“God is imaginary”? Really?, Part 9: Religious delusion, part 1

After jumping ahead in our look at the website “God is imaginary” to take on the issue of slavery, today we are going to look at “proof seven”: religious delusion. There is so much going on in this that I am going to need to break it up into two parts. I really, really wanted to find a video to answer this, but the quote I wanted was buried in a lecture, and because I value your time I’m not going to make you watch the entire video for a ten-second quote. But what we are going to deal with are just a few quotes from this site and some response.

The writer gives 4 scenarios: Santa Claus (more specifically a rendering from the movie The Santa Clause), a recounting of Mormonism’s founder Joseph Smith’s vision, a version of Mohammed’s vision of Gabriel, then a badly told version of the Nativity and ministry of Jesus, and somehow these are supposed to be connected. At least he’s willing to admit that there seems to be some historic credibility to the account of Jesus, even though he/she clearly misunderstands the nature of Jesus’ conception.

The writer also proceeds to demonstrate how the story of Jesus is “just like” the other three because of the supposed reason that there are so many people who don’t believe it, sort of a reverse genetic fallacy as well as linking to other articles in the “proofs” (one of which I disproved by using the article’s own reference material, here), so there is a self-referencing fallacy.

Central to the argument is a supposed link to other “insemination stories”, even though anyone who has read the original source materials on any of them can clearly tell the difference.

But let’s deal with the four supposed evidences that the writer presents:

1. “The miracles are supposed to ‘prove’ that Jesus is God, but predictably, these miracles left behind no tangible evidence for us to examine and scientifically verify today. They involved faith hearings and magic tricks—[…]
2. Jesus is resurrected, but, predictably, he does not appear to anyone today—[…]
3. Jesus ascended into heaven and answers our prayers, but, predictably, when we pray to him nothing happens. We can statistically analyze prayer and find that prayers are never answered—[…]
4. The book (I suppose the writer means books as Christian recognize the Bible as a repository of books regarding the nature of Yahweh and his revelation) where Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John make their attestations does exist, but predictably, it is chock full of problems and contradictions—[…]
(Note: The ellipses are links that I have omitted.)

Now, a response, by points:
1. First of all, what were the nature of many of the miracles? Let’s just take two: turning water into wine and the feeding of the five thousand, which was drank and eaten. Many of the miracles were healings, and we have the response of the crowds, that they kept coming to him for healing. So, we are left with the testimony of the witnesses, something I will cover in point 4, but the essential element of this argument is, and I hope that you see it as well: “if I didn’t see it, I didn’t happen.” So, let’s follow this logic for a second: let’s say that for some reason every person in the central time zone of the United States slept one hour past sunrise, no one in the central time zone saw the sun rise, does that mean that the sun did not rise for those people? No, it simply means that no one saw it rise, but can see the sun in the sky, so obviously it rose, but not if we follow the writer’s logic.
2. Listening to the number of Muslims who are converting to Christianity, it appears that he is appearing to plenty of people today in surprising numbers having dramatic conversions, such as this; of course this could be written off as delusion, but as John Lennox is fond of saying, “I don’t know of anyone, as an adult, who comes to believe in Santa Claus.”
3.First of all, as I demonstrated here, this is a complete misunderstanding of the nature of prayer. Also, it misrepresents the nature of God and his relationship to his creation. Prayers are often answered in unexpected ways, and it’s only in hindsight that the answer is seen (keep in mind that “no” and “not now” are answers as well). Further, God (Jesus in this case) is not some trained monkey who does things for treats.
4. Here, the writer is guilty of a category error: he fails to distinguish the Bible, The Old and New Testaments, and their contents from each other (something many Christians are just as guilty of). The four gospels have been confirmed, by the relevant scholarship, as being adequate historical sources for the life of Jesus of Nazareth. And as a student of the texts in question, while they do have certain difficulties at times, when one allows the writers to speak in their own terms, the difficulties fall away into obscurity and only provide a speed-bump to make the reader pause and check their understanding of particular events, thus to conclude that they are “chock full of problems and contradictions”, is at best an overstatement and, at worst, an outright lie, and is a straw-man argument for lazy people.

But, that’s not all, the writer makes three more points that I will answer within themselves, in the next post.

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