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Holy Nostradamus! Why those Biblical prophecies are meaningless

Bible CandlelightThere are two parts to a prophecy that need to be fulfilled in order to be considered successful: the prediction and the outcome. The prediction needs to be clear and unambiguous, while the outcome needs to be independently verifiable. By a remarkable coincidence, there are two things lacking in Jesus’s supposed fulfilment of Old Testament prophecies. I wonder if you can guess what they are?

The first problem isn’t difficult to identify – the “prophecies” invariably come in the middle of a passage which appears to be talking about something entirely different, and are unfortunately rather short on useful details. Apologists tend to focus on the age of these passages (which is entirely irrelevant), or their number, but not their specificity. Here are a couple of oft-quoted examples, annotated with my comments: Read More…

Christianity doesn’t even meet its own moral standards

Cross SunlightFollowing on from my recent post about how Christianity falls into moral relativism, I was confronted with another well-worn apologist gambit that I was intending to address anyway – the claim that atheists don’t have any objective basis for morality, and therefore have no right to criticise Christianity. This is a bit different, as it rests on a claim about the subjectivity of atheism, not the objectivity of Christianity, so I thought it would be worth dealing with it separately.

In fact, for the sake of argument, I’m going to accept that atheism has no objective basis for morality, but Christianity does. I think I’ve pretty effectively demonstrated that this isn’t true, but you either agree or not, and there’s no point in rehashing those points. Even accepting these points, an atheist has a powerful response, by appealing not to his own morality, but Christianity’s. Read More…

The moral relativism of Christianity

ChainsHere comes another old favourite. Atheism, apologists claim, inevitably leads to moral relativism (assumed, but not demonstrated to be a bad thing), while Christianity has an objective and unchanging moral basis. Because Christianity has God’s teachings in the Big Old Book of Middle Eastern Tribal Behaviour, which opens a window directly onto the only true, objective basis for morality. That’s why we stone adulterers, keep slaves, sell our children… hang on! Read More…

No, I haven’t rejected God

Revelation CloudYou know the phenomenon I call Satan’s Fork, where people find ways of discrediting anyone who’s left a religion? Well, there’s another version which is similar, but used in slightly different circumstances.

“If you’re an atheist, you must never have read the Bible”
I have, all of it
“Then you must not have read it with an open mind”
I did, completely
“Then you must not have understood it”
I did, in minute detail
“Then you must not have accepted it”
I did, in full
“Then you must not have lived it”
I did, for my whole life
“Then you’ve rejected God, and you’re doomed for all eternity”
Read More…

Maybe I need to get down to basics

I’m not really interested in being obvious. I enjoy finding unusual angles and approaches, and I don’t want to waste my time proving that the world’s round, or grass is green. There’s nothing wrong with that in its place, but it’s not my thing.

That’s served me well enough until now, and it’s still true that if I’m ever reduced to posts with no more content than “What about those creationists, eh?” this blog will have passed its sell-by date. But then I experienced a sudden influx after being featured on Freshly Pressed (waves to new followers), and I found myself attracting sermons from people who didn’t know me, haven’t been following my story and in some cases, didn’t even convince me that they’d read and understood the post in question. Read More…

God of the Gaps, the ultimate argument from ignorance

Big BangA recent discussion reminded me of how often I hear arguments for God’s existence that stem from a lack of any explanation for our existence. I can see the appeal of such a position, and it used to be just about the only thing I could cling to when religion made no sense. The universe must have come from somewhere, therefore God.

In more sophisticated forms, or possibly in the hands of skilful bluffers, this argument would also incorporate claims that there is no experimental or observational evidence for abiogenesis, for example, or some similar position. Fundamentally, though, the argument remains the same and has the same flaws. Read More…

How and why the how/why distinction is irrelevant

“Science answers the how questions, and religion answers the why questions” – that’s a common claim from people who are arguing that science poses no threat to religion, or that they’re Non-Overlapping Magisteria, in Stephen Jay Gould’s rather grand phrase. It’s another one of those many ideas and beliefs that I’ve previously accepted, but am now starting to question.

It’s not controversial that science tells us how things work. The precise position is a little more complicated than that, because the scientific method only really draws provisional conclusions, and is more about the best way of finding out how things work, rather than dictating that this is right and that’s wrong, but it’s perfectly reasonable to say that if a question begins “How”, you’ll want to turn to science to answer it. Read More…

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