Monday, October 20, 2008

It is Not for Lack of Bibles

So a few months ago I got a package from I heart books, so I'm always excited to see a box with the Amazon smirk on the side of it. But I hadn't actually ordered anything, so my excitement was also tinged with curiosity. I opened the package and discovered I had been gifted with a copy of The Case for a Creator (which I will get back to deconstructing soon).

At the time I avoided mentioning who had sent the gift, out of respect for his privacy, but since he's had no qualms involving himself in the discussion of the book I guess it's no secret that it was sent by fellow TFN'er Drew Mazanec.

The discussion has been on hold because I've had other things occupying my time. I had to finish up the course I was doing part-time over at fxphd, and I've still got a lot of work to do full-time on Sandrima Rising.

So imagine my surprise today when I was again greeted by a smirking Amazon shipment -- this time a gift of the Apologetics Study Bible, once again from Drew.

Although I have a cynical view of religion and belief, I am less cynical and more willing to give a benefit of a doubt to the religious and believers. I have no doubt that Drew is sending me these tomes with the best of intentions. More than likely, out of a concern for the fate of my immortal soul. Though I consider the concern misplaced, I do not doubt that it is genuine.

But I went to a Lutheran middle school and a Catholic high school. From those schools, I own a Lutheran Study Bible and a Roman Catholic Bible; I also have a Bible that my mother got when she graduated high school. In addition, my roommates own three Bibles between them, and if I want to get really academic about it, my brother not only also has a KJV Bible, but owns copies of the Bible in Greek, Hebrew, and Latin.

So in printed Bibles alone I've got handy access to ten different editions in four different languages. And just about every English version of the Bible is readily available online. My favorite of which, and the one I read, is the Skeptic's Annotated Bible, which looks at the text objectively, letting it stand or fall (mostly fall) on its own merits.

It is not a lack of Biblical availability or knowledge that causes me to not believe in Christianity. Indeed, it is the fact that I am familiar with the Bible that causes me to dismiss it. It is not for lack of Bibles, it is for lack of evidence that the Bible is reliable in the first place.

I was a Christian for most of my life, and a devout one through the end of high school and college.1 I understand the mindset and I know the arguments presented. I am not denigrating Drew's concern, or his generosity. Clearly he believes strongly enough to put his money where his mouth is, literally; and in pursuit of what I assume, based on my personal experience as a Christian, he sees as helping me.

But if I needed a Bible (and as I said, I really don't), I could afford one. Land of opportunity FTW. Next time you've got extra cash laying around, instead of spending $30 to send me a book, donate it to a humanitarian cause. Preferably one that provides food where it is needed.

Obviously, the real aim is to address and/or answer some of my questions and concerns. So take out the middle man, Drew. Let's just talk about this. We both have blogs, we both have AIM, we both have e-mail. Name the medium and let's have an actual discussion about this stuff. My only condition is that we be allowed to share the discussion, in whole or in part, on our respective blogs. Clearly you believe in what these books are peddling, so you should be able to articulate it in your own words. It's not fair for me to tear an argument apart when the person making the argument has no opportunity for rebuttal. So let's have a dialogue. It'll save you money in the long run.

My intention is not to "call Drew out" or put him on the spot. But I think it could be educational for both of us, and maybe for our respective readers, to hash this out directly rather than dashing exclusively behind various authors and authorities. Which is not to say that calling upon experts would be out of the question, but the bulk of it should be our own expression.

Plus it'll give me more to post about.

The invitation is open to anyone else who cares to discuss these ideas with me, as well. Just let me know.

And if anyone feels compelled to send me free books in the future, I would much prefer something from my Amazon wish list.

On that subject, I'm also looking for recommendations for new (to me) fiction; I've been reading a lot of non-fiction and technical stuff lately and want to "get away" a little bit.

  1. At least a few of the folks out there who are currently Christians will, I'm sure, refuse to believe that I was ever "truly" Christian, much less devout. If I truly had a relationship with God I could never turn away, goes the reasoning. I can't really begrudge that thinking, because ironically, that was my thinking when I was devout. All I can say is, believe me, I was. Anyone who knew me at the time could vouch for it.


Rin said...

Cool, I'm in. This just might be the kick in the pants I need to get writing again.

And to re-iterate, I devote myself to open minds and hearts and the common knowledge that whatever our collective beliefs, to take joy in the fact that we are all striving for a better world.

In short, not to put too much of a dramatic flair on it, we are the good guys. =)

Katie said...

I can vouch for that you were truly devout, almost to the point of scary occasionally.

Also, I have approximately 5 full Bibles, and at least 2 New Testaments. You're set.

I'm interested to see what comes of this, although I currently don't feel as certain as I used to about my faith, so I think I'll just watch and listen for now.

Drew Mazanec said...

I'll dive into more detail in my next blog post. For now, I'd like to deliver a few brief thoughts.

It has been clear to me after eight years of reading your TFN posts (didn't you used to sign them with K-Bye), that you have a thorough understanding of the Bible.

I sent The Apologetics Study Bible after reading the Whence Atheism post. It appears that you could not reconcile the idea that the Christian claims are true with the idea that the Christian claims plagiarize other religions, particularly the Mithraic cults. This Bible is annotated to refute such claims, as well as the higher criticism of the Enlightenment era German scholars.

It has been helpful to me as I have been slogging through Biblical Nonsense by Jason Long and The Born Again Skeptic's Guide to the Bible by Ruth Green.

I would be very interested in reading the books and passages that encouraged you to disown Christianity.

Dorkman said...


Where in that post, or any other, did I invoke the cult of Mithra? I didn't even mention it, much less place a "particular" emphasis on "Mithraic cults." Nor did I say anything about Christian "plagiarism" of other religions.

No, what I said was that the Christian mythology presented no more reliable claim to truth, and no more evidence to bolster its claim, than do the Norse, Hindu, Greek or Islamic mythologies. I reject all those other mythologies (and incidentally, so do you) because there is no evidence to support them. If I am going to claim that I am intellectually honest, then I must hold all religions to the same standard of evidence. And when Christianity was held up honestly to the same standards by which I had already rejected all the other religions, it too had to be rejected.

It doesn't matter if Christianity is plagiarized in whole or in part, or if it's a wholly original mythology (which, conscious plagiarism or not, it isn't). The question is: does it stand up to intellectual rigor and the standards of evidence to which I hold every other aspect of my life?

The answer is: no.

It concerns me that before we've even started this discussion you're already countering arguments that I have not made, while attributing them to me. That's what is referred to as a straw-man argument. It will be very, very important that you actually understand and appreciate the arguments that I am making, instead of the ones you assume I will make.

Patrick said...

"At least a few of the folks out there who are currently Christians will, I'm sure, refuse to believe that I was ever "truly" Christian, much less devout. If I truly had a relationship with God I could never turn away, goes the reasoning."

You have also countered an argument that Drew has not made yet haven't you?

Master Darksol said...

@Patrick: No, he hasn't. He said "At least a few of the folks out there..." There is a difference. You'll notice "Drew" isn't in that statement. He didn't say "Drew will, I'm sure, say..."

Dorkman stated something akin to "before anyone says x, let me assure everyone of y."

What Drew said was akin to "YOU said x. This is wrong because of y."

One is a blanket explanation, the other pointedly putting words in YOUR (Dorkman's) mouth.

In a Straw-man argument you misrepresent your opponent's stand on an issue, then proceed to argue against the claims you've just put in their mouth. It's a logical fallacy.

Drew Mazanec said...

Master Darksol is right. I did misinterpret the Whence Atheism post and I made a faulty assumption.

One last question to Dorkman: When the idea hit you that Christianity had no more evidence in its favor than any other religion, did you present this argument to the pastor of your Lutheran church?

Dorkman said...

I wasn't a Lutheran, I had just gone to a Lutheran middle school. By the time the idea struck me I hadn't gone to a Lutheran school or church in about 9 years.

So no, I didn't see any reason to ask a Lutheran pastor for his thoughts.

Patrick said...

@master darksol
He didn't say, "Drew will, I'm sure, say..." but he did say, "At least a few of the folks out there [...] I'm sure, refuse to believe that I was ever 'truly' Christian". He didn't single out Drew but he did attribute an argument to a group of people that hadn't yet made the argument. I'm not saying he shouldn't have countered that argument, I'm just pointing out that he did.
I myself am a Christian, in this debate an opponent of Dorkman's, and would find the argument Dorkman describes as both foolish and ineffective. I would say that it misrepresents my position, and that in countering it he takes nothing away from my position.

Dorkman said...

If it isn't a position that you hold, then obviously, the counterpoint isn't addressed to you. The argument that he brought up was specifically addressed to me. He stated that I specifically had trouble "[reconciling] the idea that the Christian claims are true with the idea that the Christian claims plagiarize other religions, particularly the Mithraic cults." Which is at the very least unfounded (as there is no evidence in my post to suggest such a thing), and in point of fact untrue.

My comment, on the other hand, is countering a general argument before it is made, not falsely attributing an argument to a specific source. Anticipating and addressing general objections is a good thing in debate. Attributing phantom objections to your specific "opponent" and claiming that he already made them is not.

Drew has already acknowledge that he made an error of argument, so I see no reason to belabor the point any further.