From: Brian Holtz []
Sent: Tuesday, August 24, 2004 5:22 PM
To: 'cobra snake'
Subject: RE: Christianity
Hi Kyle, here is my response to your response to my response to your answers to my questions:

H: That you would consider such questions about your eternal fate "useless and boring" only substantiates my point that "most of these believers seem not to take these beliefs very seriously, insofar as they don't seriously examine [..] the nature of the afterlife that they claim to believe will constitute essentially the entirety of their conscious existence."

K: Well, inasmuch as I don’t think I can change it or alter it in any way for my advantage, I must plead ‘guilty’ for the charge of not really contemplating what my afterlife will be like. In my view, I have done all I can to get into heaven, which is a place that will assuredly be pleasant anyway. Should I worry about whether or not I’ll be able to play golf in heaven? I don’t really think so. [..] So, it is untrue that I ignore the topic of afterlife, but it is true that I don’t really care whether or not I bowl a perfect 300 in heaven.

It's a misrepresentation of my point to pretend I asked whether you could play this sport or that in heaven. My point is that, like most Christians, you seem to blithely rely on vague "assurances" that Heaven will be "pleasant", without contemplating how you will actually be spending your time there.

K: there is heaven and there is hell. If I end up in heaven there’s a good chance that I’ll be more happy than if I ended up in hell. Beyond that, the issue becomes quite tedious for me.

I agree that heaven is tedious no matter how you think about it, and I claim that its tediousness is inconsistent with your belief that it exists at all.

On the other hand, I would like for you to give me a good reason why I should worry about what sort of activities will be in Heaven or Hell.

I just did: if any imaginable activities in heaven or hell seem implausible, that weighs heavily against the plausibility that heaven or hell actually exist.

H: You either do or do not have an explanation for why the marketplace of ideas (especially in academia) does not endorse what you claim is an objectively compelling case. Labeling the issue as an "argument from authority" does not excuse you from explaining this fact about the universe.

K: Actually, correctly labeling your argument as a logical fallacy completely and thoroughly excuses me from explaining your so-called "fact". You can continue to ignore the simple truth that your claim is logically fallacious if you wish, but that does nothing to change the fact that your "argument" is not even a valid argument by any means.

"Argument" is your word, not mine. I never said academic non-consensus is an "argument". I said it is a fact about the universe, that my worldview can explain and that yours does not.  Also,  the academic marketplace of ideas is no single "authority", but rather the self-correcting aggregation of all the relevant authorities.

K: Of course, in order to answer your already-refuted "argument", I could just list a whole bunch of "non-rational" factors for disbelief, as you are prone to do.

Such factors can easily explain individual cases of nonrationality, but a mere list cannot explain an alleged systematic failure in the academic marketplace of ideas. (Your attempt to handwave toward an explanation demonstrates your recognition of your need to explain the academic non-consensus.)

K: In any case it is entirely unsubstantiated for you to claim that Christianity is not endorsed as objectively compelling by the "academia". There happen to be quite a few Christians in the upper level of education, so your blatant characterization of Christianity as countering intellectualism is entirely unfounded.

A clumsy misrepresentation of my position. I didn't say that the academic consensus declares Christianity false; I simply said that it fails to agree with you that Christianity is objectively true.

So it looks like your "argument" is unsupported by facts, is refuted by your own (faulty) methodologies, and is logically fallacious. If I were you I would develop better arguments.

Academic non-consensus is an indisputable fact. My methodology explains individuals, not the academic consensus. I never claimed it was an "argument"; it's merely a fact that my worldview explains and that yours does not. Please do not put quotation marks around words that aren't mine.

K: I have recently addressed this, actually, and my article dealing with nonbelief is now found HERE.

The existence of your essay completely undermines your claim above that you are excused from explaining academic non-consensus.  Your essay hinges on the obviously false assertion that

though the Argument from Nonbelief may be evidence for the individual who feels that they have not been provided with an opportunity to know God, it can never be considered evidence to another person.

You then list six possible factors that might explain individual non-belief, but you make no attempt whatsoever to explain systematic non-belief by the academic consensus on topics like creationism and the historical evidence for the resurrection.  Your essay goes on to say

The ironic thing about the Argument from Nonbelief is that the only way somebody can ever truly claim that they have unfair reasonable nonbelief is if they have lived out their entire existence and are now dead! Of course, dead men aren’t able to argue against the existence of God, so no man alive is able to fairly claim that the existence of God should be doubted because He would not allow reasonable nonbelief.

I'd like to thank you for this marvelous example of Christian doublethink. I'll be adding it to my list of examples of how Christianity is in headlong intellectual retreat, and increasingly resorts to such unfalsifiable arguments.

H: Do you have any reasons you could share as to why it's not "important right now" to understand the conditions that will govern well over 99.999999% of your conscious existence?

K: My reason is that there is absolutely nothing I can do to affect the situation I receive in my afterlife (beyond the simple distinction of being in heaven or hell)

Again: trying to understand the afterlife may not affect the nature of your alleged afterlife, but it could very easily affect whether you find an afterlife plausible in the first place. Thus it's quite understandable why you would want to avoid thinking about it.


H: 1. If you believe that the evidence for your god(s) is compelling, how do you explain that it is not accepted by so many otherwise reasonable people?

K: Firstly, there are quite a few reasonable individuals who do accept the existence of God. Therefore, the question could be turned around against atheists- "if you believe there is no evidence for God, then why do so many otherwise reasonable people believe in Him?"

1. No, the question is asymmetric, because atheists don't assert the existence of an omnipotent omniscient omnibenevolent being who desires that humans recognize the truth of atheism.

2. You blatantly distorted the question.  I asked about "compelling evidence for your god(s)", you asked about "no evidence for God". I never claimed there is "no evidence for God".

3. Even if you had properly asked about "compelling evidence for the non-existence of god(s)", your point would fail because I do not claim that the atheist case is as compelling as you claim the Christian case is.

4. The existence of theism in the absence of God is obviously far easier to explain than the existence of atheism in the presence of God. Theism stems from the human propensity to take any mysterious phenomenon as an indication of supernatural intentionality. Primitive humans invented supernatural explanations for:
5. As theists like to point out, theism provides hope of eternal reward, hope of justice for the unjust, and a convenient moral compass for those who can't figure out morality for themselves.

6. Despite theist complaints about atheistic "pride", theism plays on human vanity, whereas atheism has a much more humble view of human nature. For details, see my essay on the subject.

7. Religion is a meme-complex that has many features designed to ensure its own survival: mandates to procreate, mandates to indoctrinate, strictures against competing ideas, etc. For an analysis of the Bible as a self-replicator, see here.

K: Of course, it is totally ridiculous for you to claim that atheism is supported because of intelligent atheists, yet turn around and claim that Christianity is not supported by intelligent Christians (since the Christians are obviously brainwashed!). The double standard here is quite fascinating.

You utterly fail to identify any such double standard. Instead, what's fascinating is your blatant misrepresentation of my position. I never said Christians are "obviously brainwashed". You fail to quote my position, so allow me: "Many Christians (including ministers and priests, and theologians) convert to atheism even though while still Christians they had been well-versed in Christian apologetics. By contrast, it is very hard to find atheists who converted to Christianity even though while still atheists they had been well-versed in the arguments against Christianity. If the best atheistic arguments against Christianity are better than the best Christian arguments against atheism, then such an asymmetry is precisely what one would expect."

K: Almost all the factors you list could potentially be used to ‘psychologize’ an atheistic individual.

No kidding; that's why I said "most people (and even most atheists) don't have a worldview chosen rationally and without undue influence by such non-rational factors".

K: This is why your Freudian method of psycho-evaluation is ultimately useless

(If you think anything about my analysis is "Freudian", it just shows how much you know about psychology.) The utility I claim for my analysis is plainly stated above.  You apparently cannot dispute it, or even bring yourself to correctly construe it.

H: Most people (and even most atheists) don't have a worldview chosen rationally and without undue influence by such non-rational factors.

K: Exactly correct, because there is absolutely no way to suppose that a person could actually live his or her life without being affected by one of the factors you list.

The question isn't about being unaffected; it's about being "without undue influence".

K: Is there any way, you suppose, for a person to live their life without suffering from some sort of loss

I, for one, had led what could only be called a charmed life up to and well beyond my conversion from Christianity to atheism.

K: Is it possible for a person not to be influenced or given an "example" by a parent or peer in the entire course of their lifetime?

The question is "undue influence"; you again fail to address my actual position.

H: That's why it's interesting to measure worldview adoption rates among people professionally trained to rationally evaluate worldviews -- namely, philosophers. I have yet to find any statistics on this, but I would expect that a majority of professional philosophers are atheists or agnostics.

K: And even if they were all atheists, I would fail to be impressed with their finds, particularly if they use the same methods you do. Psycho-evaluation does nothing to refute the evidence for the existence of God.

A blatant strawman. I never said or implied that the asymmetry of conversion is or ever was a significant reason for my atheism, let alone the atheism of philosophers. My point remains unaddressed.

H: It's also interesting to consider atheists having documented long-term experience with both sides' arguments who later converted to Christianity purely because of comparing those arguments. Steve Locks has an impressive list of professional Christian deconverts, but I cannot find a verifiably well-versed atheist who's gone over to the other side.

K: This is all self-serving jargon,  as your criteria for being a "well-versed atheist" is ridiculous.

There is zero jargon in the above; each term is used for its obvious common-sense meaning. Your use of name-calling against my positions suggests that you cannot answer them.

K: For example, in your evaluation of ASA Jones’ conversion, you claim the following:

"Jones may have been familiar with anti-Christian arguments, but she seems to have lacked the philosophical knowledge necessary to anchor those arguments."

K: So, according to you, Jones wasn’t a "well-versed atheist" because, despite knowing the atheistic arguments, she lacked the knowledge to "know" that these arguments are obviously true!

A blatant misrepresentation. You dare not quote my detailed evaluation of Jones' philosophical knowledge:

Jones' mistake is a common one: as she found out later, life's most important questions are the domain not of science, but of philosophy. [..]  [Jones writes "Science had done nothing to answer the questions that raged in my head."] These questions are all in the domain of axiology (philosophy of value), and can all be given reasonable answers without reference to any god(s). [..]  [Jones names only one atheist philosopher, Sartre.] Sartre's philosophy, like most Continental philosophy, indeed contains much nonsense. [..]  "Life is meaningless" is a vague statement. Life indeed has no completely-objective purpose or meaning, but it simply does not follow that all proposed purposes or meanings in life are of equal (or no) value.  Jones' philosophical investigations seem to have been misguided. [..] Philosophy is by definition the "biggest picture", and there is little evidence here that Jones saw its best canvases.

Instead of answering or even quoting the above, you merely assert:

K: It should be quite apparent to the objective onlooker that this is simply self-serving.

What is apparent is that Jones gives no evidence of having had any acquaintance with even the basics of humanist philosophy.  All she says of her investigations is that she tried Sartre and

several other atheist philosophers who tried to assign meaning to a life created by chance and I decided that they were all full of crap. If our life is the result of randomness and chance, it is meaningless, no matter how we try to convince ourselves otherwise.

This is the totality of Jones' self-report of her philosophical investigations. This clearly justifies my conclusion that "she seems to have lacked the philosophical knowledge necessary to anchor [anti-Christian] arguments".

K: I could just as easily claim that individuals on Steve Locks’ list were not really "True Christians".

If a Christian on that list could in her conversion story cite only one (discredited) Christian philosopher, and dismissed the whole of Christian moral philosophy with a two-sentence assessment that it was "all full of crap", then you could indeed say she had not been a well-versed Christian.

K: In any case, I don’t understand what you are trying to prove with this "many Christians deconvert" argument.

"Argument" is your word, not mine. If you want to understand my point, you might consider reading my words: "It remains possible that I might someday encounter superior Christian arguments (or consider the usual ones so). One way to evaluate this possibility is to investigate whether atheists having long-term experience with both sides' arguments ever later convert to Christianity purely because of comparing those arguments."

K VERY few people are brought up atheist. So it is entirely expected for there to be more Christian deconverts.

I never claimed to have statistically significant samples, and indeed call the evidence "anecdotal".  My  point isn't that there are "more" Christian deconverts; it's that I can't find any relevant atheist deconverts.

H: It seems that having substantial and verifiable experience with the standard atheist arguments against Christianity makes atheists immune from conversion, whereas being a professional Christian does not confer the analogous immunity.

K: Hmmm…Perhaps this is because "professional" atheists are not objective?

Why would "professional" atheists be any more non-objective than professional Christians?  Academia is full of well-versed atheists. The ministry is full of well-versed Christians. The latter sometimes convert, but the former seem not to.

K: Do you honestly think I am concerned over the fact that very few or no "hardcore" atheists are converted as the result of apologetics? Of course not,

"Hardcore" is your word, not mine.  My point is clearly stated: "If the best atheistic arguments against Christianity are better than the best Christian arguments against atheism, then such an asymmetry is precisely what one would expect. The best arguments of atheism would then tend to inoculate their atheist hearers against Christianity, whereas the best arguments of Christianity would be generally unable to inoculate their Christian hearers against atheism."  If this state of affairs does not make you "concerned", that doesn't surprise me.

K: I would not expect them to be.

Feel free to share the reasons for your expectation -- assuming your "not objective" query above isn't the only reason you have.

K: Besides, I have previously shown that your "well-versed atheist turned Christian" criteria are useless and hopelessly self-serving.

You "showed" no such thing.

H: I have no problem admitting that a reasonable and rational person could (mistakenly) be a Christian, but I've yet to meet a Christian who could admit the existence of such an atheist.

K: Well, here is one. I will admit the possibility of a reasonable and rational atheist. More on this later.

I hope so. Above you basically assumed that 1) every living reasonable and rational atheist will be given sufficient evidence before death, and 2) nobody has ever died a reasonable and rational atheist. This is a delicious piece of unfalsifiable doublethink.

K: I am using factors such as bias and pride as examples of what could POTENTIALLY have an adverse affect on reason. I, however, admit that these factors are equally applicable to both sides.

Actually, factor 13 (desire for hope in divine reward) is not applicable at all to atheism.

K: You, on the other hand, seem to think that you can undermine my theism because you can list a few such factors.

("A few"? If you can think of any other possible nonrational factor that could influence a person into becoming Christian, I invite you to identify it.)  Your conclusion about what I think is unwarranted.

K: Not so, because your futile approach would also "refute" atheism.

"Refute" is your word, not mine. I presume you mean that this approach -- auditing the possible nonrational basis of belief -- might apply to belief in atheism as well as theism.  Of course it does. However,  that symmetry does not preclude the possibility that you might reject a nonrational belief in theism and then acquire a rational belief in atheism.

K: I don’t think that I "explain away" your atheism or undermine it in any way with these factors, but I am merely pointing out that it is possible that certain factors are causing you to fail seeing the evidence.

I've not heard of any such nonrational factors -- including my list of 13, and your list of 6 -- that can plausibly be said to be a significant cause of my conversion to atheism.

K: The existence of such factors undermine the Argument from Nonbelief, which is peppered through your entire article as well as your current response.

Such factors can easily explain individual cases of nonrationality, but a mere list cannot explain an alleged systematic failure in the academic marketplace of ideas to recognize the objective truth of Christianity.

H: Why do so many people claim that the evidence for some other god(s) is compelling?

K: Of course, bias plays a huge role in this because religious believers naturally want to believe their own religion.

H: So why should I believe that such bias does not explain your own belief?

K: See above.

See what "above"? You talked about non-believers, not other-god-believers.

 K: I am not denying that these factors could play a role in my reasons for belief. I am merely pointing out potential reasons why one’s thinking with regards to religion could be skewed.

You talked about why it could be skewed toward non-belief. You said nothing new about why people who want to believe in a god don't believe in your god.

H: 3. Why doesn't it worry you that belief in your god(s) correlates so highly with parental belief in your god(s)?

K: Who ever said it didn’t worry me? Of course, just because I think it is a concern does not mean I should apostatize to atheism immediately. Unfortunately, I can never know what it is like to be raised in a non-Christian family.

H: You can study other religions and get to know people raised outside Christianity. The best antidote to Christianity -- aside from reading the Bible -- is the comparative study of religion.

K: Currently I am studying religions outside Christianity.

I still can't tell how significant you find it that belief in your god(s) correlates so highly with parental belief in your god(s).  That's understandable; I've never heard of a Christian apologist seriously addressing this issue.

H: (As you say on your site, "My number one recommendation is not to read the Bible.")

K:  Also, the quote you mention was misinterpreted by you (which is my fault as it was written poorly). I have now deleted that statement in the article. What I meant was that I did not feel reading the Bible was the MOST important thing, or the "top recommendation". In any case I totally support reading the Bible although I note in my article that reading the Bible by itself is probably not going to change your atheism (for good reason). I thus believe that apologetics is more important, in general, than merely reading the Bible.

Ah, so you admit that fallible arguments by fallible men are more convincing than the divinely-inspired revelation -- and direct quotations -- of your god(s)?  Thank you for this admission of the incompetence of the revelatory efforts of your god(s).

H: 4. What other thesis so important and compelling (e.g. heliocentrism, evolution) defied general consensus for this long?

K: Once again, another vague attempt at an argument from authority or argumentum ad populum. Consensus is not the important thing- the important thing is the truth (which happens to be on the side of the Christians).

H: The lack of consensus for Christianity is a fact which my thesis explains and yours apparently does not. Explaining facts is what truth is all about.

K: See above, where I demolish this argument three times over.

To review, your fail to give an answer to my "what other thesis" question, and you offer no explanation of the non-consensus.. (Is this non-effort of yours the sort of apologetics that you just said above is "more important than merely reading the Bible"?)

H: My point is that there is something seriously wrong with your claim that the evidence for Christianity is objectively compelling, because you cannot name any other objectively compelling thesis that defied consensus for so long, and you admit that your thesis will in fact never be able to compel a consensus.

K: Perhaps you’re right, but of course no other "objectively compelling" viewpoint (such as a round earth or a heliocentric universe), directly relates to the innermost emotions of the human being. Religion tends to be an emotional topic, so it is unfair to compare it with other objectively compelling viewpoints which involve little or none of the same effect.

On the contrary, religion is by your thesis the most important topic, and there exists an omnipotent omniscient omnibenevolent agency that wants us to believe in it and that will watch us suffer eternal torment if we don't. By contrast, no deities are out trying to convince us of heliocentrism, and nevertheless effectively everybody does. Thus I am indeed "right" that there is something seriously wrong with your claim that the evidence for Christianity is objectively compelling.

K: In any case, I find it rather humorous that atheism is (according to you) an "objectively compelling thesis", yet it has totally and completely failed to establish consensus! Whoops. According to your logic, atheism is refuted [..] So, I suppose you are going to have to admit that your logic is faulty or you are going to have to give up on atheism [..]

Bzzt. Sorry, but I've never said that atheism is an objectively compelling thesis.

K: I think it is possible that a person is a reasonably mistaken atheist, as I explain in the article HERE. Yet, God’s kindness is not compromised because he ensures that every person receives sufficient knowledge of Him sometime during their life.

Hilarious. Do you seriously claim that nobody has ever died a reasonable atheist?  Does the fact that I'm a reasonable atheist mean that I'm guaranteed not to die soon?


H: 1. Do you think there will ever be any compelling new evidence for your god(s)?

K: Well, the evidence is compelling enough already, but I do have a feeling that even more evidence will become available. For example, an up-and-coming argument for the existence of God based on quantum indeterminacy is being formulated and defended.

H: You're confusing evidence and arguments. Quantum indeterminacy is old evidence, and no argument based on it could ever compel belief in the divinity of a Hebrew carpenter from a remote Roman protectorate.

K: I never said I was trying to prove the deity of Jesus Christ based on quantum indeterminacy.

I asked about "your god(s)" -- Yahweh and Jesus. Arguments for abstract atheism do not qualify as "compelling new evidence for your god(s)". Again: is more evidence for Yahweh and Jesus likely, or not?

K: Rather, I think it is a good argument to support the general existence of an omnipotent God. Your implied request that my argument "prove" Jesus is also God is not fair.

If it's unfair, it's only because you gave an invalid answer to my question.  Feel free to try again.

K: Yet I see that you apparently have no response to the actual argument.

You presented no argument, and you yourself admit that this hypothetical argument is off-topic as it's not about your particular god(s).

K: Probably He sees little reason to perform widespread miracles

"Little reason"?  You seem to forget the alleged omnibenevolence of your god(s), and the viciously unjust eternal torment you claim is reserved for those who do not believe the evidence.

K: due to the consistent and constant rejection of Him by the people of this Earth.

The "rejection" obviously wouldn't be so "consistent and constant" if "the people of this Earth" were granted the same front-row miracle seats as were a privileged few during a few select periods in the ancient Near East.  If the "rejection" is now so "consistent and constant", then why not a new Flood? How "consistent and constant" would this rejection have to be for a new murderous Flood to be warranted?

H: In addition, after the resurrection of Christ there is most likely little need for widespread miracles.

If the resurrection was such an efficacious miracle, why wasn't it done earlier, and why has its effectiveness drastically worn off just as mankind acquired a scientific grasp of biology, cosmology, and history?

H: 3. Will there ever be scientific confirmation of the efficacy of prayer to your god(s)?

K: Perhaps. I have heard of a bunch of literature that claims praying can help the healing process. Admittedly, I haven’t checked into it, but it is a possibility. However, nobody ever said that God would answer prayers all the time. This seems to be a misunderstanding on the part of Holtz.

H: Your god doesn't have to answer prayers "all the time" for their efficacy to be confirmed. If prayers make a difference, that difference is measurable. If prayers make no measurable difference, then reason tells us that prayers don't work.

K: Prayers don’t work only when you define the purpose of prayer as "getting what you say you want".

Again: your words, not mine. I merely stipulated that prayers make a measurable difference. If prayer "perhaps" will some day verifiably make a measurable difference, then why hasn't that evidence already been provided by your god(s)?  Why should I suffer eternal torment for being denied such verification, whereas future skeptics might enjoy scientific confirmation of the efficacy of prayer to Yahweh?

K: In any case, it is entirely unclear that God answering all prayers would be a good thing.

"Answering all prayers" is your strawman again, blatantly repeated even after you quote me correcting it above.

H: 4. Will there ever be archaeological corroboration of the miracles your holy text?

K: I don’t see why not. It has happened before [Jericho], it could happen again.

H: Jericho is of course not a case of objectively compelling scientific corroboration of any miracle. By this standard, you apparently admit that mainstream archeology textbooks will never report such corroboration.

K: Sorry, I misread the question. I didn’t see that you requested a "miraculous" event to be confirmed. But see Glenn Miller’s article for some interesting discussion on the parting of the Red Sea

I'm asking for peer-reviewed archaeological corroboration. Let me know when you find some.


H: What if Ahura Mazda started answering every Zoroastrian priest's prayers, and speaking telepathically to every human, and re-arranging the stars and galaxies to spell out his name? If this wouldn't convert you, then your belief is truly unfalsifiable.

K: Well I suppose that if the aforementioned events took place, I would convert.


H: What if there were found compelling archaeological evidence that all the relevant revelation-based religions were false or fraudulent?

K: I might, however, give up on Christianity if the evidence against it were too strong.


H: 3. Is your belief in god(s) unfalsifiable?

K: Nope.

H: And yet you have not described any possible empirical evidence that could falsify your belief.

K: [..] empirical evidence of something coming from nothing for no reason [..] Empirical evidence that it is plausible or even possible for a cell to emerge from inanimate matter would be nice. This is the sort of empirical evidence which would falsify belief in God.

Interesting -- the sort of miracles that would make me believe in god(s) are what you claim would falsify your belief in them! Requiring miracles to falsify your belief in miracles means that your belief in miracles is unfalsifiable.


H: Your article does not address a single one of the twenty natural phenomena that used to be attributed to divine intervention, nor do you dispute that "in the past, your god was used to explain the gaps caused by the absence of a naturalistic understanding of physics, astronomy, meteorology, agriculture, and physiology. Most of these gaps began closing after 1500 [..]"

K: Actually, your "science will eventually reveal a naturalistic explanation" portion of the argument was deferred to an entirely new article. At the time you were reading my God-of-the-gaps article, I did not have it linked. I do, however, deal with the Argument from Scientific Superiority HERE.

(The words you quote here are not mine.) Your article makes a basic mistake about the level at which the identified argument operates. It's not an argument that gods don't exist; it's an argument that there will be increasingly fewer gaps in science on which to hang claims that gods can explain the gaps.  The trend of course cannot prove that gods don't exist, but it indeed undermines confidence in the argument that the current gaps in science are evidence of god(s).

H: I am quite confident that archeology will not produce any finds confirming anything supernatural in the biblical account. Indeed, it would be unfair for your god(s) to provide better evidence to future people while condemning me to eternal torment for rejecting the current evidence as inadequate.

K: Please see my article HERE for a general discussion of the Argument from Nonbelief as well as a discussion of possible reasons God may have for not providing a ridiculous amount of evidence for His existence.

None of your hypotheses for why nonbelief may be unreasonable apply to me -- see my conversion story, and my article about pride. The existence of even one non-unreasonable non-believer demolishes your primary response to the argument from nonbelief.  Your claim that reasonable nonbelievers might all be given evidence on their deathbeds is hilariously question-begging.

Your point about "coercion" and "automatons" is refuted by your own scriptures.  There are numerous persons that the Bible claims were granted direct first-person eyewitness of Yahweh or his miracles, starting with Adam and continuing beyond the Apostles. The Bible repeatedly admits that many of these eyewitnesses nevertheless retained enough free will to reject or deny the Lord: Satan, Eve, Pharaoh, the Israelites in the desert [Ex 32:8], the Pharisees [Mt 9:34, 12:13-14, Mk 3:5-6, Jn 9:16-34, esp. Jn 11:48, Lk 6:10-11, 14:4-6], the villagers of Korazin, Bethsaid, and Capernaum [Lk 10:13, Mt 11:20], various Jews [Jn 10:32, 12:37], disciples of Jesus [Jn 6:66] -- and of course Peter and Judas. Jesus is even quoted admitting that people have witnessed his miracles and still rejected him: Jn 15:24,  Thus Christianity's own sacred texts incontestably refute the contention that first-hand evidence of God must "coerce" belief.

H: Who disputes the evidence that Caesar was assassinated? Who disputes the evidence that Rome defeated Carthage? Who disputes the evidence that Jerusalem was sacked in the first century?

K: Yes, and who disputes the sphere shape of the Earth? Oh yes, the Flat Earth Society! If this proves anything, it is that compelling evidence can always be "disputed"

Thank you for putting yourself in the same category as the Flat Earth Society. :-)

K: Also, I am quite sure that you are an opponent of Young-Earth Creationism. Yet, all the supposed evidence you may advance would probably not convince a YEC that evolution was true.

You blatantly ignore the premise of my question, which was that "the origin of life has been thoroughly explained by molecular biology". Thank you for allying yourself with those who would deny evolution no matter how well we stipulate that is has been verified.

K: So, I’m afraid that once again you must admit that objectively compelling evidence (even as defined by you!) does not always lead to acceptance.

I didn't ask about a hypothetical unreasonable young-Earth creationist, I asked about you.

K: Actually, the supposed evidence for evolution is anything but "widely accepted". A huge portion of the population does not believe that evolution actually occurred. There goes your "it must be widely accepted" criteria flying out the window.

Bzzt.  I did not claim that evolution is currently as "widely accepted" as I hypothesized it will be.

H: b. [T]he origin of life has been thoroughly explained by molecular biology;

K: This is seriously doubtful, especially considering the dismal state abiogenesis theories are currently in.

H: Despite your embrace of rationality, you seem here to be wishing that humanity does not continue its inexorable progress in explaining biology. Then again, since you are a creationist, you probably do not consider modern biology to be progress.

K: I have no problem with biology, but I will take your response as an obvious acknowledgement that Abiogenesis theories are currently looking quite grim.

I don't debate creationism, because the secular peer-reviewed literature is so univocal on this subject. I defy you to quote a peer-reviewed secular biology reference text claiming that there is no prospect for a non-supernatural explanation of the origin of life.

K: After all, you don’t even offer any reasons for me to think that Abiogenesis is true, let alone possible.

My question was hypothetical.  Is your official response that you consider the non-supernatural origin of life to be impossible?  Would this be logical impossibility, metaphysical impossibility, nomological impossibility, or statistical impossibility?

K: You would prefer to blindly hope that the "future" of biology will uncover this mystery. Unlikely indeed, since history has repeatedly only ruined theories of life from non-life, as I document HERE.

Thus you admit that intellectual history can provide (or undermine) confidence in empirical arguments of a certain form, which contradicts the central thesis of the article you cite. At any rate, my anticipation of progress in biology is no "blind hope", but rather a clear-eyed evaluation of the facts.

Despite your claim of "repeatedly", your article only cites one theory of life from non-life that has been "ruined". The ruined theory of Spontaneous Generation doesn't count against evolution, because it was formulated in ignorance of genetics and metabolic biochemistry. (By contrast, ruined god-of-the-gaps theories count against your current god-of-the-gaps theories, because a gap is a gap is a gap.)

K: I simply fail to have such an optimistic attitude towards the proposition that chemicals can mix together and, by themselves, create a complicated cell capable of reproduction.

If this is your understanding of the current theories of the origin of life, then maybe I should make an exception and debate this with you!  A better summary is as follows:

The methane, ammonia, water, and hydrogen sulfide on the early Earth would have been readily combined by lightning, heat, or ultraviolet radiation into organic molecules like amino acids, sugars, and nucleic acids. Clays or other mineral surfaces may have served as catalysts or concentrators for polymerization of these organic molecules. Nucleotide phosphates could have spontaneously assembled into polynucleotides, which then would be templates for further such assembly. Errors in copying could have led to a population of various replicating polynucleotides. Some polynucleotides could have weakly but selectively bonded with particular amino acids to construct various proteins. Any polynucleotide whose associated protein helped catalyze that polynucleotide's assembly would have preferentially reproduced. Mutually catalyzing cycles of protein synthesis could have caused the evolution of enzymes.

Cells may have arisen as proteinoid microspheres forming spontaneously and helping maintain concentrations of proteins or enzymes which themselves made microsphere formation more likely. Cell division and reproduction may have developed from the tendency of some microspheres to rupture (perhaps after some form of growth) into two or more spheres. Natural selection would favor those resulting spheres that retained a complement of nucleic acids, proteins, and enzymes sufficient to continue the sphere's cyclical catalysis, which would at some point be considered the metabolism of a spherical cell.

H: The Teleological proof is undermined by unrelenting progress in reducing the number of those initial parameters and by anthropic arguments for why they should allow the development of life and intelligence.

K: Yet, as long as the reality of a life-supporting universe is relatively unlikely (as a result of blind chance), we have an objective reason to believe in the existence of God.

You completely ignored my point about anthropic arguments, which you apparently need to research.

K: You’re "science will one day solve the mystery" approach is nothing but an excuse and a bit of a cop-out.

The true cop-out is to say that the existence of even one unanswered question in science means that there must be gods or ghosts or faeries or elves or leprechauns. By contrast, I unflinchingly face the fact that there are limits to what the human mind currently knows and can possibly know.

H: The soul thesis is of course already disproved; the question is merely the extent to which theists still try to find room for god(s) in the shrinking gaps of neuroscience. You are wise to have given up on this.

K: I haven’t looked into this issue closely enough, but in any case I don’t find a good reason to respond to your blanket statement. [..]


H: AI would further disprove the soul thesis.

K: I will admit that such an occurrence would undermine belief in a soul severely.


H: Intelligent non-angelic beings with no designated saviour would further undermine the Christian notion of original sin and the need for salvation.

K: Not necessarily so, as it could be that it is only the human race that is plagued by original sin and whatnot.

I said non-angelic. Christian doctrine is undermined whether they're sinless and deny your god(s), or are sinful and unsaved.

H: The Teleological Argument would by hypothesis have dwindled to just a shadow of the Cosmological Argument, saying that god(s) chose the universe's boundary conditions and then left it alone. The gaps in science have closed to such an extent that wise Christians have abandoned all reliance on those gaps.

K: I don’t "rely" on "gaps", and once again all of your charges are handily refuted in my article HERE.

Your article only addresses a strawman argument that god(s) are conceptually incoherent or beyond the ability of science to evaluate.  Reasonable atheists accept that god(s) could be scientifically proven.  There is only one clause in your article that even begins to defend the idea of using god(s) as explanations: "the origin of the universe seems to require the characteristics of God".  The bottom line is that there is a gap in humanity's current cosmology and biology, and so you hypothesize a gap-shaped god to fill it.  Humans have been doing this for millennia, and you're no different.

K: There is nothing irrational about using God as an explanation for a given phenomenon when all other explanations lack logical force and coherency.

God(s) can indeed be the best explanation for a logically possible set of evidence, but we are not faced with such a set.


K: Since when is it a requirement of Christianity to have "non-trivial prophecy fulfillment"? This is not a doctrine of any sort. If it is true that there are no such prophecies, I don’t really see it as such a big deal.

OK.  Again, you're wise to write off Christianity's traditional apologetic investment in alleged prophecy fulfillment.

K: These are three factors which may override God’s wish for all to know Him:
"a.) Free will. God wishes to allow humans to have free will. If humans didn’t have free will, then they would be nothing but automatons.

This argument is already demolished above.

K: b.) Love and respect. If God made people know that He exists and He offers Salvation, they may accept that belief. However, they would not necessarily love God.

It hardly makes your god(s) more lovable and respectable to unfairly deny us the evidence that he provided so freely to so many people in the past.

K: c.) Justice. If God made or overly coerced individuals to believe in Him, then they may accept Salvation not out of love and respect for God, but out of self-motivations.

Here you just assume the false premise you labeled (b) above. On the contrary, it's clearly unjust for your god(s)  to have more vanity than compassion.


H: this implies that Hell would involve no physical (i.e. bodily) torment.

K: That would be my conclusion.

Just as I suspected, you are yet another Christian who doesn't have the stomach to defend the traditional Christian doctrine of Hell.

H:  It's odd that you're not sure about Satan's role in Hell. Most other orthodox Christians seem to believe that the perfect and inerrant revelation of Yahweh and Jesus has included such details.

K: The perfection of the scriptures is only compromised if for some reason it is claimed that perfect scriptures must contain clear and unambiguous reference to the activities of Satan in Hell.

I'm not claiming that they "must contain clear and unambiguous reference"; I'm claiming that they DO contain vague and ambiguous reference. There is a moral obligation on your god(s) to be clear about the stakes involved here. That obligation has clearly not been met.

H: Heaven indeed sounds pointless, especially if it's a narcotic stupor of the eternal present.

K: How do you know it will be pointless, especially since you have not experienced it?

There are myriad things that I haven't experienced that I can know would be pointless. Narcotic stupor is one of them.

K: Satan, I imagine, will not inflict any sort of suffering on you. Satan will get it the worst of all in Hell. But Hell will be a place of evil human beings and severe intellectual and emotional regret.

There are evil human beings here on Earth, but the rest of us have well-understood means of dealing with them. If I end up in Hell I won't regret my moral superiority to your god(s). Any regrets I have will be like the regrets of those who stand up to mafia extortion and then pay the price for it.

H: if Hell consists of net torment for me, then I'll enjoy constantly reminding your god(s) of the immorality of abandoning me to eternal torment simply for rationally evaluating the available evidence.

K: In Hell (if you end up going there, which I am not sure of

It sounds like you're a little squeamish about seeing someone like me end up in a place like Hell. Listen to your conscience; it's telling you that the myths of your parents need not veto your rationality.

K: you will probably realize that your atheism WASN’T compelling, and that you ignored the clear calling of God.

I didn't say atheism was "compelling"; I just said that Christianity wasn't.  I guess your putting words in my mouth like this is how you subconsciously try to rationalize my unjust fate.

K: Yet, as you state here, you will continue to reject God once you are in Hell, giving Him little choice but to leave you separated from Him.

Thank you for here tacitly admitting that the irrevocability of damnation is unjust.  Another unconscionable doctrine of Christianity lies abandoned in the dust...

H: Given that even most Christians can't stomach defending the idea of eternal torment as a just punishment for the sin of mistaken rationality, I seriously doubt that many of my loved ones would consider it justified.

K: But you have an undefended premise that you are in Hell because of "mistaken rationality".

"Undefended"?  My thesis is quite well-defended.

K: Firstly, you don’t go to Hell for disbelief in Jesus Christ, you go to Hell as the result of sin.

No, the humans in your alleged Heaven are all alleged sinners too. The difference between them and me is my rational doubt about a secretive danger-avoiding family-resenting faith-healing slavery-tolerating unpublished schizophrenic bastard carpenter in the rural outback of a peripheral province of a regional empire.

K: Secondly, there is no way for me to know that your disbelief in God is truly "mistaken rationality".

Hold on tight, that's a pretty fragile reed for you to cling to.

K: Not that I wish to claim you are a liar, but do you honestly expect me to disbelieve (therefore denying what I have come to believe rationally) merely because you claim that your disbelief is for purely objective reasons?

"Merely"?  Feel free to ask me about some other strawman positions that I don't hold -- and don't forget to include include more indications of faux exasperation like "honestly".

K: Thirdly, there is no way for YOU to know that God is not going to, in the future, provide you the evidence required to come to rational belief in Him.

Hee hee! Thanks for reminding me of your universal-deathbed-revelation thesis, I needed a good laugh.


K: God, like me, realizes that worrying about what sort of activities we perform in Heaven is ultimately insignificant compared to the issue of how we live our life on Earth.

It's simply irrational to claim that the nature what constitutes asymptotically your ENTIRE conscious existence is "ultimately insignificant".

H: If there is room for intellectual creativity in Heaven, why would anyone pursue it? God has all the answers anyway, and intellectual advances over time are meaningless in the narcotic stupor of the eternal present.

K: I doubt that we will instantly become "omniscient" while in Heaven, so there will always be more knowledge to obtain.

I said nothing about "instant omniscience". I asked about pursuing intellectual creativity.

K: But I don’t understand why any of this matters. In Heaven there is peace and joy. What more does one really need to know about it?

Nothing, if one is in the habit of unquestioningly accepting fairy tales.  But "happily ever after" isn't quite detailed enough of a sales pitch for some of us shoppers.

H: So are boring and annoying and stupid people transmogrified in heaven to not be so, or is everyone else just brainwashed into not caring about such traits in others?

K: Not brainwashed at all, but [..] extremely close presence of God [..] will all be accepting of others [..]. If that is brainwashing, then I am fine with it.

Yep, brainwashed into not caring. OK.

K: that those individuals who accept Salvation (Christians) will find themselves in Heaven in such close proximity to that which they admire (God) that they will have no motivation for sin, hatred, or evil in any shape or form.  No brainwashing involved there.

If Jesus makes everyone's personality flaws just disappear -- whether by snapping his fingers or by wiggling his nose or by bringing us into his "close proximity" -- why are some of these techniques brainwashing and others not?

H: So after a lifelong exclusive partnership and raising a family together, one's heavenly relationship with a spouse is no different than that with any other person? This of course implies such severe mental surgery on one's personality and identity so as to question whether heaven is happening to the same person one was on Earth.

K: No, because you will be the same person yet with much more intimate knowledge of everyone else’s being as well as an unparalleled closeness with God that will result in endless affection for all other humans.

So the millions of Christians who fantasize about reunion with loved ones in Heaven have all managed to misinterpret your god's perfect and benevolent revelation in precisely the same way?

K: Since when has increased knowledge (in this case knowledge of other persons) involved the "mental surgery [of] one’s personality"?

Normal and gradual increases in knowledge are different in kind from instantaneous and all-pervasive modifications of all of one's interpersonal knowledge and tendencies.

K: I would imagine that the soul will develop in heaven as the result of experiences that take place there. So, their souls will have pretty much a "blank slate" for the most part, so it is up to the individual to decide what kind of person they want to be.

If this is possible, then why do your gods ever incarnate humans on Earth and thus abandon so many of them to damnation?  Why ever create Earth, when your gods could just populate Heaven directly?

K: jokes are infinite because they relate to the surroundings and situations humans find themselves in. Since these situations and surroundings are infinite, there is the potential for an infinite amount of jokes.

There are only finitely many jokes that can be written in ten thousand words of English or less. Are you claiming that people in Heaven will be telling each other million-word jokes?

H: So it's possible that some people in heaven could reach the limit of their understanding, and face an eternity of never being able to master e.g. quantum physics?

K: Perhaps it is impossible to attain 100% math knowledge in heaven. Either way, I think this issue is of minimal importance.

Just as I thought: the narcotic stupor of the eternal present makes nobody care about understanding anything.

K: My guess is that there will always be new stuff to learn.

So people in Heaven will be able to learn arbitrarily many things?

H: 12. Will others in heaven know (or be able to learn) embarrassing things about your life?  [..] This is yet another point on which heaven involves either brainwashing or selective amnesia.

K: What then do you mean by being "embarrassed"? If you mean feeling ashamed, I don’t see why the presence of God as well as intimate knowledge of other human beings couldn’t lead to lack of embarrassment, without directly affecting free will in any way.

I didn't mention "free will". I said "brainwashing or selective amnesia".

H: Will the worst moments in heaven be better than the best moments -- the most enlightening, accomplishing, or orgasmic -- on Earth?

K: Actually, my guess would be no.

Hmm, sounds like I might have more fun in my watered-down Hell than you'll have in your watered-down Heaven.

K: God’s presence will wipe away our shame, which is not brainwashing, especially considering that it was a choice on the human’s part to accept Salvation and spend eternity by God’s side.

Is brainwashing not brainwashing just because it's voluntary?

K: (Actually, I find your sarcastic comment rather ironic, as it appears to me that it is YOU that is requesting that God "wipe[s] away your drool". Consider before when you expressed discontent at God for not providing an irrefutable prophecy. It seems that YOU are the one that wants to receive special treatment.)

I just want to be fairly treated like a rational adult, with the freedom and responsibility to control and improve my thoughts and actions. I don't consider this "special treatment", and I never asked for my drool to be wiped. I merely asked if that was a part of Heaven's shame-wiping package, as opposed to a standalone service.

H: Are you getting the point here that, for beings whose personality structure is shaped by the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics, an eternity of anything will seem pretty pointless?

K: I doubt that an eternity of happiness would be "pointless". If you are happy, then you are content. It is impossible to grow tired of being content because then you would no longer be content.

You're merely defining Heaven as non-pointless here.Your attempt to do so is contradicted by the well-known psychological fact that human happiness has more to do with the first derivative of one's situation than with the absolute value of one's situation.

K: I imagine each day in Heaven is enjoyable, but some days are probably better than others.

How could any day in Heaven be as good as the first one?  How could any day after the trillionth be anything but excruciatingly dull?  (You're better off reverting to your earlier claim that there is no sense of time in Heaven. Timeless stupor is better than eternal boredom.) (By the way, why did your god(s) fail to clarify whether Heaven is timeless or not?)

K: Once again I must ask why any of this matters.

If you think this discussion is pointless, just wait until you get to Heaven. After your first billion years or so you'll be desperate for diversions as marginally interesting as this.

H: With God there to settle disputes, could people ever disagree over any question of philosophy or history or (former earthly) politics?. Will there be any possible way to create new knowledge or new art?

K: Ditto.


H: Given the omniscience of your god(s), why would anyone try to discover anything instead of just asking for the answer?

K: Perhaps because, as you seem to imply in your article, obtaining knowledge by oneself is satisfying.

What kind of learning satisfaction do you seriously think you'll be having in your trillionth year in Heaven? And do you realize that a trillion years is nothing when compared to eternity?


K: I will realize that your punishment is just and fair, and that God did all He could to rescue you from it.

H: "All he could"? Thomas got to examine a reincarnated man's wounds, but all I get are error-prone manuscripts of decades-old hearsay about a Torah-thumping Hebrew carpenter who can reasonably be inferred to have been a delusional schizophrenic.

K: Sounds like good evidence to me.

Thus you don't even dispute that your god(s) clearly could have given me better evidence.

K: In no way would I be joyous of your situation.

Why? True justice is to be reveled in, but your basic human decency won't let you endorse the barbaric cruelty of your parents' religion.

K: I would also probably realize that you still hate God

I never said I "hated" your god(s); another subconscious rationalization on your part?  I scorn the barbaric cruelty of your religion's mythical deities, but don't delude yourself into thinking that I have some personal grudge or animosity against them.

K: so it would be impossible for God to bring you into Heaven.

Thank you for again tacitly admitting that the traditional irrevocability of damnation is unjust.

K: Believe me when I say that I don’t like the doctrine of Hell. In fact, I often wish Christianity wasn’t true just so that some individuals don’t end up in Hell.

I suspect that your basic human decency will eventually lead you to deconvert from Christianity.  Until then, I don't envy you your cognitive dissonance here.


K: I said that objective morality is impossible unless God exists. See HERE [where it says] Whatever God decides is right or wrong is the way it is!

Sorry, that's subjective, not objective.  Nothing in your article resolves the Euthyphro Dilemma.

K: I would still have within me a moral code given to me by God.

If his moral code is objective, you could re-derive it. If it's subjective, you could re-create it on your whim instead of his.

K: Of course it is possible to act morally without the sanctions of Heaven and Hell imposed.

Thank you.


K: A lot of pointless questions, and quite a few emotionally-charged implied arguments, as well as a fair amount of (implied) logical fallacies.

You've not successfully diagnosed a single logical fallacy on my part.

K: You, however, seem to have deep emotional problems with the concept of Heaven and (especially) Hell.

Oh?  Which of us here said that he "often wishes" his worldview "wasn't true just so that some individuals don't end up in Hell"? We evidently share a basic human decency that leads to feelings of revulsion at such monumental injustice, but I wouldn't call such decency an "emotional problem" -- for me at least.

K: You have a deeply mistaken view about Hell, and why some people end up there

Your rejection of traditional Christian doctrine does not constitute a "mistake" on my part.

K: But not believing in God because you don’t think Hell is fair is like closing your eyes on the highway with a semi-truck coming your way.

I never said I disbelieve in entity X because entity X is unfair.  Rather, I disbelieve in the Christianity's positing of a benevolent deity, because the deity described in Christian scripture is obviously not benevolent. In fact, I've said it's far more likely that Yahweh exists and is malevolent than that Yahweh exists and is benevolent.

H: I disavow any "implied" argument from authority, and merely note that you don't have an explanation for why your "compelling evidence" for Christianity is in practice so uncompelling.

K: your argument is STILL an argument from authority, no matter how much you wish it wasn’t

Nowhere in my "Questions for Theists" do I claim that these questions constitute an argument that Christian theism is false. You may wish I did so claim, but I challenge you to quote such a claim.

My arguments against Christianity are not argument from authority, except insofar as I cite over 100 biblical verses as an authority against Christian doctrine.  However, I will say that the validity of the a worldview ultimately depends on its ability to consistently explain the available evidence, and my Questions for Theists concern facts about the world -- including non-belief by the marketplace of ideas -- that my worldview can explain and Christianity cannot.  You can wish away these facts about the world all you want, but they will remain.

K: Simply "disavowing" a fallacy makes it appear that you aren't really interested in solid argumentation, but rather interested in supporting your case by using emotional and fallacious arguments.

My arguments against Christianity stand unrefuted, and my related challenge to Christian apologists stands unaccepted. I'll put my record of fair and responsive argumentation up against that of any Christian apologists on the planet. You've not successfully diagnosed any fallacy in my arguments, and if defending your worldview causes emotional conflicts for you, that is a matter for you and your conscience.