BH: It's ironic that your response to my demonstration of you misrepresenting me is [..] You can imagine all the hostility you want, but nothing you write can incur it in me.I guess you're not going to admit that "purely emotional reaction" was a misrepresentation, so I'll let the matter drop.
AJ: One can't 'live' their Christianity on the net, and it doesn't make sense to me to try.If you turn out to be the best-informed atheist to convert to Christianity that one can find, then your conversion story might be less compelling if you seem subject to confounding levels of anger, guilt and angst. Also, your witness (and that of e.g. Turkel and India) might come off as a little more courageous if you dared (as the Sec Web and I do) to actually link to opposing sites. (Here again, Miller is the exception, though unlike the others he hasn't tried to answer my critiques of his material.)
BH: Such occasions of not winning thus become an interesting character test.Really. You write that certain Christians in your life made quite a "positive impression"; who (if anyone) is the nontheist who has made the most positive impression on you? How any times have you interacted with a humanist who doesn't "hate Christians" and whose life isn't "hopeless" or "without meaning"? Did you know any such nontheists when you converted to Christianity?
AJ: I doubt that you have ever thought that you've lost a debate. Give me some examples of debates that you have lost. I would like the details of these debates; in fact transcripts would be nice.I can think of at least one debate in which I conceded that I was wrong about the question under discussion. I'll give you the transcripts if you give me transcripts of your best pre-conversion atheist writing. (Do you still have any? Were any of those debates even in writing?)
AJ: Which debates concerning Christianity have you lost?If I had ever lost a debate about the truth of Christianity, I would have reverted to Christianity. In the broader area of theological metaphysics, I was once forced to drastically sharpen my definition of 'supernatural' to meet objections from atheists that the supernatural could never exist.
AJ: In debates of this nature, I am convinced that both sides always walk away confident that they have given their opponents a real whipping.
BH: It's not within your power to give offense to me. [..]No, my statement above is derived from my confidence that your experience of me gives you no basis whatsoever for saying anything to or about me that might trouble me. My respect for your self-professed history of atheist inquiry has only been somewhat damaged by your recent emails to me, and I seriously doubt that you have no respect for me whatsoever.
AJ: One must have respect for the other to be in a position to be offended and neither of us is in that position with the other.
AJ: Sarcasm is indeed sophomoric and ill-tempered. I would be more concerned with appearing sophomoric and ill-tempered in the absence of sarcasm than I am with its deliberate use.
[BH: My assessment was geared precisely toward "investigat[ing] whether atheists having long-term experience with both sides' arguments ever later convert to Christianity purely because of comparing those arguments." If you can give me any more data for this investigation than what is available in your deconversion essay, I'd be grateful. In particular, I'd love details on the specific philosophical arguments and positions that you were familiar with before becoming a Christian.]Demonstrably false. If I say my intention was "precisely X", and you say it was instead Y, and I deny it, and you repeat your assertion, you are effectively calling me a liar. QED.
AJ: Come on, Mr. Holtz. I’m sure you are aware of this. You wrote what you did in a cheap effort to turn your audience.
BH: You utterly ignored my earlier reiteration of my intentions (restored in brackets above), and by repeating your contrary characterization of my intentions you are effectively calling me a liar.
AJ: Why, I never said anything of the sort, Mr. Holtz.
AJ: I am not condemning you as a liar! I'm complementing [sic] you on your ability to persuade others!I didn't say you "condemned" me. I said you are rejecting my repeated contrary assertion of what my intention was. However, if you think "cheap effort" is a compliment, then that might help explain your confusion about my intentions... :-)
AJ: As for the issue in brackets, I was well versed in Evolution and well read in the standard arguments such as omniscience vs free will, immutability, incompatibilities of God's nature, Descartes and his pathetic ontological argument, argument from non-belief, oh must I list them all? Primary conscience, Arguments from Morality, contributions of Aristocrates, Nietzschegaard, Kierkestotle. The fact is, after subjecting myself to over 8 years of debate, I've probably argued every argument there is to argue.I don't doubt you were well-versed in the arguments about God. My question is whether your exposure to nontheist ethics was limited to lame Continental thinkers like Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, and Sartre, or whether you had encountered modern humanist thinking on ethics.
BH: Is this what Jesus would do?
AJ: Are you recognizing Jesus Christ as a higher moral standard?
I agree, in so far as Jesus too had a way of emotionally over-reacting and using hyperbole and name-calling against his opponents. :-)AJ: Because if you are, I admittedly fall short. However, Jesus had a way of calling a spade a spade and many people found that offensive. So perhaps Jesus would.
Thus you have nothing of substance to say against my explanation of my intentions.BH: And are you saying it's metaphysically impossible for me to sincerely want to find the best arguments against atheism by seeking those most like me who later converted to Christianity?
AJ: Impossible? No.
BH: Since you identified none of my assertions, I'll take this as an effective admission that you recognize that each is quite supportable.
AJ: They are supportable in as much as they are your opinion.[..] of what worth is [..] opinion when it concerns only a subjective issue?
AJ: For example, I could very easily list all of your quotes that give me the impression that you are arrogant.
AJ: I’m sure that upon examination of the list of quotes, Dan Barker would consider you to be humble! So please excuse me if I don't take the time to support my accusations of your opinions.
Polemicists are indeed polemicists, and I agree that by itself the thesis a polemicist defends tells little about his personality. But I think there are clear differences in temperament and maturity among individual polemicists.AJ: I see no difference between web apologists of different philosophies. Their positions are different but their natures are the same.
AJ: Miracles usually describe actions that leave behind no objective evidence.Your analogy fails. No serious scientist says that any truth about the Big Bang is based on something which "left behind no objective evidence". And I think few nontheist philosophers would agree that anything -- gods, big bangs, singularities -- can be a self-explaining fact.
BH: That's a convenient habit that miracles have. :-)
AJ: Just as convenient as describing the Big Bang as a singularity.
BH: Could his "words" not have been better in any conceivable way? For example, if the gospels had omitted Mt 15:26 and Mt 18:8, would you be saying "this guy's words are pretty good, but I'm looking for somebody who compares non-Israelites to dogs and punishes finite sin with eternal hellfire"?
AJ: The words of Christ are perfect as is. They create a psychological sieve; those who think too highly of themselves get trapped in the holes. “How dare anyone refer to me as a ‘dog’!”
By the way, do the "perfect words of Christ" include statements Paul quotes (e.g. Acts 20:35) but that do not appear in the four gospels? In other words, are you saying just that what Jesus said was perfect, or are you saying that the arrangement and transmission of his sayings in the NT is also perfect? For that matter, do you consider the entire bible the perfect (i.e. optimal, unimprovable) revelation of El/Yahweh? I.e. when you became a Christian, did you become an inerrantist?
AJ: Also, if there is a hell, then He wouldn't be very loving if He didn't warn us of it..
BH: Why is it rational to say perfect epistemological ambivalence can exist on a matter of such objective fact as whether certain events occurred in Palestine 2000 years ago? On what other phenomena could both an assertion and its negation ever simultaneously or alternately be well-justified? Why shouldn't you just be an agnostic until you can further investigate this epistemological strangeness that you're experiencing?
AJ: From my perspective, I needed the entire OT accounts to realize why Christ had to come. I believe that mankind needed the thousands of years before Christ in order to fully appreciate God's gift of sacrifice.
AJ: As to your second question, moral decision making is filled with opposing justifications, abortion being an excellent example.