REPLY #27a TO|
Boldfaced statements are parts of the original essay (or a subsequent reply) to which the respondent has directed his comments.
Italicized/emphasized comments prefaced by (R) are those of the respondent and are presented unedited.
My replies appear under the respondent's comments in blue text and are prefaced by my initials (MB).
This is the first of a seven-part reply. Select the "Go to next reply" link at the end of each part to read the next part of the reply.
As well as an ulterior motive, it would appear. When I
choose to make friends with somebody, it is for reasons other
than overt or subliminal proselytizing of any of my beliefs. I
can also be friends with people whose religious, political,
social or other beliefs are directly opposed to my own.
(R) The point of friendship evangelism is, as I clearly stated, to make
friends. It has no ulterior motive nor any underlying purpose of
indoctrination, despite what you insinuate.
(MB) If that is so, why use the phrase "friendship evangelism" rather than just
"friendship"? Your phrase makes the word "friendship" secondary to
"evangelism". If there was no purpose involved other than friendship, why even
mention evangelism in the same breath?
(R) You had previously stated that all
proselytizing depends on claims of perfect knowledge of God's plan, His attitude
towards man, and His judgments, and then said no one could proselytize without
making such claims. I've shown you to be wrong by describing an alternate
(MB) How can you possibly justify this statement with your immediately preceding
claim that there is no ulterior motive involved in the "friendships" you are
attempting to cultivate? First, you deny any overt or subliminal proselytizing
of your beliefs. Now, you defend your "alternate method" of proselytizing.
Which of these mutually-exclusive stories are we supposed to believe? What is
the difference between what you are doing and what the intelligence community
Your statement about "establishing a bond which might bear fruit at some
future point" is, frankly, rather disturbing. That smacks of the male hypocrisy
of "making friends" with a female primarily for the purpose of trying to have
sex with her and dumping her if she never agrees.
(R) I'm rather disturbed that anyone could think of such a comparison after
being clearly told what friendship evangelism is.
(MB) The comparison comes quite easily -- especially in light of the
previously-stated self-contradictory explanations of "friendship evangelism".
Tell me, what do you do if a subject rejects your friendship evangelism?
(R) This is nothing more than an attempt to throw dust in the air to avoid
admitting you are wrong, and demonstrates that no tactic is too foul for you to
use in order to discredit belief in God.
(MB) Not at all. I'm just trying to uncover the truth of what you really
believe and say and do and if those things are always the same. No amount of
vitriol or ad hominem attacks directed at me will justify your claims or
"There is something feeble and a little contemptable about a man who cannot face
the perils of life without the help of comfortable myths. Almost inevitably
some part of him is aware that they are myths and that he believes them only
because they are comforting. But he dare not face this thought! Moreover, since
he is aware, however dimly, that his opinions are not real, he becomes furious
when they are disputed."
-- Bertrand Russell, "Human Society in Ethics and Politics"
I'm also not going to try to equate them with
religious zealots. Their goals are rather different.
(R) The fact that their goals are different has nothing to do with the point
(MB) On the contrary, it *is* the point under discussion. You attempted to
equate political terrorists with religious zealots. Is this supposed to justify
the actions of religious zealots? Two wrongs don't make a right, you know.
(R) You have said that only religious fanatics make a total commitment of their
lives and actions to their beliefs, and stated only they are likely to use
violence to promote their beliefs. You are wrong.
(MB) You have distorted what I said. The part about "total commitment" is
right, but anybody can use violence. Isn't there something disturbing about the
religious zealot who claims to devoutly worship a deity who preached such things
as "Love your neighbor", "Turn the other cheek", and "Thou shalt not kill" and
then defends his beliefs through violence?
Yep, but none of those groups (neo-Nazis, racial supremacists, KKK) worship
a leader who is claimed to have created everything. None expect to gain eternal
salvation through their beliefs.
(R) While these groups may not claim their leaders created the universe, or
that they provide the way to an afterlife, they often ascribe to their leaders
god-like attributes such as infallibility.
(MB) Once again "Man created God in his own image and likeness"...
"It may be that our role on this planet is not to worship God, but to
-- Arthur C. Clarke.
(R) The specifics of such beliefs are irrelevant.
(MB) How? If we are supposed to believe that some religion is the answer to all
of our problems, it is extremely relevant that the very same religion is used to
justify all make and manner of social atrocities. You can't just blow this off
by claiming that "their brand of religion is wrong" since you have already
stated that there is nothing to favor one religion or sect over any other.
None support their ideas simply by claiming that they "can't be proven
(R) Neither do religious believers.
(MB) You have done exactly that on numerous occasions during our discussion and
will do so again in the very next statement...
(R) But this doesn't change the fact that the basic premises of most belief
systems are unproved and unproveable, and it is just as reasonable and logical
to believe one as it is the others.
(MB) Which means that they are all 0% reasonable and 0% logical, right? Well,
if you're wrong, you're wrong, I guess. Just "how wrong" is little more than a
"Justifying the claim that something does not exist is not quite the same as
proving or having arguments that it doesn't, but it is what we are talking
about. That is, we need not have a proof that God does not exist in order to
justify atheism. Atheism is obligatory in the absence of any evidence for God's
-- Michael Scriven, "God and Reason" Critiques of God (Buffalo, NY: Prometheus,
1997) p. 105.
In fact, most of them try to use the Bible to support their own brand of
(R) Yes, there are some fanatics who use the Bible in attempts to justify
nonsense, but it is entirely incorrect to say most do.
(MB) Again, you're trying to lump all fanatics into the same category when the
current subject involves groups who base their racist philosophies upon what
they read in the Bible. Why should *any* fanatical group find anything in the
Bible to support their views? If the Bible is the inspired Word of God, there
should be no room in its pages for such misuse.
(R) I would have to give the nod in that regard to the writings of Marx, or to
simple jingoism. The Koran would also be a strong competitor.
(MB) Nobody will argue that there are many things which could inspire
fanaticism or other dubious behavior. That doesn't justify any particular
Scary. "Jesus, please save us from your followers."
(R) Any fanatic, religious or otherwise, is frightening if they advocate
violence. A violent fanatic is not a follower of Jesus, despite any claims made
to the contrary.
(MB) Oh? He certainly would think that he was. How would his quotations of
Scripture and adherence to dogma in his own defense differ from yours? How are
we to determine who is right and who is wrong if it is just as reasonable and
logical to believe either way?
While this is true, are you attempting to use this as
some sort of justification for the behavior of the religious?
(R) Religious bigotry cannot be justified.
(MB) Amen (pardon the pun). Yet, it still pervades the
practice, does it not?
(R) I am merely disputing your attempts,
here and at many other point in this discussion, to paint all religious
believers as intolerant fanatics,
(MB) I've never claimed that all religious believers are intolerant fanatics.
That is your exaggeration and is clearly not the case. Once again, you seem to
be more worried about the scope of the problem than about the problem itself.
If the popular notion of Christianity has any validity and if its tenets are so
clear, there shouldn't be *any* violent fanatics for Jesus.
"Faith cannot move mountains (though generations of children are solemnly told
the contrary and believe it). But it is capable of driving people to such
dangerous folly that faith seems to me to qualify as a kind of mental illness.
It leads people to believe in whatever it is so strongly that in extreme cases
they are prepared to kill and to die for it without the need for further
-- Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene (New edition, New York: Oxford University
Press, 1989), p. 198.
(R) ...as well as your claims that religious fanatics are somehow peculiarly
dangerous and violent.
(MB) Their brand of violence is "peculiar" only in that it is so clearly at odds
with the basic tenets of the religion they claim to be supporting.
(R) Anti-religious bigotry can't be justified, either.
(MB) No form of bigotry can be justified. However, unpleasant truths about a
belief system do not qualify as "bigotry".
I thought that those folks were supposed to occupy the "moral high ground" and
show the rest of us poor wretches what being "good" is all about. They should be
eschewing narrow-mindedness rather than perfecting it.
(R) All human beings are imperfect, with some more imperfect than others. Just
because someone believes in God doesn't make them perfect.
(MB) There's no requirement to be "perfect". However, if somebody wants to
claim that their beliefs and morals are better than mine or anybody else's, they
will need to do more than just say so. Until then, there's no reason for
anybody to accept them.
(R) There are definitely some religious believers who are poor examples for
others and I'm sure we can both think of some famous examples. But there are
many more who are fine examples of goodness, honor, mercy, duty, tolerance, and
sacrifice. The actions of a base few does nothing to discredit the rest.
(MB) True enough, but where is the criticism from the majority about the actions
of those base few? If the majority won't bother to take care of the squeaky
wheels, how are we to determine that the squeaking isn't the norm? There's no
lack of outcry against the "heretics" outside the religion. Why is there no
similar outcry against those within the religion?
Everything *can* also be explained by saying that anybody or anything else did
(R) Well, no, it can't.
(MB) Well, yes, it can. The key here is that the "God did it" explanation is
totally unsupported by any kind of evidence. That means that any statement
that merely substitutes the name of any other deity/entity/thing for "God" also
*can* explain things. Of course this means absolutely nothing in reality, since
no unsupportable or bogus explanation is worth the effort expended in making it
- whether or not "God" is the subject in question.
"A wise man proportions his belief to the evidence."
-- David Hume
(R) The only other possible explanation is chance.
(MB) "Chance" is the mathematical probability that something will happen. If
something exists, it no longer matters if the odds against it were long. To
lend support to a hypothesis that something happened by chance, it is only
necessary to show evidence for how it might have happened. Further observations
and experimentation can lend additional support to the hypothesis and raise it
to the level of a theory. This is where science is today in its search for the
origins of the universe. Supernatural explanations don't even qualify as ideas
worthy of consideration.
Claims are easy to make. Claims
without supporting evidence, however, are a waste of time and effort and are
better off being ignored.
(R) Once again, let me state that most basic premises have no supporting
evidence, but this doesn't mean they never advance understanding or clarify
(MB) I think you are confusing science with philosophy and theology. There are
no theories of science that have no supporting evidence -- absolutely none.
(R) Such premises should never be considered a waste of time, unless one
feels there's no reason to worry about the origin of the universe at all.
(MB) Science is concerned with the origin of the universe, but is under no
delusion that it was created expressly for Man or for any other specific
purpose. Science wishes to learn the answers purely out of the desire to
advance our knowledge. There are no issues about any underlying "meaning" of
Life, the Universe, and Everything involved.
Why should our understanding be limited? Just because
we may not know something today doesn't mean that we
can't learn it tomorrow. When one puts limits on what they
can or will understand, that just opens the door for nonsense
to come in and fill the void.
(R) I fail to see how acknowledgment of the obvious fact that it is impossible
for me to know everything puts any limits on my understanding, so long as I
continue to try to understand.
(MB) You're confusing the issue. You have already stated that your beliefs in
God are not subject to change. This means that you are putting limits on your
understanding and on what you will or will not accept.
People still want answers to their questions and concerns. If science, logic
and reason are too "hard" or unacceptable, what is left to rush in, fill the
gaps and provide those answers?
The belief doesn't, but the believers certainly do when
they put forth an unsupported "God did it" and call that as
good as any other explanation of anything in the universe.
(R) The concept that God is behind the workings of the universe is just as good
as the concept that there is nothing behind it. Neither idea can be
(MB) There is considerable evidence for the natural origination of the universe
and I have presented some of it in this discussion. How can you continue to
claim that it doesn't exist? This just proves that you are placing limits on
what you will or won't accept and that the "just as good" argument is
nothing more than a rationalization and a smokescreen.
"Logical thinking empowers the mind in a way that no other kind of thinking can.
It frees the highly educated from the habit of presuming every claim to be true
until proven false. It enables average Americans to stand up against the forces
of political correctness, see through the chicanery, and make independent
decisions for themselves. And it is the bulwark against intellectual servitude
for the underprivleged."
-- Marilyn vos Savant, The Power of Logical Thinking, (New York: St. Martin's,
1997), p. xix.
Once again, here's an attempt to justify the behavior of
religious believers by bringing up similar failings of others.
Can't their behavior stand or fall on its own merits (or lack of
(R) Once again, I'm not trying to justify the behavior of the small minority of
religious believers who you attempt to show as indicative of all those with
religious beliefs. I'm just pointing out that this is what you are trying to
(MB) Already noted and refuted. You have yet to explain why the scope of a
behavior is more important to you than the behavior itself.
BTW, none of the myths surrounding the Civil War
involved placing the supernatural over and above reality and
most had a legitimate basis.
(R) If they have a legitimate basis, they're not myths.
(MB) Not necessarily. Any truthful story or incident can be embellished or
distorted. For example, take the legitimate accounts of the Greek-Trojan war as
presented in the mythology of the Odyssey and the Iliad.
(R) Here's a myth: The
Confederacy didn't succeed from the Union over the issue of slavery, but over
the issue of state's rights. Tell me, what legitimate basis does this myth
(MB) This myth is based largely upon the writings of a few Confederate
apologists after the end of the Civil War combined with the change in social
attitudes concurrent with the rise of the civil rights movement in the 1960's.
Here is a confusion of discrete objects in physical
reality with the side-effects of the interaction of a subset of
such objects. Behavior is not, in and of itself, a physical
(R) Yes, but human behavior has physical results, which is why we are concerned
with it, just as the physical results of the four fundamental interactions (or
forces) of nature lead to our interest in them.
(MB) More confusion. The four fundamental forces of nature (weak and strong
nuclear force, electromagnetism, and gravity) are constant quantities that can
be accurately measured and will produce effects which can be predicted. This is
not the case with human behavior. Again, human behavior is not a discrete
physical force or object.
A star, for example, is such an object. We can't
accurately predict human behavior, but we can accurately
predict the life cycle of a star.
(R) We can only make broad predictions about the life cycles of stars in
general, and have no ability to make precise predictions about individual stars
-- or about the future of the universe. This is exactly the same situation as
with human behavior.
(MB) Incorrect. If we know the mass of a star, we can accurately predict its
life cycle. All stars follow the same unchanging physical laws. Human behavior
follows no such rules and can, therefore, not be predicted.
Is there an implication here that divine intervention is required to explain
that which can not be accurately predicted?
(R) Not at all. The implication is that we do not have enough knowledge or
understanding to make predictions, other than of the most general in nature,
about the universe or anything in it.
(MB) How accurate do you want it? What level of accuracy would be good enough
for you to start believing in the methodology being used? Why do you prefer the
groundless speculation of the supernatural to the demonstrated accuracy of what
science can already predict?
"What would have to occur or to have occurred to constitute for you a disproof
of the love of, or of the existence of, God?"
-- Antony Flew, "The Presumption of Atheism" God, Freedom, and Immortality,
(Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books, 1984), p. 74.
(R) "....human behavior is not deterministic, nor does it follow any laws of
science." These are your words from a couple of paragraph up, with which I
think perhaps a sociologist or psychologist might disagree.
(MB) If you can find one, I'd be interested in hearing about it. If such a
thing was proven, it would utterly destroy the notion of free will.
(R) After a statement like that, it seems relevant to establish that these two
disciplines qualify as science.
(MB) I thought that they already qualified as sciences.
(R) What is science, anyway? It is a systematic body of knowledge which uses
the scientific method (hypothesis, observation and experiment, and conclusion)
to establish and add to that knowledge.
(MB) Correct. Hypotheses are developed from the related evidence concerning a
given phenomenon. Observation and experiment examine the evidence in an attempt
to either support, refute or refine the hypothesis. Reliable conclusions are
based upon the sum total of all evidence and argument associated with the
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