Please Become
a Man Of God
and a Man Of Jesus
Eric Saenz

Graphic Rule

From: “Positive Atheism”
To: “Eric Saenz”
Subject: Atheism
Date: Monday, July 31, 200

You could have saved us both a lot of time had you pulled some of these statements and referenced them with a URL so we could see exactly what it is that we state that puzzles you.

Remember, though, Positive Atheism’s statements consist exclusively of: (1) the FAQ section, which is clearly stated as subject to revision; (2) Cliff Walker’s editorial columns, as long as the language is declarative; (3) the responses in the Letters section. These are the only statements we are willing to defend: all other writings are here for educational or historical or humorous reasons. I might want to try to defend the words of, for example, Richard Dawkins or George H. Smith, but I certainly will not try to defend the opinions of James Hervey Johnson or Mark Twain. All the stuff that is not written by me is here as food for thought and to attract attention to the website (in hopes that people will subscribe to the print edition of the magazine — which is the ultimate reason for this website).
 

Having suffered at the hands of theists because of my atheism, and having suffered immensely as the result of my brief fling with theism, I can see no reason for being anyway else.

It certainly is no way to win friends and influence people, but I get by just fine.

It’s no fun thinking that this is the only existence we get, and that my little brother never got to see life, but if this is reality, it is immoral for me to say that something else is reality.

The Universe as a whole may be just a quantum wiggle that got out of hand, but I find such meaning in my own life, and spend much of my spare time coaxing others to explain to me what life means to them, that the lack of meaning in the Universe does not bother me all that much. Unfortunately, so many people I speak with simply recite dogmata, banter out catechisms, or pose the same old mystical riddles I studied during my hippie days. I nevertheless endure this in the hope of hearing from someone who has spent their entire life truly puzzled by this question. Again: although it’s rather unnerving to think that the Universe as a whole is pointless, I make up for it by concentrating on the meaning that individuals assign to their own lives and the lives of their families, friends, comrades, associates, communities, and fellow organisms.

Shorter Graphic Rule

These are the classic Argument From Design bits.

First, if everything must come from something, then God must come from something, or else it’s not true that everything must come from something.
 

Interesting. Particle physicist Victor Stenger told me that electron-positron pairs spontaneously appear out of nothing and then assimilate back into nothing. He says this even fits the equations, and that it doesn’t violate any known laws of physics.

The latest version of the Inflationary Big Bang model says that the Universe contains a total of zero energy, when taking into consideration the total amounts of matter and anti-matter. Thus, it is possible (that is, this model doesn’t violate any known laws of physics) that it took zero energy to get the Big Bang started. Just a quantum fluctuation, such as is observed every day, escaping into what is called a true vacuum. A little imbalance along the way, and there is enough more matter than anti-matter to result in what we see, stars and planets, which is only a tiny tiny fraction of what is there.

Because the Universe is expanding, there is room for negative entropy (tiny pockets of order) to form. Were it not for this expansion, I myself would be tempted to consider that perhaps a god or some other type of creative force would be necessary to explain the existence of the Universe and the existence of order. However, the explanations we have today, a marked improvement over what we had even thirty years ago, do a fine job at allowing us to, in all honesty, keep seeking natural explanations for the existence of the Universe, so we don’t need to rely on speculating philosophically about chains of causality.
 

Stenger says that this could have been a vacuum, since, he says, the positron-electron pairs can appear spontaneously in a vacuum. He lost me when he was talking about a true vacuum, though, which is what the Big Bang escaped into (and is still escaping into). He also suggests the possibility of a super-universe, within which our Universe is but a tiny bubble. He says these ideas fit the equations, but that we could never “peer” into a super-universe except through our equations, because of how time and space interact. So, if there is a god out there in the super-universe, we could never detect this fact, and it would mean nothing to us anyway.
 

This is wrong for two reasons: First, electron-positron pairs are not infinite, and they generate out of nothing. Secondly, if something creates something else, that does not demand that the one creating is infinite. More powerful? more complex? Yes. Infiniteness is not required here. You are grasping at straws, and I’d wager that the more sophisticated Roman Catholic theologians and philosophers do not consider this argument very strong. It may work on laypeople, but it has major flaws in it to keep it from being taken seriously.
 

This is circular reasoning: you define god as being infinite (through Roman Catholic Dogma). Then you assert (in your attempt to prove to me the existence of the Roman Catholic god) that only one thing can be infinite, and that is the Roman Catholic god. But it is the very existence of the Roman Catholic god that you are trying to prove to me, so you cannot use the notion that the Roman Catholic god exists as your premise.

The truth is, we don’t know if anything is or can be infinite. The Universe is certainly finite, and if there is a super-universe, it could conceivably be finite as well (or itself be a brief and tiny bubble in a much larger system). But this is all speculation. The point being that if we cannot say whether anything can be infinite, so we certainly cannot conclude that something is infinite. It is a further leap to say that this thing that (you say) is infinite is a being. It is an even further leap to say that this being is the Roman Catholic god.

In short: have taken an unknown and simply plugged in the concept of Roman Catholic “God” to answer a question that rightly remains open for more inquiry.
 

First, we see every stage of the theoretical advancement to the eye somewhere in nature — from the simplest to the most complex (and the human eye is very flawed, as designs go). Secondly, there is good reason to think that the eye has evolved six different times. One type of eye has all the blood vessels behind the retina, which you’d think would make it work better. The rest of the eyes (including ours) has the blood vessels and nerves between the retina and the lens, so the light must pass through the nerves and blood vessels before it is detected. This seems pretty stupid, and it causes me to wonder why a designer would make it this way, and do it this way for most of the species who have complex eyes.

But then, this is not my problem because I accept the Theory of Evolution as being so likely as not to warrant any skepticism at all. I don’t have to wonder why a loving, intelligent designer made my eyes so that they have five known disorders, rendering me unable to drive (and unable to see more than a blurry circle when looking at a standard eye chart without my thick, thick glasses).
 

Yes. A television set is so unlike the rest of the desert that one would immediately start looking for evidence that someone put it there: foot prints, tire marks, and the like. One would also examine the television set for signs of having been crafted: evidence of having been formed, cut, filed, fastened, etc. One may also try to find evidence that the television simply grew: an overall seamlessness, vestigial organs (that were used in infancy or by an ancestor species but are not used now though are still there), annual rings; but one would not find, in a television, signs that it grew.

So, you’re right: it would be a logical conclusion that someone put it there (unless the evidence shows that it, for example, fell out of an airplane), and it would be a logical conclusion that the television was manufactured by an intelligent entity.

I almost forgot the most important way to prove that the television was manufactured: look up the company that made it and go meet the team who designed it and tour the production line where it was built.
 

I cannot tell people that a god exists if I do not have any reasons to think that one exists.

Thus, it is your responsibility to convince me that: (1) a god exists; (2) that that god is the Roman Catholic god and not some other god; (3) that a man named Jesus lived after whose life the Gospel accounts were modeled; (4) that the Gospel accounts accurately reflect the life of this man; (5) that the claims about the so-called work of this man, such as the atonement, are true.

I’d say you have your work cut out for you, because I cannot bet past (1) and (3). I cannot find reason to think that a god exists and I cannot make even a marginal case that the Gospel myths were modeled after the life story of a historical figure.
 

No. That’s not how it works. I didn’t contact you, you contacted me. I don’t go trying to talk people out of their faith, because I respect that every believer has what he or she sees as perfectly valid reasons for believing.

Now, you have contacted me and presented your challenge — your god claim. My response as an atheist is to scrutinize this claim and, if I want to, let you know what I think of it. Since this is a forum, I will let you know what I think and will post the results.

Now the ball is in your court, and I think I’ve done what I can to inform you of what you will need to do if you wish to continue this dialogue.

Here are my ground rules:

First, I abide by the Burden of Proof, wherein the one making the claim must bring forth the case supporting the claim. I am not claiming (and never have claimed) that no gods exist: I simply lack a god belief, and this lack is because I have yet to hear a claim that survives my scrutiny (and I’ll admit that I have never had to work very hard to scrutinize any god claims — this stuff is pretty easy). Thus, it is your task to bring forth the evidence and the arguments, and it is my role simply to listen and scrutinize.

Secondly, should you make a strong case for the existence of your god, I will convert to your faith. All I ask is that you be willing to renounce your faith should you fail to make a convincing case (in other words, should you agree that every one of your points are not strong and that you can understand why I would be skeptical). Remember, since you are making the claim, you must make the case, so if you don’t make the case, I don’t have to believe your claim (and you should not either).

I will admit that a skilled Roman Catholic apologist is a formidable opponent, second only to a Hindu opponent. Thus, if I ask you to slow down and save a further point for later, I hope this request will be honored. This is where the Timothy Herrman dialogue fell apart: he could do this stuff in his sleep, having had years and years of practice, and I have to literally work it out by hand, being only vaguely familiar with the ways of the Roman Catholic variation of Christian and theistic apologetics, it being just one of the numerous outlooks with which I must grapple.

Cliff Walker
“Positive Atheism” Magazine

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Graphic Rule

From: “Positive Atheism”
To “Eric Saenz”
Subject: Atheism
Date: Thursday, August 03, 2000

I’ll bet you are! You want a one-way street!

(I knew it! I knew it all along!)

You make existential claims that, by the very nature of existential claims, I cannot disprove. In such cases, the burden of proof lies directly upon the one making the claim (in this case, you). I cannot bring proof, I can only assess your claims to see if they are strong enough to warrant believing them. Thus, the least you could do would be to agree that if you cannot make your case, we ought not believe those claims.

And you want me to believe your claims — yet, if you cannot bring strong arguments to substantiate your claims, you walk off scot-free. I am willing to put my life on the line, here, by agreeing to go along with your claims if you can make a good case. I do this because I am committed to truth, and will follow it wherever it leads me. The least you could do (in all honesty) is to agree to renounce your faith should you be unable to make a strong case for it. If you won’t do this, then I have good reason to think that you are not seeking truth, but that you are merely trying to sell me something.

So, tell me: what’s your cut? Extra “jewels in your crown”? Brownie points? Esteem within the congregation? What is your take in this deal?
 

Try again. I do not agree with this claim.

As I said in previous letters, the existence of the Universe can be explained without the need for an intelligent designer. In fact, the very first stages of the Big Bang were entirely random — this would point away from design, rather than toward it. Also, the Universe itself contains approximately zero energy, so this points toward the likelihood that the Big Bang required zero energy to start. The Universe is almost entirely random. The incidence of order is so miniscule as to not warrant attention — except for the fact that the order in the Universe is all we can see with our naked eyes, because our eyes evolved to detect the order within the Universe. If we measure the Universe with our instruments, we see almost entirely chaos and randomness.
 

This can be expected it something is escaping to fill a vacuum.

Stenger discusses man being able to approach this temperature through nuclear reaction. I doubt we’re talking about trillions of degrees, here; I don’t have the figures handy, but trillions of degrees seems a bit high. We’re talking about a tiny fluctuation escaping to fill a vacuum, though, not unlike the science fiction movies where the guy accidentally gets blown out the hatch of the space ship and his eyes bug out — only bigger because this is a true vacuum.
 

Your use of the word explosion begs the question. It implies that some force was causing it to expand. But, since the Big Bang escapes into a vacuum, it is better seen along the lines of an implosion rather than an explosion.

This is not unlike what happens when you break a television tube. I have broken several TV tubes, and they shatter with such violence that they are made with a little nipple at the tip whose purpose is to break it and allow air to enter the tube after its life is spent, so that garbage handlers and recyclers are not injured by accidentally breaking the tube.

The violence of a TV tube implosion is caused by the partial vacuum within the tube. The glass, in this case, tries to escape inward to fill the vacuum, and great forces can cause the shards to ricochet and can cause serious injury. If a television repair person were to throw away a spent picture tube without breaking the little nipple, he or she would be held liable for any injury that would result from the implosion, should the tube be broken by a garbage handler. This is one of the first things you learn if you go to school to learn how to repair TV sets. If a government inspector sees a tube that is slated to be thrown away, and the nipple is still intact, the shop will face a heavy fine in many states.

Back to the main point: Had the Universe been any different, we might not be here to talk about it. But we are here. We have no other universes that we can compare to this one, so we really cannot discuss the chances of this one occurring any other way than the way it happened. You cannot really discuss other universes, because this is the only universe we know.

In this Universe (the only one we know), the likelihood of life occurring is exactly one: this Universe exists and it contains life.

We can theorize with equations, though: On his web page, Victor Stenger (the only leading particle physicist who has bothered to take time out from his busy research and teaching schedule to confront the pseudo-science popularized by religionists to try to make faith sound “scientific”) has a computer program called Monkey God,
http://www.colorado.edu/philosophy/vstenger/anthro.html
(scroll down) wherein you can alter the physical properties of theoretical universes.

You alter in various physical properties and see how long stars would last and how large they would be, and observe other properties that would result if this or that physical property were different. In about half of the theoretical universes, he told me, the stars last long enough to produce the complex molecules that make up planets and solid matter. His point is that the laws of physics could be considerably different from what they are and stars would still form and would burn long enough to produce the larger atoms required for planets, which increase the chances that life would form.

But let’s look at your First Cause concept: You keep forgetting that the First Cause argument is invalid: if you say that everything has a cause, then you must admit that every cause must therefore have a cause. Thus, your God must have a cause, and your God’s cause must have a cause, and your God’s cause’s cause, must have a cause, etc. But if you tell me that your God does not have a cause, then you are saying that not everything has a cause.

Which is it? Everything has a cause? or not everything has a cause?

Let’s now look at your Design or Anthropic argument: If the Universe is too vast and complex to have come into existence without an outside cause, then your God is (even more so) too vast and complex to simply have existed without an outside cause. So, if you demand an outside (that is, unnatural) cause for the Universe, we must demand an outside (that is, ungodly or un-god-like) cause for your God.

Finally, in order to even talk of creation, you must first cough up a creator. You can speculate all you want, but if you were to reveal the creator to us, then we’d be talking. Without showing us the creator, we rightly harbor doubts, but were you to unearth a creator, then there would be no question.

Thus, you have failed to establish the need for a First Cause, you have failed to establish the validity of the notion of a First Cause, and, most of all, you have failed to bring forth the First Cause itself.

Science has shown us that everything has a cause — with one exception: the positron-electron pairs that I discussed in a previous letter come into existence out of nothing. This is entirely natural, though it baffles the imagination (because it defied everything we have observed. But we’re talking about sub-atomic activity, and this has only been observed for the past several decades. Much of what we know about this was discovered within the past few decades.
 

This is too much of a leap. Even if you could establish intervention of some sort, you still have not established that this intervention is divine. And even if you could establish divine intervention, you still have not determined which (if any) of the 5,000 or so gods that mankind has endorsed that you are talking about. In other words, you don’t know that there is intervention occurring (because these things are neatly explained with natural causes), you don’t know whether or not any intervention would be divine, and you don’t know which god would be responsible for the divine intervention.

Thus, you do well to first establish the existence of the god, and then (and only then) would you be able to speak freely of that god having intervened in nature.

It looks as if the Universe is the result of a random fluctuation consisting of zero energy that escaped into a vacuum. It is that filling of the vacuum that caused the initial expansion and that causes the expansion to continue.
 

But a vacuum is nothing! That’s what a vacuum is! So, nothing causes their existence — except the pairs when they manifest themselves.

This is baffling even to physicists, but you already know the answer. It’s the same answer that has been used to explain every mystery — until science has solved them one by one. As the former Bishop John Selby Spong puts is, God is out of a job: he has no more work to do because everything that has been attributed to Him has a natural explanation.
 

How do you know this? How can you bring an independently verifiable demonstration of this claim.

How can you demonstrate to me what lies outside our material Universe?

How do you even know there is anything “outside” our Universe. (what does it mean to be “outside” the Universe? What could it mean?)
 

I know. I read all about it on the cover of the magazine while I was waiting in line at the check-out counter at the grocery store.
 

Name them. And give me the names of the words wherein they have “confirmed” this claim, so I can check them out.

And while you’re at it, explain to me how any historian can confirm anything? The best we can do is say that we found this writing and dug up that archaeological site. History, of all sciences, is nothing more than an educated guess.
 

Even if it happened (which it didn’t), how would you know it was a miracle? how would you know it was God?

Have you been able to eliminate the “malevolent space aliens” bit, where the ETs come down and perform their tricks just so they can laugh at human credulity?

And why would they bring bright lights? This sure sounds like an after-the-fact tale to me.
 

What blood type was the person from whom the blood was drawn in order to surreptitiously squirt the blood onto a statue (or whatever) in the style of a parlor magician?
 

The existence of a god would prove nothing. This is why so many apologists are baffled by what they call the “hiddenness of God.

It would be the manifestations of a god that we could observe, that would establish for us that it exists. If you could come up with something more solid than a menstruating statue or people shining lights into children’s eyes, something that would show everyone that a god exists, you’d have a very good case.

Why don’t we have a repeatable experiment? Why must we listen to people claim that “numerous historians confirmed” this or that ludicrous claim? Why must only the gullible, who would read those magazines at the check-out counter, have “proof” that a god exists?

I mean, I can perform an experiment right now and establish, beyond any reasonable doubt, that the sun exists. All I have to do is go out and look at it.

The god you describe — that exists “outside” the Universe; that is “spiritual”; that only performs those tasks which science has yet to explain; that “reveals” itself only to the gullible and only under the most questionable, most difficult to substantiate circumstances — this god conveniently defies any known mechanism for independent verification.

Yet you write to me and tell me that all these things — being “outside” the Universe (whatever that means); being “spiritual” (whatever that means); performing only those tasks which science hasn’t yet explained (until such time as hard-working scientists remove the mystery by coming up with a natural explanation); performing magical tricks only under conditions that cannot be verified by others — you tell me that all these things prove the existence of your god!

So, you can believe it if you want, but you have made no dent in my doubt.

Cliff Walker
“Positive Atheism” Magazine

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Graphic Rule

From: “Positive Atheism”
To “Eric Saenz”
Subject: Atheism
Date: Monday, August 07, 2000
 

Proving that the Universe was created would not prove that the creator is a god or that it is a particular god. Showing that the Universe has a natural cause does not eliminate the possibility of a god existing: either as a component of the Universe (or the Universe itself) or as the creator of this bubble in what Stenger speculates might be a “super-universe” within which this Universe exists.
 

Let me restate (or, perhaps, rephrase): Nobody can prove the nonexistence of anything. Nobody. Thus, I am at a disadvantage in this argument, since my case cannot be proved. However, I am at an advantage in the sense that the one making the claim (you, in this case) must bring forth the strong arguments and the evidence while I just sit here and watch.

What this means is this: If you can back up your claim with strong arguments or evidence, I do well to accept your claim. If you cannot, we both do well either to suspend judgement or to dismiss your claim altogether.

My offer stands: If you can bring forth strong arguments or evidence for your case, I will go along with it. If you cannot, I will challenge you to renounce your faith. (Let me tell you right now that I have engaged in this discussion with several people, and I think I hold more respect for your method than any of the other Christians who have taken me to the mat in this forum. In other words, we may not be communicating very well, and I may disagree with your position, but I like your style because you are the first to engage with me this far to display such an obvious sincerity.)
 

You are helping me if you show me an angle that I have yet to encounter. You also help me to practice (as in “practice makes perfect”) what I preach: patience and acceptance over the “God” argument. 1. If God exists, then perhaps we can experience the “glory of God.” Perhaps not. 2a. If God is just a myth (and we openly recognize Him as mythical), then perhaps we can find the myth useful to enhance our lives. I discuss the nature of myths briefly in my April, 2000, column and do come follow-up in the letter from Gerald Gage. The point that showed me the importance of cultural myths is when Paul D. Simmons pointed out that Academic Freedom is a myth that is practiced at almost all universities. Simmons said everyone recognizes that there is no such thing as Academic Freedom, because it is “largely unenforceable if not impotent to protect professors ... who become the object of ideological crusades.” By thinking of God and Jesus as mythical figures, we do not demean them in any or diminish the usefulness of religion. Perhaps, as an aside to our present argument, you’d like to help me develop this idea of God as myth — God as useful myth. 2b. If God is just a myth (and we think He is real), but we insist that He is real, we do much harm to our dignity because we engage in falsehood. 2c. If God is just a myth (and we know He is just a myth), but we insist that He is real, we engage in perhaps the lowest form of exploitation known to humankind (in my opinion).
 

Why would God make us depend on this one story in order to verify His existence? This is my main objection to this one. Here I am, having never witnessed anything like this, and having never heard anyone tell me they witnessed anything similar (unless they also have, as one of their main personality quirks, the tendency to believe tall tales and to stand and wonder about the supernatural). My main question is this: Why hasn’t God given me (or anyone I know) any direct sign that He exists? Some say I must take it on faith. Others that God will reward me if I pray (which is taking it on faith, again). My other question is, how come even people who believe in God are so skeptical of this one? Why does it have so many earmarks of being a tall tale? If you had supernatural powers, would you use them to pull rabbits out of a hat? How come the only “tangible” evidence for the existence of God relies on stories that look like every other hoax we’ve all endured while standing in line waiting to pay for our groceries? If God can do what you claim He can do, He is remiss in keeping the “truth” shrouded in mystery and He is remiss in cloaking the “truth” in such a way that only those who lack critical thinking skills would receive the message. He is remiss in disguising the “truth” as a hoax and then expecting us to be able to know which hoax-like story is actually not a hoax at all. My third question points to the other so-called miracle workers. Satya Sai Baba dazzles followers by creating a gold chain right before their very eyes. He does this to validate his claim that he is a true prophet of his god (the Hindu god). These are my major objections to the Fatima story, considering that I haven’t given this particular story much scrutiny.
 

Joseph Smith did this, too. Do you believe Smith’s report? I don’t. Marjoe Gortner, in his lectures as an adult, liked to pull people from his audience, including the most skeptical atheists, and work with them until they were “speaking in tongues.” Do you think this was a manifestation of the supernatural? Marjoe doesn’t, and I don’t either. Uri Geller can make spoons bend before your very eyes. So can James Randi. Geller says his is the result of supernatural powers. Randi says his is just a trick of parlor magic, and so is Geller’s. Which one is more likely to be telling the truth: Geller, with powers beyond the Universe that no scientist has ever been able to verify (even in Geller’s presence and with Geller’s assistance)? or Randi, who has written articles on how to bend spoons in your spare time for fun and profit (but not prophet)?
 

And they all lived happily ever after. This is your proof of the existence of God?
 

Perhaps something happened up in the sky. Have we eliminated the likelihood of a meteor, or the Northern Lights getting a little out of hand, or any such thing? Or must we conclude that since something might have happened in the sky (or a mass hallucination occurred), that a God exists. Is this our only honest conclusion from this tale? Or are we bending the facts through God-colored glasses to force the “facts” to fit our preconceived notions about the existence of God and His Mother, and the Holy Ghost and Angels and Demons and Saints and Jesus?
 

That’s what they said about Crop Circles — until the kids who were making the Crop Circles came forward and publicly admitted that they were just having fun.
 

If one billion believers jumped off a bridge, would you do it, too? One hundred trillion flies can’t be wrong, as they say. Meanwhile, what little study I have done confirms nothing: even if what you say happened did happen, we still haven’t established more than that they happened. You haven’t established the interpretation you place behind the events. You certainly haven’t established the supernatural or the existence of a god or that a god has a mother. Cliff Walker
“Positive Atheism” Magazine

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From: “Positive Atheism”
To “Eric Saenz”
Subject: Atheism
Date: Tuesday, August 08, 2000

No. If your god exists, I would sacrifice eternal life for lack of knowledge. I have been given no solid evidence that your god exists, only flimsy, check-out-stand accounts of fantastic stories, bolstered with a complex series of half-truths, false dichotomies, instances of post hoc ergo propter hoc and non sequitur and question begging, faulty analogies, and hasty generalizations.

That’s all I have to go on, and for not buying it, your god is going to commit me to the flames of Hell where a single individual will experience more pain and torment than all the organisms of the history of the earth put together will experience while alive.

You know what? Even if your god is real, I’d want nothing to do with such an ogre.
 

If anyone enters the “fires of Hell” to be “eternally tortured day and night,” then there is no human dignity — anywhere, for any human.

There is no dignity even for those who would be gullible enough to escape those flames (by believing fantastic tales), because the god they worshiped would be a demon. The god they bowed down to in order to flatter their way into a more comfortable existence turned out to be the most vile of extortionists.

And for those who would worship such a monster knowing what a monster He was, is an even further breach of human dignity. (How could anyone with even a grain of conscience and compassion love the Roman Catholic god?) I see no dignity in worshipping a torturer and I see no dignity in succumbing to the bribery and coercion that the god of Roman Catholicism allegedly practices.

The only dignity, I see, would be to stand up to the callous and conscienceless Roman Catholic god — even if it meant suffering pain for speaking the truth.

This is my understanding of right and wrong: it is wrong to honor a wicked entity — even if that wicked entity turns out to have created the Universe.
 

Many who are counted among your figure of one billion Roman Catholics think the Fatima tale is poppycock as well.

So, then, what about the Protestant and Mormon “miracles”? Are they of “the Devil” too? Or could these be wives’ tales that got out of hand or perhaps the wiles of a parlor magician (like the menstruating statues of olde)?
 

No “God” as ever given me any direct reasons to believe that such a being exists. The Christians (and the Catholics) assure me that “His” existence will be revealed to me on Judgement Day — only after it’s way too late for me to do anything about it, seeing that the Christian and Catholic gods threaten to punish me with everlasting fire for not buying into what appears, in every respect, to be a fairy tale that got out of hand, a fabulous story worthy of the magazines at the check-out stand.

Why does your god want us to exercise (what appears to be) credulity? Why cannot those of us who honestly and sincerely seek to know what does and does not exist get some kind of clue through something as simple and straightforward as science? Why does it have to appear to be just another instance of hucksterism and charlatanism? Why does the “God” myth not withstand even the feeblest of scrutiny?
 

You just contradicted yourself:

Above, you said, “God said he would make himself known to each and every one of us. This is done through miracles, unexplainable occurrences in our lives.” You also said, God does not usually give direct symbols but through history we can find his existence. This is found through his miracles and the work of Jesus Christ.”

Now, you say, “The purpose of this and most miracles was not to prove the existence of God.”

Which is it? Are the “miracles” done as a way for God to “make himself known to each and every one of us”? Or is proving the existence of God not the purpose of so-called miracles?
 

This is convenient for the Roman Catholic Church to say. The Mormons make similar claims, as do the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Branch Davidians, the Moonies, and many others.

At least the Jews and the traditional (Roger Williams variety) Baptists emphatically assert that it is the individual human’s responsibility to come up with answers, always guided by Scripture and history, of course, but the final word of one’s faith rests upon the individual with these two sects.

I go one step further than the Jews and Roger Williams Baptists in that I say that it is each human’s responsibility to come up with all answers regarding his or her faith or lack of faith — including whether to follow any so-called Scripture. This is humanism, this is atheism, this is rationalism, this is the essence of the Freethought movements that were popular in America during the last half of the nineteenth century.

Nevertheless, there is enough fantasy, falsified history, murder and genocide, suppression of truth, manufacture of phony miracles, and outright corruption in the history of the Catholic Church to warrant writing her off forever, never to look back. With her record, to call the Roman Catholic Church an arbiter of truth is to make a mockery of the very concept of truthfulness. To call any person or body an arbiter of knowledge is to misunderstand the concept of knowledge, because knowledge is the product of an ongoing discussion and is always subject to revision. But setting that aside, to think that the Roman Catholic Church, with her bloody history of fraud and her clannish sense of injustice, is to be trusted for any distinguishing between fact and fantasy betrays an abject conception of reality.
 

A god capable of creating miracles such as you describe would not be limited to this method for communicating to humans — particularly if that god wished to communicate to those who sincerely seek truth.

So, my question remains: Why does your god (if He exists) choose methods that appear to honest seekers of truth (people versed in scrutiny) to be outright hoaxes? Why does He choose to appeal to those most likely to fall for a hoax or a hallucination, but to hide himself from those who sincerely and honestly scrutinize all claims presented to them?

Why has He not revealed Himself in any manner that can be verified by that ongoing discussion called Liberal Scientific Method? Liberal Scientific Method has shown itself to be the most effective method for distinguishing fact from fantasy. Why would a god shun this method?
 

Satya is a fraud, and has been shown to be a fraud by Indian scientists and skeptics. Satya was even the object of a murder plot by his closest aides (as reported by a Positive Atheism correspondent whose name shall remain secret). But he makes a case convincing enough to garner millions of followers. He, like the Roman Catholic Church, uses techniques that resemble frauds, but that escape the scrutiny (or lack thereof) of his millions of followers — many of whom have never witnessed his parlor magic first hand. Had his would-be assassins been successful, he would have been hailed as a martyr.

You haven’t established that “the sun danced” and that there is not some simple natural explanation for what may or may not have happened. The Egyptian “prophets” knew more about astronomy and the changing of the seasons than did the masses, and were able to “predict” occurrences which, to the uneducated, would appear to be miraculous.

Even if the sun did “dance,” you still haven’t established that it was a miracle.

Even if it were a miracle (and I’m not saying here that it was), you’d still have yet to establish that it was the Roman Catholic god that did it.
 

But if this were a message from God, you’d think that all who saw it would have instantly recognized it as such, as suggested in The Apocalypse 1:7, “Behold, he cometh with the clouds, and every eye shall see him, and they also that pierced him. And all the tribes of the earth shall bewail themselves because of him.” This describes a situation where everyone not only sees, but knows what is happening. What you described remained a mystery to many who allegedly saw it, until it was “explained” later by the Church authorities.
 

I never confuted the two.

Unlike historians William Edward Hartpole Lecky and William Charles Lea, John Haffert is does not have an entry in Encarta and is not among the people listed under the article “Historians.” This speaks volumes regarding Haffert’s prestige as a modern historian of Europe, considering that Encarta lists 28 modern historians of Europe (some predating and others surviving the Fatima spectacle).

It is not until you enter “john haffert” as an exact phrase into an Internet search engine that you find that John Haffert’s claim to fame is not even as a historian, but as a Roman Catholic apologist! He is certainly not a neutral observer who reported his findings and then moved on to make other studies — as one would expect of a bona fide (or even a biased) historian.

The Mission Statement of the Lay Apostolate Foundation at www.johnhaffert.org says, “The Lay Apostolate Foundation was founded by John M. Haffert, in response to this call and to firm ‘command’ of the Queen of Heaven, ‘...to mobilize the Laity!’” Just as Joseph Smith’s job was to convince people that his visions were from God, John Haffert’s job is to try to convince people that the claims of the Roman Catholic Church are from God.

Nice try.
 

I wasn’t there. (Were you there?) All I have to go on is hearsay. (Do you have anything better than hearsay to go on?)

Does your god want me to overturn everything I know for the sake of hearsay?

Would your god even respect a person who did this? (I wouldn’t respect anyone who did this.)
 

I’ve given you more than enough examples of my objections to the “miracle” approach. It is no proof but is, at best, hearsay — unless I see one for myself and it is subject to human scrutiny. On top of that, even if you were to demonstrate that a “miracle” had occurred, you still haven’t established the existence of a god — much less the Roman Catholic gods and goddesses.

Cliff Walker

“Positive Atheism” Magazine

Graphic Rule

Graphic Rule

From: “Positive Atheism”
To “Eric Saenz”
Subject: Atheism
Date: Saturday, August 19, 2000

This is not what the Bible teaches and this is not what the Roman Catholic Church has historically taught. Women used to fall apart emotionally, “knowing” that their dead infants were burning in hell for lack of having been baptized in time. The priests made lots of money by making special trips to baptize sickly infants in time. I suppose the “infallible” Church has changed her tune on this one, as she has done with oh so many other claims.

Meanwhile, Jesus is alleged to have said: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No man cometh to the Father, but by me.” If I have access to God (to avoid Hell) only through Jesus, but if the Jesus story appears to my honest and sincere inquiries to be nothing more than a primitive and barbaric myth, then God is unjust in condemning me to Hell simply because His “truth” had all the signs of being fiction and falsehood.

However, most who reject the Jesus claims do so because the myth seems primitive and barbaric — it has all the appearance of being just another tale told by ancient bands of illiterate goat-herders. I have every reason to believe that the Jesus myth is such a tale, and thus I have no fear of being thrown into Hell for not believing it. If this tale is true, we’re all in big trouble because God would then turn out to be an archfiend of the most vicious kind imaginable. If the Roman Catholic “God” exists, I would consider it an honor to burn in His Hell simply for refusing to believe that such a god could possibly exist — much less create humans with such compassion as I have observed in my fellow humans.
 

I say we are not able to enter Heaven because Heaven does not exist. I say this after spending the greater part of my adult life investigating the various claims that a Heaven exists.

My most recent position, which I have held for about a dozen years now, is that the only place we hear about Heaven is from so-called Scriptures. We cannot test the claims for the existence of Heaven, but we can test other claims made by these alleged Scriptures. If a “Scripture” tells me that, for example, a certain town lies south of Jerusalem, and archaeologists discover that the town has always been north-east of Jerusalem, then I have invalidated a testable claim made by that so-called Scripture. Since I can find the alleged revelation to be wrong in making testable claims, I have no business believing its untestable claims, such as that for the existence of Heaven.
 

Is this why the Roman Catholic Church massacred the Protestants on St. Bartholomew’s day? Because they were worshiping the same god? or did the Roman Catholic Church deem that the Protestants worship a false god? The Church has always denounced the Protestant movements as false religion, proclaiming herself to be the One True Faith. If this were not true, the Roman Catholic Church would advocate that people become Protestants.

Is this why the Roman Catholic Church burned Jews at the stake and supported their deportation from Spain? or did the Roman Catholic Church deem that Jews worship a false god? Jesus, in response to the Jewish leaders telling him, “Abraham is our father,” is alleged to have said, “You are of your father the devil.” The Church has always denounced the Jewish religion as a false religion, proclaiming herself to be the One True Faith. If this were not true, the Roman Catholic Church would advocate that people become Jews.
 

Me neither. But then, I’ve never heard of a Roman Catholic miracle, either. No claims for miraculous occurrences have passed muster with me.

The whole Mormon religion revolves around the miraculous claims of the boy Joseph Smith, though. That’s how it got started: Smith claims to have been visited by an angel, Moroni, and later by two distinct personages: “God the Father and his Son, Jesus Christ.”
 

All I’ve got to do is subscribe to Cable TV and I can witness alleged faith healings 24 hours per day. The Christians have entire cable channels which amount to nothing more than high-pressure advertising for the faith; these channels use up bandwidth that would otherwise enable us to have more science and cultural channels (we only get 30 or so channels around here). Christianity is big business and it’s free money: the Christians who do this collect money but provide no goods — only pie-in-the-sky promises. Once the victims “discover” that they’ve been had, they’re already dead: it’s too late to sue for dishonest business practices. “And it’s legal, too!” — as Yippie leader Abbie Hoffman exclaimed upon discovering the joys of the drug nitrous oxide.
 

This is why I question the entire religion thing. This is why I reject it out of hand. All these different “revelations” cannot simultaneously be true.

So, if I ask a Roman Catholic what’s wrong with the claims of a Muslim, he or she tells me the ways that the Muslims have been deceived. In the same way, if I ask a Muslim what’s wrong with the Roman Catholics, he or she tells me the ways the Roman Catholics have been deceived. Strange: what the Roman Catholics say about the Muslims, and what the Muslims say about the Roman Catholics are the same thing: Each group shows how the other group is either deceived or lying.

If you want the goods on Roman Catholicism, ask a Muslim; If you want the goods on Islam, ask a Roman Catholic. We atheists have our work already done for us!

In fact, if I take a poll of all the religionists in the world, and asked each one which religion is a false religion, all the religions would win! All the religions would get millions of votes for being a false religion! And I would agree with all of them in this matter.

The only difference between you and I is that I disbelieve three more gods than you do. You say that the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are true gods and that the rest are false gods — figments of people’s imaginations. I claim three fewer gods as real: The Father, The Son, and The Holy Ghost.

This is why I think the question of whether a god exists is the stupidest thing over which we could possibly get into an argument. All I ask is that Roman Catholic morality (or any other morality that claims to come from a divine revelation) not be legislated. I ask that I not be forced to follow a law simply because someone claims that a god said I should do it (or refrain from doing it). If anything is worthy of being legislated into law, it should be self-evident.

Any divine precept worthy of being called divine would be self-evident. No dignified god would order his followers to burn people at the stake simply because they don’t believe in a certain religion (John 15:6: “If any one abide not in me, he shall be cast forth as a branch, and shall wither, and they shall gather him up, and cast him into the fire, and he burneth” — this passage was used for centuries to justify burning my predecessors at the stake). In fact, no dignified god would ever say something that could be later mistaken as a commandment to burn unbelievers at the stake.
 

I need only point to the book History of the Rise and Influence of the Spirit of Rationalism in Europe by William E. H. Lecky to refute this. I can also refer to the shorter work by John E. Remsberg, The Christ, which has a chapter called “Sources of the Christ Myth — Ancient Religions.

All I can say is that if the history of the Roman Catholic Church has panned out the way Christ designed it to occur, then I disagree with Christ and accuse Him of being the most corrupting influence that humankind has ever endured.

 

“Faith is powerful enough to immunize people against all appeals to pity, to forgiveness, to decent human feelings.”
— Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene
 

 

And Popes. What about all the Popes who rubber-stamped the Inquisition? What about Pope Innocent III who ordered the slaughter of millions of non-Catholics? What about John XXII, who was condemned, among many other crimes, for incest and adultery? What about the law known as Marquette, in which newly married women were regarded as the rightful prey of the Feudal Lord from one to three days after their marriage, allowing him unrestricted access to her sexuality? I could go on and on like this, but I haven’t the time.

If this is how Christ would have wanted things to occur, then the Roman Catholic Church has indeed done its job. However, I can write off the Roman Catholic Church itself as being entirely devoid of any special or unique power toward making people moral. All I need do is look at the behavior of most of Roman Catholicism’s followers and spokespeople throughout history up through today.
 

I already went over what I think of a god who would expect individuals to trust the shaky testimony of people over simply revealing Himself to the individual directly. I will not delve into any more alleged claims of the miraculous unless I am the one witnessing the so-called miracle. Nothing I have to say about the subject will change in lieu of a personal experience along those lines.

All other testimony is, as I have noted before, hearsay; I have no business relying upon hearsay if it is the only thing I have to go on. This is vividly demonstrated by your apology for the John Haffert error: you got it wrong, and now admit it, but at one point, you expected me to believe your claims based upon the John Haffert bit. I rest my case on hearsay evidence: this is not the honest method for pursuing truth.

(I see that the bulk of the remainder of your letter is of this nature, so please excuse me while I skip over it without reading it any more carefully than is necessary to find out if there are any other topics contained therein.)
 

We have no original writings from Jesus or anybody who knew Jesus. All we have are writings that were chosen from amongst hundreds of others that were rejected as forgeries and which now themselves are widely considered to be forgeries (with the exception of Romans, I and II Corinthians, and Galatians — as well as those documents that remain unsigned and which do not purport to be eyewitness accounts). II Peter is almost universally considered to be a forgery, and this was the issue that initially got me questioning my faith in the Bible during those years when I was a believer.

Meanwhile, what about the alleged miracles of so-called prophets that the Roman Catholic Church condemns as fraudulent? Adherents of those religions are as adamant in pointing to those “miracles” as you are in pointing to those claiming to support the validity of the Roman Catholic claim. But we already went over this one, and you have failed to respond to my objection in this regard.
 

Why do you trust these accounts when most Christians write them off as spurious?

St. Matthias, the supposed successor of Judas Iscariot, was put to death three times (according to these traditions): he was crucified; he was stoned; and he was beheaded. Meanwhile, the Ebionites asserted that the original followers of Jesus did not think he was the Son of God, but that this doctrine was added later, long after the original followers of Jesus died off.

Could it be that you are simply grabbing any account that sounds favorable to the Roman Catholic position and using it to argue for the truthfulness of Roman Catholicism’s claims — without regard to the truthfulness of the accounts?

Cliff Walker
“Positive Atheism” Magazine

Graphic Rule

Graphic Rule

From: “Positive Atheism”
To:
Subject: Re: Atheism (your last chance)
Date: Friday, August 25, 2000 2:47 AM

You bandy about the word truth as if your claims are established and unassailable fact. However, as you even admitted in a previous letter, your claims are nothing more than what you consider to be a good case for the existence of miraculous happenings that allegedly occurred long ago (though I don’t share your confidence in the truthfulness of these accounts).

Thus, I would ask you to please be truthful in making your statements, particularly when making statements which contain the word truth in them. If you claim something is true but don’t really know whether the claim is true, you are still lying, the incidental truthfulness of your claim notwithstanding.
 

Yeah, I heard. According to most versions of the Jesus myth, we’ll all find out long after it’s way too late to do anything about it: we’re gonna fry if we don’t believe the cockamamie claims of this or that religion, but we won’t find out whether they’re true until after we die.

I don’t want to give lip service to a god like that — even if such a god actually exists.

Thankfully, the arguments for the existe e decided to announce that this is the case. Before then, if you didn’t believe or say the right words, or undergo the correct sequence of hand movements (or some other mystery dance of some sort), you went straight to Hell forever — baby or not.

Of course, the Church has typically charged money for either the prayer or for the implements of prayer (candles, etc.). Whatever they can get from the poor and the gullible, and however they can get it.

I hold utter contempt for anybody who would prey on people’s fear of the afterlife, extracting money from the survivors and promising to shorten the deceased’s stay in Hell or in Purgatory or on the rack or under the dripping faucet or rolling the big bolder up the mountain or next door to the kid who like Rap music or whatever.

Even if there were a remote possibility that the Roman Catholic Church were telling the truth about the afterlife (they aren’t; it’s all a big money game), I would seriously consider my loyalties here: I would never want to tarnish my good name and my good reputation by being associated with any form of the Christian religion simply because all forms of it are so exploitative.
 

This is pure bullshit. It is based upon the erroneous notion of perfection. There is no such thing as perfection, even at the molecular level (as was shown by Heisenberg).

However, most people are not educated and will trust someone who says warm and fuzzy things about God and Mom and Apple Pie, and who occasionally clues them in as to where bad people go (and by the way, since nobody’s perfect, that means everybody’s bad — but if you buy this brick-a-brack and move your hand just so, I’ll fix it for you).

   
[Skip even reading long recount of claims for the miraculous.]
 
 

He’s the only one. And he wrote in the mid part of last century.

Do you sit there and seek out the “scholars” most likely to write books backing up your preconceptions? or are you truly interested in finding the truth and following it wherever it may lead?

Shorter Graphic Rule

Now, I must insist that you stop making statements and come up with some strong arguments.

So far, you have come off appearing like someone who discovered that he has fallen for The Big Whopper and was so embarrassed about it that he studied all the tricks and is trying to get as many others to join him as he can so as to put on the veneer of legitimacy to his folly.

Stop simply making statements. Stop it! Do you hear me? Just stop!

Statement are not evidence and statements are not arguments.

You’ve already made your claim, now it’s time to prove those claims. You don’t prove a claim by making more claims that need to be proven.

Come up with a strong case — one that I can sink my teeth into — one that will make me feel good about the world — one that will make me want to go home and shave ‘em dry.

If refuse to stop simply repeating claims, if you refuse to provide for me some tangible evidence or some strong arguments, I will have to end this dialogue.

And if you make any more science statements that demonstrate your lack of familiarity with even the basics of science, I will end the dialogue. I am tired of religionists who abuse science in order to make it appear to the public that their superstitions have the blessings of the scientific communities.

Cliff Walker
“Positive Atheism” Magazine

Graphic Rule

Graphic Rule

From: “Positive Atheism”
To “Eric Saenz”
Subject: Re: Atheism (your last chance)
Date: Saturday, August 26, 2000

Way too many have gone to their death asserting that no gods exist for this to be the claim of a bona fide truth-telling god. Either the god you describe is a liar or the god you describe does not exist.
 

Funny, I don’t remember any logical deductions, only claims: several extremely vacant claims that things which may or may not have occurred are definitely supernatural, the therefore the god of Roman Catholicism, as you describe it, exists. All you’ve done here is make claims — made statements along the lines of “thus is so.” You have done nothing to try to back up these assertions except to make additional claims.
 

Correct. It is derived from Gnosticism and, in part, from the ancient Persian religions.
 

I used to love Rube Goldberg’s comics when I was a kid.

That’s what stuff like this has always reminded me of.

             
 

 Self-Operating Napkin
  
Rube Goldberg TM & © of Rube Goldberg, Inc.
This cartoon was featured on a 32¢ U.S. postage stamp.
 

 
Rube Goldberg walks in his sleep, strolls through a cactus field in his bare feet, and screams out an idea for self-operating napkin: As you raise spoon of soup (A) to your mouth it pulls string (B), thereby jerking ladle (C) which throws cracker (D) past parrot (E). Parrot jumps after cracker and perch (F) tilts, upsetting seeds (G) into pail (H). Extra weight in pail pulls cord (I), which opens and lights automatic cigar lighter (J), setting off sky-rocket (K) which causes sickle (L) to cut string (M) and allow pendulum with attached napkin to swing back and forth thereby wiping off your chin. After the meal, substitute a harmonica for the napkin and you’ll be able to entertain the guests with a little music.
 

    

Hah!

The Church as a whole condoned this practice for hundreds of years. The Church still sells a millennial indulgence this very day, as declared by Pope John Paul II in the Jubilee Year Bull of Indiction issued on November 28, 1999. Instead of strictly cash, acts of “penitential spirit” include abstaining for booze or smoking for a day, contributing money to the poor, or by contributing to “activities benefiting the community.”

And you admit that this practice is corrupt!

Gotcha!
 

You gave one scholar — the one scholar who disagrees with the vast majority of scholars studying the historicity of the New Testament books today.

I form my opinions, in part, by looking to see what most scholars are saying: most biblical scholars say that the books of the New Testament cannot be as early as you claim. You appear to be thinking that all the books of the New Testament are genuine (none of them are forgeries) and will cite any scholar who backs up your preconception. Unfortunately for your attempt at making your case, the vast majority of biblical scholars during the past century disagree with you.
 

The Jesus of Luke’s Gospel taught that abject poverty is the only way to make it to the (originally Persian) “Paradise.”
 

I don’t accept the claims of people, most of whom sound so much like charlatans.

Even if you were to prove a miracle, you still haven’t proven the existence of a god.

Any god worth respecting would know this and would not send an individual to live in everlasting torment simply for not accepting claims that are not based upon sound reasoning — the only reasoning a human is capable of performing. If such a god existed, I’d spit in his eye and die laughing!
 

I told you what I think of a god who would judge us for not believing these fantastic fables that are indistinguishable from the barking that comes from all directions at the carnival side-show.

I won’t tell you what I think of degrading someone’s corpse by placing it on display as you describe.
 

And you have, even though I asked you not to go there again.
 

Please!
 

They are not intact. They are dead. A dead body is not an intact body.
 

I told y ou I didn’t ever read that part. I skipped it — just like I said I would if you started talking like that again!

I told you what I think of the “alleged miraculous incidents of the past prove the existence of a specific god” argument.

I told you what I think of any god that would expect us to base our eternal future on such an argument.

The victims of hucksters may think this way, but I refuse. If you can come up with some sound reasoning and some solid evidence (hearsay testimony is not evidence at all), then we can continue. Otherwise, please stop writing me with this drivel.

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

Cliff Walker
“Positive Atheism” Magazine

Graphic Rule

Graphic Rule

From: “Positive Atheism”
To “Eric Saenz”
Subject: Atheism (your last chance)
Date: Sunday, August 27, 2000

Very few Christians have studied this issue of whether a god exists more than I have — and I’m still waiting.
 

So, is the Papal Bull falsehood? The Bull speaks of reducing one’s sentence in Purgatory by attending various Millennial festivals (from which the Church stands to make a healthy monetary profit, by the way).

Besides, the Church stands to gain from all the gullible Roman Catholics who attend her Jubilee festival activities recommended in the Bull.
 

I have told you why I cannot accept what you have told me thus far. Hearsay testimony is no evidence at all; the existence of the miraculous, even if proven, would not show the existence of a god; almost all religions use alleged instances of the miraculous to prove the existence of their gods — and all gods cannot simultaneously be the One True God.
 

First, the singularity was not a compound. A compound is a collection of atoms, and a singularity is much smaller than an atom.

Secondly, the singularity had no energy with which to explode, but rather escaped into a vacuum. Thus, to use the word explode is to show an incorrect understanding of what the physicists think happened. The term Big Bang was originally a joke deriding the notion of a big explosion, but the term stuck and we use and name the theory with it (Inflationary Big Bang) despite the fact that when taken literally the term is misleading. The term bang implies an explosion, and this is not what the physicists think happened, as there was no energy with with to explode (force outward from within): instead, it escaped to fill a vacuum.
 

Even if I were a Christian I would take this position because the Christian “miracles” don’t hold a candle to the Hindu “miracles” and because so many of them have been shown to have been frauds.
 

I challenged you to show the existence of a god. To show the existence of miracles (even if you could) would not be to show the existence of a god.
 

No. My position has always been that to show the existence of miracles would not be to show the existence of a god. I also indulged in the aspect that the claims for the miraculous are very weak. But I never discussed them as I don’t accept the existence of the miraculous and have yet to be given sufficient reason (particularly scientific) for believing in the miraculous.
 

No. I told you why proving the existence of the miraculous would never prove the existence of a god, and asked you either to show me wrong on this or change the subject. You failed to even try to show me wrong, and you also failed to change the subject.
 

I have never heard of the first guy, so his works must not be very important: he didn’t even come up in any search engine and is not in any of the bibliographies of the Jesus books I own. His works are not even important enough for the mainstream scholars to refute.

Carmignac uses some questionable methods which he refuses to describe in the “General Description” of his book Birth Of The Synoptics, as it is listed in The Catholic Store.

His work is recognized only by those who already want to believe that the New Testament works are not forgeries, and again, nobody in the mainstream mentions him or chooses to take on his ideas. Like the mummified corpses of the dead “saints,” nobody takes this one seriously enough to bother even refuting it.

Basically, Carmignac agues from textual analysis of the Gospel of Mark. He claims that textual analysis “scientifically verifies” that it was written before a certain date (though its content, being familiar with situations that occurred between C.E. 66 to C.E. 70, solidly argues for a later date).

However, nothing is ever “scientifically verified” — cases are spoken of only in terms of strong links or strong arguments — so this man is not using the language one would expect from a scientist or one engaged in a scientific investigation. The phrase “scientifically verified” is what one would expect from a charlatan, not a scientist or a historian or even an unbiased biblical scholar.

Carmignac needs first to set up an experiment that others can duplicate, and then encourage others to try to repeat his experiments, urging them to prove him wrong. Unless and until he does this, we rightly see his ideas as empty claims or, at most, educated guesses. Even if he submits his data and experiments to public scrutiny and they all get the same results, it still is not “scientifically verified” but is just a strong link at best.

I reserve some of my sternest criticism for those who use the phrase “scientifically proven” — especially when applied to a religious claim. Anybody who would use this phrase to bolster a religious claim gets double the scrutiny from me than others would. “If it smells like a rat...”

Secondly, very few mainstream biblical scholars dispute the possibility of the Quelle document, which probably did predate C.E. 70, so even if Carmignac does come up with a strong argument or a strong link with his newfangled and very unique methodology, he ends up saying nothing. In order to say something, he would need to make his case with the portions of Mark that are not thought of as part of the Quelle tradition. Besides, I wonder what his methods determine about Mark 16:6-20, the Resurrection account, which is almost universally admitted to be a forgery.

Thirdly, and most importantly, even if it could be shown that Mark was written before C.E. 70, we are still a long way from proving that its story is true.

Finally, we have no extra-biblical mentions of the existence of a man named Jesus until well after the most Liberal dates for the publication of the Synoptics (C.E. 70 to C.E. 100).
 

Even Britannica presupposes that Jesus existed and was crucified under Pilate, a claim which is today hotly disputed and which cannot be shown even to be likely, much less true.

And who wrote the World Book article, a Roman Catholic? Is World Book, like Merriam-Webster’s, owned by a church? (I don’t know.) Merriam-Webster’s is owned by the Christian Science Church. Encyclopædia Britannica is owned, ultimately, by the Queen of England, defender of the Anglican faith. We must know this stuff when examining claims, because if a reference article was written by a preacher, we can expect it to be biased in favor of the notion that the claims of theism are true. For the World Book to assert that the apostolic legends are fact is for the World Book to go way beyond what is known: these are legends, and most Protestants accept them as legends. Without looking it up, I would guess that the World Book even stated that these are legends. If they asserted that this was fact, the editors were being biased and extremely irresponsible, and have abused their position of trust as editors of a widely trusted reference work.

And which myth of the execution of Nathaniel do you believe? He could not have been stoned, run through with spears, and crucified. At least two of the Nathaniel myths are wrong, perhaps all three. In fact, the Nathaniel figure itself might be wholly legendary, with no human having provided the inspiration for the Nathaniel character we read about in the Gospels.
 

You want me to abandon all I have learned my entire life and convert to Roman Catholicism based upon highly disputed and generally dismissed myths about the alleged followers of the alleged Christ (a strong case for whose existence cannot be made)?

And which Nathaniel myth should I base my reason for converting upon? the stoning one? the spears? the crucifixion? “Will the real executioners of Nathaniel please stand up!”
 

Many have died for what they have known to be a lie. Once you have committed yourself to a story, it’s hard to back out of it. In many cases, such as deceiving thousands by luring them into a religious cult, you might as well die! This might be better than living with the shame of admitting that you’ve deceived thousands of people.

It is a very simple matter to show that Mormonism’s founder, Joseph Smith, invented the tales of the golden plates and the umim and thummim and the Angel Moroni and his visit by the two entities, “God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” However, he died for his faith and died proclaiming his religious “experiences” to be true. Many others, particularly religious leaders, political zealots, and criminals, have died for a lie while knowing it was a lie. It is a widely accepted code among criminals of the organized variety to go to one’s grave without betraying others into custody and possible execution. Numerous criminals ranging from powerful Mafia bosses to gangsta street thugs have died rather than betray the others involved. Why should they? They already know they’re going to be punished, and betraying the others will not change this. Many have died for a lie and have died with a lie on their lips.

And which Nathaniel myth should I take with me to my grave: the one with stones? the one with spears? the one with the Cross?

Cliff Walker
“Positive Atheism” Magazine

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From: “Positive Atheism”
To “Eric Saenz”
Subject: Atheism (your last chance)
Date: Sunday, August 27, 2000

I keep asking you to stop sending me this drivel. I am willing to listen to strong arguments and I am willing to listen to convincing evidence, but there is no such thing as “scientific proof.” Science does not work that way, only religious charlatans and medical hucksters use this language.

Also, you have not listened to a word I have said.

Even if you were to demonstrate the supernatural, you still have not Established the existence of a god.

Got that? I’ll say it more simply:

No more of the supernatural angle!

That angle says nothing about the existence of gods.

If you cannot honor what I have asked, I will stop this dialogue. I have been very patient with you, but I have lots of work to do and am ill and very frail and can only do so much energy with which to do my work. I am very behind on my work and have kindly responded to your questions thinking, at first, that you were being honest with me. Now I know otherwise and am insisting that you to not send me any more drivel about the supernatural. If you can first show that a demonstration of the supernatural would lead immediately and conclusively to the conclusion that a god exists, then we can talk.
 

I never said anything about validated miracles. All claims of the miraculous are just that: claims.
 

Speaking about claims of miracles being “valid” or “of greater magnitude” is like discussing the string arrangement of a Punk Rock song.
 

They cannot be “proven scientifically” any more than the ones you have discussed, which you have not “proven scientifically” at all. You have not even made a strong case for your claims, which is the language that a scientist would use — not language such as “proven scientifically.”
 

This is well known and admitted by the Church. What is Pope John Paul II doing this year? He is apologizing to the world for the past crimes of the Roman Catholic Church (or so he says — I don’t believe him for a minute but consider this to be so much posturing). Some of these crimes include fraudulent claims of the miraculous. I need to point no further than Pope John Paul II to make an excellent case that the Roman Catholic Church has perpetrated frauds in the form of phony claims for the miraculous.
 

I don’t remember saying anything other than that if even if one were to demonstrate that something is a miracle (unlikely, due to the fact that we don’t know all of physics), this does not inevitably lead to the conclusion that a god exists.

I can see why you have such a problem recognizing truth when you see it: you have thus far completely mistranslated everything I have said into something you can understand, and then you hold me accountable for your misunderstanding of what I said, rather than what I actually said.
 

I confuted my names and modes of execution, here:

“St. Matthias, the successor of Judas Iscariot, if Christian tradition is to be credited, was put to death three times, crucified, stoned, and beheaded.”
          — John E. Remsberg, The Christ, p. 320.
 

For being a Mormon. He had been jailed as such (in the land of religious liberty for orthodox Christians only) and was subsequently murdered.
 

Most of them have been shown to have big holes in them. I cover each of these claims and simply wait for the refutations to come in. It’s kinda fun to watch them continue to try to pull the wool over people’s eyes in this manner, but it’s disconcerting that each new claim makes the front page, but the refutations get little if any press coverage at all.

QuackWatch reports of studies that show vastly different figures, and also shows how many of these studies are flawed. Am I to discount them because you tell me that this is the truth?

Besides, your ability to repeat back to me what I have said is extremely flawed, as is your understanding of the very concept of proof itself. How can I know that you are reporting these “proofs” of the “power of Prayer” accurately when they wouldn’t even be “proofs” of anything even if they were reported accurately?

(I don’t think you’re even reading my responses!)
 

Yeah, he’s more into the big money aspect of this game than most. I’d like to see his experimental data to see what protections against fudging he had in place, and to see his experiments repeated by a skeptic. If he can repeat these experiments for James Randi, he could win a million dollars (though I suspect that that would be a drop in the bucket for Dossey considering the game he’s playing).

Even if Randi gave him the money, it would not lead to the inevitable conclusion that a god exists.
 

His article, “The Effect of Non-Contact Therapeutic Touch on Healing Rate of Full Thickness Dermal Wounds” (Subtle Energies 1(1), Winter 1990), describes a very strange experiment with “therapeutic touch” — not prayer.

I would automatically be skeptical of someone who both deceived people and who deliberately injured their bodies under false pretenses just to conduct an experiment. We are not dealing with a humanist, here, but something we would expect to have seen during the Third Reich.

Even if this were true, it would not lead to the inevitable conclusion that a god exists.
 

Those who do consider themselves spiritual are more likely to have large support groups and active relationships with extended families. Many aspects of church life are healthy, and this is a physical explanation that everyone recognizes. It does not lead to the inevitable conclusion that a god exists.
 

You don’t give the figures for those heart patients who were not healthy enough to go to church — chance are those had a higher mortality rate than those who did.

Even if this were true, it would not lead to the inevitable conclusion that a god exists.
 

I might if I though my death would benefit the community.

Also, just because someone is persecuted does not mean that their persecutors are right (chances are, any persecutors are dead wrong, but simply have more power).

Nevertheless, the tales of the persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire goes against everything we know about that body’s tolerance of all religions (and even goes against the account of Paul in Athens in Acts 17). The Roman Empire was more tolerant than the United States has ever been and was more tolerant than any European nation today. It was even more tolerant than India is today.
 

This is a story. It’s an old story that has been widely disputed since it started circulating! Get it? We weren’t there! You weren’t there. You cannot even make a strong case that Christ existed, much less rose from the dead and ascended into heaven.

What about the story of the Pythagorean teacher, Apollonius of Tyana, a contemporary of the times Christ is alleged to have lived.

  “According to his biographers — and they are as worthy of credence as the Evangelists — his career, particularly in the miraculous events attending it, bore a remarkable resemblance to that of Christ. Like Christ, he was a divine incarnation; like Christ his miraculous conception was announced before his birth; like Christ he possessed in childhood the wisdom of a sage; like Christ he is said to have led a blameless life; like Christ his moral teachings were declared to be the best the world had known; like Christ he remained a celibate; like Christ he was averse to riches; like Christ he purified the religious temples; like Christ he predicted future events; like Christ he performed miracles, cast out devils, healed the sick, and restored the dead to life; like Christ he died, rose from the grave, ascended to heaven, and was worshiped as a god.”
          — John E. Remsberg, The Christ, p. 5
 

(I give you Remsberg’s account because I cannot right now locate the book that contains the version of the story I wanted.)

Unlike Christ, though, some writings remain for which a strong case can be made that they are genuinely his writings. Unlike Christ, there is a lot of contemporary mention of his existence both during and immediately after his death. In other words, it’s much easier to show the historicity of Apollonius than it is to show the historicity of Christ — but this does not mean that he rose from the dead any more than showing the historicity of Christ would show that he rose from the dead.

However, I cannot go on and continue to spend my time giving you a free education in logic, rhetoric, philosophy, history, and science. I have much work to do. Please, if you cannot give me strong arguments and be honest enough to call them “strong arguments” instead of “scientific proof,” then please stop writing to me. If you can bring forth strong arguments that I have not dealt with before (not tales of the miraculous for reasons previously stated, but strong arguments or convincing evidence), please do not write back.

Cliff Walker
“Positive Atheism” Magazine

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