From: Brian Holtz []
Sent: Wednesday, October 29, 2003 12:58 AM
To: 'Kris Key'
Cc: 'GZ Jordan'
Subject: RE: I am an ex-atheist

[Note to readers: in this discussion I make several remarks critical of Kris' level of understanding of various fields of inquiry related to polemics between atheism and Christianity. This is definitely not my normal practice, but Kris approached me to offer himself as an ex-atheist well-versed in these matters, and so it's fair game to point it out when his statments indicate he isn't well-informed about atheism.]
KK: You have been told once and you will be told again, this method has no use in history. History is not done in probabilities it is done in an analysis of the facts to see what the best explanation is
And the way you determine the best explanation is by rationally considering and comparing the possible explanations. I've done this; you seem afraid to.
KK: Your rebutal has been throughly demolished by Holding. We are still awaiting your counter rebutual, its only been since march that you said you would respond
My response is done; Turkel's arguments are a smoking cinder. The explanation for the publication tempo of my responses to Turkel is contained here.
BH: [the existence of many mutually inconsistent early Christian heresies about Jesus' divinity and resurrection:] Ebionism, Docetism, Adoptionism, Dynamic Monarchianism, Sabellianism, Arianism, Docetism Marcionism, Apollonarianism, Nestorianism, Monophysitism, and Monothelitism;

KK: Good try Holtz, but with the exception of Docetism they all taught a PHYSICAL resurection.

Do you have a source citation that Ebionism taught a specifically physical resurrection?
KK: They disagreed on other topics. I guess I cannot credit you with using honesty to make a point
How ironic, that you selectively edit my words and then accuse me of dishonesty. In the words you omitted and that I restored in brackets above, I clearly stated that these heresies were about "divinity and resurrection".  The point of including Christological heresies is obviously that if early Christians could be so confused over the identity of Jesus -- about which many statements by him are allegedly quoted in the gospels -- then it seems likely that they could have been confused over the nature of his alleged resurrection -- about which the gospels quote him much less.

The gospels simply do not constitute the self-revelation of a competent deity. An omniscient omnipotent omnibenevolent deity would have realized how muddled this revelation seems and would have been sure to do the job right. It's simply a historical accident that twenty-first century humans grovel before the abject revelatory incompetence of a Torah-thumping carpenter from ancient Palestine.

BH: "Afterward Jesus appeared in a different form to two of them" [Mk 16:12]

KK: This is your lack of honesty showing here, I know you know that anything after Mark16:8 is a forgery

"Forgery" is hardly the standard description for the various endings of Mark. No scholar seriously suggests that the addition was intended to undermine Christianity. This verse accurately reflects the vagueness and ambiguity of some of the appearances in the three other gospels -- my point about which you completely miss:
BH: "Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him." [Lk 24:15-16]

KK: this is rather difficult to explain under hallucination, why would a person not recognize that which they are hallucinating

I said nothing about hallucination in my argument to Jordan about a spiritual vs. physical resurrection. The idea here obviously is that the early resurrection tradition was about the spirit of Jesus working in the lives and actions and visions of his believers. For an alleged ex-atheist, you seem unfamiliar with what atheists mean by their spiritual resurrection thesis.
KK: Your Claims of Paul Teaching a spiritual resurection is simply wrong, despite your claims to the contrary. see here
"Simply wrong"?  You of course can't seriously claim that this is a matter of settled scholarly consensus. It is a fiercely disputed question, with familiar arguments on either side.  It's amusing that you cite to me Craig's paper, which I already had enqueued for rebuttal on my Best Arguments page.  Here's a pop-quiz of your status as an ex-atheist: what is the best scholarly argument you've read for 1 Cor 15 teaching a spiritual resurrection?
KK: So here is why I say you lost. You lied twice and you are simply wrong about the nature of the resurection taught in Paul
Here is why your polemics are too weak to claim much of my time: you make tactical blunders like accusing me of lying on flimsy pretenses, and write as if ignorant of the standard atheist arguments about a topic such as 1 Cor 15.

You also are hilariously and demonstrably confused between 1) disagreeing with my position in Jordan's debate, and 2) thinking I "lost" that debate. I've seen incompetent atheists lose debates with Christians, but that doesn't mean Christianity is true. Similarly, there is little to be proved by me destroying your arguments in this discussion, since your arguments are far from Christianity's best.

KK: You have at best a theory that revolves around a forced, arbitrary reading of the text and a theory without evidence ( did you do a psychoanalysis on the apostles?
"Psychoanalysis"? Well, I guess if you believe in ghosts and supernatural near-death experiences, then you probably also aren't familiar with the current status of psychoanalysis in modern psychology.
KK: When you can create a more honest theory with more honest rebutals (dont try what you did with Jordan with me) then I will take you serious.
When you learn the difference between an adjective and an adverb, I'll take you seriously. :-)

It's enlightening that you consider me dishonest. Questioning an opponent's sincerity usually means that the questioner is too narrow-minded to consider that there may be sincere perspectives radically different than his own. Atheists do this a lot, like when they claim that clergy deliberately deceive their flocks. Questioning an opponent's sincereity is usually just intellectual laziness.

KK: Until then, you lost
Hilarious, since you utterly failed my challenge to quote a single point of Jordan's that I didn't rebut, while 25-30 of my arguments and evidence remain unanswered by him. You apparently can't disentangle your own belief in Christianity from the objective status of how my discussion with Jordan ended.
KK: you proclaimed it to simply be paranormality,
I of course classifiy it as paranormality. "Simply" is your own (misleading) word, not mine.
KK: which on your site you listed Elves as an example of paranornality.
Dogs and cats are examples of mammals, but I wouldn't say dogs are "no different than" cats.
KK: Would you please explain to me [why NDE] should be classified as no different then "Goblins" or "Elves"

BH: You of course cannot quote me saying NDE is no different than goblins or elves. You are confused between the phenomenon of NDE and the supernatural explanations for the phenomenon.

KK: Well if I do recall you have simply dismissed it as pseudo science, and its researchers as pseudo scientist.

You don't recall.  If you can't quote the statement of mine you disagree with, then you're arguing not with me, but with your own faulty memory.
KK: Do you back of [sic] that position?
I stand by everything I've written to you.
KK: Is it still fringe scientist or is it legimate enough science to be published in peer reviewed medical journals.
You still haven't figured out the difference between the phenomenon of NDE and supernatural explanations for the phenomenon.
KK: most of the peer review sited researchers think the afterlife hypothesis is the best one.
BH: It's odd that you didn't send me one of those papers instead of this one, then.
KK: one, then.
Huh?  Show me the peer-reviewed physics article or textbook that mentions NDEs as a known phenomenon in the physical universe that defies explanation under our current laws of physics.
BH: "Another theory holds that" is a perfectly true statement. This paper does not, however, claim that the transcendence theory is true.

KK: odd indeed a secular journal would consider the "supernatural" to even be an explanation.

People with open minds consider all possible proposed explanations. (How many times do I have to explain this to you?)  I consider "Yahweh" to be a possible explanation, but that doesn't mean I think Yahweh exists.
KK: I am still awaiting your explanation for the documented vertical evidence in the paper......
Again: Before I invest any time discussing fringe science with you, you'd have to indicate your standards of skepticism by telling me Since you refuse to answer these questions, I don't take you seriously as a rational investigator of the paranormal.
KK: NDE buries atheism. No atheistic scenario can explain it.
You're confused between naturalism and atheism, and you're simply deluded if you think the current state of scientific knowledge about NDE is dispositive on even the question of naturalism vs. supernaturalism (let alone atheism vs. theism).
KK: Actually I simply say I have experienced the Ghost Phemonema.
Ah, so under a few days' skeptical pressure your initial ghost report has become an "experience[ of] the Ghost Phenomen[on]". Similarly, I claim the apostles merely experienced the Spiritually Triumphant Jesus Phenomenon, which after a few decades of unskeptical oneupsmanship became a physical resurrection.
BH: why you think NDE (and ghosts and any other paranormality you believe in) isn't taken seriously by mainstream science.

KK: so finding published in mainstream medical journals are not taken serious by scientist now...

If supernatural NDE were taken seriously by mainstream science, then philosophers would also mention NDE every time they invoke qualia against the thesis of physicalism.
KK: seeing you still wave the atheist wand and proclaim the NDE as fringe I will simply be forced to conclude that you are a dogmatic atheist
No wand, no proclamation, no dogma; I'm just reporting what's (not) in every standard physics and psychology textbook. Your argument isn't with me; it's with the scientific mainstream.
BH: I never said it's a "method of doing history". It is rather a way of establishing our positions and identifying the differences between them.

KK: The point of your paper is to suggest other possibilities on easter sunday. Obviously then this is a historicial question then

"Doing history" is marshalling evidence and arguments in favor of a particular thesis. What I'm doing is identifying the available proposed theses, and summarizing my position (without argument or evidence) concerning each of them. If you disagree with any of my positions, then we can "do history" to decide whose position is right. Your position is "Yahweh 100%, Other possibilities 0%", but you don't have the intellectual courage to even state it, let alone defend it.

The bottom line is: I've asserted a series of propositions that various alternatives are possible, and you are too dogmatic and closed-minded and embarrassed to assert the negation of those propositions. (Which is precisely what my paper predicts of most Christian apologists.)

KK: and you cannot do history that way.
You say "Yahweh 100%, Other possibilities 0%". If asserting such a conclusion is "doing history", then what allows you to "do history that way"?
KK: But I will choose to answer this question the same way Paul did " If God exist, then why should it be odd that Christ be risen"
Bzzt. "If God exist" is precisely the question. (Arguments this weak from you are why this discussion became such a low priority for me.)
KK: so a historicial method, despite your claims that it is not, that someone who has been studying history all of his life and has never seen shouldnt strike him as odd?
Not at all, since it's not a "historical method", and since you have demonstrated your lack of understanding concerning probability theory, epistemology, philosophy of science, and psychology.
KK: I did consider it, it is nonsense and I will not dignify it with a response.
I'm glad we agree that your Paul quote does not qualify as a response.
Does repeating in all caps an insubstantive dismissal of a detailed argument count as "doing history"?
KK: do you still consider the NDE to be no different then "elves" and "goblins"

BH: "Still"?  I never said this in the first place.  Since you cannot accurately comprehend something you've read in just the last few days, I'm not very interested in your evaluation of the NDE literature.

KK: wise move on your part, it buries atheism.

Weak move on your part: letting yourself be caught blatantly misconstruing my position, and then making an insubstantive and blustering reassertion of an untenable position.
BH: The vast majority of paranormal-phenomenon-X researchers believe in X.  Does that make X real?
KK: I am also asking if the scientist I used to reach my decision on the NDE are still "cranks"
BH: I haven't used the word you quote in our conversation about NDE.
KK: The rather strong implication here is that they are "cranks"
No, the implication is that supernatural explanations of NDE qualify as paranormal. (Do the scientists you cite make up quotes from NDE experiencers like you make up quotes from me?)
KK: If you can give me an example of another religion which its major persecutor became its most vocal advocate then I will drop the argument
The conversion of anti-Christians to Christians is worthless as first-order evidence for Christianity, just as the conversion of well-churched Christians to atheism is worthless as first-order evidence against it. If instead you want to make a second-order case for Christianity against atheism, then Paul's case is far too poorly-documented to be persuasive.

Your citing of Paul's conversion as the best historical evidence for Christianity just underlines how out of touch you are from first-rate Christian apologetics.

KK: Just on the curious side did you do an experiment to prove prayer has never changed the course of an atom?
No "experiment" can establish such a universal historical negative. (Nobody with an elementary grasp of philosophy of science would have asked such a question.)
KK: you concern [sic] parsimony with [sic] automatically the best explanation. That is simply not true.  I will go into further detail with this in my rebutal of your argument
I hope you take some epistemology (and English) classes before then.  :-) 
BH: Quote me one secular historian saying in a peer-reviewed forum that the basic historic plausibility of the Gospel narratives implies that their supernatural claims should be assumed reliable until proven otherwise.

KK: No need, I simply need to qoute  Sherman Grant on this one. The tomb was empty.

I knew you couldn't produce the quote. Thus, your original point about "the overall reliability of the NT" was worthless as an argment for its supernatural claims. (If you truly had had any familiarity with the atheist arguments against Christianity, you wouldn't have made such a blunder.)
BH: If NDE is a verifiable supernatural phenomenon, then somebody should have a Nobel prize for discovering it. Please tell me the name of this Nobel prize winner and the year the prize was awarded.

KK: well I sent you the lancet article which did produce vertical evidence.

Non-responsive. As I suspected, you have no answer to my point.
KK: How you choose to respond to a subject that you know little about is your business.
I apparently know more than you about mainstream science and how it relates to the paranormal.
KK: if you consider people published in peer reviewed medical journals to simply be paranormal-phenomenon researchers then I cannot help you.
I defy you to cite the peer-reviewed medical journal article that claims to have established a supernatural explanation for NDE. You are (for about the ninth time) confusing NDE with supernatural explanations for NDE.
BH: If that were true, every physics textbook would mention NDEs as the only known phenomenon in the physical universe that defies explanation under our current laws of physics.
KK: that really deals with the hard data doesnt it. Really makes the vertical evidence go away  [..]
Non-responsive. You apparently aren't equipped to explain why the physics community is unimpressed by NDE.
BH: you admit that it is rational for historians to be more skeptical of the supernatural claims of the
gospel narratives than the normal claims.

KK: of course

And thus your point about "the overall reliability of the NT" is worthless as an argument for its supernatural claims.
KK: but this does not mean a historian cannot accept  a supernatural explanation [..] Even in the scientific world view miracles are not impossible( if it is simply find me a science article that says miracles are impossible)
I of course admit that miracles are possible, which you would know if you weren't too afraid to discuss the possible gospel explanations.  Do you admit that a non-miraculous explanation of all the gospel evidence is possible?
BH: Since you do not identify a single NT supernatural claim that might be errant, I conclude that you are an inerrantist.

KK: Fair enough, the resurected saints in Matthew I am certainly skeptical of.

Gotcha. If a gospel can be so utterly mistaken about the resurrection of so many men, why can't it be mistaken about the resurrection of just one more?
BH: Quote Bertrand Russell saying that the NT supernatural claims can "be just ignored" without any justification for doing so.

KK: actually he never touched it all

BH: we have enough data to overthrow the laws of physics and decide that they could be violated at will by a carpenter from Nazareth?

KK: that is a odd objection, lets simply deal in the historicial facts. Shouldnt I askm isnt your view of physics simply to newtonion?

You again miss a point that would be obvious to any atheist familiar with the arguments against Christianity. You objected that there isn't enough psychological data concerning Jesus to support the thesis that the evidence can be explained in ordinary naturalistic psychological terms. I countered that there isn't nearly enough hard data concerning Jesus to support the thesis that he could violate the laws of physics (i.e. cause miracles). It's hilarious to argue that since we don't have much personal information about a few ancient individuals who might have been delusional, we therefore can rule out delusionality as an explanation and firmly conclude that the Hebrew tribal deity Yahweh must exist.
KK: your particular way of doing it is [new] yes. Does that undermine my claim no. It is simply a combination of two atheistic theories  that I have scene before, that of Tomb robbery and of Mass Hallucinations.
If you can confuse the mass visual hallucination thesis with the thesis of misinterpretation of individual ecstatic epiphanies, then (again) you aren't very familiar with the space of available atheist arguments.
BH: Quote me a psychology text saying that there are observable and verifiable human behaviors called "demonic possession" that completely defy explanation by naturalistic psychology.  You of course cannot, and it's obvious how you've misinterpreted the comment by your psychology professor

KK: and you completely mispresent me and what I said. I observed that the philosophy of naturalism would not allow the explanation of demonic possesion to be offered, not matter what the patients was doing.

Quote me a psychology text saying that psychology's commitment to naturalism would rule out an explanation of demonic possession even if that were the best fit for the evidence. You're clearly confused between the conclusion of naturalism and the assumption of naturalism. Naturalism isn't unquestioned in psychology because it's assumed;  rather, naturalism is unquestioned because it's a conclusion already firmly established by philosophy of science and physics.
BH: The available evidence about alleged paranormality is sufficiently explainable that no peer-reviewed journal or standard textbook bothers to assert supernatural explanations for it.

KK: I was discussing the NDE, which has made it to peer reviewed journals

I defy you to cite the peer-reviewed medical journal article that claims to have established a supernatural explanation for NDE. You are (for about the tenth time) confusing NDE with supernatural explanations for NDE.
KK: most historicial analysis begin with a fault tree analysis, ie did the event happen or did it not. Those are obviously exclusive possibilities. Then when it is determined it happen [..] various explanations are determined
Thank you for finally admitting that the way to begin explaining a body of evidence is to survey the possible explanations for it.  Was that so hard?
BH: No serious maritime architect would have dared assert that any such ship was unsinkable. I defy you to cite any such "calculation" published by a maritime architect.
KK: I never asserted that either. I asserted the odds calculated after the ship sank was that of about one in  one billion
Right -- and I challenged you to cite the alleged calculation. I made no stipulation that the calculation was prior to the sinking. (Do you read your NDE researchers as poorly as you read me?)
KK: In general Armies with numerical superiority win in Combat. Using this argument I would have to assert that the North won at Chickamauga
BH: You clearly are confused by the distinction between prior possibility and posterior possibility.

KK: please reference me to the conversation that ame from

Context restored above. My point would have been obvious the first time to anyone who understands probability theory.
BH: Are you saying that history in general, or the life of Jesus in particular, is exempt from the laws of probability?

KK: Seeing I am saying historians do not use probability the way you use it then yes. If you use it the proper historicial way, then no

The laws of probability are the same for every discipline, and for every historical event. The probabilities for the  possible explanations for the gospel evidence have to sum to 100%. You may not like this fact, but it remains a fact.
BH: How do you "know you have figured in every factor necessary" to decide that your Yahweh explanation has 100% probability?

KK: and might I ask

In other words, you're not answering my question (as usual).
KK: how did you possibily do enough historicial research to make your list of probabilities,
I simply listed the possibilities that I've read about.  Do you claim that I've ommitted a significant possible explanation? Do you dare claim that one of my possible explanations is logically or metaphysically impossible?
KK: much less test the probabilities
How did you "test the probabilities" that all non-Yahweh explanations have 0% probability? (Do you really not see how any criticism of my analystic method can also be applied to yours?  Is this pattern not yet obvious to you?)

Tell me which probability you disagree with, and maybe I'll debate it with you. As it stands, you are apparently too dogmatic and close-minded to even consider most of these possibilities.