Mistakes Made, Lessons Learned

by Luke Muehlhauser on October 21, 2009 in How-To,News

I’m proud of Common Sense Atheism.

I am happy to have provided great study resources for believers and unbelievers alike: 400+ atheism vs. theism debates, 50+ christian vs. muslim debates, hundreds of research articles in philosophy of religion, various bibliographies, atheism audio, Best Atheism Books of the Decade, and more.

I’m also proud of my analytic posts and series, for example about the problem of evil, the Kalam Cosmological Argument, and the moral argument.

I’ve enjoyed sharing my personal story. I’ve enjoyed interviewing really smart people for my podcast, Conversations from the Pale Blue Dot. I’m happy to have begun compiling a comprehensive resource on desirism.

And I’m glad that I keep learning. From life, from my own studies, from my supporters and critics.

tank_crashedOne thing I’ve learned is that most people retreat into a shell when they feel attacked. Anything perceived as arrogance or vitriol can be used as an excuse to avoid seriously considering what I have to say. So maybe I can gain more comrades in the search for truth and be more persuasive if I am less abrasive.

I’ve considered this point many times, but it really came home to me when I encountered Todd White. Todd wrote to me in an email:

I’m quite impressed by your intellectual integrity, your willingness to share your personal experiences, and dare I say, your benevolent soul.

So I guess I was in a position to gain an ally of sorts, and extend my influence. He also sent me a link to his post The Best Evidence for God in One Paragraph. His best evidence was the anthropic principle, Intelligent Design, and Near Death Experiences. It so happens those are three of the least impressive arguments for theism I can think of (along with Pascal’s Wager), and I told him so:

Huh. Not what I expected. Those are some of the WORST evidences I can think of. The “best” theistic arguments I can think of are the Kalam Cosmological Argument and some forms of ontological argument. I suspect there is a huge gap between which arguments believers find reassuring and which arguments might be somewhat persuasive to atheists.

Well, nobody likes to be told that the best they’ve got is pretty bad. After that, Todd’s attitude toward me completely changed:

At first, I thought Luke was a sincere lover of truth and reason, but now – based on our email exchange – I’m not sure. Actually, I doubt it… And I fear that Luke enjoys his ignorance too much to consider other possibilities.

What a difference one little paragraph can make! What’s more, I realized that Todd’s negative reaction could have been completely avoided had I tweaked the tone of my email just a bit. For example, I could have written:

Unfortunately, I haven’t yet written much about the anthropic principle, Intelligent Design, or Near Death Experiences. What do you think of the Kalam Cosmological Argument and various ontological arguments? I find them to be the most persuasive theistic arguments I’ve yet encountered.

Now, many atheists are going to tell me: “Luke, you’re backing off too much! Theists constantly make the most outrageous, unfounded claims, and you have no duty to respect their superstitious beliefs just because they are religious beliefs!”

And these atheists are right. I don’t have any such duty. And I suspect their worry – that atheists grant too much for a kind of “political capital” with believers while believers never grant anything back as hoped – is valid. But that doesn’t mean that we need to engage believers with the aggressiveness of the New Atheists.

It is my personal choice to ease up a bit with believers. I think our common search for truth can be interrupted when emotions run high and people feel attacked – whether or not there is any rationality at all to our beliefs (theistic or atheistic).

But don’t expect me to become meek. I still think it’s useful to use the terms “supernatural” and “magical” interchangeably. I will continue to point out the flaws in theistic reasoning. I will continue to warn about the dangers of many religious sects. I will continue to make claims of moral fact.

In closing, I am inspired by the aims set forth by “ex-apologist” – who is smarter, more thoughtful, and better educated than I am – for his own blog:

Although I enjoy scrolling through a number of blogs regarding theism in general, and christian theism in particular, I’m often discouraged at the tone of the discussion. It’s all too easy for interlocutors to be so caught up in “dueling” their “opponents” that they lose sight of the goal: the pursuit of truth and understanding and the avoidance of falsehoods and incomprehension. I have no illusions about changing all of this, but at least I can try to make a difference, however trifling.

Let me just say what should be obvious: any one of us, including myself, may be completely wrong about our views on some matter. Therefore, it’s important to cultivate truth-conducive intellectual virtues that will increase the likelihood that we’ll come to have more true beliefs than false ones. Thus, one of my main goals for this blog will be to exercise, as best as I can, the virtues of honesty, civility, humility, and clarity.

I take these to involve the following: giving the best and most powerful construal of the points of one’s interlocutor; giving one’s interlocutor the benefit of the doubt; pursuing truth instead of “victory”; aiming to understand and internalize one’s interlocutor’s views before a critique ever occurs to one. In doing so, I ask those who may choose to join the discussion here to do the same.1

Hear! Hear!

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{ 45 comments… read them below or add one }

Todd White October 21, 2009 at 6:18 pm


I think you have every right to be proud of your blog. I enjoyed the articles you sent me, and – as time permits – I’m going to read through your archives to gain a better perspective on your life experiences and philosophy.

Regarding your analysis of the tone of our email exchange…I commend you for seeing the importance of that subject…Needless to say, you and I will almost certainly never meet in person, and thus, we can only know and understand each other through the words we write on our websites. Thus, choosing the right words is essential. Words that facilitate open, honest dialogue should be emphasized and words that leave the reader feeling misunderstood or unappreciated should be avoided. Of course, I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know. You made the same point quite eloquently above.

Also, I should confess that – when it comes to my personal life – even friends have described me as “arrogant,” so I am not immune to the challenges of maintaining a cheerful demeanor in discussions with people I disagree with.

In any case, thanks for this post. I understand where you’re coming from a lot better now. As I wrote in my original email, “Perhaps this might be the beginning of a fruitful and enjoyable exchange of ideas on our part.” I’m glad that opportunity is still available to us.



John H October 21, 2009 at 6:18 pm

The problem for the apologists on the Christian and the atheist sides is that we tend to expect too much.

Frankly, both of us have beliefs that are “warranted” – to use Plantinga’s term. Both of us have rational and reasonable reasons for our belief in things we cannot prove.

And, frankly, neither of us can PROVE we are right. You cannot prove Christ was not resurrected from the dead and is the Son of a Creator God – I cannot prove he was. Assuming we are both skeptics of the others position – then this statement by Joe Carter when he was at Evangelical Outpost holds for both of us.

I can certainly provide rational arguments . . . — whether they are convincing on an individual level is another matter. I’ve come to realize that the problem lies not with the arguments but with the nature of belief itself. Belief . . . can be rationally avoided. Skeptics can always find reasons, however implausible they might be, for refusing to concede.

However, the typical athiest – theist argument devolves into an attempt to bash the theistic/atheistic arguments of the opponent even though there is almost no chance that any but a person with a weak faith will be changed on the matter of the existence or non-existence of God by reason and argument. And, of course, there are the innuendos and insults – veiled and unveiled – we toss at each other.

You and I, for instance, could hammer at each other until the cows came home and I would expect no change unless something other than reason and intellect intervened.

Now, you can use the condescending word “magic” all you want – even though you know it is grounded in pantheism and/or animism; and I will irritate you most likely by telling how much I do admire your faith.

And, it is faith we both hold.

So, the question is: once we have danced around the intellectual arguments a couple of times; and our theistic/atheistic arguments are parried (say, like the sword-fighting scene in Princess Bride) – what do we have to chat about that is productive for us and society as a whole.

One start is your awesome act in putting up the Christmas video. Thank you



Lee A. P. October 21, 2009 at 6:41 pm


There is really no reason you should pay too much account of me. After all lately I have taken quite a shit on your boards and acted the part of the stereotypical angry atheist. Even while I do this, I realize. I know my intellect is limited. I understand just enough of these issues to be able to discuss them but not enough to ever be an authority. Mine is a percarious potion. I understand so much but am able to advance so little. I want so much more but I have limits.

Anyhow, having said that, I will say that your podcasts are EXCELLENT! You, at your ripe age, are able to banter with your guests, both theists and non-theist, in a manner that suggests that you are their PEER. And I can hear in their reactions that they are challenged by you and that you are hitting the right spots.

I do not mean to neglect your excellent blog but I just wanted to get my point across about your podcasts. I thought it the other night while listening before bed.

Keep doing this! All of it! You are doing well! Typical judeo-christian traditional suggests that we should be modest, almost to the point that it is not good manners to admit that one is doing a good job. This is just another trend we, as “free thinkers” should buck. You ARE doing a good job and you should think so. Don’t stop.

Also, I suggest that you keep masturbating. Always and forever. Into eternity! YEAH!


Conversational Atheist October 21, 2009 at 7:18 pm

I think you can tell from the very name of my website that I agree with your approach.

I wouldn’t worry about people thinking you are ‘going soft’ on people — I think it’ll be clear that you’re aiming for effectiveness.


Steven October 21, 2009 at 7:58 pm

Of course “effectiveness” is great, but the real issue is – what brings you happiness? I find that when I view opponents as ultimately on the same side in pursuit of truth, I am much happier. It is difficult to grow without an enemy as the Dalai Lama points out constantly.

“I still think it’s useful to use the terms “supernatural” and “magical” interchangeably.”

I disagree. It’s too nice to “supernatural.” Magic is usually portrayed as having rules of some sort. It’s just something like electricity that is not understood yet. Supernatural means ZERO rules. AT least in its omnipotent/omnipresent/omniscient usage. It’s a complete Pandora’s Box.


exapologist October 21, 2009 at 8:28 pm

Thanks for the kind words, Luke. I really like your podcasts, btw!


lukeprog October 21, 2009 at 8:45 pm


Ah, happiness. Yes, maybe a softer approach will promote general happiness as well!


lukeprog October 21, 2009 at 8:46 pm


Yours is one of my favorite blogs – I just wish you had time to write more thoroughly. Most of your posts are brief links about or outlines to some topic. Good luck finding a job in what has got to be the worst philosophy job market since… maybe ever.


Steven Carr October 21, 2009 at 11:02 pm

#You cannot prove Christ was not resurrected from the dead and is the Son of a Creator God – I cannot prove he was

Obviously not, as the resurrected body of Jesus flew off into the sky.

And nobody mentioned Judas, these women, an empty tomb, Nicodemus, Lazarus, Joseph of Arimathea for over 30 years, making proof these people existed hard to find.

And then there was an official coverup of the resurrection, which seems to have gone as far as removing Arimathea from the map, so that no trace of the town can now be found.

Happily the anonymous author of Matthew managed to report the secret meetings where this coverup was planned


Marco October 21, 2009 at 11:40 pm

Hi Luke, great post. I for one always value politeness and a positive attitude, which lacks on both sides of the fence quite often. I think that’s the problem of running a blog: When talking to one individual you may have a sense of moving forward in a conversation, but on a blog this often isn’t the case. So often you end up repeating, repeating and repeating, which can become annyoing after a while. Best of luck with the good intentions. I for one applaud your effort so far!


Anthony October 22, 2009 at 3:46 am

Different approaches are a good thing. For some, like myself, a more easy going, less aggressive approach works best. For others, a more aggressive approach seems to act as a wake up call to rethink one’s position. I actually like reading and participating on blogs that use the different approaches. For example I like Luke’s blog but I also like P.Z. Myers blog as well. Two completely different approaches, yet both are effective in their own ways.


John H October 22, 2009 at 9:38 am


I have no more responsibility to prove to you it happened, than you have to prove it didnt. And, no more real ability. As I said, I cannot prove Christ was resurrected from the dead.

However, the cute skeptical stuff like your comment is fine for a while – but after a while it wears thin. I am not all that aggressive, and I am willing to play nice, but if you are going to flippantly throw all that “weak ass shit” (HT: Bull Durham) out you better have an “A game” to go with it.

So, a question: who would have had any reason to write about it? There was only one real church – the one in Jerusalem and vicinity. They thought Jesus’ return was imminent, they met together and worked together continually, they didn’t print handouts for the crowds, they were a little busy to be writing books, etc. (I know you have heard all this before). And, that is assuming that there was not stuff written down that simply did not survive into the 2nd century and become part of the canon of the church – the “Q” document and “proto-Mark” (if they existed), or the previous letter to the Corinth church Paul mentions in 1 Corinthians – to name a few possibilities.

The first people to start writing extensively were the organizers – James in Jerusalem and Paul, the first real travelling evangelist, to the Gentiles.

The second group was the Apostles as they got older, and it became important for them to write out their stories for the next generations. They had the time now that the church had been run out of Jerusalem – and reason because of their advancing age and Christ not returning as they expected.

What else would there be? It is not as if there was the Jerusalem Times then, or that the Jewish or Roman authorities were going to work to keep the story alive. Did you expect them to add fuel to the fire? Indeed, if this Jewish “cult” could have been squashed by proof that the Resurrection didn’t happen – rather than just bashing them with rocks – where is the evidence from the Roman and Jewish authorities at the time? There is enough information from extra-Biblical, non-Christian sources that Jesus lived, was killed, and was worshipped by his followers as a God that we know that happened at least. Where is the contra-evidence to the Resurrection at the time? Do you have proof of where the body was buried? Did one of the Apostles admit to removing it from the tomb? Where is that written?

And, the thirty year number is a bit long – even assuming Jesus died in 30AD rather than 33AD. I round the time lag to thirty myself; but 1 Corinthians from Paul was probably written at 20-21 years (53-54 AD) with Mark, the actual first gospel, in the mid-50′s before 62 AD (29 years) when Luke/Acts was finished. However, earlier than all that by theologically conservative estimates is James in 44-45 AD (11-12 years) – making it the earliest book that actually made the canon.

The important thing about 1 Corinthians (20-21 yrs) is this passage:

1 Corinthians 15:1-19 Now I want to make clear for you, brothers and sisters, the gospel that I preached to you, that you received and on which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold firmly to the message I preached to you – unless you believed in vain. For I passed on to you as of first importance what I also received – that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day according to the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as though to one born at the wrong time, he appeared to me also. For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me has not been in vain. In fact, I worked harder than all of them – yet not I, but the grace of God with me. Whether then it was I or they, this is the way we preach and this is the way you believed.

Now if Christ is being preached as raised from the dead, how can some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is futile and your faith is empty. Also, we are found to be false witnesses about God, because we have testified against God that he raised Christ from the dead, when in reality he did not raise him, if indeed the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is useless; you are still in your sins. Furthermore, those who have fallen asleep in Christ have also perished. For if only in this life we have hope in Christ, we should be pitied more than anyone.

Typically, I do not quote scripture in a forum such as this, but Paul is teaching this at the 20 year mark – and referring to previous teaching that the audience recieved and he recieved. The preaching he referred to was in 50-51 AD (17-18 years) on his second missionary journey. There is no reason to believe that the “catechism” he preaches in this passage is any different than what he preached during his first missionary trip. (Indeed, by the South Galatians theory, Galatians was written in 48-49 AD (15-16 years) during the first trip and mentions the “offense of the Cross” – the offense to Jews of Christians preaching Christ crucified. Again, we have no idea if Galatians was Paul’s first letter to a church or not.)

Not only that, he is challenging the audience to go investigate the claim for themselves with the 500+ witnesses – “most of whom are still alive”. He understands folks are going to be skeptical (and is indeed writing because there are skeptics) and encourages them to go find out for themselves.

So, the stage is yours: where is your positive evidence against the resurrection (and not your skeptical nit-picking at mine). I fully agree with the statements of Paul – if you can prove positively that Christ was not raised from the dead then I will rejoin the ranks of the atheists – because my faith is useless and I am wasting my time.

Good luck though – people have been trying to do it since 33 AD (when they could have done it) without any success at all up to now.

Incidentally, if you can make a positive case I will even cross-post it at Brain Cramps for God. Deal?


Karl October 22, 2009 at 9:53 am

John H,

Can you make a positive case against all the Hindu miracles?
Can you make a positive case against all the Muslim miracles?

I’m assuming you think these miracles are weak-ass-shit. Or perhaps not?


John H October 22, 2009 at 10:07 am


I do not really work with deflection much.

Maybe they are all real – maybe I should be a Bahai – not my issue really.

I am only talking about one particular miracle.

Take care,


John H October 22, 2009 at 10:15 am

Oh Karl,

If you want to make a positive case for the miracles of Hinduism and/or Islam I would love to read them – and then see where I go from there.

Looking forward to your posts,


Karl October 22, 2009 at 10:40 am

John H,

Well John, I’m glad you realized the utter randomness and thoughtlessness by which you have come to your religion.


Karl October 22, 2009 at 10:55 am

Oh John,

I really find no need to do your homework for you. There are a variety of hindu sources (as recent as the hindu milk miracle – I have met several people noting that the miracle happened with their own pictures and statues inside their home) and variety of muslim sources that you can find on the internet. I am looking forward to your turn from a singular religious apologist to an intellectually honest seeker of knowledge. I look forward to reading your blog.


John H October 22, 2009 at 11:17 am

C’mon Karl,

You’re deflecting again. Obviously my Christianity is neither based on randomness or lack of investigation – you know that don’t you?

Again, we are only talking about one miracle at this moment – the resurrection of Jesus. I am certainly not one of those folks who think the rest are made up necessarily – but I do follow Hume and the skeptics enough to believe that miracles are, by definition, rare singularities. That means they (usually) defy proof either as to their actually happening, or not happening. You can philosophically reject them a priori but they are impossible to prove or disprove scientifically.

For that reason, I would never say I can prove the resurrection (or that it can be disproved). The Hindu miracles do not really affect me (but again can hardly be proved or disproved); and the Muslim miracles are contradictory to Christianity (again, neither provable or unprovable – but if real would force me to become a Muslim instead of a Christian. I have, obviously, made that decision)

Take care,


Karl October 22, 2009 at 11:30 am

The Hindu miracles would be contradictory as well – seeing as how their conception of God is very different from the Christian God (and all it entails).

So why Christianity, not a Hindu derivation, or islam?


Lee A. P. October 22, 2009 at 11:31 am

Most Christians simply say yeah, there are other miracles. They are demonic tricks. Our stuff is legit and from God, their stuff is from the devil.

Christianity, at least the fundy variety is extremely dualistic. You are either with them or you are holding hands with Satan. And of course all supernatural tales of the Christian variety are a wonder and a testement to the faith. All others, if they aren’t fake, are due to the evil demonic monsters they believe in.

Hell, for over 20 years, since I was a kid, I have been hearing about how Satans plan to explain away the raputre is going to be through UFO’s and that all this abduction stuff is all demonic.

So Christians believe in all sorts of stupid shit. They often have no problems with supernatural claims outside of Christianity. Its just Satan. thats all.


John H October 22, 2009 at 12:17 pm


Contradictory how? Christ’s resurrection was a sign to support a particular presentation of God and his action and grace in the world.

The Milk miracles accompany no such claim, do they? So, if I want to believe it happened – in what way do they conflict with Christ’s resurrection? There isn’t even a claim about which Hindu God or Gods drove the miracle – or what they were attempting to impart by it. The power and abilities of Ganeshu – I will give Ganeshu that. Now what?

Islam is different. There are specific claims about Christ, the Virgin Birth, and his death and resurrection imparted to Mohammad by Gabriel as he dictated the Quran. {now, I really like the baby Jesus standing up in his crib and telling folks to leave Mary alone – but I can’t just take that one and leave the rest can I?)

These are mutally exclusive claims. That really doesn’t exist in the Hindu miracles.

“And, the deflected shot richocetts off the boards”

Take care,


Paul October 22, 2009 at 12:18 pm

Luke -

which forms of the ontological argument do you find better?

I find the Ontological argument mostly circular. At least in the forms that I am aware of.


Lee A. P. October 22, 2009 at 12:46 pm

John, a talking baby Jesus is not any less rediculous than any number of silly things attested to in the Bible including the talking snake, the woman turning into salt, the talking donkey, the ressurection of the saints (zombies of Matthew), the magical intercontinental animal boat ride, and even including the magical undeadening of Jesus.

The point of the previous poster stands, I think. If its in your book, its a miracle. If its in another book, its laughable.


John H October 22, 2009 at 1:01 pm

No Lee

I didn’t laugh at the Milk miracle or baby jesus in the crib. I said I “like” the baby Jesus story. Really

I think the explanation of the milk miracle (capillary action) is a bit laughable on first blush – so it might give you guys fits – but it gives me no pause at all.

However, the Quran stories pose a whole nuther issue. Both the Quran and the New Testament cannot be true. Period. So, either both are false, or one or the other is false. Period.

Since the Quran story has Jesus never really dying (and God deluding folks into thinking the crucifixion happened) and then going straight to Heaven (like Enoch) without dying – it conflicts with what I consider to be the valid evidence that he died and was seen three days later alive. However, I am not laughing.

If I was to believe that God would intentionally trick humans that way, I might as well believe in YEC – that God created the planet with layers that look like millions of years of history in order to test our faith. I do not go there either.

Take care,


Lee A. P. October 22, 2009 at 1:10 pm

Both books cannot be literally true in every detail. But both books can contain partial truths. Maybe Jesus talked as a baby, turned water into wine but did not rise from the dead. May he talked as a baby and rose from the dead. He probably didn’t do any of that stuff.

I understand you believe that your particular outragious tale is true but at least admit to extreme bias and inconsistancy in taking this view.

Muslims actually have their reasons for believing that the Koran is “miraculous” and their apologetics are so similar in tone and spirit to the tactics of Christian apologetics that It further affirmed in my stance as a non-believer. It was the same shit, different toilet was all. There are only cultural and geographical biases that seperate your perference for Christian apologetics over Muslim apologetics. You should really check out how Muslims defend the Koran and their religion.


John H October 22, 2009 at 3:23 pm


Muslims and I generally get along really well – we both really understand the books are mutually exclusive; and both have respect for the text. In fact, them maybe more than us since they do not believe that the Quran should be read in anything other than Arabic.

However, it really is more than the trite “cultural and geographical” differences. If I retained the “faith of my youth” then maybe – but only if I wasn’t so aware of the differences. After all, the Quran was aimed straight at Christianity. So, either God really did just want to get it straightened out – or Mohammad intentionally invented it as an “anti-Christian” faith. For you, not enamored of the metaphysics of either – I do not see how you cannot hold the later opinion.

So, we have a discussion here about how horrible it is that the New Testament wasn’t written until 20-30 years after the events – but you are going to tell me that it is only cultural differences that make me not accept Islam where the Quran was written 580-600 years later, and directly aimed at Christendom (Christianity in power)

By the way, thank you – I love this kind of chat

Take care,


Karl October 22, 2009 at 3:30 pm

“And, the deflected shot richocetts off the boards”

That was the equivalent of laughing at your own joke.

“The power and abilities of Ganeshu – I will give Ganeshu that. Now what?”

Ganesh who has claimed godhood.
Who is worshiped through idols.
There’s no contradiction with the christian god?


Karl October 22, 2009 at 3:50 pm

John H,

I’ve read your recent blog post.

From your blog post:

“So, none of us can prove we are right; and we mostly all have warranted belief.”

Ok….so there really was no point to this argument. You’ve taken a non-obvious stance for a christian. My line of reasoning does not apply to you.

I was wasting my time – I had no idea I was taking part in christian piety hour. Anyways, keep on trucking – I see no point in fueling an artificial fire.


Sabio Lantz October 22, 2009 at 4:01 pm

Luke, this is so typical of what I like about the quality of your writing. Thanks.

Few Questions (if you have time):

(1) I am curious to how you came to this epiphany? Did you reason it out using desire utilitarianism? Did it just eat at you? Did a friend point it out? Was it as you introspected over e-mail after e-mail you get from folks and said, “Boy , I feel better when dialogues go like this.”

(2) One of the ways I think on this issue, is to separate in my head the “truth value” of a given belief from the manner in which the beliefs are woven together and then how that web supports the individual’s life. Does that make sense?

Thanx again, mate !


John H October 22, 2009 at 4:08 pm

No problem Karl

I was just having fun really. You could be learning from a “non-obvious” position – although I would say that it is as orthodox as it could come.

Back to Ganesh – lots of folks claim to be God. And, there are “principalities and powers” other than God. All of that is not in conflict with Christianity.

I am not going to be worshipping Ganesh because he drank milk though :-). Thanks for the chat

Take care,


lukeprog October 22, 2009 at 5:05 pm


Of course, it could be that I find the ontological argument somewhat stronger than, say, intelligent design or NDEs, because I’m misunderstanding them. Even Russell got tricked into thinking the ontological argument was sound. But I’ll be writing about ontological arguments later…


lukeprog October 22, 2009 at 5:07 pm


I certainly didn’t reason this out using desirism. I don’t have the data needed to do that. This is a “best guess” or perhaps a “let’s try THIS way now and see how it goes.”


Ben October 22, 2009 at 10:50 pm

I agree, Luke, you have a lot to be proud of here. That’s why some of us get disgruntled when you are inconsistent with your standards. We want to share in your pride and not have to make excuses for you. I’d like to be all in this together and would appreciate it if other humanists would speak up when I step over the line and so I hope you can appreciate it when I point out where you have done the same.



Steven Carr October 23, 2009 at 12:14 am

How can you have a discussion with somebody who believes the Apostles wrote the Gospels?

It is all very well saying have an honest discussion with people, but you can’t while they pump out falsehoods and wild claims.

Not only that, he is challenging the audience to go investigate the claim for themselves with the 500+ witnesses – “most of whom are still alive”. He understands folks are going to be skeptical (and is indeed writing because there are skeptics) and encourages them to go find out for themselves.

Utter nonsense. None of these people are named. Nobody has evern heard of any of them. There are no details given or even when this happened.

How could people make a 2 month ship journey to go and check out unspecified details about unnamed people?

And if those people had ‘backslid’ and denied seeing anything?

Galatians 1:8
But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!

This is what Paul thinks Christians should do even if a messenger from God contradicts Paul. Anybody who listens to something other than Paul’s message is condemned even if that message came from a messenger from God.

And Christians have the nerve to say Paul invited people to go and visit these alleged 500 totally unknown people that nobody has ever heard of.

How can you have a serious discussion with Christians? How can you dialogue with people like that? People who throw out ridiculous arguments and expect to be listened to politely while they talk rubbish?


Steven Carr October 23, 2009 at 12:19 am

He understands folks are going to be skeptical (and is indeed writing because there are skeptics….

Of course they were skeptics. These people were converts to Christianity and they were scoffing at the idea that their god would choose to raise corpses.

Hello? Wake up and smell the coffee! There is a whole branch of Starbuck’s here.

Christian convers believed Jesus was still alive yet were scoffing at the idea of their god choosing to raise corpses.

They had not heard any empty tomb stories, because converts believe the stories which converted them.

Paul tells them flat-out that Jesus ‘became a life-giving spirit’

Paul does not use one single detail of an empty tomb story.

Paul does not even quote what his Lord and Saviour had allegedly said on the nature of a resurrected body.

For goodness sake! Just how blatant does it have to be that these stories only existed after Paul was writing.


ildi October 23, 2009 at 5:24 am

Back to Ganesh – lots of folks claim to be God. And, there are “principalities and powers” other than God. All of that is not in conflict with Christianity.

“Could it be… SATAN?” -Church Lady

So, yeah, yeah, your holy book says your god is the real one and all the others are demons. Their holy books say their god is the real one, etc.

Clash of the holy books and attendant miracles – all with equal validity in terms of evidence. It’s really no coincidence that the vast majority of people practice the religion they were born into.


John H October 23, 2009 at 7:53 am

Steven Carr:

How can you have a discussion with somebody who believes the Apostles wrote the Gospels?

It is all very well saying have an honest discussion with people, but you can’t while they pump out falsehoods and wild claims.

Without links that was screed.

Utter nonsense. None of these people are named. Nobody has evern heard of any of them. There are no details given or even when this happened.

How could people make a 2 month ship journey to go and check out unspecified details about unnamed people?

And if those people had ‘backslid’ and denied seeing anything?

How big do you think the church was at this time? Do you really think “nobody heard” of folks who saw Christ alive 20 years before? These folks would be unknown in the church?

People traveled from the church in Corinth to the church in Jerusalem all the time. It, by the way, wouldn’t be by ship or take 2 months.

What unspecified details? He told them to go talk to the folks that had been part of the group of 500 who saw Christ – at one time – before his ascension.

Now, half of what you said seems to realize that the audience for the letter was Christian (who would of course know times, dates, names, etc) and half of what you said seems to think the lettter was to non-Christians – who you are right would not have the details and for whom this would be nonsense. Just in case you are confused, it was written to folks who were Christians who were beginning to question whether or not there would be a general resurrection of the dead – as they had been taught before. They had that information – although new converts might need to be reminded it was available.

Paul tells them flat-out that Jesus ‘became a life-giving spirit’

Paul does not use one single detail of an empty tomb story.

First sentence, no conflict. Ya know – after he ascended he sent back the Holy Spirit as helper.

Second sentence: read the passage again.


Steven Carr October 23, 2009 at 9:50 am

I see John H can’t produce the name of a single person who ever met any of the alleged 500 people.

Well, what a surprise! That is the advantage of dialogue. You learn that Christians can’t produce the name of a single person who even claimed to have met any of these alleged 500 people, let alone the names of these alleged 500 people.

‘How big do you think the church was at this time?’

I don’t know. How many times did 500 plus Christians gather together in one place between Jesus leaving his tomb and Jesus flying off into space?

And according to Acts only a select few people were allowed to ‘become a witness with us of his resurrection.”


John H October 23, 2009 at 12:24 pm

C’mon Steven

That demand is anachronistic and a bit silly.

Paul wasn’t writing this letter for modern skeptics. It wasn’t for a trial. If someone didn’t already know someone in Corinth that was there 20 years before – they would ask.

Take care,


Lee A. P. October 23, 2009 at 7:00 pm

Doees Luke realize that he is dealing with a more articulate Fred Phelps?


Steven Carr October 23, 2009 at 11:22 pm

So who were these alleged 500? And if they asked, and were told ‘I’ve never heard of them’?

Had Paul heard of any of their names or dates or times or what they had allegedly seen?

And why were Christian converts scoffing at their god choosing to raise corpses, just like Paul scoffed at the demand of Jews that Christianity be a religion accompanied by amazing miracles?

And why couldn’t Christians in the 19th century simply ask David Whitmer if the Golden Plates existed?


John H October 26, 2009 at 9:59 am

Steven Carr:

So who were these alleged 500? And if they asked, and were told ‘I’ve never heard of them’?

Why would I have a list?

Probably Clement of Rome wouldn’t have been writing another letter to the church in Corinth 40 years after this

Had Paul heard of any of their names or dates or times or what they had allegedly seen?

I can not see why he would make this kind of suggestion if he didn’t. Certainly John and Peter would have the time and date (at one time!) if Paul didn’t

And why were Christian converts scoffing at their god choosing to raise corpses,

Think skepticism is new?

just like Paul scoffed at the demand of Jews that Christianity be a religion accompanied by amazing miracles?

Citation please


ayer October 27, 2009 at 7:34 pm

John H.


Theality Bites March 25, 2010 at 4:52 pm

I have to comment on the irony of a deep and meaningful post about respecting those who disagree with you, and searching for common grounds, detracting into a back and forth duel for some kind of epistemological supremacy.

This actually inspires me to leave another compliment for you Luke, that you seem to routinely ignore posts that are not in the spirit of good philosophy, but rather embody religious dogma (using the secular definitions of both words).

Outstanding work!


lukeprog March 25, 2010 at 5:27 pm



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