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Feedback #17

Names and e-mail addresses have been witheld to protect the guilty. If you recognise your letter here, and wish to have your name and address displayed, feel free to contact me.

Received: 6/6/99

I very much enjoyed reading your story.  I was also raised a Baptist and struggled for years trying to come to terms with various contradictions in the teachings.  In particular, I always thought the notion of being "saved" was quite silly, since the person you were asking for salvation was the person who would torment you for eternity if you didn't ask.  Also, I couldn't quite grasp the concept that I had a "choice" about whether I wanted to be saved or burn in hell for eternity.  I don't know about you, but that doesn't sound like much of a choice to me.  In fact, it sounds like no choice at all.  You either do what you're told, whether it makes sense or not, or you're punished with hellfire.  Unfortunately, my mother didn't even attempt to reason through my questions, she simply explained that questioning the Bible was blasphemous and that "the lord" would surely punish me for being so bold.  That was enough to keep me in line... for a while.  

I ignored my logical mind and suppressed my dissatisfaction for a number of years, but eventually I worked up the courage to approach religion and the Bible from an objective standpoint and I couldn't believe what I found.  It turns out that my mom was simply doing to me as a child what organized religion does to adults:  In lieu of actual answers, just scare people back in line by threatening them with punishment in the afterlife.  After 20 years of Christianity, I couldn't find one person who could give me a legitimate answer to even the most basic questions.    

I became disillusioned.  Coming to terms with the realization that I had to give up the comfort of my whole belief system and start from scratch was very difficult, but I had no other option.  I simply could not devote my life to something that I no longer believed in.  I dabbled in Atheism for a while, but found it nearly as difficult to believe as Christianity.  Ultimately, I arrived at Deism, which I believe is greatly overlooked by former Christians who lose their faith and head straight to Atheism.  When you realize that the Bible wasn't inspired by God, you can toss it aside and continue to believe in a creator, albeit one who is considerably more "hands off" in his approach and doesn't have a "personal relationship" with humans.   

Do you have any thoughts on Deism?  If so, I'd love to hear them.  Your article really spoke to me and I'd like to know how you arrived at Agnosticism.  Thanks so much for your time.  I apologize for my lack of brevity, but I'm sure you would agree that this is a difficult subject to abridge.  

Thanks for your message. Your story is very similar to mine. I have given some thought to Deism, obviously. I have great respect for some of the Freethinking Founding Fathers who were also Deists. Thomas Paine comes to mind: a person who believed in a Creator, but showed the organized Church no mercy in his diatribes against religion.  

I think, at the end of the day, the differences between Deism and Atheism are a lot less significant than their similarities. Both reject revelation and organized religion. Both hold that rationalism is the only sure path to Truth. Even the major difference, i.e. belief in God, is not quite as severe as it might seem at first blush.  

The word "atheism" has acquired a connotation that belies its true philosophy. In fact, an Atheist is not required to believe that there is no God. All that is required is to lack a belief in God. The difference is subtle, but important. As an atheist, I simply fail to hold any belief in God, while at the same time maintaining that such a concept is not necessarily impossible. I simply see no strong reason to hold such an opinion.  

Allied with this thought is the somewhat loose definition of "God". If, for example, we define God as the sum totality of existence, then I do, obviously, believe in such an ideal, an ideal moreover which can be said to have created us. Where we are both agreed, however, is that the God of the Bible does not exist. This being is obviously a cultural construct, who mirrors the opinions, tenets, fears and bigotry of his followers. In a very real sense, man created those "God" in his own image. If God do indeed exist, I would like to think that he/she/it had more moral character than the person described in the Bible.  

Received: 6/4/99

If Jesus didn't rise from the dead and the tomb was empty,,how did the body get out of the tomb?   They had soldiers guarding it and there was a huge stone in front of it.

The soldiers claimed they fell asleep and the body was stolen, how could they remain asleep while the diciples,or theives, moved the huge stone away, I mean it's just me but that might make a lot of noise and would take a lot of people.Also I was wondering even if this did happen how would the soldiers not get in trouble  I mean falling asleep when you're at guard would result in very cruel punishment , usually death in those days?  I'm only thirteen and I was wanting to know the answer to the above questions, if you can answer them please do so.

How do you know that the tomb was empty? The only "evidence" that we have is that the Gospels claim that Jesus rose from dead, but, as we have seen, they contradict themselves so often that we can pretty much assume that they are not reliable history. For all we know, Jesus' body is probably still buried somewhere in Palestine...

Received: 6/6/99 (in response to above)

Not just the gospels said the tomb was empty and people have searched the tomb where they are almost certain he was buried.  Also the way you say they keep contradicting themselves I think is no big deal they get the facts right and all, it's the same events that have happened just told by different people.  What was so big that they keep contradicting themselves anyway, I mean how are they contradicting themselves?  Also what do you believe in?  I mean religion and all.

There are at least three different candidates for the last burial place of Jesus, depending on which particular faction of the church you listen to. More than likely, they are all wrong, because the Bible does not give a specific location for the tomb. Jesus could be buried pretty much anywhere in Jerusalem (assuming that he ever existed at all, which is another matter still).

The contradictions between the various resurrection narratives are of a type that cannot be explained away. Answer me this: did Mary Magdalene see the risen Christ before she called the other disciples (see Matthew's account), or did she see the resurrected Jesus after she went and called the disciples (see John's account).

I am an atheist. I hold no belief in any god or gods.

Whatever you want to believe, that they took the body or that he rose from the dead each way the tomb was empty it's what happened to the body that is the question. Even the guards said the tomb was empty I think it is a matter of how it became empty.  Plus people have explored what they are almost certain the tomb he was buried in, and have found no evidence of the body. So what's the excuse for the tomb being empty?

There is no need for an excuse. All the people that you appeal to for support are characters in a fiction. In other words, how are we to know that these people really existed, or that the gospel writers simply made them up. Even if they did exist, how do we know that they weren't simply lying about their reports, or simply mistaken about what they thought they saw. There are so many other possibilities to research before we can conclude that the tomb was indeed empty.

What it boils down to is this: can we trust the Bible writers to tell the truth? And this is where the ball is in your court. You have to provide me with some reason, some evidence that the Bible is reliable in these atters. Can you do so?

Received: 6/11/99 (in response to above)

The Jews, Mormons, and most of the atheists I have heard of, have at least acknowledged that Jesus was indeed a real person.  There is enough eye witness accounts and other evidence to prove he was a person.  In fact, there is more evidence to prove that Jesus lived and resurrected than there is evidence that Napoleon ever lived.  That stuff is not found in the bible either.

They still have a part of the cross and the sign on the cross that reads, " INRI" which means, Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.  So, you should have, or at least have absolutely no doubt whatsoever that Jesus lived and was then crucified.

What other evidence do you need to believe that he was a person?  I am 13, it is summer, I have no job, and I would be more that happy to find this information for you in between going to softball games, basketball games, and the AAU National championships.

Don't get me wrong. I actually do think that there was a real historical person called Jesus, who inspired the gospel legends. However, I base this solely on the fact that most modern religious movements at least have a real founder, and there seems to be no reason to suspect that Christianity was any different.

However, I do not believe that Jesus was the son of God, or in any way different from the average human being. I strongly suspect that he would be very shocked to find out what his followers were claiming for him.

At the same time, I must point out that there is no conclusive evidence that Jesus ever existed. The gospels are not eyewitness accounts. Read them carefully. Nowhere do they claim to be written by people who actually saw Jesus. In fact, the author of Luke specifically states that he relied on other sources for his work. The only thing that we might point to is the last chapter of John, where the author states that "this is the disciple which testifieth of these things, and wrote of these things." The statement is enigmatic, however, and the author still does not specifically claim that he was an eye-witness.

Outside of the gospels, there are almost no contemporary witnesses to the historicity of Jesus. Christian apologists will often point to short statements by the early writers like Pliny, Seutonius and Tactitus. Whatever the value of these, none of them claim to be eyewitnesses. They all relate what somebody else told them. The bottom line is that there is no contemporary eyewitness testimony at all to the historicity of Jesus.

You state that there is more evidence that Jesus existed than Napoleon. I'm afraid not. We have several thousand eyewitness accounts to the deeds of Napoleon, as well as large volumes of text written by the man himself. There is overwhelmingly more evidence for the historicity of Napoleon than Jesus. The same might be said for Mohammed, for example.

As for the claim that we have part of Jesus' cross, I'm afraid not. Even if we did have such an artifact, there would be no way to prove that it was at one time part of the actual cross. Even the most celebrated relics, such as the Shroud of Turin, do not stand up to a rigorous examination. The Shroud, for example, has been carbon dated to the fourteenth century, which also happens to be the first time that it is mentioned. It has also been shown that the stains on the Shroud are pigment (i.e., paint), not blood. The Shroud is a fake, perpetrated by an unknown artist in the fourteenth century. In truth, the same situation applies to all alleged relics of Jesus. None of them have been substantiated.

If you wish to look up some things, why not start by gathering all the early references to Jesus (stick to Jesus himself - references to the early Christians do not help). Try to honestly evaluate each of the references by asking the following questions: how long after time of Jesus did this author write? Does he claim to be an eye-witness, or did he get his information from someone else? Does the reference specifically refer to Jesus, or could it refer to someone else?

While you are at it, compare the gospel of Matthew with that of Mark. You will notice that in a large number of places (Matthew 24 onwards, for example) the text is identical to Mark, with a few interspersed comments from the author of Matthew. Since we know that Mark was the earlier gospel, ask yourself why a supposed eye-witness would need to copy large parts of his gospel from other sources.

Received: 6/21/99

I just read your story at http://www.primenet.com/~heuvelc/bible/mystory.htm

Very interesting.  I'm a Mormon in Salt Lake City.  I served a mission in Chile, got married in the Temple, etc, etc.  To make a long story short, the past 3-4 years I've been really wondering about my "born religion."  I have the exact same doubts as you expressed in your story.  I literally use the phrase "cosmic guessing game" all of the time.  That is exactly what it is.

I teach a Sunday School Lesson every week to a youth group at an LDS ward. I have recently told my family about my doubts.  At first they took it pretty well, but now that they see that I am actually happy about doubting, well, now they are mad/hurt.  They would be much more content about my doubts if I were confused and in turmoil.  Anyway, my wife is in the same boat as I am, but she has not told her family.  Her brother is getting married in the LDS Temple in August.  I'm assuming you have a pretty good idea of our problem here.  We are no longer "card carrying members."  So she'll have to tell them before then.  Last night she said, talking about my family, "I can't believe how childish everyone is being about this." While I completely agree with her, unfortunately I can understand exactly where they are coming from.  In their eyes, we've lost our way.  Now that's irony.  We've lost our way, yet we know more about mormonism than they do.

Very frustrating.  I'm listening to some audio tapes about Joseph Smith by an LDS scholar named Truman Madsen.  He is so melodramatic and so one-sided.  He is only pissing me off, but I think that I should listen to him to appease my mom.  He say stuff like, "Joseph Smith is a far greater philosopher than Plato."  And he makes it sound amazing that Joseph could describe exactly what Paul the Apostle looked like.  Like Joe couldn't have just made something up.  So anyway, I bring this up because it is a typical example of how religious leaders are deified.  The LDS Church is more than willing to accept and publish this hoser's one-sided view of JS as unequivocal truth, yet anything that is fair-minded is questionable/anti-mormon.  I'm rambling aren't I.

Thank you for all of the study that you've done.  It is extremely helpful.

The "cosmic guessing game" is still my favorite topic of discussion whenever I happen to engage in a debate with a firm believer. It really has no answer. The whole of Fundamentalist theology is predicated on the supposition that unbelievers will be punished for willful rejection of the Truth. (See Rom 1:19 and following for example). However, it is also equally clear that God has provided no unambiguous revelation of himself. In fact, some theologians hold that such revelation is impossible because it would violate free will. It doesn't take much thought to show that these two positions are mutually exclusive - either God must reveal himself in such a manner that it would be unmistakable, or he cannot be justified in punishing unbelievers. There is no middle ground.

Believers will sometimes counter, following Romans 1:20, that Creation reveals God, and that unbelievers are therefore engaged in willful rejection. Even if we grant that Creation does reveal God (and this is by no means clear), it does not follow that Creation reveals which of the myriad gods of history are the true Creators. So, we are back at square one. The bottom line is that if God insists on punishing non-believers for "guessing wrong", then he must be immoral. This is where the argument inevitably lands up, and I have yet to hear a usable response to this problem from a believer. Usually, I get told that this is just the way it is, and I must simply believe or face the consequences. Ironically, I have had exactly this response from Mormons, Christian Fundamentalists and Muslims. Seems like you just can't win.

Received: 6/17/99

I can hardly believe how many times I "Nasal Grunted" at some of the amazingly ridiculous comments you have made. Please tell me you can't believe someone had the ability to make up all the stories, characters and events in the Book of Mormon, not to mention the education and the short period of time the individual had to compile it.  (Joseph Smith) Regardless if I am a Mormon or simply do not believe a God exist, any reasonable person with an an ability to read this history from cover to cover would be pressed hard to say it is just fiction. What's more interesting is we live in the 1990s and we read from the greatest and most creative minds of any age, yet none have created anything the like.  I can only imagine that you think this farm boy of  14 years and an equivalence of a 3rd grade education is just creative?  I really am interested on how you might explain your comment on how people could believe in a book that was "almost painfully transparently fraudulent and could not actually believe people thought it was true."  I have read a lot of your responses and find that you are more lost than you even realize. 

You keep trying to find a way out, a scapegoat for everything a loophole, and then you are back were you started.  Stop wasting your time circling yourself and denying what only YOU know.  I am alittle interested in what you might say, but I suspect you will fall back into your old habits.....lets see??  What would be becoming would be some honest answers, I can read between your lines.  Lets be frank here. I don't know you and you don't know me, lets not try and impress each other, no hidden motives, no pretenses pride to see who can debate the best, just REAL answers.......

I don't mind debating you on this point, but I will need you to advance some more concrete reasons as to why you think that Smith was incabable of writing the BoM. So far, all you have offered is the familiar "argument from personal incredulity" (i.e. "I just can't believe that an uneducated person could have written the BoM"). Regardless of what you personally may or may not believe, you need to advance some proof as to why this is the case. On my site I presented voluminous evidence which points out that the BoM relies heavily on the King James Bible, which puts its origin sometime after the KJV was translated, at the very least. I also posted an article which points out that Smith is by no means the only "uneducated" person to have produced works of apparently incongruent depth and volume. While you may not agree with my conclusions, these are the arguments that you have to interact with.

You also state that "none have created anything the like". I have to point out that the measure of quality of any work of literature is subjective to a large extent. While you may regard the BoM as the pinnacle of modern literature, I personally find it boring, repetitive, derivative and completely lacking in any novel concepts or deep spiritual truths. That is my opinion, and it is every bit as valid as yours.

Therefore, the ball is in your court. Since you are making the positive claim, i.e. that Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon by Divine means, you need to present some concrete evidence that backs up this claim. Please note that arguing that Smith was uneducated is no proof, unless you can also demonstrate that it is impossible for an uneducated person to write long, complicated tracts. I must also point out that there is no correlation between education and intelligence. I might note that a certain German-Jewish patent clerk by the name of Albert Einstein also received an average education.

Received: 6/12/99

I totally agree that Ibn Warraq's book is an excellent work. I just wanted to comment that the historical details may be wont mean a lots for a non moslim, but for ppl brought up in Moslim societies, these historical details , are on the contrary, very essential pieces of the puzzel.Giving in the end a clearer image of the truth.  

Received: 5/26/99

I'm a mormon learning about mormonism.  I appreciate your site for its proffessionalism and lack of petty slander.  Your facts are all correct, to the best of my knowledge, and they are presented without the underlying bitterness common to anti-mormon literature. Thats nice.

Received: 5/12/99

To whom it may concern,

I stand behind Hugh Nibly all the way. Only because I know that what he said is true. Do not try to stop the ongoing growth of the true church of God.

Received: 5/5/99

Have you been to the Bible School where you're from?  Have you really studied the Bible in depth?  Being a Christian for many, many years doesn't really mean anything.  Do you deny God's compassion when he sent his Son Jesus Christ to die on the cross?  Why are you focussing on certain parts of the Bible and not as a whole?  His grace is sufficient for us.  You were confused as whether our God is compassionate, loving .........  Isn't that the reason Jesus Christ died on the cross?  Did He commit any sins that you know of?  Can you think of a reason why He did that beside what we already know?  Many has questioned Christianity but none dare deny the fact that for us he chose to die on the cross.

Well, many people have denied this "fact". In the first place, we should note that there is no good evidence to prove that Jesus did in fact die on the cross for our sins. He may have in fact been crucified (assuming that he ever existed at all, of course), but how are we to know that it was for our sins? Perhaps he was simply a victim of circumstance like so many other millions of unlucky victims.

Secondly, many people, myself included, have a problem with the whole notion of sacrificial atonement. To put it in perspective, suppose that I had a fight with my neighbor. Suppose further that I went to him later and offered to kill my only son in order to reinstate our friendship. My neighbor would rightly think me insane, or criminal, or both.

Not only is the concept of sacrificial atonement nonsensical, it is also monstrous and immoral. If God truly wanted to redeem mankind to himself, he could have found a better way. To deny this point is to deny that God is omnipotent.

Imagine a dying patient telling the doctor.  "I do not understand the medicine that you prescribe therefore I will not consume".  My friend, HIS GRACE IS SUFFICIENT FOR YOU.

May God Bless You!

Received: 5/4/99

My belief is that  the exercise of creating life on earth by God (here by God I mean the self explainatory root cause of any thing that exists but may or may not be dectected by human senses or thinking) was just not for the sake of fun. There has to be a valid cause or a result  to be achieved. Life would continue till the purpose of creating life on the earth is solved. And this purpose certainly can not be a simple conclusion and therefore I don't see life getting extinct on earth in near future. I don't know the date of The End but I believe that whenever it happens it would happen quitely instantly and by unification of universe with antiuniverse immidiately after the desired results from the universe and the life are achieved.

Received: 4/28/99

I just wanted to drop you a quick note to inform you that you missed responding to half of a feedback message that deserves a response.  The guy who wrote you on 4/16/99 spent the first bit of his email bragging about how he passes the test for being a true Christian in 2 Corithians.  Such ego begs to be tested by the true believer test in Mark 16:17-18:

16:17 And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; 16:18 They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.

Finding a rattlesnake to handle might be difficult, but it should be easy enough for him to get a bottle of Draino to drink.  Let's see if he's a true believer.

Excellent point. I suspect that most Christians will quickly skip past the last chapter of Mark, without thinking about its implications. How many of them would be willing to commit to such a test of their faith, a test, moreover, enjoined by the Bible itself? Not many, I'll wager.

But why stop there? If Christians are squeamish about drinking cyanide, or getting up close and personal with poisonous reptiles, there is another simple test that can be applied. Jesus said the following in John 14:13-14:

"And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it."

The test, then seems to be simple: we will simply ask the believer to petition Jesus for a predetermined miracle. Surely this would indeed by "glorifying God" in the face of the Heathen? (After all, Elijah pulled a very similar stunt in I Kings 18.) If the miracle fails to materialize, we can then conclude that the believer is actually not a believer at all, or that Jesus did not really mean what he said.

Received: 4/27/99

I predict the universe will end exactly January 17th, 1746.

Everything we're experiencing now is an illusion.  So stop paying taxes.

(But seriously, beautiful website!)

Received: 4/26/99

I have read part of your rather extensive site, and I have to say you have done a great deal of research.  Is this only your work, or did you have help from others?

One thought comes to me. Have you considered that your presupposition, ie, that reason (or more accurately, empiricism) is a limitation to a complete exploration of the subject of God? Doesn't the very nature and meaning of the word "god" demand a more inclusive approach?  It seems to me that empiricism by its very nature precludes a god of any sort.

Reason does not have to preclude a god because reason does not have to follow the criteria for empiricism. Here, evidence can bring one to a decision on a subject if the evidence is greater for the decision than is the evidence against it (like a court of law).  Obviously, this does not "prove" anything in the scientific sense of being able to recreate or demonstrate the point in question.  Historically speaking, we cannot "recreate" an event, even one that has just happened.  We do however, easily base our lives and their meaning on the flow of personal and world history. Historical inquiry and the reconstruction of human history is based on the idea that we can develop a reliable account of the past by assembling the remains of past events. We cannot return to these events; but we can be "reasonably" confident that things happened the way we have reconstructed them. 

If, then, we admit history into our universe of "reasonable knowledge", can we make empiricism the only method of knowing? Should epistemology be limited to empiricism?

I don't think that empiricism precludes the notion of a god. Like any other principle, empiricism demands that it be accompanied by reasonable, repeatable proof. You argued that history is reconstructable only by analyzing its remnants in the present. This is completely true, but the argument cuts both ways. How do we know, for example, that the gospels are reliable history? The only standard we can apply is empiricism, and by this standard, we note that there is insufficient evidence to establish the truth of the proposition.

As a skeptic, I freely admit that empiricism is the basis of my philosophy. Call it a presupposition if you wish, but I must ask you with what you intend to replace or supplement it? Can faith be a reliable guide to Truth? I would argue No, because faith is by definition subjective, and can therefore not lead to objective truths at all. Call it Reason, Empiricism, Skepticism, Materialism, whatever you want, but the fact remains that at the end of the day, it is all that we have.

Received: 4/26/99

Do you consider yourself a "gentleman" atheist based on your links?  I'm curious if you've really done your homework.  Your
mystory.htm indicates a lack of understanding of the Holiness of God.  Hell makes complete sense once the Holiness of God, our great gift of creation, our sin against an infinite and Holy God, and the punishment we deserve based on God's perfect justice when we reject His only way of salvation through Jesus.  When I turned 38, I was a firmly established agnostic evolutionist.  Only after studying the "evidence" for evolution vs. the evidence for the truthfulness of the Bible did I accept what, by all standards of mathematical probability, the truthfulness of the Bible.  Since you took the opposite direction, I have to wonder what happened. Maybe you haven't seen the best arguments. Mormonism, Islam, Jehovah's Witnesses, etc. cannot apply the same apologetic arguments because they exhibit demonstrable false teaching. I point out to them that "false teaching" is one of their fruits (since they love to tell me to look at their "fruits").  Evolutionists also have major problems good Christian apologists can easily exploit.  By the way, I attend a Baptist church and am a retired Air Force Officer - used to teach Electrical Engineering at the Air Force Institute of Technology (Air Force Graduates School).

You said, "Today I am an Agnostic. However, I do not feel cheated or disappointed by my decades as a Christian. I feel that I learned a lot during those times, and was very happy, for the most part. I am simply glad that I learned the truth, before it was too late."  Curt, the Bible commands us to "keep on seeking" (Matt7:7 Greek Context) the truth.  The evidence really does support the Bible, and the intelligent skeptics, try as they might, demonstrate poor logic and bad answers to tough questions, if they even have an answer.

I'm willing to discuss this with you if you'd like. If you "die in your sins" (John 8:24), it will then REALLY be too late.  You may find that the God who is perfect in love is also perfect in His wrath upon sinners "who hold the truth in unrighteousness" (Rom 1:18) - and that means the eternal hell Jesus warned about so often (Matt 25:46).

I am sorry, but there really is no way that eternal punishment can be reconciled with justice. They are mutually exclusive concepts, and "holiness" (whatever that means) makes no difference to the equation. If God is going to condemn humans to infinite punishment for finite sins, then he cannot be Just. If he is Just, he cannot condemn humans to eternal punishment. It is as simple as that.

You stated that "Evolutionists also have major problems good Christian apologists can easily exploit." I would be interested to hear some of these "problems", if they really are so easy to exploit. You also state that "the evidence does support the Bible". What evidence? I have seen none at all, and I have been looking for years now.

Received: 4/26/99

Hi !

I just stumbled on your web pages about the Bible/Christianity, etc. There's some interesting stuff there, and I'm betting you get flamed heaps!!!

I certainly don't want to flame you, but to add my 2 cents worth to the argument... as I have found a lot of what you've written to be perhaps lacking in objectivity or even substance.  For example, you wrote:

Another implicit statement which occurs with some frequency in the Bible, is the notion that the entire earth is visible from a suitably high vantage point. One such statement occurs in Job 28:24:

For he looketh to the ends of the earth, and seeth under the whole heaven...

This verse also makes the assertion that the earth has 'ends', i.e. that it is bounded in some manner. This phrase occurs many times in the Bible, where it is often used, admittedly, in a symbolic sense.

If, indeed this is used in "a symbolic sense" as you stated, then I think it's value in a scientific examination is zero, and therefore no such references should be included in such an argument.

Well, I did not state that it is *always* used in a symbolic sense. There are many cases where the Bible refers to an ancient, prescientific view of the world in ways that seem to indicate that the authors had no idea that the universe was any different. For example, Genesis 1 claims that the sky is a solid dome, in which the sun, moon and stars are placed. (Follow the links at the end of the "Science and the Bible" article for a detailed examination of the meaning of the word "firmament" as used in the Bible). Obviously, we know that this is not the case. However, this leaves conservative believers in something of a quandary. They can try and twist the text to make "firmament" mean "atmosphere", but they are generally only fooling themselves. Other believers hold that "firmament" is used in a symbolic sense, just as, they claim, the phrase "corners of the earth" or "pillars of the world" is used elsewhere. The problem, of course, is that if we admit parts of Genesis 1 are symbolic, why not simply admit that the whole story is symbolic? (This is, in fact, the conclusion that many Christian sects have come to).

Note that in the same book (Job), a statement is made which is probably not supposed to be scientific saying that "[God] hangs the Earth on nothing". Now who, at the time of the writing of Job would have thought of that? Certainly every other religion around at that time, and for centuries after believed that the Earth was seated on a fish, a cow or a man (Atlas), etc.

Actually, ancient cosmology was not nearly as fixed as you seem to claim. The Bible itself is ambiguous on this point. Is the sky a solid dome, smooth like glass, as Job 37:18 claims, or is it more like a tent spread over the earth, as Isaiah 40:22 claims? Thus, we should not assume that all the ancient writers thought that he earth was carried on the backs of giant elephants, or rested on huge pillars. Some may simply have thought that God suspended the earth over a void, which is what Job 26:7 states. Note that this is still incorrect, because the earth is not actually suspended at all. It moves freely through space, bound only by the gravitational interactions between the Sun and the other planets.

Note also that Job 37:18 seems to contradict 9:6, which states that the earth has pillars, and foundations (Job 38:4). Which do we believe?

Also of note in Job is the references to the Constellations of Pleiades (sp?) and Orion.  At the time Job was written, there would have been no way to tell that Pleades was even a constellation, and not just a big star, let alone to know that it was a bound cluster or that Orion's stars are all moving in different directions.  Of course the Bible is not a scientific document, so these could have some other meaning, but it is an interesting "coincidence".  Of course I wont go into all the other interesting scientific "coincidences" of the Bible, such as circumsition on the 8th day after birth, because you said that you've already looked into those.

Job never claims that the Pleiades or Orion are "constellations". From ancient times, and by many different nations, the Pleiades have been known as the "seven sisters", since they are bright stars close to each other. I'm not sure what you mean by "big star", since the units that make up both the Pleiades and Orion are clearly visible to the naked eye as separate from, but close to each other.

Also, the meaning of "constellation" is vague. It is now known that the stars that make up these groupings are actually many light-years apart in relation to each other. Their "binding" is nothing more than an optical illusion, caused by the way that they appear to us humans on earth. The Bible, not knowing any better, perpetuates the myth.

I also find your statements about evolution to be rather disturbing. Evolution is indeed taught as fact and the school/university level. However, when properly researched, there is actually zero scientific evidence for it (science, in all areas, is based on observable, repeatable evidence, of which there is none for evolution).  In fact the evidence against evolution is so strong, that many high profile, non-religious scientists do not accept it at all.

As I have stated repeatedly, there is a mountain of evidence in favour of evolution. This evidence comes from sciences as diverse as paleontology, geology and molecular biology. All testify to the fact that life on earth has descended from a common ancestor over very long periods of time. The statement that evolution has "no evidence" is patently false, but is unfortunately perpetuated by biased Creationist writers who cannot accept the truth. I would encourage you to read Edward Max's article on shared genetic errors between humans and other primates at http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/molecular-genetics.html

Most people believe evolution because they want to, because it means they don't have to believe in a God, and because they've based so much other theory on it, that to reject it, would be to reject so much of a vast collection of knowledge.  They don't want to let that go.

There are several problems with this statement. First, as I noted earlier, there are many Christian denominations who have no problem with the concept of evolution, and yet remain Christian. Are you also going to accuse them of "rejecting God"? Or, are you simply going to claim that they are not real Christians at all?

Secondly, your statement is entirely backwards. Scientists accept evolution because it is supported by many decades of experimental proof. It is quite simply the best explanation for the diversity of life that we currently have. Conservative Christians, however, refuse to accept evolution because it conflicts with their opinions of what the Bible states. They do not reject it for scientific reasons, although they like to claim as such.

It should be noted that at least 400 years ago, the Church persecuted those philosophers who claimed that the earth moved through space around the sun. The Church acted as they did because they held that such a notion was not taught in the Bible (they were correct on this point). As it happens, Science won the day simply because the evidence was overwhelming. At this time, there are very few Christians around who would perpetuate this myth. In fact, some believers will even attempt to make the Bible say what it obviously does not, in order to protect their beliefs.

I predict that the situation will be the same with evolution. In time, all Christian denominations will come to accept it as fact, as they once did with the notion of a moving earth. They will then claim, no doubt, that the Bible taught this concept all along.

Anyhow, keep up the search for truth (the truth is out there :-)

PS.  I just couldn't help but add this:  The idea of evolution producing intelligence that could explain evolution, is absurd.  According to evolution theory (& big bang, or similar theories) everything that exists, is only by pure chance and accident.  Therefore, our brains exist by pure chance and accident - there is NO FORCE behind the production of our brains, or out thoughts.  Our thoughts are the result of a long series of chances and accidents.  Therefore our theories of evolution (and anything else) are just pure accident.  Cause/effect.  This is like spilling a glass of milk and having the spilt milk explain to you how it came to be in exactly the location that it is, and having the intelligence to explain this endowed by the act of being spilt.  Just another interesting thought.

I'm afraid that this statement seems to confirm that you have obtained your information from Creationist literature, rather than actual science books. Evolution does not proceed by "pure chance". It is, in fact, directed by natural selection so as to ensure that each succeeding generation is better fitted to its environment. While variation in genetic sequence arises as a matter of chance mutations, natural selection does not act randomly. Richard Dawkins covers this misconception in his books "The Blind Watchmaker" and "Climbing Mount Improbable". I would encourage you to read either of these for a better overview of what evolutionary biology is really about.

Received: 4/21/99

I enjoyed your web page and got a great deal out of it. Frankly I was happy to see a page where  it looked like some one would give a track record and deal intelligently with all of these dooms day predictions. I was looking for some good news and some indication that it was all just bunk.

However the more I read the more I realized that in spite of many good things about your web page, in your own way you are being no better than the those people you are criticizing. In other words you see and show only those things which support your own preconceived ideas.

I know of a number of predictions which proved to be accurate. There is no mention of these things here. In the case of Gordon Scallion, he actually has a pretty good hit average. (Which is what scares me about him). You show only the failures.

Here is part of a transcript where he is credited with correctly predicting two Earthquakes, a record hurricane and weather records.

He has also predicted the Antarctic ice will thaw raising sea levels. Guess what. I just read news articles saying that the sea ice around Antarctica is melting away and at least one ice shelf is expected to be gone in two years. The average temperature is steadily rising and if it continues to polar ice will begin to flow into the ocean and sea level may begin to rise.

Can you deal with both sides of these issues. Or are you like so many others, you just need a place to spout your belief system?

AB: All right, I'm repeating it. This is a warning, what you're going to hear may be disturbing and you should tune out if you are disturbed by the kind of information you're about to hear. But I mean, we're dealing here with a man who in addition to predicting Northridge, Landers, Kobe, Hurricane Andrew, the global temperature record and of course the tornado record, predicted a significant earthquake would hit South America on January 25th. As you know a devastating earthquake hit South America with great loss of life and property.

Gordon Michael Scallion has been featured on NBC's Ancient Prophecies, Fox TV's Sightings, A&E, The History Channel, The Roseanne Show, E! Entertainment, CNN, The Wall Street Journal, Details magazine, Rolling Stone magazine and numerous other publications, radio and TV shows. He will be featured in upcoming TV episodes of Unsolved Mysteries and The History Channel's The Millennium. Gordon Michael Scallion is editor of his bi-monthly publication Earth Changes Report where his predictions and teachings are presented. He is author of the best selling book Notes from the Cosmos: A Futurist's Insight into the World of Dream Prophecy and Intuition, now in it's 5th printing, an autobiography about his life as a visionary and containing his global Earth-change predictions for the years 1991 through 2112. Many, many of you have been waiting for this moment; here he is Gordon Michael Scallion. Gordon, welcome.

I guess I must keep looking if I am to find the kind of site I am looking for.

It is no secret that I am a skeptic. As such, I generally hold that there are more prosaic solutions to questions of paranormal activity. In the case of Scallion, I think we can apply some simple rules to try and illustrate this principle.

You stated that Scallion correctly predicted the melting of the Antarctic ice cap. Firstly, in order to decide if this is indeed the case, we should have access to some statement that Scallion made prior to the actual event. However, we can make another observation in this case. Scientists have been warning about the effects of global warming for a long time now. One of the possible consequences that keeps coming up is the melting of the polar ice caps. When seen in this context, Scallion's prediction is not really a prediction at all. He is simply echoing the opinions of educated men who have studied the situation for years. Thus, his prediction is really not that remarkable.

What about his "hits" with the hurricanes? Well, you quoted a transcript from the Art Bell show which, I'm pretty sure, was aired after the actual events had taken place. It would be far more impressive if you could demonstrate that Scallion made these predictions before the actual hurricane strikes. Also, predicting hurricanes along the Gulf and Southern Atlantic coasts in Spring is like predicting snow in Winter. It would be more remarkable if Scallion predicted the actual dates and landing  zones of the hurricanes well in advance of their strikes. However, I'm willing to bet just about anything you care to name that his predictions, assuming they exist at all, are not nearly that detailed.

Received: 4/18/99

I very much enjoyed reading your letter about your exit from Christianity. My story is similar. I was a member of the Worldwide Church of God for 23 years.  My wife is still a member of one of their splinter groups. It has been difficult for us. I feel that I am trying to reconstruct my life.

You are not alone. Almost all of the "apostates" that I know (myself included) went through a period of difficulty and depression following a decision to leave a particular religious system. The only thing I can say is that it definitely does get better. It takes a while to re-integrate a mind, to pull together all the shattered pieces and find a new direction and purpose in life. But if the testimonies of other defectors is anything to go by, the result is certainly worth the effort.

Received: 4/18/99

Hi, My name is Jerry. I'm new on the web. About a week ago I sent this story to a few places and, for the first time, found some folks who gave me some positive input...I'm encouraged by this, so I thought I'd continue sending it to folks who might appreciate it. Your site has a lot of stuff that fits my thinking. My email address is omp@jymis.com if you'd like to drop me a line.

Received: 4/17/99

I was curious but how do you know there is a god, or to be more preicese are you sure God/ Christianity isn't something the human mind conjures up?

We really cannot be "sure" of anything. Most scientists will quickly note that no theory can be "proven" in the sense that we can prove that, say 1+1 = 2. Instead, theories are usually categorized by how likely they are to be true. Thus, the theories of quantum electrodynamics, general relativity and biological evolution, for example, all have high probabilities of being true, because all are supported by strong experimental evidence, and all have high predictive ability.

In the case of whether there is a god or not, or whether the god concept is a social construct, we must once again look at the evidence and try to decide which theory has the highest probability of being true. In the case of the Christian God, we find that this character appears to have evolved along with the tribes who worshipped him. The earliest records of Yahweh show him to be a tribal deity, with a ferocious and bloodthirsty appetite that would surely put him amongst the worst mass murderers of history.

As time passed, Yahweh evolved from a tribal deity to a universal God, and at the same time shed some of his worst attributes to become a more loving, generous deity. This picture is carried over into the New Testament, although we also find the ridiculous and immoral notion of everlasting punishment in Hell, which tends to directly contradict the notion of a loving God.

Thus, we find that over the years, Yahweh's character, likes, dislikes and actions tend to mirror those of the people that claimed to worship him. The evidence thus seems to indicate that Yahweh is little more than a social construct. "Man created God in his own image", as the saying goes.

Of course, this does not mean that no god(s) at all exist, but that notion still lacks any sort of proof.

Received: 4/16/99

Did you know that the Bible has a test to see if we are true Christians?  It is in 2 Corinthians 13:5-- "Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves.  Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you--unless, of course, you fail the test"?  I pass that test, Jesus is in me.  He indwells me and has turned my life around totally. 

I spent 30 years of my life as a smoker, a drinker and a drug addict.  I was addicted to every drug except heroin.  When I was diagnosed with the same disease that recently killed my mother-in-law [multiple sclerosis], Christ came in and all that garbage went out.

I have been given a new nature, I'm a new creation!  And NONE of it was my doing!  If you have any questions pleas e-mail me any time.

People need different motivations. For some, religion is the answer. For others, religion is a straightjacket that impedes both spiritual and intellectual growth.

I applaud you for having found some direction in your life. From my perspective, of course, your turnaround probably has far more to do with your innate strength and potential than any external force. Still, if it helps to believe that God had something to do with it, then more power to you.

Received: 4/12/99

I would just like to say I love your site.   I have a little addendum to your questions about David. It has always been my theory that the books of the prophets where more or less propaganda.   Take this theory: Samuel picks Saul as the leader of the Jews because he is the highest amongst men. Saul is originally painted as a giving and caring man. Then he dies, and a new king is required. A warlord, we'll call him "David", figures this is his best chance for leadership of the  country. He needs to rally troops. So stories of his great conquests start propping up. The broken telephone effects makes several different stories. They are listed in Samuel.  

Saul becomes an evil blood-thirsty king. This is not the king we've known. David seems the tragic hero in all this, but of course we know David's lustful story. Who was really the nice guy? Did God really punish Saul for the sin of PITY?  

Just some things to think about.  

History, as they say, is written by the winners. Although most Christians would not like to admit it, it is almost inevitable that the Old Testament authors and editors had their own political and religious affiliations and biases. Saul was a Benjamite, while David, of course, was of the tribe of Judah. If ancient tribalism was anything like its modern counterpart, one can almost be assured that there was little love lost between the tribal members.  

All of this indicates that the Bible really only tells one side of the story, and it is more than likely not the "true" side in many cases.

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