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Well said. What's interesting and amazing is that this is it. This is the best that the religionists have. Meanwhile as a species we're able to clone animals, land robots on other planets, we're approaching the ability to regrow limbs, we're wiping out plagues and feeding the masses with some pretty fucking great science. And there's this one corner of the world where they're still messing about with the dumbest excuses for sit-back-in-your-easy-chair, spark-up-a-doob and blow-your-own-mind napkin-back philosophy.

Think about this. This is the best shit they've got. That's it. You and me and a bunch of nobodies on the internet can fucking PoWn the best theologians on the planet in a game of spot the logical fallacy while they shuffle the shells.


Hmm. Only times I ever have doubts is usually in connection with abject fear. Something along the lines of, "Holy shit, if these crazy people are right, we are all screwed!"

Somehow, I don't think that is the "uncertainty" they want me to be having.. lol

((Hmm. And now the page is even more broken and the post/preview buttons don't work in Firfox at all... Typepad is batting a thousands here... lol))

absent sway

I enjoyed that debate on FA yesterday; it helps to see arguments side-by-side when I'm not particularly used to participating in them (as in, I'm used to being spoon-fed apologetics), so thanks for continuing to address arguments that you're already familiar with. Everything sounds less threatening when I'm not completely invested in one outcome from the beginning. I don't remember if Lee will be posting more or not but I'm curious to see what's next if he does.

P.S. So nice to meet you :)


Nice post. I kind of expected there to be more advanced arguments here too, when I saw the title. "Oooh, big guns! These must be some really in-depth theories!" And then... not. I still have this vague, lingering respect from my childhood for theologians and Jesuits and the like; I always thought of them as better and smarter than most religious folk. But now that's kind of disappearing, if this is the best they can come up with.


I'm sitting here rolling a die ten times, and it came up with the sequence 4632236245. The odds against that sequence are over 60 billion to one.

Greta, I think that should be 60 MILLION to one. This undermines your entire article. Now I have to start believing in God. DAMN!

will willis

I too expected a different class of arguments from the 'big guns' ... until I thought about it a bit. Of course the big guns have the same arguments that the foot soldiers do. If you ask an average atheist blogger (no slight intended, Greta , you are a cut above average) a question, and then asked Christopher Hitchens (substitute your favorite atheist big gun here) the same question, would you not expect similar answers? The blogger reads Hitchens. Hitchens (I would guess) has an rss reader. Both have read Darwin (or at least the cliff's notes). Both have spent agonizing hours defending Einstein's holy dice to their counterparts in the theist realm. We all know the same arguments. We've all fought the same arguments. That's all there is. Any modifications are merely personality. To expect the theists to have some super-duper argument only accessible to the big guns is kind of silly.
Thank you, Greta. You have done a fine job of refuting the best and brightest that god has to offer.



Your response to Habermas was that he assumes what he's trying to approve: that the New Testament gives an accurate account of the life of Jesus.

But Gary does not rely at all on the inerrancy of scripture or the general reliability of the gospels. Instead, he relies only on "facts" that are well-supported by the specific evidence available to us, not on the idea that the gospels are generally reliable.

You add that "Contrary to [Gary's] assertion, these are questions about which there are serious scholarly doubts."

Not really. You merely assert this, but Habermas has actually BACKED UP his assertion by counting what every scholar he could find has written about these "facts" - in three languages and since 1975. These "facts" really ARE defended by the vast majority of scholars.

Everything else, I basically agree with.

By the way, I recently had a chance to use your "natural explanations have always replaced supernatural ones" argument against Mike Licona in a debate we had on the resurrection. Thanks for that.


Great post!

When I was in my teens and early 20s, I was interested in New Age and Occult stuff and so wanted many such things (that I thought sounded really cool back then) to be true!

Now, I realized rather soon that the usual stuff, reading palms and tarot card and psychics on TV and such was not the real thing. As soon as I started to study it closer I saw how it worked and that there was perfectly natural explanations for what seemed to be supernatural.

So I became more and more interested in reading things that debunked all this stuff, but back then I did it for the reason of "weeding out the weed" and get to the "real thing". I fell for the reasoning that there must be something more substantial and real behind all this. It simply couldn't just be only this simple stuff, I thought. But of course I eventually learned that there WASN'T anything more than that, and that it WAS just that silly stuff.

I am still constantly amazed at how much noise is made by so little. Religion is the same as all the other woo.

It really isn't more than this!


"To expect the theists to have some super-duper argument only accessible to the big guns is kind of silly."

I agree, but... if I understood it right, it isn't actually Greta who expects this, it's the believers who criticises her, who claim that the theologians have super duper arguments that the rest of the believers don't readily have access to, and demand that she studies them. She did and found them the same as the rest.

Jeffrey Smith

The sort of "experts" Strobel uses are out of touch with the latest scientific knowledge because they're not even remotely "big guns" of theology. Run of the mill Evangelicals would be a better description. Dealing with a well-trained Calvinist or a Jesuit-trained Catholic theologian would be closer to the mark. More fun, too. Blowing their arguments out of the water is still quite possible, but, unlike Strobel's sort, you actually have to work at it.


Great stuff. I'm also at the point where I'm no longer seeing anything new from the believers. I was at a debate at the U of Minnesota with Dan Barker and Dinesh D'Sousa. I was not impressed with D'Sousa.

The argument I'm seeing more of is the "you atheists are not using the "right" version of god or Christianity. You are picking on your straw man version." I just read Michael Novak's "No One Sees God" and that was pretty much his argument.

Nice to know that we can handle the "best" that they have with half our brains pondering a nice shag.


Paul Crowley

And the endless search for the real "hard arguments" continue. I tell you, it's like looking for a copy of the rules of Mornington Crescent. Why do I so often here "Atheists don't answer the hard arguments" and so rarely hear "Atheists won't answer the hard arguments, such as those presented here at the end of this hyperlink"?

In my experience, the very hardest arguments look like this: "Here is a bunch of really quite hard problems in philosophy. Tricky, huh? Now here's a big stream of intellectual gobbledigook that looks a lot like a self-referential game of twister. Confused? Well, God!" And people think "I don't fully understand that, but it sure sounds good - clearly only *very clever* people can see the arguments for God!"


What do you think of the idea that civilization itself becomes the thing which we metaphorically refer to as "god" or divinity? This leads to the idea that some ET civilizations could have accomplished this already; having reached the omega point as master or masters of time and space they could: (a) avoid the end of the universe (time travel) and (b) maximize the influence of this technological & ontological apex to manipulate or extend life and "fine-tune" the universe in ways comparable to gods, disinterested simulators, or diabolical puppet masters.

If that is the case, then our traditional mythologies, as primitive and counter-progressive as they can be, might have more metaphorical import and relevance to humanity than just the psychological, poetical, and cultural value that also gets lost in all of this stress on historicity and truth (any absolute form of which seems to require naive realism anyway).


You know, it occurs to me that God of the Gaps could really do with a math analogy to drive the point home.

Because essentially, it boils down to this:

Question: What's 7345 times 5467?

Analogical Atheist: I don't know; I can't do that in my head.

Analogical Fundamentalist: It's four! Look, it's right here in this book: 7345 X 5467 = 4.

AA: No it can't be four, the numbers are both larger than four and they're being multiplied.

AF: Do you know the answer?

AA: No, but-

AF: Then the answer could be four, couldn't it?

AA: No.

AF: Four.

Even if AF chooses an answer not as patently ridiculous as 4--say, 40 million and 3--the point is made pretty well. The fact that you have and answer doesn't say a damn thing about whether or not the answer is right, and someone would be about as foolish saying 40,000,003 was right as they would be saying four was right, even 40,000,003 is actually pretty close, and sounds good. The fact of the matter is, you're still going to be putting the one's digit of 5X7 in the one's place of the answer, which means, since 40,000,003 doesn't end in 5, it is just as demonstrably wrong as four. And even that not being the case, it's easy to see why it would be silly to assume that just because you have an answer, your answer must be the correct answer.

the chaplain

Good post. These are typical of the theologians I read when I was trying to hold on to my Christian belief. I couldn't do it. This really is the best stuff they have to offer. It's pathetic.

Felicia Gilljam

Greta, I posted my own answers to these questions on my own blog - I started to write them a couple of days ago and when I saw you'd done the same I quickly finished this morning. So now I came back here to check what you'd written, and guess what? Our answers are pretty much identical. Right down to the puddle analogy! I'm a little more curt, as I actually don't try to explain abiogenesis since I don't see how it's got anything to do with god... but otherwise we've written pretty much the same post twice. I'm pretty happy about that, personally, seeing as how I enjoy your blog. ;)

The only thing we don't agree on is the cheating question about doubt. I have so far never doubted that religion's a load of crazy. :)


The fundamental purposes of theology are to provide a baseline for people who need to be told what to believe and to make the harshness, foolishness, illogic and contradictions of organized religion seem at least superficially reasonable, so that the flock can feel comfortable believing it. As long as someone scholarly sounding, with letters after their name, has said it’s OK, that’s enough for most people.

What is glossed over in all the glorification of theology and the criticism of anti-theists for failing to study it deeply, is that theologians are incapable of bringing their inquiries in line with any sort of objective truth. Theology may provide a forum for debating issues, and perhaps even for declaring them decided within the framework of a particular doctrinal community, but it fails utterly as a source of anything but totally subjective understanding.

Next time a theologian or a fawner over theology rears their illogical head and upbraids atheists, secularists and rationalists for their lack of theological understanding, ask them a few hard questions: If theology is a field of inquiry, what exactly does it inquire into, and has the understanding of whatever that is increased steadily over time? What have theologians learned in almost 2000 years? What do human beings understand as a result of theological inquiries that we did not understand 50 or 100 or 200 years ago? What can we do now because of theology that we couldn’t do in the 19th or 18th centuries? What are theologians more certain of now than they used to be?



The "you atheists are not using the "right" version of god or Christianity. You are picking on your straw man version." argument seems to be just an alternate version of "God of the gaps" that goes something like: "I'm going to morph my version of god into whatever form will make his purported actions immune from criticism and his existence immune from rational examination, whether it actually makes any sense or not."

Of course as many people (including Greta) have pointed out, these people have no more claim to the "right" version of Christianity than anyone else, and this argument only emphasizes that "god" in whatever form is no more than a human invention, with no existence outside the minds of believers.


I agree with.. its the same arguments. The only real difference is the use of bigger words.

Robert Madewell

I contend that the theologians are the ones who came up with the nutty arguments. The average Joes and Janes are just plagiarizing the big guns. This has been my experience. I have recieved many a letter that has turned out to be copied and pasted from an apologetic website word for word with no credit given.

Cannonball Jones

Great response to the article. The original gave me a good laugh when I first read it and could not believe the weakness of the arguments presented. Then I passed it around work and was surprised to have some people come back to me and say "Well, person X makes a good point doesn't he?".

Well that was a red rag to a bull and livened up an otherwise dull afternoon. The main point of contention was the idea of life coming from nothing, etc - one that I'd spent a lot of time arguing in the past so had no trouble explaining and managed to convince every colleague who brought it up. Score.

The mention of doubt was trickier for some reason though. I repeated time and time again that doubt was absolutely central to a rational, skeptical mindset and that it was not something to be shied away from. This didn't seem to sink in quite as well and I'm sure the reason for this is rooted in the utter lack of classes teaching anything resembling critical thinking in the Scottish educational system.

For all that it was a fun discussion though, will have to post some of the resulting emails to my blog at some point if my co-workers don't mind.


After seeing the quality of the arguments used by Strobel in most of his books, I can't say I'm shocked that his best apologetics are no different from the run-of-the-mill stuff most of us encounter every week. His usual technique is to cherry-pick an expert whom he knows already holds the beliefs he agrees with, ask them leading questions, and then accept their answer without a qualm, even when it contains obvious logical fallacies or other weaknesses. Great stuff, when you're rallying the faithful. Not so effective when you're dealing with a knowledgeable nonbeliever.

But as Greta said, the real virtue of this Q&A is that we can now solidly lay to rest the claim that atheists avoid dealing with the best that modern apologetics has to offer. (That claim won't cease, of course - but we now have a strong counterargument the next time we hear it made.)


You're my hero.


If these guys are the theos' "big guns" and these questions are meant to be armour-piercing atheist-stumpers, well ... please excuse me while I put my kevlar jacket back in my wardrobe.

These questions (and their subsequent destruction by Greta and every other atheist on the web) are glaring proof of what many atheists have thought for a long time: theologians & the religionists who see their word as gospel have absolutely no idea how to construct an argument without employing presuppositionalism, circular logic, appeals to authority, Gap-God - basically, they can not make their case without tiresome cliche and trite garbage.

Christians: D-

Must try harder!


It really doesn't matter how many holes we atheists poke through these tired old arguments...

Lee Strobel and company will claim victory to their followers.

Greta Christina
Greta, I think that should be 60 MILLION to one.

You're right, placebo. I misread my calculator, Fixed now. Like Ted Haggard, I hope my human flaws haven't led you astray from the path of righteousness.

Your response to Habermas was that he assumes what he's trying to approve: that the New Testament gives an accurate account of the life of Jesus.

But Gary does not rely at all on the inerrancy of scripture or the general reliability of the gospels. Instead, he relies only on "facts" that are well-supported by the specific evidence available to us, not on the idea that the gospels are generally reliable.

You add that "Contrary to [Gary's] assertion, these are questions about which there are serious scholarly doubts."

Not really. You merely assert this, but Habermas has actually BACKED UP his assertion by counting what every scholar he could find has written about these "facts" - in three languages and since 1975. These "facts" really ARE defended by the vast majority of scholars.

Actually, Luke, Gary and I did the same thing: we said "Historians say (X)" without providing any specific citation for that assertion. I will do so now.

And as Ebonmuse pointed out in his piece on this: "most of the scholars who study the historicity of Jesus are Christians, and are unlikely to produce conclusions that deviate from orthodoxy, even if - as in this case - those conclusions are supported by no evidence outside the biblical record itself." In other words: Strobel's historians have no cred. His "facts" are nowhere near as well- supported as he claims.

I agree with the commenters who say that the Joe and Jane Theist probably get their arguments from the theologians, not the other way around. Either way, it doesn't matter. The point is that this whole "you're arguing against the worst arguments for religion, not the best" trope doesn't hold water. They're the same arguments. The good ones are just worded somewhat better.

The sort of "experts" Strobel uses are out of touch with the latest scientific knowledge because they're not even remotely "big guns" of theology. Run of the mill Evangelicals would be a better description. Dealing with a well-trained Calvinist or a Jesuit-trained Catholic theologian would be closer to the mark.

The problem with that argument, Jeffrey, is infinite regress. Like I said in my piece Hypocrisy and the "Modern Theology" Argument: No matter how many arguments for God you reject, they always want you to read one more. "Sure, you've read Aquinas... but have you read C.S. Lewis?" "Sure, you've countered the evangelicals... but have you countered the Jesuits?" We're apparently not supposed to stop considering theism until we accept it.

I keep coming to the same conclusion: Modern theology really isn't an argument for why the God hypothesis is the best one. It's a rationalization for why it's okay to accept the God hypothesis, for those who already do.

Blake Stacey

Ah, the "empty tomb" argument, always a classic. Using one story in the Bible to "prove" another.

Come again?

I first encountered Habermas via the thorough fisking given to him in Hector Avalos's The End of Biblical Studies (2007), which I recommend as a thought-provoking albeit sometimes intimidatingly technical book (particularly in the chapter on archaeology).


Wow... I haven't been reading Hemant lately.

Was that really the best they could do?

Even I have the knowledge ready to take those apart pretty well.

You know, I think this is what theism does to people - it makes the brain so uncritical of god-apologetics that you can no longer perceive a good or bad argument at all (in connection with your particular brand of theism) -- you can't afford to let your brain engage properly there (because that would threaten the sweet-sweet god-meme), so it simply doesn't.

Your critical faculties there become quite disengaged.

I find that kinda spooky.


my basic reaction is that religionists only ever use logic for a few specific tactical purposes -- because they want to reach out to us, because they want to convert us, because they want to justify jihad against us, whatever.

they do not expect to deal seriously with any counterarguments, because these only confirm that their logic has not fulfilled its intended purpose. they will simply try some other tactic to achieve the original end.

it's essential to grasp that religionists don't care about using logic seriously because logic does not motivate their faith or their community participation. they are entirely motivated by *feelings* about the world, starting with the deep feeling of validation that comes from accepting something they've been told since childhood that also answers many of their anxieties and personal inadequacies.

J. J. Ramsey

efrique: "You know, I think this is what theism does to people - it makes the brain so uncritical of god-apologetics that you can no longer perceive a good or bad argument at all (in connection with your particular brand of theism) -- you can't afford to let your brain engage properly there (because that would threaten the sweet-sweet god-meme), so it simply doesn't."

Careful here. That's less of an issue with theism itself than it is with human propensities for rationalization and confirmation bias. It's important to remember that, lest we get so focused on the supposed intellectual faults on the other side that we forget to examine ourselves for the same faults.

Andrew @ EC

If you'll forgive a plug to my blog, I (inadvertently) discussed Habermas's question in some depth here, although I think I did less in 2500 words than you did in 250.

Chris Riser

Hey, Greta. I'm a theist, but I promise, I'm not a pissy one and I won't be rude. I truly enjoy genuine inquiry into the verities of existence.

Though admittedly still emergent, the idea that Jesus is purely myth doesn't hold up very well by standards of historiography of the classical period. Your citation of the "Ebon Musings" fails repeatedly to take this into account. The earliest known references to other classical figures are much more distant from the lives of their subjects than the material suorrunding Jesus. The mentions of Jesus in such close proximity to the alleged period of his life are unparalleled in antiquity. I do not know of a single scholar who would disagree with that statement.

Regardless of the accuracy of details in Paul's writings, the proximity of his earliest letters (as little as 20 years) to the life of Jesus, means that there would be many, many individuals alive at the time of Jesus who could disprove the major natural facts Paul asserts: Jesus lived, and he was killed by authorities in Israel. That would be like everyone in your hometown saying, let's say 10 years from now, that you had a sibling who died at 30, but who never actually existed. It would be easily disputed by those who knew your family and lived in your neighborhood.

It also must be taken into account that Jesus is only "important" (as the "Ebon Musings" article states), in retrospect. He was not wealthy, he was not the ruler of an empire like Alexander, and he died (according to what we do have) as a common theif. Thus it is quite conceivable that he could be overlooked as inconsequential by contemporary historians.

It is only after his supposed following continues to spread throughout the empire that mention becomes necessary. Do we find mentions of Paul or the other apostles in Pliny the Elder? Yet surely their existence and influence is much less the subject of debate, miracles aside.

While I don't pretend to persuade you to believe what I believe, I hope you consider refining your argument in light of the above.


Greta Christina

Chris: First, I'm not buying the "Jesus was only important in retrospect" argument. If the events described in the Gospels actually took place as described -- not even the miracles, but just the massive following -- he would have been a fairly important figure at the time.

Second: Even if I accept that there was a real historical figure named Jesus who called himself the messiah and had something of a following (which I acknowledge is certainly possible): What does that prove? There were lots of wannabe Messiahs running around at that time. Even if one of them was named Jesus, how does that prove that he was the Son of God, performed miracles, rose from the dead, etc.?

I think there are basically three possibilities we're looking at (with other possibilities in the spaces between them):

1) There was no historical Jesus -- he is an entirely mythical figure, patched together from an assortment of real people and myths.

2) There was a historical Jesus, but the Gospels don't describe his life and actions accurately, and there's a lot of made-up stuff in them.

3) There was a historical Jesus, and the Gospels are a completely (or mostly) accurate description of his life and actions.

I think 1 is most likely, and is at least plausible and worth considering. I think 2 is also plausible.

But my main point is this: We can't assume that 3 is true without some much better confirming evidence than we have. That's the mistake Gary Habermas made. He's asking how atheists explain "historical facts" (his words) that are very much in dispute. By accepting 3 without further question, he's assuming the very thing he's trying to prove. We have to accept that 1 is at least a strong possibility -- and that between them, 1 and 2 are very likely indeed.


Hey, Greta. Thanks for the rapid response. I guess writing is your job, after all.

I'm not afraid to acknowledge the far-fetched nature of the debate: namely, whether or not one single person in all of antiquity actually existed and was God. That's kind of a difficult posture to take, yeah.

However, given an examination of the evidence that says this person existed, as compared with other figures in history and the respective extant evidence, I would say that of the three possibilities, 2 is more likely accurate than either 1 or 3. Otherwise, historiography of the Classical period kinda has to start from scratch. Like I said before, the documentation of Jesus is closer in proximity and more plentiful to his life than any other person from that period. Can you concede that point?

I say #2 is more likely because, the claims that are made by #3 would make this one guy a singularity in all of human history. However, it is plausible and not impossible, however unlikely it may be.

So, I ask you to answer my previous question: Is there mention of Paul in any of the contemporary secular histories? Peter? Any of the 12? I don't think that there is, but we don't question their existence as historical figures, nor do we question whether or not their basic claims about Jesus actually issued from their mouths, despite the lack of any epistolary autographs. Yet their influence brought Jesus' provincial religion to the known world. Why no mention in the histories being written during their lifetimes? I argue that secular historians did not waste their time with another provincial messiahs or their followers in the outer reaches of the empire.

I'm sure you've heard this question a million times (I know I've asked folks more than once): What confirming evidence is needed that is lacking?

I can't speak for Habermas (or Strobel, or any of the apologists I used to admire so much--I find myself as dissatisfied as you with their inability to deviate from ancient formulations for the existence of God--though I may be doing the same thing, but with personality!), but as for me, I do make every effort to apply reason to my belief in God. That's why I read atheist blogs! I want to be challenged. I want to know that I'm thinking through my worldview, and not just walking blindly and irrationally through life. I get uncomfortable when there's too much agreement in any given conversation. It says to me that there's no refining going on and pretty soon my brain won't be able to tolerate difference.

Anyway, thanks again and I look forward to your respone.

Greta Christina

Chriser: I'm not sure I can answer your question. I got a B.A. in religion 25 years ago, but I'm not a religious scholar or historian, and others may be better able to answer your question than I.

What I can do is question one of your assumptions:

Is there mention of Paul in any of the contemporary secular histories? Peter? Any of the 12? I don't think that there is, but we don't question their existence as historical figures, nor do we question whether or not their basic claims about Jesus actually issued from their mouths, despite the lack of any epistolary autographs.

Actually, I do question the existence of the 12 apostles, and whether their claims about Jesus actually issued from their mouths. Paul's existence I'm reasonably happy to accept, since we have all those letters which do have a consistent tone and seem to have been written by the same person. But given that I'm questioning whether the Jesus character really existed... I darned well am going to question whether his hangers- on really existed.

As to this:

...the documentation of Jesus is closer in proximity and more plentiful to his life than any other person from that period. Can you concede that point?

Of course I don't concede it. There are plenty of other people from that time period who have significant and even extensive contemporary documentation of their existence, written down at the time they were alive and not decades after: from Roman emperors to relatively minor political and military and artistic figures. Even some other would-be messiahs got contemporary mentions.

Now, if Jesus existed but was a total nobody, just another wanna-be Messiah with a handful of followers who ticked off the local authorities... you might expect this lack of contemporary documentation. But if his life was anything like the events described in the Gospels, somebody would have taken notice. Forget about the miracles, the earthquake and darkness that supposedly happened upon his death: if he'd had anything like the massive following described in the Gospels, some contemporary writer almost certainly would have made note of it. As Ebonmuse writes in his Choking on the Camel piece on this very subject: "Events such as these create historians."

(And to me, the fact that the Jesus myth is so similar to other myths of the time makes the "real historical figure" hypotheses even more suspect.)

Now, I do concede that my Option #2 is possible: there was a real person named Jesus or something like Jesus, upon whom a whole lot of myths and stories got grafted. But I don't actually see that as being significantly different from Option #1. I mean, "The guy was totally made up out of whole cloth" versus, "A whole of mythology got grafted onto a real but relatively unimportant person"... what, theologically, is the difference? What, apart from historical curiosity, is the difference?

Peter N


First of all, you do realize that Mark, Matthew, Luke, and John were not written by eyewitnesses to the life and deeds of Jesus, don't you? These books are, at best, stories about eyewitnesses to Jesus, and quite plausibly are fiction created to make the mythical Jesus seem more real to early Christians.

But the main objection I have to a real, historical Jesus is, if there were a god who sent his son to bring his message to humanity, why would we have nothing better than these contradictory and implausible legends and traditions, that weren't even written down until decades after they supposedly took place? Why all the mystery? If God wanted his message to be clear, couldn't he have found a way to make it clear? Why wouldn't he? But obviously he didn't.

I know, I know. Theologians and apologists have no doubt spent centuries crafting elaborate arguments for why the proof is not to be found -- the superior value of faith without evidence or something like that. How convenient. You know what? Other mysteries have been revealed, like the fact that the earth goes around the sun, and E=MC2, and there is evidence for those. It doesn't seem to hold that important things that are true must be hidden.

There might have been a prophet in Galilee in the early first century by the name of Yeshua, but there is no real evidence for that. There is no historical or archaeological justification to believe in a virgin birth, miracles, a single source for the familiar ethical teachings, or a resurrection. There are a few early historians who wrote, decades or centuries after Jesus supposedly lived, that there were Christians, but exactly what they believed, and how the beliefs originated, are not known.

Great post - I could never break it down as well as you did, but I concur with every point. You are a dangerous debater, I am glad you are on the side of reason and evidence.


There is no reward for you in this, so why do it? It's obvious Greta, you spend a lot of time thinking on these things in general...diligently trying to disprove God for your self and others..why does He get so much of your attention? Get real with yourself . It's because He is trying to get yours and your heart knows this, but you choose to harden it. Most always people that do that for a prolonged period, are fighting conviction and do so from a callused heart that has been hurt or betrayed by a Christian somewhere or misled about who God really is. Only you can decide to open your heart and receive what you know is the truth. You harden your heart and then try to justify it all with reason, that at the end of the day leads you nowhere...with no answers...only speculations and more searching for truth. It's not intellectually found my friend. Your smart, but not even close to that smart! God is called God fo a reason. If we could "figure it all out", what kind of God would He be? It's a heart thing man. Receive it or reject it.

I respond for different reasons. Usually it is to defend truth as you plaster lies all over this blog and I sometimes feel the unction to expose it with truth. Sometimes it is from a heart of compassion for you, though after so many discussions like this, I usually don't give you the time of day, because your heart is too heard to receive it and I know my time is better spent praying for you and ministering to those ready to receive. I can only spend so much time in your meaningless toil. Again, I will respond to your last posts when I get some free time. I haven't even read them yet. Until then, listen to that small still voice inside you and convicts you....I'll leave you with this:

Proverbs 29:1 A man who remains stiff-necked after many rebukes will suddenly be destroyed—without remedy.

I'd listen to that conviction Greta...You're playing with fire!"

Greta Christina


Brent, I have been a believer in the past. Believe me, my heart was open. It was the fact that my heart was open, and that I cared about whether the things I believed were really true, that led me to change my mind, and to let go of my religious beliefs. (And I'd like to point out that "You just haven't opened your heart enough" is an entirely unfalsifable assertion. No matter how hard I've tried to believe, no matter how hard I searched and continue to search for the truth... as long as I don't agree with you, you're going to say that it wasn't hard enough.)

If you have evidence for God's existence, I'd be interested in seeing it. But if all you can say is "Open your heart"... for reasons I've discussed elsewhere, that's a terrible argument for God. And even if I found it convincing, why should I open my heart to your god? Why shouldn't I open my heart to Allah, or to Ganesh, or to the Goddess, or any of a thousand different gods that people believe in?

As for why I care so much about religion: I've explained that at length. I think religion is a mistaken idea about the world, and I think it's one that, on the whole, does significantly more harm than good. I do the same with any ideas I find mistaken and harmful.

Ryan McGivern

Thank you for a well written and civil post. I identify as a religious nontheist, or an atheist who likes the cultural aspects of compassionate inclusive relious experiences.
I'm always happy to read caring atheists who answer concisely, without aires or snark theistic arguments. Thanks! Ryan McGivern


I think your reply to Brent was far more civil than he deserved, given his not-too-veiled threat at the end. "Scorn bribe of Heaven or threat of Hell." - Tom Paine.

"you plaster lies all over this blog"? A bold (and rude) assertion it would be easy to prove if it were true, but no, rather he concern-trolls.

You say "we have all those letters which do have a consistent tone and seem to have been written by the same person [Paul}".

According to Wikipedia (with all that that entails), "Authorship of the Pauline Epistles" as at 20:36:37, 2010 09 27: "Seven letters are generally classified as “undisputed”, expressing contemporary scholarly near consensus that they are the work of Paul: Romans, 1 & 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, 1 Thessalonians, and Philemon. Six additional letters bearing Paul's name do not currently enjoy the same academic consensus: Ephesians, Colossians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 & 2 Timothy, and Titus. The first three, called the "Deutero-Pauline Epistles," have no consensus on whether or not they are authentic letters of Paul. The latter three, the "Pastoral Epistles", are widely regarded as pseudepigrapha,[2] though certain scholars do consider St Paul to be the author.[3] "


Good evening;

And we all know that Wikipedia is the absolute authority on all things and at all times.

Then why don't my college professors accept Wikipedia as a valid reference on all the papers they keep assigning me in the university?

Just thinking

Thank you


Good evening again;

Sorry, but I missed the whole conversation between Ms. Christina and Brent.

"I have been a believer in the past..."

Believer in what, exactly?

Just curious

Thank you


I saw Alvin Plantinga give a talk about how evolution wasn't compatible with naturalism, and his whole reason was the paraphrased argument above. His main reasoning seemed to be that saying that you can't trust your own reasoning is a "self-defeater," which may be true in philosophy or somesuch, but does becoming aware of your own biases really invalidate every aspect of your thinking? No. He also seemed to think that "ideas" were apparently generated at random by the same processes by which genetic mutations occur, instead of brains using more or less useful algorithms.

(In his next talk, which was about miracles, he refused to even consider the possibility that the many-worlds interpretation of quantum physics is correct, because he didn't really like the idea of it all.)

Daniel Batt

Hi Greta

Now, I guess these comments must be moderated, because I can't see what I posted.

Sorry, everyone, if this is a double post. Now, no one (who is a progressive) expects you to have read the best Christian theology and philosophy to have rejected Christianity. (Hell, even if Islam were true, I would rather be in hell than worship a misogynist god like that.) But if you claim to have refuted it, well, yes, it is best to have dealt with the better arguments and forms of the faith, otherwise your motivations in picking on the American fundamentalist brigade (Lee Strobel is no theologian and the works you site are uniformly of the very conservative American variety, and not the least close to what anyone would call modern or progressive theology) to tear down may be impugned, and of course, I imagine you would be the first person to decry Christians doing this same thing about atheists, wouldn’t you? After all, there are many book on the new atheists by theologians that actually do bother to read the primary works, follow the footnotes and study the area generally as scholars (Alister McGrath, David Bentley Hart, Charles Taylor and so on). So, what’s sauce for the goose should be sauce for the gander, eh?

And by arguments, I do not mean the traditional 'proofs', which everyone learns in her first philosophy of religion class at university. A proof, after all, would imply that becoming a Christian were some mere deductive process, which is not the way 99.9% of people become Christians, theists or religious in any way. In fact, that famous skeptic, debunker and mathematician Martin Gardener has a very interesting chapter, “Why I am not an Atheist”, in The Whys of a Philosophical Scrivener, and he does only mentions the Bible to scorn its brutality.

I mean, if you were going to diss the theistic evolution people, you might better have referenced Richard Dawkins' colleague Simon Conway Morris (Professor of Evolutionary Paleobiology in the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of Cambridge. . . elected a Fellow of the Royal Society aged 39, and was awarded the Walcot Medal of the National Academy of Sciences in 1987, and the Lyell Medal of the Geological Society of London in 1998). Think of how many digs you could have made about someone like this working alongside Dawkins? The least it would have shown is you have done your homework. And you might even have picked up some insight into evolution in the process, since you don’t win a Walcot Medal without advancing the field of Precambrian and Cambrian biology in some way.

And if you really think you have the physics cracked, why don't you engage the work of John Polkinghorne, who formerly held the same position as Stephen Hawking, in mathematical physics at Cambridge University? His analogy with the quantum vacuum might have at least been worth a joke about vacuums and God.

Also, not all God-of-the-gaps arguments are actually arguing for a God-of-the-gaps. Sometimes they might be pointing to how much advanced apes will ever be able to grasp of the nature of reality. Sometimes they might be pointing to the intrinsic restrictions the scientific method may have. You really would have to have a limited grasp of modern theology to think anyone important in theology would be seen dead arguing a God-of-the-gaps. And just because you state it doesn’t make it true.

I have read dozens of reviews of Hitchens and Dawkins works by atheist philosophers and thinkers, who uniformly cringe at the faulty logic, caricature and avoidance of the arguments in their best form. But they are still atheists, and all they are asking of their fellow atheists is a little historical awareness that atheism has a hard won pedigree that can be done a great disservice by the modern day pamphleteers (your heroes, no doubt).
Now, as for your dismissive reference elsewhere to “theism is just as much a matter of faith as religion. And atheists who think atheism is better supported by evidence are just as dogmatic and close-minded as religious believers.” Well, a lot of your fellow travellers have spoken at many an atheist conference to decry the ‘religious’ tendency of many modern atheists. Dan Barker has done it many times, and usually gets a few boo’s. While the religious often inhabit an insufferable plane of moral superiority, some of you guys and gals often seem to inhabit a very similar plane of intellectual superiority.

Lastly, I don't know if it was this post that you thought progressive Christians were obsessively fawning at atheists to gain their approval, but while this may be so in some cases, it seems a perfectly natural thing for people to do: share their concerns, examine their differences, ask each other how much we really do have in common and how much we don't. Obviously, the best human motives can all be grist for the mill of your blog, but I would err on the side of common humanity than grasp for another reason to pat yourself and atheists on the back again.

After all, one of the silliest tropes of current atheism is equating God (however we might describe her) as being ontologically as stupid as the tooth fairy. This, naturally, brings about the natural response to people who make such daft claims to seek out a little clarification over such bizarre statements to see whether they really have any ability to sort out the possible, but perhaps unlikely, from what is bat-shit crazy. Obviously, Aristotle, Tom Paine, Antony Flew, Martin Luther King Jnr, Charles Hartshorne, Martin Gardener and countless other theists would disagree.

Daniel Batt

Oh, I have only read two of your articles addressed to "modern" and "progressive" believers. I love your blog and have only begun to read other pieces, so please expect me to be more informed of what you actually believe in future posts.

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