• 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
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    

What The Bible Really Says About The Soul, II

Yesterday, I responded to a post titled, The Bible Says The Soul Is Not Immaterial, by Matt DeStefano. DeStefano’s response seemed rushed, but I liked his point about AT&T park [even though I’m not convinced he fully got my point]. He wrote,

Over at The Warfare is Mental , cl has responded to my previous post about the soul being immortal.

Immortal? Did he mean “immaterial” there? Or, did he also mean to imply that the Bible says the soul is not immortal? If that’s the case, I do not believe in the immortality of an immaterial soul that persists after death and independent of the physical body. That’s an example of Hellenistic influence that the Bible doesn’t seem to support. Rather, I believe in what I would call the wholistic resurrection of the dead, as that’s what the Bible clearly seems to teach. I believe in the resurrection of the whole human being: body, soul, and spirit. However, believing in such a resurrection does not entail that “materialism” or “physicalism” are correct, nor does it entail that humans are monist entities, nor does it entail that the spirit can’t leave the body. Lastly, I also believe that non-human spirits exist independently of physical bodies, even sometimes inhabiting physical bodies, as the Bible seems to clearly teach this, too. I hope this clears things up. I touched on some of the Scriptures that I think support this view in yesterday’s post, so feel free to check those out and let me know if you need more.

The last post was an attempt to dispel the notion that the Greek dualism present in modern Christianity is an extra-biblical notion.

Wasn’t his last post was an attempt to confirm the notion that Greek dualism is an extra-biblical notion? That one, I think, is just a typo.

While the analysis was certainly limited in Biblical exegesis, after surveying the opinion modern of Biblical scholars, it seemed that further discussion was not necessary. I felt my mission was to merely bring it to the attention of those who had not had the benefit of further study. It seems an overwhelming majority of Biblical scholars agree with the lack of a dualism inherent in Scripture, and rather attribute it to a Greek influence.

“the opinion modern of biblical scholars?” “Overwhelming majority?” He cited two sources, and Wendell Berry is NOT a biblical scholar! I did a Google search for “dualism and Christianity biblical scholars,” and I didn’t so easily find this overwhelming majority. Like anything else, I found a hit or two there, seasoned by plenty of misses and lots of irrelevancy. Of course, I agree there are elements of Greek influence in modern Christianity. As just explained, the Bible seems to teach that the resurrection is physical, not spiritual.

This is really just dualism redux. He’s arguing that spirit and body are distinctive elements (presumably spirit is immaterial – while body is material), and that soul is what we call one that has both. This is still dualism, but merely giving the fission of the two elements a different moniker.

I disagree. Soul would be an emergent property of the two, something not reducible to either one. What I’m talking about would be more accurately described as emergent tripartism, I think. However, DeStefano’s objection is purely semantic–not an objection of substance. It doesn’t matter what words we use. The map is not the territory. That he calls what I believe “dualism” and I call it something else is irrelevant, and certainly not an objection which would justify his claims that the “overwhelming majority of Biblical scholars” promote substance monism, or that “the Bible says the soul is not immaterial.” Right?

His next verse is Matt 10:28 which cautions Christians on whose judgments to be concerned with: “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” Again, I think this verse fails to serve as an indictment to the monism we see apparent in the Bible. God decides the eternal fate of mankind (has the ability to resurrect one to a physical rebirth), so he has the ability to ‘kill the soul’, while man can merely kill the body. No need to posit dualism in order to account for this verse.

Yet, on monism, wouldn’t killing the body -> killing the soul? There would be no way one could kill the body without killing the soul, if the soul was just the “life” of the body.

DeStefano closes by citing Harpers:

“In the NT, ‘soul’ retains its basic Hebrew field of meaning. Soul refers to one’s life: Herod sought Jesus’ soul (Matt. 2:20); one might save a soul or take it (Mark 3:4). Death occurs when God ‘requires your soul’ (Luke 12:20). ‘Soul’ may refer to the whole person, the self: ‘three thousand souls’ were converted in Acts 2:41 (see Acts 3:23). Although the Greek idea of an immortal soul different in kind from the mortal body is not evident, ‘soul’ denotes the existence of a person after death (see Luke 9:25; 12:4; 21:19); yet Greek influence may be found in 1 Peter’s remark about ‘the salvation of souls’ (1:9).”

Here are each of those verses as found in the ESV:

…saying, “Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child’s life are dead.” [Matt. 2:20]

And he said to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. [Mark 3:4]

But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ [Luke 12:20]

And it shall be that every soul who does not listen to that prophet shall be destroyed from the people.’ [Acts 3:23]

For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? [Luke 9:25]

“I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. [Luke 12:4]

By your endurance you will gain your lives. [Luke 21:19]

…obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. [1 Peter 1:9]

So where, in any of that, does it say “The soul is not immaterial,” as DeStefano claimed? Does he mean to imply that monism is true because nepesh is also used to denote life? Why does DeStefano seemingly ignore the distinction between soul and spirit? I disagree with DeStefano that the Bible promotes substance monism. That is a strong claim, and it needs more treatment than what he’s given it IMHO. The Bible clearly talks of “spiritual realms,” and further claims that “God is spirit.” Of course, neither of those facts refute his monist hypothesis, but you would think a worthy treatment would at least take them into consideration. It’s not that I’m 100% opposed to DeStefano’s claim, don’t get me wrong. It’s just that it’s going to take a little bit more than passing reference to unnamed biblical scholars to really get my attention. I think a monist conception of the human being can actually resolve some of counterapologetic arguments on the scene, but I’m not going to go jumping towards it just because it’d be easier to respond to atheist apologists. It’s not as if Christianity sinks or swims on dualism. It sinks or swims on Christ.

Coloring Death With Hope: Jesus & His Kingdom, IV

In this installment, we’re going to briefly cover three chapters, because 4 and 5 are mostly background information Mike wants readers to absorb so they can be aware of biblical context. If you’re interested, you should read or at least gloss them over them yourself, instead of relying on my interpretation of what Mike wants to say. Chapter 6 is titled, Coloring Death With Hope.

Mike begins chapter 4 by noting the importance of oral tradition in history, a point often overlooked or underplayed by those fond of the “but all we have are a bunch of stories” when it comes to evaluating the integrity of historic documents. It’s an off-the-cuff type statement, but he makes a humorous point related to hyper-skeptics and their demands:

If I want to know who brought the first airplane into existence, I am satisfied when I hear the names Wilbur and Orville Wright. I do not need to know the kinds of wrenches they used or where they bought the raw material before I can accept the answer. Even if I was interested in such detailed information and could discover it, this still would not change the answer to my original question – no matter how much detail I did or didn’t uncover.

Recall from our recent discussion on materialism that reality is composed primarily of intangible constituents, with a negligible bit of tangible stuff. About halfway through chapter 4, Mike summarizes the Hebrew division of reality, and the entire chapter seems aimed at supporting a simple point: Sheol–the ultimate destination of all who died in the Old Testament–exists in the spiritual, unseen realm:

[the Bible] presents a view of creation as existing in two dimensions: visible and invisible. We could also say “seen and unseen” or “flesh and spirit.”

Extending his conversation to the New Testament, chapter 5 can be summarized in the line, “all you have to remember is that Hades means Sheol. Everything you’ve learned about Sheol applies to Hades.” Back in the second installment, I cited Gregory L. Little’s book Grand Illusions, where he offers an electromagnetic conception of reality, including Heaven and Sheol:

Heaven lies on the far end of the electromagnetic energy spectrum extending above cosmic rays. It represents the essence of creation, light, and vibration. It is invisible, is the source of all other energy and matter in the universe, and has intelligence as well as intelligent life forms populating its various levels. Sheol, or hell, represents the opposite end of the EM spectrum where movement and energy vibration cease. There is no light there, no sound, no movement, and no apparent escape. It is enfolded into itself, densely packed like a black hole. UFO’s, “angelic beings,” and other paranormal manifestations can enter the visible light range of the EM spectrum from either end depending on their source. Sheol, in a symbolic vision, takes the appearance of a bottomless pit. [Little 1994, p. 226]

I finally got around to scanning the visual depiction out of the book:

Personally, Little’s hypothesis strikes me as plausible and intuitive, and it relates to the discussion on Sheol.

As an aside, there was one other thing in chapter 5 I’d like to comment on, in particular, the final sentence:

So, you may now revise your challenge to me to say, “All you have proven so far is that everyone is going to Hades.” Even as you hear yourself say that, however, you are shaking off the man-made traditions you have been taught. The Bible’s true message is contrasting itself with traditional, though erroneous theories. ”What of hell?” you ask. We’ll get to that in a later chapter. For now, recognize that in all the Bible verses I have paraded before you, the word hell has not appeared. Neither has there been in any of these verses a notion that there was more than one place to go when one died. The notion of some going down at death while others went up is simply not biblical!

I agree there. The Bible is commonly misconstrued as promoting “good people go to Heaven, bad people go to Hell,” but even a quick fact check reveals that this isn’t the case. It’s more accurately described as “all of us are bad people in one way or another, but God has graciously provided a means of reconciliation for those willing to take it.”

I really don’t have much to say about Chapter 6. Towards the end, Mike makes an excellent point:

Like any important truth, multiple analogies are often needed to fully bring it to light. Any single metaphor could be misunderstood, but repeated, varied, and multiple depictions turn implications and hints into substantiated hope. An object perceived from various angles is more clearly perceived than one viewed from a single point of view.

By the end, I got the feeling that Mike’s laid sufficient groundwork, and I expect the arguments to unfold a bit more exponentially as we go along. He writes,

…what I have described to you in the first six chapters of this book comprises the worldview inherited by Jesus and His apostles. They believed in God and in His two-dimensional, three-tiered universe just as the prophets had presented it. Everything spoken by the Lord and written by the apostles in the New Testament uses this framework. To read the New Testament without this Old Testament context is to invite misunderstanding. However, having listened to and embraced the view espoused by Moses and the Prophets, you are ready to better understand just what the Lord and His apostles have declared to us about resurrection.

Seems to me we’re right about at the half-way point.

An Open Challenge: Why You Should Be Skeptical Of John W. Loftus

A few months ago, John Loftus claimed that science debunks Christianity.

I’m not a fan of these types of claims, which are essentially sweeping generalizations that contain what I’ve referred to in the past as “the precision of 2×4” as opposed to, say, that of a sharpened #2 pencil. Of course, any (a)theist who’s spent even in a minute in the trenches knows that both science and Christianity are usually emotionally charged keywords that carry more baggage than a bellman at Luxor Grand. The author’s choice of words literally begs the reader to plunge headlong into a frenzy of racing and polarized analysis, fueled on reaction determined by the color of one’s glasses.

Talk about fodder for the culture wars.

Nonetheless, I’d like to focus on a few of Loftus’ claims, and specifically challenge Loftus to take responsibility by supplying the necessary emendations to justify his arguments as needed, and/or admitting their lack of cogency as hitherto presented. Of course, the challenge is open, which means I’m interested to hear your input as well. In fact, I suspect Loftus won’t even respond, but… we’ll see. May he prove me wrong.

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Creationist Values Do Not Lead To Death & Maiming: My Response To Luke & Fyfe

I'm a semi-regular reader of Common Sense Atheism, maintained by Christian-turned-atheist philosophy student, Luke. If you've never checked out Luke's site, I suggest you do. The commentary is usually thoughtful, and the integrity of the debate more than you typically find in the blogosphere. He's got what might be the most thorough collection of William Lane Craig material besides Craig's blog, and also links to over 400 debates between atheists and believers. Luke's blog is a genuine resource to (a)theism. 

What originally turned me on to Luke's style was his sharp dismissal of much of what the New Atheists have to say. Luke ##— like myself — has a very low tolerance for sloppy atheist arguments. He's usually apt to call them when he sees them, too, which is all the better, as I've noticed atheists can be quite fond of towing party lines and refusing to rebuke their own, even when such is clearly called for. The only real negative I'd noticed up until last night was that I've seen Luke threaten to ban commenters (no, not me) for what I'd call nothing more than "disagreeable disagreement." While I don't know that Luke's ever banned anybody, I have absolutely zero tolerance for those who resort to censorship and moderation, and this opinion would not relent even of my own mother. Hence the offensiveness of even the suggestion. 

Now, I know some of my regular readers are beyond tired of my arguments with other bloggers, and I understand. People generally don't like to be asked to take sides, and I'm not trying to burden anybody here, it's just that I felt it more appropriate to add my thoughts here as opposed to on Luke's blog. There exists a certain subset of atheists who like to conflate thoroughness with trolling and grandstanding, and by refusing to gas on at Luke's, I can effectively cut off such objections at the knees.

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The Genetics Of Sin: A Dialog With Ritchie, Pt. II

The Bible claims that Adam and Eve's "original sin" in the Garden of Eden resulted in an extensive punishment that affects all of humanity. Last month, we had quite an interesting discussion revolving around a comment of Ritchie's, originally left for me at Daylight Atheism:

..why should the sin of Adam and Eve pass on to their children, and by extension, to us? Why can't each person be born with a blank slate? God, apparently did not arrange things this way. Instead, He Himself introduced the taint of sin and then blames us for possessing that flaw.

[At this point I responded by saying I rejected Ritchie's claim that God introduced sin into the human race, and Ritchie responded with,]

Who made the tree of knowledge of good and evil in the garden of Eden (knowing in advance that Adam and Eve would eat from it)? Who gave instructions to Adam and Eve not to eat the fruit despite the fact that they had no concept of good or evil and were therefore unable to make moral decisions on their own? Who created the serpent (or Satan, whichever you prefer), knowing in advance the role he would play in man's downfall? Scripture says God, God, God. Whichever way you turn it, the entire episode in Eden is an almighty cock-up and it's all God's fault…

[Earlier in that thread, I had sad, "It's a reasonable argument that sin adversely effects the human apparatus; perhaps the original sin set something in motion genetically," to which Ritchie replied,]

You think sin gets passed on through your genes? Why? How could eating a piece of fruit affect Adam and Eve's DNA? Do other sins affect our DNA too? When we arrest people, should we take a blood sample and examine that for traces of 'guilt' or 'sin' to determine whether they are guilty? Should criminals be denied the right to have children, since their children will be born more genetically 'corrupted' by sin than the children of parents who have committed no crime?

Now, I thought for certain he was roasting me with his last two questions, but Ritchie assured me they were in fact sincere, so I promised him I would address them. We discussed some of these questions in rather excruciating detail in Pt. I, but I'd like to cover the rest of them, as well as add a thing or two to some of those we've already discussed.

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What The Bible Actually Says About Salvation, or, The Logic Behind Jesus As The Only Way To God

As an aside, I think this could become a useful post series (What The Bible Actually Says About…), because I often find myself running into difficulty in arguments based on differing interpretations of the Bible. Two of TWIM's five seven post series are effectively stalled right now: Rebutting Atheist Universe, and eBates. The former is stalled mostly for lack of motivation, really. I tend to write spontaneously and follow arguments wherever they might interestingly lead, which is why I'll never whine a lick about what those who lack pertinent arguments often demonize as "thread derailment." Freethought has no boundaries, folks.

This spontaneity also means it's hard for me to force myself to respond to David Mills once a week when I'm not particularly feeling it — which I haven't been for a while. eBates and the whole "Power Commenter" ideas we've experimented with haven't gotten off the ground  yet, mostly for lagging on my own part I suppose. The first person I invited to an eBate declined, and I just haven't asked anyone else yet. I've expressed interest in having one with Ebonmuse regarding his essay A Ghost In The Machine, but he declined to respond.

But let's not digress too much here.

Today, I just wanted to restate that the Bible doesn't say the unrepentant sinner is cast into Sheol for doing bad things. Now, before you say, "Wait a minute cl, the Bible clearly teaches that all sinners go to hell," let me explain. We're all familiar with the common trope: the good people go to heaven,
and the bad people go to hell. Not that all religions teach afterlife
concepts, but the vast majority do and the formula is the same in every
one of them I've come across but one. Then again, this makes perfect
sense, as I've always maintained that if the Gospel is real,
Christianity is actually a relationship and not a religion. My point is, Sheol is the punishment for unrepentant sinners, and to frame salvation without that key word in mind is to understate the scope of the problem, which encourages misunderstanding of the uniqueness of the solution.

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On Atheists & Censorship

I was on an atheist website the other day when the following remark caught my eye:

Why is it that the only blogs which seem to moderate dissenting comments are Christian ones?
-Yunshui, on Superstition Free

That's one of the most inaccurate claims I've heard in the blogosphere, by far! Granted, there's no authoritative study on who censors speech more between atheists and believers, so of course people can only address this question from their own personal experience along with what they've heard from others, which makes our judgments subjective. Still, it's obviously beyond denial that Yunshui has seen a significant number of believers censor speech, else that comment wouldn't have been made.

Don't get me wrong: I agree that a significant number of believers practice censorship; I've seen it with my own eyes. This thread at DefCon is a perfect example, where the Desert Pastor deleted questions from PhillyChief, along with a supporting comment from SI, yet for some reason allowed Gideon's disparaging remark against PhillyChief to remain, even when DefCon's own "rules of engagement" state that "demeaning" or "insulting" comments will not be tolerated. Apparently, demeaning or insulting comments are tolerated, when made against atheists. So yes, I concur with those who point out that believers are prone censoring others, and I concur that it stinks.

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