Thursday, 24 May 2012

Wayne Jackson: Christian apologist. A refutation - Part One

Bertrand Russell's "Teapot" Argument :

Christians cannot afford to make bogus arguments to the embarrassment of the cause of Christ. Atheists will pick up these “broken swords” and whack us over the head with them.
I am glad Wayne Jackson made this clear from the outset of his article. It makes it so much easier for him to admit - when refuted - his arguments are bogus.

Let's take an analytical look at his claims.
Occasionally a demand by sincere believers is this: “You cannot prove God does not exist.” This statement involves a logical fallacy — the challenge to prove a universal negative. Logically, one cannot prove a universal negative; in order to do so he would have to be everywhere, and know everything — which is an impossibility.
Really? Great! Mr Jackson has refuted God's omnipresence and omniscience in one succinct sentence.

I have to admit, I don't really understand why Jackson even introduces this argument. It appears to be somewhat out of kilter with the tone of the rest of his article. Nevertheless, I admire his honesty. So far.

Monday, 21 May 2012

An open letter to 40 Days for Life - Anti-choice vigil-antes

Source: The Atlantic

In an interesting article by The Atlantic, Liam Hoare lets us see the fallout of the anti-choice prayer vigil outside of the London office of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS). 

Their hope is that through prayer and fasting they can... actually... I don't know what they hope for through prayer and fasting. Anyway, they claim to be peaceful and respectful, with participants having to sign a 'statement of peace' before they are permitted to represent the London  satellite movement of the U.S.-based  40 Days for Life organisation.

This sort of American 'in-your-face' is more than familiar to our friends over the pond, but here in the U.K.we have enjoyed a number of years of relative stability on the subject of abortion.

That said, there have recently been a number of eye-opening sorties by certain conservative, Christian types in Parliament that have sought to reign in introduce more restrictive rules regarding abortion.

I had a look at their website, and scribbled down a few notes. An open letter after the fold. I wonder if they will reply?

Vatileaks - Pope Bendict XVI denounces ‘criminal' book, threatens to sue

Source: Herald Sun

A book by the Italian journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi exposing Vatican nepotism, collusion in murder and general administrative malfeasance, has been slated by pope Pope Benedict XVI, who is threatening to sue anyone involved in its publishing.

THE Vatican has denounced as "criminal" a new book of leaked internal documents that shed light on power struggles inside the Holy See and the inner workings of its embattled bank, and warned that it would take legal action against those responsible.
Pope Benedict XVI has already appointed a commission of cardinals to investigate the "Vatileaks" scandal, which erupted earlier this year with the publication of leaked memos alleging corruption and mismanagement in Holy See affairs and internal squabbles over its efforts to comply with international anti-money laundering norms. 
The publication of His Holiness, by Italian journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi, added fuel to the fire, reproducing letters and memos to and from Benedict and his personal secretary which the Vatican said violated the pope's right to privacy.

What is not clear, is under which Jurisdiction this case will be heard and tried. Last I knew, you couldn't be tried for a crime committed in one country when the contentious action plays out in another country.

Any legal types out there with any ideas?

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Response to 'Why did Jesus have to die?: Answer 5'

Source: Argumentum

The Revd Canon Dr Chris Bracegirdle, Senior Chaplain to the Bishop of Manchester, tries very hard to squeeze some sort of Christian morality out of his response, but I am afraid - with me - it has fallen on sceptical eyes.
There are a number of views about the meaning of the death of Jesus - or - to put it another way, the meaning of the cross.  One view is that for centuries, the human race had been disobedient to God over and over again and, as a matter of justice, a price has to be paid for that disobedience (often referred to in the bible as sin) in order, as it were, to redress the balance.  Looking at things this way, God who is a God of justice looks at the world and sees that the only way to restore the balance is to sacrifice that which he treasures most - His Son - a sacrifice which is so great that it will "justify" the sins of the world for all time.  This is a development of the idea found in the Old Testament of the scapegoat where the Israelites would let loose a goat into the wilderness, symbolically "releasing" the sins of the people

Some people see this as an unsatisfactory view of God - suggesting it is almost vindictive and at odds with a God who loves.  So another view of the cross puts the emphasis on ransom.  In this view, Jesus  sees Himself as a ransom, offering Himself over to sacrifice in order that the price can be paid for the forgiveness of all who truly seek it - self offering rather than a demand for justice.  Yet another view focuses on a moral example - that Jesus offered Himself to impress on others the need to sacrifice something of oneself in order that the need for right action can be impressed on others.

Whichever theory you follow - and  it's almost certainly the case that no one theory can adequately explain all of this -  at the heart of what happened at the cross is atonement - where somehow, through the death of Jesus, God  has offered the opportunity to us to be "at-one" with Him.  It is a mystery but, for me, belief and trust in a God who is love and is who loves all of His creation beyond our wildest dreams allows me to accept the mystery even though I can't understand it.
There are, indeed, a number of ways an apologist can answer the question of why Jesus had to sacrifice himself for our salvation. None of them serve any useful or meaningful function when we consider what sacrifice and justice mean when considered in a contemporary time frame.

Consider this analogy. A school classroom is a microcosm of global events. The teacher (Jesus) attempts to civilise his flock (the students) and instruct them of the proper way to understand science (truth and knowledge). 

The students are a troublesome bunch; picking on each other and bandying insults and intolerance between themselves, despite the teacher's efforts to bring them to a higher understanding.

Eventually, the class gets fed up with the teacher's preaching and nail him to the blackboard (the Crucifix) where he dies calling out to the headmaster (God) who is nowhere to be seen.despite being more than aware of the predicament facing him.

Afterwards, those that committed the crime (sin) are blissfully unaware of the fact that - despite life at school going on as normal in the absence of the teacher - they are tried in absentia in a court they are not so much as privy to a defence. Notwithstanding this curious court, the headmaster has found them not guilty and has forgiven them for both culpable homicide and their previous offences that were taken into consideration. After all, it was he (He) that sent the teacher in there with a plan to have him sacrificed/murdered, so that the students could be forgiven for their crimes.

Three days later the teacher comes physically back to life again (although the students never know about this), thus rendering the judgement against them invalid. They are once again sinners, but not - it would appear - murderers.

Is this a useful and meaningful example of contemporary sacrifice? Surely if the teacher had not died for more than three days, he cannot be said to have died at all. Whither the sacrifice? Today, sacrifice is something one gives personally; not something that is passed on to the victim of a crime (or series of crimes). Even if one were to accept the burden of their crimes upon oneself, such an act is nothing but folly and a total misappropriation of the principle of justice.

That brings me to the second point. Is this a useful and meaningful example of justice? If the teacher was a 'sacrificial lamb' - either by choice or by divine command - the criminals go unpunished. What is this for justice? 

What we understand both sacrifice and justice to mean today, is to sacrifice your freedom in payment for your crimes. If someone were to take that sacrifice from you - or even offer to do so - then justice has not been served at all, and some random dude has copped it for an ungrateful and wholly oblivious set of habitual ne'er-do-wells who will continue in their rebelliousness without knowing that any line has been crossed.

The fact of the matter is that even should events have transpired much as they did in the New Testament, there was still no requirement in law or morality for Jesus to have been sacrificed or murdered. Looking back 2000 years, there were courts that would have dismissed both a confessed sacrifice or supplication of punishment on behalf of a guilty party even then. Even before that. Has it ever been a requirement of either a single human or humanity in its entirety  to do such a thing?


It could be argued that the teacher's murder/sacrifice actually promoted such behaviour, because no one learned the lesson that non-constructive actions have causal and appropriate reactions and punishments.

As a story, the Crucifixion is a horrific display of post-Bronze age barbarianism. As a historical event to be taken seriously, it is laughably inept. As a relevance to today, it is nothing short of a license to kill and should be treated with the contempt it clearly teaches us.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

My Take: What the Bible really says about homosexuality – CNN Belief Blog - Blogs

Source: My Take: What the Bible really says about homosexuality – CNN Belief Blog - Blogs

Certainly an interesting take on biblical homosexuality mores, but I can't help but think the author is shouting his case case over numerous babbling voices that contradict him.
Nowhere does the Bible actually oppose homosexuality.
Daniel A. Helminiak makes a good case for the misinterpretation of a couple of modern day translations of ancient texts to defend his case, but gives no real detail - or dare I say context - for why this is the case.
In this passage Paul is referring to the ancient Jewish Law: Leviticus 18:22, the “abomination” of a man’s lying with another man. Paul sees male-male sex as an impurity, a taboo, uncleanness — in other words, “abomination.” Introducing this discussion in 1:24, he says so outright: "God gave them up … to impurity."
Paul may say what he likes, but I shouldn't imagine that taking what God has proscribed as an abomination, and watering it down to 'uncleanliness', I think somewhat misses the point.

Unless the New Covenant relinquishes gentiles from the responsibilities of such 'abominations' in thought, what does it mean to say that the action is good with God? And if - as Jesus allegedly said - it is the purity of the heart that matters, one is committing a mortal sin just thinking about it, rendering the whole biblical argument that homosexuality in Christianity is not an issue wholly redundant.

In focusing on that which he can refute - at least superficially - he is not even looking at the other targets that need be approached. Sharp shooter fallacy? I suspect so, but haven't the time to approach it yet.

Wouldn't it be nice if he turned out to be right? Although, I am not holding my breath.

Your thoughts?

Monday, 7 May 2012

BBC Radio 4 request

BBC Radio 4 request

Can you help with the research for this programme?
My name is Elizabeth Ann Duffy, and I’m working for a new BBC Radio 4 technology series called ‘The Digital Human’. Presented by Guardian technology writer Aleks Krotoski, we examine how the evolution and spread of digital technology is changing the way we live, work and communicate.
For our fourth programme, our producers would like to explore the impact of the development that the internet has had on religions. Of course the internet has enabled a greater exchange of ideas and information, which has challenged traditional religious authorities. There is also plenty of anecdotal evidence of an increase in the number of atheists since creation of the internet. However, there are very few recorded personal accounts.
We would like to interview an atheist who had grown up in a faith community, but chose to leave religion because of the internet. We would be very grateful if they would share their story with us and how they think their lives may have been different if they didn’t have a means to access the wealth of online information or communicate with other atheists.
We’ll be recording in the next two weeks, and I can give more details to people regarding studio locations and interview slots on request. If any would like to listen to our first programme they can find it here
Hope to hear from you soon,
Elizabeth Ann Duffy
If you are interested in helping with this, please get in touch as follows:
Elizabeth Ann Duffy
BBC Radio 4
The Tun, 111 Holyrood Rd, Edinburgh, EH8 8PJ
Tel: 0131 248 4048
Mob: 07825 613053

Sunday, 6 May 2012

What are you doing to effect the absolute separation of church and state?

I hadn't considered the full impact of the numbers of percentage of people that state non-religious views too much before know, but looking at the data collated in this Flash graphic - and thanks to the fragmentary nature of Christianity -  this non-religious group accounts for a good proportion of the population even in the most pious states.

Indeed, as a bloc, the non-religious constitute similar figures to Catholics and are often the second largest group in total.