CADRE Comments

A Rational Look at Christianity; Basing Reason in Truth

In a post I authored on Valentine's Day in 2009 entitled "Atheism by the Numbers: Going Nowhere Fast," I questioned the claim by atheists that their numbers were rising. I pointed out the following:

What do the polls tells us? Stark offers the numbers from leading polling organizations since 1944, for those who do not believe in God:

4% -- 1944 (Gallup)
6% -- 1947 (Gallup)
3% -- 1964 (American Piety)
3% -- 1994 (GSS)
4% -- 2005 (Baylor/Gallup)
4% -- 2007 (Baylor/Gallup)

The number of atheists in the United States appears to be unchanged for at least 63 years, despite advances in science and secularization. 
Since that time in 2012, the Pew Research Religion and Public Life Project published a poll that suggested that the numbers of atheists were actually rising. According to Ecumenical News,

In October 2012, the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life released a report finding that the number of religiously unaffiliated Americans under the age of 30 had increased five percentage points in five years.
Now, the graphs that accompany the report show that the number of people who claim to be atheists is still quite low. According to the Pew Forum, the total number of self-identified atheists in the United States has risen from 1.6% of the population in 2007 to a meager 2.4% of the United States population in 2012. Now, this would be a significant increase percentage-wise, but the total number of people still represents a very small percentage of the population. In fairness, I should add that the number of self-identified agnostics has also grown from 2.1% to 3.3% during that time, and those who apparently hold a faith of "nothing in particular" rose from 11.6% to 13.9% as well. Adding the number of atheists in 2007 (1.6%) to the number of agnostics (2.1%) and rounding up from there gets to the 4% from the Stark numbers. Thus, the number of people who "don't believe in God" using the number of atheists plus the number of agnostics has risen to 5.7% (which rounds up to 6% - making that number the highest since 1947). But the increase of those who aren't sure or who are indifferent to faith really is not the position that the atheist evangelists have been promoting. They want people to come to believe that belief in God is irrational, primitive and even silly.

The problem for the atheists is that despite a significant growth in the percentage of atheists according to the Pew Forum, the total number of atheists remains less than 3% of the population. But now there is even question as to whether all of those who claim to be atheists are, in fact, atheists. According to an article from The Humanist entitled "Do You Believe in Atheists Who Believe in God?", not all self-identified atheists are atheists in the ordinary understanding.

The definition of an atheist is someone who lacks a belief in any kind of deity. Alternately, an atheist could be defined as someone who asserts that no kind of deity exists. With either definition in mind, how did the Pew Religious Landscape Survey discover that one in five self-identified atheists believe in God?

In a November 4 article for Religion News Service (RNS), Tobin Grant attempts to reconcile these findings with what atheism means, acknowledging first that the term “atheism” may mean something different to individual people and that their personal definition may not fit the conventional understanding of the term. For instance, someone may take an active dislike to institutionalized religion but believe in some sort of higher power, and may adopt the label “atheist” as a kind of protest against the bureaucracy and dogma that she or he associates with traditional faiths. Grant also considers the possibility that some survey respondents may consider themselves atheists but use the term “God” to refer to abstract laws of nature or the principles of the universe. Additionally, the article recognizes that issues of personal belief or nonbelief are often complex and cannot be communicated through simple survey options. An atheist might acknowledge that there is a social construction of an all-powerful being referred to as “God” without believing that this being objectively exists outside of society’s conception of it. However, this intricate view is difficult to convey in a survey response.

Grant’s analysis demonstrates that if atheism is a lack of belief in a deity or an assertion that there is no deity, then the deity being denied requires a definition as well. For example, when the term “atheist” was first used by the ancient Romans, who were polytheists, it referred to people who believed in foreign gods. By this understanding of atheism, someone could easily be both an atheist and a theist simultaneously. However, this meaning is far from atheism as it is recognized now. To fully understand how someone today might be able to reconcile the identity of atheism with belief in a higher power, using the philosophical concepts of “narrow atheism” and “wide atheism” might be helpful.

Okay, so now we need to worry about "narrow atheism" and "wide atheism" so that all of these additional atheists can be brought under the penumbra of atheism? That's interesting.

Of course, one could take this as more evidence that atheism as a religion because, like Christianity, Judaism, Islam and other world religions, atheism seems to have branched into denominations.  If people can have these different views, it is hardly the case that science can be said to demand God does not exist since even certain denominations of atheism appear to reject that claim in the absolutist sense that the loudest proponents of atheism (not sure if that's narrow or wide atheism) would have us believe. Still, the point remains that it is hard to take seriously that the number of atheists is growing when atheists don't really mean that they are atheists when they self-identify as atheists.

If you find that last sentence to be confusing, remember that it is not nearly as confusing as the juggling that has to take place for people who believe in a higher power to call themselves atheists.

"I once asked the Lord why so many people are confused, and He said to me, 'Tell them to stop trying to figure everything out and they will stop being confused.' I have found it to be absolutely true, reasoning and confusion go together." ~ Joyce Meyer

Last Friday, I came across a YouTube video by someone calling himself the "Quiet Atheist" in which he criticized Joyce Meyer for her statement quoted above (hereinafter, the "Confusion Quote"). In his video entitled "Christian Joyce Meyer: "Reasoning And Confusion Go Together,'" this particular atheist opines that she is telling all Christians to be "dumb." Specifically, he says that Ms. Meyer is telling people:

According to her, we should all, as I said, remain dumb. We should stop asking questions. We should stop being curious about everything there is out there on this planet or in the universe. We are just going to be confused. ... Questioning isn't good. Being skeptical isn't good. Wanting answers isn't good.

Now, I know next to nothing about Joyce Meyer - who she is, what she preaches or what she believes. I located her website, but I don't have either the time or the energy to spend much time searching through pages and pages of material to even begin to understand her theology.  Still, other Internet searches allowed me to determine that the Confusion Quote apparently comes from her book, Battlefield of the Mind, however, I could not find the chapter online so I also admit to flying a little blind on what exactly she meant. However, for purposes of this post, I don't think I need to know much about Ms. Meyer to be able to note that the Quiet Atheist's criticism is ill-founded. I think that there is ample reason to believe that Ms. Meyer was not saying that God told her that there is no place for reason at all. Moreover, even if Ms. Meyer were saying that there is absolutely no place for reason as a Biblical truth, the Bible leaves no doubt that she is incorrect. But first, I need to express my concern over whether Ms. Meyer really heard from God.

The form of Ms. Meyer's statement makes it a prophesy. Note that she says that she asked God a very specific question, i.e., why are so many people confused? She then says that God "said" to her something which is the answer to that question. Now, I take the claim that God spoke very seriously. If Ms. Meyer is saying that God said something to her when God did not speak to her then she may have done something quite shameful -- she may have lied about what God has said. To me, this is a major problem in the Christian Church. Too often in the church, people use the phrase "God spoke to me" to express something about a feeling or a urging that they had. I understand that. I have had such feelings and urgings myself. For me and according to what I understand from speaking to others, God's speaking usually arises as a strong senses that God desires something to be done and is urging me (or the person receiving the urge) to do that thing. Sometimes it arises as a small thought that percolates up in the back of the mind and challenges me. Is this something from God or something from my own mind? That's always the question.

While both the urging or the small thought could be the result of the workings of my subconscious (as I am certain that that the non-theist would contend), 1 John 4:1 tells us that we should test the spirits "to see whether they are from God." Now, I use a two part test to determine if the urge or small voice are from God or from me. First, does the thought or feeling challenges me? I ask, if the thought is comfortable to me then why would God have bothered to send me the message? I'm already prepared and comfortable doing those things that I want to do, and if I am already doing God's work God would not send me an urge or thought to look at it a different way. Second, is the thought consistent with the Scripture? I can also have thoughts or urges that are clearly unbiblical. Those, by definition, cannot come from God. Thus, it is the thought or urge that both challenges and is consistent with the Scripture that I take to be truly the Word of God speaking to my subconscious.

Let me apply this thinking to the Confusion Quote. First, what she says meets the description of something that challenges me. I tend to not want to let things go. I want to understand everything. That's human nature. Heck, even the Quiet Atheist claims to want to know things (even if he has closed his mind to the entire supernatural world). And what this calls me to do, giving Ms. Meyer the benefit of the doubt, is to recognize that reason will not answer everything. That is challenging me, and therefore appears to meet the first part of my test.

But does it pass the second test, i.e., is it consistent with God's word? Well, that depends upon exactly what Ms. Meyer means. If Ms. Meyer means that we should never use reason (as the Quiet Atheist loudly complains), then it is without question unbiblical. The Bible makes it clear that we are to use our reason. God tells us that we are to love God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength - and loving God with your mind means using your reason. We are told in Proverbs 2:6 that the Lord gives wisdom, and out of his mouth come knowledge and understanding. We are called to renew our minds in Romans 12:2. In fact, Jerry Solomon makes the point quite clearly that the mind and reason are part and parcel of the Christian faith in his online article, The Christian Mind. There, he notes:

Reason is a term that is descriptive of the Christian mind. This does not mean that a Christian is to be a rationalist, but rather he is to use reason based on the reason of God found in Scripture. For example, on one of several occasions Pharisees and Sadducees came to Jesus to test Him by asking for a sign from heaven. Jesus responded by referring to their ability to discern signs of certain kinds of weather. Then He said, “Do you know how to discern the appearance of the sky, but cannot discern the signs of the times” (Matt. 16:3)? Obviously He was noting how people use reason to arrive at conclusions, but the Christian mind would conclude the things of God. The book of Acts indicates that the apostle Paul used reason consistently to persuade his hearers of the truth of his message. Acts 17:2-3 states that “according to Paul's custom, he went to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned [emphasis added] with them from the Scriptures, explaining and giving evidence that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead.” For two years in Ephesus Paul was “reasoning [emphasis added] daily in the school of Tyrannus” (Acts 19:9). In light of the fact that our contemporary world attempts to reject reason, such examples should spur us to hold out for the possibility of reasonable dialogue with those around us. After all, those who reject reason must use reason to reject reason.

So, if I believed that Ms. Meyer was saying that we should abandon reason, I would have to reject her statement as being entirely contrary to the Bible and therefore a false and condemnable prophesy. Fortunately, I don't have to believe that Ms. Meyer is arguing against the clear Christian principle that Christians should use their minds. In a short clip of a longer sermon by Ms. Meyer entitled "God is Not the Author of Confusion", she says, "I believe it's okay to ponder things. It's okay to think about things. I think it's even okay to ask God to show you things. But if it's not His time to do that and He's not doing that yet, then you have a choice of being miserable or trusting God." Clearly, what she is saying in this short video clip is that is that God has given us minds and we can use them. This quote alone completely destroys the ill-informed rant of the Quiet Atheist. However, what it appears Ms. Meyer is saying is that there are certain things that we cannot understand, and what God wants us to do in those situations is trust Him. This is entirely Biblical.

Now, let's be clear about what types of things God asks us to trust him. Is Ms. Meyer talking about science? Is she saying we should bury our heads in the sand about the way the world works and "be dumb" as the Quiet Atheist accuses? I don't see any reason (sorry, there's that word again) to believe this is the type of thing that Ms. Meyer is suggesting that we should not use our reason to understand. Is she saying that we should simply say, "Suffering exists and I don't know why, but I trust you God"? I don't think that she is saying that we cannot use our intellect to understand how the existence of evil can be consistent with a totally good and just God. Rather, what she seems to be referencing, quite clearly in fact, is when we cannot understand why suffering happens in a particular situation. Because God has not revealed it to us, we cannot understand through our reasoning why thousands of people are dying of Ebola in parts of Africa. Because God has not revealed it to us, we cannot understand why a newborn baby is born without a functioning brain. Because God has not revealed it to us, our reasoning will not lead us to understand why we lost a job that we needed, why our best friend had to die, or why a particular divorce had to happen. These are the types of things that we cannot understand because we do not have the omniscience that the divine perspective brings.

Does the fact that we cannot understand mean that we strop trying? Absolutely not. When my eldest sister died as a young adult, I spent many days wondering why God had chosen to take my sister from me, her husband and my family. To this day, I have not determined the reason and nothing in my reasoning will give me the reason. Atheist don't see the reason - they say that there is no reason. The only way I will ever understand why my sister died at such a young age is if I can see things from God's perspective or if God chooses to tell me. I don't have His perspective and I don't expect Him to give me an explanation. So, I have a choice: continue to fret and try to figure out why my sister had to die or trust in God that there was a reason - a reason that I cannot see and cannot fathom. In faith, I choose the latter.

I want to make it clear that I don't know if Ms. Meyer is a false prophet (as some websites assert). I don't know if she preaches the heretical Prosperity Gospel (as other websites assert). To a certain extent, Ms. Meyer doesn't matter, and no one should take away from this post that I am giving a general approval of the teachings of Ms. Meyer. I don't know enough about her to do so. However, because I think that there is some Christian truth in the Confusion Quote that the Quiet Atheist completely misses out of his ignorance, I felt it appropriate to point out that I do agree that there are things that we will never understand and that's okay.

I close with the words to a song that I heard for the first time today at the funeral of a dear friend, Dr. Joan Eyring, a Ph.D. in psychology. She was (and is) a brilliant, beautiful, loving Christian woman who spent all of the eight years I knew her in a broken body. There was not a time that she was not suffering from heart disease and breathing problems. She underwent multiple surgeries and it was never clear if her body was strong enough to withstand the procedures that the doctors recommended. Much of her beloved family died prior to her own death. Her life was one of continual physical and emotional suffering. Did she know why God had allowed her body to be broken? Did she know why she had to witness most of her children die before she did - one of the most difficult things for a parent to do? I don't. No one does. She certainly didn't. But despite it all and through it all, she trusted God. At her funeral, she asked that the song "Bow the Knee" be played. It is a fitting testament to how she accepted what she could not understand and a lesson in what I view as the true meaning of the Confusion Quote.

There are moments on our journey following the Lord
Where God illumines ev’ry step we take.
There are times when circumstances make perfect sense to us,
As we try to understand each move He makes.
When the path grows dim and our questions have no answers, turn to Him.

Bow the knee; Trust the heart of your Father when the answer goes beyond what you can see.
Bow the knee; Lift your eyes toward heaven and believe the One who holds eternity.
And when you don’t understand the purpose of His plan,
In the presence of the King, bow the knee.

There are days when clouds surround us, and the rain begins to fall,
The cold and lonely winds won’t cease to blow.
And there seems to be no reason for the suffering we feel;
We are tempted to believe God does not know.
When the storms arise, don’t forget we live by faith and not by sight.

Bow the knee; Trust the heart of your Father when the answer goes beyond what you can see.
Bow the knee; Lift your eyes toward heaven and believe the One who holds eternity.
And when you don’t understand the purpose of His plan,
In the presence of the King, bow the knee.
~ Lyrics by Chris Machen and Mike Harland

Today's USA Today ran an article entitled "Pope says evolution, Big Bang are real" in which he seemed to give a pretty strong statement of support to Theistic Evolution. The Pope reportedly said:

"When we read about Creation in Genesis, we run the risk of imagining God was a magician, with a magic wand able to do everything. But that is not so," Francis said.
"He created human beings and let them develop according to the internal laws that he gave to each one so they would reach their fulfillment."
I am certain that there are some who will witness this as a caving in of the Vatican to the arms of scientific naturalism. They will note that the Pope, the leader of the Roman Catholic Church, acknowledged that the Biblical account of creation found in Genesis 1 and 2 has been proven wrong by science.

Of course, that view is short cited. It assumes that there are only two ways of understanding the evidence for the universe. The first is a straight-forward reading of the Bible as the universe having been created in seven consecutive twenty-four hour days - a view commonly referenced as "Young Earth Creationism." The second is the view backed by those who believe that science is the only way to know anything and who believe that the universe was created by purely naturalistic processes in an completed unguided and random way - a view commonly referred to as Naturalism.

The problem, of course, it that this is the fallacy of a false choice. The Bible is not quite so black and white as those who set up this dilemma seem to suggest.  There are a myriad of ways to understand the Biblical accounts. One of the most popular is that of Old Earth Creationism which largely agrees that the universe is 13 1/2 billion year old and with many of the other scientific discoveries over the past 150 years. Another is Theistic Evolution which goes further than Old Earth Creationism and holds that God used his omnipotence and omniscience to set up the laws of the universe in such a way that it would ultimately result in the universe we see today - including man and all of the other animals and plants. This latter view seems to be very close to what the Pope is debating.

Regardless of what the Pope said, it certainly does not end the discussion or the debate for several reasons. First, as I understand Roman Catholic teaching, not every statement by the Pope is equal to the word of God. That only happens when he speaks ex cathedra about a subject. But even if he has spoken in that way about creation and evolution here, the Pope only speaks for the Roman Catholic Church - not for Christianity writ large.

Moreover, the Pope made it clear that God had to be part of the picture. The article notes that, "Francis said the beginning of the world was not "a work of chaos" but created from a principle of love. He said sometimes competing beliefs in creation and evolution could co-exist." It also noted that the Pope made a very strong commentary that showed he did not believe the Naturalist viewpoint. The article noted, "Pope Francis has waded into the controversial debate over the origins of human life, saying the big bang theory did not contradict the role of a divine creator, but even required it." Yes, the Pope appears to be siding with those of us who make the point that Naturalism does not and cannot explain the universe and all we see in it.

Now, I am not a fan of Theistic Evolution. It is way too similar to the idea of the god of Deism, and I think that the Bible makes it clear that God had an active hand in how the universe was created. I think that science also supports the idea that the universe had a designer behind it. Several good books have been written about this subject which make the case based upon such things as the existence of information in DNA, the Cambrian Explosion and the complete failure of science to come up with a viable theory of the origin of life itself. I don't think that God started the entire process and let it run out based upon his original plan, but at the same time it isn't beyond the possibility that he did. So, while I don't agree that Theistic Evolution is the best explanation, it is certainly a possible explanation and an explanation that works better than Naturalism.

Consequently, while Pope Francis seems to go out on a limb and push a much more worldly agenda than Pope Benedict XVI did, he has not abandoned the idea of a creator behind the universe. And there is no reason that any other Christian, including Roman Catholics, need to follow him even as far as he goes.

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 I'm going against advice and deal with arguments by carm atheists because I think it's important to remember that certain things have been answered. Dealing with an old article by Richard Carrier that was sighted recently on CARM. Even though it's old these guys are rallying around it like its new and the same bunck is being noised about by atheists all the time.

Carrier's article is here:

this is prompted by Fleetmouse's statement that:

"You have no answers to Carrier's essay. "

He seems the most worked up over the idea that since carrier proves the superstitious nature of the folks of Jesus day, like he never considered that. That's something I knew about as a kid. I used it in highschool to justify my own atheism (1973).  I can't imagine anyone being impressed by it. Be that as it may that's not an argument so examine it.

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My first reaction to reading  the beginning is it's an argument from analogy based upon ideological assumptions. the argument itself assumes what all atheists assume "anything that tells us a SN event can happen must be wrong a priori" they always jump the track form that (the SN itself must be wrong) to "the historicity must be wrong as well.That's really nothing but good old fashioned doubt. This is something in which I refuse to believe, therefore, it can't be true.

To reinforce it he uses argument from analogy. He shows the story about some saint in the 500s which is ridiculous. Then asserts that because that story is false then the NT stories are false. That is argument from analogy that is not proof. There's a huge difference in the level of evidential understanding, claim and documentation in first century and sixth. Sixth century story is European and not Mid eastern. They had an even more tenuous grasp of proof and testimony than did the Mediterranean folk who had the Greeks to teach them. From point on the answers to his essay are just the regular arguments one finds in any argument about the res. I'll have more on it latter.

Te then asserts Hume's foolishness that "why doesn't this happen today. it does. In fact he's begging the question. We have tons of miracle claims from the current era and some good science that shows they are unexplained. The only factor that is different is the prayer, so prayer is the logical candidate to explain it. In addition to the Lourdes stuff (above link) there is also the Casdroph evidence. While not as systematic or rigorous it does have the evaluation of a medical staff of a hospital in the 70s.

Carrier is using an example from the time of legends in the dark ages which is not backed by anything like the kind of testimonial support of the Gospels.In making that argument he's just begging the question and asserting the ideology of naturalism. He evoking doubt as a fact rather than proving facts. again, he is privileging doubt. Doubt privileged means doubt becomes proof. The dark age European stuff has nothing like the eight levels of verification that I've demonstrated back the Gospels.

Let's examine his specific arguments. Carrier states:

But we should try to be more specific in our reasons, and not rely solely on common sense impressions. And there are specific reasons to disbelieve the story of Genevieve, and they are the same reasons we have to doubt the Gospel accounts of the Resurrection of Jesus. For the parallel is clear: the Gospels were written no sooner to the death of their main character--and more likely many decades later--than was the case for the account of Genevieve; and like that account, the Gospels were also originally anonymous--the names now attached to them were added by speculation and oral tradition half a century after they were actually written. Both contain fabulous miracles supposedly witnessed by numerous people. Both belong to the same genre of literature: what we call a "hagiography," a sacred account of a holy person regarded as representing a moral and divine ideal. Such a genre had as its principal aim the glorification of the religion itself and of the example set by the perfect holy person represented as its central focus. Such literature was also a tool of propaganda, used to promote certain moral or religious views, and to oppose different points of view. The life of Genevieve, for example, was written to combat Arianism. The canonical Gospels, on the other hand, appear to combat various forms of proto-Gnosticism. So being skeptical of what they say is sensible from the start.[1]

That's exactly why we can't compare that story to the resurrection. Not only is it from a different time and different culture but it was written for different reasons. The Gospels were primarily written to answer concerns of given communities of the early chruch. Their concerns revolved around securing the testimony of their cloud of witnesses as they began dying off. They were making the transition from oral culture to written culture. They were deal with the original testimony of eye witnesses. The European guys were dealing with a palimpsest [2] of  legend that never had that kind of eye witness support. Thus they are not analogous and the argument from analogy fails.

Carrier asserts the typical atheist pechant for 19th century dating of the Gospels.

It is certainly reasonable to doubt the resurrection of Jesus in the flesh, an event placed some time between 26 and 36 A.D. For this we have only a few written sources near the event, all of it sacred writing, and entirely pro-Christian. Pliny the Younger was the first non-Christian to even mention the religion, in 110 A.D., but he doesn't mention the resurrection. No non-Christian mentions the resurrection until many decades later--Lucian, a critic of superstition, was the first, writing in the mid-2nd century, and likely getting his information from Christian sources. So the evidence is not what any historian would consider good.
Note he stresses that it's all "sacred" that means in atheist speak we can't trust it because anything religious people write must be a lie and propaganda. Of course any testimony in favor of the resurrection would be sacred so there can't be any such thing as pro res evidence that is not a lie and can be trusted. He implies that the resurrection was not part of the faith until early second century or there about. That's an old fashioned view that was disproved a long time ago. Now the consensus in the field is Koester's notion of the pre Mark Passion narrative with empty tomb emerging in  mid first century. "John Dominic Crosson has gone further [than Denker]...he argues that this activity results in the composition of a literary document at a very early date i.e. in the middle of the First century CE" [3]

 Now we find one of the more ridiculous tactics to which Carrier resorts. He pulls a bait and switch between historian's standard of evidence and the atheists own standard.

Nevertheless, Christian apologist Douglas Geivett has declared that the evidence for the physical resurrection of Jesus meets, and I quote, "the highest standards of historical inquiry" and "if one takes the historian's own criteria for assessing the historicity of ancient events, the resurrection passes muster as a historically well-attested event of the ancient world," as well-attested, he says, as Julius Caesar's crossing of the Rubicon in 49 B.C.[5] Well, it is common in Christian apologetics, throughout history, to make absurdly exaggerated claims, and this is no exception. Let's look at Caesar's crossing of the Rubicon for a minute:
He's going to through a list of things where the documentation for Caesar is supposedly so much better than the Gospels. First of all, this is a total the reality of the issues. In setting up the idea that Caesar is better documented the notion of an atheist victory is looming. The problem is we should really expect that because Cesar was the ruler of the known world at that time. Jesus was an itinerant prophet form the sticks who did not even interest the historians or men of letters. That we have any testimony of Jesus is a miracle. The idea that Caesar is better documented is not proof that Jesus is badly documented. Moreover, it may be overstated that Jesus' evidence is better (he did quote a perhaps rash comment to that effect) yet let's examine the aspects of the statement and see they are using two different sets of criteria.

First he argues that we have Caesar's writings, we have no writings of Jesus. He asserts that this equates to not knowing what Jesus said or believed. We actually more about Jesus beliefs than Caesar's becuase while Caesar express some ideas Jesus is quoted by his followers in a full body of teaching that covers many aspects. Since the Jews had an oral culture in which they memoirs the words of their teachers and spit them back ver batiam we probalby do have a good accurate understanding of Jesus' teachings, at least as they were applied by his first follows a few years after the communities were established. Oral tradition was not just wild random rummer but actuate reflection of the teacher through the student's memorization. It worked and there is a great deal of evidence to that effect.

Secondly he records the fact that at least one of Caesar's enemies documented his crossing the Rubicon, that is Cicero. While he argues that there are no such records of Jesus enemies or neural particles that is not the case. There's good documentation that Jesus was written about in the Talmudist writings, some of those date to first century.MICHAEL L. RODKINSON in his translation of the Babylonian Talmud says:

Thus the study of the Talmud flourished after the destruction of the Temple, although beset with great difficulties and desperate struggles. All his days, R. Johanan b. Zakkai was obliged to dispute with Sadducees and Bathueians and, no doubt, with the Messiahists also; for although these last were Pharisees, they differed in many points from the teaching of the Talmud after their master, Jesus, had broken with the Pharisees...[4]

 Moreover the fact that Talmudic sources talked about Jesus is born out by Celsus. The points that he says the Jews gave him are things the Talmud says about the alleged "Jesus figure." See my pages on Jesus in the Talmud for good documentation.

 He also includes inscriptions on coins. That's not a good source and it doesn't prove much. We had a dime with Mercury on it. That doesn't mean Mercury was a real guy. Coins documented legends and mythology.

He tires to use mulitiple sources to establish Caesar's crossing the Rubicon:
    Fourth, we have the story of the "Rubicon Crossing" in almost every historian of the period, including the most prominent scholars of the age: Suetonius, Appian,Cassius Dio,  Plutarch. Moreover, these scholars have a measure of proven reliability, since a great many of their reports on other matters have been confirmed in material evidence and in other sources. In addition, they often quote and name many different sources, showing a wide reading of the witnesses and documents, and they show a desire to critically examine claims for which there is any dispute. If that wasn't enough, all of them cite or quote sources written by witnesses, hostile and friendly, of the Rubicon crossing and its repercussions.

 Just having good sources, or even better vetting than the Gospels, is not proof that the Gosples have no historical basis. It may or may not be true that the statement by Douglas Geivett  might be a bit of an exaggeration in being as well attested as the crossing of the Rubicon. Nevertheless that is not proof that the Gospels don't hold up. I also say we can give Carrier a good run for his money. He only names three sources that back the crossing, they are not eye witnesses. We have four sources that are eye witnesses. Although in reality it's all coming form the pre Mark Passion narrative. Yet the veracity of it is attested to by it's use in other sources. So in using in four Gospels the communities produces those Gospels are saying "this source is correct." That's not counting non canonical gospels that agree with it. one I now of is GPete (Gospel of Peter). That's at least five attestations. Moreover, the sources Carrier sites for backing the crossing were not eye witnesses and were not contemporary, probably got their information from Caesar's writings.[5] That is not even verification.

At this point Carrier makes several absurd statements: "Compare this with the resurrection: we have not even a single established historian mentioning the event until the 3rd and 4th centuries, and then only by Christian historians." That's not true first of all. We have the attestation of Papias, his writings dated bewteen 95 and 120 AD. That he sure was before the third century. Clement of Rome is said to have been writing around 94 AD. Polycarp's death is attributed to 155 AD..The point is all of these guys attest to the resurrection and all of them claim to have had ties with actual disciples and Apostles who Knew Jesus. One might argue that they are not established historians but the historians of that era were not academically trained social scientists they were just any educated person who wrote about what hapepned in the past these guys have a link to the eye witness testimony that has to outweigh the onus of being "chruch historians." The historians writing about Caesar probalby got their information form Caesar. Carrier goes on, "And of those few others who do mention it within a century of the event, none of them show any wide reading, never cite any other sources, show no sign of a skilled or critical examination..."That's just not true. All of the afore mentioned chruch father attribute their knowledge to eye witnesses, within whom they had personal contact. None of the historians Carrier sites can do that for the crossing. He says they dont' show wide reading or skill as historians. That is nonsense. Clement of Rome (who seems to have known both Peter and Paul) seems to be widely read. His letter is elpqunt and shows a vast learning as a complex concept of the Gospel is presented. Carrier might refuse to accept because the content is Christians but no oen can deny the complexity. Moreover that's just not necessary to the honesty and knowledge level of the witnesses. So what if they are not great writers compared to Plutarch, that doesn't negate the first hand nature of their evidence.

Here he makes an argument that is quite fallacious. It's so telling that all the CARM atheist acted like it's a big proof:
    Fifth, the history of Rome could not have proceeded as it did had Caesar not physically moved an army into Italy. Even if Caesar could have somehow cultivated the mere belief that he had done this, he could not have captured Rome or conscripted Italian men against Pompey's forces in Greece. On the other hand, all that is needed to explain the rise of Christianity is a belief--a belief that the resurrection happened. There is nothing that an actual resurrection would have caused that could not have been caused by a mere belief in that resurrection. Thus, an actual resurrection is not necessary to explain all subsequent history, unlike Caesar's crossing of the Rubicon.

That's just shifting arguments. In effect he's saying if this event had no happened historian would be different so therefore we know it happen. That is a silly way for any historian to think.The fact is yes some group of solider moves across teh river to fight Pompey and that changed Roman history. That means they got men across the river. that in no way proves that Caesar led them or that any  other things Caesar says really happened the way he says it. That's like saying we know that JFK was shot by a lone gunman becuase had he not been shot he would have ran for re-election. History would be different, so therefore it was a lone gunman. The same fallacy works with the claim that it proves is that the assassination was a conspiracy. All it proves is that the President was assassinated.

Moreover, he asserts: "There is nothing that an actual resurrection would have caused that could not have been caused by a mere belief in that resurrection." That's really a red herring because there would be no belief without an empty tomb, and they could not have gotten the body past the guards had he not risen from the dead. To answer that this could be held by mere bleief and didn't require a real resurrection is nothing but begging the question. We can't assert that we know there was true resurrection just because bleief in resurrection might have flourished without an actual event. We don't really know that it did, and there is a possibility that the belief would not be possible with an actual event. That is rather a moot point and it is no way to do history!

The big historian's brilliant knowledge fails to impress. There is one other major issue that the CARM folks were so taken with. he argues that superstition was  so rampant in that day they would bleieve anything. That's supposed that prove it didn't happen.  Some of the CARM atheists seemed to think this is some big innovative to show the superstition level of the day. I knew about that as a child. I sued that argument in my pro atheism arguments when I was a junior in high school.

But reasons to be skeptical do not stop there. We must consider the setting--the place and time in which these stories spread. This was an age of fables and wonder. Magic and miracles and ghosts were everywhere, and almost never doubted. I'll give one example that illustrates this: we have several accounts of what the common people thought about lunar eclipses. They apparently had no doubt that this horrible event was the result of witches calling the moon down with diabolical spells. So when an eclipse occurred, everyone would frantically start banging pots and blowing brass horns furiously, to confuse the witches' spells. So tremendous was this din that many better-educated authors complain of how the racket filled entire cities and countrysides. This was a superstitious people.

the sources he footnotes are an article by himself and his Masters thesis. In those articles he quotes other source but does not document with standard method of FN. He never shows that the superstitions about eclipse were prevalent in Jerusalem in the Time of Jesus, nor does he show that people were so set on them that they could be convinced to see things that weren't there.

He talks at length about how people in that day were certain that an eclipse was a witch stealing the moon or a Dragon easting the sun. the idea that they would believe an eclipse was special dragon eating the sun or witch stealing the moon or something. That doesn't prove that they would believe in a resurrection just because they are told about it. Carrier would assert this but it's the opposite: the eclipse is a real event that is very dramatic. It's rarity and its' encompassing nature, it seem terrifying and mysterious. It's really happening, the sun really goes away for a bit. That doesn't prove they would believe something just becuase they are told about it. That proves the opposite really that there has to be a real event that's terrifying and out of the ordinary to trigger such belief. A real resurrection would fill the fill the bill,I don't know what else would.

Another problem is that he doesn't even bother to document the time or place of Jesus day. He's not quoting evdience about how Jews of Jesus time thought. He's asserting that all ancinet world people thought the same. that's an old atheist assumption that all ancient people are stupid.

Only a small class of elite well-educated men adopted more skeptical points of view, and because they belonged to the upper class, both them and their arrogant skepticism were scorned by the common people, rather than respected. Plutarch laments how doctors were willing to attend to the sick among the poor for little or no fee, but they were usually sent away, in preference for the local wizard.[10] By modern standards, almost no one had any sort of education at all, and there were no mass media disseminating scientific facts in any form. By the estimates of William Harris, author of Ancient Literacy [1989], only 20% of the population could read anything at all, fewer than 10% could read well, and far fewer still had any access to books. He found that in comparative terms, even a single page of blank papyrus cost the equivalent of thirty dollars--ink, and the labor to hand copy every word, cost many times more. We find that books could run to the tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars each. Consequently, only the rich had books, and only elite scholars had access to libraries, of which there were few. The result was that the masses had no understanding of science or critical thought. They were neither equipped nor skilled, nor even interested, in challenging an inspiring story, especially a story like that of the Gospels: utopian, wonderful, critical of upper class society--even more a story that, if believed, secured eternal life. Who wouldn't have bought a ticket to that lottery? Opposition arose mainly from prior commitments to other dogmas, not reason or evidence.

He's talking about Europe in the middle ages.He has some application to first century meridian. That's a long way from proving that a whole popular would up and believe in resurrection just become people started saying someone rose form the dead. Some of the advocates of resurrection were those educated men who were not carried by superstition. Paul and Luke fall into that category. Some of the Romans Paul was talking to in his letter to the Romans would fall into it. Priscilla,Paul's friend the wife of Aquila probalby, since her name is a Patrician name.

End notes

[1] Carrier FN at this point:

Besides my summary of Metzger on The New Testament Canon, cf. R. Burridge, What are the Gospels? A Comparison with Graeco-Roman Biography (1992); H. Koester, Ancient Christian Gospels: Their History and Development (1990); W. Lane's New London Commentary on the New Testament (1974); and also Bart Ehrman's The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture: The Effect of Early Christological Controversies on the Text of the New Testament (1993).

[2] palimpsest:
noun: palimpsest; plural noun: palimpsests
  1. a manuscript or piece of writing material on which the original writing has been effaced to make room for later writing but of which traces remain.
    • something reused or altered but still bearing visible traces of its earlier form.
      "Sutton Place is a palimpsest of the taste of successive owners"
[3] Helmutt Koester. Ancient Christian Gospels:Their History and Development.
Harrisburg, PA: Trinity Press International. 1990, 218.
[4] Babylonian Talmud, Book 10: History of the Talmud, tr. Vol 1 Chapter 2
by Michael L. Rodkinson, [1918], at accessed 9/6/14
 The Talmud was written in second century on, but the works it used were passed on orally and date much earlier. Rodkinson states:
 "The Talmud is a combination of Mishna and Gemara, the latter is a collection of Mishnayoth, Tosephtas, Mechilta, Siphra, Siphre and Boraithas, all of these, interpreted and discussed by the Amoraim, Saboraim, and also Gaonim at a later period. "The Mishna is the authorized codification of the oral or unwritten law, which on the basis of the written law contained in Pentateuch, developed during the second Temple, and down to the end of the second century of the common era." The author of which was R. Jehuda, the prince named "Rabbi" (flourishing toward the end of the second century), taking the unfinished work of R. Akiba and R. Meir as basis."
[5] Caesar crossed the Rubicon in 49 AD. Suetonius wasn't born until 70 AD! Appian was bron in 95 AD  Cassius Dio born in 155,
Plutarch born in 45 AD. so he could have been there if he had been taken along as a two year old historian.

On CARM HRG says: " It is mentioned in De bello civile, Cicero's Philipplicae and Velleius Paterculus. "

Interesting that Carrier didn't use those guys becuase he has a Ph.D. in world history, so he surely would have known they were contemporary with the event. He must know of them. But one might well wonder were they there or did they know if  from reading Caesar? Sure they knew the crossing was alleged to have existed, that doesn't mean they were there.

This week, the United States will celebrate our annual Independence Day (July 4th -- the day in 1776 we declared, a bit preemptorily, our independence from Great Britain).

Freedom and independence are words with great political and cultural meaning for us; and not only for us, but for the numerous nations who (more-or-less following our lead) also declared their independence from sovereign rulers whom they believed were oppressing them, both socially and not-infrequently religiously.

Sad to say, Christianity was just-as-not-infrequently the religious oppression the people were revolting against. To some extent this is even true of the United States: even though our own national revolution was grounded on a mixture of orthodox Christianity and nominal deism (such as Franklin’s and Jefferson’s), the history of our country’s settlement in the centuries before the revolution was typically based on fleeing religious (as well as financial) oppression in Europe. And it can hardly be argued that Buddhists or Hindus or Muslims, or witches, or atheists or agnostics for that matter, were the perceived (and even the actual) oppressors in Europe; not in this case. Nor was any large branch of Christianity exempt from the taint of oppressing other people at the time. (Resistance, by flight or arms, to Muslim religious oppression is an earlier story, of the Middle Ages.)

Consequently, I fully expect that our agnostic and atheistic and otherwise sceptical colleagues have a special fondness in their hearts for Independence Day; because those particular first American Christians-and-nominal-deists made a provision of the principle that a person should be free to responsibly follow his or her conscience and best judgments concerning such issues, which are the most important issues of all --  even if that means rejecting the religious beliefs of the founding fathers themselves! -- and even regardless of whether such a rejection involves substituting something better, including truer, as a set of metaphysical beliefs in their place. That evaluation was (in principle, and eventually in practice) left up to the person individually.

Nor am I writing today’s essay in order to altogether condemn such rejections. I have always consistently (even religiously!) insisted of ally and opponent alike, that insofar as the person is walking according to what light she can see and is looking for more light thereby, then I consider her my sister, whom I should support with my life (if it comes to that), even if she does not recognize me for her brother.

The people I have problems with are the ones who, on any side of any aisle, would mire us in fog. That attitude is worse than an attack against me, which I care little for; that is an attack on my sister-in-heart, condemning her to hopelessness. And I am not remotely tolerant of that.

Having said all this, however: as a metaphysician, I am aware that many people are not aware, that notions such as ‘freedom’ and ‘independence’ are rawly metaphysical claims about reality. They are also claims which, in regard to our relationship to the evident system of Nature in which we live, can only be affirmations, not only of supernaturalism (of one or another kind), but of supernaturalistic theism (of one or another kind).

Only a self-existent fact, dependent upon nothing else for its existence, can truly be independent. We ourselves, however, are clearly not Independent Facts of that 'ontological' sort: we obviously depend upon at least the system of Nature for our existence and abilities, to at least some large extent. What can be coherently meant, then, by freedom and independence?

The first answer must be, that since we are not 'ontological' Independent Facts, we are not and can never really be maximally independent.

That may sound unfairly restrictive. But once the logical implications are reckoned up, whatever worldview we accept, we aren’t going to be escaping from this fact, any more than we are going to be escaping from whatever Independent Fact ultimately grounds all existence. Proposing that Nature is merely illusion may seem an escape, but that proposal leads eventually but directly to the notion that all persons, except perhaps the thinker herself, are also equally illusionary: at best the thinker sacrifices the reality and thus also any amount of freedom of other people for the thinker's own freedom -- and the thinker might even take that so far as to claim the thinker herself only exists as an impersonal reality which ultimately does nothing including having no real beliefs! But at best along this route it still remains true that in no real sense (if this idea was actually true) can"we", plural persons, be maximally independent. Positive pantheism (where only one person is all that exists in reality) and negative pantheism (where not even one person exists in reality, and even the evident system of Nature is only an illusion in the non-existent minds of non-persons), logically cannot ever be a philosophy of liberty and justice for all.

Nor would this concept be improved by the notion that two or some other limited number of IFs exist, independently of each other, upon all of which Facts we are dependent. If we ourselves depend on only one of those IFs, then for all practical purposes we might as well be talking about a single IF anyway, and ontologically we still would not have maximum possible freedom. But even if two or more apparently-only-human thinkers were the two-or-more proposed IFs of existence, those persons would still exist within a common overarching shared reality which was not themselves: they would exist within the one and only single Independent Fact, and be dependent upon that for existence, after all. (I discuss this more directly myself as part of an ongoing series of metaphysical argument here.)

Very well; then what if Nature is the IF? We will recognize, realistically, that we humans will not be independent of Nature in any ontological fashion. (The alternative is an anti-realism where all evident systems of reality can only be utter illusion.) But, is there not some kind of meaningful freedom, a derivative independence so to speak, which we can still coherently propose of ourselves in relation to Nature?

Such a derivative freedom would depend, and must depend for its possibility, on the intrinsic characteristics of the IF.

So, to take a very pertinent example: we are fond of using the phrase ‘to make free’. But if by ‘make’ we think in terms of force instigating reaction, then clearly there can be no freedom at all, even derivatively, in such a reality. I somewhat doubt we could even have the illusion of freedom, for the recognition of an illusion as such depends on being able to distinguish between reality and only the appearance of a reality. Such an ability to distinguish, however, depends itself upon the very freedom to act, instead of merely to react, which is now being questioned; or else the consideration has been put back one stage for no gain.

This highlights a crucial tension which must be resolved in metaphysical accounts of freedom, when discussing derivative creatures such as ourselves: we, our selves, are dependent for our existence and capabilities, on something other than our selves; thus any freedom we have must itself, paradoxically, be dependent on something other than our selves. But how can this be a legitimate paradox, and not an outright contradiction to be rejected?

It should be clear in any case, that if the IF’s intrinsic existence only involves mere power-effect, then only mere power-effect is responsible for our existence and capabilities. We cannot be even derivatively free, if such a reality is true. It should be just as clear, that if the IF's intrinsic existence involves no behaviors at all, then neither can it behave to produce or generate derivative persons! -- if it does not create there can be no creatures, and if it does not behave there cannot be even one single person, therefore all persons (including the thinker) must not exist. This is hardly a conclusion any real person could validly arrive at, of course!

Moreover, it should be clear that if the IF is atheistic (aside from questions of naturalism vs. supernaturalism, whether only one level of reality ultimately exists or subordinate systems of realities substantially different from the ultimate IF), then there can be no doubt as to whether the IF’s intrinsic behaviors, upon which we depend, are at best anything other or more than mere power-effects. By excluding, per hypothesis, the notion that the IF itself has free will, we exclude the notion that the IF may in some way choose both to grant this gift to a derivative entity and also to somehow voluntarily reduce its own merely direct control over the behaviors of this entity. (The two grantings might be the same grace, looked at from different perspectives.) Nature is not going to make personal sacrifices for our sake, if Nature is not a personal entity. But neither is the problem removed by proposing an atheistic supernature with either an equally non-personal natural system derived from it (in which we live) or else a personally sentient and active natural system derived from it (for such a created pantheism only puts our problem back one stage for no gain.)

If I take my freedom seriously, then -- and I do, especially as a necessary presumption I find I must hold in order to be engaging in any argument -- then I should conclude from the presumption of my freedom, that the IF must be theistic.

But does this mend matters much? The previous deadly question can be asked just as pertinently: if God is ‘making’ me free, then is my ostensible freedom meaningful in any way?

If I answer, as before, that it depends on whether I consider the intrinsic self-existence of God, the final reality, to be about mere power-effect... well, we are talking about the ‘omnipotent’, aren’t we? And if we aren’t, then at most while we may be talking about some conscious intentional active entity, we aren’t really talking about the IF anymore, but about some subordinate entity instead. (Which, incidentally, is why I have insisted that one way or another Mormons are not talking about the final IF of reality; but the IF is what I am interested in, especially as a metaphysician.)

To sceptical criticisms such as these, I am entirely sympathetic, and even ready to agree -- despite being myself a theist! (I feature a whole entry agreeing with such criticisms from the particular standpoint of ethical grounding here.) If God, in His own self-existence, is only an active sentience causing power-effects in whatever creations He creates, then my apparent freedom is just as illusory as it must be under atheism. It isn’t even a real-though-derivative freedom. And I am only a puppet; at best a fictional character like the characters in one of my novels.

But then, so much for the relevance of any 'argument' 'I' may be making, including the ones I have been making up to this point! Such a proposal violates the Golden Presumption of rational thought: that I (and you, my reader, for sake of rational discussion) can act -- that even if derivative, we still are somehow free.

Yet, didn’t I say near the beginning that the claim of our freedom and independence -- a claim we celebrate in the United States every July 4th -- is itself a claim not only of supernaturalism but of supernaturalistic theism?!

If I am real and am more than only a knee-jerk automatic reaction in a system of non-rational reactions and counterreactions, then I must be supernatural in some constituent way to that system of non-rational reactions (even if I am also largely constituted by that system and its behaviors).

Furthermore, if I am real and more than these things, yet am not myself an Independent Fact (which is obvious), then God must also be real and must be the IF, with Nature (where I agree this exists) being a subordinately created system, along with myself.

The argument only breaks down where God’s existence is regarded as being most basically the forcing of effect.

Therefore, insofar as I recognize the presumption of true (if derivative) action ability to be required for making any argument per se (whether the argument is mine, or an ally's, or even an opponent's), I conclude that God’s existence must not be most basically the forcing of effect. But how can this be?

I find the solution through considering whether the IF is dependent upon itself for its own self-existence, or whether if instead the IF is not even dependent upon itself for its own self-existence. Each of these options resolves the problem of mere force-effect being intrinsic to God’s self-existence; but each option does so in very different ways.

The latter position, which goes by the technical name ‘privative aseity’, essentially denies that even God’s own action is intrinsic to God’s own self-existence. If this sounds rather more like a static atheism than theism -- I agree! Nevertheless, it is also, ironically, the position that has been usually taken by theistic philosophers, since the days of Aristotle. (Whether they were misunderstanding what he meant is beside the point; though the debate over whether Aristotle was or wasn't a theist after all might not be entirely beside the point!)

If the IF does not act at all for His (or its) own self-existence, then of course the IF’s existence must not be most basically the forcing of effect. But then again, other problems begin to emerge which, while not immediately inescapable, will eventually resolve into effectively proposing atheism. Since I already conclude on other grounds (ones logically more prior -- and ones that involve positively respecting the existence of even my opponents as responsible persons), that I should believe not-atheism to be true instead, then I am inclined to reject privative aseity and consider the other option of self-existence.

The other option, is that God’s own action is intrinsic to God’s own self-existence -- technically known as 'positive aseity'. (That the IF is going to be paradoxically self-existent in any case, is something we will be required to logically accept whatever else we believe to be true, once the implications have been followed out; so I am passing over this potential difficulty, not without some sympathy, but for sake of relative brevity.)

On the face of it, this proposal should look more immediately theistic: even if I decided (which I would, for a technical reason I will not go into here) that I should accept positive aseity to be true, and yet still tended (which I don't) to believe atheism, I think I would find it more and more difficult to maintain an atheistic belief, the longer I consistently held to positive aseity.

But what positive aseity involves, is nothing other or less than this: the one and only God Most High is (borrowing biological language for a semi-anology) both actively self-begetting and actively self-begotten. We are talking at least, then, about God the Father, and God the Son, as nevertheless being the singular Independent Fact.

Normally I would discuss the option of modalism here. Instead, I will abbreviate to the result I already know (from experience) I will reach if I do: the Persons must be distinctively real as persons, even though they constitute one substantially unique reality. They cannot be like two of the three or five ‘aspects of the Goddess’ in some popular mythologies; or rather, the Persons are aspects of the singular God but also more than only aspects. The persons are to be regarded as distinctively real Persons, in a personal relationship with one another, at and as the ground of all existence.

According to this concept, even though the Independent Fact does act (and so in that regard exercises power) in order to be eternally self-existent, this intrinsic action of the IF is itself an interpersonal relationship. The Father actively begets the Son, the Son actively concedes to the Father, so that the circuit of self-existence will be complete and completely active in one substantial unity.

If power-effectment then (to coin a term), is an interpersonal relationship at the most foundational level of reality, restricted only in the sense that self-existence chooses to not cease existing and cannot choose to simply exist and also not exist simultaneously (on pain of contradiction of ultimate reality, which is itself), then the first hurdle has been cleared: my existence as a person does not depend on mere reaction to stimuli, whether atheistically or by mere monotheism. Consequently, neither would any derivative freedom I am given by God -- to exist as a real boy, not as only a puppet.

I do not say that this is the end of the difficulties. I would (and do) need to work out other implications and corollaries from this, as a beginning of understanding the process of creation distinct from self-existence -- a creation which I find includes myself (as a not-God entity).

But I can say from here, that insofar as I presuppose my freedom in some meaningful fashion -- the same freedom any atheist, agnostic or other sceptic presupposes and indeed insists upon, in standing for what they believe to be factually correct -- then I find I am robustly asserting a reality’s truth that is not only supernaturalistic, and not only theistic, but at least bi-nitarian. (I haven’t discussed a Third Person yet, because as far as the argument has gone here I do not discover such a person. This does not mean I would never reach such a conclusion from inference, however; refer to my section of chapters on "Ethics and the Third Person", especially from this entry onward.)

Only in orthodox Christianity do I find these precise claims also being made by people who, in turn, are drawing inferences from data purportedly revealed in a historical story: which in fairness should dramatically increase my respect and regard for that general claim of special inspiration!

On the other hand, if (as some Christians prefer to do, though this is not my own preference) I began with the orthodox Christian metaphysical system as a presumption, then personal derivative freedom of the only sort that can be coherently available, even to a proponent of atheism, is provided for as a logical corollary of the worldview.

(Actually, such freedom is necessarily presupposed even to presuppose the worldview, which leads to what I regard as major problems of circularity; so I personally do not recommend proceeding by this route. But to the extent that some Christian philosophers insist on doing so, I affirm, somewhat tautologically, that such freedom is in fact specially included in the package!)

Which leads back to the grief of my initial remarks: Christians, who of all people ought to have known (and know) better, have still insisted on religious oppression throughout our history. Such oppression is not only immoral, it directly contravenes the very doctrines we profess to hold and cherish as truths. Sceptics are entirely correct to account us as hypocrites when we advocate, and have advocated, such things; and I cannot personally find it in my heart to blame them if they turn with loathing from the fruit we have spoiled (a fruit spoiled, I would say, by the persistent technical heresy of gnosticism, insisted upon by us as a safeguard we ourselves ought to have rejected), and reject our attempts at linking freedom -- including the freedom cherished and died for by our ancestors, in order to secure the blessings of liberty today in these United States and other nations -- with a system they find through simple (if occasionally oversimple) historical polling to have been, with some regularity and in some ways, an enemy and oppressor of freedom.

It is in honor of such sceptics that I am writing today’s entry. Yet it is also precisely in honor of such sceptics that I am, in fact, an orthodox Christian apologist. Against the abuses of our history, I urge now and always: please, do not give up hope.

'Christianity' is not the heart of freedom, whatever some uncautious apologists may have said to you. And you are correct to complain when Christians try to promote it as such (for this is the heresy of gnosticism, among other things.)

But God, the Father and the Son (and the Holy Spirit, too) is Himself the very heart of freedom. And He gives His very life for your freedom, too: cherishing you, yourself, whoever you are -- forever.

God’s hope, then, to all our readers, around the world, on this day, and every day.

Jason Pratt
July 4, 2014
(revised with some grammatic, punctuation and clarification updates, from 2008 edition)

 photo william-james-3-sized.jpg
William James (1842–1910)

Atheist pundit Austin  Cline can often be found pontificating about religion on He has an article around religious experience as a God argument, [1] his prejudicial dismissal of the argument is tailormade for my new book, The Trace of God: A Rational Warrant for Belief, by Joseph Hinman (paperback, soon to be e book available on Amazon) to answer. First I want to clear the way by a knit pick. the phrase "Do we experience God's existence?" is an awkward and odd phrase. It's redundant because the only way we could actually experience God as a reality is if God is real, what we call "existing," thus even though this is a misuse of the term on his part according to Paul Tillich's theology [2] to experience God is to say that God is real and thus the idea that we are experiencing God's existence is just redundant. If we experience God as a reality then God must be real or we are not truly experiencing God's reality. We don't say that we experience the existence of things apart form experiencing those things. I've experienced losing my parents, I don't say 'I have experienced the existence of my parent's deaths.'

Be that as it may Cline opens his argument:

According to the Argument from Religious Experience, people have “religious experiences” — experiences of the supernatural, like heaven or angels or even a god. Because we believe other experiential claims people make — like that they went to the store or own a car — then we should believe these claims as well. It is also argued that when skeptics apply higher standards for claims based on religious experiences than they do for claims based on other experiences, they exhibiting a prejudice against religious claims. This prevents them from understanding and ultimately believing. 
 Here we see a totally inadequate understanding of religious experience. There is no sense here that religious experience is mystical experience or "peak" experience or that it is even a form of consciousnesses. He tries to justify the kind of dismissal tactics atheists use to reduce and mislabel religious experience. He's already demonstrated that he's mislabeling it. The understanding of super nature such that religious experience is "experience of the supernatural" is merely the modern enlightenment misunderstanding of the concept. Super nature is the power of God to raise human nature to a higher level (of consciousness) thus "the supernatural" is mystical experience. See my article "the Empirical Supernatural."[3]

 Cline bases his argument on the work of William James:

William James offers a classic version of this argument in his influential Varieties of Religious Experience. He argues that all normal persons have religious experience and, since experience is the final arbiter of truth, then God — as the object of religious experiences — must be accepted as factually true. James further observes that the religious experiences in question tend to have a profound effect on the lives of people and even whole societies, implying that such effects cannot reasonably be attributed to hallucinations. Instead, it is much more reasonable to believe that a real God is responsible for religious experiences than to attribute the profound effects of those experiences to a mere imaginary being. 
 As profoundly important as James still is in the study of religious experience, and this argument is good in so far as it goes, there are better and more updated versions of the argument. Notice he doesn't  take on William Alston, who is one of the major philosophers of religion of the late twentieth century. Nor does he deal with any of the modern empirical scientific data in favor of religious experience.[4] Cline decides to pick on James as the best example of the argument.

The first problem is in James’ assertion that “all normal people” have “religious experiences.” It is uncertain what exactly he means by this, but it is a much easier assertion to make than to support. If he means experiences of the supernatural — gods, angels, etc. — then he is wrong. If he means something much more vague, like that everyone has experienced awe when contemplating the universe, then he might be right but he isn’t supporting his claim.[5]

 I doubt that James said "normal people" I can't find where he did say it. I notice that Cline doesn't document  it. That could be crucial weather or not he ascribes it to normality. What he actually says is referenced by Wuthnow in his study (this can be seen in my book) where he says there is a continuum in experience that all people (I don't think he says "normal")

As far as the argument itself goes it is perfectly logical. We don't experience things that are not real. We could actually mistake experiences of one thing for another, so that must be answered. We might also have a false experience, that is hallucination or some other trick of the mind. These things are easily disproved in the case of mystical experience. The argument I sustain throughout the Trace of God is designed to answer this argument. The first answer I would give is:

 (1)  that I go to great lengths in my book to show that we habitually use a certain criteria for judging the reality of experience. The studies on religious experience, with the aid of Hood's M scale show us that religious experience of the mystical kind meets this criteria. Thus we must on principle accept it as real and trust it, or doubt our own existences.[6] This arguemnt is made in a simpler way on my lis of God arguments, no. 8 "The Thomas Reid argument," or "Argument from epistemic judgement."[7] The criteria is that we judge experiences real if hey are regular, consistent, shared (inter-subjective) and enable navigation in the world. If other forms of coutner causation are eliminated so that we can be fairly certain that we not expericing falsely logic forces us to conclude that we are experiencing rightly and there is something there to be experinced.

(2) the effects of the experience of are real. I go to great lengths to show (see all of chapter 2) that the outcome of having such experiences is life life transformation, that is a bold dramatic positive long term life changing result. I further argue that long term positive changes consistently are indicative of reality. Pathological states, mental illness and delusion are degenerative, they bring us down and destroy us over time. Nothing false builds us up and is vital too our well being over a long term period. These experiences are transforming over the long term.

(3) At the end of Chapter 7 I present eight tie breakers. The "tie" is conceived of as between brain chemicals as the most likely explanation for the origin of the experience, vs. brain chemistry as merely God's tool for enabling us to experience his presence. That's a stand off it could be either option. The tie breakers tell us it makes much more sense to accept the latter as the most likely possibility.

(4) I also rule out placebo effects in chapter 7. placebo requires that one expect the desired result, but in that chapter I show several ways in which religious experience does not conform to expected norms but often surprises such that it is often unsought, unexpected, a conversion experience, or also it can contradicts cherished doctrines.[8] For some of the studies as much as half the sample received their experiences in childhood. I show that children are not hung up on doctrines so they are not expecting experiences to conform to doctrines. Yet they have these uniform experiences that indicates the experiences are really of  an objective reality.[9]

Cline sticks with his sustained attack against James.In any case his arguments are easy to answer if one knows Jame's  works. My understanding of James is only passing fair. In my book I bring together a much larger body of empirical work which has been done over the last 50 years, armed with this knoweldge it is easy to pick off Cline's bromides. Cline refuses to think past cultural influence  and makes the argument that difference in religious traditions disprove the idea of one reality behind them all. Here's he's trying to play the old atheist divide and conquer game:

The second problem is in the variety of religious experiences: if there is just one God, why is there such wide variety in the reports of religious experiences? Indeed, they are mutually incompatible. They can’t all be true, so at least some must be false. How do we differentiate? What reasons can the religious believer give to accept her reports over the reports made by others? 
 I would argue that the studies on Hood's mysticism scale ("M scale") prove that mystical experience around the world is universally experienced in the same way. They are not conditioned by doctrines, even though they are explained by doctrines and culture that makes them seem different. When the explanation is ignored and the experiences themselves are compared they are the same. That means they have a good reason to assume they are expericing something real, something objectively there (since it's not just a matter of culture of psychology). A more detailed version documented by Hood's M scale studies can be found on The Religious  a priori.[10]

 Cline asserts that there is no criteria that enables us to determine false from true experiences. While I agree that there is no criteria that proves the difference, I have already demonstrated that he's wrong in his assertion:

There are no independent criteria we can use to separate the genuine experiences from false or flawed experiences — not only in the reports of others, but in ourselves. The only criteria which might exist rely upon the validity of some religious system. For example, some argue that a religious experience which does not agree with the Bible is flawed or false — but since this ultimately assumes the truth of what is supposed to be proven, such criteria are unacceptable. 
There is a criteria that we habitually use to assert the reality of experience, we go by that criteria every time: regular, consistent, sheared, navigational. We don't think about it. We dont say to ourselves "I'm going to use that criteria" we just do it. If an experience is anomalous, it's not regular or consistent we assume it's bogus. If we experience things they same way all the time we assume it's normal and its alright. It's only the stuff that stands out as rare or one of a kind that bothers us. If we want confirmation of our view we seek it in others, "is it hot in here to you?" "Did you see that?" If it works we can live by it we assume it's true. Thus we don't stand on the freeway deliberating about Cartesian doubt we get out of the way of oncoming traffic. The studies on religious experience that are discussed in the Trace of God demonstrate that religious experiences fit that criteria thus we should trust them as indicative of reality.[11]

 From there Cline tries to disparage the link between the effects of the experience and an assumption of its truth aptness:

The third problem is in the idea that the profound effects these experiences have is any indicator of the truth. We can grant that people have some sort of experience and we can certainly grant that the experiences have a profound effect; but does this mean we must accept the reported content of these experiences — that they were of a supernatural nature? No. 
 Again he raises the false specter of the hijack version of the supernatural. Real supernatural--the original meaning of the term--referred to mystical experience not to some ookie spookie reality zone that houses all manor of stings that go "bump" in the night. Mystical experience is proved to be real. It is a real phenomena that people have such experiences and those experiences tend to have a certain effect upon the lives of those who have them. The atheists try to turn that phrase "SN" into some kind of badge of dishonor, the fantasy world one dare not believe in. In resorting to that ploy he is dogging the real issue that he himself raised, do these effects of having had such experiences indicate the truth of the object of experience? He says "no" based upon the proviso that it is indicative of the forbidden realm. But if we ask the question in terms of reality and the object of the experience we must say yes.

First of all atheists are inconsistent in that they will argue that the advantage of having an experience is not indicative of truth but then they turn around and affirm this very idea of scinece. Every time I ask atheists how do you know science is true? They always say "because it works, you are using a computer aren't you? Science produced that computer because it works." All hail science! In any case, so saying the affirm the principle that working is related to being true. This is one of my tie breakers in chapter 7. Then Cline dazzels us with more of his fallacious reasoning: "Real experiences that have a profound impact on a person can have completely natural sources without any divine connections."

That just illustrate the atheist misunderstanding of the true concept of SN and the way they use it as a ploy to ward off belief in God by lumping it into the forbidden zone of belief. They make still absurd dichotomy anything natural must lack God and could be the product of evolution. That is an assumption not in evidence. A Gambler getting 100 royal flushes in a row as random chance would be naturalistic but it would not be natural, it would be the greatest of flukes. God created the natural realm and he works in all the time. The assumption atheists make that if it's naturalistic then God can't be in it is absurd. That's why we need the tie breakers, because the naturalistic element of brain chemistry could go either way. It  could be indicative of a Godless origin or it could be God's tool in giving us a sense of his presence.

Yet Cline goes further he makes a foolish assertion that: "Mystical experiences can be reproduced in anyone, both with chemical substances and mechanical equipment. With this being the case, what reason is there to think that other reports actually stem from a supernatural, rather than a natural, cause?" Well if you really want to know:

(1) buy my book and read the end of chapter 7 for the eight tie brakers and you have eight different reasons to assume the answer to that.

(2) The assertion that religious experiences can be reproduced is not proved. There are tons of claims to that effect, but in the book I point out (ala Philosopher John Hick) that those researchers do not have a standard criteria for control in understanding what constitutes religious experience. They do not use the M scale or any other valid scale to determine this. [12] I analyze the Borg study which is hostile to religion and show that their standard is totally unsuited.[13] Because they do not use such criteria they cannot prove that ever produce religious experience. They merely take the presence of cultural icons of religion as indicative of religious experience but there's no sense of consciousness. As I have said dichotomizing bewteen natural and SN is not a valid means of determining God's handiwork since God can work int he natural as easily as he can in the SN. Rather it is God's power to life us up to a higher state of consciousness that is Super nature. The basic state of such consciousness is a matter of fact, regardless of proof about it's origin.

Cline goes on dictonomizing:

If at least some of the alleged religious experiences are wholly natural, how do we separate them from the “truly” supernatural ones? Even if an experience changes the course of a society, that does not testify that the experiences had supernatural origins. At most, it might point to the persuasiveness of the believers or the appeal of the claims. 
 As I said already we do that by buying my book and reading the end of chapter 7 where I list the tie breakers. Then at the end of the article he takes on Swinebrune's argument:
Some, like Richard Swineburne, argue that the degree to which it seems to a person that something has happened should translate into the probability that something has happened. It is true that when people say that it seems to them that a chair is in a room that, therefore, we tend to accept that a chair is in the room. It is not true, however, that every time someone genuinely and seriously believes something, we also accept that whatever they believe is probably true.
We only accept this when it comes to more mundane things which we all have experiences of. When someone says that it seems to them very strongly that an elf is in the room, we do not accept that there is probably an elf in the room, do we?
 I don't argue Swineburne's argument. I've only read it one time. So I wont try to defined it here except to say that the condition of the argument seems to be the extent to which is seem that the person has actually experinced something. We are talking about warrant. If there is a warrant to believe this then there is no logical reason to discount it on face value. That doesn't mean one can't come up with an argument, it does mean the burden of proof is on the sketpic to show that the warrant is invalid and that there is good reason to doubt. Playing dichotomy game and hinting that "O no this leads to the forbidden zone of he SN" is not going to cut it. That is an ideological assumptino that some aspect aspect of reality must be doubted because it is the aspect that it seems to be and and brings too close to God so we must doubt it.

At this point Cline leaves us with the most dubious argument of tall, that failure to obtain mystical experience is a reason to doubt it's validity.
 Even if we accept Swineburne’s argument, we must also accept that when people try to have an experience of a god and fail, that this is good reason to believe that a god probably does not exist. After all, it would be prejudiced to dismiss the experiences of nonbelievers but privilege the experiences of those who already believe.
This argument is open to immediate reversal becasue then one must accept results as indicative of truth. If this is the case then why don't successes reflect that reality of God? The fact that it works has to be understood as truth indicative. Moreover, if results are indicative the fact that the experience is transformative and that being such it fulfills the basic function religion promises to fill in the first place, offers a rational warrant for belief that it is true. I suspect that Cline based his argument upon the arrangements I make because his contains all the basic elements of mine but he didn't bother study how I defend them. Or that may be my own arrogance and conciet.

Either way the Trace of God, my book,  arms the chruch with a power body of scientific data that backs up this and all other experience based arguments. This work injects fiber into the content of experience arguments and no Christian ever need fear the atheists jibes about no facts, no God, atheism has scinece. Atheists have not touched these arguments in five years of battle on CARM. This book serves as a compindium that will enable anyone to defend experience arguments against all commers.

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[1] Austin Cline, "Argument from Religious Experience:Do We Experience God's Existence?" no date listed.  accessed 6/27/14

[2] Tillich famously argued that we can' use the term "existence" in relation to God becuase exist is what contingent things do. God is being itself and thus is above the level of mere "existing." see Shaking of the Foundations, by Paul Tillich.

[3] Metacrock, "The Empirical Supernatural," The Religious a priori, no date given. accessed 6/28/14.

[4] Willam Alston,Perceiving God: The Epistemology of Religious Experience, Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1993, no page indicated. see also The Trace of God, the entire book is about this huge body of data that has heretofore been neglected by both atheists and theists.

[5] Cline, ibid.

[6] Joseph Hinman, The Trace of God: Rational Warrant for Belief.  Colorado Springs: Grand Viaduct Publishing.2014, see the whole of chapter 2.

[7] Metacrock, "8, on list of God arguments: The Thomas Reid Argument,"  Doxa, website,  accessed 6/27/14. 

[8]  Hinman,The Trace of God... op cit., 286-296.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Metacrock, "The M Scale and The Universal Nature of Mystical Experience," The Religious a priori, website, accessed 6/26/14.

 [11] Hinman, The Trace of God, op.cit, 103-127

 [12] Hinman, Ibid.,262-3, 306.

 [13] Ibid., 309


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