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All sorts of topics...

“But the Bible's contents are unique (qualitatively different to all other religions)”

Please provide one example from the bible that demonstrates its unique qualitative property.

Hmm hard to adequately briefly summarise. There are a few key themes which work together:

  • God's love for His created children
  • The history of sin and its effect on destroying good relationships human-to-human and human-to-God
  • His plan to restore His children to a relationship with Him, in an eternal family
  • God's way of dealing with the problem of sin and its destruction of relationships (human-to-human and human-to-God), first by demanding a reckoning for sin, showing His righteousness (hating sin) and justice, yet on the other hand establishing the sacrifice of sinless God Jesus Christ which allows for mercy.

Jesus Christ is a huge topic though, and takes many words to explain.

“None of which are legitimate complaints.”

They are legitimate complaints if it is claimed that they were dictated by the infallible creator of the universe. But I take your point that most are somewhat trivial. However I think the pi error is colossal for the supreme mathematical Pooh-Bah. Also fowls do not creep and hare do not chew the cud and mustard seeds are not the smallest of all seeds. It is harder to explain how Jonah was in the belly of a fish for 3 days and survived. Also the world is neither flat nor stationary and doesn’t have corners. The account of the flood is impossible to scientifically explain and diseases are not caused by demons nor does prayer heal illness (both beliefs have contributed to untold human misery). The point is that all these are understandable errors for bronze-age authors, but not for god. I expect a higher standard from a god. And we haven’t considered all the internal inconsistencies and unfulfilled prophesies and described miracles.

I think I see what you're saying, but I don't see errors where you see them.

  • pi = 3: see "The Biblical Value of Pi"
  • Fowls do not creep: I think the ancient folks probably noticed that. Let's say there is something "lost in translation" here.
  • Hare do not chew the cud: "Does the hare really chew cud?" seems like a decent summary.
  • Mustard seeds aren't the smallest seeds: "Is the mustard seed, the smallest of seeds?" seems like a decent summary.
  • Jonah in fish and flood on earth: the Bible claims they were miraculous events. I agree, they could not have occurred naturally. The challenge for a Christian is why we are denied miracles when we really want them.
  • World isn't flat, stationary, or have corners: maybe the Bible doesn't really make these claims. The Bible is free to use idioms as we do. Check out these Bible quotes which imply greater knowledge of the world: Job 26:7; Job 26:10; Ecclesiastes 1:6-7

Please provide one piece of evidence that proves the bible could not have been authored by men of that time.

For me, I am impressed by the thematic integrity of the Bible over authorship of many people and long periods of time. Secondly, the fulfilled prophecies are impressive. Especially in Daniel, although atheists would unsurprisingly say that Daniel was written after the events it claimed to predict.

“Perhaps we 21st century humans will go down in history as being a bunch of primitive savages, because our literature speaks of the beauty of a sunset...”

And your point is?.... or just obstrufication! I thought we were discussing the scientific veracity of the bible. How is the interpretation modern literature relevant? Why all the mystery?

Sorry! I thought it would be clear. In modern times, we often talk about things in terms that are, if we want to be pedantic, non-scientific. That doesn't mean we're wrong, but the scientific literalism is unnecessary (and maybe actually more trouble than it's worth) at that moment. So we talk about sunsets because most of the time it's more natural and convenient to describe things from our ground-based perspective, even while we all know what's really going on. I'm sure even astronomers talk about waiting 'til after sunset to check out something in their telescope, without a colleague saying, "Hey peanut, what do you think you mean, 'sunset'?"  In modern times we might also talk of "shooting stars" even though we know they're not really stars. And we call those critters "centipedes" and "millipedes" even though we don't think they have 100 or 1,000 legs. We use our language differently depending on whether we want to communicate scientific concepts or chat with a friend. Likewise the Bible, and the Bible's purpose is not to preserve ancient scientific insights.

“The Bible puts Christianity worlds apart from all other religions too”

I replied: “It borrows so much from other religions and its directives are often immoral to our standards. I cannot understand how you reconcile this to get to your current belief position.”

Now you state “The Bible says “don't divorce” and “stay faithful to your spouse for life”. My experience is that these principles are part of a winning formula for real contentment, and it seems that society is suffering significantly for thinking these moral principles are obsolete.”

Yes I was focusing on the "directives are often immoral" bit.

How does the bible put christianity worlds apart from all other religions? Please provide objective evidence.

I’m not saying the bible doesn’t contain any virtuous advice. I’m saying it doesn’t contain any moral advice that isn’t also suggested in other religious texts or teachings (predating the bible) or isn’t obvious to our naturally evolved consciousness. Furthermore it contains many divine commands that are unquestionably immoral by today’s standards (I can cite evidence but I think you already know these). So I don’t disagree with your statement about being faithful to your spouse if that is your mutual agreement. I could argue about the appropriateness of divorce in many circumstances. But how do you reconcile the existence of the immoral and unscientific content with the claim that the author is the infallible creator and caretaker of mankind?

Well hopefully I've explained my thoughts on the scientific angle. As for the moral angle, I guess I'm not so impressed at the moral capabilities of secular humanism. Divorce being a good example. Abortion being another. On those two topics, secular humanism values human freedom, at the expense of other human beings. Under secular humanism, I could apparently divorce my wife for a wide range of nebulous reasons, regardless of the impact on my wife and children, as long as it "seems best" which is a most ineffective moral basis. But the Bible expects me to dedicate whatever effort it takes on my part to build a happy marriage, and face up to my personal responsibility. One of the most significant claims of the Bible is that human beings are incapable of working out and then living by successful morality without God.

Another puzzling fact is the degree to which christianity borrows from other religions. The following concepts all pre-date christianity and could be claimed to be borrowed: young and beardless shepherd saving mankind by performing sacrifical deeds, virgin birth, celebration of the birth of god on the winter solstice, sharing of presents, the use of (Christmas) trees with candles, and nativity scenes that included shepherds attracted by a sacred light, a first human couple having been created, a major flood, mankind's redemption resulting from a sacrificial death followed by the god's ascent to heaven, resurrection through sacrifice, a Last Supper linked with the blood sacrifice whose symbolic recreation by eating bread and wine provided salvation for all worshippers, purification through baptism, Sunday to be sacred, asceticism - resist sensuality and to abstain from eating certain foods, charity, emphasis of a rock, a cosmic rivalry between a God and Satan figure, good and bad angels, importance of an immortal soul that survives the body, a judgment day, when mankind would once and for all be divided into those accepted in heaven and those consigned to eternal punishment in hell, hell in the underworld and heaven in the sky, where God was located.

I appreciate that you bring these up. Ironically and frustratingly for some of us, many of those things you list (e.g. Sunday worship, Christmas, winter solstice, immortal soul, eternal punishment in hell) are not actually Biblical, and are borrowed from other religions and/or Greek philosophy. There are those of us who reject all these non-Biblical intrusions of other religions into Christianity. For example, we go to church on the 7th day of the week as the Bible actually says, and don't do Christmas. I can't comment on the other items without spending more time. (some time!)

“Surely, according to evolution, we should be discovering every imaginable form of intermediates (well, a lot anyway) on the spectrum between reptiles and birds, wherever some ancient localised mudslide blesses us with a snapshot of life at that time and place.”

The theory of evolution by natural selection requires no such thing. It is surprising that any fossils exist at all given the conditions necessary for them to form. The fact that they do exist and they support the theory and they also agree with evidence from other fields of science and they can be used in predictive studies (your other blog contributor “Faith” is quite mistaken in her beliefs on this) points clearly to one conclusion if you choose to employ rational thought.

I can't really add much more at this stage. I thought I'd raised a significant point. I'll have to think it through more.

“Ah faith... faith says that eventually these intermediates will be found.”

Firstly, I have some expectation that they exist, but it is unlikely they will be found and frankly I do not require it. I cannot think of another theory in biology that has more evidence in support of it. Had the theory not directly questioned existing religious beliefs there would be no debate about its veracity at all.

Secondly, I could interpret this statement to be extremely offensive. Or maybe you don’t know what the word “faith” means.

Faith by definition is a belief not based on reason or logic or on evidence but often held contrary to the evidence. The belief held, often with absolute certainty, without any scientifically verifiable supporting evidence makes such belief irrational. It may be that there is absolutely nothing, no evidence whatsoever that would shake your belief in a god. For belief in a supernatural god is based on faith. People that seek to understand the universe via the application of reason and logic and do not believe with certainty in things that cannot be supported by credible evidence. Those who remain open-minded to the possibility they may be wrong and adapt their thinking to new evidence are n my opinion most likely to be atheists. That is, they hold the opinion that there is insufficient evidence for anything of supernatural existence or consequence in the universe. Atheism is a position reached by critical analysis and rational thought, not faith.

Well I wasn't trying to be rude. My working definition of the word "faith" is evidently different to yours. I take faith to mean something more like "trust in promises made, or assertions yet unproven, based on a foundation previously established". I think that describes both of us.

We've covered a lot of ground. Several large topics, and many more words could be dedicated to these issues. I appreciate that you've taken the time to argue your view rationally and patiently. You've stated the case quite clearly I think, and really got to the heart of the matter.

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