Dialogue With The Answer Man

 

Early in December of 2008, a Mr. Brady Smith wrote a letter to the editor which was published in the Bonner County Daily Bee.  In his letter, Brady listed some of the purported miraculous events that are claimed to have been associated with Jesus’ life.  At the end of his letter, he asked those who had further questions to contact him via email.  Taking him up on his offer, I sent him the following email on 12/11/08:

“You claim in your letter in the Bee that Jesus was born of a virgin, lived a perfect life, died to redeem us from our sins, and rose from the dead.  What sources, other than the Bible and Christian apologetic writings, can you name that provide tangible, objective, and verifiable evidence to establish that your claims are true?”

[Actually, I should have left out the qualifier “other than the Bible and Christian apologetic writings” since none of these provide the type of hard, unbiased, and authenticated evidence I was requesting.]

 

 

On 12/13/08, I received a reply from Brady in response to which I sent the following email:

Please see the attachment for my response to your message of 12/13/08.
(Some people are unable to open attachments that originate from computers
that are running the Vista operating system.  If you are unable to open the
attachment, let me know and I will include my response in the body of a
subsequent email.)

Please also be advised that I will eventually be posting our dialogue on my
website, "Creation/Evolution Dialogues."

Happy Holidays,

Jack

The attachment, which reproduced his comments interspersed with my responses, read as follows:

Brady:

Mr. DeBaun:

 I received your e-mail on Thursday, December 11 and will attempt to
respond to your questions here. There are many sources that I will
note later on, but let me start out by asking, "Why do you need more
proof other than the Bible?"

My response

As the late Carl Sagan succinctly put it, “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”

 If someone living in the City of Sandpoint tells me they looked out their window and saw a cat standing in their yard, I would not think it out of the ordinary.  If someone claims it was a buffalo instead of a cat standing in their yard, it would be appropriate to ask for confirming evidence.  It is possible that, since buffalo do reside in the area, one of them could have strayed far away from the herd and wandered into their yard.  Such a scenario is possible, but not highly probable, and the claimant should not be surprised if they are asked to provide more evidence to substantiate their claim.  On the other hand, if the person asserts that they saw Pegasus fly by their window, they are making a highly improbable assertion.   In this case, they would rightly be asked to supply an abundance of tangible, objective, verifiable evidence before they would be taken seriously. 

Religious propagandists of all persuasions are notorious for fabricating self-serving narratives that embellish the accomplishments and capabilities of their gods and goddesses.   The literature they produce is highly biased and dogma-driven with little concern about stretching the truth when it serves their purposes.   Such literature is intended to produce converts, not to relate factual information.   Partisan religious writings are, therefore, most often unreliable sources for determining the true attributes of the object of the author’s veneration.  The biblical claims I listed in my question to you fall into the Pegasus-flying-by-the-window category of extraordinary claims.  That is why I asked the question I did.  Don’t you require more proof than that provided by the Islamic holy books before you will accept the claims that the prophet Muhammad split the moon into two pieces, multiplied food and water, healed the blind with his saliva, had a conversation with a wolf, and rode with the angel Gabriel on a winged horse to Jerusalem, where from a large rock, he ascended to heaven and met with the great prophets of Abraham, Moses and Jesus?

[Please keep in mind that my question does not pertain to whether or not someone named Jesus actually existed (although there is some debate about the matter as well, see “The Jesus Puzzle” on the Internet.) or whether he was some sort of itinerant Jewish rabbi.  Nor does it pertain to whether or not he was crucified and a religious cult centered on his teachings developed after his death.  My question dealt with reliable and impartial evidence (confirmatory firsthand accounts from a variety of reputable neutral observers) that could substantiate his divinity and the purported miraculous occurrences surrounding his life.]

Brady

The reason I ask is twofold. One, the Bible is not a book. It is a
compilation of 66 books written by over 40 different authors over a
period of 1500 years. The books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, (to
name a few) are specifically written about Jesus. They all agree on
the virgin birth, a perfect sinless Jesus, the crucifixion, and the
resurrection. "Out of the mouth of two or three witnesses shall a
thing be established."

My response

I am familiar with the patchwork structure of the Bible and its convoluted history of development.   It most certainly didn’t appear fully-formed and fleshed-out as one would expect of a God-sanctioned holy book.  It evolved (pardon the expression) slowly and fitfully, as one would expect if it were a purely human invention.  Considering only the New Testament, what follows, is a fairly brief summary of its development from "The Whole Bible Brief History of New Testament on the Internet.

The source texts:

Sifting through the scores of different English versions of the New Testament, one is poignantly reminded of how translation, particularly of archaic language, is subject to personal interpretation. It is therefore vitally important that we get as close to the original source as possible. The oldest surviving complete text of the New Testament is the Codex Sinaiticus, dating back to the middle of the fourth century. The oldest fragments, the Bodmer and Beatty Papyri and Papyrus 52, date back to the second century but only contain bits of the Gospel of John. All of these texts are Greek. This presents a few disturbing problems.

First, Jesus’ native tongue was Aramaic, and even if he knew Greek, he certainly did not speak it to his apostles, many of whom were uneducated fishermen. Without any surviving Aramaic texts, the actual words of Christ are lost forever, mired in a sea of subjective translation by ancient scribes. Second, we are faced with a gap of as much as three hundred years between the composition of a text and our surviving copies. In a world without a printing press, texts would often undergo drastic evolution through centuries of handwritten duplication.

Origins of the canon:

Our four canonical gospels did not begin their lives as the gospels of "Matthew," "Mark," "Luke" and "John." Different groups of early Christians maintained their own oral traditions of Jesus' wisdom, as writing was a specialized skill and not every fellowship enjoyed the services of a scribe. When written accounts of Jesus' teachings began to circulate (i.e., the theoretical "sayings" gospel Q and the Semeia or Signs source), the independent groups would supplement them with their own traditions about the savior, each believing their own versions to be "the Gospel." Eventually, as these expanded writings spread through other communities, some versions were viewed as having more authority than others. It was not until the pronouncement of Bishop Irenæus (185 C.E.) that Christians began to accept only the four familiar gospels as authoritative, and to refer to them by their modern titles.

The rest of the canon was much slower to develop. For the next two centuries, the four gospels would be coupled with a myriad of different letters, epistles, stories and apocalypses, according to what a particular congregation judged as relevant to their understanding of Jesus Christ and his message. Catholicism was only one of the dozens of "denominations" within the early church—Gnosticism was prevalent throughout Egypt, Montanism in Asia Minor, Marcionism in Syria. Eventually, the Catholic church was adopted as the state religion of the Roman Empire, and all other systems of belief were branded as heresies. Following the Epistle of Athanasius in 367 C.E., the Church finally reached agreement upon which writings were truly authentic and representative of apostolic tradition, thus forming what we know today as the canonical New Testament. Although factions of the Church continued to debate the merits of various books for centuries, and many even used other writings in their liturgy, most uncanonical writings were ordered to be destroyed. In many cases, possession of heretical literature was punishable by death. We are extremely fortunate that many of these texts have survived the millennia, giving us insights into the development of various early Christian traditions.

 

What this shows is that compilation of the Bible was a disputations process that encompassed the participation of many (often rival) traditions and political factions.  Many books were excluded from the canon simply because they did not harmonize with the picture the religious authorities in power at the time were trying to paint of Jesus.  The earliest written commentaries in the New Testament (those from Paul) were not produced until some two decades after Jesus had died.  No one knows what any of the original writings actually said because they have long since disappeared.  All we have are copies of copies of copies.  Because of this tortuous developmental process over many centuries, there were ample opportunities for imaginative exposition, redaction, revision, deletion, and pious fraud to play a major role in its formation.   

As a consequence of this prolonged and convoluted history in which too many cooks had ample opportunity to spoil the broth, it would be expected that the Bible would contain numerous scientific inaccuracies, inconsistencies, and contradictions.  And it does.  (Search for "A List of Bible Contradictions" on the Internet.  As an example, who was the father of Joseph, Jacob or Heli?)   

If you still insist that the Bible is in perfect agreement throughout and contradiction free, then here is a little exercise for you:

The resurrection is a core tenet of Christian doctrine without which Christianity, as we know it, would not exist.  If the resurrection actually occurred, if you are a believing and trusting Christian to whom the truth has been revealed, and if the Bible is truly God’s means for describing this momentous occurrence to humanity, then you should have no trouble developing a detailed and coherent sequence of events as requested by the following Easter Challenge: 

 

Please begin at Easter morning and read to the end of each book – begin at Matt. 28, Mark 16, Luke 24, and John 20-21.  Also read Acts 1:3-12 and 1Cor. 15:3-8.  Then, without adding a single detail not contained (or omitting one that is contained) in these accounts, write a single, harmonious, chronological narrative of the events between the resurrection and the ascension; paying particular attention to what happened first, second, etc.; who said what to whom and when; and where these things happened.

Good luck.


Brady

Two, the Bible is full of prophesies. These prophesies alone prove the
Bible to be true and therefore able to be trusted on the subject of
who Jesus was and what He did.

My response

Christians habitually tout the alleged accuracy of the much-ballyhooed prophecies in the Bible as evidence for its veracity.  However, when subjected to critical analysis, all such prophecies fail the test for validation when such things as context, timing, use of anachronisms, and predictive accuracy are taken into account.  If prophecy is one of the more compelling forms of proof of the veracity of the Bible, I’m afraid it doesn’t have much going for it.  For a critical discussion of the myth of the accuracy of biblical prophecy, search for "Prophecies: Imaginary and Unfulfilled” (authored by a former Christian fundamentalist minister) on the Internet.

How can you put any faith in biblical prophecy when Jesus, Himself, couldn’t even accurately predict the timing of His own so-called “second coming?”  See Matt. 10:23 (“…Ye [the disciples] shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man [Jesus] be come.”), Matt. 16:28 (“Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man [Jesus] coming in his kingdom.”), Mark 13:30 (“Verily I say unto you, that this generation shall not pass till all these things be done.”), Luke 21:32 (“Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass away, till all be fulfilled.”), Matt. 24:34 (“Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.”), Matt. 23:36 (“Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation.”  The Living Bible Paraphrased interprets this passage as, “Yes, all the accumulated judgment of the centuries shall break upon the heads of this very generation.”), Mark 9:1 (“…Verily I say unto you, That there be some of them that stand here, which shall not taste of death, till they have seen the kingdom of God come with power.”), Mark 14:62 and Matt. 26:64 (“…ye [the people to whom Jesus was speaking] shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.”), and Luke 9:27 (“But I tell you of a truth, there be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the kingdom of God.”) 

 In case you have lost track, it has been nearly 2,000 years and counting since Jesus supposedly made these botched predictions.  How many more millennia will it take before Christians finally wise up and acknowledge that He, like everyone else who dies, is gone for good?

Brady

But other than that, if you need more proof, take Josephus. Josephus'
works are considered worldwide to be scholarly and accurate. He
confirms the accuracy of the New Testament. Everything said in
relation to the sects of the Jews, and the Herods, and Pilate, and the
division of Provinces, and Felix, and Drusilla, and Bernice have just
that agreement with the New Testament which we should expect in
independent historians.

My response

While Josephus does confirm certain aspects of historical record mentioned in the New Testament, he does not lend any credence whatsoever to the validity of the extraordinary claims I listed in my question.  I know of no one who argues that all the accounts in the Bible dealing with places, governmental figures, ceremonies, etc. are inaccurate.  The authors of the Bible portrayed a good deal of the historical setting correctly. They were at least clever enough to realize that, if you get all your historical facts wrong, no one is going to take the rest of your story seriously.  However, just as modern fictional stories normally contain accurate portrayals of the historical milieu in which they are set, they also tell imaginary stories about their characters.  Just because the Wizard of Oz starts out with an accurate depiction of life on a Kansas farm, it does not mean that the rest of the story represents actual events.

The writings of Josephus do appear, in a couple of instances, to make reference to Jesus.  However, the part of his so-called Testimonium, where he supposedly claims Jesus is the Christ, is widely considered by the majority of objective biblical scholars to have been tampered with by Christian interpolators.  To support this assessment, the early Christian theologian, Origen, states that Josephus did not believe Jesus was the Christ.  Furthermore, there is another version of the Testimonium which states that Jesus was only “perhaps” the Messiah.

Regardless what Josephus did, or did not, write about Jesus, it should be kept in mind that he was not living while Jesus was alive.  Therefore, he could not have been an eyewitness to anything that Jesus actually did or said.  All he could report was secondhand hearsay information about what some people (primarily the early Christians) said about Jesus.  This type of hearsay evidence is not commonly allowed in a court of law.  There is a good reason for that.  Experience has shown that such evidence is notoriously unreliable.  (And it is especially suspect in the case of religious propagandists who, for the most part, have few qualms about bending the facts to glorify the exploits of their deities and prophets.)  

 

In the final analysis, Josephus does not provide any corroborating evidence for the virgin birth, divinity, miracles, or Resurrection of Jesus which were the subject of my question.

Brady

The Talmud (a compilation of oral rabbinic tradition dating to about
A.D. 200) speaks of Christ and of several of the disciples by name.
These writing speak of Christ's crucifixion and His miracles.

My response

The Babylonian and Jerusalem Talmuds were written between the 3rd and 6th centuries CE--well after Jesus was pushing up daisies.  There is considerable debate in theological circles about whether Jesus is actually mentioned in the Talmud.   Even if he is referred to under some code name or another, the Talmud, quite obviously, could not be considered to be a source of firsthand accounts of what Jesus actually did or said.  It is insightful that one website that does make the case that Jesus is mentioned in the Talmud states that he is described therein as being a bastard who was conceived during menstruation, a fool, a magician (not a miracle worker), a seducer, and that he was crucified and buried in hell.  (Google “The Life of Christ/The Christian Cross.”)  If that is the impression you want to leave about Jesus’ life by citing the Talmud, who am I to complain.  At any rate, the Talmud does not provide any verifiable evidence that specifically addresses my question.

Brady:

Cornelius Tacitus, a Roman historian c. AD 55- 117, tells us that
Christ was put to death by Pontius Pilate under Tiberius, as a
malefactor, just as the Bible says. Tacitus' account is confirmed by
Suetonius, Martial, and Juvenal.

My response

Again, as with your other sources, Tacitus was not a contemporary of Jesus.  (Neither were Suetonius, Martial, nor Juvenal.)  And as above, his writings establish only that people who considered someone named Jesus to be the Messiah lived in the 1st century A.D., which no scholar has ever disputed. They also add confirmation to the claim that he was crucified (as were many thousands of others accused of crimes against the Roman state at that time).  Tacitus lived too far away from the events that supposedly took place in Galilee to know directly about them even if he had been a contemporary of Jesus.  But just because Tacitus lends credence to the claim that Jesus was crucified by Pilate, his writings do absolutely nothing to substantiate the extraordinary biblical claim that his crucifixion served as atonement for mankind’s sins.

Brady:

I could go on about Celsus, Lucian, Epictetus, Emperor Marcus
Antoninus, and Porphyry, all of which confirm the Bible's accounts,
but I think you get the point.

My response

Yes, I suppose you could go on trotting out sources that fail to directly address my question.   And the point I get is that you don’t have any that do address it.  None of these individuals were contemporaries of Jesus; they all lived after he had died, some well after.  None of them provided any verifiable confirmation whatsoever for the purported miraculous aspects of Jesus’ life.  In fact, Celsus and Porphyry were adamant opponents of Christianity and wrote scathing polemics about it denying his divinity.

 

 Even if any of your extra-biblical sources had been eyewitnesses to what Jesus did and said, their individual recollections alone would not be sufficient to firmly establish the extraordinary claims made in the Bible.  Have you ever served on a jury where a lawyer cross-examined an eyewitness?  You learn quite quickly that most people have the observational skills of a loaf of bread.   Since the miracles attributed to Jesus have, at least according to my knowledge, left no lasting physical evidence, tangible supportive evidence is unavailable.  Therefore, the only way they could be even marginally substantiated would be through the corroborative testimony of a variety of reputable, impartial, firsthand observers.  No such corroborative testimony is available in the case of the miracles attributed to Jesus. 

 

According to the Bible, King Herod had all of the males two years old and younger in Bethlehem and its suburbs murdered soon after Jesus’ birth (mentioned only in the gospel of Matthew), a conspicuous star which could somehow be used to pinpoint the exact location of the manger appeared suddenly and shown brightly in the sky prior to Jesus’ birth, Jesus fed thousands of people from a few scraps of bread, the sky turned completely black during the day when Jesus died and resurrected saints roamed the streets of Jerusalem.  Yet not a single person (outside the characters depicted in the Bible story) reports having witnessed any of these occurrences.   It is unconscionable that such conspicuous events could have occurred and no observers (outside those written into the biblical plot) would have made mention of them.   Not to mention other problems such as the Roman census that the Bible says occurred at the time of Jesus’ birth.   Mathew says Jesus was born during Herod’s reign, Luke says the census took place when Quirinius was in charge.   In addition to this discrepancy, no other sources mention such a census that, uncharacteristically, supposedly encompassed the population as a whole – nor was it the practice in Roman censuses to require people to return to their ancestral homes as Luke claimed they were forced to do.   (For a more detailed discussion of this matter, see “The Census of Quirinius and the Birth of Jesus of Nazareth” on the Internet.   I could go on, but ….

You have failed in your attempt to answer my question with a meaningful response.  While various historians did confirm that a religion had materialized around the life of a 1st century rabbi who was crucified for antagonizing the Roman authorities (which is a commonly accepted fact), none of them lent a shred of credibility to the miraculous events that are claimed to have occurred in the Bible.  There are no extra-biblical, contemporary historians who claim to have directly witnessed any of them.  All we have is the creative hagiography of religious propagandists (historically a source of dubious credibility) to suggest any of these events actually took place.   That may be good enough for you, but it leaves a great deal to be desired as far as I and most objective biblical scholars are concerned.  As the author of the article about the census of Quirinius states, “The cost of being dishonest about the evidence is far greater than the cost of acknowledging that the Bible does not always give accurate historical data.”  Committing intellectual suicide so I can pretend that I will live forever in some future imaginary paradise is a cost I am not prepared to pay.

Brady

Sir, I could go on and on arguing with you on many issues, but frankly
I think it would be a waste of time. I believe the Bible, you do not.
I can never prove the Bible, it is a matter of faith, just as your
beliefs are a matter of faith. But let the evidence speak for itself.

My response

The evidence has indeed spoken. The problem is that your faith appears to be preventing you from hearing what it has to say (or more precisely, deluding you into reading much more into it than what it actually says).  If there were any truly reliable evidence to corroborate the miraculous claims in the Bible, you would not have to rely solely on faith (uncritical belief in something that lacks evidential confirmation) to delude yourself into believing them to be factual.

I am a scientific naturalist.  I do not base the things I accept as being factual on faith.  I base them on evidence.  That is why I asked my original question of you.

Faith is dirty word in my lexicon.  It is the last refuge of those who lack any reasonable factual basis for their beliefs.  Faith is what motivates religious fanatics to crash airplanes into tall buildings.  During the Dark Ages when Christian faith dominated the scene, people were lucky to live to the ripe old age of forty. Heretics and “witches” were routinely murdered and tortured by the Inquisition in the name of God.  And nonexistent demons were exorcised to cure disease.  Faith is what moves some mothers to murder their children to save them from the agonies of an imaginary hell.  Faith is what allows the adherents of all religions to believe in the myriad of nonsensical things that their religious gurus insist they must believe in order to be a respected member of the cult.  Faith that one religion is superior to another and has an exclusive monopoly on the TRUTH foments warfare, bigotry, and societal discord.  Faith is what the purveyors of religious fantasies utilize to scare the hell out of the gullible to convert them into whimpering, tithing sheep.  Faith is the scourge of mankind, not a virtue.

Since the period of the Enlightenment, science has slowly chipped away at the exclusive grip faith once had on mankind.  Gods no longer hurl lightning bolts, nor do they unleash tsunamis, volcanoes, or earthquakes to punish mankind.  Demons are no longer thought to be the cause of disease. There are now natural, evidence-based explanations for such phenomena.  As science continues to shed light on the recesses of our ignorance, there are fewer and fewer places for the faith-inspired demons, spirits, ghosts, and gods of the past to hide.  It is no coincidence that, what were once thought to be miraculous occurrences such as those mentioned in the Bible, have continued to steadily diminish in frequency over time as scientific means of verification and documentation have become increasingly more sophisticated.  Occurrences that once would have been nonchalantly classified as miracles, have now been shown to be mere figments of the imagination or to have purely naturalistic explanations.

 To put it bluntly, faith is a lousy criterion for believing in anything.  It allows people to believe in anything they want, just because it gives them a warm and fuzzy feeling, the evidence be damned.  The sooner mankind completely rids itself of the curse of a faith-based mentality and people come to the realization that there is no invisible God Father in the sky poised to rescue them from their travails if they plead urgently enough for help, the sooner mankind will  be able to solve its problems on its own initiative.  

"Faith without doubt leads to moral arrogance, the eternal pratfall of the religiously convinced." - Joe Klein, Time Magazine

Brady

It can't just be left at that however. All have sinned and the wages
of sin is death - eternal separation from God in Hell. God is just and
requires payment for this sin debt. That is why Jesus came to earth.
He was that payment. He sacrificed His life so that you don't have to
pay that sin debt. And all He asks is that you accept His gift and
give your life to Him. When you do this, I can promise that you will
not regret it.

My response

Been there, done that.  I was also once a believing Christian.  Then I started actually reading the Bible myself, instead of focusing exclusively on the good bits that were discussed in church.  It was a real eye-opener.   Early on in my “de-conversion” experience, I got hold of a copy of Bertrand Russell’s “Why I am not a Christian.”  It was very thought provoking, to say the least.  One thing led to another, and the rest, as they say, is history.  One of the more provocative books I have read on the subject recently is “Misquoting Jesus” by Bart Erhman.  For more de-conversion testimonials, see “Original De-conversion Stories” on the Internet.

Thanks for the sermon, but there is not a shred of concrete evidence that any of what you have said about sin, hell, and sacrificial atonement is true.  All you have are the folktales of some pre-scientific, Bronze Age, desert nomads and the promotional literature from a handful of 1st century, ghost-worshiping, public relations agents to back you up.  If god would just show up in person sometime (instead sending those pesky evangelists door to door to do his work for him) so that I could have a chat with him, perhaps he could persuade me otherwise.   Because he has not made an official appearance for at least the last 2,000 years or so (despite the constant urging of the faithful), I think it is reasonable to assume that he no longer exists (if he ever did) or that he simply doesn’t give a damn.

Tell me, do you honestly think an omnipotent god could not devise a more empathetic system than one that requires him to eventually incinerate the vast majority of the humans who have ever lived (including the likes of Albert Einstein, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Paine, Elizabeth-Cady Stanton, John Adams, James Watson, Walt Disney, Irving Berlin, Samuel Clemens, Susan B. Anthony, Thomas Edison, Robert Frost, all the Jewish Holocaust victims, and, most likely, some of your relatives, to name a few) in the everlasting flames of hell?   (Keeping in mind, the Bible says the dead will be resurrected prior to the “final judgment.”)  And how can you be certain that you are worshiping the true god?  It could be Allah who fries your derriere in hell some day, you know.

Brady

Thank you for your time, and I will look forward to talking with you again soon.

Merry Christmas,

Brady

My response:  

Likewise.

Here’s wishing a joyous a Solstice season to you and your family,

Jack

 

 

I received a subsequent email from Brady on 12/29/08.  What follows are his comments and my interspersed responses sent to him in an email message on 12/31/08.

Brady:

Dear Mr. DeBaun,
I apologize that it has taken me so long to respond to your e-mail.
Let me start out by saying that I hope you had a wonderful Christmas
and this coming new year will be your best yet.
Let me also say that after reading you e-mail and thinking about how
I would respond, I realized that, as a full time student, there is no
way I can keep up with my studies as well as my other responsibilities
and find time to debate Christianity with you.

My Response:

Thank you for your kind thoughts during this holiday season.  I extend best wishes to you as well.

Having been involved in an extended educational process myself, I can appreciate the demands on your time.  It is noteworthy, however, that none of the Christians to whom I have posed the Easter Challenge can ever seem to find time to work it into their schedule of activities.  As the saying goes, the silence is deafening.

Just a suggestion - if you do not intend to address questions about the Bible, then perhaps you should refrain from offering to answer them in your letters to the editor.

 Brady:

Please know that I find it an honor to "earnestly
content  [contend?] for the faith," but after reading your e-mail I see no reason
to continue this debate. It is obvious I will never convince you and
you will never convince me. I would take, to borrow the colloquialism,
an act of God. You have utterly blinded yourself to the truth, and my
prayer for you is that God has mercy on your soul.
I will continue to pray for you until God calls me home.

My Response:

O’ Contraire, it would not take an act of God to convince me of the veracity of the Bible, or the veracity of anything else for that matter.  All it would take is some tangible, objective, verifiable evidence that it is factual.  That is something that neither you nor any other Christian apologist has ever been able to provide.  (Hint:  Unsubstantiated faith-based assertions do not count as tangible objective, verifiable evidence.)

I had no delusions of convincing you that your beliefs are ill-founded.   It is virtually impossible to use evidence-based logic to argue anyone out of a position that they did not logically arrive at in the first place.  Facts and reason are useless weapons against emotion-driven, faith-based beliefs.  I do not write to de-convert diehard fundamentalists like you.   My dialogues are targeted at open-minded truth-seekers who value critical thinking over wishful thinking.  And I thank you for providing me an opportunity to add another one to my website. 

You claim that I have blinded myself to the truth.  That is what every religion says about every other religion.   And none of them can see beyond the mythology of their own holy books.  Claiming that nonbelievers have blinded themselves to the truth is a ploy that all cult-like belief systems use to falsely impugn the objectivity of their critics.  By adopting this pejorative tactic, cult members can arbitrarily discount any conflicting evidence that their “blind” critics might present.    Your pot-calling-the-kettle-black approach is nothing but a lame excuse to avoid the truth rather than to discover it. 

You can pray for me until the cows come home, as far as I am concerned.  It’s a shame though you can’t think of something more productive to do with your spare time.   When asked why their prayers are often not answered in the affirmative, Christians commonly respond that God sometimes says yes, sometimes says no, and sometimes says maybe at a later date.  What they seem to fail to comprehend is that one can achieve exactly the same results by praying to a rock.

But, just to show you there are no hard feelings, I will also pray diligently to the Flying Spaghetti Monster to cure your faith-based allergy to tangible, objective, verifiable evidence.  My guess is that both of our prayers have an equal chance of success.

Brady:

I remain respectively yours,

Brady Smith

My Response:

Assuming that you actually meant to say “respectfully yours,” just how respectful do you think it is to accuse someone of utterly blinding themselves to the truth?   That’s not unlike accusing a person of purposely wallowing in ignorance and is not being particularly respectful, in my humble opinion.

Freethoughtfully,

Jack DeBaun