Bible And Science:
The Best Of Friends
Jeff K

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From: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: "Jeff K."
Subject: Re: okay ...
Date: Friday, June 22, 2001 6:33 PM

We do not respond to links. Please make your case in your own words.

Cliff Walker
"Positive Atheism" Magazine
Five years of service to
    people with no reason to believe

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From: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: "Jeff K."
Subject: Re: okay ...
Date: Monday, June 25, 2001 9:03 PM

The editorial "We" of Positive Atheism magazine has posted a policy requiring writers to submit material in their own words in order to be considered for posting or publication. Part of the reason for this is that we work very hard at what we do and do not respect the practice of simply pasting a link into an e-mail and asking us to look it up and respond to it. The other problem is that in order to respond, we would need to pull-quote from the third-party's material in order to be fair, and this might be illegal. Thus, in opposition to what we see as laziness and in honor of the laws respecting a writer's copyright, we will not go along with your game.

Atheism, being the simple lack of a god belief, can have any number of reasons. The most common reason given by atheists is that they have yet to encounter a valid reason for accepting the claims of the theists. We don't advocate any particular reason for being atheists, but rather have, as our target audience, people who are already atheists -- for whatever reason. We are not in the business of trying to convert theists to atheists, and have nothing to say to theists -- particularly those who come off as if think they are somehow better than us because they believe in gods and the supernatural and we do not.

Your remark about Russell is off the wall: we see no presupposition in it, but rather his simple statement noting that the claims of the theists are not worthy of his (Russell's) assent.

Cliff Walker
"Positive Atheism" Magazine
Five years of service to
     people with no reason to believe

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From: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: "Jeff K."
Subject: Re: okay ...
Date: Tuesday, June 26, 2001 11:01 AM

I'd like to know where you saw "me" post on a forum, because I can count on one hand the times I've posted on a forum outside of the Positive Atheism domain structure since I started doing this. This is the only forum I involve myself in. Perhaps somebody is pretending to be me, or is illegally mirroring my copyrighted work on another website (this has happened more than twice).

Positive Atheism and her predecessor have been at this for almost six years, and I have been an activist of various stripes since I was a kid. I have always taken what I do very seriously. My approach to trying to end the institutionalized slander of atheists and the resulting bigotry against us is anything but informal: I routinely extend my claws and give it all I've got, because this injustice has seriously impaired my quality of life for as long as I can remember.
 

Normally, finding out the criteria for submitting material to a journal and honoring those requests is no big deal. Journals publish and post these criteria for a reason: it's not just there to make us look "professional" and we didn't just read it in Publishing For Dummies. I don't see why following rules seems so objectionable with certain people. Inevitably, those whose subsequent writings turn out to be disrespectful or deceitful are the ones who initially disregard our written guidelines for submission.

You must live in a very odd "normally" because out of over 1,000 files worth of posted letters (plus over 350 awaiting posting, a whole pot of rejections, and gaud doesn't even know how many misplaced files), only three or four people have ever sent me a letter with nothing on it but a URL, acting as if I ought to respond. Everybody else has followed at least that guideline! Your "normally" is so rare in our Inbox that in going through our collection of rejections to write the guidelines, I actually said to myself, "Nah! Everybody knows better than to do that! It would be outright pedantic of me to write that one down!" But two or three had done this over the past several years, so I put it in just in case I might need it some day.

Your behavior here does raise a question: Do you deliberately goad your ideological opponents just to see if they will respond in such a way that you can justify accusing that person of getting upset? ("Waah! I baited that atheist and he, like, called my bluff! He was rude to me, you know? Therefore all atheists are no-good shits! Bawl!") And when people don't stand up to your provocation, do you then buff your nails and gloat over the "fact" that they gave up and simply couldn't withstand your oh-so-formidable argument?

I know another guy like that: He goes to bars that are too cheap to hire a bouncer and finds out what the rules are. Then he thinks up stunts he can pull that are not listed as verboten on the rule sheet, such as grabbing the microphone when the DJ's taking a leak and making less-than-polite comments about various patrons, or standing at the door and asking people to show him their I.D. ("No way, man! I can't accept this -- Colorado ain't even a state!"). When the workers tell him to stop doing this or that, he files complaints with the owners alleging that such and so employees got upset with him. Poor guy's been kicked out of all the bars I go to -- and he hasn't broken any of the posted rules! All he's got left is to go around talking about how unfair all the bars are and what assholes all the bar owners have been. And he's right! They are being unfair, because the sign distinctly says, "No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service" -- it says nothing about wearing pants!
 

Those who find the criteria for submission objectionable likewise tend to find the journal's stated description of its philosophical position worthy of disregard as well. You asked me for a statement of our position. Why? so you could then completely disregard it in your discussion, and hold me accountable for what is not my position, but is, rather, your own fantasy of the meaning of the word I use to describe myself?

No. I am not going to play your game.

You ask me for our statement, and I tell you that to us (and to most atheists throughout history -- ever since defending atheism stopped earning us capital punishment) the word atheism means the simple lack of a god belief -- not "the refusal to believe in God" or even necessarily the assertion that gods do not exist.

It is dishonest for you to insist that your opponent defend a position that your opponent has stated he does not hold. We use the Russell quotation because it so clearly expresses the meaning of the word atheism that we advocate -- that I described to you when you asked me for our statement of position. The only way someone could possibly misunderstand what Russell is saying here -- especially after I explained it for you -- is deliberately.

Have a nice life. As far as we can tell, it's the only one we get.

I choose to spend mine seeking truth in all honesty. I don't want to go down as having held discussions for the purpose of "winning the argument." That's not what it's about for me. I am not here to "win the argument" but to follow truth wherever it may lead. If I discover that Willie the Pimp* has the secret to Eternal Life Itself, and all I have to do is buy a grunt with a third-party check, you know what? Here's your check and where's my grunt?

I am a seeker of truth, not a peddler of dogma. Since my time is short, I refuse to spend what little time I have playing games with people who utilize dishonest rhetorical techniques for the purpose of "winning the argument." I am not engaged in an argument but am, as I stated earlier, trying to meet the needs of people who are already atheists.

Goodbye, and good luck with your quest to win arguments.

Cliff Walker
"Positive Atheism" Magazine
Five years of service to
     people with no reason to believe

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From: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: "Jeff K."
Subject: Re: okay ...
Date: Wednesday, June 27, 2001 4:42 AM

Misrepresenting your opponent's position? I rest my case.
 

If you show me some "concrete evidence" for the existence of any of the Chrisitian gods (Father; Son; Holy Ghost), you'll be the first. Arguments? Yes, but none are very strong. But "concrete evidence"? I haven't seen any -- and I've been looking for 35 years.

Cliff Walker
"Positive Atheism" Magazine
Five years of service to
     people with no reason to believe

Graphic Rule

Graphic Rule

From: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: "Jeff K."
Subject: Re: okay ...
Date: Wednesday, June 27, 2001 8:08 PM

"The whole nine yards"? This suggest to the uninformed reader that you have quite a case for yourself -- although my thirty years of diligent searching suggests otherwise.

Like I said, lay it on me. Perhaps there's some of it that I have not yet encountered. Perhaps during the past thirty years of diligent search, I've completely missed all the evidence that would overturn the powerful counter-arguments which have, over this period, repeatedly convinced me that joining the Christian religion would be a monumentally dishonest thing for me to do. I doubt that one searching so hard for something -- and searching for something that those who have it are more than willing to provide -- could still miss it, but maybe you are the one who has held the key all these decades. Maybe you have encountered some evidence that actually holds water, much less solves the world of problems that I've encountered thus far.

It certainly doesn't look very good for the Christian religion, though, because all the so-called evidence that I've encountered during my thirty-year search falls into two categories: (1) bold, unfounded assertions; (2) bald-faced lies.
 

Of course it does! The extremely negative outlook of Christianity, combined with the condescending way that so many Christians treat the religion's critics guarantees problems such as you describe. The only alternative is to humor those Christians who approach us.

As often as not, I want the discussion to fizzle simply because I've already heard it before. I am tired of Christians writing to me and telling me lies and treating me as if I'm some kind of (fill in the blank with anything to be shunned, pitied, or denounced) for not going along with their falsehood. I'm tired of their little games of goading me to respond and the only response I can give comes off as rudeness. The other option is to refuse to talk, which is unscientific and allows room for the charge that the Christian's arguments are unanswerable. I'm tired of them simply telling me "God exists" and then shutting up when I ask them to show me how I can know this. I'm tired of reading list after list of alleged proofs cribbed from Josh McDowell books, taking an afternoon of my life to respond to the list anyway (for the umpteenth time), only to have them change the subject when I push for a response.
 

As for the alleged infallibility of the Bible, I own two large books which allege to document errors in that collection of works: are you ready to answer all the charges the books make? In the past fifteen years, nobody has even come close to responding to The Fig Tree Enigma which I have been popularizing since then -- to the point where the claims for beginning of the "season for figs" has been moved up a whole two months from when it was claimed fifteen years ago. Will you be the first to resolve that set of problems for me? I don't pretend to know much about answering the infallibility claims because even a surface examination has shown me that they are vacant. Most Christians avoid this argument and I can see why. Thus I have more experience showing that the morality advocated by both the New Testament and the Hebrew Scriptures is the wrong set of values upon which to base a culture.
 

Archaeology? What can archaeology even show? How can archaeology help you when the only way we even hear of the existence of a Jesus Christ before the beginning of the second century is the the material that was eventually voted into the canon of the New Testament? Last time I checked it out, nobody had discovered any contemporary independent confirmation. The only real response they've brought forth to the Jesus Myth movement is to question G. A. Wells's credentials (he's a professor of German, not a Bible scholar).

Can you make even a moderate case that a Jesus Christ even existed? -- much less was who the Gospels say he was? Have they discovered Nazareth yet? Did they ever find Mount Sinai? Have they explained the continuous records of civilizations showing them to have lived uninterrupted through the time alleged for Noah's world-wide flood? or the sedimentary records showing the same? Have they found any evidence for the flood that cannot possibly have been contrived? evidence so compelling that it overturns the world of evidence to the contrary?
 

Science? where the Earth is flat, rectangular, and has a lid on it and a reservoir of water above the lid (in case God made a mistake and needed to drown His creation)? Science? where the sun is able to "stand still"? where the stars so small and so close to us that a third of them could actually fall to Earth in a single evening? Science? where stars whose light has been coming toward us for billions of years did not even exist more than ten thousand years ago? Science? as in the demon-possession theory of disease? Science? as in pi equals 3? Science? where iron axe heads float in water? where men float off into the clouds without the aid of aircraft? where humans transform into pillars of salt? where deep waters part with no physical means of support and become as dry land? where men walk on a lake as if it were dry land? where rivers become pure blood? where snakes and donkeys hold conversations with humans? where swarms of frogs big enough to cover an entire country appear literally out of nowhere? where a plague of hemorrhoidal polyps kills off an entire village so that all die, but the survivors take action anyway? Science? where all the heroes of Hebrew Scripture, some having been dead for as long as 2,000 years, crawl out of their graves one day and walk around? Science? where a man who is clever enough to get executed by the Romans is stupid enough to go looking for figs when it's not even fig season? Science? where the test for whether a woman has committed adultery (a "crime" which can only be committed against a man and involves only a married woman, because the wife is the man's property) is conducted by forcing her to drink a magical potion, and if she's guilty her "thigh" swells up?

Yes, I've heard that the ancient Hebrews actually knew that it was healthy to bury their fecal matter. The Bible says, "when thou wilt ease thyself abroad, thou shalt dig therewith, and shalt turn back and cover that which cometh from thee:..." I've heard that this proves the Bible writers to have already been aware of the germ theory and such. But the Bible itself provides a completely different explanation for the commandment to bury one's fecal matter: "...For the LORD thy God walketh in the midst of thy camp." Say, what? You mean He doesn't want to step in it? (And to think my former Pastor sputtered and turned beet red when I pointed this out to him after hearing the above-described sermon!)

The Bible advocates dogma -- pronouncements said to be above scrutiny, issued by men said to have privileged authority -- and science is an ongoing discussion wherein nobody has the final word and no claim to knowledge is above scrutiny and anybody is qualified to overturn even a major branch of science provided she or he brings forth evidence and provided that evidence withstands the scrutiny of those working in that and other branches of science. The Bible asks, "Who art thou to question God?" and science asks, "Who are you not to question Newton or Darwin or Einstein or anybody else? Why would you blindly accept what they have to say without checking it out for yourself?" This being the case, what have science and the Bible to do with each other?
 

Prophecy? Like the one about the so-called virgin (alma, meaning "young woman" [Proverbs 30:18-20]: another word, betulah, specifically means "virgin" and can mean nothing else) who was to "conceive and bear a son" -- in Isaiah's time -- as a sign to Ahaz that he would not be defeated by his enemies the Israelites and the Syrians, who had conspired to war against him? Ah, but let The United States Of America's Founding Father, Thomas Paine, describe it, as his style of prose is much more eloquent than mine will ever be:

The story is simply this: The king of Syria and the king of Israel (I have already mentioned that the Jews were split into two nations, one of which was called Judah, the capital of which was Jerusalem, and the other Israel), made war jointly against Ahaz, king of Judah, and marched their armies towards Jerusalem. Ahaz and his people became alarmed, and the account says verse 2, "And his heart was moved, and the heart of his people, as the trees of the wood are moved with the wind."

In this situation of things, Isaiah addresses himself to Ahaz, and assures him in the name of the Lord (the cant phrase of all the prophets) that these two kings should not succeed against him; and to satisfy Ahaz that this should be the case, tells him to ask a sign. This, the account says, Ahaz declined doing; giving as a reason that he would not tempt the Lord; upon which Isaiah, who is the speaker, says, ver. 14, "Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a son;" and the 16th verse says, "For before this child shall know to refuse the evil, and choose the good, the land which thou abhorrest (or dreadest, meaning Syria and the kingdom of Israel) shall be forsaken of both her kings." Here then was the sign, and the time limited for the completion of the assurance or promise; namely, before this child shall know to refuse the evil and choose the good.

Isaiah having committed himself thus far, it became necessary to him, in order to avoid the imputation of being a false prophet, and the consequences thereof, to take measures to make this sign appear. It certainly was not a difficult thing, in any time of the world, to find a girl with child, or to make her so; and perhaps Isaiah knew of one beforehand; for I do not suppose that the prophets of that day were any more to be trusted than the priests of this. Be that, however, as it may, he says in the next chapter, ver. 2, "And I took unto me faithful witnesses to record, Uriah the priest, and Zechariah the son of Jeberechiah, and I went unto the prophetess, and she conceived and bare a son."

Here then is the whole story, foolish as it is, of this child and this virgin; and it is upon the barefaced perversion of this story that the book of Matthew, and the impudence and sordid interest of priests in later times, have founded a theory, which they call the Gospel; and have applied this story to signify the person they call Jesus Christ; begotten, they say, by a ghost, whom they call holy, on the body of a woman, engaged in marriage, and afterwards married, whom they call a virgin, 700 years after this foolish story was told; a theory which, speaking for myself, I hesitate not to believe, and to say, is as fabulous and as false as God is true.

But to show the imposition and falsehood of Isaiah we have only to attend to the sequel of this story; which, though it is passed over in silence in the book of Isaiah, is related in the 28th chapter of the second Chronicles, and which is, that instead of these two kings failing in their attempt against Ahaz, king of Judah, as Isaiah had pretended to foretell in the name of the Lord, they succeeded; Ahaz was defeated and destroyed; an hundred and twenty thousand of his people were slaughtered; Jerusalem was plundered, and two hundred thousand women, and sons and daughters carried into captivity. Thus much for this lying prophet and imposter, Isaiah, and the book of falsehoods that bears his name.

So, in light of a very specific "prophesy" which (according to the Bible itself) actually failed to come true, what are you telling me about prophesy?

Can you find even one alleged prophesy for which: (1) the oldest extant source manuscripts can be indisputably dated prior to the event happening; (2) describe an event so utterly unlikely that one would ordinarily expect it not to have occurred during the normal course of events -- in other words, the poet didn't just "get lucky" (such as my predicting that Vice-President Cheney will not complete his term of office); (3) describe the predicted event so specifically that it is impossible to confuse what it's saying with something else (the Nostradamus syndrome); (4) everybody clearly agrees that the predicted event actually took place as described in the prediction (rather than sympathetic accounts being the only "record" of fulfillment, written by someone who, having the obvious agenda, says something like, "that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene")?
 

If you got a post that was mirrored somewhere else, they were breaking the rules -- actually the law -- by posting my copyrighted material without my permission. There are reasons why I want to have control over my work, and why I'll allow others to use it only under certain specific conditions. This is one of them: I'm not just a teenager on America Online typing abbreviated gibberish into the instant messaging system; anything I write may some day be published, and I want anyone even remotely familiar with the English language to be able to read it. I still don't know what "lol" means, so why should I expect a reader in future Kenya to understand that "PA" was once the United States Postal Service abbreviation for "Pennsylvania"?

If you got the post from here, there is an "About" link at the very top of each post, which leads to the game rules for this Forum. These rules are intuitive, and most who follow them probably never even read them. It's just common courtesy and common sense, which some honor and others disregard. I had a tough time paying my bill at the bar last night because these two clowns decided that the platform where you stand to talk to the cashier would be a quaint and novel place to store their motorcycle helmets and leather coats. So, rather than risk standing on the platform like I usually do (because my feet don't always do what I tell them to do), I painfully leaned my crippled body over the coats and helmets to put my signature on the MasterCard slip. Perhaps these oafs think this is an improvement over where they put their gear last time I saw them there -- right in the aisle! Perhaps they're just plain clueless. Perhaps they just recently turned 21 and still haven't heard of the coat rack, or wouldn't think to ask the wait staff to put them somewhere out of the way. There'd be no sense in talking to them about it unless it was my bar. Besides, I've always considered boorish behavior to be self-regulating.

Cliff Walker
"Positive Atheism" Magazine
Five years of service to
     people with no reason to believe

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Material by Cliff Walker (including unsigned editorial commentary) is copyright ©1995-2006 by Cliff Walker. Each submission is copyrighted by its writer, who retains control of the work except that by submitting it to Positive Atheism, permission has been granted to use the material or an edited version: (1) on the Positive Atheism web site; (2) in Positive Atheism Magazine; (3) in subsequent works controlled by Cliff Walker or Positive Atheism Magazine (including published or posted compilations). Excerpts not exceeding 500 words are allowed provided the proper copyright notice is affixed. Other use requires permission; Positive Atheism will work to protect the rights of all who submit their writings to us.