Night Owl Mk. II

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Boldfaced statements are parts of the original essay (or a subsequent reply) to which the respondent has directed his comments.

Italicized/emphasized comments
prefaced by (R) are those of the respondent and are presented unedited.

My replies appear under the respondent's comments in blue text and are prefaced by my initials (MB).

This is the last of a three-part reply.

There is considerable evidence in the historical record to support such a statement.
(R) Such as? Perhaps the ancient Israelites borrowed some of their religious ideas from the Babylonians, but who did the Babylonians get their ideas from? And where did such ideas come from before that?
(MB) You're completely missing the essential point. The Bible claims that the Jews were the chosen people of Yahweh and follow his laws and dictates. It also describes other gods that were worshipped by other competing tribes and lists no other tribes for whom Yahweh was worshipped. This should indicate that Yahvistic religion should be unique among the other contemporary religions of the area, but such is not the case. For example, there are many parallels between Jewish law and the code of Hammurabi that only appear in Biblical books written *after* the return of the Jews from Exile in Babylon. Many of the teachings of Jesus echo the doctrines of Zoroaster, Krishna, and Buddha -- all of which preceded Jesus by hundreds of years and all of which are revered by entirely separate and unique religions. There can be no doubt that Judaism and Christianity are derivative, hybrid, or even "best of" religions.

(R) The ancestors of the American Indians crossed the Bearing Straits to the Western Hemisphere 30,000 years ago, and Thor Heyerdahl aside, had virtually no contact with the Old World after that. Yet every single tribe believed in God in some form. Why?
(MB) You conveniently ignore the fact that no geographically separated group or tribe has ever shared a common belief in a common deity of any kind. Belief in some form of God is a natural consequence of observed phenomena and questions about the meaning of life which are not understood but for which there must be some sort of explanation to make people feel better. The need for an explanation is a common theme. The eventual explanations themselves are widely varied and are a reflection of tribal customs mixed with unique societal imaginations and needs.

If Man created God, then God is, by definition, just as fictional as any other character which appears in any other story created by Man. Once again, you must admit that God and Harvey are equal.
(R) Only if I subscribe to the asinine idea that mankind's universal belief in God resulted from the fictional creations of any single individual do I have to admit such a thing.
(MB) And, that is exactly what you must believe unless you can show some evidence for the independent and factual existence of God. If you can't, then you can't escape the conclusion that any belief in God ("universal" or otherwise) is based on a fictional creation.

You can't just make statements such as the one you have suggested and have them provide any degree of proof for anything. That's why it is so important to have evidence to back up a claim.
(R) Which statement I've suggested? That a belief in God cannot be compared to a belief in a fictional creation? I have provided a strong degree of proof for this, a degree of proof replete with logical arguments and numerous examples. I agree, though, it is important to support claims with evidence….if there is any.
(MB) Which you have, needless to say, thoroughly failed to do. You have also failed to provide *any* degree of proof, logic or valid examples in support of your claims. Therefore, you have failed to show why a belief in God cannot be compared to a belief in a fictional creation because you have failed to show that God is anything *but* a fictional creation.

Mass hysteria is a real psychological phenomenon. Once again, ideas do not gain validity solely on the basis of the number of people that believe them.
(R) So you're saying 95 percent of the world's population is suffering from some sort of mass delusion? Yeah, right. You are correct that ideas don't gain validity from the numbers of people who support them, but you can't refute such widely held ideas simply by stating everybody but you is nuts.
(MB) I don't. I'm comparing the widely-held and unsupportable belief in God to such things as the once widely-held and unsupportable belief that a flat Earth remains stationary at the center of the universe while the Sun, planets and stars orbit around it. That belief was once held by everybody on the planet. If you had been alive back then, you would have undoubtedly argued that the belief must be true simply because everybody believes it -- just as you make a similar argument in support of the belief in God now. That "logic" is now, and always has been, fallacious.

Why? If God is real and is all-powerful, why couldn't he do that? The Bible relates several stories where God speaks to various different characters out loud in actual words. Therefore, if you believe in God, there is no reason to question or limit the methods that God might use.
(R) Almighty God could speak directly to someone if He chose. That's not what would makes me worry about someone who made such a claim. People who hear voices are often schizophrenic, so this would have to be considered. Additionally, the personal motives of the individual involved would have to be considered as well.
(MB) Why don't you have the same concerns about the characters portrayed in the Bible who claim to have heard God speak to them? Does having those accounts written in the Bible suddenly give them validity? If so, why? If not, which accounts would you consider to be dubious?

Give me an example of something that exists but has neither a physical manifestation nor derives from the actions or interactions of anything in physical reality. If you can't, then I am right.
(R) Physical laws, mathematical concepts, ideas, and individual consciousness, all of which exist independently of physical realty.
(MB) Physical laws are the measurements and quantifications and "rules" of the observed interactions of matter and energy. They don't "exist" independently. In other words, there are no physical laws floating around by themselves waiting to attach to a quantum of energy or a particle of matter. The same is true for mathematical concepts.
    Ideas and individual consciousness derive from the actions of Man's brain. Ideas don't float around independently and physically insinuate themselves into one's brain. Consciousness is just the name we give to the brain activity that allows us to exhibit "awareness". It doesn't float around independently, either. Nor, for that matter, does it survive the death of the person who possesses it.
    I guess you'll have to try a few other examples.

(R) And, while we're on this line of thought, give me an example of a life form which isn't carbon-based.
(MB) Life can also be based on silicon. Such life just doesn't exist here on Earth. Silicon is an element which forms compounds analogous to those formed by carbon and is also an essential element to carbon-based life.

(R) Or a universe which has different laws of physics from those of our own.
(MB) The mathematics of the Big Bang model, inflation, quantum mechanics, and the multiverse theory make it practically impossible that any other universe would have laws of physics which would be exactly the same as ours.

(R) How can you believe such things might exist if you can't provide any examples?
(MB) I just provided them here (again) and have been providing them every time you have asked. Next question.

The same would apply for the Christian version of ghosts, "souls".
(R) I don't believe the concept of souls is confined to Christianity. Anyway, the words "ghost" and "soul" are basically synonymous, though you're trying to use the former as some sort of insult.
(MB) Not at all. A "soul" is much more than a "ghost". While a ghost is a disembodied spirit of any living creature, a soul is considered by Christians to be the immortal essence that makes a human being "special". Non-human animals don't have souls.

Explain how ghosts (or God) could exist and have any effect upon the physical universe or anything within it and still have no physical manifestation themselves.
(R) I have no idea.
(MB) Yet, you still believe in them, right?

(R) Explain why an atom's electrons never exist except at specific energy levels which are integer multiples of Planck's constant – not even instantaneously to jump from level to level. It's almost as if the electron disappears, actually ceases to exist at one level, while simultaneously materializing at the exactly the same instant of time at the new level. Do they pass through a quantum tunnel, outside the dimensions of this universe? Who knows?
(MB) Quantum tunneling does not mean that the particle leaves the universe in any way. It is the term for what happens when the electron moves from one quantum energy state to another. For electrons, we interpret that movement as the electron changing shells. Since energy states are not continuous, the electron jumps or "tunnels" directly from one quantum state to another without passing through anything in between. Indeed, there is nothing "in between" for it to pass through!
    Now, you wanna try that bit about explaining the supposed existence of souls again?

All you're doing here is trying to redefine the meaning of the word "promote".
(R) Redefine "promote?" Well, gee, how did you mean it? I took it to mean to advocate, defend, support, advance, uphold, and champion my views, to express my opinions and give reasons for holding them….and perhaps, to offer them as rational alternatives to other, less tenable positions – such as, "the only intellectually valid position is that there is no God." Did you mean the word differently? If so, how? If not, what is it that I'm doing that you're not?
(MB) Now, you're changing your meanings again. Your original criticism of my essay inferred that I "promote" my beliefs in the same way that Christians evangelize or proselytize theirs. If you now want to mean it as given above (which is in accord with the refutation of mine that is quoted a couple of paragraphs from now), I will, of course, agree with you.

(R) In fact, you're doing much more than I to promote your opinions.
(MB) Oh, really? You've already admitted that you engage in "friendship evangelism" and that you are a proselytizer. That means that you impose your views on those who did not specifically come to you asking about them. I do not do that either on my web site or in my personal life.

(R) You're publishing them on a website. If mine get published there, that's your choice, not mine. I don't care one way or the other and never have.
(MB) The whole purpose of the forum I provide is to encourage others to discuss and debate issues. That is stated right up front before anybody would read any essay. I force nothing on anybody.

(R) Here's the dictionary definition of promote:
    "Promote: (lit., to move forward) 1. (a.) to advance in station, rank, or honor : RAISE (b.) to change (a pawn) into a piece in chess by advancing it to the eighth rank (c.) to advance (a student) from one grade to the next higher grade 2. (a.) to contribute to the growth and prosperity of (b.) to help bring (as an enterprise) into being : LAUNCH (c.) to present (merchandise) for buyer acceptance through advertising, publicity, and discounting 3. To get possession of by doubtful means or by ingenuity."
    Tell me, exactly what is it in this definition you think I do that you don't do as well? Please be specific and provide examples. Of course, if you can't or aren't willing to produce such examples, the inescapable conclusion is that we both promote our opinions.

(MB) The active evangelizing and proselytizing that you admit doing would fall under definition 2c and possibly under definition 3 depending on the tactics you employ. The passive publishing of an essay on a web site would fall under definition 2a where doing so is contributing to the growth and prosperity of my debate forum.

Did you read my essay because I told you to do so or because it was forced upon you in any way? Were you required to reply to it? Is it displayed in a public place where one couldn't help but see it whether or not they were actually looking for it? Were you tricked into reading it? Do I buy or sell advertising for it?
(R) Let me describe how I ran across your site and you can be the judge of whether I was looking for it.
    My primary interest is military history. In pursuing this interest, I play "wargames" – historical simulations of military battles and campaigns. One of my favorite wargame-related websites is Webgrognards, at (Great site, check it out.) Normally, I visit them every two-three weeks and see what's new.

(MB) I agree completely! That's another of my major interests.

(R) One day, I think it was last November, they had a list of new gamers' pages, and so, while cruising the net for wargame-related material, I just happened to enter your site. (Call it bad luck.)
(MB) If it was such "bad luck", why keep coming back?

(R) Our gaming interests lie in different areas and I didn't really see anything to catch my eye, except that under "What's New!" you had just posted something called Reply to Religion (I can't remember which for sure....#3? #4?) and clicked on it. In it, you were ripping some guy up.
(MB) That would have been #3 since Reply #4 was your first contribution. Perhaps, you could cite an example or three of how I was "ripping up" the respondent in Reply #3?

(R) I didn't agree with what you were saying or how you were saying it, so I read your Essay on Religion to find out what it was about. I felt the essay was offensive, one-sided, and wrong, so I took advantage of your offer and dropped you a message about it. The rest, as they say, is history.
(MB) Indeed. I should thank you for helping my site to flourish.

(R) Now, in answer to your questions, no, your essay wasn't forced on me, but I certainly did stumble on it by accident.
(MB) Accident? You just said you saw something that caught your eye and decided to check it out. That hardly sounds like an "accident".

(R) I was not required to reply to, but an offer was made for me to express my opinion.
(MB) Not all offers require one to respond. Since I maintain a forum for debate, doesn't it make sense that I should invite others to express their opinions?

(R) Displayed in a public place? Tricked in to reading it? You tell me.
(MB) You just answered both questions. You would never have read anything had you not voluntarily chosen to do so. You didn't click on a link for "the world's best wargame" and find yourself involuntarily deposited in my Religion essay. You voluntarily chose to reply the first time and have voluntarily chosen to do so every subsequent time. If you feel that you're in too deep or no longer wish to continue, you can voluntarily quit hitting the Reply button any time you choose.

(R) And of course, no, you don't buy or sell advertising for it, but neither do I. Advertising isn't necessarily a part of promotion, though it can be.
(MB) You don't consider proselytizing to be a form of word-of-mouth advertising for your beliefs? And, before you automatically answer "No", I refer you back to a previous reply where you expressed a need to tell others about your beliefs "so they can gain the same benefits that I have". In other words, proselytizing involves more than just casual conversation or intellectual debate.

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