God's Politics

God's Politics


Becky Garrison: Christian vs. Atheist Celebrity Death Match

posted by gp_intern

On Saturday, May 5, I attended the taping for the first-ever Nightline Face Off. In this premiere episode, taped at Calvary Baptist Church in New York City, The Way of the Master co-hosts Kirk Cameron and Ray Comfort debated the existence of God with the Rational Response Squad (RSS), founders of The Blasphemy Challenge. (See “The New Atheists Blasphemy Challenge” for my earlier coverage of this venture.)

In the Christian corner, Comfort claimed he could prove the existence of God scientifically without the use of faith. Simply put, if there is a design, then must be a designer – because you can find out the specific person who designed physical items such as buildings, paintings, and cars.

That argument was refuted by the A-team, who noted that if all creations need a creator, then what created God? Throughout the match up, well-worn arguments such as, “We’re all atheists when it comes to Zeus or Apollo” and “Jesus never existed” were thrown about in a feeble attempt to disprove God.

Watching these teams of non-scientists try to explain evolution versus intelligent design proved to be laughable at best. My favorite bit had to be when Kirk Cameron disputed evolution by showing pictures of a “crock-a-duck” and other nonexistent creatures that he claims prove evolution is a fallacy.

Even though the atheists failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that God could not have been the spark that set all of creation, they seem to have nailed this debate when Cameron pulled out the get-out-of-hell card. Simply put, this was “what you believe about God will determine where you spend eternity.” At this point, if I wasn’t covering this event, I would have crawled out of the church in shame. While this is supposed to be an ABC news program, I felt like I had entered a rather lame taping of Saturday Night Live instead. I honestly felt that at any moment Cameron was going to demonstrate the Church Lady’s Superiority Dance.

I wish I could say these extremist encounters are few and far between, but the animosity on both sides of the God debate seems to be hitting a fever pitch. When I skim the slew of material refuting these strident “New Atheists,” I’m stuck at how many people of faith are betting on Pascal’s Wager. According to this logic, one should believe in God as a safeguard to avoid spending eternity surrounded by the flames of hell. The overarching emphasis here seems to be on the personal nature of Christianity as a means of guaranteeing one an eternal night’s sleep, with scant attention paid to what it means to implement Jesus’ teachings here on earth. Even Jon Stewart, host of Comedy Central’s The Daily Show, took this heaven-bound approach when he essentially asked Christopher Hitchens, “Does religion serve a purpose to give comfort to people given we’re all going to die someday?”

Given this line of theological thinking present in some Christian circles, I get why someone would give up on the God game for good. Brian McLaren aptly observes that “much of the appeal of today’s popular atheists – from Richard Dawkins to Sam Harris – lies in the corruption of religion.”

Through my travels and travails covering this unique phenomenon called Americana Christianity, I’ve learned that many of those with a deep hunger to be fed spiritually are those souls for whom “church” is not in their vocabulary. Often they’ve been burned by one too many toxic church settings, or they grew up in a household where religion was inconsequential at best. They can embrace the universal message of Jesus but they balk at how his teaching gets corrupted by those prayer warriors who are engaging in some very public and tawdry biblical battles waged in the religious-political arena.

Still, I see glimmers of hope. For example, prior to going to this taping, I sat in on a panel that was part of the Tribeca Film Festival, titled “Prodigies, Nobelists and Penguins: Science and Stereotypes in the Movies.” Here, I found a group of filmmakers and scientists who were open to exploring where we can find common ground between religion and science. Where is there space where we can dialogue with the other? Or are we so concerned about being right that we forget what it means to put Christ’s teachings into practice?

To quote postmodern philosopher Peter Rollins, “The truth of Christianity is life. The implications of this are vast.” I can’t speak for the atheists, but for those of us who profess to follow Jesus, what does it mean for us to live a life that is truthful to the gospel teachings of Christ? Along those lines, how should we interact with those whose hold beliefs that are different from ours?

Becky Garrison
Becky Garrison is Senior Contributing Editor of The Wittenburg Door and author of Red and Blue God, Black and Blue Church. For those who want to catch this debate, tune in to ABC News Now on May 9 at 2 p.m. Also, Nightline will air a segment that same night at 11:35 p.m. ET/PT, and the debate will be available on the Nightline page at ABCNews.com.



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moderatelad

posted May 7, 2007 at 5:30 pm


So – are we happy that Kirk and company seemed to have – lost the debate? If their argument was a little thin – might you have told the reader what you would have thought to be a better argument? Not sure who to take this article but at first read it seems to be more of the liberal – good, conservative – bad. Evangelicals – stupid, orthodox, mainline – gifted. I think this is why I gave up reading the WD a long time ago.



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squeaky

posted May 7, 2007 at 5:31 pm


Great post. It is interesting–I’ve been visiting an atheist blog for some time, trying to get that perspective on things (it’s also a science blog, but I think he spends more time attacking religion and creationism/ID than actually talking science). It’s been an interesting journey through that world. In some ways it’s like looking into a mirror, as they spout just as many stereotypes about faith as people of faith spout about them. Neither side really recognizes they are stereotyping, even when you point it out. The arguments atheists use to disprove God do run along the lines that Garrison speaks of “Often they ve been burned by one too many toxic church settings, or they grew up in a household where religion was inconsequential at best. They can embrace the universal message of Jesus but they balk at how his teaching gets corrupted by those prayer warriors who are engaging in some very public and tawdry biblical battles waged in the religious-political arena.” I’d add to that that some seem to have been raised in homes that are very legalistic religiously, as well as some who have had very hurtful things in their lives that they just can’t believe in a God that would cause such pain. They also tend to point to war and the wars that are fought over religion. From what I can tell, a lot of people who are atheists are atheists because of hurtful events that have taken place in their lives (and no, they often don’t seem to sense a god-sized hole in their hearts). “Here, I found a group of filmmakers and scientists who were open to exploring where we can find common ground between religion and science. Where is there space where we can dialogue with the other? Or are we so concerned about being right that we forget what it means to put Christ s teachings into practice?” At the blog I visit, very few of the atheists that post there are interested in this kind of dialogue. The few that express this sentiment are labeled as appeasers. Scientists of faith, such as Kenneth Miller and Francis Collins are also viewed as appeasers, although a great deal of respect is afforded Miller. I believe what I am seeing on that blog are extreme viewpoints, and what they rail against are the extreme viewpoints in Christianity. One thing they have said in my attempts at asking for a respectful dialog is that if the extreme viewpoints they rail against in Christianity are not the norm, then why aren’t the more moderate or even liberal Christians speaking out with a louder voice? I would argue we are, but the stereotypes against Christianity run deep, and it is difficult to shout above the din of what has been the loudest voices in Christianity the past 30 years. I would also argue that since we view all Christians as brothers and sisters in Christ, we are less likely to scream at each other and more likely to try to find common ground. It really doesn’t help either side when the extreme views from both sides go after each other. More like a “professional” wrestling match than an actual serious and thoughtful discussion with each throwing stereotypes at each other as well as gross misunderstandings of science. Thus, the Cameron/Comfort vs. A-team “debate” does little to further the discussion and only serves to polarize those with extreme views while leaving more thoughtful people shaking their heads in frustration. I’ll have to check out the film Garrison suggests.



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Wolverine

posted May 7, 2007 at 5:32 pm


I do have to wonder how we wound up with Kirk Cameron defending God’s existence. Why him? Was Screech unavailable? Wolverine



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jesse

posted May 7, 2007 at 5:35 pm


I would have liked to see Gary Coleman, personally.And this post does seem pretty condescending.



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squeaky

posted May 7, 2007 at 5:35 pm


It’s a good question, Wolverine. As a scientist, I cringe at the “scientific” proofs they offer for science and the arguments they offer against evolution. If they want to argue against evolution, it would behoove them to spend some time learning about it, but they have shown repeatedly they know nothing about it.



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Jeff

posted May 7, 2007 at 6:06 pm


I don’t see the point of having such debates. What does it accomplish one way or the other. Win or lose an argument on evolution, who cares? Is Christ glorified? Not likely.



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moderatelad

posted May 7, 2007 at 6:07 pm


So – it is OK for posters to ‘dis and make fun of Kirk and everyone joins in but we forget about it is the ‘message and not the massager’. (I give Gore a hard time and everyone is on my case) Kirk and Al are both massagers, well read and coached on the topic, passionate about what they talk about. Yes – Gore is a little more polished – what – he is twice Kirks age – he should be better in a debate or in front of a crowd. Wouldn’t it be nice if there was level ground for all of us? Later – .



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kevin s.

posted May 7, 2007 at 6:15 pm


Ray Comfort is obnoxious. We need to be careful to identify what ultimatly makes aetheism popular. It is the freedom to do whatever you want. Our flesh rejects God, and so it is easy to see why the world would intermittently embrace it.We have an obligation to spread the Gospel, and to be fair, Cameron and Comfort are earnest in doing so (and not corrupt). Sometimes Christians can get in the habit of blaming Christianity for the fact that some people aren’t embracing God. The Bible says that people will hate us for what we believe. That doesn’t mean we should go out of our way to be hated, or act belligerently, but we do need to keep it in mind, and offer grace to our earnest (if obnoxious) fellow Christians.



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Mike Hayes

posted May 7, 2007 at 6:19 pm


“… I can t speak for the atheists, but for those of us who profess to follow Jesus, what does it mean for us to live a life that is truthful to the gospel teachings of Christ? Along those lines, how should we interact with those whose hold beliefs that are different from ours?…”. I think many or most or perhaps all but a very few persons, worldwide, wish that tolerance of the beliefs of others was being preached by all religions.



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squeaky

posted May 7, 2007 at 6:27 pm


“It is the freedom to do whatever you want. ” This is probably it way deep down inside, but it isn’t the reason atheists would give you. They aren’t all out there wanting to just live ammoral lives.



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Another nonymous

posted May 7, 2007 at 7:55 pm


Actually, most atheists I know (and I know quite a few) think that it is religious people who are looking for the freedom to do whatever they want without having to face the consequences. They consider themselves, and often are, deeply moral people who are troubled by what they see as the lack of morality in much religious practice. I’m not saying I agree with them: just that we shouldn’t kid ourselves about who our opponents are.



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Payshun

posted May 7, 2007 at 8:12 pm


I agree w/ another. Most athiests I know are extremely moral. There code just doesn’t come from the bible. What I have seen them do is really hold my fellow Christians to the fire. I see that as a good thing. When you believe that dinosaurs existed w/ mankind, ignore all scientific ideas about evolution, light and other natural elements then yah you deserve to be made fun of. Wait that was not loving but actually it was. Because by that same token athiests deserved to be made fun of when they claim that science can solve everything and they pretend that they know or that science can evaluate all things.When one is extreme on either issue then either side looks foolish and it sounds like that’s what happened w/ the debate. p



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Sarasotakid

posted May 7, 2007 at 9:41 pm


I agree with Kevin that sometimes people get in the habit of blaming Christians for non-Christians not embracing God. However, we should not say (nor did Kevin, imply) that Christians should get off the hook for misdeeds that have been a bad witness. I for one can relate to what was written by Ms. Garrison. I can see where atheism has been fed by a large extent by dysfunctional Chrisitianity. We need to look to ourselves first to see what we can do to better reflect Christ. I like the saying that we should preach more with our actions than with our words. Peace.



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Will H.

posted May 7, 2007 at 10:03 pm


I am in complete agreement with both Wolverine and Kevin S. What bothers me most about Cameron and Comfort is they somehow became spokesmen for apologetics all of a sudden, and they are horrible at it. Guys like this make my job as a youth worker ten times as hard because they make people hate Christians. They make us look like a bunch of ignorant moronic fools. Who would want to be a part of that religion?



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squeaky

posted May 7, 2007 at 10:06 pm


Another, Payshun, Sarasotakid– Good thoughts. It’s been my experience with atheists as well. I think it is important that we move away from stereotypes about atheism–from my experience, they are rarely true. I’m not saying that will help atheists not to stereotype Christians, but by not meeting their low expectations, hopefully we can give them a different face of Christianity than what they criticize us for.



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Matt Channing

posted May 7, 2007 at 10:33 pm


With Kirk Cameron as a spokesperson, it is little wonder the non-Christians of the world think we’re a bunch of cretins….



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kevin s.

posted May 7, 2007 at 10:39 pm


“What bothers me most about Cameron and Comfort is they somehow became spokesmen for apologetics all of a sudden, and they are horrible at it.” Exactly. I do think there exists proof for the existence of God without faith, I just think we don’t need Kirk Cameron carrying that torch.One of the strengths of the emergent church is it’s reorientation of evangelism. Our church has gone through a transition in which we have moved away from the “seeker-based” model and simply preached truth. Hmmm… I just visited Comfort’s website, and he has an ad for “Ray Comfort’s Intelligent Design vs. Evolution Board Game”. That’s a bit embarassing (and I am an ID proponent).



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Sarasotakid

posted May 7, 2007 at 10:41 pm


Our church has gone through a transition in which we have moved away from the “seeker-based” model…Kevin S. What is the seeker based model? I haven’t heard of that.



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stan friedman

posted May 7, 2007 at 10:46 pm


Where have you gone, Ted Koppel? How does a show that had such meaningful reports descend to this?



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Kristi

posted May 7, 2007 at 11:06 pm


Up until recently, I was in an extremely conservative church environment. I was going to college to obtain a psychology degree (which got enough noses turned down at me) but I also advocated young people taking science classes that explained evolution, so that they would know what they were talking about when they were involved in debates on the topic. Of course I was treated like a traitor for even suggesting that Christian children be exposed to such “heinous lies”. I do not believe that evolution disproves the existence of God, nor even necessarily disproves a literal translation of Genesis. I believe that there are some parts of the theory that stand up to rigorous investigation, and some do not. However, my personal faith in God and Jesus Christ are not so weak that they cannot withstand some honest discourse on science. I highly recommend Frances Collins book, “The Language of God.” It was thrilling to read a book by someone who loves God AND science as much as I do. SCIENCE AND CHRISTIANITY HAVE NEVER BEEN AT ODDS. What has been at odds is their threatened, close-minded proponents, which are for the most part (but not all)either fundamentalists and atheists respectively.



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nad2

posted May 7, 2007 at 11:09 pm


ah the old existence of god debate – this is the greatest exercise in futility i can imagine. it is an absolute nonstarter from the beginning, rigged for both sides to look angry & foolish because it asks both to do the impossible – prove or disprove through the scientific method the existence of god. further, what is the goal of such talk? the other side’s mental assent to your point of view? it will never happen. because of its futile nature, rational, reasonable people do not participate, so we end up w/ the biggest doofuses participating, you know the ones who always speak before thinking, the PATM (pay attention to me) crowd. so what are we rational, reasonable people to do? either do like we did at the carnivals of our youth – participate in the game even though we know it’s rigged, thereby guaranteeing our own loss, or sit back & let the fringe clownishly assert it is representing us? i unfortunately really think those are the choices we have been given in this soundbyte media world in which we live. such pointless shouting matches have also unfortunately become the norm for ‘news’ & ‘debate’ from our supposed journalistic sources & now i have all but given up watching the news. anyone trying to point out the futility of such an exercise & then seeking to engage the ‘other’ in a way that has the potential for meaning for all, will not get invited to participate. have ya’ll ever seen or read bill moyers’ interview w/ joseph cambell for pbs about myth? that was amazing, i may listen to something like that on the subject, but then again, hoepfully moyers too would realize the futility of the topic as posed.



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kevin s.

posted May 7, 2007 at 11:34 pm


“What is the seeker based model? I haven’t heard of that.” Sorry, I used quote misleadingly there. Our Friday night services (we don’t meet on Sunday mornings) were very light in terms of sharing the gospel. We even initially advertised our service as a Rock concert, and performed pop songs, had funny videos etc… That’s what I mean by a seeker-based model. Our midweek services were much more serious, and in-depth. We still have some of the components (we still have some pop music, and I am part of our church’s video-team). But I think there is just more of an attitude that we should just talk about Christ and let people come to their own conclusions.



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Ted Voth Jr

posted May 8, 2007 at 12:15 am


I’ve said it before and i say it again. It seems to be the hardest thing in the world for Christians to hold together in their faith both a personal devotional walk with God in Christ and to advocate and live out the concerns of the LORD for Justice and the poor. Our fundamentalist sisters and brothers sure can be embarrassing, though, can’t they? Bless their heartsAs to proving the existence of God the only place the Bible even comes close to that discussion is in the 1st chapter of Romans, where Paul says something like ‘You want proof of God’s existence? Look around. See anything? God is.’



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neuro_nurse

posted May 8, 2007 at 12:55 am


“SCIENCE AND CHRISTIANITY HAVE NEVER BEEN AT ODDS” Faith and science: “Though faith is above reason, there can never be any real discrepancy between faith and reason. Since the same God who reveals mysteries and infuses faith has bestowed the light of reason on the human mind, God cannot deny himself, nor can truth ever contradict truth.”37 “Consequently, methodical research in all branches of knowledge, provided it is carried out in a truly scientific manner and does not override moral laws, can never conflict with the faith, because the things of the world and the things of faith derive from the same God. The humble and persevering investigator of the secrets of nature is being led, as it were, by the hand of God in spite of himself, for it is God, the conserver of all things, who made them what they are.” Catechism of the Catholic Church 159, http://www.usccb.org/catechism/text/pt1sect1chpt3.htm



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Hali

posted May 8, 2007 at 1:04 am


I am a scientist and a Christian. Many of my colleagues are people of faith. There is no conflict between science and faith – they are completely different realms. Those who try to use science to disprove (or prove) the existence of God really have no understanding of the discipline. Science does not disallow the existence of the immeasurable; in fact, it’s quite the opposite. However, as long as we cannot objectively define and empirically measure God, science has nothing to do with the matter. I do know quite a few atheists who are moral, caring people. But once they try to shove it down your throat, how are they any different from the Bible thumpers? Kevin S. wrote that in his church, “there is just more of an attitude that we should just talk about Christ and let people come to their own conclusions.” Can’t the “New Atheists” do the same with humanism? Fuh pete’s sake! Finally, the whole “face-off” idea that is substituted for real debate in our media is getting to be really tiresome. When a clash of extremes takes the place of an exchange of ideas, the whole thing loses its meaning.



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jurisnaturalist

posted May 8, 2007 at 1:04 am


The fevered pitch of the debate is due to the scrap of bone these two dog-eat-dag factions are fighting over: the state’s support of their agendas. Christians historically do much better when they stay out of these matches. They do better when they are demonstrating personal responsibility for themselves and love for their neighbors in their everyday lives. To whatever extent Christians attempt to direct or influence the resources of the state, they expose themselves to competition against forces which have no virtuous motive. Since the church can ethically assume responsibility for caring for the least of these, it is better that Christians work to reduce and limit the scope of the state as much as is possible.



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jurisnaturalist

posted May 8, 2007 at 1:14 am


Apologetics is ineffective at conversion. How is it that any of us come to Christ except through our response to Christ’s call? I learned a lot of apologetics, starting in high school and on through college, several books, etc. It made an ass of me. Then I took a class with Hauerwas, and realized that we shouldn’t be on the defensive, always responding to attacks. We should be asking the questions, and defining the debate. Otherwise we all wear ducky-croc masks to our own pladypus eggings.



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Starrs

posted May 8, 2007 at 3:07 am


Matt and Kevin, I think you’re right about Comfort & Cameron. I just don’t like their style of approach, and it personally drives me crazy when people try to – as someone said here – “prove” nonbelievers to Christ with the Bible. The problem with too many apologists – Christian and other – is that they don’t listen to each other. They just yell canned answers back and forth, and their hatred of each other is almost palpable. For my own part, I’ve seen Sam Harris’ bitter and condescending harangues lead people straight back to Christ. Speaking as one of those embarassing fundamentalist types, I must say that if we are not sharing our Christian message with love, respect, and action, we are not doing as Christ commanded us. There’s no point in ‘winning’ the war of words if the loser is only vanquished and not saved by Christ. We need to be talking with people in their own terms, not ours.



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Don

posted May 8, 2007 at 3:23 am


I highly recommend Frances Collins book, “The Language of God.” Another good book to read is Kenneth Miller’s “Finding Darwin’s God.” The topic is evolution specifically, and it does a good job of putting to rest the notion that there is a conflict between science and faith in this area. Pardon, but I don’t know who Kirk Cameron and Ray Comfort are or why I should pay attention to whatever they have to say on this topic. Peace,



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Don

posted May 8, 2007 at 3:43 am


Sorry, Squeaky. I didn’t see your post where you mentioned Kenneth Miller. D



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Kristi

posted May 8, 2007 at 3:50 am


I agree that faith and science are completely different realms. One speaks to that which we cannot use our senses to experience, while the other can only be about what we can verifiably observe. However, I know that as I study astrophysics, biology, neurobiology, or any other science I am interested in, the more I become certain that a glorious, guiding hand created it all, and that NOTHING was left up to chance. This does not rob us of our self-determination, but empowers us as living, breathing expressions of the numinous. We are that part of creation that has the power to contemplate and analyze our place in it—and to understand our responsibility. HOW AMAZING IS THAT!



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Greg

posted May 8, 2007 at 5:09 am


Didn’t Douglas Adams write in one of the Hitchhiker books that if you could PROVE the existance of God, he would have to disappear in a puff of smoke, as he could only exist by faith alone?



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neuro_nurse

posted May 8, 2007 at 6:04 am


While we re on the subject of books about God & evolution: Several years ago I was talking to my Grandmother about some of the things I was reading about human consciousness. She gave me her copy of The Phenomenon of Man by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin and told me, I think you re ready for this. She was right. After drifting away from the Church in my late teens and twenties, reading Teilhard de Chardin was one of the things that brought me back. I know that the Church considers some of Pere Teilhard s writings contradictory to Catholic doctrine. Teilhard was a paleontologist and a Jesuit priest who wrote about the evolutionary development of consciousness. I believe he wrote The Phenomenon of Man before Pope Pius XII wrote his encyclical Humani Generis, and all of Teilhard s writings were published posthumously. Anyway, I have found Teilhard s writings to be deeply moving. My Grandmother died recently and I inherited her collection of books on Catholic spirituality and mysticism. Peace!



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Jeremy

posted May 8, 2007 at 7:14 am


Here’s my question: When are we going to stop buying into the idea that God can be “proven” using the Enlightenment model of scientific knowledge? Come on already and give it up. I just fail to understand why so many feel the need to prove God’s existence using the Enlightenment rules. Those rules exclude any personal experiential evidence that would be required, but then Enlightenment thought is quickly finding its demise within the world of science and philosophy, so why are we still fighting a fight that scientists aren’t even fighting anymore? The best that can be offered is an Ontological argument, a teleological argument, or a cosmological argument, and the best that any of these can present is the God of the diest, or the First mover. None prove what really begs to be proven in Christianity; that Christ is Savior and Lord. John 20:29 Jesus said to him, “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.”We seriously need to understand that people aren’t coming to Christ because the “unproveablity” of God, they are coming to Christ because of the witness that we LIVE! John 13:35 “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”



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Kannbrown65

posted May 8, 2007 at 8:54 am


It is interesting, how different perceptions can be. I hear about Harris being so ‘bitter’ or ‘angry’. And I don’t see that. He doesn’t mince words, true. But it might be that people of faith have become a bit, well, frankly, spoiled when it comes to public discourse. Considering the descriptions, the characterizations, and the pseudo-psychoanalysis of atheists I’ve seen on this thread alone, Harris would have to go quite for to even match what is pretty much par for the course for most atheists.Just read what you’ve read above, just about everywhere you see the word ‘atheist’, and ask yourself how often DO you (in the real world, not on the anonymous safety of a bulletin board) hear such things said about religious folk, especially in the media?



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moderatelad

posted May 8, 2007 at 11:35 am


neuro_nurse | 05.07.07 – 7:00 pm | #”SCIENCE AND CHRISTIANITY HAVE NEVER BEEN AT ODDS” Well stated nurse. Later – .



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Don

posted May 8, 2007 at 1:14 pm


Here’s a rather different take on the “does God exist” debate, offered up by a religion columnist whose writings I have come to enjoy. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/17971270/site/newsweek/ Peace,



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Sarasotkid

posted May 8, 2007 at 2:09 pm


Don, that was a really good read. Thank you.



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rain man

posted May 8, 2007 at 2:12 pm


I’m sorry I missed this show, as I would have loved to have witnessed the croc-a-duck display. However, an interesting point that Becky makes is the idea of accepting Christ as a kind of insurance policy. I have a great deal of respect for Pascal, but I’ve always been uneasy with his famous wager. Why not follow Jesus in order to live an abundant life here and now?



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Jeremy

posted May 8, 2007 at 3:01 pm


I have a great deal of respect for Pascal, but I’ve always been uneasy with his famous wager. Why not follow Jesus in order to live an abundant life here and now? Exactly, and when we look at the OT understanding of Sheol (the place of the dead) it would seem that they did not have view of a reward afterlife as we understand it today (i.e. New Heaven & New Earth), instead the place of the dead was the place where all went. Now if we were to apply that to us today then I wonder how many in the church would stay, and I wonder how many would leave because their eternal insurance policy was invalidated. It would seem that God wants us to follow Him not based on what will be given to us, but based on what God has already done for us. A faith that seeks only to save the person from Hell seems to lack authenticity, and it just seems to be a “get out of jail free” card which seems deadly antithetical to the heart of Christianity.



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curiouser and curiouser...

posted May 8, 2007 at 4:21 pm


juristnaturalist, “The fevered pitch of the debate is due to the scrap of bone these two dog-eat-dag factions are fighting over: the state’s support of their agendas.” Doesn’t the Constitution ‘guarantee’ there shall be no establishment of religion? Hence, there should be NO state support of ANY religious agenda.



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kevin s.

posted May 8, 2007 at 4:28 pm


Did anyone catch the interview? There’s been a lot of talk about fighting and such, but was Cameron combative? I have not seen that from him.I would say that there a smattering of folks at my church who have been led to Christ by way of the track-passing crowd, and a few others who consider it important to go to the streets and witness for Christ. I disagree with their methods, but these are good, earnest, Godly people.One thing my church tries to do is simply get in pubic and do nice things. During the hot summer days, we go pass free water at the park. If people ask why, we tell them. If they want to know more, we invite them. That seems more effective to me. Who complaing about free water.I mean, free beer might work better, but that idea was rebuffed for some reason.



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Aaron

posted May 8, 2007 at 4:44 pm


We need to be careful to identify what ultimatly makes aetheism popular The love of non-absurdity? Surely not your preconceived justifications.



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AgnosticAtheist

posted May 8, 2007 at 4:58 pm


I’ll be hosting a BLOG PARTY during the airing of this debate. Please feel free to join in. aA



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rain man

posted May 8, 2007 at 5:44 pm


Thanks Don–that was a very good article. I don’t know how we went from C.S. Lewis to Kirk Cameron representing the Christian side of the argument but nonetheless, if the question of God’s existence could be proven or disproven using logic or the scientific method, it would have been done a long time ago. As the Rabbi said (in the article that Don provided) it is not a problem to be solved, like finding a cure for cancer. It is a mystery.



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kevin s.

posted May 8, 2007 at 6:14 pm


I’m not sure I agree that God’s existence in unprovable. Christ proved it over and over, and yet people rejected him. Grace is a mystery, yes, but God’s existence is not. People reject Christ because they reject God (consciously or not). We are called to be Christlike and spread his message, but the Bible tells us that it will be rejected. In some cases, becoming more Christlike will make us more repulsive.



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nad2

posted May 8, 2007 at 6:36 pm


my point of contention w/ the sam harrises of the world is not their disbelief in god but the overgeneralization & oversimplification of the god-worldview. i read the beliefnet back & forth he & andrew sullivan did & i felt like he talked right past me & most everyone who is not a hell, fire & brimstone kind of christian, & thereby lumped us all in to that group he argued against. perhaps harris has not been exposed to the full diversity of the god-worldview or maybe it just makes his points (& by extention his book sales) weaker so he doesn’t engage the fullness of the god-worldview, i don’t know and i won’t venture a guess either way. i bet the same point of contention exists on the athiest side of this dubious divide w/ folks advocating a god-worldview saying athiests are amoral, or even as rabbi gellman says, that athiests don’t believe in a transcendent duty to treat others w/ dignity & don’t believe in the sanctity of life. i like the good rabbi & i appreciated the overall point of the article, but this sounds like you are describing a sociopath not someone whose response to the mystery is different than yours (even if that response is to affirmatively reject a mystery at all, though i don’t think even sam harris goes there when pressed). so i get back to the futility of this exercise & how it is meant to keep apart & make fools of people who from the depths of their existence can affirm alot of things in common.



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nad2

posted May 8, 2007 at 6:43 pm


one of my best friends growing up is/was a lifelong athiest whose parents were/are athiests. it took me a long time, almost to the point it was too late, to realize that my focusing on it & trying to get to the bottom of his worldview & change his mind was really having the opposite effect i intended – it created division & kept him from wanting to receive (& to a lesser extent kept me from giving) acts of love on my part, which was a shame.



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neuro_nurse

posted May 8, 2007 at 6:51 pm


I ve heard more demands for evidence of the existence of God from those who wish to disprove His existence. Which begs the question; what would such a person accept as evidence of God s existence? Is the demand for evidence for God s existence any more absurd than the demand for empirical evidence that God does not exist? Hali is absolutely correct in saying, Science does not disallow the existence of the immeasurable… 05.07.07 – 7:09 pm It s a silly argument. jurisnaturalist wrote, Apologetics is ineffective at conversion. How is it that any of us come to Christ except through our response to Christ’s call? 05.07.07 – 7:19 pm Those of us who believe have very good reasons for doing so. I don t believe it is fair to hold up the Bible to a non-believer and expect her/him to accept it as empirical evidence of God s existence. Frankly, the evidence I needed to prove not only God s existence, but also His love for me did not come from the Bible. It was, in retrospect, what jurisnaturalist accurately identified as Christ s call.We are called to be Christlike and spread his message. kevin s. So, if science cannot prove or disprove God, and apologetics is ineffective at conversion, where does that leave us who are called to spread his message? By being Christ-like. We re wasting our time on earth doing anything else. Peace!



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Aaron

posted May 8, 2007 at 7:01 pm


I’m not sure I agree that God’s existence in unprovable. Christ proved it over and over, and yet people rejected him. So goes the story written down decades after the face…I think the burden is to “prove” (or at least compellingly show) that Jesus said and did everything attributed to him, which is not limited to the “official” version.



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Alicia

posted May 8, 2007 at 7:59 pm


I can’t believe in a God who would send people to Hell because they were skeptical about his existence, or were of another faith other than (fill in the blank). C.S. Lewis didn’t seem to, either — he apparently believed that faithful pagans had just as much chance of getting into Heaven as Christians. (See the story of Emeth in “The Last Battle.”) This posting and the discussion above are really good. I have been studying the Old Testament for the past year as a part of the University of the South’s “Education for Ministry” Program.At the same time, I have been reading people like Sam Harris, whom I found enormously well-spoken and persuasive. There a problems with religious faith and the effect that it has on the world, and this new breed of “Evangelical atheists” are performing a service, IMO. Yes, some of them are arrogant and abrasive, but no more than many religious people.



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Ngchen

posted May 8, 2007 at 8:56 pm


It is true that very few people are brought to Christ via apologetics. However, we are nevertheless supposed to be able to offer a defense of what we believe when asked and to do it with “gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15). To be able to do so is important for, if nothing else, to show that we aren’t simply a bunch of people mindlessly following a delusion.



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Tom Cammarata

posted May 8, 2007 at 8:58 pm


Of late both theists and atheists have been falling into the same trap: a mis-use of logic which leads to inconclusive conclusions.First, it’s not possible for the atheist to prove the non-existence of God; proving a negative requires producing evidence which, by definition, does not exist, a logical impossibility.This means it’s incumbent on the theist to prove the positive, that God exists. He’s the one whose definition allows for the possibility of evidence; belief alone is neither proof or evidence; nor is the number who believe. However, this does not leave the atheist off the logical hook; it’s incumbent upon him to demonstrate the theist’s proofs are either inconclusive or false, that they lead to contradictions. That’s how logic works. Any debate or discussion presupposes a valid use of the rules of logic. One needn’t know every arcane twist and turn of inductive and deductive reasoning; common sense, while not complete, is fairly practical. But two rules are paramount: necessity and sufficiency; an argumemt must be both necessary and sufficient. Validity requires each. Without either or both no argument has any hope. This is why the theist-atheist debate goes on endlessly and fruitlessly. One side rejects the other side’s conclusions, mainly because they aren’t worth accepting, logically. Those who appeal to faith ultimately deny logic entirely; those who apply logic ineptly are no better, and do as much damage. Forty years ago I created a bumper sticker showing Mr. Spock saying “Logic Saves.” I believed it then, but did not fully know why. Now I do. It took forty years to unravel the reasoning.



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kevin s.

posted May 8, 2007 at 9:25 pm


“I can’t believe in a God who would send people to Hell because they were skeptical about his existence, or were of another faith other than (fill in the blank).” That’s unfortunate. And I don’t think the evidence is on your side in suggesting that C.S. Lewis agrees with you. However, Lewis suggests (as others do) that hell may exists simply outside of God, as those who denied grace through his son are able to observe, but not experience his love. Whether that constitutes a lake of fire, or something unimaginably worse, if heaven consists of the abundance of God’s love and freedom from sin, than woes to the person who rejects God’s love and his gift of grace. “There a problems with religious faith and the effect that it has on the world, and this new breed of “Evangelical atheists” are performing a service, IMO.” This is where I disagree. Harris takes a fact (that some religious folks are guilty of committing grave ills upon society) and draws an inaccurate conclusion. How is this performing a valuable service?Hitler’s scientists utilized Eugenics toward an end that was disastrous. Does that mean that research into genetics can be dismissed. Further, Harris uses atrocities performed by ALL religions to claim that there is no God. Those who believe in a false god cannot reasonably be expected to perform good in God’s name. Utlitmately, the worship of a false God is a worship of self. The God exists as a projection of our own human desires. Sometimes that God fits within the confines of a particular religion, sometimes not. Jesus calls us to deny ourselves and follow him. He is the son of the one and true God. That some have chosen to ignore his calling and perpetuate atrocity does not speak to the question of his Godly nature.



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Alicia

posted May 8, 2007 at 9:37 pm


kevin s,The God of which you speak strikes me as a schoolyard bully forcing his victims to eat worms. (Or be eaten by worms, LOL.) That’s the most apt metaphor I can think of, and I stand by it.I’ve been encountering that version of God in my study of the Old Testament this year (but, of course, that is not the only version of God described in the Old Testament, for which I am grateful) and I thank God that we will be studying the New Testament next year to see another side of the human relationship to God.



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kevin s.

posted May 8, 2007 at 10:09 pm


“The God of which you speak strikes me as a schoolyard bully forcing his victims to eat worms. (Or be eaten by worms, LOL.) That’s the most apt metaphor I can think of, and I stand by it. ” That’s an interesting way to perceive a God who gave his son on the cross.”I thank God that we will be studying the New Testament next year to see another side of the human relationship to God” He’s the same God, either way.



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Alicia

posted May 8, 2007 at 10:18 pm


Speaking of C.S. Lewis, in “A Grief Observed” the great man spends a great deal of time wondering whether God is a cosmic sadist. He allows the possibility, though of course his faith brings him to a different understanding of the issue.



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K.Bitner

posted May 8, 2007 at 10:20 pm


“Proof without faith?” Seems like an odd turn of phrase to me. How is faith proof? Faith is belief without proof. Do they mean proof without the Bible? That would make more sense. Frankly, I see no point in these kinds of debates, either. I agree with Payshun that the extremists make everyone else look foolish. And they seem to be the ones talking the loudest. I’ve been accused of being a fence sitter, and I always reply that when there are snakes in the tall grass on both sides, then the fence is the safest place to be. I’ve never had a hard time with science and faith. Science tells me how, while faith tells me why. IMO we are talking apples and oranges. They’ll go great together in a salad, but they are not the same kind of fruit, if that makes any sense. Atheists are like any other group. There are good and bad. Morals aren’t wholly owned by religion. One can be of any faith, or none at all while still being a moral person. Atheism isn’t a license to do anything you want. They would probably argue that it’s better to do something because you know it’s wrong than because you are afraid you will go roast if you do. Why should we try to prove either the existence or non-existence of the Divine?? What differnece does it make what anyone else thinks or believes? My faith doesn’t change just because someone else disagrees with it.



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K.Bitner

posted May 8, 2007 at 10:23 pm


Oops. I meant to say regarding Atheists; they would argue that it’s better to NOT do something because you know it’s wrong…..Obviously I need to have some food as my brain is low on sugar :)



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squeaky

posted May 8, 2007 at 10:39 pm


“Hitler’s scientists utilized Eugenics toward an end that was disastrous. Does that mean that research into genetics can be dismissed.Further, Harris uses atrocities performed by ALL religions to claim that there is no God. Those who believe in a false god cannot reasonably be expected to perform good in God’s name.” Good points, Kevin S. Creationists are still adhering to the eugenics argument to attempt to debunk evolution. This is a good example of how the extremists on both side are mirror images of each other.



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squeaky

posted May 8, 2007 at 10:55 pm


Overall, a great discussion–one of the best I’ve encountered on here so far! Alicia, you brought up the subject of Hell–which has been a topic I started to study last summer when a pastor friend of mine told me in his denomination, Hell is not a place of eternal suffering, but a place where unbelievers may spend a period of time before being destroyed in a one-time event. So, no eternal suffering in a lack of fire. I did a double-take when he said that. I studied the subject for a few months until I got too busy to give it much attention any more, but a book you may be interested in is Edward Fudge’s “The Fire that Consumes.” I had just started reading it before I got too busy. It’s voluminous, but I believe he studies the scriptural and historical roots of our current concept of Hell. I also ran across the idea of Universalism, which is the belief that Christ’s sacrifice is all encompassing even for people who reject Him. So no one goes to Hell (although I think some versions of Universalism argue that some are punished or purged for a time). The argument is how can our short life time rack up enough sin that is punishable for an eternity. I sympathize with the viewpoint, but I can’t hold to that one–I don’t believe it holds water Scripturally, and it seems to cheapen grace. McLaren wrote in one of his books, I believe it was “Finding Faith”, but it could have been in one from the “A New Kind of Christian” trilogy, that a person’s eternity essentially isn’t our business (I’m paraphrasing). The point he was making is that we get so hung up on eternal salvation we forget to love the person and be attentive to their needs. I believe he was saying it isn’t our job to save people, but rather it is our job to lead people to Christ, not by what we say, but by what we do. People followed Christ because He was winsome and because He truly loved the people around Him. Others have noted here, and I agree, that that is the best way to witness. Be Christ. Someone once said that anyone who can be argued into Christianity can just as easily be argued out of it. These debates of Christianity vs. Atheism, as many have mentioned, have very little value and convince very few on either side of the issue.



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Pacific231

posted May 8, 2007 at 11:03 pm


I think we can all agree that this “debate” was a joke from both sides. Kirk Cameron and the Rational Response Squad…not exactly a think tank gathering! ;-) What a waste of time and an embarrasment for people on either side. A genuine debate was already had between Andrew Sullivan and Sam Harris here on Beliefnet. That debate was legitimate, civilized and thought-provoking – all things the ABC “debate” surely were not. I wonder if Becky Garrison is underappreciating the corruption of religion in America. Consider the recent Bnet survey on its homepage: 64% of those who responded said faith is more important than doing good! I see American Christianity becoming increasingly divisive and continuously moving politically to the far right, which not coincidenally coincides with the widely recognized “coarsening” of American society. Suffice to say we need more people, ESPECIALLY Christians, who think it is more important to do good than merely “have” the ‘get out of hell free’ card known as “faith.” Rev. Ralph W. Sockman said: “The test of tolerance comes when we are in the majority.” I suggest the vast majority of American Christians are flunking that test.



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Kristi

posted May 8, 2007 at 11:14 pm


Yes, I too am tired of atheists blaming God for the evil humans perpetrate. Just because some use the excuse that they are doing harm in His name, does not make it so. To use that as proof that God does not exist is a very cheap shot. And I also agree that any Christian that claims that science is not to be trusted just because human beings choose to do evil with knowledge as well, are even more heinous BECAUSE THEY SHOULD KNOW BETTER!!!



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nad2

posted May 8, 2007 at 11:25 pm


squeaky, ‘the origin of satan’ by elaine pagels is an incredible book on the subject of, well, the origin of satan, evil, ‘othering’ & early christianity. i took a course called ‘evil’ in college of which this book was a part. i think you’d enjoy it & it is not so voluminous.



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squeaky

posted May 8, 2007 at 11:29 pm


Thanks, nad2! I’ll check it! What is ‘othering’?



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nad2

posted May 9, 2007 at 12:07 am


othering – my definition, not pagels’: distingishing from the greater group someone who it at odds w/ you on an issue or for whom you see a potential conflict or competition w/ & ascribing negative traits to them.



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Alicia

posted May 9, 2007 at 12:24 am


Thanks, squeaky. I brought up Hell because of this paragraph in Becky Garrison’s piece: “Even though the atheists failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that God could not have been the spark that set all of creation, they seem to have nailed this debate when Cameron pulled out the get-out-of-hell card. Simply put, this was what you believe about God will determine where you spend eternity. At this point, if I wasn t covering this event, I would have crawled out of the church in shame.” My comments about the vision of God as a “Schoolyard Bully” to which some believers appear to describe were a response to Garrison’s point.



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Alicia

posted May 9, 2007 at 12:26 am


“to which some believers appear to subscribe…” as I meant to say.



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kevin s.

posted May 9, 2007 at 12:38 am


“Good points, Kevin S. Creationists are still adhering to the eugenics argument to attempt to debunk evolution.” Can you unpack this notion a little?



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nad2

posted May 9, 2007 at 12:49 am


alicia, i agree, though it was hard to chime in on a point of theological disagreement amongst so many here when we all seemed to be holding hands & singing in a circle for once! the simple fact is that god created (just go w/ the faith language a minute here athiests) innumerable peoples throughout existence that have never been exposed to the god of abraham or jesus or have been raised deeply rooted in their own faith system the same way we are in ours (athiests, hindus & others included) & it flies in the face of a loving god concept to exclude some for lack of mental assent to certain factual claims when god has created such a diverse (& sometimes god-ignorant) race. & it certainly doesn’t bring anything redeeming to the tilting at windmills we call the ‘god’s existence debate.’



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kevin s.

posted May 9, 2007 at 12:53 am


“The point he was making is that we get so hung up on eternal salvation we forget to love the person and be attentive to their needs.” This is from “Finding Faith” (his best book, IMO). The trouble for me with extricating faith from fact, is that we are then left with some intangible reason why some are struck to believe in Christ.For Calvinists, this has to do with being chosen by God. There is some merit to this argument, that some are predestined to follow God, while others are not. For me, this seems utterly incomplete, not to mention unjust.If we are left to have faith in a God that cannot be proven, then it seems that our entire salvation is left to cosmic chance. We have to hope that the holy spirit moves within us. That, or we must believe that God evinces himself somehow, and that we are accountable to embracing him based upon the information at hand. The former seems to suggest we should dismiss whole sections of the population entirely, while the latter suggests that we must reach as many people as possible before it is too late. Cameron and Comfort obviously stand at the latter end of the spectrum.



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nad2

posted May 9, 2007 at 12:54 am


come to think of it, the pascal’s wager, ‘i’d rather be wrong & a fool at the end than wrong & in hell at the end.’ sounds an aweful lot like the bush rhetoric leading up to war, ‘we can’t let the smoking gun of wmd in iraq be in the form of a mushroom cloud.’ i wonder if this was their inspiration? in any event, w/in this context it’s not now hard to see why it sold so well.



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Alicia

posted May 9, 2007 at 1:08 am


If we are certain of something, then, by definition, we don’t need faith.That’s why I think certainty and faith may be opposites. As my Dad used to say (he was a Lutheran minister) there is more faith in honest doubt than in…ok, I forget the second half of his statement, but something to this effect … there is more faith in honest doubt than in complacent certainty.



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neuro_nurse

posted May 9, 2007 at 1:51 am


Another book that addresses the topic of hell is Lee Strobel’s “The Case for Faith.” In fact, the book deals with several objections that are commonly raised by people who have trouble accepting the existence of God in the face of all the “evidence” that He does not. Strobel interviews J. P. Moreland who states that the “lake of fire” and being eaten by worms are metaphorical. Hell is separation from God. Moreland also states that condemnation is the result of a series of choices to reject God.Hell is given up so reluctantly by those who don t expect to go there. Harry Leon Wilson, The Spenders. (Cited in The Encyclopedia of Religious Quotes Mead, 1965)



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Kristi

posted May 9, 2007 at 3:00 am


I lived with the “faith of the fearful” for many years—that faith which comes from fear of hell more than love of God. Bringing out the “hell card” is a very weak argument for faith. I had no idea what I really believed, yet I was terrified to ask any questions for fear that if I didn’t swallow everything whole hog, that God would send me to hell for doubting. Then I realized that what I doubted was human ideals about what and who God is, not God himself. That is when I started studying theology and science, and I began to realize that science was merely the scrapping of the surface of how God made our universe, and how it keeps running. I too believe that hell is separation from God—I can’t imagine anything more horrifying. Atheists think that they are without Him, yet they live within his creation, and so receive little bits of him that they attribute purely to nature—such as the beauty of a sunset or the smile of a child. I don’t think that anyone who was allowed to experience even a moment separated from God in this life, would ever want to spend eternity like that. But that would be a violation of free will, so God lets them make their own choice to be separated from Him, and the rest of us, for all eternity. I am not sure if they will simply pass into nothingness, or worse nothingness with consciousness—that is too fine a theological hair for me to split—but I know that I am certain because of our faith, that we will spend eternity together, and with our Lord. How much more joyful to be Christian because of trust instead of fear!



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Another nonymous

posted May 9, 2007 at 4:49 am


As my Dad used to say (he was a Lutheran minister) there is more faith in honest doubt than in…ok, I forget the second half of his statement, but something to this effect … there is more faith in honest doubt than in complacent certainty. Alicia | 05.08.07 – 7:13 pm | #”There lives more faith in honest doubt, Believe me, than in half the creeds.” It’s from Tennyson’s “In Memoriam.”



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Another nonymous

posted May 9, 2007 at 5:00 am


BTW, I read a debate in Newsweek recently between Rick Warren and Sam Harris, and I was disappointed that Warren didn’t challenge Harris’s statement that religion is the only place in the world where dogma is considered a good thing. Harris, of course, was using the word to mean “inflexible insistence on something not rationally verifiable.” This is how most people understand the term. What it actually means is an explanation of a type of meaning that cannot be conveyed in factual language, or kerygma. Using kerygma to try to prove dogma is a fool’s errand if there ever was one, but dismissing dogma because your mind doesn’t resonate with that kind of meaning is just as bad.



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nad2

posted May 9, 2007 at 5:24 am


another nonymous, i tried having a similar discussion w/ the folks on the harris/sullivan debate they did here on beliefnet (and have also tried here as well), trying to divorce the broader term & concept of ‘truth’ from the much narrower ‘factuality’ & how folks on both sides of this ridiculous ‘debate,’ & generally confused the two. it was not well received by anyone. maybe it was the fumbling messenger, though i felt surprisingly articulate in saying that truth, what religion is (or should be) trying to point toward, is not really dependent on factuality, including the scientifically verifiable factual existence of god. marcus borg has described the bible as ‘poetry plus,’ not ‘history minus’ as its detracters would describe it. i really liked that because, among other reasons, there is profound truth that can be conveyed in poetry (and parables) apart from their factuality. indeed much of truth simply cannot be expressed factually or within the concept of factuality (though it does rear its head from time to time in factual events), thus we have fiction, music, art, peotry, & yes religion, not an altogether identical animal as the others, but not all that different either.



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nad2

posted May 9, 2007 at 5:33 am


& yes, i affirm that one of those factual events in which truth reared its head is the life of jesus, or at the very least, it was a quasi-factual event as handed down to us, but the gospels are still true even w/ (& especially w/) the elements of storytelling that have been handed down to us as well about the one who for christians is the decisive revelation of the truth we affirm as god.



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nad2

posted May 9, 2007 at 5:43 am


i don’t think we’ve fully recovered from the shock of the enlightenment.



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Canucklehead

posted May 9, 2007 at 7:21 am


“marcus borg has described the bible as ‘poetry plus…” nad2 Borg? You’re reading Marcus Borg? Do I need to come down there and thump you on the head with my Scofield Reference Bible? (I interviewed him when he was at a local university recently – one of the most honest interviews I’ve had from anyone related to religious studies, I thot)



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Aaron

posted May 9, 2007 at 1:53 pm


Another book that addresses the topic of hell is Lee Strobel’s “The Case for Faith.” In fact, the book deals with several objections that are commonly raised by people who have trouble accepting the existence of God in the face of all the “evidence” that He does not. I’d say Cameron’s more scholarly and convincing than Strobel on his best day.



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Aaron

posted May 9, 2007 at 1:56 pm


“Good points, Kevin S. Creationists are still adhering to the eugenics argument to attempt to debunk evolution.” Can you unpack this notion a little? kevin s. | Homepage | 05.08.07 – 6:43 pm | # In their quest to ban “Evil”ution from the schools, creationists and IDiots use the same spurious logic you lambasted in claiming that the logical conclusion of “Darwinistic indoctrination” is such social policies as eugenics. It’s usually a third tier argument on their part that comes after their positive ID/creo claims being laughingly exposed for what they are, then their anti-evolution arguments being exposed for the fallacies they are, then the ad hominems such as the eugenics argument begins.



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nad2

posted May 9, 2007 at 4:11 pm


canucklehead, i actually led a lenten group study of ‘the last week’ by borg & crossan in rural alabama of all places, & it was quite well-received, of course not everyone cleaned their plate & asked for seconds w/ it, but at the very least everyone seemed to enjoy the meal, if that makes sense. you’d be surprised how eager & embracing the adult population of this world is for an approachable and affirming alternative to the banging gong we so often hear. such alternatives are not hard to find, but knowing where to look is the problem.



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Alicia

posted May 9, 2007 at 4:38 pm


“There lives more faith in honest doubt, Believe me, than in half the creeds.” It’s from Tennyson’s “In Memoriam.” Thanks, Another nonymous!



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john pavelko

posted May 9, 2007 at 4:49 pm


Thank you for your comments about the ABC show. It is a sad commentary on the faith. I am sure that only Christian extremists who fit into the SNL stereotype are asked to participate. The opponents to the faith are easily able to make them look foolish.



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Pacific231

posted May 9, 2007 at 5:00 pm


That Tennyson quote reminds me of this one: Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blind-folded fear. – Thomas Jefferson



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Pacific231

posted May 9, 2007 at 5:02 pm


Aaron wrote: “I’d say Cameron’s more scholarly and convincing than Strobel on his best day.” Agree, Aaron. Stroebel certainly does have quite a racket going on with his raft of “The Case for…” books which are designed to “preach to the choir”.



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squeaky

posted May 9, 2007 at 5:43 pm


Kevin S.–”Creationists are still adhering to the eugenics argument to attempt to debunk evolution.” They argue that evolution is wrong scientifically because the concept of evolution (often misunderstood as “the survival of the fittest”) allows for eugenics and that Hitler used it to justify his Aryan race. It has been used to justify extermination of genetically weak people, including the infirm and the mentally disabled, etc. Although it is true that evil people have used it to justify their evil acts, it doesn’t mean the science is wrong. And often, the use of evolution in this way springs from a total misunderstanding of evolution or how it works. Science can be used or misused depending on the goals of the person using it–we split the atom which gives us massive amounts of clean energy, but can also be used to anihilate millions of people in one fell swoop. I don’t know if that answers your question or not… “If we are left to have faith in a God that cannot be proven, then it seems that our entire salvation is left to cosmic chance. We have to hope that the holy spirit moves within us. That, or we must believe that God evinces himself somehow, and that we are accountable to embracing him based upon the information at hand.” this is something I have found a lot of discomfort ever since I became a Christian–it’s the “what about the Pygmies in Africa?” question, for which no one has ever really given me a good answer. I would have to say, the best I have come up with is that people are accountable to respond to the light they have received, and Christ’s sacrifice is huge enough to cover even those who will never hear His name. It sounds like justification by works, but I know my God is just and fair and that He loves every one of us. With that in mind, I know He would give every person an opportunity to know Him, and it may be that that opportunity won’t look the same to everyone as it looked to me. Bottom line is I have to trust He knows what He is doing in this regard. Not that the how of it all still doesn’t bother me, but I used to think there would be tumbleweeds floating down the streets of Heaven for lack of people, but now I think it will be much fuller than I ever expected.



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Carl Copas

posted May 9, 2007 at 5:49 pm


“Borg? You’re reading Marcus Borg? Do I need to come down there and thump you on the head with my Scofield Reference Bible?” ROFL In truth, I’ve learned much from Borg, even if occasionally he borders on a bit too cutesy poetical reading of the Bible versus historical reading.



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squeaky

posted May 9, 2007 at 6:28 pm


Borg–you will be assimilated. Resistance is futile. Sorry, couldn’t resist…



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kevin s.

posted May 9, 2007 at 6:48 pm


“They argue that evolution is wrong scientifically because the concept of evolution (often misunderstood as “the survival of the fittest”) allows for eugenics and that Hitler used it to justify his Aryan race.” Got it. I don’t find this argument compelling.



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kevin s.

posted May 9, 2007 at 6:54 pm


“In their quest to ban “Evil”ution from the schools, creationists and IDiots use the same spurious logic you lambasted in claiming that the logical conclusion of “Darwinistic indoctrination” is such social policies as eugenics.” Alright. Enough of the quote games. If someone didn’t say something, you do not put it in quotes as though they did. Seriously, how pedantic. Not only did I not use the phrase, I did not make this argument.



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squeaky

posted May 9, 2007 at 6:59 pm


Kevin–I read that comment of Aaron’s and thought he was being unduly harsh towards you, but reading on, I think he was actually directing that harshness towards creationists and ID supporters. He can correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think he directed the malice towards you. That being said, I am not fond of the denigration of creationists and ID supporters, so the use of the terms IDiots and “evil-ution” do little to foster any real conversation. I disagree with them, but I don’t think it is right to ridicule them (as a former creationist, I know I had very good reasons for believing as I did). Everyone is at a different place, and if you want to convince someone to be more open-minded about science, throwing such epithets at them is not a helpful practice…



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neuro_nurse

posted May 9, 2007 at 7:49 pm


Here s a link to an article in The New Humanist about Sam Harris. I think the article is especially worth reading because it is a criticism of Harris from an atheist source. this bilious attack on faith the aspect of the book which has received all the attention only sets the stage for what seems to be his real goal: a defense, nay, a celebration of Harris own Dzogchen Buddhist and Advaita Vedantic Hindu spirituality. http://www.newhumanist.org.uk/Volume121issue3_more.php?id=2030_0_42_0_CI’d say Cameron’s more scholarly and convincing than Strobel on his best day. Aaron | 05.09.07 – 7:58 am Can I presume from that statement that you have read Strobel? it’s the “what about the Pygmies in Africa?” question, for which no one has ever really given me a good answer. squeaky | 05.09.07 – 11:48 am That is one of the questions addressed in The Case for Faith, and your solution to that problem is essentially the same as Strobel & Co. Peace!



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neuro_nurse

posted May 9, 2007 at 7:54 pm


“I used to think there would be tumbleweeds floating down the streets of Heaven for lack of people, but now I think it will be much fuller than I ever expected.” squeaky | 05.09.07 – 11:48 amI suspect the population of hell is much lower than most people presume. “Borg–you will be assimilated. Resistance is futile.” Ha!



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Pacific231

posted May 9, 2007 at 8:13 pm


Neuro_nurse, I believe Sam Harris addresses atheists who accuse him of not really being an atheist but rather advocating for Buddhist/Hinduist spirituality in the revised edition of his “The End of Faith” with an appendix of new content. IIRC he dealt with this criticism rather well. FWIW.



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Aaron

posted May 9, 2007 at 8:41 pm


That being said, I am not fond of the denigration of creationists and ID supporters, so the use of the terms IDiots and “evil-ution” do little to foster any real conversation. I disagree with them, but I don’t think it is right to ridicule them (as a former creationist, I know I had very good reasons for believing as I did). Everyone is at a different place, and if you want to convince someone to be more open-minded about science, throwing such epithets at them is not a helpful practice… Squeaky, evilution is a term coined by creationists. Kevin- Try some reading comprehension. Can I presume from that statement that you have read Strobel? Neuronurese, yes I read one of the Case for… books, can’t remember if it was …Christ, Faith, or Creator though. It was laughnigly absurd, down there with McDowell’s Evidence the Demands a Verdict books.



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squeaky

posted May 9, 2007 at 9:18 pm


Aaron– “I read one of the Case for… books, can’t remember if it was …Christ, Faith, or Creator though. It was laughnigly absurd, down there with McDowell’s Evidence the Demands a Verdict books.” Why so? I haven’t read them, but interested in what you found them lacking in…



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Aaron

posted May 9, 2007 at 9:33 pm


squeaky- Preaching to the choir type books such as Stroebel’s lack a certain rigor and tend to have about as much scholarship as most creationist propaganda pieces. In building their “case” or “evidence” they tend to mischaracterize opposition positions, leave out pertinent data, and are just plain disingenuous in their approach. I’m not adverse (as an atheist) to reading a good theological work or apologetic, they at least can bring honest assessments about their own and the oppositions positions. To put it another way, I could probably write one of these Strobel type books under a pseudonym and be just as “convincing” (and make some money in the great evangelical consumer culture. I wouldn’t be able to do that on a higher level.



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squeaky

posted May 9, 2007 at 9:48 pm


Hmm-have you read McLaren’s “Finding Faith”? Interested to know your opinion. I tend to find books like these to make convincing arguments, but then, I sing alto in the choir. It’s hard to see it from the opposite perspective, but I suspect I can make an approximation by my own critiques of the works by atheist apologists. These also seem to be preaching to the choir, and not very convincing from my perspective, although I think good points are made. Do you find their arguments convincing from your perspective?



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kevin s.

posted May 9, 2007 at 10:11 pm


“Kevin- Try some reading comprehension.” My reading comprehension skills are more than adequate, thank you. “In their quest to ban “Evil”ution from the schools, creationists and IDiots use the same spurious logic you lambasted in claiming that the logical conclusion of “Darwinistic indoctrination” is such social policies as eugenics” If this was not directed at me, then this should be written as follows: In their quest to ban “Evil”ution from the schools, creationists and IDiots use the same spurious logic – claiming that the logical conclusion of “Darwinistic indoctrination” is such social policies as eugenics – that you lambasted above. Just a grammatical note from one IDiot to another.



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Aaron

posted May 9, 2007 at 10:27 pm


Do you find their arguments convincing from your perspective? Can’t say, I’ve never read atheist aplogetics. Mostly because the only thing individual atheists really have in common is their atheism, so I feel no need to read the ‘scriptures’ so to speak.



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Aaron

posted May 9, 2007 at 10:29 pm


Kevin please, don’t conflate my idiotism with IDiotism, it’s insulting.



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squeaky

posted May 9, 2007 at 11:30 pm


“Kevin please, don’t conflate my idiotism with IDiotism, it’s insulting.” I enjoy the subtle humor in this request…



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Another nonymous

posted May 10, 2007 at 12:27 am


nad2 – Thanks for your comments above, with which I fully sympathize. Yes, we haven’t fully recovered from the shock of the Enlightenment, as evidenced by this entire topic. Pre-Enlightenment, it wasn’t necessary to prove that God did or did not exist; it was simply a given, much as subatomic particles are now. There are those who don’t believe in subatomic particles, but they don’t participate in serious intellectual debate. Post-Enlightenment, believers feel compelled to make their belief “scientific,” even when it fundamentally and necessarily isn’t. That’s the problem with ID; it’s an idea, not a scientific theory. Post-Post-Enlightenment: We can accept that when religion gets put on the same level as science, it’s been demoted????



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nad2

posted May 10, 2007 at 12:56 am


demoted, or at the very least it’s lost its pants. thanks for the thoughtful perspective anoth anon.



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payshun

posted May 10, 2007 at 1:25 am


I have never bought into the notion that science and faith are separate. They always seemed one to me. I remember when our Muslim brothers and sisters were technolgoically superior to the west (think the crusades.) They knew how to use telescopes when Europeans did not believe in science at all.I guess my point is that we don’t really have to even have this conversation w/ our athiest friends or not. We don’t have to prove God for anyone. I am not so bored w/ my own life that I feel the need to. p



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Canucklehead

posted May 10, 2007 at 2:11 am


“canucklehead, i actually led a lenten group study of ‘the last week’ by borg & crossan in rural alabama of all places, & it was quite well-received…” nad2 I have forwarded the Spiritual KKK in greater Birmingham your home address.



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Carl Copas

posted May 10, 2007 at 2:36 am


Squeaky, McLaren’s “Finding Faith” indeed helped me find a bit of faith and turned me back toward Christ after years of wandering in an existentialist wilderness. Still a long way to go, and I still read Kierkegaard for Christian existentialism, but I have a very high regard for McLaren.



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Sarasotakid

posted May 10, 2007 at 3:09 am


I have forwarded the Spiritual KKK in greater Birmingham your home address. CanuckleheadThat was so funny!!!!



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Sarasotakid

posted May 10, 2007 at 3:13 am


Hmmm… I just visited Comfort’s website, and he has an ad for “Ray Comfort’s Intelligent Design vs. Evolution Board Game”. That’s a bit embarassing (and I am an ID proponent). kevin s. You think we could all play on line. We could try to make intelligently designed Hilary Clintons and George Bushs. Aw forget it, we would only prove evolution.



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Canucklehead

posted May 10, 2007 at 6:23 am


Ha, I like that. But if there is such a thing as Intelligent Design, how in the world do you guys account for Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson?



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Sarasotakid

posted May 10, 2007 at 12:34 pm


Ha, I like that. But if there is such a thing as Intelligent Design, how in the world do you guys account for Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson? CanuckleheadEven toy doll makers have been known to drop one or two of them on their head from time to time.



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nad2

posted May 10, 2007 at 5:22 pm


yes, here is alabama they sometimes still use the old dollar on a string technique, except it’s liberal theology books they put on the string & unwitting liberal souls go chasing the books on the ground, all the way into an alley where men in hoods nab them & take them to the nearest baptist dunking pool where they are ‘baptisized’ until they repent! we progressive minds are so gullible we fall for it every time, i’ve lost many a fiendish liberal friend that way. now they hang out in front of the piggly wiggly & hand out new testaments.



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curiouser and curiouser...

posted May 10, 2007 at 8:16 pm


“into an alley where men in hoods nab them & take them to the nearest baptist dunking pool where they are ‘baptisized’ until they repent” Hmmm, sounds like waterboarding to me!



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neuro_nurse

posted May 10, 2007 at 9:17 pm


Aaron, I won t defend Strobel, but I wouldn t call the Case for Faith preaching to the choir. My wife gave me a copy when we were courting because, like many people, I had some serious concerns about Christian beliefs. (I was a recovering Catholic at the time and angry with the Church lest anyone jump on that bandwagon, I am still Catholic, and very happily so) CFF addressed those question is an easily read and understandable way. The most ridiculous thing anyone can every say is, I know how you feel, but on some level, I think I understand where you are coming from. I say that because for a time, I rejected Christianity (but at that time I also felt a great spiritual hunger that led me on a journey that brought me back to the Church). If that s where you are (and I don t know that it is), I respect that. I believe creationists are doing Christianity a disservice by trying to force their beliefs on others. It s not science. Evolution is taught in science classes because it is science. I ve never read him, so I can t comment about Harris. I have read some of Dennet s writings on consciousness. I ve also read other consciousness scientists who disagree with him, and I tend to side with them. I really don t believe that Christians should get so worked up about Harris, Dennet, The DaVinci Code, or the ossuary of Jesus & Mary Magdalene. I don t see those things as threats to our faith. If we consider our beliefs to be truth, than why worry about lies? Peace!



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letjusticerolldown

posted May 11, 2007 at 6:56 pm


Can the existence of God be proven? If you tell me what constitutes proof; and what your proof is that your standard is true; then I may consider the invitation. To me it is a journey of head and heart dependent on the willingness to obey and submit to truth along the way. No seeking, no thinking, no beliveing, no obedience, no submission, no transformation, no work of the Spirit — leads to no discovery.



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Wendy Douglas

posted May 17, 2007 at 12:26 am


“The fool says in his heart, ‘there is no God.’” All of creation is a testimony and evidence that God exists. The book of John tells us that God created all things and that nothing was made (that was made) without Him. God uses the “foolish to confound the wise”. Jesus only did what God told Him to do and all authority was given to Jesus by God to rule all of creation. The Apostle Paul says that all things are possible but not necessarily profitable. The Bible also says “with God, all things are possible” and “with man it seems impossible but with God nothing is impossible.” God gives us “free-will” because He wants us to choose Him freely and willingly. In the Judgement, if anyone has denied Jesus Christ the Son of God and failed to accept Him as Lord and Savior, their sins will be revealed and God will have no choice but to condemn them for the sin. If we belong to Jesus, “His blood covers a multitude of sins”. What Cameron and Comfort teach is “by our confession…” we have either gained eternal life in Jesus Christ or we have been condemned to eternal hell already. The Bible tells us, “he who has denied the Christ is condemned already because he did not believe in the NAME OF THE SON OF GOD…JESUS CHRIST. May GOD have mercy on us all. “LET HIM WHO HAS EARS…HEAR. LET HIM WHO HAS EYES…SEE. LET HIM WHO WILL…CHOOSE LIFE IN JESUS CHRIST”. (DEUTERONOMY 30:19, “I set before you this day, blessings and cursings. Choose life that you and your descendants may live.” Joshua (OT) said, “as for me and my house…we will serve the Lord. “EVEN SO,COME QUICKLY LORD JESUS.”



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Icelander

posted July 20, 2007 at 4:49 pm


“We need to be careful to identify what ultimatly makes aetheism popular. It is the freedom to do whatever you want.”
As an atheist I can tell you that I most certainly CANNOT do whatever I want. I have no one to forgive me if I screw things up. Everything is on my head, so my actions and words must be carefully chosen.
This is another one of the stereotypes of atheists that the author of the article is talking about. Just because we’re not afraid of a god doesn’t mean we’re immoral or that we can do whatever we want. In fact, the notion that we have only one life means that we must live it as well as possible.



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Stephen Rhodes

posted July 17, 2008 at 7:31 pm


Too many people today are confused about science and religion. Science in no way contradicts Christianity. However, Christianity does contradict evolution and the big bang theory, but science, also, contradicts both evolution and the big bang theory.
The big bang theory states that all the matter of the universe was contained in a small sphere which existed outside of time and space. Then the sphere came into our plane of existence,which created an explosion that formed the universe.The problem with this premise is that it violates the second law of thermodynamics, which states that an object at rest will stay at rest unless acted upon by an outside force. So, my question to all the people and experts who believe in the big bang theory is what type of outside force acted upon the sphere to push it into our plane of existence.
In evolution, people are taught that all life started out as prokyrotic cells, which later devolped into eukyrotic cells. However, this gigantic evolutionary step did not happen gradually as every other step in evolution. This step took place by a big prokyrotic cell eating a much smaller prokyrotic cell. Sounds simple until you read the fine print and use a little bit of common sense or logic. The bigger cell has to be an animal cell because it devours smaller cells to get its energy; however, this time the cell swallowed its dinner, but did not digest itsmeal. So, the cell had to be weak and sick. Furthermore, when the large cell divided, the smaller cell had to be in the middle of the larger cell and divide at the same time. After both cells formed this new species of cells, which we now call eukyrotic cells, what did they eat? Did the bigger cell now use the sun for its source of food, because the cell can not digest the source of food that it is acoutom to, which means it went from being an animal to a plant. This does not make any sense.
Also, evolution contradicts Gibb’s Free Energy, which states that over a long period of time the universe will become more chaotic. However, evolution states over time lower life forms evolve into higher life forms.



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eve

posted September 21, 2008 at 1:48 am


If you choose to believe that God does not exist in spite of all the things you see around you, and that is enough proof right there, then you have no one but yourself to blame for what happens to you when you die. God sends no one to Hell. Their very words condemn them.



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Delphia

posted May 11, 2013 at 3:49 pm


Hiya! Quick question that’s completely off topic. Do you know how to make your site mobile friendly? My site looks weird when browsing from my iphone 4. I’m trying to find a theme or plugin that might be able to resolve this problem.
If you have any recommendations, please share.

With thanks!



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VTcznBf2646Y12

posted August 7, 2013 at 2:50 am


322277 469317I don



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