Thursday, 30 March 2017

Whip it good, SJT takes on slavery

On to objection number 5.  By now I'm expecting to see a lot of text avoiding my points, plus a healthy dose of bible verses...

Objection Number 5 is the peculiar tolerance of slavery in the Christian world. 

The Objection

My original: Right, Christianity has always been against slavery. Even in the first 1800 years when it wasn’t. And as the American Civil War showed, for many, not until the Federal Army reached Richmond. The problem is that Jesus never said to abolish slavery. Neither did anyone else in the bible. Indeed, Exodus 21:20-21 said it was permissible to beat a slave so badly that they would die 2-3 days later. The slave-owner wasn’t punished in this case as the slave was his property. A chattel. Not a human being, but property.

This is a very simple test. Moral beings don’t sanction this horrific behaviour. Christianity perpetuated slavery. It’s failed to reach a credible standard of morality that would corroborate a loving, moral supreme deity.

But We're Good Now!

S.J. Thomason responds:

SJT: The first point to address the issue of slavery is to note that no true Christians of sound mind today are endorsing the type of slavery that was present in the United States in its early history. Slavery is something of the past in developed countries and involuntary servitude is not something any Christian of sound mind cares to resurrect.
The problem isn't today. The problem is for about 90% of your religion's history, slavery was completely cool. If you can coexist with slavery for roughly 1800 years, then Christianity was never against slavery. It was for it.

SJT: The next point is that the type of slavery reported in Biblical times was often voluntary with civil owner slave relationships. 
Rubbish, slavery is a coercive arrangement that takes advantage of a person's desperate desire to survive.  In the classical slaves were heavily sourced from wars, and slavery was as pervasive in Jewish society as it was in Graeco-Roman (see Hezser, 2006, Jewish Slavery in Antiquity, OUP). 

The myth that ancient Judaea practiced a kinder, gentler form of slavery is an agenda-driven form of apologetics.  

Nevermind the Unfloatable Boat- We Need Whips!

SJT: Exceptions exist, which Kaimatai notes, and it is fortunate we are given such glimpses into the lives of people who lived during Biblical times so we can better understand the context of the Bible. Had reports of slavery been excluded from the Bible, one would question its historical authenticity.
Oh garbage. If they alone had stood out and said slavery was wrong, that would be at least some evidence they had a sense of morality.  And as for historical authenticity! The bible has impossible floods, talking animals and mass migrations of people that never happened.  It is so parochial it manages to show no interest in the campaigns of the ancient Hellenes and Romans.  How hard is it to not notice the conquest of the Achaemenid Empire by Alexander the Great! But you think it needs to promote slavery to be perceived as authentic!

Owning People as Property Is Moral If It Serves the Greater Good

SJT: Noting that Jesus did not instruct followers to abolish slavery ignores the fact that slavery was often voluntary and civil and a component of societal functioning in Biblical times.

Oh wow, so some people had to become property for the good of society!  Slavery may be an evil crime against humanity, but hey, you can live with it (roll eyes).

Have Doubts- Try the Kool-Aid instead

SJT: Instead of identifying areas in which Jesus did not instruct, we should consider His instructions to love our neighbors as ourselves, alongside the Beatitudes from Matthew 5:3-12:
I refuse to ignore history because it conflicts with your fictions. Millions of Africans were enslaved. One-to-two million died horribly in the Middle Passage.  Mostly because Christians of the time though Jesus was ok with slavery. Was it really impossible for him to say that slavery should be abolished?

And as predicted, the bible verses...

SJT: Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

You know the bit in bible class where they tell you to quote the bible because the "Word of God" has power?  They lied. It's usually platitudinous rubbish that sound asinine to non-believers. 


So we agree that slavery was a thing for most of Christianity's history.  And an invitation to drink a lot of Kool-Aid so I can forget about the problem.  We may have a new low for rebuttals.

Not feeling the power: SJ takes on prayer

Objection number 4 is that prayer doesn’t work.

My original: Enough children have died in faith-healing cases to show that prayer only succeeds in mundane cases with a high likelihood of occurring anyway. There is no evidence at the ‘population-level that Christians are healthier, live longer or recover from cancer more frequently.
This is specific to the Christian god because this deity is supposed to be intercessory.  It supposed to intervene when its fan club needs help.  So even accepting that this deity may have good reasons to let someone die from disease, we would still be expect intercessions to be frequent enough to be detectable at some statistical level (and peculiar to Christians). 

If you like, this is a variation of the 'why doesn't god cure amputees' objection. Except it involves children. 

Where's the counter-evidence?

S.J. Thomason responds:

The reason there may be little or no evidence at the population-level that Christians are healthier, live longer, or recover from cancer more frequently is not because God does not answer prayers. In contrast, God always answers prayers, but the answers may not be to improve health or prolong life. 
I'm sorry, but this is bullshit. The claim of Christianity is that prayer obtains what the petitioner asks for, especially in the area of health. See the sample of bible quotes below.  There's not the caveat present that SJ has conjured. 

And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it. John 14:13-14.

Whatever you ask for in prayer with faith, you will receive. -Matthew 21:22

Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete. John 16:24

they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well. Mark 16:18

Lord my god, I called to you for help, and you healed me. Psalm 30:2

Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go! Let it be done just as you believed it would.” And his servant was healed at that moment. Mark 8:13

He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.” Mark 5:34

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. James 5:16

He replied, "Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you." Matthew 17:20

In Acts 3 episodes of faith healed are alleged to have occurred (4:22, 5:12-16; and 20:7-12).
There's a reason why faith healing is practiced in some Christian sects! 

The answers always correspond to developing a relationship with us and advancing the fulfillment of our spiritual purposes or the spiritual purposes of our loved ones. If our spiritual purposes have been fulfilled, then our time on this planet is over and God calls us into heaven.
 This is an example of the ad hoc rescue fallacy- or the Making Stuff Up fallacy.   God answers prayers. This should produce shifts in life expectancy or mortality from diseases like cancer among Christians. SJ has employed an ad hoc trick to rescue the original claim. It's not a good ad hoc device as it demands that I accept there is now a spiritual dimension and afterlife, in addition to there being a god. This isn't resolving the problem, it's multiplying the challenges.

Changing the subject

Sometimes He calls the very best among us into heaven, which is always painful for those left behind,
God answers prayers in a capricious, unpredictable and hurtful way.  That's how we know he loves us and answers our prayers (rolls eyes).  This isn't a rebuttal. This is conceding my objection is correct.
yet His purpose is to grow His relationship with those left behind and He places us in a variety of challenging circumstances to do just that.
This is obscene.Your god is purposely killing people to make the survivors love him.

As George MacDonald said and I’ll paraphrase: Imagine yourself as a house. God helps you to fix its drains, repair its cracks, and refurbish its appliances. You needed this help, so you’re not surprised. But imagine your surprise when God starts knocking down walls, putting in new kitchens and baths, and adding bedrooms and room additions. It hurts abominably and you wonder what on earth he’s up to. You thought you were going to be a decent little cottage. But he had plans for a palace, one in which He plans to live himself. You see, he wants you to be perfect, just as he is perfect, and humble and kind, just as he is humble and kind.
Platitudinous nonsense and a false analogy fallacy.  Lets consider reality.

Dr Asser found that between 1975 and 1995, 172 children died following faith healing in USA (Pediatrics 1998: 10). In one case, a 2-year-old girl choked to death on a banana- over an hour- while her parents and other adults present simply prayed. 

That 2-year old didn't grow up to be a "palace" or humble and kind. She didn't enjoy development, including spiritual- because she diedShe died because her parents believed that there was a god, and it did answer prayer. She died because there are still adults today who think a bunch of ancient slave-owners had a direct line of communication to the alleged creator of the universe.   And if your god exists, it was both present at that crisis and culpable in that death.  

She died because of a fucking banana! Because her parents thought begging their god for help would be more effective than dislodging a piece of fruit.  Because for 2000 years Christians have promoted the lie that there is a god and it does answer prayers.  

And if you want to try the 'she's in heaven now' line, you'd better have a signed, witnessed affidavit from her attesting to the truth of that claim.

Over the past five years, I have lost two good friends to cancer: one never smoked cigarettes, yet one day discovered she had stage four single cell lung cancer; a second discovered one day she had stage four brain cancer stemming from the melanoma she battled over a decade earlier. Both left behind a husband and an adopted child. In the first case, the husband passed a few months later, likely of a broken heart.

Not exactly good evidence that god answers prayer really, is it?
These two young mothers were extraordinarily kind and by anyone’s standards would be considered rather perfect people. No explanation of their deaths can offer their loved ones comfort, save for the explanation that they completed their lives’ missions and are now with God in heaven.
That hardly makes it true. 

Look at my bright, shiny red herring!

Before atheists jump to their feet here with accusations of the argument from ignorance fallacy, let us consider our purpose in life. Why are we here? What purpose do we serve? What does God want us to do?
This is getting a long way off topic.  And it's a set of loaded questions.
According to Rick Warren in his book The Purpose-Driven Life, “God has a purpose behind every problem. He uses circumstances to develop our character. In fact, He depends more on circumstances to make us like Jesus than He depends on our reading the Bible…Jesus warned us that we would have problems in this world. No one is immune to pain or insulated from suffering, and no one gets to skate through life problem-free. Life is a series of problems…God uses problems to draw you closer to Himself (p. 193-194).
 Platitudinous rubbish. Asinine and vacuous rhetoric.The children who die in faith healing cases aren't having their character develop. The only way they're becoming like Jesus is by being dead. 


Apparently God always answers prayers but not in a way we can predict, measure or makes sense to us. As a rebuttal goes, it's another complete fail.  A god that can watch a 2 year old girl choke to death on a banana and ignore the pleas of her parents to help, either doesn't exist or isn't a loving, intercessory moral entity.

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Will the real JC stand up? SJ takes on the gospels

The Third Objection

My third objection was basically the poor evidence for the gospel Jesus. Given what it is possible to preserve or record for historical figures, what we have for the gospel Jesus is actually quite lacking.  I've used Julius Caesar as my benchmark, as despite being a minor historical character by Christian standards, we seem to have some quite good records.

To stop things getting too tedious, I've summarised the responses from Stephanie here:

The Tally Sheet

SJ Rebuttal
...the gospels written well after the alleged events
Though scholars disagree on the precise dates in which the gospels were written due to their presuppositions, we have good evidence to suggest that the vast majority of the New Testament was written prior to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D…
That we have difficulty identifying even when the gospels are written is prima facie evidence they’re problematic! Mark is typically dated at 65-70 CE, Luke and Matthew 80-85 CE and John 90-100 CE.

However you want to look at it, the gospels are composed 1-3 generations later than the alleged life of Jesus.  
…they contradict each other in key details. The nativity of Luke and Mark Matthew describe entirely different events.

(Oops, why did I write Mark?)
Next, I will turn to Kaimatai’s assertion that the gospels contradict one another. The gospels do not contradict one another on the most important points related to Jesus’ ministry, crucifixion, death, and resurrection. …
  1. J. Warner Wallace examined the gospel accounts forensically, applying his years of work as a police detective to good use.* He states, “The accounts puzzled together just the way one would expect from independent eyewitnesses. When one gospel eyewitness described an event and left out a detail that raised a question, this question was unintentionally answered by another gospel writer (who, by the way, often left out a detail that was provided by the first gospel writer).”
Some of the many examples Wallace provides are as follows:
(deleted as not germane)
Red Herring Fallacy
The nativity contradiction is not addressed. This is a key detail. The virgin birth and alleged divine origin of Jesus is important.  The nativity stories have Jesus born once, on two occasions, years apart!  

False Authority Fallacy Alert!
Wallace is not an historian. To pretend the gospel accounts are from independent eyewitnesses is every colour of stupid. They are hearsay accounts. 

They’re not independent either. The synoptic gospels (Mark, Matthew and Luke) all share the same source material!

(Oh, and the resurrection stories have major problems)
Unlike Julius Caesar there are no writings of Jesus (Even Julius Caesar left stuff he wrote)
Not only did Caesar write the Gallic Wars, his authorship is confirmed in the contemporaneous letters of Cicero.  The battlefield of Alesia has been excavated and conforms to his account. 
No contemporaneous historian, of which there were several in this era, noticed any of the fantastic things described in the gospels
Even later historians (Tacitus etc) who wrote much later, cannot corroborate the extraordinary stories of the gospels.
One feels an omniscient (all-knowing) deity would know this would reduce the confidence non-believers would have in the Jesus-mission

* Parenthetically, forensic techniques are employed when an event is know to have occurred. Like a murder. The life of the gospel Jesus (and I carefully say this to separate it from a possible historical Jesus) is a disputed event.  It's not a known event.  There's no point synthesising say, the different accounts of the resurrection, if the resurrection never happened.


There's not any way you can say my objections have been satisfied. This thing of just avoiding what I write and throw a lot of bible-talk at me, isn't how rebuttals work. It's just fail from start to finish.

Julius Caesar provides us with a good benchmark of what is possible. For an individual who is supposed to be more important than Caesar (at least according to Christianity), it's reasonable to expect something as good.  Julius Caesar gives us his own writing, confirmation from contemporaneous sources (like Cicero) and backings from archaeology (Alesia).  This just does not happen for the gospel Jesus.

Caesar also was recognised as a god in the Roman pantheon. This tells us that in ancient times, people had a low bar for what could be a deity.  That the claim to divinity was common.