A continued correspondence

A few days ago, I posted a letter I sent to my Christian counterpart. Here is his reply, and my answer to him:

Dear goodatheist,

Thanks for replying.
I just read everything you said and I agree on some issues with you.
I also can understand why you became an atheist. If I was probably in your position I would become one too because of the bad experience and of the education the Greek Mythology class.
I also bet that after that you did many reasearch [sic] on the issue of faith and religion and that bullet proof you beleif[sic].

Many people believe in God by faith only and their hardcore evidence is the miracles and their spiritual testimony.
That’s fair enough for me, but I do believe that there is more evidence than just having faith and feeling somethings, in fact, we have to be careful and test our beleifs [sic] by also studying the facts and not just by feelings, I agree with you on that. For me it’s a balance. And the going only by feeling and emotion issue has created many different religions and beleif [sic] system, some of them factual and some of them erroneous.

Now. Here’s my claim.
I don’t believe in religion. I believe that religion is man made and can become a bondage just like any addiction.

But I also can’t come to the conclusion that God doesn’t exist, because as I already studied, it takes much more faith to believe in evolution and atheism than to believe in God.

I do believe in the Bible.
I’m a Chrisitan [sic], I don’t use is as a religon [sic] but as a lifestyle, and I do not take it by faith only.
I believe there has to be a balance of faith and reason and as I have discovered Christianity fits them both.
I like to study the facts answer logical questions and come to conclusions.

Now, when I ask a logical simple question to many atheist and I see that all of them instead of answering it they begin getting mad at me and even insulting me, that’s one of the proof that I have for not to believe in atheism because they just can’t answer my simple question. Or questions I should say. Now I hope you don’t take any offense in this, on the contrary I hope you understand me.

Now, if you want and are willing we can discuss this issue of faith and reason. Seeing and reading what you wrote and how you wrote your screenname I can see that you are a very nice person. That’s the reason I wish to take this discussion further.

Oh, here’s a book I recomend [sic] you to read.

The Case for Christ – by Lee Strobel

This guy was a profecional [sic] journalist and atheist who used to ask many of the questions many atheists ask today and how he found the answers by investigating the facts through reliable sources.

Now here was my reply:
Well, I’d like to first say that I appreciate your kind words, and your willingness to have an open debate with me. You may not, of course, like some of my answers to your queries, but I will try to answer and respond to them as best as I can.

Undoubtedly, you may have talked to a number of atheists that expressed frustration at your belief. They probably automatically assumed that you must not be educated, or perhaps are ignorant. I cannot make such a claim, as I’m sure there are people that are vastly more intelligent than I who are believers. It’s true there are many atheists that are ‘rebels without a religion’. Their decision not to believe is a response to the overwhelming frustration and abuse they may have suffered at the hands of a church.

With that said, you must understand that a large number of atheists are not rebels without a religion, but rather are people with open minds who have examined the evidence and have become convinced there is none regarding the issue of god. You mentioned that it takes ‘faith’ to believe in evolution. This may be for two reasons: #1. You may not have a good idea of what evolution is. Do you know what punctuated equilibrium is? Are you aware of how mitochondrial DNA works? Are you familiar with how inheritance works, and how speciation occurs? My guess is that you do not. It’s true that others who believe in evolution may do so out of blind belief. They may hold a reverence for people in lab coats and assume these people as their chaplains. But you must understand this very important point: That the evidence of evolution is there for you to discover. This process is not one where faith is needed at all. If you study how evolution works, your belief in its accuracy is no more a leap of faith than if you carefully examine a car and determine that it is in good shape. Its existence is manifest in that understanding.
#2. You believe life is too complex to have originated by chance. This is a fairly common fallacy, since people are generally confused about how evolution works. Natural selection is not the product of chance. Although there is an element of randomness involved, only those traits that allow the organism a slight advantage over its competitors are carried over. This is due to the unique way genes work.

There are many common examples where we can see evolution at work. Since the agrarian revolution roughly 10,000 years ago, human beings have been selectively breeding plants and animals to serve their purpose. Different strands of wheat, rice, and corn still exist in the wild, but the version we eat now was crafted out of millions of different generation. Each time a yield increased, human being made the selection and continued the lineage. The same is true for dogs. In roughly the same amount of time, particular traits, such as aggressiveness, speed, and size have all been bread for. This is how evolution works.

It has also occurred to me that you may believe in the Bible without actually having read it. If you believe in the Bible, you must take the position that it is the infallible word of God. But doing so puts you in a very precarious situation. Why? Because the Bible is filled, not only with countless contradictions, but also with many elements that we find morally repugnant today. In Deuteronomy, God commands that any person that tries to divert you from God, be it your sister, friend, or even parents, are to be stoned to death.

Now you can say the Bible is sometimes the word of God, and sometimes simply the human interpretation of his words. However, this creates a new dilemma: which parts are we to believe? It’s convenient and easy to simply ignore the elements of the Bible we feel no longer serves our lives, but which ones must you discard, and which ones should you keep? You could say the 10 commandments are a good start, but only 2 really deal with laws we find useful today (for murder and thievery). It is also, quite clearly written in the Bible that these things apply between Jews, and were not to be applied to other tribes. This is why Joshua was so easily incensed to commit genocide to the Canaanites and Hittites.

As for the existence of Jesus, the story of the messiah comes as a direct consequence of the death of King David. It was prophesied one of his descendants would come back and reinstate the kingdom of Zion. But even Mark and Mathew cannot agree on the actual lineage of Jesus. In any case, both believed that Joseph was of David’s lineage, but ‘immaculate’ conception places Jesus outside such a lineage anyhow. It now begs the question: why would Mark and Mathew need to create a lineage that had no merit?

The answer, and the very answer I have regarding the existence and history of Jesus, can be answered during the council of Nicea, in the 5th century. This is when the books that comprise the Bible were gathered, translated, and made into the contemporary Bible you know of today. However, these books were translated from ancient Greek, and in Greek, the word for young maiden translates to young VIRGIN. By doing so, the council of Nicea initiated a drastic change in the mythology of Jesus, and cemented the legend of his birth forever…

You may not in actual fact be aware of just how knowledgeable I am regarding both the Bible, and many other religions. It is this knowledge that has given me the clarity of mind to realize the need to believe is sometimes more powerful than the need to know the truth. I can fully appreciate that wanting to believe in God is a natural human need, but this need does not describe objective reality. The balance that you seek, between rationalism and faith, exists because issues of faith are never open to discussion. As such, no real balance exists. Instead, you live the majority of your life using reason (such as when you buy a used car, or when you solve a math problem). But when you are faced with an important decision where you do not know what to do, you would rely on faith to tell you the answer. I would much rather admit I don’t know the answer to a question than automatically assume that I knew the answers to the most pertinent questions in the universe.

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Comments (20)

  • avatar

    Ben

    Hey guys, interesting podcast. Thought you might find this interesting (quoting from another website):

    The Book of Daniel was written 500 years before the birth of Jesus. In Chapter 9, Daniel predicts the very day that the Messiah would enter Jerusalem and present himself as king for the first time. The prophecy states that 69 weeks of years (69 x 7 = 483 years) would pass from the decree to rebuild Jerusalem until the coming of the Messiah. Since Daniel was written in Babylon during the Jewish captivity after the fall of Jerusalem, this prophecy was based on the Babylonian 360-day calendar. Thus, 483 years x 360 days = 173,880 days.

    According to records found in the Shushan (Susa) Palace, and confirmed in Nehemiah 2:1, the decree to rebuild Jerusalem was issued by the Persian king, Artaxerxes Longimanus, on March 5, 444 BC. Remarkably, 173,880 days later (adjusting for leap years), on March 30, 33 AD, Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey (fulfilling the prophecy in Zechariah 9:9).4 Five days later, Jesus was crucified on a Roman cross just outside Jerusalem. (Actually, the form of his execution and even his last words were foretold hundreds of years earlier in Psalm 22.) Three days later, the New Testament accounts declare that Jesus rose from the dead on Easter Sunday, fulfilling numerous other prophecies of the long-awaited Messiah.

    Whatcha think of that?

  • avatar

    Jacob Fortin

    No doubt you are aware that the the New Testament, as it stands, was written by individuals that had never actually met Jesus. Saul of Tarsus (St. Paul) lived decades after his supposed death, and he never mentions the time of Birth. All other new testament books, written far after as well, all rely on St. Paul’s allegorical stories to base themselves on. And each book is a plagiarisms of the next. In any case, it’s so easy to write a prophesy to fit whatever facts you want, especially if there is ZERO historical evidence to suggest otherwise. The fact is, evidence of Jesus’ existence is pretty weak; the only non biblical sources are heavily disputed. You would think such an important Historical figure would be more easy to track down. The lack of definitive proof outside the bible shows us that the New Testament is nothing more than mythological storytelling. There is nothing new or original in the Messiah myth. Many cultures, including Greek, Egyptian, and Babylonian, have similar stories and make similar claims in their own mythologies.

  • avatar

    Jacob Fortin

    It’s written, quite clearly in Corinthians, that Paul never actually meets Jesus, but has an apparition from “The Holy Spirit”.

    And in any case, why is it a surprise that someone would eventually fulfill a prophesy, even one written hundreds of years before, especially when the very early church fathers wrote about Jesus having already been aware of such a prophesy? Would it service them to lie? Of course it would. Prophesies are nothing more than vague utterances of people desperate to believe in something. If you really want to know just how scant the evidence for the historical Jesus is, watch “The God who wasn’t there”.

    We appreciate the positive response to the podcast. Stay tuned, we’ll deal specifically with the story of Jesus real soon!

  • avatar

    Ben

    more fun :)

    “It’s written, quite clearly in Corinthians, that Paul never actually meets Jesus, but has an apparition from “The Holy Spirit”.”

    1 Corinthians and Acts describe the same thing…

    From Acts 9

    As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him.4He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”

    5“Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.
    “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied.6“Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”

    yeah, i agree, i’m not surprised that someone would fulfill “a” prophesy, it would be bound to happen sometime, right? but what about over 200 prophecies? all in 3 years!

    so, you believe they lied… who’s to say? why can’t we say “alexander the great didn’t cross the alps with elephants” or “julius caesar didn’t get assassinated”.. ie, “all historians are lying!”

    why do i believe it’s true? b/c it speaks to my own heart! i see the sin in there and i know i cannot stand before a God who is holy… and when i learn that God has made a way for me to be counted righteous, not through earning it, which i know i could never do, but by merely trusting in him as my savior, then i know i have found the right path… it just makes the most sense to me!

    cant wait for your next podcast and your next comment!

  • avatar

    Ben

    Hmmm… ok, start at the beginning of that i guess

    “No doubt you are aware that the the New Testament, as it stands, was written by individuals that had never actually met Jesus.”

    The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John were all written by the appropriate Apostle, and all met Jesus. the book of Acts was written by Luke, and describes Paul’s meeting of Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9). Paul then went on to write most of what we call the New Testament, with John and Peter writing a few books in there as well. The only book that could have maybe been written by someone who wasn’t an apostle was Hebrews, which doesn’t give an author. most historians will agree that hebrews was written around the same time as the other books of the new testament, and that the original church fathers were aware of it, thus it’s inclusion in the Bible.

    “In any case, it’s so easy to write a prophesy to fit whatever facts you want, especially if there is ZERO historical evidence to suggest otherwise.”

    yeah, i’d agree to that. only daniel was written somewhere around 600 B.C. So, being as the prophecy was fulfilled exactly when it was predicted to occur in 33AD, i’d have to say that’s pretty amazing.

    “the fact is, evidence of Jesus existence is pretty weak; the only non biblical sources are heavily disputed. You would think such an important Historical figure would be more easy to track down. The lack of definitive proof outside the bible shows us that the New Testament is nothing more than mythological storytelling.”

    this site explains this better than i could:
    http://www.christian-thinktank.com/jesusref.html

    “There is nothing new or original in the Messiah myth. Many cultures, including Greek, Egyptian, and Babylonian, have similar stories and make similar claims in their own mythologies.”

    except for the fact that Jesus fulfilled every Messianic prophecy in the old testament, written hundreds and hundreds of years before His time.

    hope i don’t come off angry, i actually like your podcast a lot! these are the kinds of questions we need to be asking ourselves! ie, “Does God exist? What proof is there? If He does, what is He like?” I believe these kinds of questions can be answered, not just by biblical teaching, but by observing the world around us.

  • avatar

    Sean

    Ben – Please repeat the passage – precisely – where it says “69 weeks of years”. I’ve just read Ch9 and I can’t find it.

  • avatar

    Ben

    Ah, sorry, it’s 70 weeks that are broken into a group of 7 weeks and then 62 weeks, then another week that represents the end times in Revelation.

    http://ebible.com/bible/NIV/Daniel+9%3A25

    “Seventy sevens[1] are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish[2] transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy.[3]
    Know and understand this: From the issuing of the decree[4] to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One,[5] the ruler, comes, there will be seven sevens,and sixty-two sevens. It will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble.
    26After the sixty-two sevens,the Anointed One will be cut off and will have nothing.[6] The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end will come like a flood: War will continue until the end, and desolations have been decreed.27He will confirm a covenant with many for one seven. [7] In the middle of the seven [8] he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on a wing of the temple he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him.[9]

    Hope that helps, it’s difficult language, I’d love to answer any questions you might have.

    Ben

  • avatar

    Sean

    I’m sorry Ben but what you have typed makes absolutely no sense whatsoever!

    Looking at all the various versions the “sevens” is written as “weeks”. Why are you claiming it as years?

  • avatar

    Ben

    That’s one of the hard parts about understanding prophecy and some of the more difficult passages of the Bible: you have to know the original language.

    The word for week in Hebrew means seven (òáLÚ, shebha) and could be used for days or years. The same word is used to describe the “year of Jubilee” in Leviticus 25:8.

    btw, i don’t know the hebrew, i had to look it up :) good question!

  • avatar

    Sean

    How do you know in this instance it means years, weeks or days?

  • avatar

    Ben

    The way I understand it is that the other references in Daniel refer to years (ex: Daniel 9:2). Also, it fits into the timeline of when the temple was rebuilt and when Messiah was revealed.

    Here’s a good website about it as well:

    http://www.aboutbibleprophecy.com/weeks.htm

  • avatar

    Sean

    So because it fits a future timeline, it means years. Surely a case of ad hoc ergo propter hoc or subjective validation. (Look up logical falacies)

    By changing the word to mean what you want, it means what you want.

    Please say why particularly in this instance, weeks mean years? Otherwise it makes no sense. Would a Hebrew speaker agree to meet his friend next week and turn up in Aug the following year! It must makes contract repayments very confusing, “Interest of 10% per week”

    It is the tortured logic of changing facts to fit the required outcome. I want it to mean years, so I’ll change it.

  • avatar

    Ben

    what about the rest of what i said?

    The way I understand it is that the other references in Daniel refer to years (ex: Daniel 9:2).

    It’s not a matter of changing facts, it examining the facts to make a logical decision.

    1) Daniel 9:2 refers to years.
    2) The decree to rebuild the template was around 444 BC
    3) Messiah revealed in 33 AD (Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey, Zechariah 9:9), which is exactly when the prophecy of Daniel says He was going to.

    To me, that’s just looking at the facts and making a decision based on that.

  • avatar

    Sean

    Sorry Ben, you seem to be picking and choosing.

    The decree was “Around” BC, It says “The anointed one” rather than Jesus (I know you’ll say it means the same thing, but was he the only ever person anointed in history, and if so why anoint him? If had never been done, where did the idea come from?)

    Considering we do not know precisely when Jesus lived, i.e. born Dec 25th, year zero, you cannot say it was 33AD.

    It is hardly then “exactly” what Daniel is supposed to be saying.

    Prophesies are vague, easy to shoehorn into facts and subject to confirmation bias.

  • avatar

    Ben

    Sean,

    Did you check out the website I posted?

    The reason I say “around” 444 BC is b/c there’s some debates as to when the exact time was that the decree was given. I don’t pretend to have all the answers, obviously this happened 2400+ years ago, so yeah I would agree with you that there are some problems with confirming the exact date. I believe that it was 444 BC, but lets say, for the sake of arguement, that we can’t confirm it happened on the exact year. But, what would be the odds of even coming close? ie, predicting something that would happen almost 500 years in the future? a million to one? a billion to one?

    at the same time, what about the other profecies Jesus fulfilled, like the one in Zechariah i submitted, or the around 200+ Old Testament prophecies that Jesus fulfilled. What are the odds of that? I would submit to you that they’re so very, very small that the only way it could have happened was that it was God-ordained.

    “Considering we do not know precisely when Jesus lived, i.e. born Dec 25th, year zero, you cannot say it was 33AD.”

    Well, if you take his birth at 0AD, the Bible clearly says that He started His ministry when he was 30, taught for 3 years then was crucified. There are also extrabiblical accounts of this I can dig up for you; hard to do that at work :)

    If you’d like to see some of the other profecies and their fulfillment, check this site out:

    http://biblia.com/jesusbible/prophecies.htm

    Enjoying the discussion :)

  • avatar

    Sean

    You must be aware that Jesus could not have been born the year zero, Dec 25th?

    There are thousands of prophesies made throughout history by so called prophets. You say these prophesies are true, many others say they are not. The ones I’ve read are very subjective and need to be re-read in order to fit some facts. The one you have quoted above makes no sense.

    Want to try another?

  • avatar

    Ben

    Enlighten me :) Why could Jesus not have been born in year zero (i don’t think he was born dec 25th necessarily, that’s just when we celebrate His birth)?

    I agree, you do need to re-read in order to understand a lot of these prophecies, but it’s not in order to make them ‘fit’. they fit on their own. there’s a lot of factors to take in in trying to understand this type of writing (original language, context, etc). to me, the fact that they do fit only reinforces the fact that the Bible is inerrant (in it’s original writing).

    what have i quoted that doesn’t make sense? i’d be glad to clarify.

  • avatar

    Sean

    Even so open a source as Wikipedia explains these simple conflicts: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chronology_of_Jesus

    Vague prophecies can always be read after the fact. For Example, Nostradamus wrote: “The blood of the just will be demanded of London,
    Burnt by the fire in the year 66″

    The Great fire of London was almost 100 years later in 1666.

    So he predicted a fire in a year ending 66. Big deal! I suspect there is a major fire in some town or village with wooden housing every year. What’s this “blood of the just” business? London was the biggest city in the Western world at the time, and features in many of his quatrains.

    Mu point is that all predictions are vague, partly true and always need to be re-read after the fact. Readers also ignore the failed ones and concentrate on the correct ones.

    If I said to you that “Fear will come from above in the year of the rodent and widows will me made from the lions tears”.

    Now what can this mean?

    the first part, does it mean a plane crash? a dropped bomb or missile? a torrential rain or storm? a toppling building?

    What about the ref to a year? Is this the Chinese year of the rat? maybe one where there is a rodent infestation somewhere? how about a publicised experiment on a rodent?

    “Widows will be made” – easy, men die and most are married. In almost any major tragedy there will be at least two widows.

    “From lions tears” – does this mean someone nicknamed the lion is involved somehow? Perhaps it involves a real lion? Maybe a lion is metaphorical?

    I made up the prophesy here but surely you must realise that it is easy to squeeze in facts afterwards and say it came true? there are a hundred different scenarios, all likely.

    A storm or plane crash or falling building will happen next year or some other year, men will die and it may (or may not) happen somewhere or involve someone with a tenuous connection to a lion or other large feline.

    Next year it the year of the rat, there WILL likely be some plane crash in the world or severe storm and men will die leaving widows. I might get lucky in my prophesy and say it happened in The UK (British Lions), even if not, we can ignore that line or find some obscure reference to a lion somewhere

    So you see prophecies are no good unless they are specific: e.g. “a Boeing 737 with 220 passengers will crash as a result of terrorist actions on sept 20th 2008 in Birmingham, UK.” Now That is a prophecy! (and I hope it is wrong)

  • avatar

    Ben

    I wouldn’t trust my ‘facts’ if they came from wikipedia :)

    To me it’s pretty specific:

    Decree to rebuild: 444BC
    Messiah cut of: 33AD

    Exact amount of years as said in Daniel.

    Yeah, Nostradamus predicted vague, everyday occurances, but the death of Christ isn’t exactly everday :)

    If you want to quabble over the dates, that’s fine. What about these prophecies?

    – Ps.41:9 Even my close friend, whom I trusted, he who shared my bread, has lifted up his heel against me.
    – Mk.14:10 Then Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve, went to the chief priests to betray Jesus to them. (Mt.26:14-16; Mk.14:43-45)

    and…

    – Zec.11:12 I told them, “If you think it best, give me my pay; but if not, keep it.” So they paid me thirty pieces of silver. (Zec.11:13)
    – Mt.26:15 And asked, “What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?” So they counted out for him thirty silver coins. (Mt 27:3-10)

    and…

    – Zec.11:13 And the Lord said to me, “Throw it to the potter”- the handsome price at which they priced me! So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them into the house of the Lord to the potter.
    – Mt.27:6-7 The chief priests picked up the coins and said, “It is against the law to put this into the treasury, since it is blood money.” So they decided to use the money to buy the potter’s field as a burial place for foreigners. (Mt.27:3-5,8-10)

    and that’s only 3! there’s literally hundreds more prophecies that Jesus fulfilled.

    the same thing could happen with your supposed prophecy, ie Boeing 737 with 220 passengers will crash as a result of terrorist actions on sept 20th 2008 in Birmingham, UK. people would just pick apart if it really crashed in birmingham, or how many passengers were really on board, was it really terrorists, etc… there is a matter of belief/faith in such things

    i think the problem is that people don’t want to believe it, b/c then that means he really was the Messiah, and that has major implications for a person’s life.

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