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Showing posts from January, 2009

More Divine Pagan Birth Stories -- Wrap Up (Hopefully)

In response to my Distinguished Birth series and the post, Non-Issues in the Lukan Birth Narrative, Part 1, an anonymous commentor listed some other supposed pagan birth stories which he apparently thinks undercut my arguments. Although I think my original argument stands on its own, I will respond to the new examples. I save the best -- by which I mean the worst -- for last. In short, none of these examples offer much new and end up reinforcing my original argument.

* The Birth of Minerva. Minerva was not a human who lived on earth but a Roman goddess. In fact, she was the Roman counterpart to the Greek goddess Athena. More to the point, she did not even have a mother, there was no conception, and she was not "born," at least not in any remotely normal way. Rather, Roman myth states that she "leaped forth" from Jupiter's head as a fully grown adult wearing a suit of armor. Perhaps the anonymous poster was confused because Minerva herself was known as …

12% of Atheists Believe in Heaven, Traditional Christians Are Less Superstitious, and Other Interesting Statistics

Interesting piece in the WSJ I have been meaning to discuss.

From the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life:
According to the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life's monumental "U.S. Religious Landscape Survey" that was issued in June, 21% of self-proclaimed atheists believe in either a personal God or an impersonal force. Ten percent of atheists pray at least weekly and 12% believe in heaven.

A study from Gallup and Baylor University finds that traditional Christianity results in lower levels of superstition:

"What Americans Really Believe," a comprehensive new study released by Baylor University yesterday, shows that traditional Christian religion greatly decreases belief in everything from the efficacy of palm readers to the usefulness of astrology. It also shows that the irreligious and the members of more liberal Protestant denominations, far from being resistant to superstition, tend to be much more likely to believe in the paranormal and in pseudoscienc…

Just Another E-mail Received by the CADRE

Warning: Profanity Alert.

____________________________________

From: [Random Skeptic]

Subject: Debates!

I have studied arguments for and against for a long time now, And have come to one conclusion.Debates like these go one for ever for one reason,NOBODY really has the whole truth about anything, it's all speculation.You guy's are pretty much full of your selves/sh**!
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From: [Chris (Layman)]

Subject: Re: Debates!

John,

Thank you for your note.

I daresay that your last sentence suggests that the sophistication of your "long time" of study was not very high.

As for having the "whole truth about anything," I do not even presume to have the "whole truth" about what I had for breakfast this morning. So I think that criticism is misplaced as applied to me and likely my fellow bloggers.

All the best,

Chris (Layman)
_____________________________________

From: [Random Skeptic]

Re: Debates!

Thanks for reproving you're arrogance, typic…

And So It Begins....Obama's Abortion Policy

From Obama reverses Bush abortion-funds policy:

President Barack Obama on Friday struck down the Bush administration's ban on giving federal money to international groups that perform abortions or provide abortion information — an inflammatory policy that has bounced in and out of law for the past quarter-century.

Obama's executive order, the latest in an aggressive first week reversing contentious Bush policies, was warmly welcomed by liberal groups and denounced by abortion rights foes.

The ban has been a political football between Democratic and Republican administrations since GOP President Ronald Reagan first adopted it 1984. Democrat Bill Clinton ended the ban in 1993, but Republican George W. Bush re-instituted it in 2001 as one of his first acts in office.

"For too long, international family planning assistance has been used as a political wedge issue, the subject of a back and forth debate that has served only to divide us," Obama said in a statement released fr…

Non Issues in the Lukan Birth Narrative -- Augustus's Decree (Part 1)

The birth narrative in the Gospel of Luke typically faces many challenges and criticisms that are facially unrelated to its miraculous nature. Most of these arise from the first five verses in Luke’s second chapter.
Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth. This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. And everyone was on his way to register for the census, each to his own city. Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, in order to register along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child.
Questions about Quirinius and the timing of the census are challenging and legitimate, though not without sound responses. Other issues which are typically raised in conjunction, however, are overblown. Indeed, once the relevant verses are properly understood, these oth…

The Über-Abusive Ad Hominem and Modern Dialogue

Over the past few years, I have noticed a tactic being used in national debate that destroys legitimate conversation while bringing us no closer to truth. Unfortunately, there is no name for this new tactic, so I will christen it the Über-Abusive Ad Hominem. (Okay, I'm mixing German and Latin, but let's go with it for now.)

The Abusive Ad Hominem

The Über-Abusive Ad Hominem extends the usage of the ancient fallacy of the ad hominem, i.e., arguing toward the man instead of the argument. Anyone who has spent any significant time on Internet message boards is undoubtedly familiar with this tactic: when someone can't respond to the merits of the argument they choose instead to attack the messenger. The Nizkor Project gives a very good and tight definition of the argumentum ad hominem:

An Ad Hominem is a general category of fallacies in which a claim or argument is rejected on the basis of some irrelevant fact about the author of or the person presenting the claim or argument. Ty…

Part 3 of Zuckerman

Don't worry, it's my last for now.

Atheist watch Zuckerman argues that Japan is an atheist nation. I take him to task on that.

Part 2 of critique on Zuckerman is on Atheistwatch

Don't be a sucker, man part 2

I will be posting part 3 tomorrow. This second part is a lot better than the first part. Part 2 has a study that demonstrates Northern Europe is not as "atheist" as people generally think. Part 3 will show that Japan is a very religious nation and not an atheist nation.

Debunking Christianity Swimming at the Shallow End of the Scholarly Pool, Again

After entering a google search, I ran across a post on Debunking Christianity on Josephus. The author -- Harry McCall -- titled his post “Why Josephus’ So-called Testimonium Flavianum Must be Rejected.” The sum total of the post, however, was a few snippets from a leading Josephan scholar, Louis Feldman, about problems with the authenticity of the Testimonium. Those familiar with my writings will know that I have a lengthy article online defending the partial authenticity of the Testimonium. (JP Holding was also nice enough to invite me to revise the article to defend both Josephan references to Jesus in his book, Shattering the Christ Myth).

In the comments of Harry McCall's DB post, John Loftus directed McCall to my online article, stating, “before you posted this I was persuaded by most of what Christopher Price wrote about Josephus' passage here. Would you care to comment?.” In response, McCall said my article was “filled with false claims and mis-statements out of c…

Announcement: Atheistwatch Begins Major Focus on Bogus Atheist Social Sciences

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[This will be a multiple part theme, and the Zuckerman connection I'll divide into at least two posts. Part 1 is already up on Atheistwatch.]


Phil Zuckerman

Over the last few years many amateur sociologists from the atheist camp have tried to produce would-be social science studies to demonstrate their ideological contention that atheism is the product of rational thought and religion is the product of superstition and stupidity.

One of the major contributors is a sociologist named Zuckerman. The "study" he contributes is badly done and makes a lot of bad assumptions. His study is not well thought of in the academy, but atheists on the net cling to it as though it proves all.

I've seen over half a dozen attempts to do sociological studies that supposedly prove that religion is bad for society. The two major one's are the so-called studies by Zuckerman and Paul. These two studies are linked as Zuckerman acknowledges Paul's "study" as foundational for his…

A Distinguished Birth: The Virgin Birth and Solutions to Its Problems (Part 2)

This is Part 2 of my A Distinguished Birth series. Part 1 is here. As stated therein, the series argues three basic points: 1) there are substantial differences between the narratives of Jesus’ birth and those of pagan births involving pagan deities that include but go beyond the virgin conception, 2) the authors of the Gospels of Matthew and Luke were aware of the pagan birth stories involving deities and sought to distinguish Jesus’ birth from them, and 3) the efforts of Matthew and Luke to distinguish Jesus’ birth from rival pagan accounts help explain why some early Christians did not highlight the virgin birth of Jesus in their preaching and writing.

This part focuses on the ways in which the authors of Luke and Matthew wrote their respective accounts of the conception and birth of Jesus so as to distinguish them from the pagan birth accounts involving deities and avoid offense to Jewish readers and misunderstanding by Greek readers. It also discusses the implication of the a…

A Distinguished Birth: The Virgin Birth and the Problems It Caused (Part 1)

Now that Christmas is weeks past, I have a post on the birth of Jesus. It argues three basic points: 1) there are substantial differences between the narratives of Jesus’ birth and those of pagan births involving pagan deities that include but go beyond the virgin conception, 2) the authors of the Gospels of Matthew and Luke were aware of the pagan birth stories involving deities and sought to distinguish Jesus’ birth from them, and 3) the efforts of Matthew and Luke to distinguish Jesus’ birth from rival pagan accounts help explain why some early Christians did not highlight the virgin birth of Jesus in their preaching and writing.

The Absence of the Virgin Birth in Other Christian Writings

Half of the canonical gospels do not mention Jesus’ virgin birth. The Gospels of Matthew and Luke both narrate Jesus’ birth and the virgin conception, with some points of contact but divergent events and focus. As for the Gospel of John -- likely written decades after Matthew and Luke -- it i…

The Last Superstition: Atheism

I have never read a book quite like Edward Feser's The Last Superstition. It is presented as a response to the 'New Atheists' (Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens, et al) and one expects something along the lines of the recent manifestos by Keith Ward, John Haught, Alister McGrath, David Myers, Chris Hedges and others. But it is so much more than a retort to the new self-appointed high priests of unbelief. Because while the above writers more or less take for granted the modern framework of thought we inherited from the likes of Descartes, Hobbes, Hume, Locke and Kant and try to rebut the New Atheists on their own terms, Feser argues that modern thought itself is the disease of which their arguments are a symptom. His aim in The Last Superstition is nothing less than to rehabilitate the classical philosophical project that began with Plato and Aristotle and was refined and advanced by Augustine, Thomas Aquinas and the Scholastics.

According to Feser, abandoning Aristotelianism broadl…