Esoteric Dissertations from a One-Track Mind

March 6, 2010

Responses to Lea Anne

Filed under: Education, meta — codesmithy @ 10:23 pm

Lea Anne was a commenter on the “90 Minutes in Heaven: One Atheist’s Perspective” post. I decided to answer in another post because it was getting off-topic and to give it more space.

In my first response, Lea Anne expresses her frustration with me making a big deal out of stuff I say doesn’t happen. In the context of the “90 Minutes in Heaven” post, I told her that I didn’t feel I was making a “big deal” out of it. I had merely read the book, at the prompting of another Christian, and wrote what I thought about it. Lea Anne felt that I had misconstrued the context of her question.

The “Big Deal” that I was talking about was the fact you don’t believe there is a God, not about the book. You’re whole website is devoted to disproving that God is real.

Let’s look at the most popular pages on this website:

Yes, “90 Minutes in Heaven” is top, followed by
Energy Ignorance: Making Saltwater Burn
Marie Antoinette and “Let Them Eat Cake”
Reuters Falls for Water-Powered Car Hoax
Aftermath of Spanish-American War Applied to Iraq
Robert Murray: Sociopath

So, I wouldn’t say the whole website is devoted to “disproving that God is real.” In fact, depending on define God, there are some claims about God I have no quarrel with. For example, pantheists say God is the universe that we are one with. That seems perfectly true to me, but indubitably confusing. So a truer statement would be: a portion of the website is devoted to explaining why claims for the existence of the Christian God are invalid or insufficient. I’ll have to work on making that a bit pithier.

I brought up Jephthah, and Lea Anne asked:

What do you like about Jephthah?

There is nothing I like about Jephthah. It is a cruel story in a book that is filled with cruel stories made all the more tragic by the fact there actually isn’t a celestial dictator pulling the strings, just a father killing his daughter for no good reason. Just like all the “witches” that have been burned to death for giving the “evil eye” or “cursing” people. Superstition kills.

What seems to me to be the best way to prevent future tragedies like these is to diffuse the lunacy before it becomes a dangerous cancer. This can be done by exerting social pressure by expressing incredulity.

You think there are aliens behind the Hale-Bopp comet who will transport you to paradise? Give us your evidence.

This wisdom has been with us for ages and was probably put best in this fable by Aesop.

THE LEAP AT RHODES
A certain man who visited foreign lands could talk of little when he returned to his home except the wonderful adventures he had met with and the great deeds he had done abroad.
One of the feats he told about was a leap he had made in a city Called Rhodes. That leap was so great, he said, that no other man could leap anywhere near the distance. A great many persons in Rhodes had seen him do it and would prove that what he told was true.
“No need of witnesses,” said one of the hearers. “Suppose this city is Rhodes. Now show us how far you can jump.”
Deeds count, not boasting words.

Lea Anne also asked me some questions about my education after I tried to explain that the exact and spontaneous formation of the Y-chromosome was unbelievable as a leap in one generation, but can be explained as a result of a long history of evolutionary change.

How do you know all that you know?

Skeptical and critical inquiry.

Did you read it somewhere? I’m curious to know where all this expertise comes from?

A lot of it comes from books I read, but the books aren’t an end in themselves. Good books are like good teachers, and they take you through a process or a journey.

For example, I’ve been reading “The Great Equations” by Robert P. Crease. The first equation it gives is the Pythagorean theorem: the square of the length of the hypotenuse of a right triangle is equal to the sum of the squares of the other two sides, or c*c = b*b + a*a. The book explains the profound impact Euclid’s proof of the Pythagorean theorem had on Thomas Hobbes. Unfortunately, it doesn’t actually give the proof. So I looked it up online and went through it until I understood it. Understanding the proof wasn’t just memorizing the steps Euclid took and regurgitating it. In fact, I probably can’t reproduce Euclid’s proof word for word. What I can do is produce a proof based on the same ideas and arguments Euclid used. Instead of having a bunch of disconnected facts, I have a bunch of ideas that take me in the right direction. Finding specifics is as simple as using Google.

But you just can’t read it, you have to apply it also. One could read Terry Eagleton for ages and all you would have at the end of it is a brain full of mush like he does.  This is what I think was the major failing of medieval scholasticism, they never questioned the book.

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8 Comments »

  1. wow, I get a whole blog dedicated to me… I’m honored. Is your name Cody, because I like to know who I’m talking to?

    Did you check out my blog?

    Just curious about what you think of what I’ve written to explain my relationship with God.

    I’m not even sure if you’re an American, but do you believe George Washington was the first president of the USA? If you do, why do you believe that?

    I believe he was because it was written down in a book and witnessed by other people and we have since then taken that eye-witness account to be truth. It doesn’t have to be explained as true, it just is.

    In the same way as that, I believe the accounts of those that recorded the events of Jesus’ life as he lived on earth and witnessed his death and saw him in his resurrected body. They were eye-witnesses to the events and I don’t need proof that it happened I just believe it.

    As far as whether or not the Bible is true… I choose to believe it is. Every word of it. 2 Timothy 3:16 All scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true adn to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.

    All scripture is there in order to teach us what is wrong in our lives. It is an example of what to do and what NOT to do. Most of the stories are literal. They literally happened and they are not left out of the Bible because the people did wrong. They are put in the bible to show people what can happen when we do something like them. They are examples of what NOT to do. Most of the Bible is that way, because most people are not trying to live their lives right. They do what they think is right. They do not measure what they think against the word of God. So I ask you… Where do you get the knowledge that you have?

    You had to have read it somewhere and you choose to believe that it is true. Some of it can be proven and some of it is theory that seems logical.

    I choose to believe and live my life according to the standard of the example left to us by Christ Jesus… Only Jesus… Others in the Bible are good examples, and good mentors, but Jesus is the ONLY true example of God… I look at what he did and when I’m faced with a decision, I go to the scriptures to see what I should do.

    It honestly hasn’t failed me… in all of my meager 40 years of living by its standard, I have a great life and I love Jesus… That’s all I ask is that if you’d like to know of my stories of how Jesus has revealed himself to me, I’d be happy to share them with you. I share a lot of what I think on my blog…
    http://www.leaannemccrorywood.blogspot.com

    I invite you to check it out.

    By no means do I want you to think that I’m frustrated with you… Just the opposite… I want to share with you.

    Comment by Lea Anne — March 6, 2010 @ 11:33 pm

  2. You said something interesting that I wanted to address…

    “cruel stories made all the more tragic by the fact there actually isn’t a celestial dictator pulling the strings, just a father killing his daughter for no good reason. Just like all the “witches” that have been burned to death for giving the “evil eye” or “cursing” people. Superstition kills”

    This is what I think… God doesn’t pull our strings to get us to do ANYTHING… He KNOWS what we are going to do… He WANTS us to choose him, but he doesn’t MAKE us…

    Now SATAN… He is a puppeteer(?) He pulls people’s strings… He persuades people to do what he wants them to do and he is very powerful… He is on the side of the flesh so he has a good head start with getting people to feed their flesh… He just feeds it and feeds it and lies and persuades…

    See all God has done is SPEAK… he spoke everything into existence and he said…Let there be… and there was… He is about facts… He was, He is and He always will be… He left proof of his existence with the stories in the Bible and he wants us all to believe.

    The lack of knowledge is ignorance… the lack of obedience is choice… We don’t know something because we haven’t been told.. But if we don’t do something that we know, it’s disobedience… Which is what keeps us out of right-standing with God…

    So disobedience is just the fact that we CHOOSE to not obey what is written down as FACT for us in the HOLY SCRIPTURES… The fact that WE don’t believe them doesn’t make them NOT true, It makes us choose to not obey them.

    Just wanted to point that out.

    Comment by Lea Anne — March 6, 2010 @ 11:50 pm

    • God put the tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil in the Garden of Eden… He knew that man would be tempted and yet, he still knew he wanted to give them the choice of whether or not to believe him.

      Man chose to eat from the tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil… Because of the persuasion of Satan, but really because of their own desire to not trust what God said and did for them… God wasn’t scared that they would eat of it, He knew they would… however, he wants us to choose to obey him and he gives us that opportunity every single day… We can start TODAY to trust him… Doesn’t matter what happened yesterday. Just start today and say, I want to trust you Lord, Help me expand my faith…That’s where he shows up and reveals himself… After we ask him to with Faith and trust and obedience.

      Comment by Lea Anne — March 6, 2010 @ 11:57 pm

      • This is a good example of having Free Will. Some people think that God makes us do everything. He doesn’t. If he could make us do anything, then he wouldn’t have put the tree in the Garden of Eden. He gave us the choice to believe and trust him. He had the redemption plan figured out before the choice to sin was ever even thought though.. with this scripture…

        John 1:1-5 In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God and the Word was God. He existed in the beginning with God. God created everthing through him, and nothing was created except through him. The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinquish it.

        Another translation says that the darkness has not understood it… That those who aren’t saved can’t grasp this meaning… You have to believe first then the understanding comes. What’s keeping you from trying to believe without understanding and seeing proof?

        What has happened that has made you so resistant to believe that God exists and that he is the light of the world?

        I wish I knew…

        Comment by Lea Anne — March 7, 2010 @ 4:49 am

      • wow, I get a whole blog dedicated to me… I’m honored. Is your name Cody, because I like to know who I’m talking to?

        You are talking to codesmithy. That is going to have to be good enough.

        Did you check out my blog?

        Not yet. Will you believe that there are things I would rather be doing than expressing my non-belief?

        I’m not even sure if you’re an American, but do you believe George Washington was the first president of the USA? If you do, why do you believe that?

        Yes, I believe George Washington was the first president of the United States. We have letters he purportedly has written. We have an estate he purportedly lived on. We have multiple, contemporaneous and independent accounts of events he is said to have participated in. Most importantly, there is no event in his life that requires the suspension of the laws of nature. That said, there are some stories I don’t believe, for example the story of him chopping down his father’s cherry tree and him replying “I cannot tell a lie” is likely fiction. In addition, one factor that cannot be ignored are the values of the society from which stories of Washington arose. Early America was an enlightenment society grounded in empiricism. Iron-Age Palestine was the backwater of Roman Empire filled with the ignorant and the superstitious.

        What I don’t do is believe every story I hear unquestioningly. There are stories of Saint George slaying a dragon during the decline of the Roman empire. Is that true?

        There are also Cargo Cults who are awaiting the return of John Frum. Was he a real person?

        Can we remove the cover from a book and distinguish whether it is fact or fiction from the text itself?

        I’m perfectly willing to admit that there probably was a Jesus (or Yeshua) of Nazareth. The very fact that the gospel writers felt compelled to invent circumstances to get his birth to occur in Bethlehem is evidence that they didn’t have complete liberty. I’m even willing to concede that he said things similar to what is ascribed to him in the gospels, that he often spoke in parables and was put to death by the Romans by crucifixion. But he did not turn water into wine. He was the life of the party. He did not conjure more bread and fish from nothing, he showed how people can make do in meager circumstances. He did not walk on water. He did not raise anyone from the dead, and he didn’t rise from the dead himself. And he most certainly was not born of a virgin.

        It isn’t me that is applying the double standard. Look up the miracles of Sathya Sai Baba and weep.

        The particular facts surrounding each individual do matter. The comparison that you are trying to set up is the heart of baseless relativism because you refuse to ground yourself in objective facts. I would rather focus on how the history surrounding Jesus and Washington are different.

        I believe he was because it was written down in a book and witnessed by other people and we have since then taken that eye-witness account to be truth. It doesn’t have to be explained as true, it just is.

        There is enough wrong with this, that I’m going to be slightly pedantic. The Christian Bible is not a book that was written as such. It was a book that was assembled. There is a reason why we have the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John and not the gospel of Thomas or Mary Magdalene. There are Christians who lived and died for a century believing “Shepherd of Hermas” was scripture. I would be surprised if most Christians today have even heard of it.

        In other words, there was process that they used to decide whether a particular gospel deserved to go into the Bible, or if it didn’t. Even the church fathers were not completely credulous of every miracle that people claimed Jesus performed.

        Beyond the mass culling of whole works, there are editing changes between earlier and later version of the same work. There is a whole field called textual criticism that tries to figure out what texts originally said. “Misquoting Jesus” by Bart D. Ehrman is a good book on the subject. As a side note, the toolset that they use is actually very similar to the toolset we use to analyze sequences of DNA to determine inheritance.

        You can’t believe the entire Bible is literally true, because it contradicts itself implicitly and explicitly. The easiest verifiable explicit contradiction is the different genealogy of Joseph given in Matthew and Luke.

        This video also gives some explicit contradictions surrounding the empty tomb, along with my favorite implicit contradiction of Matthew 27:51-53.

        http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew%2027:51-53&version=NIV

        At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split. The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs, and after Jesus’ resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many people.

        Why did the other gospels leave out the zombies?

        You can’t believe the Bible whole sale, the illusion that you can do so only stands on the ignorance of what the Bible literally says. But make no mistake you are deciding what you believe and what you don’t. The book doesn’t have to explain itself, but you do. Why is a vote by the church fathers centuries ago good enough for you to believe in zombies?

        Where do you get the knowledge that you have?

        I’ve covered this, or at least I feel like I have. In any case, I don’t feel like I have the ability to provide a better explanation.

        On a wider note, we are clearly talking cross purposes. I have no doubt that you find your faith useful. But that doesn’t make it true. In order to convince me, you will have to present objective evidence that coheres with all the other objective evidence we have that your beliefs are true. Meanwhile, you are going to have to overthrow David Hume and his rational skepticism and show how he is objectively flawed. It isn’t a matter of arguing, it is a matter of getting a basic command of the facts on hand, and it necessarily begins, not with your faith, but with how the book, which is the basis of your faith, came to say things it says.

        This is what I think… God doesn’t pull our strings to get us to do ANYTHING

        No, according to you, the Christian God sets up the circumstances for failure and then punishes them for it. That is what I mean by pulling the strings. He makes us sick and then commands us to be well. The most obvious is even placing the tree of knowledge in the Garden of Eden. Even if it is allegory, it still reveals a fundamental aspect of the Christian God’s nature. You even admit this, God set us up to fail. He setup the system knowing we would fail, so if he were a just God, why wouldn’t he set up the system differently? Was he unable to?

        But back to Jephthah, how is it just for Jephthah’s daughter to be punished for Jephthah’s arrogance? Where was her choice? God could have stayed his hand like Abraham and Isaac. He didn’t, he let Jephthah sacrifice his daughter as a burnt offering. God favored Jephthah’s army in battle. How is that not pulling the strings? It was a direct result of this favor that Jephthah felt compelled to honor his vow.

        Same thing with Cain and Abel. The Christian God instigated the jealousy that lead to Abel’s death. Abel was innocent, where was his choice?

        I could go on.

        What has happened that has made you so resistant to believe that God exists and that he is the light of the world?

        Common sense. Unless you start addressing many more of the points I have made, I’m not going to reply anymore. You’re preaching, not listening.

        In particular, if you don’t

        1. address how you reconcile the explicit and implicit contradictions in the Bible.
        2. provide more concrete examples of what you believe about the gospels, in particular, in the resurrection story: who was there, who did they tell afterwards, how many angels were present and what were they wearing and why you believe this to be the case? Be as specific as you can.
        3. address why zombies are in one gospel and not the others, and what you believe about the zombies?
        4. address whether or not it is possible to distinguish a book to be fact or fiction based on text independent of the culture? Is it possible to distinguish between a real science textbook and a fake one or would you need to be told which is which?
        5. refrain from asking me about how I attain knowledge.

        I’m not replying anymore, and I won’t check out your website either. It isn’t everything I wanted, but it is a start. Take your time, you get one shot to get this right.

        Comment by codesmithy — March 7, 2010 @ 6:28 am

      • codesmithy…
        You have set up unrealistic expectations of what I was hoping to have with you… A real conversation…

        This wasn’t about proven you wrong or getting you to change your mind… I was asking questions so that I could get an answer…

        I wasn’t asking it in order to persuade you to think like me and really, I don’t care if you ever change your mind… I just wanted to converse with you about what you thought and why you thought it. I didn’t think I had to follow your set guidelines in order to have a convesation with you. Maybe I struck a chord with you and stretched your thinking… or maybe not… It was never my intent to prove you wrong or to prove me right… I was just talking to you and asking questions just like any two friends would do. If you don’t want to get to know me by checking out my blog and reading some of my struggles in life, then I certainly can’t make you.

        I guess I blew my chance… The next step is yours if you want it… you can comment on my blog… I hope you have a great day where ever you are… I’m about to take a Sunday Siesta!!

        Peace!
        Lea Anne WOod, Lake Charles, LA (just because I don’t care who knows who and where I’m from.)

        Comment by Lea Anne — March 7, 2010 @ 8:19 pm

      • We are done Lea Anne. This isn’t for you, this is for posterity.

        This was never like two friends asking questions. It was you, asking insipid questions that I bent over backwards to answer. This latest reply yours took an amazing amount of gall considering that you chastised me for not directly answering your what-do-I-believe-happens-after-we-die question, when I had, and for your benefit stated it again more succinctly. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, because during your Bible study, you undoubtedly came across the hypocrites. Too bad you apparently feel they are an example to follow.

        11 pages. That is how many pages I have written trying to explain my position on various issues to you, using links, evidence, and specific examples. What do I get in return? Pontifications on how Satan pulls strings and the Christian God doesn’t. The same basic questions restated as if I had never written 1 good page already explaining my position.

        Finally, when I put you on the spot, draw a line in the sand, and demand that you start getting down to brass tacks about resolving the implicit contradictions in your position, you cop-out. You are right, it isn’t about changing my mind. But it does reflect a complete lack of candidness on your part. Do you believe Matthew’s account of saints rising from the graves after Jesus dies or not? That is a simple yes or no. I then asked you to justify it. That might be a sentence to a paragraph or two, but given the pages I’ve written, it isn’t an unreasonable request. Conversations are about give and take. You obviously just want to preach.

        You asked:

        What has happened that has made you so resistant to believe that God exists and that he is the light of the world?

        I wish I knew…

        I said common sense, and this discussion provides a beautiful example of why. People, like myself, ask straightforward questions and they get bullshit answers or no answers. What makes us resistant is our natural gag reflex to not swallow bullshit. These aren’t questions about things we don’t or can’t know, but just about what you believe. Do believe either genealogy given for Jesus in the gospels? Because either Jacob is Jesus’ paternal grandfather or Eli is, it can’t be both of them. Your answer: act as if I never asked.

        You have your own website, you can spew your brain mush over there. You are done here. Don’t bother replying, your comments will not be read and will be immediately deleted. You blew your chance, bother someone else.

        But honestly, you didn’t know you didn’t have to be candid? Please. What world do you live in, you hypocrite.

        Comment by codesmithy — March 7, 2010 @ 11:09 pm

  3. Lea Anne’s rant was a little frightning. Not sure I would be comfortable following a “God” that requires sacrifice of my child to prove my faith. Doesn’t anyone think that is a little extreme?? Doesn’t anyone question the validity of the story and more importantly that belief system?

    Comment by Debra Defrain — March 9, 2010 @ 3:29 pm


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