BH: 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.
AJ: If I am the best informed ex-atheist, my emotions should make no difference. I should be able to present my intellectual reasons for my conversion and atheists should read them and convert by the dozens.
AJ: However, my goal is not to convert atheists; my presence on the web is to encourage Christians.
AJ: I will never link to atheist sites for the same reason my Christian bookstore doesn't carry Hustler magazine. If one wants Hustler magazine, one knows where they can find it.
AJ: Most of my friends are either church goers who don't believe in the reality of God but who believe that the concept promotes morality, or atheists who are apathetic in their non-belief. I do have two friends who are a little more vocal in their disbelief. One is a lady, whom I love very dearly, and she has been a life long friend and a good example. The other is a man who is very articulate concerning his atheism, but who leaves much to be desired concerning his character.
I hope your mutual happiness survived your conversion to Christianity, since it apparently didn't so survive for Mr. Jordan.AJ: The only time I have met a humanist ‘in real life’ who hated Christians was when I met my husband. It was our mutual hatred and criticism of the church that allowed us to fall in love and get married.
AJ: I don't dispute the fact that most non-theists believe their life has meaning.
AJ: However, I consider any self-assigned meaning to be worthless.
AJ: If God is real, all of our lives, whether we believe in His reality or not, have an inherent, genuine and objective purpose, even if we aren't aware of what that purpose may be.
AJ: If God is not real, then all of our lives have only the superficial, subjective and imaginary purpose that we give to them.
BH: I can think of at least one debate in which I conceded that I was wrong about the question under discussion.
AJ: At least one? Heehee, well I’m glad to see that you are not wrong very often.
AJ: I've never lost a debate, although I’m sure that almost every opponent I've engaged thinks that I have.
By "lost" do you mean anything other than "conceded"? In roughly what fraction of the time do you end up making unanswered comments versus letting comments go unanswered (for whatever reason)?
AJ: I rarely saved any of my written debates, but when my computer crashed many years ago, I lost the ones that were on the hard drive. I do have several college papers, but I only have hard copies and it would take some digging to locate them.
BH: Only if by "real whipping" you include Christians (such as yourself?) rationalizing their inability to answer what I write by dismissing me as "arrogant".
AJ: You are arrogant, but frankly, I see arrogance as an attribute. Also, whatever I dismiss isn’t due to my inability to answer but my lack of desire to quibble over that which is irrelevant.
BH: Here's a possibility that I wonder whether you're non-arrogant enough to ponder for even a moment. If by some chance I were actually right and you were in fact wrong, would you really instantly recognize a more-valid worldview when you finally saw it well defended? Or is it just possible that this trauma would cause you to mistake open-minded confidence in that more-valid worldview for arrogance?In other words, if there is any chance at all that you're wrong, then what would a person who is right sound like, if not like me? :-)
Recall that I am reading your material for the specific purpose of determining whether the conversion of a well-informed atheist (like me?) was due more to psychological factors than to arguments that I haven't heard or appreciated.BH: My respect for your self-professed history of atheist inquiry has only been somewhat damaged by your recent emails to me
AJ: I’m surprised. When I read material, I rarely take into consideration the personality of its author. If what is written cannot stand on its own, then it should fall. Don't get the impression that I am this wonderful Christian skipping through life throwing out rose petals every day. (I take Thursdays off)
AJ: If sarcasm bothers you, I will try to keep it to a minimum.
Thank you.AJ: Concerning the ‘liar’ insinuation, I was being petty for the sake of humor. I shall refrain from this type of thing in the future.
BH: I suspect your moral intuitions are better too, since you sometimes seem to admit your god's prima facie immorality.
AJ: I see nothing immoral about the actions of my God.
Your essay does not describe you simply re-evaluating the evidence and arguments:AJ: The only statement that I made concerning God's morality was that I initially questioned it, but then had to admit that it was right.
AJ: What was I doing when I condemned this god for commanding Moses to kill? Was I arrogantly making my morality superior to that of the being who allegedly authored all of morality? [..] More than humbled, I was broken. [..] The truth wasn't about [events in the Bible]. It was the truth about [..] the perfect love of God! [..] I was made aware of my despicable nature [..] I was what was wrong with the world. I began praying for forgiveness. [..] The more I emptied myself of myself, the clearer the truth became. It had been my own selfish sin that had kept me from seeing it before. [..] There is a point that one can reach in prayer where there is nothing at all left of oneself, and it is in that moment that God makes Himself known. [..] It wasn't that the information available to me had changed, but that my perception had changed and as a result, I was changed. I was dead, but Christ woke me up! He saved me from my selfish self [..]Instead, it describes you making a prima facie moral judgment, and then having a wrenching experience that led you to discount (as opposed to disprove) your prior judgment.
If you say so. :-)BH: Just like Turkel, you dismiss a judgment as "subjective" apparently just because you have no argument against it. I can easily defend each of my assertions as a reasonable inference from the text of your essay. You seem to recognize this, as you again do not substantively dispute a single one of them.
AJ: We are on to bigger and better things.
Against what? I already pointed out that your accusations are unsubstantiated, and each of my assertions stands unrebutted.BH: You are quite excused, since it saves me the time of rebutting your accusations, and increases my confidence that your accusations are insubstantive.
AJ: I made my point concerning the previous issues, and you are welcome to defend yourself.
AJ: I choose not to go back, find the original arguments and hash them out just for the futile sake of proving myself right. It appeared to me that your initial arguments attempted to paint my conversion as emotional. If that was not your intent, fine.
AJ: You have never lost a debate with a Christian concerning Christianity and I doubt that you will lose this one with me. [..] I never insist on having the last word, especially with someone who is rarely wrong.
AJ: I still consider you to be one who is not honest with himself. This is my opinion. You are welcome to disagree with my opinion, nevertheless, I shall keep my opinion.
I agree that are respective abilities are on display, but I should point out before any games begin that I'm more interested in what theology you knew (e.g. Divine Command Theory) as an atheist than in what theology you defend now as a Christian. So I may try to steer our discussion away from arguments between us now and toward the arguments that you were aware of as you converted. One exception might be not theology but rather epistemology: your arguments from paradox and jabberwocky seem somewhat original and though weak are nevertheless worth the exercise of rebutting.AJ: When it comes to points of theology, I will never dismiss an argument in the manner that I have dismissed the aforementioned; one type of argument is pertinent to our subject, the other is not. We have both demonstrated to the other our ability to argue. Let the games begin.
AJ: Miracles usually describe actions that leave behind no objective evidence.
BH: That's a convenient habit that miracles have. :-)
AJ: Just as convenient as describing the Big Bang as a singularity.
BH: 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.
AJ: A ‘singularity’, when applied to the Big Bang, does not indicate that the theory is ‘based on something which left behind no objective evidence’.
That naturalism posits some brute (i.e. unexplained) facts about the world (e.g. the laws of physics, or the initial conditions of the universe) does not make it epistemologically equivalent to supernaturalism. As I say in my book, supernaturalism is the thesis that the fundamental laws of physics make irreducible reference to, or were created by, some agency's volition. Saying that something is unexplained is simply not "just as convenient" as saying that something was willed by omnipotent intentionality. Your analogy still fails spectacularly.AJ: A singularity is a one time event that has no explanation. In that respect, the Big Bang is just as convenient as a miracle. The theist may say, “Jesus had the water and viola, a miracle happened and it turned into wine.” The physicist may say, “There was a field of positive and negative energy, and viola, a singularity occurred and the Big Bang gave birth to our universe”.
AJ: The Bible describes the personality of Jesus. I think that His personality is perfect in that it reflects the nature of one who would judge Him.
AJ: Personalities are rarely all nice or all bad. I don't place much value on ‘nice’. The character of Christ purportedly died for all men, knowing that all men were sinful. In other words, He died for us knowing our faults. How are you going to weigh his personality ‘faults’,
AJ: which, by the way, not everyone sees as such?
You only find it interesting because you believe the Christian doctrine that Jesus' crucifixion was "for" such men. I, meanwhile, find it interesting that you think Jesus/El/Yahweh would endow men with reason and innate morality and then let those two be sufficient -- even in the absence of sinfulness -- to reject Him and thus earn eternal net punishment or inflicted suffering.AJ: I find it interesting that Jesus takes upon Himself the burden of the cross for men who would condemn Him for calling them ‘dogs’.
BH: So if the gospels had elsewhere quoted Jesus as also comparing gentiles to stubborn asses, that would have been an imperfection?
AJ: That all depends on the truth of the matter of whether or not Gentiles were indeed stubborn asses.
You'll have to pardon me for questioning whether your highest value is Truth, because youAJ: I never confuse ‘niceness’ with ‘truth’. In fact, ‘niceness’ is often used to conceal truth. I would rather that my God be truthful than nice.
AJ: I consider both His words and those words attributed to Him throughout the NT as the establishment of His perfect Personality. I consider the entire bible to be optimal and ‘unimprovable’ in the truth that it intends to reveal.
You're wise not to follow Turkel down the losing path of inerrantism -- but I don't think Jabberwockism fares any better. :-)AJ: I don't consider this to be synonymous with ‘inerrant’. As I have stated before, the truth of the Bible isn’t about animal husbandry aboard a self-contained vessel.
BH: Could his "words" not have been better [by omitting that he] punishes finite sin with eternal hellfire?
AJ: Also, if there is a hell, then He wouldn't be very loving if He didn't warn us of it..
BH: The issue is whether a benevolent god would in the first place allow anyone to suffer an eternity of torment by hellfire. Your question-begging here marks you as yet another Christian who is apparently uncomfortable defending the justness of hell.
AJ: I am not begging the question in the above statement.
AJ: The ‘If there is a hell’ portion in the above statement is what is known as a condition precedent and the segment ‘then He wouldn't be very loving if He didn't warn us of it’ is the antecedent. It is a simple ‘if, then’ statement and in no way reflects my view as to whether or not hell exists. The condition precedent does not establish any doubt as to whether or not Hell does indeed exists; it establishes the condition by which the antecedent would be truthful. I’m sure that your mistake was due to casual reading
LOL, as you surely are familiar with the standard atheist belief in the unjustness of hell.AJ: and familiarity with standard Christian responses.
AJ: I believe that hell does exist, but reconciling the paradoxes that describe it, I don't agree with your description of ‘torment by hellfire’.
AJ: Hell is described both as a place of darkness and a flaming lake. Darkness cannot exist in the presence of fire.
AJ: Therefore, we must accept both definitions as metaphor if the Bible is to remain true.
Thus, just as I told India when I debated her into the same corner:AJ: However, we can safely assume that hell is not a good place to be. From the experience of being born again, I conclude that hell is a prison of self torment from which there is no escape. It is a prison of one's own making and therefore in proportion to the hellishness that is already present.
BH: You do not defend the justness of the traditional notion of Hell as an irrevocable unending period of net punishment or inflicted suffering for even repentant persons. Thus you you consider indefensible one of the central ethical doctrines of traditional Christianity. Welcome to the club!Interestingly, she later changed her mind about the justness of irrevocability, and her hell article now simply ignores the obvious flaws I demonstrated in her analysis of infinity and repentance (here and here).
It's a measure of the incoherence of Christian revelation that Christians wildly disagree about the nature of hell. Of course, you would probably interpret that incoherence as a paradoxical virtue.
AJ: I’m an atheist every other minute and a Christian in between. The evidence for atheism is right in front of me, but it is the same evidence for Christianity. [..]
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: Perhaps I could answer them better if you state them more simply.
BH: 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: If God is an illusion, aspects of life that we consider to be real are actually illusory.
AJ: If God is a reality, aspects of life that we consider to be real are indeed real. Therefore, in order to not deny that which I know or feel to be real, I must accept God as being equally real.
AJ: This is what I meant to convey with the old woman/young lady illusion. This is what I will be addressing on ex-atheist in its formality. I don't wish to go into this argument until I have made the strongest case for it.