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 nine-part reply.

(R) There is no reason to doubt the testimony of Paul and the disciples aside from not wanting to believe in a God.
(MB) There is no reason to believe that the testimony of Paul and the disciples is true unless you have a cherished, life-centered belief in the story that would devastate you if it was removed.

In addition, there are some problems with Paul's account.
(R) Really?
(MB) Absolutely!

None of the Gospels say that Peter was the first person to have seen the resurrected Jesus, that Jesus appeared to Peter before the other disciples or verify that 500 people had seen the resurrected Jesus at any time. Nor are these claims reported in any other source.
(R) So? What does this prove?
(MB) It proves that Paul's story stands alone and unverified and should be treated accordingly.

(R) Just because Paul gives more detail in his account doesn't mean it didn't happen.
(MB) Correct. Unfortunately, the more unverified or contradictory details that a story contains, the less likely it is to be true.

(R) With that kind of logic, I guess any new information discovered or reported in any situation would be discarded as lies because the initial report didn't cover that area.
(MB) Nope. It would treated with skepticism until and unless it can be verified. This is especially true if the new information reports something miraculous or dubious.

(R) Paul is merely expounding on the information.
(MB) More likely, Paul is inventing the information.

(R) When Paul reports Peter as being the first to see Jesus resurrected, he does so because the testimony of a woman in the 1st century was not considered legal or official so it is understandable why Paul wouldn't list the women as witnesses.
(MB) That didn't seem to bother the Gospel writers. If Paul was really interested in telling the truth about Jesus, why would he be overly concerned about a woman being the first to see him after the resurrection? His story would be more convincing if he didn't alter parts of it for trivial reasons.

(R) Besides, Paul was beheaded for his testimony. You still have to provide convincing evidence that supports why Paul would die for a lie he made up.
(MB) Paul wasn't beheaded for his testimony so much as for the fact that he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. That is, he was in Rome during the time when Nero was actively persecuting Christians as being those who were to blame for all of his own follies.

Embellishment by Paul, perhaps?
(R) Skepticism by you, perhaps?
(MB) Absolutely -- on both counts.

Remember Jesus' teachings that no harm could come to those who believed on him?
(R) First of all, you are again taking this way out of context.
(MB) How about if we start here:
Mark 16:18 -- They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them...
    How is this being taken out of context?

(R) Second of all, what does this prove anyway?
(MB) It proves that somebody is telling BS stories -- either Jesus, the Gospel writers, or you. Which is it?

Also, remember that he said that the current generation would not pass before he returned.
(R) Again, this is a distortion of what Jesus actually said. He said this while giving the disciples a discourse on the signs of the end times. He was saying that THE GENERATION THAT SAW THESE SIGNS would not pass away before He returned. Second, the word used for generation in the Greek (genea) can also mean race. So the Jewish race will not pass away until these things happen.
(MB) Neither of the relevant verses, Matthew 16:28 and Mark 9:1, uses the word "generation". Both use the phrase "...There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death...". This is not a problem with Greek. It is a problem with apologetics.

Now, if I was a disciple, that would have motivated me rather strongly to do whatever I felt necessary in order to spread the message.
(R) I guess it is a good thing you weren't a disciple.
(MB) Why? If Jesus had chosen me to be a disciple, don't you think he would have done so since he would have felt that I would believe in him and spread his word?

(R) Also, if you were a disciple, you wouldn't have taken what Jesus said out of context and distorted it to fit your views.
(MB) No, I just wouldn't have written it down until several decades after it happened so I could ensure that my memory was faulty and that few other witnesses would still be around to dispute my story. Heck, my first name is "Mark". Maybe I know a bit more about the Gospels than you are prepared to believe...*grin*

(R) You still have to explain the motivation behind the disciples other then genuine truth.
(MB) **YAWN** I'm still waiting to hear a coherent defense from you.

The Romans couldn't have cared less about whether or not a few Jews believed that Jesus was the Son of God since they didn't worship the Jewish God.
(R) Obviously they did care because the persecution of the early Church and martyrdom of Christians is a well documented event.
(MB) You're mixing events that were decades or centuries apart. We were discussing why the Romans would have killed Jesus. After that event, when the fledgling Christian movement began to grow, Rome would have treated it in the same way that they would have treated *any* movement that threatened to turn the citizens of the Empire away from Roman ways and laws. It's not the worship of any deity that was their major problem. Rome had problems with the fact that the belief system itself would turn people away from the Emperor.

They would, however, have taken notice of any group who might be inciting insurrection or revolt against the Emperor.
(R) Yes they would have. But this is irrelevant to the reason of the persecution.
(MB) On the contrary, it *is* the reason for the persecution!

That, however, would have shown that the disciples never really believed all that strongly in the first place.
(R) I think the key words are WOULD HAVE. They believed so strongly they would give their lives. This means no doubt was in their mind which there certainly would have been if this had all been one big lie.
(MB) You asked the question about what "would have" happened if the disciples had abandoned their cause at the first sign that their lives might have been endangered. The fact that they did not abandon it does not mean that they thought it was all the truth. It simply means that the cause itself (even if it was a lie) was more important to them, for any number of reasons, than were their own lives.

If one values his earthly life more than eternity in heaven with God, then that God must not be a very compelling figure.
(R) Preach on brother!
(MB) There's no "preaching" here at all. Just simple, undeniable logic.

Zealots for any cause consider martyrdom to be the highest expression of devotion and feel that their death will become an inspiration to others.
(R) Agreed. But you are forgetting what you have claimed so many other times. You say that the disciples died for a lie they made up.
(MB) No, I said that they died for a cause that was more important to them than their own lives.

(R) The zealots you describe above are dying for faith in a belief, contrary to the disciples who would have died for "something they made up." This goes against human reason and logic. You have never yet described the specific motive the disciples had in dying for a lie. You also didn't answer the question. What did they gain? Why would they give up what they had?
(MB) I've already answered this several times, but let's try one more approach. All causes have an underlying rationale which seeks to achieve some desired end result. If the cause and the desired end result of promoting it is important enough, it makes no difference if the arguments used to promote it are lies. If a few people start the movement, they are hoping that they will gain followers who will accept their arguments as being truth and will carry on the fight even after the original proponents are "martyred". These followers don't and can't know the real reason for the beginning of the movement, but they know that the story sounds good, that they accept it as truth, and that they have been moved to join in the battle. So, after the original "disciples" have all died, only their followers are left. None of them knows that they are promoting a lie. They only know what they are trying to achieve. That doesn't change even 2000 years after the inception of the cause.

Don't we revere those who died for the cause?
(R) It depends on what "the cause" is. No one in their right mind would revere someone because he gave his life in a suicide bombing.
(MB) Why not? If "the cause" said that such acts were the ultimate demonstration of devotion, the suicide bomber would be greatly revered by those who believed as he did. Who's to say that they're not in their right mind? Perhaps they consider you to be insane for not seeing things their way.

(R) If someone gave their life to save others, such as with Christ, then yes, they should be revered.
(MB) Why? Lots of people save lives, but how many of them have religions built up around them? This doesn't even address the fact that Christ never *did* give up his life unless one denies the story of the resurrection.

Certainly, those men knew that they wouldn't be remembered for anything else.
(R) Yes, but what were they remembered as? By most, they were viewed as religious zealots who loved to suffer, had no common sense, and had a death wish. Why would they want to be remembered for this? That doesn't make logical sense.
(MB) They would only be viewed that way by non-believers in their cause. Why would the zealots be concerned with how non-believers would view them? After all, the non-believers would be "wrong", at best, or "heathenous blasphemers" for whom death would be too kind.

(R) Plus, they never knew if they were going to be remembered or not. Could they see the future?
(MB) Yes, in their belief system, they could. After all, you claim to know that you have a "future" after your Earthly existence comes to an end, don't you? Who's to say that the zealots don't "know" their own futures just as securely as you do?

(R) Why in the world would they give up any financial security they did have, desert their family, and run around preaching the Gospel knowing they would face persecution unless they knew what they were saying was true?
(MB) Actually, if they did this, they would be following the words of Jesus, wouldn't they? (See Luke 14:33 annd 18:22 and Matthew 19:21, for example)
    In addition, acceptance of suffering, persecution and hardship is also preached in the Epistles. (See Romans 5:3, James 1:2-4 and 1:12, and 1 Peter 1:6-7 and 4:12-13, for example)

(R) You don't need to be an astrophysicist to figure it out, just use the common sense God has given you.
(MB) "Common sense" in Christian terms is a classic oxymoron.

The same thing I'm going to do with *any* well-known literary or historical figure -- fold him into the sum total of my knowledge along with all the rest.
(R) But Jesus was so much more than that.
(MB) How so? Until it can be demonstrated that Jesus is anything more than any other character in history or in fiction, there's little reason to give him any more of a prominent position.

(R) I pray that God would remove the blinders from your eyes and make Himself known to you in such an undeniable way that you would want nothing more than to serve Him.
(MB) I'll make a deal with you. You start praying really, really diligently every day during the month of April 1999 for God to remove the blinders from my eyes. If God hears you and answers your prayers before the month of May rolls around, I'll let you know that he has been revealed to me and I will publish that fact on this site and expunge all material to the contrary. If God does not hear you and does not answer your prayers, then I will not be converted and you must acknowledge in a letter that I will publish on this site that God does not exist.
    You have no reason to avoid accepting this deal. You are a devout believer in God and in the notion that God answers the prayers of those who believe in him. You would be praying for something that you claim God already wants to see happen. There's no possibility that I could lie about whether or not God had been revealed to me. If you truly have unshakeable faith in your God, there is absolutely no downside to accepting this deal, and there is no reason why you should not do so without hesitation.
    Will you accept this deal? If not (and I guarantee that you won't), what's the problem?

The argument was stated, but remains far from being proven.
(R) The arguments that you stated and verses you quoted in opposition to my view were explained above.
(MB) "Explained", but not successfully so. Plus, there are now additional difficulties with which you must contend.

(R) Once again, it seems that you can bring verses that are "contradictory" to my view, which are explained earlier in their right context, but you are unable to refute any of the verses I present in favor of my view.
(MB) All of your objections (no matter how silly) have been refuted. There are numerous problems that you have yet to solve -- not the least of which is learning to understand that you can't quote the Bible to prove its own validity. Until you can get out of the spiral of circular reasoning, you will have no chance to successfully refute any argument.

(R) In order to win a debate, you not only need to provide convincing negative evidence against your opponents view, but you also need to provide stronger positive evidence in support of your view. Both of these you have been unable to do.
(MB) Considering that you don't seem to understand the basics of logic, there's little wonder why you think that way. Circular reasoning, question begging, shifting or ignoring the burden of proof, special pleading, Argumentum ad Ignorantium, and assuming conclusions are just some of the logical fallacies that are prominently featured in your arguments. Not to mention that you haven't provided a single citation for any of the sources from which you have borrowed some of those arguments. Any debate jury would be scoring this one unanimously in my favor at this point.

What "technicality" is this? No mention of "our sin" is made in any of the Gospel accounts as reasons for Jesus being tried, convicted, and executed.
(R) In case you missed it, the Gospels aren't the only books in the Bible.
(MB) I know that. However, we were discussing the reasons behind the Gospel accounts of the crucifixion of Jesus. If you wish to agree with me that the Gospels do not state "our sin" as the reason why Jesus was crucified, please just say so without trying to dance around the issue.

(R) Isaiah 53:5, which is a clear prophecy concerning Jesus, states that Christ was "pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities."
(MB) As with so many OT "prophecies of Jesus", this one doesn't take the whole story into account. Two verses prior, we read:
"He was despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not."
    Does this sound like a description of Jesus? In addition, verse 5 says "He was wounded for our transgressions." Of course, according to the story, Jesus was killed, not merely wounded.

(R) 2 Corinthians 5:21 says "God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God."
(MB) Isn't this yet another clear indication that God and Jesus are not one and the same? After all, if God made Jesus (as Paul says), then there was some point at which God existed but Jesus did not. How, then, can they be considered to be one and the same?

(R) Like I said, I was very busy. I hardly started answering part II and haven't worked on it in months. I have enjoyed this very much. Then it finally dawned on me. I'm trying to argue Christianity with someone who doesn't believe in God.
(MB) It took you "months" to figure that out? I'd have thought that this should have been blatantly obvious within the first nanosecond.

(R) So in that case, I am not going to respond to the rest of the letter simply for the reason that it serves no purpose trying to argue religion with an atheist.
(MB) So, is Christianity only interested in preaching to the choir? If so, why does it have a missionary effort? One doesn't have to be an atheist in order to debate the existence or nature of God/Jesus and the problems in the Bible. Neither Jews nor Muslims believe in the divinity of Jesus or in the inerrancy of the NT, yet they are certainly not atheists. In fact, they believe in the very same God that you do.
    I submit that you have been painted into a corner in this debate and that abandoning the debate is the only way you can get out. If somebody as devout as yourself can be defeated this easily, what hope do any other Christians have?

(R) It is necessary for you to believe there is a God before you decide who God is.
(MB) As we've seen so many times before, you continue to say that one must first believe in order to believe. Not only is this fallacious reasoning, it is not an argument that carries any weight whatsoever for non-believers. Consider that one could just as well substitute "Santa Claus" for "God" in your argument and it would mean exactly the same thing.

(R) I have some questions for you. No doubt you will probably post this under your evolutionary essay.
(MB) So, now you wish to abandon responding to all the things contained in the last two-and-a-half parts of Reply #57 to Religion and try your hand at arguing evolution? What makes you think you'll fare any better over there?
    Looking ahead at your questions, they have all been answered many times in the replies posted under the "Evolution vs. Creationism" section. What hasn't been answered at all are the Creationist analogs to these questions. Since you said earlier that part of winning a debate includes presenting stronger positive evidence in favor of your own views, I'm going to ask you to provide strong positive evidence in favor of the Creationist side. Nobody has yet provided any such evidence, so maybe you can break some new ground.
    Since I've already done more than my share of defending evolution in my responses, I'm going to turn the tables on your questions and see if we can't get the other side to defend their case for a change. After all, if it's true, you should have no problem defending it, right? I've certainly had no problem defending evolution. Let's see how well you can do on behalf of Creationism.
    On to the questions:

(R) Why do you believe in the theory of evolution?
(MB) Why do you believe in the myth of Creationism?

(R) What is the best scientific evidence you have that supports the Theory of Evolution?
(MB) What is the best evidence of *any* kind that supports Creationism?

(R) How did life originate?
(MB) Good question. Just how *did* life originate? The answer will require a detailing of the clear evidence that could be examined by anybody of any religious faith and which is compelling enough that all such examiners will arrive at the answer you wish to posit.

(R) What is your best explanation for the origin of one cell? A cell that is more complicated than a space shuttle and more complicated than a Super Cray computer?
(MB) Explain how the myth of Creationism accounts for what we observe in the universe. Explain why living organisms are so complicated, but why we can still understand them. Explain why everything we can see or observe points to a naturalistic origin and why nothing that exists could be the way it is without supernatural intervention. Explain why living organisms are any different from non-living things when all are made of the same basic stuff. Explain why human beings are any different from any other living organism. Explain why Man and chimpanzees are 98% identical at the genetic level if Man was specially created and has no evolutionary relationship with chimpanzees.

(R) Thanks. Hear from you soon.
(MB) Yes, you will. The question seems to be whether or not I will hear anything back and whether or not you will get around to addressing any or all of the remaining points from Reply #57.

(R) Romans 10:9-10
(MB) So, once again, the bottom line is that I must believe before I can be convinced to believe, eh?

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