Religion: The Deuce

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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby Weezer » Wed Mar 11, 2009 9:24 pm UTC

MoghLiechty2 wrote:
Weezer wrote:
Phill wrote:So, I think - in the case of Christianity - there is enough evidence to consider my faith rational. Faith doesn't exist in a vacuum - if, for example, the gospels were conclusively found to be hoaxes then I'd have to rethink... but I very much doubt that's going to happen.


I take from this that you take your faith is primarily based on christian religious texts because if they are disproved you would loose faith. What is it that makes christian religious texts more valid than say Hindu texts or Islamic texts. Since religious texts by there very nature conflict with religious texts from other religion how can you know that yours is in any way superior?

I believe that both I and Phill would be willing to make the claim that Christian texts (i.e. the 66 cononical books of the Bible) are exceptional in the world of religious texts because they are able to withstand a substantial amount of scrutiny in comparison to any others. I think he and I would both agree that the study of religious texts to determine truthfulness should be approached just like any other field of study. For some reason it seems like a lot of people aren't willing to apply the same methods of rational inquiry that are commonly applied to other topics, in particular other historical events. If we don't cop out by just stating that it's impossible to figure out which religion is correct because there isn't a correct religion, then of course we wouldn't be able to consider any religion more valid than another. However, as many Christians such as myself do, we assume that it's possible for one religion to be correct, and we have determined that Christianity of the Bible is the most historically, philosophically, and theologically accurate. (Putting aside life stories... I mean you could say, 'But ML, haven't you been a 'Christian' of sorts all your life?' Yes, but I would be willing to reject my beliefs if they were found to be false. I've gone (or are going through) through the same search for truth that anyone else has and is.)

I (and I'm sure Phill) are fully willing to make the claim that the Bible is the correct religious text, and would be willing to defend against any specific scrutiny proposed.


I agree with setzer about the miracles being evidence against the Bible being 100% true. One question I have is about the contradictions that are apparent in the various books of the New Testament. There are a lot of contradictions but I'll name a few:

First the writers of the gospel couldn't even agree when jesus was born. According to Mathew 2:1:
Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem
Herod became the king of the Jews in 37 BCE and ruled until he died in 4 BCE. So this would indicate that Jesus was born between 37 and 4 BCE.
But according to Luke 2:1-7:
1 And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. 3 So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city. 4 Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife,[a] who was with child. 6 So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. 7 And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
This indicates that Jesus was born during the first census while Judea was under the rule of Quirinius. But the census was initiated by Quirinius in 6 CE, how do you reconcile this difference?

While at first glance the exact date of Jesus's birth doesn't seem to matter but if Jesus was born before the census as Mathew seems to indicate then why would Joseph make the journey to Bethlehem with his pregnant wife? Why wouldn't he just stay at home for the birth? While if Luke is correct then if Jesus was born after Herod's death then there would be no need for Jesus to flee to Egypt to escape Herod's wrath as is depicted in Mathew 2:13 and there wouldn't have been the slaughter of the innocents because Herod wouldn't be alive to order the slaughter.
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Re: Philosophy of Religion (moved)

Postby YY_Chromosomes » Thu Mar 12, 2009 3:37 am UTC

I have a hard time distinguishing between religion and science, except that one is taught in school.
Religion is based off of questionable historical documents, and then a lot of speculation and faith. The apostles wrote about the story of Jesus, and Jesus said a lot of stuff about God and such. Most religions follow a similar story about some great person who is somehow sent from a greater power or representative of.. etc.
Science was too, created similarily. We don't truly know much at all. During the Middle Ages, they were absolutely convinced what they believed was the truth -- like we do now. Unfortunately, some dude sailed across the world and proved it was round. Whoops. I guess that flat thing was wrong then, eh? My point being, how do we know any of what we have is true? Yes, it is all based off of tests, but there are so many factors that we may just not know about that could be contributing to the result.
If a religious person were asked, "How did we get here?", they would tell you of some greater power creating us. Then you might pull the old, "Well how did that greater power get here 8)". Of course, this is when they don't have anything to say but, "They just were.", or something similar.
When asking someone who has no religion, when asked how we got here, they might say evolution. Or the big bang. Or some other theory. Of course, in order for the big bang to have made sense... There still had to be something. In order for evolution to happen, there had to be something. That something somehow needed to get here, and scientists too would answer "They just were."

Personally I am not religious. This is for a couple reasons, one, it has no impact on my life. I couldn't care less if there was a God or not. Hence being agnostic. I call it the "I don't give a crap" religion :).
Despite me comparing science so closely to religion, I do believe in it; however. Religion doesn't change, it has been the same for thousands of years. Science changes dynamically. Although new studies could be incredibly incorrect, they are not afraid to expand upon science. Science laws aren't laws, they can be broken and improved upon. Theories are just that -- theories. Science is completely open to change. Religion is not.

In the end though, science and religion are both here for one purpose -- to explain why and how everything is. Humans require an explanation for anything, we need to know why. Why we're here, why this happens, etc. For this reason, I have no problem with religion. For some people, it answers these questions for them. For others, it does not.

Therefore, to talk about some of the main topics from the first post, it's about as likely to prove God's existance as it is to prove the Big Bang. Yes there is evidence that supports the Big Bang, but to religious people there is evidence towards a God also.
Personally I see no reason that evolution and creationism can't work together. Heck, why can't we just say a God created the matter for the Big Bang? Maybe God just programmed animals to evolve.

As for the likelihood of an afterlife... Well, it could be an either or. No one can truly know until they've died, and, assuming we're all alive, we can't really tell whether there is one or not. It's impossible to test the "likelihood" of an afterlife. We only know the likelihood of rolling a 6 on a dice is 1 in 6 since there are 6 sides and there is a 6 on one of those sides. We don't know ANYTHING about the afterlife. Nothing to base stats off of. Lots of people saying there is, lots of people saying there isn't... I guess when we all die we'll find out.
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Re: Philosophy of Religion (moved)

Postby JoshuaZ » Thu Mar 12, 2009 3:54 am UTC

YY, please take a basic philosophy of science course. Aside from it just being a really cool subject, it will help clear up some of your concerns. (Note to mods, if distinguishing science and religion at a philosophical level is too far off the thread topic, can you please move my post and YY's post to another thread? Possibly the Religion 2 thread?)


YY_Chromosomes wrote:I have a hard time distinguishing between religion and science, except that one is taught in school.

Religion is based off of questionable historical documents, and then a lot of speculation and faith. The apostles wrote about the story of Jesus, and Jesus said a lot of stuff about God and such. Most religions follow a similar story about some great person who is somehow sent from a greater power or representative of.. etc.
Science was too, created similarily. We don't truly know much at all. During the Middle Ages, they were absolutely convinced what they believed was the truth -- like we do now. Unfortunately, some dude sailed across the world and proved it was round. Whoops. I guess that flat thing was wrong then, eh? My point being, how do we know any of what we have is true? Yes, it is all based off of tests, but there are so many factors that we may just not know about that could be contributing to the result.


Science does not claim to be about truth. This is an important contrast between science and religion. Science primarily cares about falsifiability. When a statement is taken to be "true" in science, we mean that many different attempts to falsify the claim have failed. Even then, such claims are always probabilistic. Another way of thinking about this is that science is attempting to make models that successfully predict the world around us.

If a religious person were asked, "How did we get here?", they would tell you of some greater power creating us. Then you might pull the old, "Well how did that greater power get here 8)". Of course, this is when they don't have anything to say but, "They just were.", or something similar.
When asking someone who has no religion, when asked how we got here, they might say evolution. Or the big bang. Or some other theory. Of course, in order for the big bang to have made sense... There still had to be something. In order for evolution to happen, there had to be something. That something somehow needed to get here, and scientists too would answer "They just were."

First of all, many religious people are fine with the Big Bang or evolution. Second of all, scientists would be far more likely to answer "we don't know" then "They just were."

In the end though, science and religion are both here for one purpose -- to explain why and how everything is.


Not really. Religion is for many about the "why" and not much about the "how." Science cares very little about the "why" and cares primarily about the "how."

I'd respond to the rest but that would moves us even further afield and don't want to anger the very nice mods.
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Re: Philosophy of Religion (moved)

Postby YY_Chromosomes » Thu Mar 12, 2009 4:07 am UTC

I guess I've been using science wrong.


Sorry for the post's irrelevance... I'm 15 and I have to admit, I have no clue what "Ontological, Cosmological, Teleological" means. So I was leading up to why I believe the other thigns -- creationism linked to evolution, afterlives, etc... Yes the big part of it was off topic, but I have to admit -- most of my beliefs make no sense without it.

Once in university I may take that philosophy course ;) for now all I care about are my lamo high school courses
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby Phill » Thu Mar 12, 2009 9:37 am UTC

Weezer wrote:I agree with setzer about the miracles being evidence against the Bible being 100% true.


Just because something is improbable doesn't mean that it counts as evidence against. What I mean is, the only evidence against miracles is just that "it's highly improbable". But if what the Bible is saying is true, then it becomes probable - i.e. miracles happen for a purpose, the Bible explains what the purpose is - it's not just some random things happening for no particular reason.

I'd say the historical evidence for the resurrection is pretty strong. At the end of the day, that's the only miracle that really matters if it didn't happen (i.e. the death and resurrection of Jesus is what the rest of the Bible hinges on). William Lane Craig has made a good historical case for the resurrection... I think there are plenty of good reasons why it is rational to believe in it.

Weezer wrote:One question I have is about the contradictions that are apparent in the various books of the New Testament. There are a lot of contradictions but I'll name a few:


Just a point on contradictions... there are a few, but most if not all of them are insignificant. In the gospels, for example - they were written by four different people, all of whom had different audiences. It's not surprising that there are differences - I'd say it would be more suspicious if they all presented an identical view of things.

First the writers of the gospel couldn't even agree when jesus was born. ... how do you reconcile this difference?


Here is a section from my Bible notes:

ESV Study Bible wrote:According to Josephus, Quirinius was governor of Syria a.d. 6–7 and conducted a census in a.d. 6 (which Luke is aware of and mentions in Acts 5:37). But this cannot be the census Luke is referencing here, since it occurred after the death of Herod the Great in 4 b.c., and it is known that Jesus was born during Herod's reign (cf. Matt. 2:1; Luke 1:5). Various plausible solutions have been proposed. Some interpreters believe that because “governor” (participle of Gk. hēgemoneuō) was a very general term for “ruler,” it may be that Quirinius was the administrator of the census, but not the governor proper. Another solution is to translate the verse, “This was the registration before Quirinius was governor of Syria”, which is grammatically possible (taking Gk. prōtos as “before” rather than “first”; the Greek construction is somewhat unusual on any reading). This would make sense because Luke would then be clarifying that this was before the well-known, troublesome census of a.d. 6 (Acts 5:37). Though the year cannot be determined with complete certainty, there are several reasonable possibilities which correspond well to Luke's carefully researched investigation (Luke 1:3–4) and to the historical and geographical accuracy evidenced throughout Luke and Acts. The most reasonable date is late in the year of 6 b.c. or early 5


So it's not a completely irreconcilable problem. Although according to Wikipedia "most scholars" believe this to be an error by Luke.

setzer777 wrote:You might say that I'm suggesting a slightly different way of viewing texts. Instead of saying: "What are the reasons for and against trusting this account". I'd phrase it as "Here are some words on paper, let's consider every possible way these words could have ended up here, and decide which ways are more plausible."


Now this is interesting. One problem I think atheists have is to account for the existence of the Bible, particularly the gospel narratives, and the spread of the early church. The simplest explanation, and the one that makes most sense to me, is that it's true. I don't think other explanations make so much sense, they just don't take account of all the facts.

Case in point: were the gospel writers lying? Did they have 'personality changes' to lie about certain miracles? I think that's extremely unlikely because of what happened - i.e. many were tortured and killed because of their beliefs. Not really consistent with them believing it was a lie. And so on.

rat4000 wrote:Would you mind, then, explaining Hell?

I never quite understood how a benevolent God could send someone to an eternity of torture. Perhaps this is because of a lack of understanding how the Christian Hell works? In fact, this is probably the main reason why I don't like Christianity as a religion.


Well, hell is a difficult topic because the Bible doesn't really tell us everything about it. In fact, most of what happens after death is a bit vague - we don't know any of the specifics. And there are actually various different views among Christian groups as to exactly what hell is.

I think what C.S. Lewis said in "Mere Christianity" on this topic is quite helpful - if you haven't read it I would recommend it. The basic idea being that people can choose to accept or reject God with the decisions they made, heaven or hell is basically this process extended to eternity. (I can't really do justice to his words here!)

There is a helpful article on the topic here. The article writer quotes C.S. Lewis as saying, "the gates of hell are locked on the inside".
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby Kaillan » Thu Mar 12, 2009 9:48 am UTC

Phill wrote:The simplest explanation, and the one that makes most sense to me, is that it's true.


The simplest explanation for a highly edited and truncated ancient text that lists the rise of a demi-god with super human abilities and a good word to spread is the simplest explanation?

Humanity can be used as an entire explenation for the rises and falls of Christianity, and the need for religion itself is wholly apparent in humans need for comfort, and survival. The motives and experiances of people who lived that long ago cannot be hoped to explain, but taking any persons belief that they witnessed and participated in a miracle is taken with a grain of salt to put it lightly, added with the parameters of the time they lived in (not exactly the Golden Age of science) the amount of years that have passed, translations that have been made, documents that have been put together then taken apart again and again.

I just don't see "holy" text as a firm basis for a belief in religion.
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby BeerBottle » Thu Mar 12, 2009 11:08 am UTC

comic JK wrote:The Koran, on the other hand, is one book, composed by one man who claimed to speak from divine inspiration. Yet its creation story is just as incorrect as Genesis.

The implications for the Koran as a whole are obvious.


Sorry, got to call you out on this one. The Quran is not really arranged anything like the Bible. The creation 'story' is not given in one place, as the central theme of the book is a guide to life, it is not a science textbook but it does contain information about the nature of the universe and reality. Let's look at what the Quran does say about creation, and perhaps you can tell me where it is 'wrong'.
(Understand when reading these excerpts that God is referred to in the first, second and third person in the Quran)

Quran 51:47 wrote:AND IT IS We who have built the universe with Our creative power; and, verily, it is We who are steadily expanding it.

Quran 2:29 wrote:He it is who has created for you all that is on earth, and has applied His design to the heavens

Quran 21:30 wrote:the heavens and the earth were joined together as one unit, before We clove them asunder

Quran 3:91 wrote:and thus reflect on the creation of the heavens and the earth: "O our Sustainer! Thou hast not created aught of this without meaning and purpose.


There are some pretty solid predictions there. The universe has a definite beginning and is now expanding. The universe was originally joined together all as one, and was then divided. The universe is designed rationally to support life. Humans can use reason to understand the universe. Which of these do you object to? Which of these could have been known by a 7th century desert merchent? Of course I could be cherry-picking, and I invite you to find obvious inaccuracies in the Quranic description of the universe (http://www.islamicity.com/QuranSearch/)

But I guess this is the nub of your objection:

7:54 wrote:God created the heavens and the earth, and all that is between them, in six days


But the word sometimes translated as "day" is better stated as "period of time" (there are many other examples in the Quran where this same word cannot mean day but must mean period) - of course the concept of day would have no meaning before the earth and sun - but metaphorical language is necessary to describe things inaccessible to human imagination.

But I think your view of the role of the Quran is not quite correct. Equating it with the Bible, which many Christians seem happy to disregard parts of or allow human infulence upon, is not really appropriate. Equating it with the person of Jesus in the Christian tradition is a more accurate comparison. I could say, as you have said about the Quran - "but Jesus was just one man, he could have been wrong, and so your religion is wrong." But Islam is not based on one revelation, but on all of the revelations given to humans throughout history, including the Gospel and the Torah and countless others lost to time. The key point is that the Quran is the only one to have survived unchanged since it's revelation, so is the best scripture to follow. Not that following any other scripture or prophet is necessarily wrong:

Quran 2:62 wrote:VERILY, those who have attained to faith, as well as those who follow the Jewish faith, and the christians, and the Sabians -all who believe in God and the Last Day and do righteous deeds-shall have their reward with their Sustainer; and no fear need they have, and neither shall they grieve.
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby Pez Dispens3r » Thu Mar 12, 2009 1:39 pm UTC

Phill wrote:One problem I think atheists have is to account for the existence of the Bible, particularly the gospel narratives, and the spread of the early church. The simplest explanation, and the one that makes most sense to me, is that it's true. I don't think other explanations make so much sense, they just don't take account of all the facts.

Case in point: were the gospel writers lying? Did they have 'personality changes' to lie about certain miracles? I think that's extremely unlikely because of what happened - i.e. many were tortured and killed because of their beliefs. Not really consistent with them believing it was a lie. And so on.


I don't think anyone would seriously imply that the gospel writers and disciples didn't believe what they were preaching. But the Bible and the spread of Christianity do not really prove anything. Buddhism spread from Hinduism and if the success of Christianity means anything than so does this. The Church of Latter Day Saints has also grown quite strongly since it was started, as has Scientology for that matter. Similarly, ideologies pop up all the time and get masses of followers. There are people who believe the strangest things, but this does not make them true. Human nature accounts for the Bible and the spread of the early church quite neatly.
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby setzer777 » Thu Mar 12, 2009 2:01 pm UTC

Phill wrote:
setzer777 wrote:You might say that I'm suggesting a slightly different way of viewing texts. Instead of saying: "What are the reasons for and against trusting this account". I'd phrase it as "Here are some words on paper, let's consider every possible way these words could have ended up here, and decide which ways are more plausible."


Now this is interesting. One problem I think atheists have is to account for the existence of the Bible, particularly the gospel narratives, and the spread of the early church. The simplest explanation, and the one that makes most sense to me, is that it's true. I don't think other explanations make so much sense, they just don't take account of all the facts.

Case in point: were the gospel writers lying? Did they have 'personality changes' to lie about certain miracles? I think that's extremely unlikely because of what happened - i.e. many were tortured and killed because of their beliefs. Not really consistent with them believing it was a lie. And so on.


Well, from what I understand, the general consensus among scholars is that none of the gospel writers were eye-witnesses. Also, the accounts of the torture and executions themselves can be called into question.

But that's beside my main point. Let's assume that the gospel writers are all eye-witness accounts by people who were tortured and executed for them. The question I ask is what is more probable? That some unknown force seriously violated the laws of nature as we understand them, or that some unknown causes violated normal human psychology as we understand it (in a relatively small number of people)? To me the second is a better explanation, because our understanding of psychology is very limited compared to our understanding of physics, and we see many examples of it being violated.
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby Weezer » Thu Mar 12, 2009 2:33 pm UTC

Phill wrote:.
Here is a section from my Bible notes:

ESV Study Bible wrote:According to Josephus, Quirinius was governor of Syria a.d. 6–7 and conducted a census in a.d. 6 (which Luke is aware of and mentions in Acts 5:37). But this cannot be the census Luke is referencing here, since it occurred after the death of Herod the Great in 4 b.c., and it is known that Jesus was born during Herod's reign (cf. Matt. 2:1; Luke 1:5). Various plausible solutions have been proposed. Some interpreters believe that because “governor” (participle of Gk. hēgemoneuō) was a very general term for “ruler,” it may be that Quirinius was the administrator of the census, but not the governor proper. Another solution is to translate the verse, “This was the registration before Quirinius was governor of Syria”, which is grammatically possible (taking Gk. prōtos as “before” rather than “first”; the Greek construction is somewhat unusual on any reading). This would make sense because Luke would then be clarifying that this was before the well-known, troublesome census of a.d. 6 (Acts 5:37). Though the year cannot be determined with complete certainty, there are several reasonable possibilities which correspond well to Luke's carefully researched investigation (Luke 1:3–4) and to the historical and geographical accuracy evidenced throughout Luke and Acts. The most reasonable date is late in the year of 6 b.c. or early 5


So it's not a completely irreconcilable problem. Although according to Wikipedia "most scholars" believe this to be an error by Luke.


I have one point about the translation of bible, assuming that the original bible was 100% correct whats to say that any of the modern (or not so modern) translations of the bible are correct? The quotation that you used uses as one of its key arguments for reconciling the difference that there was a translation error, so couldn't vast tracts of accepted christian theology and beliefs be based on similar but more important mistranslations. How can you base your faith on a document that has notes attached to it bringing into question its validity.
As to your second point if this is an error by Luke, whats to say there aren't many more errors that don't directly contradict one of the other gospels. And if Luke made an error about when his savior was born why couldn't there have been an error about one of the miracles that is attributed to Jesus?


Phill wrote: Now this is interesting. One problem I think atheists have is to account for the existence of the Bible, particularly the gospel narratives, and the spread of the early church. The simplest explanation, and the one that makes most sense to me, is that it's true. I don't think other explanations make so much sense, they just don't take account of all the facts.


If one of your reasons for believing that Christianity is the true religion is because it spread quickly once it was created, that same argument could be just as easily be used for any popular religion. For example Islam from when it began to spread in 622 CE until 750 CE had gone from a small religion to one controlling all of the Middle East, North Africa and much of Spain. If the quick expansion of a religion is proof of its accuracy then why isn't Islam seen as the true religion, it reached dominance over an area much faster than Christianity did. Also Islam has its own religious texts that are at least as accurate as the BIble and there's proof that Muhammad was alive when he was supposed to be. Pretty much any major religion spread quickly and has religious texts so by that definition all religions are equally valid.
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby alexh123456789 » Thu Mar 12, 2009 11:19 pm UTC

BeerBottle wrote:Let's look at what the Quran does say about creation, and perhaps you can tell me where it is 'wrong'.
(Understand when reading these excerpts that God is referred to in the first, second and third person in the Quran)

1. Quran 51:47 wrote:AND IT IS We who have built the universe with Our creative power; and, verily, it is We who are steadily expanding it.


2. Quran 2:29 wrote:He it is who has created for you all that is on earth, and has applied His design to the heavens


3. Quran 21:30 wrote:the heavens and the earth were joined together as one unit, before We clove them asunder


4. Quran 3:91 wrote:and thus reflect on the creation of the heavens and the earth: "O our Sustainer! Thou hast not created aught of this without meaning and purpose.



There are some pretty solid predictions there. The universe has a definite beginning and is now expanding. The universe was originally joined together all as one, and was then divided. The universe is designed rationally to support life. Humans can use reason to understand the universe. Which of these do you object to? Which of these could have been known by a 7th century desert merchent? Of course I could be cherry-picking, and I invite you to find obvious inaccuracies in the Quranic description of the universe (http://www.islamicity.com/QuranSearch/)


About number 1: This seems to be saying that more matter is being added to the universe, which isn't happening.

2: Not sure what fact this is supporting

3: We didn't have an earth and heaven together inside the singularity. They were never "together" then "separate"

4: See the Wikipedia page on the Anthropic Principle or the thread on SB from a few weeks ago.

Mohamed was similar to Nostradamus: he wrote a lot of thing vague enough to be interpreted as whatever you want and centuries later people assumed the authors were amazingly insightful and saw the future.



To those who think it's logical to be Christian: try to approach the bible from an outsiders perspective without preconceptions. From here it seems obviously ridiculous to believe a few anecdotes which can't even agree among each other over thousands of years of observations. There's no evidence to believe in the resurrection nor any of the other miracles, just because the bible seems like a great inspired book doesn't make it any more likely to be true.
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby Phill » Fri Mar 13, 2009 9:33 am UTC

Kaillan wrote:The simplest explanation for a highly edited and truncated ancient text that lists the rise of a demi-god with super human abilities and a good word to spread is the simplest explanation?


'highly edited and truncated'? Please cite your sources :p

Seriously though, I've discussed this in the previous thread, but there is little evidence for the alteration of Biblical texts. There are only two that I can think of - the ending of Mark's gospel, and the addition of the woman caught in adultery story to John's gospel. In general, the earliest manuscripts that we have match up pretty closely with the later manuscripts. There's no evidence of tampering. And truncated? How exactly do you mean? That there are more books which should have been in the Bible, or that material has been cut out of it?

Kaillan wrote:Humanity can be used as an entire explenation for the rises and falls of Christianity, and the need for religion itself is wholly apparent in humans need for comfort, and survival. The motives and experiances of people who lived that long ago cannot be hoped to explain, but taking any persons belief that they witnessed and participated in a miracle is taken with a grain of salt to put it lightly, added with the parameters of the time they lived in (not exactly the Golden Age of science) the amount of years that have passed, translations that have been made, documents that have been put together then taken apart again and again.


I'll deal with this once because a number of people have mentioned it. The spread of Christianity is not the beginning and end of the evidence. But it seems a bit strange to me that a movement based on such a supernatural event would spread if the event had not actually taken place. Particularly when people who did believe were liable to be tortured and killed. Yes, other religions have spread, and spreading is no guarantee of authenticity. But you can't look at these things in isolation, you have to consider everything when making such a judgement.

setzer777 wrote:Well, from what I understand, the general consensus among scholars is that none of the gospel writers were eye-witnesses. Also, the accounts of the torture and executions themselves can be called into question.


Depends which scholars you believe. I believe Matthew and John are eye-witnesses. Mark was a disciple of Peter, so heard from an eye-witness. It's probable that Luke interviewed eye-witnesses (see Luke 1:1-4, i.e. "just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us"). In a nutshell, I don't think there's any particular reason not to believe that the gospel writers were who we now believe they were.

As for the torture and executions, I haven't really looked into it but I can easily see it happen. If you read through the book of Acts you can see it starting: the early church developing as a movement, which the Jews obviously weren't happy about. This caused a few riots and civil disorder which the Romans weren't happy about... in short, I can see how it could have developed into a situation where Christians were persecuted.

setzer777 wrote:The question I ask is what is more probable? That some unknown force seriously violated the laws of nature as we understand them, or that some unknown causes violated normal human psychology as we understand it (in a relatively small number of people)? To me the second is a better explanation, because our understanding of psychology is very limited compared to our understanding of physics, and we see many examples of it being violated.


So, your argument is that it's more probable that a whole bunch of people independently suffered some kind of psychological disorder while appearing to be completely sane? Seems unlikely to me. God, in my understanding, isn't an 'unknown force' - in the context of the Bible the resurrection fits in. It seems to me that when considering probability you can't just deal with independent event X, you have to consider all the background and so on.

Weezer wrote:I have one point about the translation of bible, assuming that the original bible was 100% correct whats to say that any of the modern (or not so modern) translations of the bible are correct?


The number and quality of the manuscripts that we have. We have over 5,000 Greek manuscripts, over 10,000 in Latin, over a million quotations from the early church fathers (if the New Testament manuscripts disappeared I've heard that we could pretty much reconstruct it from the writings of the early church fathers)... in short, compared to any other ancient document the Bible is the gold standard. There is a very good chance that what we read in today's Bibles is a fairly accurate depiction of what the original authors wrote.

Weezer wrote:And if Luke made an error about when his savior was born why couldn't there have been an error about one of the miracles that is attributed to Jesus?


There are four different accounts, all of them agree on the basics i.e. there was a guy called Jesus who did miracles, preached repentance and forgiveness of sins, proclaimed the Kingdom of God, was crucified, died, and was buried, and was raised to life again. The fact that there are a handful of very minor discrepancies or errors in the accounts just means to me that the gospels were written by humans who occasionally make mistakes. Anyone can make mistakes about small things. It's much more difficult to make mistakes about big things, if that makes sense.

alexh123456789 wrote:To those who think it's logical to be Christian: try to approach the bible from an outsiders perspective without preconceptions. From here it seems obviously ridiculous to believe a few anecdotes which can't even agree among each other over thousands of years of observations. There's no evidence to believe in the resurrection nor any of the other miracles, just because the bible seems like a great inspired book doesn't make it any more likely to be true.


I understand that to an outsider it does look a bit odd. And I can completely understand why someone would be an atheist (did I just say that out loud? ;))

But I think you're exaggerating slightly. There aren't many disagreements in those anecdotes - most contradictions people come up with are either (a) superficial, (b) stem from a misunderstanding of the text. I haven't come across one yet which is fatal to the Biblical narrative.

And as for "no" evidence to believe in the resurrection - this, again, is exaggeration. There is some evidence to believe in the resurrection, and I think the resurrection being true best explains the evidence that we do have.

BeerBottle wrote:The key point is that the Quran is the only one to have survived unchanged since it's revelation, so is the best scripture to follow


OK, I'm going to call you out on this ;) What evidence is there that the Quran is the only text to have survived unchanced? With the Bible, for example, I mentioned the only two bits of the New Testament which are proven to be later additions are the ending of Mark's gospel and an anecdote in John's gospel. (Which are both sort of "commented out" in my Bible with a warning that they do not appear in the earliest manuscripts). :)
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby setzer777 » Fri Mar 13, 2009 3:41 pm UTC

Phill wrote:
setzer777 wrote:Well, from what I understand, the general consensus among scholars is that none of the gospel writers were eye-witnesses. Also, the accounts of the torture and executions themselves can be called into question.


Depends which scholars you believe. I believe Matthew and John are eye-witnesses. Mark was a disciple of Peter, so heard from an eye-witness. It's probable that Luke interviewed eye-witnesses (see Luke 1:1-4, i.e. "just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us"). In a nutshell, I don't think there's any particular reason not to believe that the gospel writers were who we now believe they were.

As for the torture and executions, I haven't really looked into it but I can easily see it happen. If you read through the book of Acts you can see it starting: the early church developing as a movement, which the Jews obviously weren't happy about. This caused a few riots and civil disorder which the Romans weren't happy about... in short, I can see how it could have developed into a situation where Christians were persecuted.


Oh yes, I can easily see it happening, but I can also easily see it not having actually happened. It ties into my general point below:
Phill wrote:
setzer777 wrote:The question I ask is what is more probable? That some unknown force seriously violated the laws of nature as we understand them, or that some unknown causes violated normal human psychology as we understand it (in a relatively small number of people)? To me the second is a better explanation, because our understanding of psychology is very limited compared to our understanding of physics, and we see many examples of it being violated.


So, your argument is that it's more probable that a whole bunch of people independently suffered some kind of psychological disorder while appearing to be completely sane? Seems unlikely to me. God, in my understanding, isn't an 'unknown force' - in the context of the Bible the resurrection fits in. It seems to me that when considering probability you can't just deal with independent event X, you have to consider all the background and so on.


My argument is that there are various ways for any given account to be false. Generally, we assume they are true in the absence of any glaring issues. But when reading an account of violations of what we understand the laws of nature, it is more likely that the account is false in one of those ways than that a miracle actually occurred (because miracles are by their very nature incredibly unlikely). Would each of those ways for the account to be false be very unlikely? Perhaps. But a miracle actually occurring is even more unlikely.

Now, as you say, this only applies if you consider God an unknown force. But what supposedly establishes the Bible as an accurate description of God's methodology is its historical testimony of various miracles. In which my same argument would say that it is more likely that those accounts were false.

As long as you're relying solely on testimony as your basis for a miracle occurring, it's more likely the accounts were false *unless* it would take an even greater miracle for them to be false than for them to be true. That isn't the case with any of the Biblical accounts. Might it take some very unlikely events that we don't normally consider probable when reading history? Perhaps. But it wouldn't take a miracle, certainly not one on par with the ones recorded. And thus it makes sense to accept the explanation that accounts for the exact same facts (the existence of the historical texts) via mechanisms that are more probable.

This is only if you are using testimony as your basis. If you have some other reason for believing in a miracle-causing God, then that could make the miracle possibility more likely, but I would need to hear the argument.
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby Weezer » Fri Mar 13, 2009 4:09 pm UTC

Phill wrote:
Kaillan wrote:The simplest explanation for a highly edited and truncated ancient text that lists the rise of a demi-god with super human abilities and a good word to spread is the simplest explanation?


'highly edited and truncated'? Please cite your sources :p


I'm assuming that by truncated he maeans that there are a number of books that could have been included but were not because they contradicted the church doctrine at teh time that the New Testament was being put together. According to my religious studies teacher there were over a dozen gospels that were not included in the bible for various reasons. The one example that he cited was a gospel that described Jesus' chidhood. He said that the reason that this gospel was not included was because in it Jesus was playing with a group of children and was knocked down. He was understandably angry so when he got back up he struck the child that knocked him down and the child was struck dead. While I don't know for myself how true this is it would make sense that church fathers wouldn't want to include in the bible a story that contradicts the "turn the other cheek" philosophy of Jesus.

Even if the gospels that we are given were written by eyewitnesses whats to say that they weren't chosen many years later by people who had already decided what message they wanted to portray and because of this only chose gospels that supported their idea of Jesus.


Phill wrote:The number and quality of the manuscripts that we have. We have over 5,000 Greek manuscripts, over 10,000 in Latin, over a million quotations from the early church fathers (if the New Testament manuscripts disappeared I've heard that we could pretty much reconstruct it from the writings of the early church fathers)... in short, compared to any other ancient document the Bible is the gold standard. There is a very good chance that what we read in today's Bibles is a fairly accurate depiction of what the original authors wrote.


I'll admit that I didn't know how many copies of the bible still survived in there original form, but I can't help but noticing that most of the bibles that I have seen are from one translation of it, The King James Bible. Since almost no one actually reads the texts in there original greek, does it matter that they are available? It just matters that the form that they are given, which ever translation it may be, could be in error. Thus there own experience cannot verify the accuracy of the bible, requiring them to take in on faith that the translations were correct.



Phill wrote: And as for "no" evidence to believe in the resurrection - this, again, is exaggeration. There is some evidence to believe in the resurrection, and I think the resurrection being true best explains the evidence that we do have.


You've mentioned historical evidence of the resurrection a few times, I would be interested in hearing it. Especially because I've never heard anyone make that claim before.
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby Heisenberg » Fri Mar 13, 2009 6:58 pm UTC

Weezer wrote:Since almost no one actually reads the texts in there original greek, does it matter that they are available?

Since almost no one actually reads Einstein's original works, does it matter that they are available? Certainly. Various physicists read Einstein's works, and their interpretations and extrapolations, to make predictions about the universe. The general public doesn't understand those works, and probably can't even read them, but they can understand the theories the physicists propose.

It is equally important that the original manuscripts are available. Biblical scholars and theologians consult them to make accurate interpretations and theories. A theology student I know is taking Greek right now as a requirement for her major.
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby Weezer » Fri Mar 13, 2009 7:16 pm UTC

Heisenberg wrote:
Weezer wrote:Since almost no one actually reads the texts in there original greek, does it matter that they are available?

Since almost no one actually reads Einstein's original works, does it matter that they are available? Certainly. Various physicists read Einstein's works, and their interpretations and extrapolations, to make predictions about the universe. The general public doesn't understand those works, and probably can't even read them, but they can understand the theories the physicists propose.

It is equally important that the original manuscripts are available. Biblical scholars and theologians consult them to make accurate interpretations and theories. A theology student I know is taking Greek right now as a requirement for her major.


The point that I was trying to make was that if there are errors in the translations that the majority of believers read that makes their faith as much based on an untruth as if the originals were wrong. Einstein's works are more concrete and more easily "translated" from it original harder to understand form into a more layman friendly layout. Its much easier to make mistakes translating from ancient greek, or any other language for that matter than to extrapolate from previous theories. Also physicists making their own predictions from Einstein's theories isn't the same as relying on a possibly innacuratley translate work as the basis for your religious beliefs.

Yes I agree that the original manuscripts matter for theologians and the like but how often does your average christian ever read or encounter commentary written by one of these theologians? They seem to primarily rely accepted and traditional interpretations of the bible including translations made almost 400 years ago (the King James bible). So it doesn't matter to the wider christian faith that their are theologians or bible scholars that are making there own translations if the average believer relies on far older and possibly inaccurate translations.
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby MoghLiechty2 » Sat Mar 14, 2009 4:31 am UTC

Weezer wrote:
Phill wrote:
Kaillan wrote:The simplest explanation for a highly edited and truncated ancient text that lists the rise of a demi-god with super human abilities and a good word to spread is the simplest explanation?


'highly edited and truncated'? Please cite your sources :p


I'm assuming that by truncated he maeans that there are a number of books that could have been included but were not because they contradicted the church doctrine at teh time that the New Testament was being put together. According to my religious studies teacher there were over a dozen gospels that were not included in the bible for various reasons. ...

Even if the gospels that we are given were written by eyewitnesses whats to say that they weren't chosen many years later by people who had already decided what message they wanted to portray and because of this only chose gospels that supported their idea of Jesus.

The Great Hippo made an extremely similar objection here, linking to an article (his second link) that more specifically names some of the apocryphal books that you're likely talking about, and I made what I think to be a sufficient response here.

And just an anecdote, take it or leave it:
Spoiler:
I have yet to take a religious studies class from what will undoubtedly be a skeptic professor, but from what a friend of mine who has taken one (at what I hear is one of the best religious studies departments in the country), the entry level lectures never do the topics full justice, as the professors will generally make claims that are based on taking one side on an argument that is not simple or has an obvious conclusion. He said that several times he was able to call out the professor on something he said that was clearly false, and the professor would acknowledge this in e-mail, but continue to teach it in class. This ties in to what I see as a the "a priori" assumption of the falsity of Christianity that I mention in the above link, applied to the study of the religion, causing professors to take less likely sides on topics in order to fit into their coherent standpoint.

Weezer wrote:I'll admit that I didn't know how many copies of the bible still survived in there original form, but I can't help but noticing that most of the bibles that I have seen are from one translation of it, The King James Bible. Since almost no one actually reads the texts in there original greek, does it matter that they are available? It just matters that the form that they are given, which ever translation it may be, could be in error. Thus there own experience cannot verify the accuracy of the bible, requiring them to take in on faith that the translations were correct.

There are probably over 50 English translations of the Bible, of which I will name the few that I am most familiar with, in order of closeness to the original language:
(Literal) English Standard Version - New American Standard Bible - New Living Translation - New International Version ...

I use the English Standard Version (as does, I notice, Phill) for most of my studies, as it is (almost) a phrase for phrase translation from the original language, with a wealth of subnotes containing relevent translation and interpretation notes. Also, any Christian who has the slightest inkling to investigate further into the original language can find one of many free word-for-word or side-by-side translations, or use a concordance such as the one at Blue Letter Bible

You've mentioned historical evidence of the resurrection a few times, I would be interested in hearing it. Especially because I've never heard anyone make that claim before.

I'll leave it to Phill, I know this is not a simple topic either, and is incidentally something I know little about.

Weezer wrote:The point that I was trying to make was that if there are errors in the translations that the majority of believers read that makes their faith as much based on an untruth as if the originals were wrong. Einstein's works are more concrete and more easily "translated" from it original harder to understand form into a more layman friendly layout. Its much easier to make mistakes translating from ancient greek, or any other language for that matter than to extrapolate from previous theories. Also physicists making their own predictions from Einstein's theories isn't the same as relying on a possibly innacuratley translate work as the basis for your religious beliefs.

Yes I agree that the original manuscripts matter for theologians and the like but how often does your average christian ever read or encounter commentary written by one of these theologians? They seem to primarily rely accepted and traditional interpretations of the bible including translations made almost 400 years ago (the King James bible). So it doesn't matter to the wider christian faith that their are theologians or bible scholars that are making there own translations if the average believer relies on far older and possibly inaccurate translations.

Those who do what you describe will not find themselves any more likely to be closer to the truth of the original text. It's true, your average Christian doesn't take the time or the effort to investigate for himself whether or not the theology he has been taught is actually consistent with the teaching of the text, hence the plethora of deviant theologies and the huge number of strange denominations. I find an unwillingness to investigate one's beliefs by only accepting tradition to be reprimandable and destructive to the Christian faith.

This ties into a reason why I like the ESV version of the Bible:
ESV wrote:The footnotes that accompany the ESV text inform the reader of textual variations and difficulties and show how these have been resolved by the ESV Translation Team. In addition to this, the footnotes indicate significant alternative readings and occasionally provide an explanation for technical terms or for a difficult reading in the text.
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby The Great Hippo » Sat Mar 14, 2009 6:13 am UTC

Phill wrote:The number and quality of the manuscripts that we have. We have over 5,000 Greek manuscripts, over 10,000 in Latin, over a million quotations from the early church fathers (if the New Testament manuscripts disappeared I've heard that we could pretty much reconstruct it from the writings of the early church fathers)... in short, compared to any other ancient document the Bible is the gold standard. There is a very good chance that what we read in today's Bibles is a fairly accurate depiction of what the original authors wrote.
Keep in mind, not a single one of those copies dates within two hundred years of their original authorship. That's... A very big chunk of time. Even if we accept the Bible as the gold standard, its accuracy is immensely suspect (the accuracy of all fragmentary historical documents of which we only have copies of copies of copies are immensely suspect, by the way - the entire field of ancient history is a house of cards waiting for one piece of scientific data to knock it all down).

When someone says 'there is no evidence for Jesus' ressurection', they mean hard, scientific evidence; there's plenty of soft historical evidence (see: documentation), but there's also plenty of soft historical evidence that the Greeks could jump 300 feet in the air, hurl javelins through walls of stone, and fart lightning. Soft historical evidence is meaningless in a discourse concerning God, because I can just produce soft historical evidence that contradicts yours ("oh, Jesus is the Son of God and came back from the dead? Well Buddha says God is within ALL of us and turned demon fire into flowers!").

So, if you have evidence... Well, I hope it isn't documentation. Because documentation doesn't count. It's the very definition of anecdotal.
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby Kaillan » Sat Mar 14, 2009 8:26 am UTC

MoghLiechty2 wrote:The Great Hippo made an extremely similar objection here, linking to an article (his second link) that more specifically names some of the apocryphal books that you're likely talking about, and I made what I think to be a sufficient response here.


Firstly after reading both those topics, I think I have to draw attention back to the use of my word "truncated", and another quote of yours that you used in the post you gave as a "sufficient response". (I'll only draw one quote of yours to the light out of decency, it was in response to an argument that wasn't quite my own.)

MoghLiechty2 wrote: ...this doesn't change the fact that all the manuscripts we need to construct a reliable and consistent version of the original writings exist."


Yes you're probably right, they do exist. Or they did. But do they exist worldwide, contained in the bible? I'd have to raise that as a strong suggestion to the contrary.

Also i think there may be some confusion, or at least wiggle room, with the idea of books being missing from the bible. What qualifies as authentic? Obviously they would have to be written by the person who they say wrote it. Also they would have to be pretty sure of what they were writing. But then questions like, well their information would have to be correct, and if they did indeed say something contrary to popular belief/documentation on an occurrence within the church or Jesus’ life, I’m sure the Church would consider this grounds for non-canonization.

Personally speaking however, i would not. But if I were to use the Churches own logic, then why not take it from the other side of the spectrum. Jesus wouldn't hit kids, not in the bible. The universe wouldn't raise people back from the dead? Let’s cut it out of the bible!
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby MoghLiechty2 » Sat Mar 14, 2009 9:28 am UTC

Kaillan wrote:Personally speaking however, i would not. But if I were to use the Churches own logic, then why not take it from the other side of the spectrum. Jesus wouldn't hit kids, not in the bible. The universe wouldn't raise people back from the dead? Let’s cut it out of the bible!

Not that it's your fault, but I haven't the faintest idea what your main point is. If you want to discuss something in particular (say, the apocrypha book with Jesus hitting the kid) find the name of the particular book so I can actually research it. Or perhaps we can discuss how the length of time between original writing and earliest manuscript affects reliability, or whether the texts were even written by the supposed author.

On the topic of whether early Church fathers, such as Clement, were able to distinguish between canon and non-canon, the 1st article I cited in my response made the following argument (rather lengthily).

1. Clement had access to a written copy of most (or all) of our extant New Testament.
2. Clement held the New Testament material to be on par with Old Testament Material.
3. Clement could clearly distinguish between authentic and inauthentic scripture;
4. Clement only used authentic scripture in his letter as authority and warrant (and this included the NT materials).
_____

I'm serious, pick a valid topic. Otherwise, your patronizing characterizations of early Church leaders remain unfounded.
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby alexh123456789 » Mon Mar 16, 2009 12:22 am UTC

I believe his point was that the church fathers had a ton of different stories about Jesus and manipulated his image into what is commonly accepted today, and that deciding between "authentic" and "inauthentic" sources was essentially arbitrary. It's amusing that even the stories they chose to portray their choice of the proper Jesus don't even agree amongst each other (what he said on the cross, when/where he was born, ext.)
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby MoghLiechty2 » Mon Mar 16, 2009 1:26 am UTC

alexh123456789 wrote:I believe his point was that the church fathers had a ton of different stories about Jesus and manipulated his image into what is commonly accepted today, and that deciding between "authentic" and "inauthentic" sources was essentially arbitrary.

If that's the point, he needs to substantiate it. This is SB, after all... Because it reveals to me a very poor knowledge of the way the early church actually worked, particularly the idea that canonization was "essentially arbitrary."
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby alexh123456789 » Mon Mar 16, 2009 3:04 am UTC

The "new testament apocrypha" section on Wikipedia lists about 50 texts that weren't included in the traditional bible, and the article says
These writings often have links with those books which are regarded as "canonical". Not every branch of the Christian church is in agreement as to which writings are to be regarded as "canonical" and which are "apocryphal".

showing that it's clearly not "obvious" which books were authentic because the sects can't even agree.

There's another interesting quote on the wikipedia page,
The victors in the struggles to establish Christian Orthodoxy not only won their theological battles, they also rewrote the history of the conflict; later readers then naturally assumed that the victorious views had been embraced by the vast majority of Christians from the very beginning ... The practice of Christian forgery has a long and distinguished history ... the debate lasted three hundred years ... even within "orthodox" circles there was considerable debate concerning which books to include -Lost Christianities, Bart Ehrman

The decision was a 300 year debate, which seems to indicate that it could have gone one of several ways, and the statement that, "Clement could clearly distinguish between authentic and inauthentic scripture" must be false.
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby MoghLiechty2 » Mon Mar 16, 2009 5:21 am UTC

alexh123456789 wrote:The "new testament apocrypha" section on Wikipedia lists about 50 texts that weren't included in the traditional bible, and the article says
These writings often have links with those books which are regarded as "canonical". Not every branch of the Christian church is in agreement as to which writings are to be regarded as "canonical" and which are "apocryphal".

showing that it's clearly not "obvious" which books were authentic because the sects can't even agree.

You still haven't argued.... anything. You're just citing something you found on Wikipedia that sounds like it disproves the whole of the basis of Christianity, when in fact it is something you would obviously expect even if Christianity were correct.

The fact that there are supposed books that almost nobody believes should be in the Bible is not evidence against the Bible's authenticity. That there are some books of the Bible that many denominations of Christianity, mainly Catholic ones, accept as authentic is a valid subject of debate within the Christian church. This small subcategory of books that are actually accepted by some denominations are writings that don't really contradict any sound Christian doctrine, but usually describe other historical or prophetic events. Each book needs to be individually examined for its authenticity, a remarkable undertaking that has been performed many times over by doctorate after doctorate in seminaries accross the U.S.

There's another interesting quote on the wikipedia page,
The victors in the struggles to establish Christian Orthodoxy not only won their theological battles, they also rewrote the history of the conflict; later readers then naturally assumed that the victorious views had been embraced by the vast majority of Christians from the very beginning ... The practice of Christian forgery has a long and distinguished history ... the debate lasted three hundred years ... even within "orthodox" circles there was considerable debate concerning which books to include -Lost Christianities, Bart Ehrman

The decision was a 300 year debate, which seems to indicate that it could have gone one of several ways, and the statement that, "Clement could clearly distinguish between authentic and inauthentic scripture" must be false.

Not that you're deliberately trying to be misleading, but this quote comes from an outspoken critic of Christian historical texts, and the Wiki page states it as a single side of the argument. The side that you did not cut-and-paste was (and I find this to be a very good response to criticism about Apocrypha):
People may still be heard to say, 'After all, these Apocryphal Gospels and Acts, as you call them, are just as interesting as the old ones. It was only by accident or caprice that they were not put into the New Testament'. The best answer (...) has always been, and is now, to produce the writings and let them tell their own story. It will very quickly be seen that there is no question of anyone's having excluded them from the New Testament: they have done that for themselves.

I also doubt you have even looked up who Clement is. The fact that Clement could distinguish between authentic and inauthentic texts is a valid conclusion based on an extended study conducted by the author of the link I provided. Clement is but one of the early Church fathers. His writings are actually included in the Wiki list of supposed apocrypha, whereas he was simply a pastor writing a letter with his own thoughts to a church in Corinth. That some early churches included his writings as canon only to be later removed is utterly insignificant, given that Clement himself relied fully on actual scriptures, and he himself did not add or subtract any major theology from previous texts.

The debate may have been 300 years long, but this in no way implies it "could have gone either way." They went the way they did because the authenticity of the apocrypha were duly questioned, and they were subsequently thrown out.
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby Phill » Mon Mar 16, 2009 10:39 am UTC

setzer777 wrote:And thus it makes sense to accept the explanation that accounts for the exact same facts (the existence of the historical texts) via mechanisms that are more probable.


I see your point - miracles are incredibly unlikely. But every other explanation I've heard proposed which doesn't involve miracles seems to ignore various facts selectively. Maybe you could find / suggest an alternative explanation and we can discuss it, that might be the best way of demonstrating what I mean.

Weezer wrote:You've mentioned historical evidence of the resurrection a few times, I would be interested in hearing it. Especially because I've never heard anyone make that claim before.


The person who I believe makes this claim most often is William Lane Craig. You can read an article on the historical resurrection here (note: requires free registration). He puts the case far more eloquently than I could.

The Great Hippo wrote:Keep in mind, not a single one of those copies dates within two hundred years of their original authorship. That's... A very big chunk of time. Even if we accept the Bible as the gold standard, its accuracy is immensely suspect (the accuracy of all fragmentary historical documents of which we only have copies of copies of copies are immensely suspect, by the way - the entire field of ancient history is a house of cards waiting for one piece of scientific data to knock it all down).


We have fragments of copies dated before the 2nd or 3rd centuries, but you're right - the earliest complete copy we have of the NT (I think the codex sinaiticus) dates from about the 4th century. But consider: those copies were probably copied and distributed to different cities fairly early on. We have copies from different geographical locations that tie up. They must have been copied from earlier documents. If there's a high degree of similarity between the two I'd suggest we can be confident they're pretty close to the original. This is the picture we get - there is just simply not the evidence of editing or changing that you suggest.

As for all of ancient history being a house of cards, what kind of scientific discovery (or data) would knock it down?

The Great Hippo wrote:When someone says 'there is no evidence for Jesus' ressurection', they mean hard, scientific evidence; there's plenty of soft historical evidence (see: documentation), but there's also plenty of soft historical evidence that the Greeks could jump 300 feet in the air, hurl javelins through walls of stone, and fart lightning


I don't think you're comparing like with like. How much 'documentation' is there that Greeks could jump 300 feet in the air? And was it ever intended as a historical account, or are they just stories? I haven't really looked into other ancient Greek literature.

The Great Hippo wrote:So, if you have evidence... Well, I hope it isn't documentation. Because documentation doesn't count. It's the very definition of anecdotal.


I think you're overly critical of documentation. I don't think there's any reason not to trust any given piece of documentation, you just have to take each one on its own merits. Yes, you can't believe every piece of anecdotal evidence. But I don't think that means you can throw all documentation out as being unreliable.
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby setzer777 » Mon Mar 16, 2009 11:32 am UTC

Phill wrote:
setzer777 wrote:And thus it makes sense to accept the explanation that accounts for the exact same facts (the existence of the historical texts) via mechanisms that are more probable.


I see your point - miracles are incredibly unlikely. But every other explanation I've heard proposed which doesn't involve miracles seems to ignore various facts selectively. Maybe you could find / suggest an alternative explanation and we can discuss it, that might be the best way of demonstrating what I mean.


Ok, I'll suggest an alternative explanation for the general accounts of miracles. I'm not saying it's the most probable explanation (I don't plan on doing the research required to make that claim), just that it's more probable than miracles occurring.

Jesus was what we'd call today a "faith healer" - apparently healing people of chronic pain, while in reality it's only a psychological placebo effect (and not supernatural). The gospels are not eyewitness accounts, but are written based on talking to people who claim to be eyewitnesses (or to have talked to eyewitnesses). In the process (and in the process of copying gospels), exaggeration (ascribing other miracles to Jesus, including undeniably supernatural healings), distorted memory (memory, even among eyewitnesses, can be very unreliable), rumor, and self-serving alterations (having a mildly famous person share your theological beliefs) led to the gospels that were selected for the canon (as well as many others).

Now, is some of this unlikely? Perhaps. For example, most of the arguments William Lane Craig make have to do with parts of the story that would likely be refuted if untrue. But given the number of rumors and untrue stories that exist amount relatively recent historical figures today, it wouldn't take something as improbable as a miracle for some comparatively easy to disprove untrue stories to persist past the point of easy disproof. Hell, we have many examples today of people ignoring or explaining-away any evidence that goes against their beliefs.
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby BeerBottle » Mon Mar 16, 2009 1:20 pm UTC

alexh123456789 wrote:About number 1: This seems to be saying that more matter is being added to the universe, which isn't happening.
Well, I disagree. It seems pretty plain to me that the verse means the universe is expanding. Which it is. Besides, everywhere creation is described as a single event e.g. Quran 9:36: "...God's decree on the day when He created the heavens and the earth" which doesn't really fit in with continual creation of matter or a steady state universe.

alexh123456789 wrote:We didn't have an earth and heaven together inside the singularity. They were never "together" then "separate"
Everything was in the singularity at t=0. When the Quran speaks of Heaven and Earth it means the totaility of creation i.e. everything. Quran 2:117 "The Originator is He of the heavens and the earth" Therefore everything was together, then split up. I don't know how this could refer any more unambiguously to the big bang.
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby Pez Dispens3r » Mon Mar 16, 2009 1:34 pm UTC

BeerBottle wrote:
alexh123456789 wrote:We didn't have an earth and heaven together inside the singularity. They were never "together" then "separate"
Everything was in the singularity at t=0. When the Quran speaks of Heaven and Earth it means the totaility of creation i.e. everything. Quran 2:117 "The Originator is He of the heavens and the earth" Therefore everything was together, then split up. I don't know how this could refer any more unambiguously to the big bang.


It could just be a false positive.

Phill wrote:I don't think you're comparing like with like. How much 'documentation' is there that Greeks could jump 300 feet in the air? And was it ever intended as a historical account, or are they just stories? I haven't really looked into other ancient Greek literature.


I'm pretty sure Great Hippo is referring to Homer's Illiad, which although seems fanciful at first glance actually contains some reliable historic information. That is, it is sometimes a historical source despite itself. For a mixture of history and myth, it's about on par with the Bible, so can you see where this is going?
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby BeerBottle » Mon Mar 16, 2009 4:26 pm UTC

Pez Dispens3r wrote:It could just be a false positive.
Yes of course it could - but I was responding to comic JK's assertion on the previous page that the Quran's creation 'story' is wrong. So I was attempting to show that the information in the Quran about the creation of the universe is consistent with the currently known facts.
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby alexh123456789 » Tue Mar 17, 2009 2:48 am UTC

beerbottle wrote:
alexh123456789 wrote:We didn't have an earth and heaven together inside the singularity. They were never "together" then "separate"


Everything was in the singularity at t=0. When the Quran speaks of Heaven and Earth it means the totaility of creation i.e. everything. Quran 2:117 "The Originator is He of the heavens and the earth" Therefore everything was together, then split up. I don't know how this could refer any more unambiguously to the big bang.


If he had clearly explained that the universe started as a point and then started expanding slowly, then suddenly a lot faster (the inflationary model), and if he had then proceeded to explain Hubble's law, he would have many more believers today because that would actually be something a desert merchant thousands of years ago would be unlikely to know and would be specific enough to not seem like a shot in the dark.

MoghLiechty2 wrote:You still haven't argued.... anything. You're just citing something you found on Wikipedia that sounds like it disproves the whole of the basis of Christianity, when in fact it is something you would obviously expect even if Christianity were correct.

The fact that there are supposed books that almost nobody believes should be in the Bible is not evidence against the Bible's authenticity. That there are some books of the Bible that many denominations of Christianity, mainly Catholic ones, accept as authentic is a valid subject of debate within the Christian church. This small subcategory of books that are actually accepted by some denominations are writings that don't really contradict any sound Christian doctrine, but usually describe other historical or prophetic events. Each book needs to be individually examined for its authenticity, a remarkable undertaking that has been performed many times over by doctorate after doctorate in seminaries accross the U.S.


To be part of the biblical canon means to consider the text to be the absolute truth, probably inspired by god, right? Is it not worrying that the difference in quality between "absolute truth" (in the bible) and something you consider to be just another story or whatever (not in bible) is so fine as to vary depending upon who is looking at it?
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby MoghLiechty2 » Tue Mar 17, 2009 3:19 am UTC

alexh123456789 wrote:To be part of the biblical canon means to consider the text to be the absolute truth, probably inspired by god, right? Is it not worrying that the difference in quality between "absolute truth" (in the bible) and something you consider to be just another story or whatever (not in bible) is so fine as to vary depending upon who is looking at it?

If somebody studies the books that could be in the Bible and comes up with an incorrect canonization, this is evidence of their own folly, rather than the fallacy of Christianity itself. Also, even the most disparate factions of Christianity have nearly identical New Testament Canonizations. It's the Old Testament that tends to get sloppy, requires deeper study, and leads to more misconceptions about Christianity.

Again, unless you have a specific book that you can actually knowledgably point to and say, "Hey, why in the world is this not in modern Christian canon?" I'm not going to keep arguing generalities.

You will hear me argue this point over and over: Why can't the study of Christian Theology be like any other field of study? Where the evidence is studied, categorized, and examined until the best theories are determined? This is, and will always be, the philosophy of whatever denomination I choose to follow.
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby The Great Hippo » Tue Mar 17, 2009 4:36 am UTC

Phill wrote:As for all of ancient history being a house of cards, what kind of scientific discovery (or data) would knock it down?
The example I've used countless times before (it's one I like) is finding a scrap of tobacco in the chest cavity of an Egyptian Pharoah. Oops! Egyptians had some direct or indirect contact with the Americas; time to rewrite all we know about ancient history!
Phill wrote:I don't think you're comparing like with like. How much 'documentation' is there that Greeks could jump 300 feet in the air? And was it ever intended as a historical account, or are they just stories? I haven't really looked into other ancient Greek literature.
Pez pointed out the Illiad; there's this whole thing afterwards where the victorious Greeks (spoiler!) have a competition with ridiculous results. I think there's also been some discoveries concerning Greek claims concerning early Olympic-style records that are just absurd. You get the idea. People exaggerate, lie, so on.
Phill wrote:I think you're overly critical of documentation. I don't think there's any reason not to trust any given piece of documentation, you just have to take each one on its own merits. Yes, you can't believe every piece of anecdotal evidence. But I don't think that means you can throw all documentation out as being unreliable.
Yes, it does. The only way we reach historical consensus is with multiple authors (with no clear connection) all referring to the same thing. Even then, it's still highly suspicious (I still hear theories about how Socrates was a figment of Plato's overactive imagination, and Aristophanes' reference to him in The Clouds is just him attacking Plato's ideology). The field of ancient history is held hostage by the whims of authors who have been dead for thousands of years. We know nothing about them but what they tell us about them - and what clues we glean from the scraps of bones we find in their graves. It gets even more ridiculous when you consider that their words have passed through dozens upon dozens of hands, each quite capable of making any edits they wanted to (or Jesus, just copy errors) without us ever being the wiser.
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby Phill » Tue Mar 17, 2009 9:31 am UTC

setzer777 wrote: Jesus was what we'd call today a "faith healer" - apparently healing people of chronic pain, while in reality it's only a psychological placebo effect (and not supernatural). The gospels are not eyewitness accounts, but are written based on talking to people who claim to be eyewitnesses (or to have talked to eyewitnesses). In the process (and in the process of copying gospels), exaggeration (ascribing other miracles to Jesus, including undeniably supernatural healings), distorted memory (memory, even among eyewitnesses, can be very unreliable), rumor, and self-serving alterations (having a mildly famous person share your theological beliefs) led to the gospels that were selected for the canon (as well as many others).


Well, I think at least two of the gospels (Matthew and John) are eyewitness accounts. According to early church writings, Mark was a disciple of Peter (who was an eyewitness). I've mentioned previously that there are lots of Biblical manuscripts which correlate quite highly, IMO this makes it unlikely that changes have happened. And don't forget that this was a culture with a big oral tradition, i.e. things weren't written down by passed by word of mouth. It wasn't uncommon for Jewish rabbis to have memorised the entire Old Testament.

In short, it seems unlikely to me that what we read in the Bible today could have been distorted that much.

It's also interesting looking at the relation of the NT to the OT prophecies, and how Jesus fulfilled them. When Jesus was born, the Jews were living under Roman rule. The Jews of the day expected the predicted Messiah to be one who fought and defeated the Romans. This was why Jesus didn't go round saying directly that he was the Messiah, because the word was associated with the wrong things in the culture. But the picture we have in the gospels is that the disciples constantly got it wrong, and misunderstood who Jesus actually was. (Even in Acts - after the resurrection - they were still asking whether Jesus was going to restore the kingdom to Israel. I don't think it was until the day of pentecost that the penny dropped). It seems unlikely to me that this could have been just made up or even followed some kind of evolution during copying etc.

setzer777 wrote:Hell, we have many examples today of people ignoring or explaining-away any evidence that goes against their beliefs.


Too true, although I hope I don't do this :)

Pez Dispens3r wrote:
I'm pretty sure Great Hippo is referring to Homer's Illiad, which although seems fanciful at first glance actually contains some reliable historic information. That is, it is sometimes a historical source despite itself. For a mixture of history and myth, it's about on par with the Bible, so can you see where this is going?


I'll have to do some research onto the Iliad. But my initial thoughts are that the Iliad is but one document. There are four gospels, various letters to churches and outside of that a wealth of early Christian writings. As far as historical accuracy goes they're on different levels.

The Great Hippo wrote:Yes, it does. The only way we reach historical consensus is with multiple authors (with no clear connection) all referring to the same thing. Even then, it's still highly suspicious (I still hear theories about how Socrates was a figment of Plato's overactive imagination, and Aristophanes' reference to him in The Clouds is just him attacking Plato's ideology). The field of ancient history is held hostage by the whims of authors who have been dead for thousands of years. We know nothing about them but what they tell us about them - and what clues we glean from the scraps of bones we find in their graves. It gets even more ridiculous when you consider that their words have passed through dozens upon dozens of hands, each quite capable of making any edits they wanted to (or Jesus, just copy errors) without us ever being the wiser.


I still think the Bible is in a different league to any other historical document. You can't just dismiss it that easily by saying "well, it was probably edited heavily - the Jesus of the Bible didn't exist". Show me the evidence, if what you say is true I would expect a fair amount of variation in the thousands of manuscripts we have, particularly those which come from different regions. There just simply isn't the variation.
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby Ixtellor » Tue Mar 17, 2009 1:41 pm UTC

In summary:
1) The earliest known bible was written 200 years after the death of jesus. (Some say 140ish years)
2) It was written by men.
3) It was edited by men.
4) There is ZERO empirical evidence to support any of the miracles or claims that would 'prove' anything divine.

Therefore, I fail to see how any rational person could ever rely on the bible for anything even in the vacinity of 'evidence'.

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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby setzer777 » Tue Mar 17, 2009 1:47 pm UTC

Phill wrote:
Spoiler:
setzer777 wrote: Jesus was what we'd call today a "faith healer" - apparently healing people of chronic pain, while in reality it's only a psychological placebo effect (and not supernatural). The gospels are not eyewitness accounts, but are written based on talking to people who claim to be eyewitnesses (or to have talked to eyewitnesses). In the process (and in the process of copying gospels), exaggeration (ascribing other miracles to Jesus, including undeniably supernatural healings), distorted memory (memory, even among eyewitnesses, can be very unreliable), rumor, and self-serving alterations (having a mildly famous person share your theological beliefs) led to the gospels that were selected for the canon (as well as many others).


Well, I think at least two of the gospels (Matthew and John) are eyewitness accounts. According to early church writings, Mark was a disciple of Peter (who was an eyewitness). I've mentioned previously that there are lots of Biblical manuscripts which correlate quite highly, IMO this makes it unlikely that changes have happened. And don't forget that this was a culture with a big oral tradition, i.e. things weren't written down by passed by word of mouth. It wasn't uncommon for Jewish rabbis to have memorised the entire Old Testament.

In short, it seems unlikely to me that what we read in the Bible today could have been distorted that much."


I'm not saying that there's huge reason against considering them eyewitness accounts, just that there isn't overwhelming evidence for it - they could quite plausibly not be eyewitness accounts. Likewise, the manuscripts that correlate highly could be copied from each other, or from an earlier manuscript that itself was distorted. Again, I'm not saying this has a ton of evidence for it, just that it wouldn't take a miracle for it to be the case.

So sure, there might be some things in place to make distortion generally unlikely, but nothing so strong as to rule it out. The possibility of distortions happening would go against the normal course of events less than a miracle would, and thus is more plausible than a miracle actually happening.
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby The Great Hippo » Tue Mar 17, 2009 4:52 pm UTC

Phill wrote:I still think the Bible is in a different league to any other historical document. You can't just dismiss it that easily by saying "well, it was probably edited heavily - the Jesus of the Bible didn't exist". Show me the evidence, if what you say is true I would expect a fair amount of variation in the thousands of manuscripts we have, particularly those which come from different regions. There just simply isn't the variation.
Evidence? Sure.
Wikipedia, the Poor Netizen's Encyclopedia Britannica wrote:Publication of the scrolls has taken many decades, and the delay has been a source of academic controversy. As of 2007 two volumes remain to be completed, with the whole series, Discoveries in the Judean Desert, running to thirty-nine volumes in total. Many of the scrolls are now housed in the Shrine of the Book in Jerusalem. According to The Oxford Companion to Archeology, "The biblical manuscripts from Qumran, which include at least fragments from every book of the Old Testament, except perhaps for the Book of Esther, provide a far older cross section of scriptural tradition than that available to scholars before. While some of the Qumran biblical manuscripts are nearly identical to the Masoretic, or traditional, Hebrew text of the Old Testament, some manuscripts of the books of Exodus and Samuel found in Cave Four exhibit dramatic differences in both language and content. In their astonishing range of textual variants, the Qumran biblical discoveries have prompted scholars to reconsider the once-accepted theories of the development of the modern biblical text from only three manuscript families: of the Masoretic text, of the Hebrew original of the Septuagint, and of the Samaritan Pentateuch. It is now becoming increasingly clear that the Old Testament scripture was extremely fluid until its canonization around 100 A.D."
And keep in mind, these are fragments of the Old Testament that are exhibiting 'dramatic differences' - no complete book was discovered. And this all represents one set of documents - if we were to find another 'Dead Sea Scrolls' in another part of the world, I'm pretty confident you'd see a whole new level of variation, complete with parts of the Bible we had never heard of before. Because, you know, that's what actually happens all the time with ancient historical documents.

By the way, can I see some citations on the whole discovery of matching Biblical fragments dating from ancient history that were clearly geographically and/or culturally isolated? Because I've never heard of anything like that - and if I did, I'd be immensely surprised not to hear something like 'but there were a few significant differences from canon'. Otherwise, I don't see why we should treat the Bible as somehow special from every other ancient historical document that's been clearly modified from the beginning.

Edit: In fairness, I see you're talking more about the Gospels than the Old Testament - but, what, would the claim be then that the Old Testament might be edited all to hell, but through some miracle the Gospels were all magically spared? And let's keep in mind - that's what the claim is here - that a miracle happened, and the original content of the 'correct' Gospels were somehow preserved in the mass of copies and rewrites.
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby BeerBottle » Tue Mar 17, 2009 5:26 pm UTC

="alex123456789"If he had clearly explained that the universe started as a point and then started expanding slowly, then suddenly a lot faster (the inflationary model), and if he had then proceeded to explain Hubble's law, he would have many more believers today because that would actually be something a desert merchant thousands of years ago would be unlikely to know and would be specific enough to not seem like a shot in the dark.

If correctly stating in the 7th century that the universe began as a singularity and that the universe is expanding is not enough for you, then maybe nothing will be. Remember the Quran is not a science textbook - humans can work out science and the nature of the universe for themselves (as encouraged to do so by the Quran). What we need guidance on is building societies and living together peacefully and productively. That is what the vast majority of the Quran is about.
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby The Great Hippo » Tue Mar 17, 2009 5:31 pm UTC

BeerBottle wrote:If correctly stating in the 7th century that the universe began as a singularity and that the universe is expanding is not enough for you, then maybe nothing will be. Remember the Quran is not a science textbook - humans can work out science and the nature of the universe for themselves (as encouraged to do so by the Quran). What we need guidance on is building societies and living together peacefully and productively. That is what the vast majority of the Quran is about.
I'm not familiar with the Quran, but if you're going to cherry-pick fragments of the text that contain scientifically positive statements, is it not possible for someone else to come along and cherry-pick fragments of the text that contain scientifically negative statements? Broken clocks are right twice a day, etc - this sort of thing goes on with the Bible all the time ("Oh, look, the Bible correctly guessed that there are MILLIONS of stars in the night-sky, not just hundreds! It must be scientifically valid!" -- "Right, so, about that whole 'the sun revolves around the earth thing..." -- "DOESN'T COUNT! MILLIONS OF STARS! SHUT UP!").

In short, this sort of thing doesn't count unless you're willing to weigh it against all the parts that got everything wrong. And, again, not familiar with the Quran, but I'm going to wager a guess that it got more things wrong than it did right.
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby Heisenberg » Tue Mar 17, 2009 5:47 pm UTC

This argument is pointless. On one side is: God Exists, Miracles Happen, The Bible was divinely inspired. The other side says God Does Not Exist, Miracles Don't Happen, The Bible was not divinely inspired. In both cases, the middle step is unnecessary.

If this argument is concerning the existence of God, it is equally pointless. The existence of the Bible does not prove that God exists any more than the existence of Star Wars proves the Force exists. Similarly, the existence of mistranslations of the Bible does not disprove God's existence any more than the existence of a change in perception of Bigfoot disproves Bigfoot's existence.
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby The Great Hippo » Tue Mar 17, 2009 5:51 pm UTC

Heisenberg wrote:This argument is pointless. On one side is: God Exists, Miracles Happen, The Bible was divinely inspired. The other side says God Does Not Exist, Miracles Don't Happen, The Bible was not divinely inspired. In both cases, the middle step is unnecessary.
My issue is more with the premise that the Bible is magically 'different' from a standard historical document, and should be granted more weight (I'm a historian at heart, so this idea is like a stake to the heart). I'm not hugely interested in discussions concerning whether God exists or not (I do like to point out that rationality does not help prove God's existence, but that's a separate issue). Basically, it's fine to believe that God exists, but don't try to build these sort of rational-based structures to support your beliefs; inevitably, they will be torn down. Because believing in God is not about logic and rationality. (neither is a lot of history, coincidentally). It's about faith (history again!).
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