Testament of Jean Meslier: Purpose and Message

by Luke Muehlhauser on March 15, 2010 in Reviews

meslier_testamentJean Meslier (1664-1729) served as a Catholic priest for 40 years, but after his death was discovered to have written the very first book-length philosophical essay promoting atheism.

I’m blogging my way through the book. See the index for all posts.

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Meslier opens by explaining why he didn’t reveal his true thoughts until after his death:

My dear friends, seeing that… the consequences would be too dangerous… for me to tell you openly during my lifetime what I think about the conduct of the government of men and about religions and morals, I have decided, at least, to tell you after my death.1

He then summarizes the thrust of his message:

The more I advanced in age and knowledge, the more I recognized the blindness and viciousness of men, the more I recognized the vanity of their superstitions and the injustice of their evil governments.

…Though astonished at seeing so many errors, abuses, superstitions, impostures, and tyrannies in power, what surprised me even more was that, although there were many people in the world who were considered very learned, wise, and pious, nevertheless there was no one who dared to speak openly against so many great and detestable disorders.2

…The source… of all evils that crush you… is nothing else but the detestable politics of men… [Not only] did they both cleverly use force and violence, but they also used all kinds of tricks and ploys to seduce the people in order to achieve their ends more easily. As a result, all these shrewd and crafty politicians, taking advantage of the weakness, credulity, and ignorance of the weakest and least educated, easily made the people believe what they wanted them to and then made them accept reverently and submissively, willingly or by force, all the laws that they wanted to give them. In this way, some made themselves honored, respected, and worshiped as divinities, or at least as people inspired and sent specially from the gods to reveal their will to men…

…There is the source and origin of all the errors, impostures, superstitions, false divinities, and idolatries that are miserably spread throughout the earth… There is the source and origin of all the so-called holy and divine laws they want to make you obey as if coming from God himself. There is the source and origin of all the splendorous but vain and ridiculous ceremonies your priests pretend to perform with pomp in the celebration of their false mysteries, false solemnities, and their false, divine cult. There is the origin and source of all the haughty titles and names of lord, prince, king, monarch, and potentate who… oppress you as tyrants…

There, likewise, is the source and origin of all the so-called holy and sacred authority of the spiritual and ecclesiastical order and power that you priests and bishops lay claim to, who… on the pretext of wanting to lead you to heaven and obtain eternal happiness for you, prevent you from peacefully enjoying any real good here upon the earth.3

This is an improvement on today’s New Atheists, for Meslier correctly identifies the source of the problem: man’s lust for power. Religion is only one of many tools used to bestow power upon oneself and trick the uneducated masses into submitting to evil’s rule.

Meslier continues:

It would seem… that religion and politics should not agree with each other… since it seems that the gentleness and piety of religion should condemn the severity and injustice of a tyrannical government, and it seems, on the other hand, that the discretion of a wise politician should condemn and curb the errors, abuses, and impostures of a false religion. It is true that these things should have been done, but what should be done is not always done… [Politics and religion] become thick as thieves and forevermore defend and support each other.4

Then, on Christianity in particular:

Perhaps you will think, my dear friends, that with such a large number of false religions in the world my intention is to make an exception for the Christian, Apostolic, and Roman religion that we profess and that we call the only one that teaches the truth…

But do not fool yourselves, my dear friends. Open your eyes to this and in general to everything that your pious morons or mocking, self-interested priests and scholars are eager to tell you and make you believe on the false pretext of the infallible certainty of their so-called holy and divine religion…

Your religion is no less vain or less superstitious than any other; it is no less false in its principles, no less ridiculous and absurd in its dogma and maxims… In short, everything that your priests and scholars preach to you with so much eloquence concerning the grandeur, excellence, and sanctity of the mysteries they make you worship, everything they tell you so seriously about the certainty of their so-called miracles, and everything they recite with so much zeal and assurance concerning the grandeur of the rewards of heaven and the terrible punishments of hell, are, in fact, only illusions, errors, lies, fictions, and impostures invented at first by the shrewd and crafty politicians, continued by the seducers… and then received and blindly believed by the ignorant and vulgar people, and finally maintained by the rulers and sovereigns of the earth who encourage the abuses, errors, superstitions, and impostures and even authorize them by their laws in order to keep a tight rein on the community of men and make them do whatever they want.5

So what should the people do?

All the more reason, my dear friends, do we have for reprimanding, hating, and detesting, as I do here, all those ministers of errors and iniquity who rule over you so tyrannically… the ministers of religion who rule over your consciences being the worst abusers of people, and the princes and other rulers of the world who rule over your bodies and goods being the worst thieves and murderers who are on earth.6

Methinks Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens would enjoy this book!

  1. Testament, page 27. It’s actually page 1 of Meslier’s writing, but the publisher made the annoying decision of beginning the Arabic page numbering with the opening pages, not with page 1 of Meslier’s writing. []
  2. Ibid, page 28. []
  3. Ibid, pages 31-32. []
  4. Ibid, page 35. []
  5. Ibid, pages 35-36. []
  6. Ibid, pages 38-39. []

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{ 30 comments… read them below or add one }

Adito March 15, 2010 at 4:58 pm

He does imply that he believes in a God though. Judging from these excerpts I think his problem is more with the corruption of men then religious thought itself.

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eheffa March 15, 2010 at 5:05 pm

Wow. What a great find Luke.

These are quite remarkable and timely quotes.

I wonder whether he lay awake at night worrying that someone might find his writings.

Thanks for bringing this to our attention. I think I’ll look for my own copy.

-evan

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Bill Maher March 15, 2010 at 5:21 pm

Adito, he makes it very clear in the book that he doesn’t think gods or souls exist.

on a side note:
Sousaphone! Your grandfather played sousaphone! It was awful. Everyday he would make us rehearse. This band made up of kidnapped musicians and this old man with his ridiculous sousaphone!

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lukeprog March 15, 2010 at 5:58 pm

Adito,

On what page does Meslier imply he believes in a god?

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Rhys Wilkins March 15, 2010 at 6:12 pm

Sweet Jesus,

How many books are you blogging through at the moment Luke?

Don’t take that the wrong way though, methinks it is super!

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Adito March 15, 2010 at 7:29 pm

I was referring to the following

“here is the source and origin of all the so-called holy and divine laws they want to make you obey as if coming from God himself.”

Since it seems this isn’t a position he holds I suppose this was just a rhetorical technique. I still think he sounds pretty angry here and generally disillusioned with humanity. That’s not to say he’s wrong… I’m an atheist and I agree with a lot of what I’ve seen so far but I wonder if it wasn’t his anger/despair more then his reason that guided his falling away from the faith. Personally I have quite a bit more faith in people then he does.

Granted, I’ve only read what you’ve posted so obviously there’s a lot to his views I don’t know. It’s been added to my backlog BTW ;)

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Sara Cabrol March 15, 2010 at 8:52 pm

Wow. Thank you.

Stunned silence. Luke, please keep on bloggin’ your way through this book. My husband and I will await more posts with ‘bated breath!

We will probably seek our own copy as soon as we finish “God is not Great” by Christopher Hitchens (We’re about 3/4 of the way through)!

Thanks again,
Sara & Jaysin.

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Briang March 15, 2010 at 9:11 pm

1) Thanks for finally including a Catholic atheist!

2) He makes some pretty strong assertions about religious doctrines, does he have any evidence to back up those assertions?

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Sarah Schoonmaker March 15, 2010 at 9:25 pm

It seems like Catholicism turns out the most atheists compared to any other Christian denomination. I speculate that this is because Catholicism endorses dead religion/legalism over critical thinking (i.e. engaging the scripture and utilizing reason, theology, and philosophy), so of course people in the Catholic or other anti-intellectual religions abandon their views if they decide to critically think. Interestingly, I think critical thinking leads to Christian theism instead of atheism, but sadly, most “believers” and non-believers, at least in America, are lazy and anti-intellectual to even begin defending their core beliefs.

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Briang March 15, 2010 at 9:50 pm

Sarah,

btw, my comment about “catholic atheist” was a joke, since I’m a Catholic an not an atheist.

I think there’s plenty of intellectual life in Catholicism. You may not see it for much the same reason you don’t see it among many protestants.

I’m not really sure if most atheists are ex-catholics. It hasn’t been my observation. Most of the vocal ex-Christians I’ve found tend to be from the fundamentalist / evangelical / “bible Christian” variety. If I had to guess (from my observations) I’d suspect that Catholics are more likely to just slip out of religion and become non-religious or atheist more by default then thoughtful choice. Whereas, the fundamentalists who leave become the vocal atheists. But that’s just my observation, I’m open to being corrected by stats.

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Yair March 16, 2010 at 4:05 am

This is an improvement on today’s New Atheists, for Meslier correctly identifies the source of the problem: man’s lust for power. Religion is only one of many tools used to bestow power upon oneself and trick the uneducated masses into submitting to evil’s rule.

No, this is not the “source of the problem”. The source of the problem is that religion distorts thought. That allows it to be used by dictators and power-mad priests, but also to undermine science, to intensify ethnic tensions, and do all the bad things it does. Incidentally, it also allows it to do all the good things it does, like making people overcome their hate and so on; and that’s how we come to the question of balance, that the New Atheists maintain is very bad.

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Yair March 16, 2010 at 4:08 am

An interesting article series on religious changes, incidentally (also including some Catholic-conversion data, Briang):

http://www.internetmonk.com/archive/michael-bell-taking-another-look-at-the-no-religion-data

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lukeprog March 16, 2010 at 4:36 am

Briang,

He offers evidence and arguments throughout the book, though they are not presented in such clarity as contemporary authors, of course. You’ll get a glimpse of his evidence in later posts.

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Hermes March 16, 2010 at 5:08 am

There are true believers who in despiration want to be good but were told that they are not.

There are cynics who look upon the believers as fools to be manipulated or just pitied. While they are not taken in, they go along with the sham.

There are are manipulators who see the passivity of the two other groups as allies. One to be pulled along and the other will simply go along.

Yet, most people I would say aren’t taken in nor are they cynics. They take the others at their word for the most part, or even when they question the motives of the manipulators they see that there must be benefits as there are so many earnest true believers. This group is the one Dan Dennett identified as people who aren’t true believers but they have a ‘belief in belief’.

As an example of how large this group actually is, ask someone if they would follow the Bible 100% of the time — as it is printed with no exceptions — for a week if you gave them a vacation and spending money for a month as a reward. Would they do it for a year for 3 years of salary? How about a decade for 50 years? If the answer is yes, then why aren’t they following the Bible 100% of the time?

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Charles March 16, 2010 at 6:20 am

Briang: I’m not really sure if most atheists are ex-catholics.It hasn’t been my observation.Most of the vocal ex-Christians I’ve found tend to be from the fundamentalist / evangelical / “bible Christian” variety. If I had to guess  

No need to guess. We have data.

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Hemes March 16, 2010 at 6:30 am

Hermes: As an example of how large this group actually is, ask someone if they would follow the Bible 100% of the time — as it is printed with no exceptions — for a week if you gave them a vacation and spending money for a month as a reward. Would they do it for a year for 3 years of salary? How about a decade for 50 years? If the answer is yes, then why aren’t they following the Bible 100% of the time?

Source of the above idea (at about the 2:30 mark): The Problem of Faith

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Brian G March 16, 2010 at 7:26 am

Yair, Charles

Thanks, for the data. I gave it a look and it seems that more Catholics are becoming non-religious than evangelicals. But I didn’t see anything that said which group became atheists the most. So the data is compatible with my guess, but not really confirming my guess.

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Bill Snedden March 16, 2010 at 8:26 am

@Sarah Schoonmaker: “I speculate that this is because Catholicism endorses dead religion/legalism over critical thinking (i.e. engaging the scripture and utilizing reason, theology, and philosophy), so of course people in the Catholic or other anti-intellectual religions abandon their views if they decide to critically think.”

Rubbish. Catholicism anti-intellectual? Ever heard of St. Augustine? Thomas Acquinas? Thomas More? William of Ockham? Chesterton, Newman, Kreeft, Budziszewski, Haldane, Macintyre, THE JESUITS? For pity’s sake, you’d be hard pressed to find a religious tradition with stronger intellectual credentials than Roman Catholicism.

In reality, it’s because of the strong intellectual tradition in Catholicism that many former Catholics (such as myself) become non-believers. One of the pillars of Catholic theological practice is that reason SUPPORTS faith; JP2 issued an encyclical on this very subject: “Fides et Ratio”. Unfortunately, many of us find that in reality this just isn’t the case but it’s certainly not true at all that Catholic practice downplays or neglects critical thinking or “engaging the scripture and utilizing reason, theology, and philosophy”. Only someone woefully ignorant of Catholicism or religious history could possibly make such a statement.

In the real world, it was Martin Luther who said, “Reason is the devil’s greatest whore” and it was Protestants who championed the idea of “sola scriptura” and the negation of critical examination and reflection on the Bible. “Fundamentalism” is an wholly Protestant aberration and there’s no doctrine more repugnant to reason than bibliolatry. This is certainly not meant to imply that Protestants qua Protestants reject reason or critical thinking, but merely to demonstrate that it’s certainly not the Catholic domain.

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Sarah Schoonmaker March 16, 2010 at 8:40 am

@ Bill,

Yes, I know of all the names you have mentioned. I did not claim that ALL Catholics are anti-intellectual. However, I am referring to my experience with many Catholic churches (certainly, not all) that do not teach its members to critically think, engage with Scripture, and engage in community with fellow believers. Instead, church members are fostered into a legalistic, unquestioning faith. Of course, there may be some Catholic churches that are an exception to the norm, but the more atheist’s I meet, the more I observe that they reject a straw God of legalism, fideism, and anti-intellectualism that yes, comes from a variety of traditions (Catholic, evangelical/fundy, Mormon, JW’s, ect….).

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Hermes March 16, 2010 at 8:46 am

The most interesting part of the chart to me isn’t the ‘some group’ to ‘none’, it’s that the Black Protestant group has only increases — pulling from other groups — but no defectors to other groups.

I make the above comments after a very cursory review of the full study. Corrections appreciated…

Notes on the full Pew study: The reason why the ‘none’ group increasing isn’t as interesting is that the Pew study methodology discounted or removed people who started with no theisms or religion.

By analogy with smokers, the study is mostly about cigar smokers. It answers the question of who is changing to a different brands of cigars or has no dedication to a specific brand (including ones who have quit), not people who haven’t started to smoke let alone people who smoke non-cigar tobacco products such as cigarettes or pipe tobacco.

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Bill Snedden March 16, 2010 at 11:12 am

Sarah Schoonmaker: @ Bill,Yes, I know of all the names you have mentioned. I did not claim that ALL Catholics are anti-intellectual. However, I am referring to my experience with many Catholic churches (certainly, not all) that do not teach its members to critically think, engage with Scripture, and engage in community with fellow believers. Instead, church members are fostered into a legalistic, unquestioning faith. Of course, there may be some Catholic churches that are an exception to the norm, but the more atheist’s I meet, the more I observe that they reject a straw God of legalism, fideism, and anti-intellectualism that yes, comes from a variety of traditions (Catholic, evangelical/fundy, Mormon, JW’s, ect….).  

Umm…your words: “Catholicism endorses dead religion/legalism over critical thinking…” This appears to be an indictment of Catholicism qua Catholicism, not “some” Catholics. You may not have meant to generalize, but that’s the clear meaning of what you wrote.

And to what extant can you really label this “legalistic, fideistic, anti-intellectual” god a “straw-god” if, in fact, it is promulgated by a variety of traditions. Especially as the traditions you note (Catholics, evangelical/fundy, Mormons, JW) comprise something around 60-70% of Christendom (worldwide, Catholics outnumber Protestants by almost 2:1. Not to mention that Mormons & JW are not, technically speaking, Christians at all)? If you reject the “legalistic, fideistic, anti-intellectual” god that is embraced by the majority of Christians worldwide, you may have more in common with atheists than you think.

In point of fact, most atheists in my experience not only reject this “straw-god”, they also “reject” (more accurately, fail to accept) the apophatic, ground-of-being, maximally-great, content-free god of theism simpliciter. This is not due to a lack of critical thinking skills, but rather the application of them. On this, reasonable people can certainly disagree (i.e., I believe theism to be a rational, albeit incorrect, position). I must say, however, that the idea that critical thinking can lead one to Christian theism is simply absurd. No amount of critical thinking leads one to the doctrines of the Trinity, Homoousion, or Original Sin. All are plainly repugnant to reason.

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Sarah Schoonmaker March 16, 2010 at 12:07 pm

Bill:

The last thing I’m going to say about Catholicism, is that a majority of those in this tradition adopt legalism/anti-intellecutalism.

Just because I reject the legalistic/anti-intellectual god proposed by many denominations does not mean that Christianity is false or “absurd.”

Original sin is not a requirement to be a Christian. There are various views on this within Christianity and remains debatable. Before one can begin to discuss doctrines, they need to address the arguments for the reliability of the Gospels and whether Jesus truly lived, died, and rose again. The following sources (among a myriad of others) offer strong evidence for Gospel reliability and the absurdity of naturalism:
For Gospel reliability see:
http://www.str.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=6068
And for a good objection to naturalism, see: http://www.garyhabermas.com/articles/Bibliotheca-Sacra/habermas_BtS_paradigm-shift.htm
http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2009/12/rosenberg-on-naturalism.html

Cheers!

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eheffa March 16, 2010 at 12:45 pm

Sarah,

The site you reference for reliability of the Gospels is an apologetic site attempting to make the case that so many early copies makes for reliable testimony. This is, of course, logical rubbish. By this rationale, having multiple early copies of the Book of Mormon is also a testament to its veracity.

The inherent difficulties of the Gospels run much more deeply and have mucin more to do with their authorship and origins than their transmission. Can you or anyone tell us who actually wrote the four canonized Gospels? Can anyone say when they were written when the first references to their existence only start to appear in the mid 2nd century CE?

These apologists want us to accept the notion that the most pivotal event in all history was documented by anonymous and contradictory authors at an unknown time & distance away from the primary event itself. Despite this suspiciously flawed documentation, we are to understand that the uber-God of the entire Cosmos, engineered & inspired the entire process to unfold exactly as he wished it. Anyone with a slight bit of skepticism ( knowing full well that other men of old had manufactured religions in the name of God), will have to conclude that this pathetically suspect documentation must be a purely man-made fiction. The God of the gospels will nevertheless be happy to condemn any truth-seeking individuals to an unimaginable horror of eternal fire and torture for holding out for a less man-made ‘truth’.

Are the Gospels reliable? Only if you keep your head in the sand.

Sorry, but carefully preserved pious fictions are still only fictions.

-evan

Sorry if there many typos. Typing on my iPhone is risky. ;-)

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Bill Snedden March 16, 2010 at 1:55 pm

Sarah Schoonmaker: Bill:The last thing I’m going to say about Catholicism, is that a majority of those in this tradition adopt legalism/anti-intellecutalism.

With respect Sarah, you don’t have any idea what you’re talking about. You appear to be completely ignorant of Catholicism AND church history and yet that doesn’t stop you from pontificating (see what I did there?) on its “flaws”. If you’re really interested, there are hundreds of good books on church history to be found…

Just because I reject the legalistic/anti-intellectual god proposed by many denominations does not mean that Christianity is false or “absurd.”

Um…I never said nor intimated that it did. I said that critical thinking cannot lead to Christian theism as several of its core doctrines are absurd and “repugnant to reason.” Not the same thing AT ALL.

Original sin is not a requirement to be a Christian. There are various views on this within Christianity and remains debatable.

I’m sorry, but this is simply incorrect. The alleged sacrifice of Christ makes absolutely no sense without some kind of “fall” or absenting from grace. That’s what “original sin” is. There’s certainly debate about the details, but there’s absolutely no debate whatsoever in orthodox Christianity about its reality. If you don’t accept original sin, you are heterodox at best.

But even should I grant your point (there’s certainly no specific mention of OS in any of the creeds), you’ve not dealt with Homoousion or the Trinity. Both are essential orthodox doctrines and both are logically incoherent.

Before one can begin to discuss doctrines, they need to address the arguments for the reliability of the Gospels and whether Jesus truly lived, died, and rose again. The following sources (among a myriad of others) offer strong evidence for Gospel reliability and the absurdity of naturalism:

I’m sorry, but this is also incorrect. Anyone can profess to believe that Jesus lived, died and rose again. That doesn’t make him a Christian. Try googling “heresy” sometime. For pity’s sake, LUCIFER knows the Gospels to be true. Does that make HIM a Christian? Christianity is DEFINED by doctrines. Those doctrines are, allegedly, set forth in Scripture, but accepting the reliability of Scripture does not, ipso facto render one a Christian. This isn’t even theology or religion anymore, it’s simple logic. If Christianity is to be a particular something, as opposed to anything else, it must have characteristics that allow it to be distinguished from those “somethings else”. In terms of religion, such characteristics are known as “doctrines”.

For Gospel reliability see:
http://www.str.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=6068
And for a good objection to naturalism, see: http://www.garyhabermas.com/articles/Bibliotheca-Sacra/habermas_BtS_paradigm-shift.htm
http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2009/12/rosenberg-on-naturalism.htmlCheers!  

I’ve actually had a couple of brief interactions with Greg Koukl…I’ve found him to be a very pleasant, intelligent, and articulate man, but that doesn’t make him right. The conclusions he outlines in that article are contrary to decades of serious critical scholarship. Besides which, Koukl is, and doesn’t claim to be anything but, an apologist. Not at all the expertise required to vett an historical document.

Habermas at least has the credentials to address the topic of “Naturalism”, but unfortunately he fails to define it and opens his article arguing against empiricism. Not the same thing at all. The rest of the article isn’t any better; he even raises NDE’s as something for which Naturalism allegedly cannot account (research into NDE’s in the early 2000′s provides strong support for a thoroughly Naturalistic account of their existence). Of course, he wrote this article in 1989 so he wouldn’t have been aware of that. It’s probably also why he also wrote that “A number of factors suggest that the influence of naturalism may be declining.” BZZZT! Still here and stronger than ever over twenty years later, but thanks for playing Dr. Habermas…

Finally, it’s ironic that you’d link to an article by Edward Feser as, according to you, he’s likely to be part of the anti-intellectual legalistic tradition (he’s Catholic). But as with Koukl, Feser is simply wrong (as he generally is; I’m not a fan). The subject of his failed analysis is an article by Alex Rosenberg, that has had numerous responses including several in the comments to the article (one by Richard Carrier) and one by the author of this blog, here.

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Sarah Schoonmaker March 16, 2010 at 4:48 pm

Bill and Evan,

First, Bill:

Nice ad hominems. You offer no argument against Christianity and no argument in favor of naturalism. Moreover, you offer mere opinion and sentiment about Koukl’s and Feser’s character and then merely talk about Habermas’ credentials. This is all irrelevant to the fact of whether the Gospels are reliable or whether Christ did live, die, and rise again.

I never said I denied a fall, but the concept of inherited sin from the common ancestor is a disputable doctrine. Do some research and you will find that not all Christians within the fields of theological and biblical studies adhere to original sin.

I have read Richard Carrier’s work and find metaphysical naturalism to be self-refuting. Naturalists are committed to believing only what can be justified via sense experience. But the logical positivist’s claim itself cannot be tested by sense experience.

Evan:

You assume that the Gospels are contradictory, but in fact they are not about the central message of Christ: that He lived, died, and rose again. Of course four different people will tell a story slightly differently, but the main event is in tact. Furthermore, John and Matthew were eyewitnesses and Luke, while not an eye-witness wrote his gospel after gathering the best sources of information within his reach (Luke 1:1-4). Even if you want to deny that we cannot know who the authors were, this is still not problematic. This is because whoever the authors were, suffered and died for writing and living out what they witnessed hardly points to fabrication and mythology.

You both may enjoy reading winteryknight.wordpress.com.

Peace,
Sarah

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eheffa March 16, 2010 at 6:13 pm

Sorry Sarah,

There is absolutely no evidence that the authors of the Gospels were eyewitnesses of anything they wrote about. Nor is there any evidence that they were perseciuted for their stories. I used to repeat these convenient little fictions myself until I had the courage to look into these assertions for myself & withou hiding behind the apologists’s fabrications.

Do some real homework for yourself & see if these ideas have any veracity. It is quite a shock to find your favorite apologetic defenses are groundless and the Lee Strobels and Josh McDowell’s are deluded at best and not above the occasional fib or outright fabrication.

If you care about truth over loyalty to some sort of holy dogma, you owe it to yourself to read a little more widely for a better view of what we can really know.

Cheers & good luck in your search for truth.
-evan

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Hermes March 16, 2010 at 6:34 pm

Sarah Schoonmaker: John and Matthew were eyewitnesses

Nope.

Sarah Schoonmaker:
This is because whoever the authors were, suffered and died for writing and living out what they witnessed hardly points to fabrication and mythology.

Also, nope. On multiple levels.

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drj March 16, 2010 at 7:07 pm

One can at least respect Catholics a little bit since they have the intellectual sense not go for literalism, inerrancy, and generally accept evolution (for the most part). Their view of the natural world as revealed truth, along with scripture, is quite refreshing when compared with the fundamentalist “intellectual” tradition, which leads its adherents to believe, what in regards to intellectualism, can only be called obscenity. To deny facts about the natural world, which are not deniable by any feat of logic or reason, is not any kind of tradition befitting of the term “intellectual”. I appreciate the Catholic for the fact that we can both stand back, equally aghast at the plague of fundamentalism.

Heck, any time one sees a prominent and respected religious scientist, one can almost be certain he will turn out to be a Catholic.

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Bill Snedden March 16, 2010 at 7:33 pm

Sarah Schoonmaker: Bill and Evan,First, Bill:
Nice ad hominems. You offer no argument against Christianity and no argument in favor of naturalism. Moreover, you offer mere opinion and sentiment about Koukl’s and Feser’s character and then merely talk about Habermas’ credentials. This is all irrelevant to the fact of whether the Gospels are reliable or whether Christ did live, die, and rise again.

An ad homimen a logical fallacy where an unrelated personal defect is used in an attempt to deflect consideration from an actual argument. Something like, “Koukl says that the gospels are reliable, but he’s ugly and he smells funny, so don’t believe him!”. Now I’ve re-read my former posts a couple of times, but I’m unable to note a single instance where I did anything like that. I said nothing whatever negative about Koukl or Habermas and about Feser I merely indicated that I was not a fan. At no time did I impugn or attempt to impugn their characters nor did I attempt to use any kind of character flaw or attack as a means to distract from an argument. You appear to be as well-versed in logical fallacies as you are in church history and Catholicism.

At any rate, It’s not my intention to make any arguments in favor of Naturalism; that’s a much larger discussion. You pointed me to some resources and I simply responded that I found them lacking. I don’t NEED to articulate why as I have no desire to argue in favor of Naturalism (here or with you, at any rate). I’m also not making any arguments against Christianity as such; I have made one argument against the rationality of Christian doctrine, but that’s a different thing.

I never said I denied a fall, but the concept of inherited sin from the common ancestor is a disputable doctrine. Do some research and you will find that not all Christians within the fields of theological and biblical studies adhere to original sin.

As I said before, let’s assume arguendo that I grant your objection. You’ve still not addressed the doctrines of the Trinity or Homoousion, both of which are essential to Christianity and both of which are logically incoherent (they both violate the law of non-contradiction). Such things cannot be rationally affirmed.

I have read Richard Carrier’s work and find metaphysical naturalism to be self-refuting. Naturalists are committed to believing only what can be justified via sense experience. But the logical positivist’s claim itself cannot be tested by sense experience.

And now we can add “Naturalism” to the growing list of things about which you appear to have little knowledge yet insist on deprecating. The contours of Naturalism are not co-terminous with empiricism. I know of NO Naturalists who are committed to pure empiricism. Likewise, I know of NO modern Naturalists who are logical positivists. Sounds like you’ve been reading too many straw-man attacks by apologists who fear that which they fail to understand.

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Hermes March 16, 2010 at 8:18 pm

drj: One can at least respect Catholics a little bit since they have the intellectual sense not go for literalism, inerrancy, and generally accept evolution (for the most part).

On the first part, tactically, yes. I think the Catholics as a group were right not to look too closely at the actual text or to get into the muck of mythology. The Protestants, having decided to actually read the text and interpret it themselves rapidly demonstrated the wisdom of ignorance promoted by Catholicism; they fragmented into dozens then hundreds then thousands of sects and denominations.

As for accepting evolution, that is a variable situation depending on who has Peter’s seat as Pope. Currently, the Catholic leader is accepting of evolution as his predecessor was. That may not continue and in either case is based on authoritarianism and not knowledge. Should all Catholics believe something? That is dictated, not settled in a democratic process.

Who to respect? I can respect neither, though I agree that currently the Catholics — even with a pantheon of saints — look less loony and more stable. Unfortunately, that’s not a complement to anyone except for those who are ignorant of what nonsense actually is at the core of what they are dictated to believe but probably give little actual thought to. My brother-in-law (Catholic) while a skilled lawyer is easily outflanked by me if the issue of religion comes up. (Unlike the net, I am kind and quite willing to allow him to exit the conversation without me requiring an admission from him that he was in error.)

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