Monday, March 30, 2015

Billy Graham: King Jesus

Q: Why didn't Jesus flee once He knew His enemies were out to get Him, instead of openly appearing in public and almost daring them to arrest Him? This has always puzzled me. — S.B.
Perhaps Jesus appeared in public if you are relying on the Bible as your guide. But if we look at history, there's no proof that Jesus actually existed, so perhaps its a moot question. Why does the story go the way it does though? Most likely to fit the narrative the authors wanted to create.
A: Almost from the beginning of His public ministry Jesus encountered opposition, and eventually it led to His death.
Citation needed.
However, during those years He did evade His enemies, because He knew it wasn't God's time for Him to die. On one occasion, He told His disciples, "My time has not yet fully come" (John 7:8).
But only according to an old and terribly inaccurate book...  What could be more reliable than that?!
Why, then, didn't He flee during those final days? The reason is simple: He knew the time had come for Him to die.
Um... But if we go by the Bible as Billy wishes, the story doesn't go as he's suggesting. Mr Graham makes it sound like Jesus knew his time had come and faced it head on without apprehension. but just take a look at Mark 14:32-42...
And they went to a place called Gethsemane. And he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” And he took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be greatly distressed and troubled. And he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death. Remain here and watch.” And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” And he came and found them sleeping, and he said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not watch one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” And again he went away and prayed, saying the same words. And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy, and they did not know what to answer him. And he came the third time and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? It is enough; the hour has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.”
Here we have a Jesus that is 'deathly sorrowful' and begs God three times that the responsibility of being a sacrifice be removed from him. He may not have run, but he still asked if he could bail on the plan.
You see, only one thing separates us from God, and that is our sin. Our greatest need, therefore, is to have our sins forgiven and cleansed, but how is this possible?
Easy. He could just, I don't know... Forgive.
The only way is for God to do it, and He made this possible by sending His Son into the world to die for us.
1) If God is omnipotent, there is no 'only way'.
2) A human sacrifice is arbitrary and unnecessary for forgiveness, or the honoring of any contract.
3) Ritual human sacrifice is barbaric, and requiring people to accept one as a gift is immoral.
4) Requiring something for forgiveness doesn't make it true forgiveness. That's more like blackmail.

-Brain Hulk

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Friday, March 27, 2015

Billy Graham: Being Critical

Q: Our aunt takes great delight in criticizing others — and not just people she knows (probably including us), but also those she doesn't know (like politicians and celebrities). It gets tiresome listening to her, but what can we do? She's always been like this. — Mrs. D.Y.
What can Mrs DY do? She could try talking to her about it. She could return the favor to let her see how she likes it. She could try changing the topic. There are many things that could be tried or done. I will agree that it can get old when someone acts like a broken record about something. Depending on what it is and how pervasive it is, you may be able to brush it off and think "That's Aunt Suzie..." But other times there might not be much other choice but to ay something in order to get to the root of it.
A: No one likes to listen to someone who constantly criticizes others or endlessly complains about someone or something. The Bible is clear: "Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure" (Philippians 2:14-15).
Well this smells like it's about to get super ironic...
Why is your aunt like this? Often, I've found, people who constantly cut others down do so because it makes them feel superior. Others do it because they want to draw attention to themselves, showing how clever or intelligent they are. Still others think it gives them the right to tell others how to run their lives (although it doesn't). But whatever the reason, a critical, complaining spirit is wrong in the eyes of God.
But wait... Billy weekly tells people how to live their life. In the USA Christians regularly try to legislate their faith so that they may impose their religion on others. They want to tell people they can't have an abortion. They want to force religion into government. They want to dictate what students are and aren't taught in school. They want to criminalize homosexuality, or at least strip them of equal rights and talk of them like they are less than human. A politician that is local to me makes no secret of judging transgendered individuals and sought legal challenge against their rights. The Christians that constantly tell everyone else that they have to live by their Bible, and proselytize door-to-door. Billy recently supported the notion of forcing children to go to church whether they wanted to or not. The irony here is almost too deep to take!

Many of these things are things that Billy and many other Christians support. Yet here he is saying that people shouldn't tell people how to run their lives, and that God himself is apparently against such action. So I have only one question for Billy... How would you like that egg on your face cooked?

-Brain Hulk

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Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Billy Graham: Time to Change?

DEAR BILLY GRAHAM: I go to church regularly, but I’m very shy so I never talk to anyone or try to make friends. I wish I wasn’t this way. Why didn’t God make me friendly and outgoing, like other people? — L.J.
I can relate with being shy. I've always been rather introverted and guarded. That said, I don't think that one is necessarily not friendly even though they aren't outgoing. I'd consider myself friendly, and when I'm comfortable with someone I'm just like anyone else. I start out shy (even more predominantly in the past), and if you're interesting enough that I want to get to know you, I will. Shyness isn't about not wanting to 'get out there'. It's more about not feeling able to for whatever reason.

Sure, being shy can lead to awkward small talk. But it also means that the relationships you do have will be much closer and meaningful to you than most of the other relationships that more outgoing people have. But be warned. That closeness can hurt much deeper should things go south.
DEAR L.J.: We’re all different — from different faces to different personalities — and as I’ve sometimes said, the world would certainly be boring if we were all exactly alike! I don’t know why God made us this way, but he did, and he loves us in spite of our differences.
So basically, "God made you that way, and he knows what he was doing so you better embrace it"? That's not exactly the way I would have worded that sentiment, but I can go with the general idea. I feel that far too many people are hung up on being like someone else. So much so that we may lose sight of what makes us uniquely special. That's not to say that change should be avoided though. Sometimes change can be quite good.
Instead of spending all your energy wishing you were someone else, ask God to help you become the person he wants you to be. To put it another way, God doesn’t want you to remain withdrawn and friendless; not only will you hurt yourself, but you’ll also hurt others by never reaching out to help and encourage them.

Read more here:
Instead, he wants to help you, little by little, to overcome your shyness and enjoy the company of others.

Read more here:
Wait, wait wait! First he said that God made LJ just how he intended him to be, then he tells him to ask God to help him become who God wants him to be... Well, which is it!? Did God make him how he's supposed to be, or didn't he? I realize asking this question of a person who follows a book that is flowing deep in contradictions is a folly of a task, but ask I must. So which is it Billy?

-Brain Hulk

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Monday, March 23, 2015

Billy Graham: Repeat Prisoner

Q: I've just been released from prison for about the fifth time. Every time, I've said I'd change and not fall back into my old ways, but I always do. What's wrong with me? I know you'll probably say I need God, and maybe I do, but what difference would that make? — M.R.
Change can be hard, even if doing so is in our best interest. It sounds to me that MR does need to make some life changes. Though that is impossible to say with certainty how serious these changes need to be without knowing what he's  been repeatedly jailed for.  Does he need God? If he's writing Billy Graham for advice, my guess is that he probably already believes to some degree. But will God help with his problem? Statistics would suggest that God wouldn't be a help at all...
A: Yes, you do need God, because without him you have little hope of ever changing your life. You've tried without success to stay out of trouble on your own, so why do you think the future will be any different?
It never ceases to amaze me how quick Billy is to openly belittle people and underestimate their own abilities. It's quite sad really.
What difference will God make? First, he'll give you a new purpose in life. Right now, your life revolves around one person: you. But when we come to Christ, we're no longer the most important person in the world to us. Christ is. 
So Christians in jail should be a rarity if that is the case. But that's not the case. In the USA, Christians actually make up the majority of the prison population (over 50% of prisoners, in fact).  And what about atheists? According to Billy we must be filling prisons with our evil ways. Yet we find that only 0.07% of the prison population are non-believers.

It's even more interesting when you look at the general population vs the prison population. When you compare the percentage of atheists in the general population to the percentage of atheists serving time, the ratio is almost 10 to 1. This means that there is a wide disparity between the two populations. A disparity that shows that the overall atheist population percentage is just about ten times the prison population percentage. So we are well under represented in prison.

For comparison's sake, most Christian groups showed a ratio close to or exactly 1:1. Meaning that their law-breaking population mirrors the ratio of the general population.

Now some have told me that the Christian numbers are only high because these people found faith while in prison. But that argument fails when you look at the recidivism rate in the USA. The Five year recidivism rate for various offenses was recently found to be as follows:

Property Offenders = 82%
Drug Offenders = 77%
Public Order Offenders = 74%
Violent Offenders = 71%

So if these 'prison converted Christians' found Christ, it still doesn't help the religious claim of moral superiority, since the majority wind up right back in jail again. So God didn't do anything to make them any better people after all.

The truth is that religion doesn't automatically make you an any better or more moral person. That comes down to the individual. And if the stats are telling us anything, lack of faith stacks up pretty favorably in the lawful department.

-Brain Hulk

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Friday, March 20, 2015

Billy Graham: Blind to Faults

Dear Rev. Graham: My boyfriend and I are talking about marriage, but he worries me sometimes because he'll never admit he's wrong — even when he clearly is. He always blames someone else for his problems, and never admits they might be his fault. Should I be concerned? — K.H.
KH should be very concerned. If this relationship is to progress to marriage, it is almost a guarantee that her boyfriend will eventually start blaming KH for things, if he hasn't already. This can be very damaging to a relationship, and if they should marry I fear that it would end up either being unhappy or a short lived once the blame game starts. If they are serious about marriage, they need to talk about this. It is entirely possible that KH's boyfriend is unaware that he even deflects blame as he does. It could be a learned behavior or coping mechanism that he now does purely instinctively. If that's the case, there is a possibility of change. But if he does it knowingly, then the likelihood of a healthy marriage swiftly dwindles.
Rev. Graham: Yes, you should be concerned, and one reason is because if you do get married, he'll probably end up blaming you whenever he thinks anything is wrong.
Good advice. But now time for some more good advice for this particular situation, but is also quite ironic...
But I suspect other problems are involved here, too. Someone who's blind to his or her faults is driven by pride, and may even get angry or upset when others disagree with them.
Like many of the believers I've encountered in my debates?
They also resist changing their ways, even when it would be in their best interest.
Like every believer that has been adamant that they can't be wrong, and would never consider that they could be wrong?
Instead of accepting personal responsibility for their decisions and actions, they stubbornly insist that their way is always best, even when it obviously isn't.
Like all the believers that ignore or deny any evidence that is layed out before them? That refuse to consider examples of the terrible flaws in Biblical morality and the benefits of  man-made morality?

Yes, it's important that KH gets to the bottom of her boyfriend shifting blame. But Billy must also look inward and take the same stance the next time a Christian group claims that a natural disaster or other terrible act was either the fault of homosexuality, or the tolerating thereof. That they are shifting blame too, when an atheist group wants preaching Christianity taken out of a public school.

The group is not to blame for wanting the law upheld. The blame is with whoever put the preaching where it didn't belong in the first place, and those that fight to continue the violation of the law.

So don't try and shift blame. Own your mistakes and learn from them. That goes for everyone. Including Christianity...

-Brain Hulk

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Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Billy Graham: Love the Unlovable

DEAR BILLY GRAHAM: I’ve heard that the Bible tells us to love others, but everyone in our family agrees that one of our cousins is impossible to love. He’s obnoxious and conceited, and no one likes being around him. How can you love someone you don’t like? — C.B.
The simple fact is that 'like' and 'love' are two different emotions. A parent could have a super-brat for a child. They may be so bad that they are impossible to deal with. While they may probably admit that they don't like the child, or that they failed somehow, they will also likely say that they still love them. Of course there is also the interesting fact that the Bible also contradicts the aforementioned call to love others...
DEAR C.B.: Yes, the Bible certainly tells us to love others, even if they aren’t very lovable. When Jesus was asked which were the most important of God’s laws, he summarized them in two commands: to love God and to love others (see Mark 12:28-34).
But that's not the whole story now is it... Jesus is on record in the Bible as saying, "If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters--yes, even their own life--such a person cannot be my disciple."

So if we are to do as Billy suggests and follow Jesus, that puts hating this cousin on the table.

The Bible also says that Jesus said, "Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law--a man's enemies will be the members of his own household."

So considering that, is it now arguable that not liking this cousin could be one way of following Jesus. He came to divide families after-all. So divide away!

Seriously though... The real answers are in why this person isn't liked. Is there a misunderstanding? Is it a mask they are hiding behind in order to conceal some kind of pain or sadness? Talk to this person and let them know you care. In fact, the question that is being asked was answered just by being asked. CB obviously cares about this cousin at least to some degree, otherwise they wouldn't be asking this question. So yes, one can love someone who doesn't appear likable.
God loves us not because we’re perfect or even likable, because we aren’t... And unlike our love for others, his love means he always wants what’s best for us, although we don’t deserve it.
Please explain to me why believers often claim that atheism is the world-view full of despair and meaningless? Here we have a very well known Christian saying that every person ever in all of history has been 'unlikeable' and 'undeserving of love'... Please explain to me how a religion that
starts from the premise that we are all unlikeable and unlovable, and worst still, don't deserve love is a positive force.

To me, it makes Christianity sound very depressing. If this was the view of only a single person, we'd say they have self-esteem and depression issues. We'd suggest medication, counseling, and maybe consider them a suicide threat. But then again... The whole Jesus deal does kind of make it a suicide cult, so maybe it does make sense in a way.

-Brain Hulk

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Monday, March 16, 2015

Billy Graham: Christly Business

Q: A prominent businessman in our town makes a big show of being an active Christian, but over the years many people in the community have learned not to trust him. Does the Bible say anything about people like this? — Mrs. M.K.G.
What does the Bible say? That despite this man not actually being trustworthy, he will go to Heaven as his reward... No matter how many he's hurt (to whatever degree) with his untrustworthy ways. And quite frankly, that should be worrisome.
A: I’m always saddened whenever I hear of someone who claims to follow Jesus but has a bad reputation because of the way they live. It’s not limited to those in business, of course; anyone can bring shame to the name of Christ by their moral or ethical failures.
But hey, he believes in Jesus as his lord and savior, which is the requirement Christianity places on admittance to eternity in Heaven, so what's the problem? The real problem is that Billy is blind to the fact that the true failure is the Christian reward/punishment system.
Some of Jesus’ strongest words were directed at those who claimed to believe in God and follow His law, and yet denied Him by the way they lived. On the surface, they may have appeared good and righteous, but in their hearts they were selfish and unconcerned about others, and it showed in their actions. Jesus condemned them for their hypocrisy, and warned us not to be like them. He said, “You hypocrites!... You have neglected the more important matters of the law — justice, mercy and faithfulness” (Matthew 23:23).

Don’t let this one person’s failures keep you from Christ, and don’t use someone’s apparent hypocrisy as an excuse to turn your back on Him... Make it your goal, therefore, with God’s help, to become a consistent and compassionate follower of Jesus.
There's a huge problem at play here... Billy often says that God expects no less than perfection. He also says that we must also follow God's laws. The cruel irony is that there are rules in the Bible that directly contradict each other. So following the Bible faithfully and still remaining perfect (by its standard) is an impossibility.

The Bible says that it is wrong to lend money with interest, and to lend money without interest. It demands that you answer, and not answer fools. You are supposed to love your enemies, but also
destroy them. It calls not to judge, and also includes instruction on judging. Believers are instructed to argue as well as not argue with non-believers. It's a book that says not to kill, and to kill. The Bible even says that it is both possible and impossible to keep the law! There are many more where those came from, but I believe that point is made...

But the bigger issue is that Christianity offers no incentive for self improvement, since belief is all that ultimately matters. Even with all this businessman's apparent flaws and 'sin' he gets to go to Heaven just because he believes. Yet everyone who gets to know me has typically opined that I am both kind and trustworthy. But that doesn't matter to God. I don't believe, so I go to Hell. In no way is that approaching justice.

-Brain Hulk

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Friday, March 13, 2015

Four Non-Scientific Christian Answers to Scientific Atheism

Samuel James wrote a blog contending to offer four responses a non-scientist Christian can give to science-based atheism. But are they good responses?
Lack of scientific knowledge can leave Christians feeling vulnerable when talking to unbelieving friends about why faith is superior to skepticism.
Maybe because blind faith is actually inferior?
Many college students discover atheism through science classes; students who enter university as Christians have their faith fiercely tested by their studies, and too many give up the fight merely because they assume that a biology professor must be correct about whether God exists. When a little bit of childlike faith meets a lot of studied atheism, fear can take control.
It never ceases  to amaze me that so many Christians think that colleges are teaching atheism. Yet I've not yet been presented an actual example of this being the case. If students leave college with less faith, that would have more to do with the facts simply being contrary to what religion claims, not some conspiracy.

A biology professor or class would never even have any call to discus if God exists or not... That's not biology. They will teach evolution though. A fact that is taught because it is a fact. And a fact that doesn't even disprove God, just one interpretation.

The last line is funny though... Sam wants to talk about fear taking control while promoting a religion that is partially based on the threat of eternal torture? That seems a bit ironic in my book.
That’s unnecessary. You don’t have to have a degree in science to have something to say to those with scientific objections to faith. Here are four simple responses to those who say that science has either disproved God or has made belief in God unnecessary:
Okay, let's see them then!

1) We cannot know from science if science itself is the best source of knowledge. 
There are two possibilities when it comes to human knowledge through science. The first possibility is that everything that is real is actually reducible to scientific principles. Everything–from the universe, to human emotion, to spiritual experiences–is explainable through scientific research. The other option is simple: Not all existence can be explained through science.
Since when does something have to explain everything to be the best? Personally, I wouldn't say that science can answer everything, but it does do a damn good job. All the examples Sam mentioned can and are explained by science. That said, science is the examination of the physical natural world. If you claim that a god is outside nature, science can't investigate it. But if you say that the god interacts with the natural world and that portion of the deity becomes fair game for science.
Here’s why this question matters. If the first option is true, then logically, science absolutely is the supreme mode of knowledge, and everything we believe about anything must be in submission to it. The problem though is that whether or not all of reality is utlimately [sic] explainable through scientific concepts is not itself a scientifically provable theory. It is a philosophical premise, not a scientific conclusion.
Again, science doesn't have to be able to explain everything, and do it right now in order to be the best tool we've ever devised for understanding the world.
The only way to definitively prove that science explains everything would be to have exhaustive knowledge of all reality, and then be able to explain (using only scientific data) what all reality is and what it means. Such a feat is impossible. 
So then it is likewise impossible for a Christian to prove that his religion is the one true religion, correct?
Therefore, the belief that science is the best source of knowledge must be accepted on faith, for it cannot be verified through testing.
That is where Sam is wrong. Science is not accepted of faith. Science is accepted because it works. Science is based on proof and evidence. It is based on the observable, repeatable, and provable. That is the very opposite of faith. Science is not trusted on faith, but on it's track record of finding the answers that no other field could. So for now, science is the most robust and successful tool in our tool kit of knowledge. And until some magic method comes along, it will remain the best source for knowledge that we have.

2) Scientific consensus can and frequently does change. This limits its epistemological authority.
The progressive nature of scientific inquiry is essential to its value. Done rightly, science can correct its own errors. But this presupposes that science can make errors in the first place. And if that’s true, then the question is: How do we know what could be a current error in scientific consensus, and what do we know is absolutely true?
Simple... When new data or evidence comes along. Sometimes there are errors in science. But more often than not, they're not full blown errors so much as 'not quite as right as is could be'.  That's the great thing about science. It can change to correct errors and refine what the truth is. Marching closer and closer to the way things really are.
This is a very important question to ask religious skeptics who appeal to science. 
Why not also ask the believers if they could also be wrong about everything? An admirer of science will admit they could be wrong, and ask for evidence to show that is the case. But every believer I've ever asked has claimed that there is no way they could be wrong, and that no amount of evidence could change their mind. If the contest is between science and faith, science is the only intellectually honest option.
A likely response is that science may be wrong on almost everything it says, but it almost certainly isn’t wrong about what it doesn’t say; ie, if science hasn’t revealed God by now, it’s not rational to think it will. But this objection misses the point. One does not wait on science to exhaustively explain something before believing it.
Sam is missing the fact that science can never 100% prove anything. It can make us very very sure, but if we're honest (any of us) we could imagine any imaginative, rare, or unlikely scenario where we are wrong about anything. Science proves this right or wrong beyond a reasonable doubt. That 'reasonable doubt' will vary based on what we're talking about.

To say that we don't wait on science to 'exhaustively explain' everything misses just how pervasive science is. Many of us do science without even knowing it. Suppose a child says be has candy, and his brother doesn't believe him since his mom took what he had in his hand earlier. The child then pulls candy from his pocket and his brother sees it and believes him. Even that is science.

Suppose someone says they have a dog. A lot of people have dogs, so the claim that they have one isn't suspicious. The fact that we haven't seen the dog isn't proof there isn't one. To claim you have a dog is a basic claim that doesn't garner much doubt. Seeing the dog would prove it, but seeing he has a leash in his car, or that he talks about his dog a lot also make it likely that he has a dog.

But God is very different from a yet unseen dog. Dogs are common. To say you have one is a garden variety claim. But saying there is an invisible all-powerful being is another thing entirely. Proving that will require more proof since it is a bigger claim. The dog owner can show us his dog. But the God believer (as of yet) can't show us his god. Furthermore, science has shown this god's claimed acts to be false. This brings God's existence into further question.
If current scientific consensus points away from the existence of God (a highly disputable point, by the way), then who is to say that consensus cannot change? If it can, then science’s intellectual authority is limited, and the expectation that it will continue to oppose religious belief is more a matter of faith.
Actually, that's not very disputable if remaining honest. Science certainly hasn't found any evidence of a god of any kind, and much of what we've found has made the existence of a god unnecessary. It sounds more to me like Sam is just angry that science isn't backing up his religion. So instead of looking inward, he instead chooses to blame science and denounce it since it hasn't found the answers he wants them to find. Sorry, but if the evidence is contrary to your religion, the problem is probably with the religion, not the evidence.

You see, if religion is true it has nothing to fear from science. Maybe science doesn't agree now. But if Christianity is true, the evidence will eventually come to light that scientifically proves the Bible right. So if Sam is so sure he is right, he should embrace science, not denounce it.

Scientific questions can be thought of like tall staircases. At the bottom is complete ignorance. At the top is the truth. Each time science finds new evidence, it takes a step up. When there's a huge revolution in our understanding science takes a few steps up. We don't know when we've finally reached the top, but science will endlessly search to see if there is another step to take. Meanwhile, what Sam is suggesting is that we stay at the first step (his religion's claims) and simply stop searching and shout that he's reached the top.

3) Only supernatural theism provides a rational justification of scientific work.
Why is knowledge better than ignorance? The atheist would respond that ignorance has less survival value than truth; after all, if you believe wrong things or do not know enough about your environment, you’re less likely to survive and flourish. But this explanation only applies to a very small amount of scientific knowledge. There is little survival value in knowing, for example, the complicated workings of time–space theory, or the genus of certain insects, or the distance of Jupiter from Mars. All of these facts are pursued by scientists as being intrinsically valuable, yet they offer very little information that can help guarantee a species’ continued existence on the planet.
Sam's assumption is a bit simplistic. True, some information is required for survival. Some more complex information may be more important for the survival of the species (like space travel or environmental issues) more than the individual. Sometimes learning things helps us to avoid the
mistakes of the past. Sometimes it helps us have a better life. And sometimes learning new things is just exciting and can even inspire awe. Knowing how a flower grows and blossoms may not yield any survival value, but for me it can make the flower even more amazing and beautiful. For me, the simple act of learning something new is a gratifying experience.
The real explanation is that scientists pursue these facts because there is intrinsic value in knowing what is true about the world, regardless of how much help it gives us. Human beings believe that knowing is better than ignorance because they believe that truth is better than falsity, and light is better than darkness. But where does such a conclusion come from? It does not come from scientific principles. Science itself offers no self-evident account for why it should be pursued. You cannot study science hard enough to understand why you should study science at all. To study science presupposes a valuing of truth that must be experienced outside of scientific study. It is only rational to pursue scientific knowledge that doesn’t offer immediate survival value if there is some external, transcendent value in knowing truth. Theism offers an explanation for why knowing truth is valuable. Scientific atheism does not.
And yet, none of this makes the initial claim that 'only supernatural theism provides a rational justification for scientific work'. Sam misses the point that there is likely value in knowing things that he doesn't realize. Earlier he said that science not having proof of God doesn't mean he's not there. So couldn't we likewise say that if science doesn't have an explanation for the desire to acquire knowledge (very debatable), that doesn't mean that there isn't a scientific explanation at all?

After all Sam said under this point, there's nothing here that supports his claim. The title could have said that magic space unicorns offer the only rational justification and been just as close to making that point as he did. You can't just arbitrarily plug in your favored belief and make this claim without providing any actual proof.

4) Only supernatural theism gives us assurance that real scientific knowledge is possible.
Philosopher Alvin Plantinga is famous for articulating what he calls the “evolutionary argument against naturalism.” The argument is complicated in detail but simple in premise. Plantinga begins by putting two facts alongside each other that nearly all atheists agree on. First, the theory of evolution is true, and humans have descended from lower life forms over time.
I'm not sure I'd say all previous life forms were 'lower', but he's close enough I guess. Carry on...
Secondly, humans are rational beings in a higher degree and superior way to lesser evolved creatures. 
Some humans are rational. But I certainly wouldn't say that all are. Superior? That depends on what you mean by 'superior'. Because there are ways in which eagles are superior to us. Furthermore, the creatures around us aren't really 'lesser evolved' so much as 'differently evolved'. So it seems this is already getting off to a bad start, and is based on a poor understanding of evolution.
Plantinga then points our attention towards a tension between these two facts.
Except that I've just shown his 'facts' aren't 'facts'...
If human beings are a more evolved species of primate, then our cognitive faculties (ie, the parts of our body and mind that allow us to be rational creatures) have evolved out of lesser cognitive faculties. But, Plantinga says, if God does not exist, then the only factors that affected human evolution are time and chance.
But time and chance aren't the only things at play here. Alvin obviously forgot about natural selection. Natural selection is anything but random. It favors what works, and selects against what is harmful. Being rational is valuable and would be selected for by natural selection.
Based on time and chance alone, why should we be confident that our rational minds–which are merely the sum of lesser evolved minds plus time and chance–are actually rational at all? What basis do we have to believe our own conclusions? How do we know we are actually capable of knowing truth more than a primate? If the only players in our existence are lesser creatures, time, and chance, how do we know we are even highly evolved at all?
Again, chance is not the only thing at play. As for other creatures it can sometimes be tough since we can't really tell what they are thinking. So most of the time we are force to rely on their actions. But how can we tell if we're actually rational? By examining our own actions and thoughts. It comes down to evidence. Being rational has a definition that we've given it. Based on that we can observe we can determine if we meet that definition. So it really isn't that hard to figure out.
This astute observation was echoed by Thomas Nagel in his recent book Mind and Cosmos. Nagel, an agnostic philosopher from New York University, argues that human comprehension of the universe cannot be explained merely by atheistic evolutionary processes.
He does realize that evolution need not be atheistic, right? Also, human comprehension of the universe can't be explained by Christianity. Just read the Bible... It gets so much wrong!
It makes no sense to assume that humans can really make sense of their world on a conceptual level if human consciousness arose out of the very world it responds to. 
Sorry, but i don't agree. Prove it, then we can talk.
Nagel agrees with Plantinga that atheistic naturalism cannot explain why human beings can be rational creatures and do rational things that should be trusted.
Except that it can and does... As long as you actually have a decent understanding of evolution, that is.
Scientific knowledge is only possible if things unprovable by science are actually true.
And how the hell does one arrive at that conclusion?  There is no logical underpinning to it. You might as well say that scientific knowledge is only possible if laser kittens from Neptune are real, or that Christianity is only possible if Hinduism is actually true. None logically follow the other.
If Carl Sagan is correct and the material universe is all there was, is, and ever will be, then science itself is nothing more than a shot in the dark.
Wrong again. We still have evidence. And following the evidence is not a shot in the dark.
If, however, human beings are the products of an infinitely greater Mind, then we have justification for believing that true and false are realities and not merely the shadow puppets of our ancestors.
Another amazing product of evolution!
Sorry, but we already have all the justification we need if anyone is actually paying attention. Even if we grant Sam's claim, it gets us no closer to which God is true. And can true and false really matter that much in light of this god when he apparently works feverishly hard to hide his very existence?

Sam made many claims here, but they were almost all nonsensical, wrong, or showed a terrible lack of understanding about what he was talking about. All he really proved is that he certainly is a non-scientific Christian...

-Brain Hulk

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Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Billy Graham: Christ the Only Foundation?

Q: I don't think it really matters exactly what religion we profess or what our precise beliefs are. In my view, what God rewards is our sincerity, not our particular set of beliefs. — Mrs. H.F.
This would certainly be a fair way to distribute reward. But Mrs HF seems to have missed the fact that (according to Christianity) God isn't fair. In Christianity it doesn't matter how good you are. Just believe in and accept Jesus and you're all set. Unfortunately that means that good people that don't believe get punished, while a murderer that does believe receives reward.
A: Have you ever asked yourself why you don't apply this idea to any other part of your life? For example, would you honestly say it doesn't matter what the pharmacist puts in your prescription, as long as she's sincere? Or it doesn't matter what you put in your gas tank, as long as you're sincere?
So... Billy managed to completely cock up that metaphor. Mrs HF isn't suggesting anything close to what Billy is saying. Saying that it doesn't matter which religion is not like saying it doesn't matter what medication you take. You see, religions are all offering the same thing... Eternity. So Mr Graham's pharmacist analogy fails. A more accurate analogy would be if your pharmacist gives you the name brand prescription or the generic. They will both do the same thing, the only question is which will cost you more.

The gas analogy is also terrible. If he wanted to draw an equivalency to Mrs HF's suggestion, the analogy should be that it doesn't matter if you get 87 octane regular from  Exxon, Sunoco, BP, or Shell. So the question is this... Does Billy not realize that he is horribly distorting what Mrs HF is suggesting, or is he actually as dishonest as I suspect he is?

-Brain Hulk

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Friday, March 6, 2015

Billy Graham: Atheist Nephew

QUESTION: My nephew says he’s an atheist and doesn’t want anything to do with religion or religious people. If someone wants to be religious, that’s their business, he says, but he resents people trying to change him. How can I convince him he’s wrong? — Mrs. G.B.
Sounds to me that Mrs. GB is rather meddling. Why is it a problem if her nephew is an atheist? And why is it so surprising to her that he resents people trying to change him. What if the roles were reversed? Would Mrs GB be perfectly happy with her nephew trying to force her to become an atheist?  Perhaps she needs to think for a moment before issuing silly complaints.

I can't really fault her nephew. No doubt he feels that way due to to believers continuously trying to convert him rather that letting him lack belief in the same way that he's happy to just let believers believe. Personally I think that Mrs GB is being selfish and arrogant. But if she really does want to change his mind there is one way. Prove that her god exists! Just do that, collect her Nobel Prize and destroy atheism in one fell swoop. That should be pretty easy if her religion actually is true...
ANSWER: You probably can’t convince him; from what you say, your nephew is determined to run his own life, and he doesn’t want God or anyone else to interfere.
This absurd little nugget again? So tell me, are Billy (and all other Christians) simply determined to run their own lives and just don't want Krishna interfering? Two can play at that ridiculous little game...
But God can convince him, and that’s why the most important thing you can do is pray for your nephew.
So why the hell hasn't he done it yet? Many of us have been waiting a very long time. But there is another easy way to convince us. Just show us the proof. Prove that God is real and I'll believe. Simple as that. So what are you waiting for?

-Brain Hulk

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Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Billy Graham: Skepticism

DEAR BILLY GRAHAM: I admit I haven’t been a very good husband, and finally my wife walked out on me a few months ago. It really shook me, and now I’m sure I’ll be different. But how can I get my wife to take me back? She doesn’t believe me when I say I’ve changed. — D.L.
I don't know what DL did, but if his wife doesn't believe he has changed there may be only one way to show he has changed (if he has). Prove it! Show that he's changed...demonstrate it. Not put on an act, mind. That would be dishonest and the charade would eventually be exposed. So it is imperative that the change actually be real before trying to convince anyone.
DEAR D.L.: I don’t know your full situation, of course, but can you honestly blame your wife for being skeptical? You’ve probably told her before — perhaps dozens of times — that you’d change your ways, and yet apparently you never did.
Oh the irony! Billy Graham not faulting someone for being skeptical!? Yet how often does he comment negatively in his columns about atheists who do just that? Like DL's wife, we are skeptical. Like her, we also haven't seen any proof of what it is that we're seeking an answer to. For DL's wife, it's proof that he's actually changed rather than simple claims. For us we want proof that there is a God rather than the same old unfounded claims. So Billy, take a word of your own advice and stop blaming us for being skeptical.

-Brain Hulk

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Monday, March 2, 2015

Billy Graham: 10 Commandments

QUESTION: Why should I follow the Ten Commandments? Maybe they were useful thousands of years ago, but we live in a different world now, and we need to come up with our own rules for living. — W.R.
Correct, this is a different world, but were the Ten Commandments ever that special to begin with?
ANSWER: Have you ever actually studied the Ten Commandments thoughtfully and carefully? (You can find them in Exodus 20 or Deuteronomy 5.) If you do, you might be surprised how relevant and up-to-date they are, even if you don’t agree with some of them.

In other words, which of them would you do away with, if you could? Would you do away with the commandments forbidding murder, or lying, or stealing? Would you do away with the commandment forbidding greed? I doubt if you’d want to do away with any of these, because no society can be peaceful and harmonious without them.
Commandment forbidding greed? I must have missed that one... Or does Billy think that 'coveting your neighbor's possessions' somehow translates as greed. Sorry, but wanting something doesn't make you greedy. Is Billy suggesting that admiring things is greed? What about those that are needy?
According to Billy, they are greedy since they want for things that they don't have.

True, murder, lying, and stealing are bad things. But how is their inclusion in this list supposed to be revolutionary? These are obvious conclusions that people arrive at naturally. In fact, these truths were known far before the supposed creation of this list of 'divine commands'.

Also, what about the fact that the very god that supposedly handed out the ruling not to kill also commanded and committed murder indiscriminately (according to the Bible)?
Perhaps, however, you’d like to do away with some of the other commandments, such as those that demand we put God first in our lives
I would certainly dump those from the list in a heartbeat. What does it say that four out of this top ten list are concerned only with God and worshiping him? Does this not stink of desperation or a hunger for control? Why the need for such repetition? Does hammering that he is God and that we should worship him really needed if any of it was true? At least it's consistent in a way since space on this list is also wasted on the 'false witness' commandment. Isn't that covered by the 'lying' commandment, rendering it's inclusion unnecessary?
The real issue for you, however, is this: What place does God have in your life?
No, not even close... The real issue here is that for a list that was supposed to have been created by the all-powerful, all-knowing God of everything, it is so shockingly bad. Why was 'don't torture people' left out? What about treating all people with equal rights and dignity? What about denouncing racism and all other prejudices? How about 'thou shalt not rape'? Slavery should be very obvious. God could have expressly disallowed owning other human beings as if they were property instead of condoning it. But he didn't.

Just stop and look at those excluded entries (and others I'm sure popped into your mind) and realize that they were all left out in favor of not working on a Sunday or carving a statue. What does it say about the priorities and nature of a god that thinks that these petty rules are more important than a woman being raped? It sure doesn't leave me with a pleasant impression...

-Brain Hulk

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