Monday, October 29, 2007


One thing we DO know for sure is that god didn’t create the Xerox machine. For centuries the process of copying precious manuscripts was assigned to early scribes and monks working in Scriptoriums in small abbeys across the Greek world. We ALSO know that there are no original manuscripts of the bible preserved today.

So how, then, did we get from the original author(s)’s writings to today’s version(s) and how do we determine the accuracy?

Imagine one copy manually transcribed from an original by hand.

Now imagine that process occurring many times over… tedious, laborious copying. We’re talking copies OF copies OF copies OF copies, etc. -- created by these scribes and monks of indeterminable ability in the hopes that their copies would one day be spread to all cities. They were transcribed with feather and ink onto baked clay tablets, on sheepskin parchment, on papyrus reed, and later on calfskin. In essence, we’re all relying on copies of original manuscripts that are long since gone. And the “sources” of our bible were also copies, not of the original manuscripts, but of copies. You get the picture.


It is said that the copying was done with great and conscientious care. Really? Well, I’m sure that most of them TRIED real hard.

New Testament scholar Bart Ehrman (author of several books on textual criticism including 2005 bestseller
Misquoting Jesus ) contends that these errors multiplied over many centuries pose more than just an exercise in translational gymnastics. To paraphrase from a lecture series at Stanford University, Ehrman concludes that due to the errancy of omission, intention ("reconciling inconsistencies"), language barriers, and undeniable mistakes there are more errors in the New Testament alone than there are words in the New Testament. Read that sentence again. That should be enough to make even Billy Graham stop and say, WTF?

Despite Ehrman’s certainty that of the hundreds of thousands of errors/changes among the copied manuscripts – most were insignificant, although, the very meaning of a number of critical passages have been forever altered or fabricated. This takes contradiction and error to a whole ‘nuther level. Further, Ehrman contends, “The King James was not given by God but was a translation by a group of scholars in the early 17th century who based their rendition on a faulty Greek text.” You may not agree with both parts of that quotation but you cannot disagree with the last.

It's pretty safe to say that 99% of us could not read the bible in its original Greek text form. But the fact is indisputable; we do not have an accurate bible based on the copies and partial copies made over the centuries.

So how COULD we know what He meant if we don’t know what He said to begin with? And my question doesn’t even consider the legitimacy of the original tales shoe horned in to encapsulate a divine story.

A better question would be: Why is god such a terrible communicator?

This is a question that must be asked. The conveyance of an omnipotent being’s message should carry a little more cogency and less controversy than what was passed on to us. How can a god fail to convey his message to all peoples without error, dispute, or miscommunication? If god wanted me (or any human ever for that matter) to follow him, believe in him, and worship him -- it stands to reason that he wouldn’t have allowed this problem to proliferate.

"The problem with communication is the illusion that it has occurred." George Bernard Shaw nailed that quote. We have copies of stories of mostly unknown, ancient origin -- translated, altered, fabricated, misinterpreted, and nicely bound for us to take at face value. With a message so imperative that a false interpretation means the pits of hell fire for us -- I can definitely understand Pascal’s Wager. It’s a roll of the dice. Maybe that should be the definition of faith?
If we define inerrancy as free from error, infallible I think we have some issues to deal with. All we would need to find is one error to prove the hypothesis that the bible is, in fact, errant. If this is proven, the bible could not possibly be the Inerrant Word of God and would result in a book created by human (read: fallible) beings many hundred years of years ago. Makes sense, right?

Well, what do we define as an error? See, I’m one step ahead of the semantics game! If we use the same source to define error then we could conclude that any deviation from accuracy or correctness from the original manuscripts constitutes an error. Do you not believe that the bible you have on your nightstand contains deviations from accuracy?

With emotional attachment, many will still cling onto the idea of an inerrant bible while conceding translational inadequacies. This baffles me.

But understandably, most would continue the argument pointing out that despite perceived errors the truth is preserved. To quote the great Kip Dynamite, " anyone can even know that."

Did god then inspire an errant bible? Did god not understand that an errant bible would mar his message? And again, how do we know WHAT the truth is meant when we don’t know WHAT was originally written? I am not aware of similar textual criticism in the Qur'an but I’m confident that it exists. But if I were to say, ‘Look, it is proven that the original manuscript of the Muslim holy book is filled with thousands of errors!’ I would wager that most would easily dismiss it as another religious fairy tale. I think it’s time we consider that the Christian bible is a close relative.

Can an accurate bible contain contradictory messages?

Donald Morgan, author at, compiled a lengthy list of potential problems that everyone must examine for themselves. I would love to comment on each of his listed inconsistencies, but as you will see, the list is exhaustive. I challenge you to read through these inconsistencies and prayerfully consider the ramifications.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007


RE: Calvinism

First of all, I found your write-up very intriguing, Stef. I have a very limited knowledge of Calvinism and it sparked quite a bit of thought and reading. Rather than just comment I thought I would post a response. Why? – like my son says --- because I caaayun!

Actually, I didn’t have any other comments other than the fact that I enjoyed the post --- Rather, I just have questions. You stated that you might not be able to defend the entire stance, specifically the concept of not being elected but my response is purely one of inquiry and free-flowing thought on the subject. In other words, I do not write in an attempt to stump you. Is it pointless for those who do not believe? No way!!11

Let’s get the obvious question of limited atonement out of the way. The glaring problem here is this picture of a god that intentionally created me as a ‘non-elected’ man – preordained me for hell, did not equip me with the ability to believe, made me unable to repent, holds me accountable for this inability and THEN damns me to eternal torment.

Am I missing something here? How utterly evil. The egregiousness of this concept is mind-boggling. I’ll cross the aisle and offer up a quote from C.S. Lewis’ A Grief Observed that expresses my real fear:

“The real danger is of coming to believe such dreadful things about Him. The conclusion I dread is not ‘So, there’s no God after all,’ but, ‘So, this is what God is really like. Deceive yourself no longer.’

I’m sure these are typical questions for those just stumbling upon Calvinism but I will pose them for further discussion anyway:


Do we have the ability to choose between doing good and evil? If so, is that not our own freewill?

Do you believe that without god one is morally/ethically void/without purpose? If so, did god create some without morality/purpose?

What scriptural basis exists for predestination? I saw a couple verses in the 6th chapter of John but can the basis be explained by textual translations/errors?

It appears that even the guy in the 34th row of Texas Stadium could effectively refute Calvinism with his multi-colored wig and John 3:16 sign. No? I’m being glib here but it would seem that many, many biblical verses point to ALL men having the potential for this eternal life. Is there something biblically that makes you think differently?

How do you know that you are elected? Could you lead your entire life as a Christian under this doctrine and find out that you’ve been ‘left behind’?

Do you see god as compassionate and just?

How do you feel knowing that you have absolutely no way of making an eternal impact? especially on the lives of your loved ones?

You frequently use the word ‘believe’…why? Does belief matter in the face of predestination?

Why do you need faith?

Can the "elect" lose their salvation?

The phrase “causing them to willingly obey the Gospel…” is so foreign to me yet I guess I can understand the importance to Calvinism. It appears to be the oxymoron of the doctrine, though. How does one reconcile this rather mechanical (?) existence with his or her own freethinking abilities?

I’ll stop there even though I have many more. Maybe you can also point us to some of your favorite Calvinistic resources?

As an aside – I AM normally the first to joke here about assigning human characteristics to god…to me it’s an absurd way to parody how most Christians anthropomorphize a god that, [to hear them speak] --- is so mysterious that his ways are inconceivable, we cannot know his plan or possibly know the magnitude of him -- yet most will use symbolic metaphors (he: is loving, is angry, is compassionate, sits on a throne, has desires, has appendages, goes on vacation, hang glides, etc) to help them create a god in THEIR own image. But that’s OK, my comedy is lost on believers and nonbelievers alike.

Thanks again for the ideas. Keep ‘em comin!

What bliss will fill the ransomed souls,
When they in glory dwell,
To see the sinner as he rolls,
In quenchless flames of hell.

[ I must give full- credit to my co-author for the
photo. I just asked for a Calvin picture, Stef!]

Monday, October 22, 2007

-- God

We saw this billboard in the backwoods of Louisiana this weekend. It was new to me, so I thought I'd check it out. (No, the concept isn't new. How can you miss God all over the roadways? I'd just never seen this particular billboard before.)

Turns out, has a new "campaign" running. This is their second go at it. My personal favorite is the "All I everying. --God" one. Awesome.

Also, I perused some of the "testimonies" on that site. This one was my favorite.

Well, one day I was sitting in my hotel room in Miami Beach, and I got a phone call. It was a buddy of mine. He said, “Hey, you’re not going to believe it, but your old girlfriend, that girl you dated for that six-month period of time—well, she actually died last night of AIDS.” What went through my mind right then was, “Here I am, just waiting for something to go wrong, and this is it.” I went and got tested, and all the time I’m thinking, “I’m a heterosexual. I’ve never done intravenous drugs. I’m not a homosexual. Come on, I’m not going to test HIV positive, am I?”

I walked into that doctor’s cold office, sat down in the chair, and the nurse handed me a piece of paper that read “For Those Who Have Tested HIV Positive.” That’s when my world was rocked, that’s when all the money, fame, women, travel, and everything else did not matter one iota. I had put all my hope in them, and now I realized that, man, life is but a vapor. It’s only here for a moment, and then it’s gone.
The next weeks were hard for me, very hard. Modeling was becoming difficult, too, because I’d try to fake a smile while I was thinking inside, “I’m dying.” Finally, I ended up calling a friend to go to church. He was kind of freaked out, “You just handed me free drink coupons to your bar, and now you want to go to church with me.” I said, “Yeah, take me to church.” And that’s when Jesus changed my life, and I discovered a real relationship with Him. When I was growing up, my faith wasn’t founded on a real relationship. But that’s what I needed—a real relationship with Jesus Christ—and that’s where I discovered it, at that church.

You may be saying to yourself, “Bummer for you,” but you don’t understand. HIV was the best thing that ever happened to me. Let me say that again, HIV was the best thing that ever happened to me, because God wouldn’t have me where I am today without it. He wouldn’t have allowed me to meet my wife six months later. She’s HIV negative. She’s also a beautiful model; I didn’t get shortchanged there, and that’s a good thing. God really blessed me with her. We’ve been married over twelve years. He’s completely redeemed my life and given me a new life.
Wow, how inspiring! I wonder what his testimony would be if he'd have "sinned" and gotten AIDS. Oh wait, he did. That was his girlfriend...the whole premarital sex thing. Well, I'm glad God decided not to shortchange him with a hideous woman who'd love him despite his AIDS. Whew, what a load off to know how gracious and giving God is, even to sinners! Praise Jesus!

Think Different

I remember these ads, and probably because they were narrated by Richard Dreyfuss (I loved Jaws and could never forget that voice). The older ones (circa 1990) had MLK, Alfred Hitchcock, Gandhi, John Lennon, and the like.
Someone (not sure if it's Apple) has made an updated visual version, so for your viewing pleasure, Think Different.

HMOH #2: Destination?

Over the weekend, in talking with someone I met for the first time, I was asked a question that wasn't mine to answer. (If it is relevant, this person grew up in a home with a Jewish parent and a Christian parent). We were talking about church and that I am okay with my kids going to the Methodist church with their dad. Methodists don't tend to preach fire and brimstone and that all non-believers are going to hell, at least not to my recollection. My kids' dad took them to another church recently where I KNOW they preach and teach that concept, and he and I agreed that that wasn't a good place for the kids. I don't need my kids worrying about my salvation, much less worrying that I'm going straight to the pits of hell. I'm pretty sure their dad doesn't think I'm going to hell...I'm pretty sure he doesn't worry about my soul.

The question was, "How can anyone who is Christian NOT think you're going to hell?"

Good question. So, what's your answer? Do you think I am going to hell? If not, how does that fit in with your personal concept of Christianity?

Friday, October 19, 2007

Guest Contributor: Stef

Perfect timing, Stef! As we're out of town starting in about 2 hours, the rest of you enjoy this piece of writing. I probably will not post any response until I get back (Sunday)...

I was asked to write about a subject that I think is of supreme importance in the Christian faith – election. This is a doctrine that the theologian John Calvin brought to light.

According to Calvin, “Salvation is accomplished by the almighty power of the triune God. The Father chose a people, the Son died for them, the Holy Spirit makes Christ's death effective by bringing the elect to faith and repentance, thereby causing them to willingly obey the Gospel. The entire process (election, redemption, regeneration) is the work of God and is by grace alone. Thus God, not man, determines who will be the recipients of the gift of salvation.”

I believed in the basic principle of Calvinism before I even knew who Calvin was, or before I heard the words soteriology, election, or predestination. Simply put, this doctrine says that God chooses us for salvation – we do not choose him. This is a doctrine that I subscribe to. If that was the only side to Calvinism, most Christians would probably believe in it as well. But the flip side of God choosing some for salvation means that he has not chosen all – which means he knowingly has chosen some for Hell. Believers and non-believers alike cannot fathom a God who would bring life to something and not give that life a chance for salvation. I have had a hard time writing on Calvinism because there is so much discord in the Christian faith about it, and I just have not done enough study on it to defend it. There are many Christians out there that I admire and respect, and who’s intellect FAR surpasses mine, and who have studied much more on the subject than I have that have come to a different conclusion about it. But what I love about Calvinism is it’s view on the Sovereignty of God.

If you do not believe there is a God, this whole topic is pointless. But if you do believe there is a God, and that God is creator of all things, sustainer of all things, and ruler of all things… I would assume that you believe he is the “chooser” of all things.

About the Sovereignty of God:

I have a problem with people placing human standards on God - when people lightly joke about how God must be on vacation because all this bad stuff is happening in the world…. or when people are so quick to blame God when something horrible like the murder of a little girl happens. This is God’s universe, and he may do in it what he pleases. I’m not saying that it pleases God to see one of his creation brutally murdered, just as it does not please a mother to discipline her child. I’m also not saying that the murder of an innocent girl was God disciplining someone… all I’m saying is that we cannot comprehend the way in which God acts, just as a child cannot comprehend (before it’s old enough) why his mother is angry with him over certain things. Have you ever seen a child be completely unreasonable about something? For example when you’re preparing a baby’s bottle and they’re screaming their heads off – and you’re telling them either out loud or in your head: “can’t you see I’m making it? It’s not ready yet… just wait 30 seconds and you’ll have it and all this time that you’ve spent crying and making yourself miserable will have been wasted.” I’m sure if we could have a conversation with that baby (which is impossible because if we could have a conversation with them about it, they would be logical enough not to have screamed their head of to begin with), but if we did have a conversation about it… I’m pretty sure that the baby would tell you that they thought their world was coming to an end. Just as when an older child loses a precious toy or an even older child breaks up with their first boyfriend / girlfriend… they can’t imagine a worse tragedy. It is the end of the world to them relatively speaking. 9/11, the Tsunami, the murder of a little girl, a young mother being taken from this world way too early due to brain cancer… these are all things that are the end of the world to us now. And just as you sympathize and weep with your children over the loss of their toy, or boyfriend / girlfriend… you feel their loss… you ultimately know that it is a fleeting thing. So it is with God. To me, as a Christian, I know that there is more to life than this world that we are in right now. Not only that, but if you believe in a Creator… if you believe that there is a being that created everything that we see… a being capable of creating this world that we live in… you would probably feel pretty small. Our sufferings are nothing - - they are finite fleeting things, even those horrendous things I mentioned above. We just cannot comprehend their finite and fleeting nature, because just as the child cannot see beyond their maturity… we cannot see beyond our humanity.

“Everything is the Heaven and Earth is yours, O Lord, and this is your kingdom. You are exalted as head over all. Wealth and honor come from you: you are the ruler of all things.” I believe that nothing belongs to me. There is nothing that I have done to deserve anything that I have – including life itself, and including salvation. Everything that I have – money, a functioning body, shelter, freedom – everything that I have has been given to me… and any one of those things can be taken away at any moment. Who am I to complain if one of those things are taken away from me? They weren’t mine to begin with! This is something I’ve learned from recently becoming a parent to a puppy. I love to give her treats because I think she’ll love (appreciate) me more… but the only reason she’d love me for giving her treats is if she was grateful for those treats. Puppies, like people, are not grateful for things that they believe they are entitled to. Atheists do not believe they were given life from a creator… therefore they cannot be grateful for it as a gift. They, just like my puppy, can be so happy they have it and enjoy it to the fullest and have reverence for it… but do not understand or revere it in the same way that someone who believes they were created by God does. They believe they are entitled to that life, because they do not believe they were chosen for life, or created by a supreme being.

An atheist probably believes (and I’m assuming here) that they have worked hard for everything that they own. They have worked so hard to get their job, and they deserve that job. They deserve the monetary rewards it brings… and they deserve the things that money buys them. That’s what I would think too, if I were an atheist. As a Christian… I believe that my talents are gifts from God, making me able to have the job that I have. Being the Calvinist I am… I also believe that God preordained every aspect of my life including my talents which give me my job, which provide my paychecks, which purchase my possessions. The difference between me and an Atheist is when those items are taken from us. An Atheist will feel a sense of injustice – for they have worked so hard to earn these things. I will feel pain… but in my view… it was an injustice for me to have those things in the first place. It’s not that I should feel bad about having things… but I merit none of these things in my own power (including SAVATION).

This is my view… the complete and utter Sovereignty of God… I will close with the much recited verse from Isaiah “You turn things around! Shall the potter be considered as equal with the clay, that what is made would say to its maker, "He did not make me"; Or what is formed say to him who formed it, "He has no understanding"?

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Prayer Request

Dear Friends (and foes who think they are required by god's law to pray for us):

Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers this weekend as we travel a long way down the road to drink heavily and act like fools. Pray for our kidneys not to fail and for our tires not to go flat. I guess pray for our souls while you're at it, at least you can say you tried!

My dad said we should root for (read: PRAY FOR!) LSU to win because this guy is a dick. (We should pray for him also, I'm sure.)

Much L♥ve,
Stacy & Jared


Wednesday, October 17, 2007

A few quick, goodstrong links

* 'Second Earth' found 20 years away - cool article

"Measurements of the planet's celestial path suggest it is 1½ times the size of our home planet, and orbits close to its sun, with a year of just 13 days. The planet's orbit brings it 14 times closer to its star than Earth is to the sun. But Gliese 581 burns at only 3,000C, half the temperature of our own sun, making conditions on the planet comfortable for life, with average ground temperatures estimated at 0 to 40C."

* Poison or Cure? Religious Belief in the Modern World -
Video Debate: Hitchens/McGrath

Take the time to check this out (split it up in chucks if you have to). Very good debate.

* A nice collection of all
Mr. Deity episodes - pure hilarity.

* Summary of

Fend for Yourselves

A cursory glance at today’s Dallas Morning News headlines shows that God must currently be on vacation. I cannot speculate on his destination or how long He's taking this hiatus but it’s apparent that He is
taking some time off.

SWAT doctors credited with saving Dallas officers life

Ex-Cowboy Ron Springs has ‘no hope’ of survival

US Deaths from staph ‘superbug” may surpass AIDS deaths

Young evangelical voters diverge from parents

Al Gore shares Nobel Peace Prize with UN panel

Mark Cuban will dance again

Dinosaurs rise over McKinney exhibit

I like to picture my vacation Jesus wearing a “Don’t Hassle Me I’m Local’ t-shirt and a shaggy beard. It says to everyone “Hey, I may be tri-omni but I know how to get my party on…so save the requests until I get back into the Office.”

He better hurry back before Bill Maher announces his candidacy for President.

Amen, sister

My sentiments, exactly.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

QQ #2 - Rejection of the gods

Human nature indicates that we typically adopt the cultural, political, religious memes that dominate our home base. This leads to the rejection of other’s ideals, sometimes with a serious process of elimination, but generally -- without inspection. Imagine growing up in places such as Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Israel, China, Salt Lake City --- your path to Jesus, Yahweh, Allah, Ba'al, Wotan, Zeus, Waheguru, Vince Young, Budda or Lord Krishna would be entirely different.

With thousands of available gods to pick from, what PROCESS led you to dismiss all of these other gods (in particular, the major religions) --- and, consequently, directed you to the path of your one ‘true god’?

Saturday, October 13, 2007

666th visitor!!!!

We, at Mere Skepticism, want to congratulate one of our most dear visitors for helping us reach this important milestone. This contributor has exhibited great intellect, patience and a dedication to the cause of honest inquiry.

Congrats on this achievement, Stef!

Saturday's Spiritual Safety Tip


I found this important safety tip and thought I would share it with you just in case you're in my neighborhood...

My Saturday To-Do List:

Kick some puppies.
Eat some children.
Blaspheme the Holy Spirit.
Steal something.
Watch Texas somehow lose to Iowa State.

Help Me Out Here #1: Fulfilled Laws?

Matthew 5:17 Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. KJV

How can laws be fulfilled or brought to completion? I understand the concept of fulfilled prophesy, but laws? What are the laws being fulfilled, and how does it work?

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Quick Question #1 - Prayer

See instructions in sidebar--->

Do you believe that God has a role in answering prayers? If so, what evidence can you point to in your life? If not, what do you believe/think about prayer?

<--- This guy grew up with me in the hallway of my childhood home. I always wondered if he was praying for a knife or for some shaving cream.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Monday, October 8, 2007

Ask me why

The fact that I hate the character of the Christian God is not why I am an atheist.

The fact that I don't like being tested without being able to reciprocate or find out the reasons for the testing is not why I am an atheist.

The fact that I think most bible stories are absurd is not why I am an atheist.

Hypocrisy in the church, hypocrisy in humanity, evil in the world; none of these are reason why I am an atheist.

Cultivating attention, being different, shock value; again, not why I am an atheist.

I am an atheist for the same reason Christians are Christian; someone said it, and I believe it. It's what makes sense to me. The best time of existence has been defined, and I choose to live for that time.

I have always been different. I have always been uncomfortable when lumped in with a group of people. I have never felt a strong allegiance to any group, idea, or cause. I've tried, but never felt it. I don't have a favorite sports team that can ruin my mood by losing. I don't have a favorite place to go that would change my life by being destroyed. I don't have a favorite store or restaurant. I don't have a favorite material possession that I couldn't live without. My allegiance gene is retarded. I know this, and I accept it.

What I do have is a sincere and deep love for humanity. I do have a few people in my life that I don't know how I would live without after having known them. Humans are my clique. Humans are my motivation. Humans teach, learn, and love.

My view of life does not require a god. If you are are like me in not needing or believing in a god, chances are that your reasons are entirely different than mine. That is the beauty of humanity; having a mind that can override your heart to tell you what you need and why you need it (or don't need it).

Why do I spend time discussing atheism and religion? Because it's not enough to just be neutral in this life. Because I need you to know that I am not blind. Because you will ask questions, and I enjoy giving answers from my perspective. Because I hear ideas that spark my own, and ideas make the world work, progress, and evolve. Because in a world of pretending, I want you to know that I am real. Because if you want to judge me, I want you to have your facts straight so you can make a fair judgement.

I talk so you know that I respect myself. I listen so you know that I respect you.

Why I passed on Lee Strobel...(in red letters)

Strobel in Dallas to talk 'cases'
08:24 AM CDT on Saturday, October 6, 2007

Lee Strobel's book The Case for Christ has sold nearly 3.5 million copies. An atheist-turned-evangelical with a background in law and journalism, he's written several other best-sellers. He's scheduled to be in Dallas today and Sunday to discuss his new book, The Case for the Real Jesus. Mr. Strobel spoke by phone recently with Staff Writer Sam Hodges. Here are excerpts.

You've written The Case for Christ, The Case for Faith, The Case for a Creator, The Case for Christmas. Why one more "case" book?

When I wrote The Case for Christ, about 10 years ago, I described the evidence I found convincing as an atheist that Jesus is the unique son of God. Since that time, there's been a proliferation of attacks on the church's traditional teachings on Jesus. I wanted to write a book that addressed these, and I wanted to use the same approach.

In the new book, you note six challenges to Jesus' identity. Which is most serious?

Any time there's an attack on the resurrection itself, this has serious implications. This is the linchpin of the Christian faith. When we see new books by atheists and Muslims, and even recent speeches by Hindus, attacking the belief that Jesus died and rose from the dead, I think those have to be taken seriously.

You did in-depth interviews with six scholars, and one was Daniel B. Wallace of Dallas Theological Seminary. Why Dr. Wallace?

Dr. Wallace is a highly respected scholar in kind of a narrow field, which is called textual criticism. Another scholar in this area, Bart D. Ehrman, wrote a book called Misquoting Jesus, which has damaged the faith of a lot of people by questioning the fidelity with which the New Testament has been passed along through time. So I chose Dr. Wallace because of his sterling credentials in this area. He does a great job of instilling confidence that the New Testament manuscripts we have are essentially accurate.

You let Dr. Wallace critique Dr. Ehrman, but you don't give Dr. Ehrman a chance to answer back.

There's no mystery about the claims of Dr. Ehrman. And frankly much of what he wrote is not in dispute. It's how those facts are interpreted. My approach has been to take a variety of critiques [to Christianity], from a variety of sources, to distill them and seek scholars who can provide another side of the story.

Southern Baptists had a kind of civil war in recent decades, and the group that insisted on biblical inerrancy won control of the denomination over those who said that one can believe the Bible without insisting every word is literally true. After all of your study, which side are you on?

Personally, I believe in the inerrancy of Scripture. When I present the claims of Christ to skeptics or seekers, I quite readily set aside the issue of inerrancy or infallibility. I don't think inerrancy is essential in terms of helping reach seekers and skeptics.

Any doubts since your conversion in 1981?

I'm not immune from doubt, but it's not something I get plagued with. I think partially that's because I came to faith after thoroughly investigating the historical basis for Christianity and walked away entirely persuaded of Jesus' identity.
And to quote a fellow atheist (Brian) "His arguments are designed for people who already believe and are looking for some sort of intellectual justification for their beliefs. If you want to believe and don't look critically at what he's saying or do research, he could sound quite compelling. But, his job isn't to convince skeptics."
The people who invited me to see Strobel (or who told me about the event) said it was just a big sermon anyway. Glad I didn't go. I'm not looking to be saved; I'm looking for information. Apparently Strobel has nothing new to say anyway. (Although he's got a cash cow called "The Case....")

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Ask and You Shall Receive

Our Father, which art in Heaven,
Hallowed be thy Name.
Thy Kingdom come.
Mack’s will be done,
in Dallas as it is in Heaven.
Give Texas this day our third consecutive win.
And forgive us our criminal trespasses,
As we forgive Kansas St that trespassed against us.
And lead us not into the Alamo Bowl;
But deliver us from Bob Stoops.
For thine is the Cotton Bowl, the corndogs, and Big Tex.
For ever and ever.


Miracles do happen, right?

Get pumped up!

Get crunk!

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

The Problem with Atheism

The Problem with Atheism - 10/02/07

Another great read from Sam Harris. I believe this actually caused a stir amongst some "free thinkers" at the Atheist Alliance conference. It's dead on in my opinion.

"Another problem with calling ourselves "atheists" is that every religious person thinks he has a knockdown argument against atheism. We've all heard these arguments, and we are going to keep hearing them as long as we insist upon calling ourselves "atheists. Arguments like: atheists can't prove that God doesn't exist; atheists are claiming to know there is no God, and this is the most arrogant claim of all. As Rick Warren put it, when he and I debated for Newsweek—a reasonable man like himself "doesn't have enough faith to be an atheist." The idea that the universe could arise without a creator is, on his account, the most extravagant faith claim of all.

Of course, as an argument for the truth of any specific religious doctrine, this is a travesty. And we all know what to do in this situation: We have Russell's teapot, and thousands of dead gods, and now a flying spaghetti monster, the nonexistence of which also cannot be proven, and yet belief in these things is acknowledged to be ridiculous by everyone. The problem is, we have to keep having this same argument, over and over again, and the argument is being generated to a significant degree, if not entirely, over our use of the term "atheism."


"My concern is that atheism can easily become the position of not being interested in certain possibilities in principle. I don't know if our universe is, as JBS Haldane said, "not only stranger than we suppose, but stranger than we can suppose." But I am sure that it is stranger than we, as "atheists," tend to represent while advocating atheism. As "atheists" we give others, and even ourselves, the sense that we are well on our way toward purging the universe of mystery. As advocates of reason, we know that mystery is going to be with us for a very long time. Indeed, there are good reasons to believe that mystery is ineradicable from our circumstance, because however much we know, it seems like there will always be brute facts that we cannot account for but which we must rely upon to explain everything else. This may be a problem for epistemology but it is not a problem for human life and for human solidarity. It does not rob our lives of meaning. And it is not a barrier to human happiness."


"We will have won this war of ideas against religion when atheism is scarcely intelligible as a concept. We will simply find ourselves in a world in which people cease to praise one another for pretending to know things they do not know. This is certainly a future worth fighting for. It may be the only future compatible with our long-term survival as a species. But the only path between now and then, that I can see, is for us to be rigorously honest in the present. It seems to me that intellectual honesty is now, and will always be, deeper and more durable, and more easily spread, than "atheism."

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Confession of a Former Church Camp Counselor

June 23, 2005

Dear Stacy,

I am free, free, free!!! God is so awesome. I have been broken and mended by His promise. I know I can let go 100% and give my sin to Him. I am not ashamed. This week has been monumental. I came to church camp to guide girls through the spiritual obstacles and questions, and I have come through the week guided by others. The value of friendship with Godly women is so great, and I need it. I am going to go after it! I need to let go. I need to continue to pray for strength, passion, and salvation. God is so incredible. There are no words that are worthy of the love I have for God. Praise Him, thank Him, and Love Him, EVERY MOMENT OF EVERY DAY! Don't forget this week, it has been life changing.

Guess who the author of this letter is. I'll give you a was me. Writing a letter to myself.

***I am adding this line of text for anyone who might think this is a joke. It isn't. I still have the hand written letter, and transcribed it last night onto this blog.***
Briefly, why: On the last full night of this church camp (where I was a counselor to a group of 14-16 year old girls), we were told to write a letter to ourselves, complete with self addressed envelopes. We were to describe our experience from the week. The youth staff was going to pray over the letters everyone had written, and when they felt moved to mail one, they would. These letters were to serve to remind us to remember the fire that had been put into us at camp, and the staff hoped that their prayers would be answered and that each person would receive their letter in a time of weak faith and need. I received my letter, appropriately, about 3 weeks after camp. I did not open this letter until at least June of 2006. I knew what it said. I was embarrassed to read my own words, even 3 weeks after I wrote them.

Many people who know me were very happy with me then. They saw that spark, and they just knew that it was the real me. Problem was, it wasn't. It was me, experiencing the mass delusional euphoria of organized religion. Perhaps the church staff saw the farce more so than even I did...I did receive the letter, like I said, three weeks later. Do I believe a prayer brought my letter to the top of the pile to receive postage? No.

I sit now and think about what I experienced during that week. I had 6 girls in my group, one of them my youngest sister. I had instructions on what to say and what not to say. I had assigned discussion/prayer times with each girl that was to last 30 minutes, and an interview followup sheet to fill out on each girl after our discussions.

It is no secret to anyone who knows me that I absolutely adore teenagers. I can identify with them. In some regard, my appearance (tattoos, etc) help with this. Maybe they don't see me as a "mom" type, so they are more open with me. I was even told by someone with school administration that when I have a degree, I would be best suited in the "alternative" school (aka the "bad" kids). Loving teens is not a popular position in this world of emo teenagers, but it's what I've got. It's a gift.

There was one girl in my group that, not surprisingly, stands out in my memory. She was almost 15, and her father was in prison for raping HER. That was one messed up little girl, and somehow I gained her trust, and she opened up to me about most everything. At the time, I thanked God for the gift I had - the gift of empathy and true compassion. Now, I honestly know that had I been in the position to encounter this young lady outside of any church setting, I would be able to have the same conversation with her, and I would have shared the same hugs and tears that I shared with her there. I broke the "followup report" rule, even then, because I felt that what she had confided in me was very personal (far beyond the very generically put issue I've given here). The trust she had put in me was so great, and it wasn't because I was some woman of God. I wasn't. I was an understanding and compassionate human being, just as I am now.

While I was embarrassed to read my own words just three weeks after they were written, I had no regrets about the conversations I had with that girl, or the ones I had with all of "my" girls. Perhaps I was there for a reason. Some would say that God put me there. I think I was there because I knew someone needed me; someone would benefit from the gift I have.

There was one night when I questioned myself for being honest with these girls. At church camp, I used the phrase, "Are you guys fucking kidding me?!" in response to some normal teenage girl banter. What came out of my mouth was what I had been taught to say, that we are to respect one another and practice reciprocity as Jesus commanded. But, I remember thinking, "why can't these girls see that they should just act like humans!?" This is a side of female-ness that I have never understood and rarely subscribed to - gossip. Blech. It was at this point that I saw the un-Christian aspects of otherwise proclaiming-Christianity girls. We are all so human.

I have written before about how people don't really change, rather, they realize who they really are. I still stand by this concept. In the summer of 2005, I was struggling to keep my marriage together (I was cheating, at least emotionally), and I turned to what seemed to be working for everyone else around me: God. Did it feel good to confess sins? Of course; but not because I believed I was forgiven. It was letting go of a huge secret lie that I absolutely needed to tell someone about: where I was was not WHO I was. It didn't take long for the "spirit" to leave me because it wasn't real. It was mass euphoria.

There's nothing wrong with mass euphoria in and of itself; we can experience it in other facets of life than religion (ie. a concert). What IS wrong with this type of euphoria is the tenets it presents: We sin by keeping God out, and we're forgiven if we let Him in. I remember the sermons. I remember the quiet time. I remember the beauty of the nature around us (Keystone, Colorado). All of these things, at the time, were ascribed to the Maker. If I were an atheist on a camping trip in Colorado with people I could talk to, I could appreciate the beauty of nature and humanity just as easily, and probably more deeply. Realizing that you have a gift is one thing; realizing that it is your choice to utilize your gift through the expression of love is another.

The God Debate - from Newsweek

Sam Harris and Rick Warren

Nice View

During lunch a few days ago I had a conversation with a good friend/colleague of mine. I’m not sure how it veered off of the secular path but I think it was I mentioning that the cause of my rough mornings was due to frequent late night reading sessions. In fact, I just finished Christopher Hitchens’ book ‘god is not Great’ in just a few days and have moved on to 2 others that I’ve been working on that we can discuss later.

Asimov's Guide to the Bible: - Isaac Asimov
The Blind Watchmaker: -Richard Dawkins

OK, back to lunch.

Apparently satan loves Chinese food because we had QUITE the anti-religious discussion (me and my coworker, not me and satan). My friend and I share similar beliefs so I can’t claim him as a conversion, although, it would have been a good day for a baptism.

Straight-forward as he always is, my friend asked me, “What are you searching for?”

Wish I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard this one. Usually from Christians --- since this is their standard hook. Ironically, I always wonder the opposite. “Why aren’t YOU searching?”

But still, it’s a good question and for me it’s easy. Logical answers.

Answers to questions I never asked. Answers to basic questions that actually explain the unknown by the known. I spent half of my life with a typical belief in the infallible word of god and frankly, I feel like I wasted those years on nonsense. I assumed any contradictions were the result of these translation inadequacies.

Warning: The following contains a dangerous premise. Skip this section if you want to avoid evil ideas.

From my past religious experiences I believe I can honestly conclude that most Christians will not (subconsciously or otherwise) allow themselves to experience free thought. They do not search outside of scripture or scripture related discussion. They rarely question -- lest they exhibit a weakened faith or doubt. This is not a hard and fast rule but it generally applies.

For example: Pursuing a line of questioning that would could cause you to doubt:

>Is the account of “X” historically accurate?
>Why does one writer’s account of “X” not agree with this writer’s account of “X”?
>Does Genesis’ account of the creation of the universe/earth/mankind make sense?
>Does an account of a worldwide flood/ark make sense?
>How can I reconcile a merciful god with the millions of killings (by god) accounted for in the bible alone?
>Why would we rely on tales from ancient Sumerian leaders and legends from 4th generation account to formulate a perfect, inerrant doctrine?

Asking the core questions like these lead to many, many other questions. So I wonder, why aren't Christians asking them honestly?

Some are lazy and content. Some have no idea what/why they believe and sheepishly refer to this as faith or a “personal matter”. And those that I consider real theists (and who I do have a respect for even though I do not share their ability to bridge that chasm by ‘faith’) fall into another category – those unable to set aside the assumption of inerrancy to examine their faith.

It wasn’t until I allowed the presupposition of inerrancy to be put on hold that I honestly examined my belief system. Then, in the blink of an eye, the proverbial house of cards collapsed.

OK, you can pick up here.

I’ve seen countless definitions of faith - many with cute anecdotes and implied noble undertones. Regardless, everyone can agree that it is the glue that holds it all together. Faith is the foundation of religion. Faith has to be built on something and when that something is examined with an unbiased perspective it will, in my opinion, fall apart at the glued together seams.

When we speak of inerrancy one might refer to translational contradictions. Yes, this was and is a reasonable stance. Contradictions in this sense are plentiful. One could write for days on verses that could account for translational inconsistencies. In fact there are countless collections of these that can be found anywhere you look. Many are legitimate question marks (and would/could be explained somehow) but many are also stretches, to say the least. I haven’t the life-force or time to begin to examine any of these nor any obvious genealogical contradictions.

Yet there are contradictory verses that I would question the translational inadequacy aspect. For instance, one that has always stuck in my mind relates to the general understanding of a people at the time.

Matthew 4:8-11
8Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. 9"All this I will give you," he said, "if you will bow down and worship me."
10Jesus said to him, "Away from me, Satan! For it is written: 'Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only."
11Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.

Now notice that Matthew didn’t say that the devil (by the way, I love the idea of a devil with horns and such, sounds very Halloween-ish) took Jesus up to just any mountain. It says a very high mountain. The writer’s view was still that our world was flat and floated on the waters gathered below the firmament…and that one, if high enough, could take in the whole view. Sounds pretty absurd to those who understand the curved, spherical nature of our home. But this was the concept of our world at that time….even through the days of Augustine.

Can the bible be perfect and divinely inspired if the tools of communication were men obviously ignorant of general science? And ones who, consequently, blessed us with this ignorance. Would god allow his words to be marred with absurdities?

I think we encounter a catch-22 in any dialogue concerning inerrancy. As a non-believer, I’ve stepped away from the premise of inerrancy to determine the legitimacy of such claims. Believers, though, cannot set aside that premise because it is contrary to the fabric of their faith. And then the entire discussion reverts back to faith.

Again, what am I searching for? You might say I have a “god-sized hole”. But rather, I’d say I have a hole created by “god” that is being backfilled with logic.

Happiness Hypothesis - Jonathan Haidt

The Dallas Morning News republished this article by Nicholas Wade of the NYT in this Sunday's "Points" section of the paper. I was pleasantly surprised to see it there.

Is ‘Do Unto Others’ Written Into Our Genes?
Many people will say it is morally acceptable to pull a switch that diverts a train, killing just one person instead of the five on the other track. But if asked to save the same five lives by throwing a person in the train’s path, people will say the action is wrong. This may be evidence for an ancient subconscious morality that deters causing direct physical harm to someone else. An equally strong moral sanction has not yet evolved for harming someone indirectly.

Full article from the NYT

A link to the author's site

I plan to buy/read this book and discuss further, just wanted to give a snippet so I didn't forget! :)