old behind when they move on makes sense!
And let’s hava a look at this abhorrent Biblical morality as taught by Jesus and His disciples. ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind and all your strength, and your neighbour as yourself.’
‘Everyone is to regard his brother as greater than himself.’
‘If your brother asks you for your coat, give him your cloak as well.’
The entire thirteenth chapter of 1st Corinthians is devoted to love: what is so abhorrent about that?
God says, through His prophets, ‘How I would that you would return to me: I would gather you under my wings and give you shelter and remember your sins no more.’
If you separate the history from the teaching, which you won’t, there is no greater moral code in the world.
THE ARGUMENT FROM THE GOLDEN RULE – no morality is perfect in terms of having instant answers to every situational conundrum, hence the Sandra Bullock example is a clever attempt to apply selective bias. However, when considered in its entirety, the Golden Rule has been misapplied by Tyrone Day – in considering “what he would have done to him”, he is required to place himself in the same position as the wished-for recipient of his affections, Sandra Bullock, instead of from his own current point of view. This inability to employ empathy is a trait we’ve seen not only in tyronehmler but in many other believers on this forum. Empathy isn’t just a feeling – that’s sympathy – it’s a technique of perception that many are unable to exercise.
Empathy is also, if you read any good dictionary, a feeling of sharing in your pain, because I’ve been there, so I know how to comfort you. When I say I love my neighbour, I can only do it through God, because I don’t know you and, if I did, probably wouldn’t like you, but God loves you, and He does so through me.
THE ARGUMENT FROM SUPERIOR MORALS - this is a red herring. The argument is not that atheists have superior morals at all, but rather that a theistic entity is not required in order to exercise good morals. Once seen this way, the Tyrone Day rebuttal falls away. I agree that it isn’t valid to point out that many atheists do in fact have lives more moral than those of many christians, since the converse is also true. However, what is especially odd in these comparisons is that christians fail to show that they, as a group and in their leaders, exercise a standard of morality that is consistently higher than that of non-believers. After all, with the creator of the entire universe providing a limitless source of grace to any believer that asks (but atheists never do), you’d kinda think that they’d do a heck of a lot better – but they clearly don’t.
In addition, once christians acknowledge that their position in God’s good graces doesn’t actually afford them any real-life advantage, the house of cards begins to teeter and fall. Prayer is invalidated by the data – christians die of exactly the same ailments as non-believers, they don’t live any longer and they commit the same crimes (we won’t go into the US prison data here that shows that most prison inmates, by a long margin, are christian).
Atheists claim they have superior morals and point to prison statistics in order to validate that claim, but herein lies the problem. 2.94% of prisoners in the USA are atheist, this is true, while nearly 30% are Christian.
However, over 60% of prisoners put down ‘No Religion’, which sounds suspiciously like atheism to me. They are just not intellectuals, so they don’t apply the tag to themselves.
Academics, by the way, make up a mere 3.13% of US prisoners and, as 93% of Academia in the US is atheist, you can work out the numbers for yourself.
In addition, with militant atheism on the rise , and their numbers in the US alone being in excess of 22 800 000, and China 600 000 000, the numbers are accelerating and a rough estimate puts the global atheist population at roughly 815 000 000. These people are, largely, in the West anyway, the intelligentsia and, if they were to put their hands into their pockets, they could go a long way to alleviating world hunger. What do they do instead?
Well, Richard Dawkins, for example, sets up a fund to channel money meant for missions to a foundation he’s set up to ‘free people from the Darkness of religion’.
Meanwhile, the much-maligned Catholic Church, is going into war-torn areas delivering aid and being killed themselves. Gospel for Asia, is feeding hundreds of thousands of people in south and central Asia and providing them relief during the Monsoon flooding.
So forgive me if I don’t hear the violins whan you talk of the morality of atheists.
THE IRRATIONALITY OF ATHEISM – strangely, the longest section of tyronehmler’s second tract is the most vague and pointless, except as a confused attempt to show that atheists need faith in order – wait for it - to NOT have faith in a god… not only does he employ several of the fallacies that he decries, but he fails to grasp the single most fundamental point of atheism – that when a non-believer gets out of bed in the morning, he sees no god and no trail that points to one. Despite often wondering about the existence of such an entity, he never encounters one while he makes coffee, brushes his teeth or travels to work. Even in the most poignant, numinous and sublime moments of his life, the atheist does not encounter one. He simply marvels at, wonders about and enjoys the sheer majesty and beauty of the universe and of living in a world teeming with life. If finding no evidence for the existence of an entity that is, according to believers, omnipresent and almost desperate to have a relationship with humans, is irrational, then there is no discussion to be had since the critic has clearly departed the realm of sensibility – which may be the case, given the length to which he will go to assert that his experiences of imaginary encounters are real.
As an article, tyronehmler’s plagiarized piece is lacking in substance – which he would have realized had he actually written it himself and thought it through instead of copying and pasting it.
Again, you either miss the point or evade it in its entirety. Atheists conveniently borrow the morals of the country in which they reside. They are mostly law-abiding people, and obey the same laws the others do. However, herein lies the crux of this piece: by all means say you don’t believe in God, that is your right.
But you cannot, as a rational human being, say, ‘There is no God.’ That is not rational, that is arrogance. When we say, ‘There is a God,’ we know we’re speaking from faith: there is no proof. We are not arrogant enough (although I suspect some people are) to say that we have proof of this God’s existence. I have proof, but it’s valid only for me and others who believe as I do.
There is more genuine evidence for the existence of the God you so vehemently deny than you’ll ever accept, because you WILL not accept that evidence. There is at least as much evidence for the veracity of Scripture as there is for evolution, but you’ll happily close your eyes to the one, while grasping onto the other.
Thus endeth the lesson.
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