• About TWIM


    The Warfare Is Mental (TWIM) reflects the mental warfare of an author, screenwriter, publisher and member of the Writer's Guild of America. Family, friends, health, humor, art, music, science, faith, fun and knowledge are some of the things that are important to me.



    TWIM is the first and only theist blog listed on the Atheist Blogroll, which currently contains over 1,000 blogs. It goes without saying that I don't endorse hardly any of the views of any of them. Contact Mojoey for more information.



    Ironically, TWIM won an award for "Best Atheist / Skeptic Site" from this site. Much obliged.



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    You and your commenters are a feast of thinking — great stuff.

    -C.L. Dyck
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    I have no need to engage with racists, so will ignore cl’s further diatribes.

    -faithlessgod,
     CommonSenseAtheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    cl resists following through on a thought even to provide a solid opposing position, and thus stifles many conversations. It’s a shame since it seems like cl has some brain power that could be applied to the topics at hand.

    -Hermes,
     CommonSenseAtheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    [faithlessgod and Hermes] fit my definition of trolling. I didn’t take any of those attacks against you seriously, and quickly categorized them as trolls.

    -JS Allen,
     CommonSenseAtheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    [cl] is, as many have noticed, a master of this warfare. I’ve been following him for quite some time and he’s one of the most effective Christian trolls out there. No one can completely destroy a conversation as effectively as he does, and with such masterful grace and subtly that he rarely gets banned. This isn’t a blunt-force “U R Hitler!” troll, this is the Yoda of trolling.

    -Eneasz,
     CommonSenseAtheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    This seems to imply that cl is, at least in part, disingenuous in terms of how he responds/what he claims. Is this most likely true, supported by evidence, or merely a subjective claim?

    -al friedlander,
     CommonSenseAtheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    ...I wanted to get a message to you outside of the context of specific discussions on CSA. You make good, insightful contributions to that site, and since I often agree with you I'm glad there is someone else there defending my positions better than I sometimes can. However I don't think anything of value would be lost if you stopped engaging in personal combat with juvenile snipers.

    -Zeb,
     CommonSenseAtheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    Thank you for your wonderful response - so reasoned in the race of [Waldvogel's] blustering.

    -Annie Laurie Gaylor
     Freedom From Religion Foundation
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    Thanks for a great Op-Ed.

    -Marianne Ratcliff
     VC Star
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    ...as atheists we need to make sure that someone like cl and any Christian readers of [An Apostate's Chapel] don’t come away with the perception that the atheists caved in or were incapable of responding. I’m sure that a lot of Christians who find cl incomprehensible at times and don’t even bother reading him themselves will come away with an assumption that cl is that sort of rare intellectual theist who can prove that gods exist. And that’s how those inane rumors about the feared xian intellectuals start…

    -bbk
     An Apostate's Chapel
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    You are in so over your head here, you are embarrassing yourself...
    I am well versed in many aspects of evolution biology, through my academic background, and my professional life. Unless your academic degrees and background match mine, cease and desist. Return to philosophy and rhetoric, or whatever it is you perceive your strengths to be. They are definitely not science, even at the high school level.

    -R.C. Moore
     Evangelical Realism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    You're doing a fine job.

    -Prof. Larry Moran
     Dept. of Biochemistry
     University of Toronto
     re: R.C. Moore & others
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    Phyletic change and vicariance (or, drift and selection versus population isolation), as cl points out, are much better ways of describing what are unfortunately more commonly known as micro- and macro- evolution, respectively.

    -Dan
     Biology postdoc
     Univ. of Cyprus
     re: R.C. Moore & others
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    cl says, “The minute you call yourself a Christian or an Atheist or whatever the heck else, you automatically get painted by other people’s interpretations of those words, which are almost always different and almost always distorted.” cl’s point couldn’t be more on. As cl points out there is an important reason for not claiming any real religious (or lack thereof) belief. It puts logical constraints on one's arguments due directly to the bias of the individual that is translating the English to mind ideas of what it means to be religious.

    -Bobaloo
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    Just who in the bloody hell do you think you are, you Christian piece of garbage, to come here barking out orders? You're an arrogant, condescending piece of shit. You seem to think you're an intellectual of sorts, when all you are is a Christian who's read a few books. John, everyone, this really is the limit. BR, I'm more than a little annoyed that you continue to engage him. I'm out of here. I have better things to do than to waste my time with these cretins.

    -Cipher
     Debunking Christianity
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    How old are you CL? I'd guess you have not yet experienced much life. I'd say you were under the age of 21, too young to be here. I don't give a damn what you think of me or my deconversion at all. You're too stupid to realize that regardless of it you must deal with the arguments in the book. They are leading people away from you [sic] faith. I'm seriously considering banning you cl, as I've heard you were banned on other sites. You are much too ignorant for us to have a reasonable discussion.

    -John Loftus
     Debunking Christianity
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    I admired the way you handled yourself in the discussion on John's blog. I'm not patient enough to keep my sarcasm in check with some of them blokes, but appreciate those who are.

    -David Marshall
     re: Debunking Christianity
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    cl, I have to say, while I fundamentally disagree with you, you are an individual which I highly respect. I think your responses are always well thought out and your insights always well thought out and pertinently derived.
    [Y]ou have made me a stronger atheist in my regards to critical thinking and debating. I really can’t wait to hear more from you. Hell, I’d even buy you a drink, good sir. Cheers!

    -Parker
     Evangelical Realism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    Bottom line? Sometimes I think he's right about certain arguments, and I don't have a problem admitting that. Other times, however, I think he's wrong, and I've called him on that. But I have found he can be pretty reasonable if you (1) don't overstate your case, (2) make concessions when you have, and (3) insist he do the same.

    -Lifeguard
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    I like it when [cl] makes me stop, think and question if I am making unfounded assertions or if I am being sloppy. What has been annoying me about cl of late is that he is being excruciatingly anal...

    -seantheblogonaut
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    I really can't thank you enough for catching me on my error in rhetoric. I always love a good debate! And I always enjoy your posts, as well! Keep up the great writing and the excellent eye for detail!

    -BZ
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    You make me smarter...

    -Mike G.
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    ..thank you, cl. I discovered your blog on a random web search and saw it as an oasis amidst a vast desert of seemingly intractable theist-atheist debate.

    -Sung Jun
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    It's good to be able to discuss with people who are open and respectful, and know that disagreement does not mean disrespect... You are to be congratulated, not only for your patience, but also your ability to hold an ever-growing debate together with an impressive degree of structure.

    -Ritchie
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    My tone is derogatory... [cl is] ignorant and credulous and deserves to be mocked... In the time he's been here, he's shown a consistent pattern of antagonizing everyone he comes in contact with, monopolizing threads, derailing discussions with perpetual complaints, quibbles and demands for attention, and generally making arguments that display a lack of good faith and responsiveness... it's become intolerable. I'm not banning him, but I'm putting in place some restrictions on how often he can comment.

    -Ebonmuse
     Daylight Atheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    This is no defense of the annoying cl, but what a self-righteous, prissy atheist you turned out to be, Ebonmuse. I'm disappointed in you, stealing a strategem from the theists.

    -The Exterminator
     to Ebonmuse
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    I certainly didn't get any bad impression about cl, and I can't relate his comments with any of the things (Ebonmuse) said above. I actually thought it was quite interesting to have him around.

    -Juan Felipe
     Daylight Atheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    Please continue to allow
    cl to post his views and make it clear that he is still welcome. And let me be clear, cl is not a lunatic.

    -Curtis
     Daylight Atheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    With one exception, you are the most coherent and intelligent theist I've seen on this site...

    -Steve Bowen
     Daylight Atheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    I'm rooting for cl. I hope he perpetually manages to skirt the rules enough to do his damage, forcing rule revision after rule revision, ad nauseum. Awesome! Let's watch as Ebon, ever more frustrated, continues to struggle to figure out how to keep his precious private blog neat and tidy as cl keeps messing up his papers while one by one, readers leave due to an every increasing administrative presence. Outstanding! Well I won't go. The thought of this sounds like the most entertaining thing that probably would have ever happened on Daylight Atheism. Hot damn!

    -PhillyChief
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    Your visit has been something of a reality check to me. It seems that when you present rational arguments and criticisms, many commenters feel territory slipping and then work up vaporous or leaky responses. I also want to remark that your presence here has considerably moved me to try being a more careful and understanding debater...

    -Brad
     Daylight Atheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    I do have a lot of respect for you too. You seem to be a very intelligent and thoughtful individual with a knack for getting to the bottom of a problem, cutting through all the bullshit rhetoric on the way down. The fact that many other atheists seem to unreasonably despise you bothers me a lot, because I think that maybe they aren’t acting in good faith.

    -Peter Hurford
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    I am not going to waste any more time parsing your comments to decide if they've crossed the line or not... So I banned you.

    -Greta Christina
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    Be rude... cl invites rudeness. Would you want an incontinent little puppy coming into your house?

    -(((Billy))) the Atheist
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    Note to all my regular readers: Since An Apostate’s Chapel is a free-speech zone, I don’t censor conversations.
    As it appears that cl is a troll, please note that I will not be responding to him any longer. I ask that you refrain from doing so, as well. Please don’t feed the troll!

    -The Chaplain
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    …I can’t reconcile being a "freethinker" with banning speech. [cl's] comments are not offensive in the normal understanding of that term, and he poses absolutely no threat except perhaps to some imagined decorum. Why can’t atheists lighten up, for no-Christ’s sake?

    -The Exterminator
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    Is it going to distract from my meal when crazy uncle cl starts blathering out nonsense, pick his ears with a carrot or start taking his pants off? No. In fact, it might actually heighten the experience in some amusing way. So no, I don't see cl's work as damage.

    -PhillyChief
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    I am beginning to suspect that you are a troll cl. Albeit an evolved troll, but a troll nonetheless. Perhaps we should all stop feeding the troll?

    -GaySolomon
     Evangelical Realism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    [cl is] is either a sophist or an incompetent when it comes to the english language... (sic)

    -ThatOtherGuy
     Evangelical Realism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    I’d say cl is pretty sharp... it may be tempting at times to think that “the other guy” is arguing out of some personal character flaw rather than a sincere desire to acknowledge the truth, I still think it’s better to debate respectfully... It is disrespectful to make unsupported accusations against people, e.g. by suggesting that their views are caused by an intrinsically corrupt and immoral nature.

    -Deacon Duncan, 3-9-09
     Evangelical Realism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    [cl] cannot refute my facts, so he needs must find (sic) some scapegoat in order to claim that he has confronted the enemy and proven them wrong... cl, sadly, has proven himself to be the sort of guest who comes into your living room and sneaks behind your couch to take a crap on the floor, just so he can tell all your neighbors how bad your house smells and what an unsanitary housekeeper you are... an interesting case study in the negative effects a Christian worldview has on a reasonably intellectual mind.

    -Deacon Duncan, 6-17-09
     Evangelical Realism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    I strongly discourage discussion of the character, abilities, motives, or personal ancestry of individual commenters, as tempting as such comments may be at times. I discourage the posting of comments that make frequent use of the pronoun “you,” as in “you always…” or “you never…” or “you are just so…”, when directed at a specific individual.

    -Deacon Duncan, 4-9-09
     Evangelical Realism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    I won’t be publishing your most recent comment because it’s a return to the same sort of schtick you’ve pulled here before: re-writing other people’s arguments to make yourself look misunderstood and/or unfairly accused, taking “polyvalent” positions so that when people address your points you can claim to have said something else, distorting other people’s arguments, trolling for negative reactions, and so on.

    -Deacon Duncan, 10-8-09
     Evangelical Realism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    [E]gomaniacal troll.
    You win... You’re a disingenuous sophist through and through, cl. And a friggin’ narcissist to boot! Since I’ve thoroughly and purposefully broken the Deacon’s rules of engagement, I shall consider my right to post henceforth annulled, and move on - dramatic pause, lights out.

    -jim
     Evangelical Realism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    He either thinks in a very weird way or he's quite the con artist.

    -mikespeir
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    I will gladly admit that I have a boner for cl. Maybe some day I’ll even earn a place of honor on cl’s Blog of Infamy.

    -Eneasz
     Evangelical Realism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    Long time reader first time poster... I like reading what you
    have to say over at Daylight Atheism so I figured I'd pop in here.

    -Pine
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    He's just a jerk
    that likes to argue.

    -KShep
     Daylight Atheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    You’re not a reasonable thinker in my book. You’re simply an arguer, for better or worse. I’m Michael Palin, you’re John Cleese. You’re just a disputation-ist, bringing everything into question...

    -jim
     Reason vs. Apologetics
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    Motherfucker, this is an interesting blog... Quite the group of commenters.

    -John Evo
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    You are very articulate, and I can only assume that it's a result of high intelligence; an intelligence that's interested in, and can understand, healthy debate. However, at every turn, that's not what I or others seem to get.

    -ex machina
     Daylight Atheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    You are a troll, a liar, and a useless sack of shit. Not only that, but you're still wrong even after moving the goal posts and trying to re-write history. So, you can stop cyber stalking me now and trying to provoke me. I know what you are doing, and you are doing it so that you can whine about how I'm being irrational and mean to you and stroke your pathetic martyr complex. You're a pathetic attention whore and I've already given you too much attention. So, back the fuck off, stop following me around the intarwebs and trying to provoke me, and fuck off.

    -OMGF
     Daylight Atheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    I would just like to say that, OMGF, having read the debate as a neutral observer, some of the things cl says about your style of argument are true, IMO. It is quite hasty, which means you occasionally haven't got the central point cl is trying to make...

    -John D.
     Daylight Atheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    ...this is a difficult question that deserves more than a kneejerk reaction, not to imply that you're kneejerking. You're the least kneejerking person I've met.

    -Quixote
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    If you’re here playing devil’s advocate, then, hey, you do a great job at it, it’s a service, keep us sharp... You’re a smart guy, but those are exactly the ones who give the worst headaches!

    -Lifeguard
     An Apostate's Chapel
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    You are a waste of time, cl. A big fat black hole of bullshit sucking in everyone who comes into contact with you.

    -Spanish Inquisitor
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    As for all that harsh invective that's come your way, umm... I gotta say, I've seen some of the invective, but I haven't seen the behavior on your part that called for it. Maybe I've just not seen enough? I don't know... from what I've read, I can tell that you're a smart person, and whether you deserved any of that treatment or not is quite frankly immaterial to me; I just want to deal with the smart person at the eye of that storm.

    -D
     She Who Chatters
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    I now think that you’re an atheist, just having fun at other atheists’ expense. If that’s the case, kudos.

    -The Exterminator
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
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Jesus Never Pooped: or, A Better Way To Conduct Exegesis

Excuse me for making a generalization here, but I've noticed that atheists tend to approach the Bible much like creationists tend to approach literature on evolution. Certain atheists (for example Richard Dawkins) are publicly fond of bashing creationists for dodgy scholarship, and rightfully so. For example, many of us know how some creationists are overly fond of emphasizing select passages from Darwin or Dobzhansky to support their arguments, while selectively de-emphasizing other passages that might weaken their argument. What's less recognized is the extent to which atheists and skeptics do the same thing (for example Richard Dawkins) when quoting the Bible or the Founding Fathers to support their cases for atheism.

For example, I admit I had a good laugh today when I popped over to DaylightAtheism and found a post titled Jesus Never Laughed. I first thought about the absurdity of this statement in general, and I was not sure if the writer actually believed. Formally, I disagreed with the post on the following grounds:

1) The writer provides insufficient evidence to support his conclusion;

2) The writer's argument violates common sense, probability, and standard atheist descriptions of Jesus;

3) The writer's argument relies on a skewed interpretation of scripture and omits conflicting passages.

To begin with, looking at scripture from nearly two milennia past and thinking we can make any semblance of a reliable psychological evaluation about some character contained therein is our first departure from rationalism, but nonetheless let's expand briefly on the points mentioned above:

1) Here is the writer's argument
summarized with a different biological function to illustrate its
silliness:

The Bible gives no mention of Jesus pooping.

Therefore, Jesus never pooped.

Pooping and the value of regular bowel movements are not important in Christianity and Islam because they are rigid, dogmatic systems.

You
might say this argument is logically formal, but anyone who seriously
proposed such an argument would hopefully not be taken seriously. Scanning the NT lightly and citing 2 or 3
passages doesn't make the argument in my book. Either way, does omission of a
phenomenon warrant the argument that the phenomenon never occurred,
especially when the phenomenon posited is a plainly natural and human quality
that would most likely would have occurred?

Furthermore, playing devil's advocate and assuming Jesus never did laugh, this fact wouldn't support the writer's conclusion that the Bible, "..treats laughter as an unworthy subject," or one source's assertion that the Bible ".. takes a dim view of mirth or laughter."

2) The argument itself does violence to common
sense and doesn't square well with 2 of 3 possible depictions of Jesus. There is no evidence for the argument Jesus never laughed, and assuming
an historical Jesus existed, we actually cannot escape reasonable
evidence to the contrary. Atheists and skeptics enjoy one of two positions on the historical Jesus:
non-existence or humanity. Point is, whether divine or mundane Jesus was human either way, and by far the experiences of our senses and reason tells us that the majority of human beings participate in laughter.

3) There are far more than 2 or 3 accounts of or references to laughter in the Bible, and in fact no less than 30 Greek or Hebrew equivalents for "laughter" are contained in scripture. The majority of them cannot be used to foster the "vengeful hatemonger" trope that arose in the comment thread. And although the Bible certainly does speak of the more troubling emotions like fear and sorrow and pain, the Bible speaks highly and often of mirth, notably in Proverbs and Ecclesiastes but also at several other disparate points in the story. In fact, there is a wealth of positive psychology in those two books.

I feel the writer's exegesis of Luke 6:21-25 is invalid:

Not only does Jesus never laugh, it seems, but he condemns those who do, claiming that sorrow and misery will be theirs in the hereafter.

To argue that Jesus is condemning laughter in Luke 6:21-25 is incorrect, IMO. As one might expect, the passages are arranged in a way that renders their context unclear. Jesus is speaking in the context of discernment between authentic prophets and false prophets, and I'll leave it up to the more inquisitive folks to read the passage in its entirety and context and decide whether they agree or disagree that Luke 6:21-25 can be interpreted as a condemnation of laughter.

If one is going do an exegesis of scripture, one should do it semi-comprehensively and objectively. Always include important facts like the version cited and the context the passage is in. In many cases, we benefit from discussion of Greek and Hebrew lexicon where relevant. Consider the opposing argument at least briefly if sufficient contradictory passages exist. If you want believers to take your criticisms of scripture seriously, you have to address them in the way the believer actually interprets them.

Lastly, and this is a minor point, but important enough I think it deserves mention: I take issue with the way the writer tars Gary Collins with the religious epithet of "demon-believer." Now I don't know who Gary Collins is, nor have I ever heard of the man; the tone is undisguisably derogative and the usage suggests that anyone who would believe demons could exist is some sort of fundamentalist wackaloon (although I freely admit many who believe this do fit the bill and this stereotype is not without grounding in truth).

If one of said fundamentalist wackaloons were to tar an atheist, medium or spiritualist with the epithet of "demon-believer" I feel confident in opining many of us would be appalled – and rightly so.

In conclusion, I object to the author's selective de-emphasis of passages that don't
seem to fit squarely with his conclusion, which does not logically
entail his premises, which themselves are open to valid criticism.

And Jesus probably both pooped and laughed.

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13 Responses

  1. I think Adam’s post has more context than you give it credit for. The gospels are written as though they are first hand accounts (I know you don’t believe they are btw) so you would expect the full range of natural emetions to be reflected in the narrative, but they’re not. Jesus is never described or credited with mirth at all, although he is angry, sorrowful etc. The fact that his toilet habits are’nt discussed either I put down to good taste on the part of the authors

  2. Hey Steve,
    Thanks for comin’ by. I’d definitely like to address your question in detail but I gotta leave town until Saturday, so maybe try back this weekend and I will have gotten to it by then.
    In the meantime, I’d like to ask you this: What do you think we could reasonably conclude if Jesus never laughed?

  3. Hey Steve,
    Thanks for comin’ by. I’d definitely like to address your question in detail but I gotta leave town until Saturday, so maybe try back this weekend and I will have gotten to it by then.
    In the meantime, I’d like to ask you this: What do you think we could reasonably conclude if Jesus never laughed?

  4. I think I would conclude that such a two dimensional character was more likely to be a work of pure fiction, than one inspired by a real person.
    Have a good trip!

  5. I have to say, up front, that I’m not fond of an analogy which equates the Bible with a work of scientific literature, as in: Dawkins quote-mining the Bible is like creationists quote-mining Darwin.
    I understand the analogy; and I understand that it’s frustrating when you know important contextual stuff is missing from any discussion. But a work of scientific literature is written for the express purpose of conveying, as unambiguously(!) as possible, information about some given subject. It is clear (at least in theory) what the subject is, what the findings are, what is speculation by the author, etc. The Bible is… something else, whatever it is.
    So, when you quote a scientific treatise or article or such, you can pretty definitively do it in the spirit the work intends, or you can do it in such a way that you turn the words against the work’s intent. This doesn’t mean you have to agree with it; it just means you can quote it in good or bad faith, whatever your argument is. And in either case, a third party who has read the work will stand a pretty good chance at figuring out whether or not you’re up to shenanigans.
    But the Bible… who doesn’t quote-mine the Bible? Who doesn’t have parts they use and parts they avoid? I mean, if you quoted it as a source of human morality, and you left out all of those nasty Old Testament stories about killing whole populations or sacrificing children, would that count as “selectively de-emphasizing other passages that might weaken [your] argument”?
    I get the feeling that, a lot of the time, Dawkins-types quote the Bible because they are trying, specifically, to illuminate a context which is awkward for believers and which therefore tends to be neglected.

  6. But the Bible… who doesn’t quote-mine the Bible? Who doesn’t have parts they use and parts they avoid?

    Which of course is the problem. The Bible is a very ambiguous document for something that many purport to be the word of God, that is why exegesis is necessary. Dawkins doesn’t quote mine or obviously take the bible out of context (he may be as guilty of eisegesis as many apologists are but that is a different point)because the context of much of the bible is so muddled to begin with you can make almost any point you like. This is why obvious ommisions like Jesus’ laughter are worth considering.

  7. Arthur,
    Ha! I laughed when you included the exclamation point after “unambiguously” (a funny, friendly laugh, of course). I read it like you were saying, “There’s that damned word again.” Anyways, I understand your dislike of my analogy. It’s evident by your comment, which ignores the entire thrust of the OP and focuses solely on my introduction! I’ve caught flack for such comparisons, and in most of those cases I could easily attribute the inconsistency to special pleading (not saying you are being inconsistent, either). But I do think you’re potentially making a few oversights here. You say,

    But a work of scientific literature is written for the express purpose of conveying, as unambiguously(!) as possible, information about some given subject. It is clear (at least in theory) what the subject is, what the findings are, what is speculation by the author, etc. The Bible is… something else, whatever it is. So, when you quote a scientific treatise or article or such, you can pretty definitively do it in the spirit the work intends, or you can do it in such a way that you turn the words against the work’s intent.

    First, any document can be quoted in the spirit the work intends, and the intent of any document can also be misportrayed. Neither of these facts excuse anyone who does the latter, especially when they are held in such high scholarly regard as Dawkins tends to be.

    But the Bible… who doesn’t quote-mine the Bible? Who doesn’t have parts they use and parts they avoid?

    I don’t know who doesn’t quote mine and/or misportray the Bible, but I know who does, and that’s all kinds of people from “Christians” to Dawkins to Ebonmuse.
    Anyways, what I’d really like to know is this: How much confidence would you say we can place in conclusions derived from arguments of silence? Why? That’s mainly what this post was about.

    And in either case, a third party who has read the work will stand a pretty good chance at figuring out whether or not you’re up to shenanigans.

    Exactly. That’s how I know Ebonmuse, Dawkins and others are up to an occasional shenanigan or three, and I’m curious to hear whether you’d agree that the above two links represent bona fide quote-mining.
    And I will still get back to you about our FSM discussion.
    Steve Bowen,
    Thanks man. Although we got back a little early, the trip was great. Got to see some petrified forests, Old Faithful, hot springs and all sorts of nature’s wonders. I recommend it to everyone. As far as the thread here,

    Jesus is never described or credited with mirth at all, although he is angry, sorrowful etc.

    While I think that Jesus is most certainly described with mirth and joy on occasions, there is no specific verse I can immediately recall that says anything like, “Jesus laughed” or “Jesus burst His gut with laughter.” Then again, Jesus is never described or credited with doing hundreds of things. Can we make arguments against Jesus on any or all of these points, too?

    I think I would conclude that such a two dimensional character was more likely to be a work of pure fiction, than one inspired by a real person.

    Are you arguing that the mere omission of laughter in a biography makes the subject two-dimensional? What about all the other aspects of Jesus’ character that are described in scripture? He adored children. He drank wine. He hung with the social pariahs of his time. He was repulsed by evil in the world. I could go on and on, and besides, if Jesus was drinking wine with the disciples and other riff-raff, isn’t it feasible He laughed sometime at something? Aren’t wine-drinkers known to have an occasional laugh? And if Jesus wasn’t God, I’d say it’s near certain He laughed, because if Jesus wasn’t God, Jesus was just another human, and humans laugh.

    The Bible is a very ambiguous document for something that many purport to be the word of God, that is why exegesis is necessary.

    Which parts of the Bible are you claiming are “very ambiguous,” or are you simply offering a “very ambiguous” and over-generalized argument here? No offense, but I don’t think the blanket claim that the Bible is “very ambiguous” is useful for anything rational at all, but only further obfuscation.

    Dawkins doesn’t quote mine or obviously take the bible out of context…

    I’ve already showed where Dawkins quote-mined John Adams and takes the Bible out of context, but you’re certainly free to disagree. And I’d like to also ask you: How much confidence can we place in conclusions derived from arguments of silence?

  8. I agree that Dawkins probably quote-mines the Bible—that is to say, he takes quotes from somewhere to make a point, and leaves out quotes from the same vicinity which might contradict his point. Ebonmuse probably does it too. Willingly conceded!
    But I still don’t like the analogy (“atheists tend to approach the Bible much like creationists tend to approach literature on evolution”), and I still think its shortcomings are pertinent to your topic. Given that “any document can be quoted in the spirit the work intends, and the intent of any document can also be misportrayed,” the question remains: can one discern the Bible’s intent in the same way that one might discern the intent of some work of scientific literature?
    You’ve taken Mr. Bowen to task for calling the Bible “very ambiguous”; but the state of the observable world seems to me to force his conclusion. Without even looking at the Bible, I can look around at the variety of incompatible religious interpretations based on it and—granting good faith and sound reasoning to at least two of them—conclude that the Bible is “capable of being understood in more than one way” (that’s Merriam-Webster for “ambiguous”).
    But if that conclusion is valid, then
    1) the Bible is not analogous to a work of scientific literature (except, maybe, one which fails in its purpose); and
    2) there is no obvious way to judge the validity of an atheist’s quote-mine against a theist’s—or one theist’s against another’s, for that matter.
    Therefore, my nutshell perspective on quote-mining the Bible: theists do it to make their points; atheists do it to make theirs; the text of the Bible permits this sort of cherry-picking—encourages it even; and this is more or less the opposite of scientific literature’s form and function.

  9. Yes Arthur made my point for me

    Without even looking at the Bible, I can look around at the variety of incompatible religious interpretations based on it and—granting good faith and sound reasoning to at least two of them—conclude that the Bible is “capable of being understood in more than one way”

    I’m not a biblical scholar and don’t have any particular interest in trading verses to prove points one way or another (incidentally, Ebonmuse is, in my opinion, at his least interesting when he bases posts on “little known bible verses” precisely because for me the fact that you can read the bible any way you like is a given).However, pointing out that the emotional makeup of the NT’s principle character appears to be deficient in humour is salient. Were the authors unaware of any wit, irony, spontaneous (humorous)lewdity, or did they omit it because they thought it inappropriate in the messiah? You are right, Jesus did go to wedding receptions, spent time with his “mates”, and drank wine (although fermented drinks were the norm due the dangers of drinking fresh water at the time)so where is the laughter? It’s argument by ommission sure, but it is a telling one.

  10. Arthur, Steve
    Hmmm…. Not that it’s bad at all, but this conversation has split into two main directions: the quote-mining issue, and Steve’s original question. If either or both of you really want to keep defending the idea that the Bible somehow “permits” or “encourages” quote-mining intrinsically more so than scientific literature, I’ll have to gracefully bow out. But first, although I’d really like to move past the quote-mining part of the discussion to address Steve’s original questions, let’s say what Arthur posits is true – that the Bible permits and/or encourages quote-mining while such “is more or less the opposite of scientific literature’s form and function.”
    Well tell me then – if the Bible’s form and function falls on the “permits and encourages quote-mining” end of the document “form and function” scale while scientific literature falls on the opposite end, how is it that the axiom quote-mining itself was popularized in direct response to widespread misquotation of scientific literature? Is this what we would reasonably expect the world to look like if what Arthur posits is true?
    On one hand Arthur is asking me to believe the Bible permits and encourages quote-mining – and in actuality, I have no problem with that claim, because a human can deceive with any written work – yet on the other hand, the very phrase quote-mining itself has roots in misuse of scientific literature. This would seemingly suggest that scientific literature is highly conducive to quote-mining, at least as much so as the Bible – which is a reasonable expectation, because the form and function of a particular document is not its safekeeping against quote-mining – because there is no possible safekeeping against quote-mining, which is always an act of human volition.
    So, nobody will be able to convince me that the Bible or any particular book is more intrinsically conducive to quote-mining than the next, and I don’t know why the idea that many atheists approach the Bible with shoddy scholarship comparable to that of many creationists is such a bitter pill to swallow. You guys don’t do seem to commit the blunder, so nothing to worry about from my POV there.
    Arthur,
    In the Dawkins example cited, he literally slices John Adams sentence in half to portray the polar opposite of its intended meaning, and in Ebonmuse’s example, the very next sentence in his citation would have directly contradicted his point. Presuming they were reading the source material, in both examples, the writer must have seen the parts of the quote that were problematic. And if they weren’t reading the source material, that’s entailed by different yet relevant questions.
    There’s nothing wrong with critically considering religious or scientific documents against one another to examine some point of view or another. But when we use sentence A to make our point when the speaker actually contradicts said point later in sentence A or in sentence B, that’s a breach of sound scholarship that indicates potential dishonesty, wouldn’t you say?

    …can one discern the Bible’s intent in the same way that one might discern the intent of some work of scientific literature?

    Indeed, but let’s argue in scope here. In literally every single sentence? Of course not. Can we do this with Iliad? Fante’s Ask The Dust? But most certainly, there are many instances of scripture we can interpret with scientific-like clarity.

    Without even looking at the Bible, I can look around at the variety of incompatible religious interpretations based on it and—granting good faith and sound reasoning to at least two of them—conclude that the Bible is “capable of being understood in more than one way” (that’s Merriam-Webster for “ambiguous”).

    You say you don’t even have to read the Bible but can simply rely on other people’s conflicting interpretations? I get a disconnect there because I don’t think anyone should deliberate on biblical topics if they haven’t read the source material (and I don’t know if you have or not).
    Further, conflicting interpretations don’t prove anything. What about the Constitution and Bill of Rights? How many conflicting interpretations do we find there? Even pregnancy is ambiguous and no proof of intercourse. How many incompatible interpretations of freedom exist? How many incompatible cosmological interpretations have existed and still do exist? If by “ambiguous” we mean “capable of being understood in more than one way,” that’s not a very strong argument is all I’m saying. The Bible is not “ambiguous” in the sense of “suffering from insurmountable difficulty,” or, “unable to produce reliable, singular conclusions.”
    As for your 1) I don’t suppose every word and claim in the Bible can be harmonized with scientific-like accuracy, although certainly many can, and as for your 2) I don’t suppose we need to judge between the two, because I think they both are equally at fault.

    …this is more or less the opposite of scientific literature’s form and function.

    We covered that. If that’s true, then explain how untold numbers of creationists quote-mine Darwin, Einstein, and many other scientists, to the point that the axiom itself was coined and invented in response?
    So there’s my take on the quote-mining issue. It seems to me you just strongly disliked me comparing atheists to creationists, yet for me the similarities are too many to ignore. You’re not going to change my mind here, and it seems I can’t erase the ideas you have about the Bible being more conducive to quote-mining than scientific literature. The point of the poop analogy was, how much confidence can we place in conclusions based on an argument from silence? Although it was interesting for a second, we’ve completely avoided that question in favor of discussing the quote-mining issue.

  11. O.K lets leave Jesus giggling (or not) in a corner somewhere for the moment.
    The reason why I believe Arthur is correct in essence is that a scientific paper or treatise is usually authored by one person or a coherent collaboration trying to establish a pre-defined thesis by logical argument and evidence. That being the case to take a sentence completely out of context and ignore the looming “buts” and “therefores” is blatent dishonest quote mining.
    The Bible however (despite what it some purport it to be)is a compilation of short writings by largely unknown authors writing in a variety of styles and intents over a long period of time and to different audiences. Inevitably there is a lack of coherence and it suffers from internal contradictions. Also the structure of self contained numbered verses invites readers to extract them piecemeal rather than leave them in context. I agree with you cl when you say quote mining relates specifically to the scientific liturature because I don’t think you can apply the term to the Bible meaningfully.

  12. O.K lets leave Jesus giggling (or not) in a corner somewhere for the moment.
    The reason why I believe Arthur is correct in essence is that a scientific paper or treatise is usually authored by one person or a coherent collaboration trying to establish a pre-defined thesis by logical argument and evidence. That being the case to take a sentence completely out of context and ignore the looming “buts” and “therefores” is blatent dishonest quote mining.
    The Bible however (despite what it some purport it to be)is a compilation of short writings by largely unknown authors writing in a variety of styles and intents over a long period of time and to different audiences. Inevitably there is a lack of coherence and it suffers from internal contradictions. Also the structure of self contained numbered verses invites readers to extract them piecemeal rather than leave them in context. I agree with you cl when you say quote mining relates specifically to the scientific liturature because I don’t think you can apply the term to the Bible meaningfully.

  13. Sorry, sorry… it was not my intent to cause a thread derailment. I thought it all pertained.
    “How much confidence would you say we can place in conclusions derived from arguments of silence?”
    An argument from silence is a kind of “inference to the best explanation,” right? So it will never be infallible, logically, and will depend entirely on how reasonable one thinks it is for the missing data to be missing. If the Bible talked a lot about laughter, or pooping, and about how important it is to God, and if there were lots of stories about other important Bible folks doing it, then its absence in the Jesus story would be proportionately meaningful.
    I have to add, though, that it doesn’t look like Ebonmuse just dreamed up that post out of nothing: it was a response to Dr. Collins’ claim, about Jesus’ mental health, which itself might well have been based on an absence of information to the contrary. The point I take from the whole thing is that Dr. Collins can cite scripture for his purpose, Ebonmuse can do the same, and so can the devil and everybody else. But that brings up… all that other stuff.

  14. Oh, what the hell. Here I go. I apologize in advance.
    Maybe your two linked quote-mine examples can serve to illustrate both our points. The John Adams appears to be an excellent one, as far as I can tell:
    “Twenty times in the course of my late reading have I been on the point of breaking out, ‘This would be the best of all possible worlds, if there were no religion at all!!!’ But in this exclamation I would have been as fanatical as Bryant or Cleverly. Without religion, this world would be something not fit to be mentioned in polite company, I mean hell.”
    I’m assuming that inner quote is the part Dawkins used. Broadening the context slightly reveals what Adams was really saying on the subject (he has mixed feelings).
    Your other example is from the Bible and, perhaps because of that, less clear-cut. Ebonmuse quotes:
    Luke 12:4-5:
    “And I say unto you my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him.”

    Being Biblically illiterate, I had to google Luke 12 for the rest. I wasn’t sure how much context I needed, however, because the rest of that passage (paragraph? section? verse?) doesn’t seem to me to disable Ebonmuse’s point, especially since the whole thing comes under the heading of “Warnings and Encouragements.” Encouraging someone by saying “Don’t be afraid!” plainly doesn’t erase the admonition to “fear”—if anything it’s just confusing.
    (Incidentally, you say “the very next sentence in his citation would have directly contradicted his point.” The next sentence in that above translation is: “Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies?” Is that the sentence you mean?)
    I could fairly be accused of shoddy scholarship for that judgement, of course. And, while I’m confessing to that, let me willingly concede the point that “many atheists approach the Bible with shoddy scholarship.” But, if I may split a hair, this is not the same as quote mining (I conflated the two in my earlier post myself, to be honest). To accuse someone of shoddy Biblical scholarship is to say that they have an inadequate understanding of the Bible’s intended meaning; to accuse them of quote-mining the Bible is to say that they are aware of its intended meaning and are deliberately misrepresenting it. This distinction matters because believers can be just as guilty of the former as nonbelievers, and uncovering someone else’s shoddy scholarship is no guarantee that you’re doing any better. But being caught with a quote-mine would be evidence of one’s intent to mislead, and would undermine (heh) by definition any argument based on it.
    Dawkins appears to have deliberately misrepresented, as certitude, John Adams’ apparent feelings of ambivalence—it’s a quote mine. Ebonmuse appears simply to have cited the part of Luke 12 which seemed of particular interest and importance—it’s not a quote mine. Maybe it’s shoddy scholarship—what do I know? Or maybe it’s just what people do when they try to speak concisely about the Bible. Maybe, more to the point, it’s the same thing Dr. Collins did when he said: “We don’t see psychological difficulties in Jesus.”
    (By the way, there’s a little something here on the subject of Jesus not laughing. It’s most of the way to the bottom, if you want to skip the jokes.)
    But, of course, this whole conversation comes down to knowing the Bible’s intended meaning. How else can a well-intentioned individual detect, or avoid, its misuse? On what else can an accusation of bad faith be founded? Because of that, and because of this…
    “You say you don’t even have to read the Bible but can simply rely on other people’s conflicting interpretations? …I don’t think anyone should deliberate on biblical topics if they haven’t read the source material.”
    …I feel compelled to assert, again but more strongly, that I don’t have to know anything about the contents of the Bible to know about its effects on the world around me. Based on those effects alone, it is self-evident that the Bible permits, if not encourages, full conviction in any one of an enormous range of irreconcilable interpretations. In my humble uninformed opinion, in fact, to deny the Bible’s enormous interpretive flexibility one must be willfully blind and deaf to the history of western civilization. Or the Cliffs Notes on western civilization, even.
    God only knows, in other words.

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