Thursday, December 6, 2007

Questioning candidates about faith

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney gave an interesting speech today about the intersection of religion and politics, prompted by evangelical Christians' apparent unease with his Mormon faith. These sentences jumped out at me:

"Perhaps the most important question to ask a person of faith who seeks a political office, is this: Does he share these American values – the equality of humankind, the obligation to serve one another and a steadfast commitment to liberty?

"They are not unique to any one denomination. They belong to the great moral inheritance we hold in common. They’re the firm ground on which Americans of different faiths meet and stand as a nation, united."

I appreciate Romney's attempt to identify common ground in America's ideals. But is "Do you share American values?" really the most important question to ask "a person of faith who seeks a political office"? It would be more revealing to hear the answers to these:

How has your faith shaped who you are?

What effect does your faith have on your actions? What have you done out of commitment to God that you would not have done otherwise?

Does your faith change how you see other people, other nations, other religions?

What is your image of God?

How do you pray?

Yes, these questions are nosy and personal, and the chance of getting honest answers of any depth would be approximately zero. But wouldn't it be fascinating to know...

What would you ask?

46 comments:

Anonymous said...

I would ask him how he justified to himself that he was an adult member of an officially racist organization (the Mormon cult was officially racist until 1978).

Sincerely,

Iztok

Chris said...

This comes back to the larger discussion we've had previously. Can you have values and not be religious?

I'm an Atheist and feel that I have "American values". I respect life and freedom and others.

Does it shape the way I look at certain issues? I would have to say it does. For example, I don't look at a collection of cells and view that as a life. I don't view gambling or prostitution as immoral (and in fact think they should be regulated to generate revenue and for safety). Then again, I would also have to ask -- isn't a lot of this between the person, the individual, and God? A politician should be making rules that keep society in order and provide benefits. Drinking alcohol, for example, is legal yet a good Christian should follow his teachings and not drink to excess. I would think this would apply to some of the other areas as mentioned as well.

Overall, I think politicians should keep this whole thing private. It's really no one's business. This public display of religion is quite crass. I kind of like this idea of separating Church and State. We should go back to that sometime. :)

Will this impact my voting? Ehhh... . Candidates that are running on a religious platform turn me off. Huckabee and his support of Creationism is an outright turn off because scientifically he's pretty much been proven wrong by every method available. How can I trust that guy to support schools and NASA and everything else? Next thing you know my kid will have start praying in school or something.

Edie said...

Religion and character or morality have little to do with each other. Some of the best people with the highest degree of integrity and humanity have been atheists or simply un-religious.

I usually agree with you Jane, but the questions you posed are besides the point. I don't care how his religion shaped him or effects his actions. I would examine his previous actions and votes on issues. That is a better barometer of what to expect if he's put in office.

To me, religion is a private and personal thing. It's like what goes on in the bedroom. It's nobody's business. Don't ask. Don't tell.

So to me, examine his actions. His religion is only a distraction.

Anonymous said...

I think every presidential candidate should be asked to explain the difference between evolution and evolution theory and repeat the same thing for gravitation and gravitation theory.

Why? So people like me would at least enjoy the comedy aspect of the interview.

Just like this little video from The View.

Sincerely,
Iztok

Danbo020759 said...
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Danbo020759 said...

Here's what I would ask --

As a person of faith how would you act in a matter where your beliefs conflicted with the belief of a majority of the American people's -- would you stand on what you believe (reinforcing the notion of republican government) or would you act in the interest of the majority (ascribing to the idea that the USA is a democracy)?

My intent would be to determine whether we are electing a "representative" -- a person who best fits the idea of the Supreme Executive for the majority of Americans (as determined by the Electoral College), or are we electing a poll-reader -- a person who will do whatever it takes to keep the majority of Americans on his/her side?

I prefer the former. That's what makes our Republic great -- if I don't think the person is a good "representation" of me, I take my vote elsewhere. After all, the only person I'll find who shares every single philosophy I hold dear is in my mirror.

Before I get jumped on, let me point out that the words republican/republic and democrat(ic)/democracy in no way are indicative of the Democratic or Republican parties.

Anonymous said...

A note to Danbo.

The USA is NOT a democracy. It is a republic. We elect representatives to write and vote on laws.

We pretend to be a country where the rule of law is primary.

It is not so, but it is a good front for what actually goes on.

The same is true for most religious organizations.

Lewis Guignard

And Merry Christmas to all.
(send money)

Nick said...

There is a great correlation actually between religion and morality. The question is not "Can a non-religious person be moral?" Absolutely! No doubt! Many could put Christians to shame. The real question is, what is the basis for morality?

If we look at our Constitution, it is rooted in the nature of God. Let's remember that for the longest time, the idea that all men are created equal was not self-evident. It is a direct outworking of Christian teachings.

Edie said...

re: "If we look at our Constitution, it is rooted in the nature of God."

Unless the nature of God is an invention of man to begin with.

Individuals have an inate sense of right and wrong; basically the Golden Rule. In addition, we have Rule of Law. Above that we have our conscience; see civil disobedience movements in history or conscientious objectors.

Atheists do right because it is right, not because of the fear of hellfire.

I would vote for an atheist if his/her previous actions and voting record warranted it. Matter of fact, someone advertising his relious beliefs scares the beheebers out of me.

Organized religion deals in absolutes; for this world to survive we need compromise, cooperation and tolerance.

Nick said...

Edie: re: "If we look at our Constitution, it is rooted in the nature of God."

Unless the nature of God is an invention of man to begin with.

Me: Actually, that's what I'm saying the constitution said our morality was based on.

Edie: Individuals have an inate sense of right and wrong; basically the Golden Rule. In addition, we have Rule of Law. Above that we have our conscience; see civil disobedience movements in history or conscientious objectors.

Me: Actually, this innate idea is part of natural law theory which I have yet to seen explained from an atheistic worldview. If matter is all there is, then where is morality? It is not material after all. How did an accidental universe produce morality?

Also, the golden rule was new with Christ. No one said it before him. Go look and see. Others said "Do not do to others what you do not want them to do to you." Christ made it a positive instead of a negative.

Edie: Atheists do right because it is right, not because of the fear of hellfire.

Me: But what is right and wrong? What is the basis? You know how many atheists I meet that are moral relativists? I've had them tell me that an event like the V-Tech shooting isn't evil.

And do I do something for fear of Hellfire? No. (Note also that not all Christians believe Hell is a fiery furnace.) I too do it because it is right and that right is rooted in the nature of God himself.

Edie: I would vote for an atheist if his/her previous actions and voting record warranted it. Matter of fact, someone advertising his relious beliefs scares the beheebers out of me.

Me: However, I am concerned about what a person believes ultimately because it is not a private matter. What I believe in private will affect who I am in public. However, if someone wants to advertise they're a Christian running for office, I'd better see them walk the walk.

Edie: Organized religion deals in absolutes; for this world to survive we need compromise, cooperation and tolerance.

Me: Nope. Everyone deals in absolutes. It is an absolute to say there are no absolutes. However, I would prefer that you define one term in this. I don't want a dictionary definition. I want what you take it to mean. That is tolerance. What do you take that to mean?

Edie said...

Tolerance is being married to someone who is not of your religion. Does my Muslim husband approve of the fact that I drink, eat pork or swear? No. But he doesn't preach at me either, nor does he 'accept' my behavior in that he would change his behavior. He simply let's me, be me.

If I drink a glass of wine at dinner and he cleans up, afterwards the table is spotless except for my glass which he will not touch.

Am I planning on converting to Islam? No. Is his fasting during Ramadan extremely inconvenient and a test in patience? Yes. But I don't complain; I adapt. He is who he is.

This is tolerance.

When I think about tolerance, I think about this Wade Davis quote:

"The world in which you were born is just one model of reality. Other cultures are NOT failed attempts at being you; they are unique manifestations of the human spirit." Wade Davis

I also think it's extremely arrogant to believe in absolutes - all the time. There's a place for absolutes; there's a place for compromise; there's a place for tolerance; and even a place for adaptation or acceptance.

Nick said...

But Edie. You haven't given me a definition of tolerance. You've given me what you consider an example. I am looking for the definition by which you recognize the example.

Edie said...

I could sit down and think of a specific, technical definition of what tolerance means to me, but what's the point?

I never got into these round-about supposedly-intellectual analyses like 'how many angels are there on the point of a needle'. For lawyers and others that like to argue, if they want to do it, fine, but to me it's a waste of time and there's life to be lived.

I don't need a definition for tolerance; I live it.

Jane was originally asking about a candidate's faith or religion, it's relevance to his/her candidacy and Mitt Romney's speech.

I'll just say again, actions speak louder than words, a candidate's former actions and votes are a good indicator of what he'll/she'll do in the future - regardless of religion. And as Jane said, what's to guarantee the candidate will be completely candid anyway.

A candidate's religion is a non-starter for me.

Anonymous said...

Nick, "Actually, this innate idea is part of natural law theory which I have yet to seen explained from an atheistic worldview. If matter is all there is, then where is morality? It is not material after all. How did an accidental universe produce morality?"

I think you really need to understand how natural selection part of the evolution works. It has nothing to do with accidentals but all to do with selection. If you are really interested in this, perhaps you should read Dan Dennet's book Breaking the Spell.

Also, we figured out long time ago that we are all living in the relatives when it comes to the morals, not with absolutes (different rules apply to different people, it is very evident even in the Bible).

Look at presidential candidate Mitt Romney, he was part of a racist organization, now he is running for the president?

Sincerely,
Iztok

Danbo020759 said...
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Danbo020759 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nick said...

Iztok: Anonymous said...

Nick, "Actually, this innate idea is part of natural law theory which I have yet to seen explained from an atheistic worldview. If matter is all there is, then where is morality? It is not material after all. How did an accidental universe produce morality?"

I think you really need to understand how natural selection part of the evolution works. It has nothing to do with accidentals but all to do with selection. If you are really interested in this, perhaps you should read Dan Dennet's book Breaking the Spell.

Me: Actually, evolution can make no selection really. There's no mind behind it. Whatever it produces will have to be seen as progress.

Iztok: Also, we figured out long time ago that we are all living in the relatives when it comes to the morals, not with absolutes (different rules apply to different people, it is very evident even in the Bible).

Me: Rules might differ but the principles are the same which is what absolutism teaches. Also, suppose that people do differ on morality at times. What follows from that? The same thing that follows from differences on scientific theories?

Iztok: Look at presidential candidate Mitt Romney, he was part of a racist organization, now he is running for the president?

Sincerely,
Iztok

Me: He is. This shows morality is relative how?

Anonymous said...

Nick, "If we look at our Constitution, it is rooted in the nature of God."

Care to show us where? US constitution is clearly secular. (Our founding fathers were too, being mostly deists.)

Sincerely,
Iztok

Anonymous said...

Nick, "Actually, evolution can make no selection really. There's no mind behind it. Whatever it produces will have to be seen as progress."

Hm... apparently you really don't understand evolution with natural selection. Natural selection is part of the evolution. The truth is that all that is produced has no apparent direction. It is the natural selection part that determines if change was beneficial or not or neutral.

If rules are different then we have relativism. If rules were the same for everyone, then and only then we would have absolutes. I guess your definition of absolute vs. relative is different then mine there. If we have the same rules regardless of where we are in time/culture then we have absolutes, if rules change in time/culture etc... then we have relatives. I guess it is pointless to argue when you skew the meaning of relative and absolute. Or in other words, you get GIGO.

Re: Romney. It shows how morality is relative as we have him trying to show his tolerance (with his latest speech being very bigoted indeed) when he was an adult member of racist organization and fails to show us what he did say and do about it at the time to change this if any.

He also mentioned that church will not influence, yet his religion seems it will. His Mormon cult acknowledges their "prophet" as supreme commander. He either has to denounce it or follow this rule if he becomes the president of US. Either way his speech was rather insulting. He doesn't understand the difference between deism and theism (nor do many here.

Romney said: "freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom." I guess every fool can see where we have freedom without religion and even easier we can think of an instance of religion without freedom.

Since this is about Romney, here is a question I would like him to answer: "Your family is prominent in a notorious church that proselytizes its views in a famously aggressive manner. Are you only now deciding to make a secret of your beliefs? And if so, why?"

A long time ago, Romney took the decision to be a fool for Joseph Smith, a convicted fraud and serial practitioner of statutory rape who at times made war on the United States and whose cult has been made to amend itself several times in order to be considered American at all.

It is time for him to answer some hard questions.

Sincerely,
Iztok

Danbo020759 said...

I have deleted my responses to the poster that signed as "Lewis Guignard."

A suspicious post was made this morning in the Charlotte Observer Letters to the Editors forum that leads me to believe that there is a person who chooses to use the username 'lguignard' while not actually being Lewis Guignard. If that is the case, I apologize to the real Mr. Guignard for my responses.

There is insufficient evidence to assign the post I responded to as belonging to Lewis Guignard.

Nick said...

Iztok: Care to show us where? US constitution is clearly secular. (Our founding fathers were too, being mostly deists.)

Me:Again, this claim that most were deists has not been backed. Considering I've seen a number of atheistic fairy tales (Such as the Middle Ages being the Dark ages and how they believed the Earth was flat), I look at this one with suspicion also.

Let's see. These self-evident truths that we have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.....where do they come from again?



Iztok: Hm... apparently you really don't understand evolution with natural selection. Natural selection is part of the evolution. The truth is that all that is produced has no apparent direction. It is the natural selection part that determines if change was beneficial or not or neutral.

Me: Which is what I said, except what is beneficial? It is only what helps survive. There is no end-game in mind. As Dawkins said, DNA neither knows nor cares and we dance to its music.

Iztok: If rules are different then we have relativism. If rules were the same for everyone, then and only then we would have absolutes. I guess your definition of absolute vs. relative is different then mine there. If we have the same rules regardless of where we are in time/culture then we have absolutes, if rules change in time/culture etc... then we have relatives. I guess it is pointless to argue when you skew the meaning of relative and absolute. Or in other words, you get GIGO.

Me: Non sequitur. If people believe different things about science, it doesn't follow that science is relative. If they believe different things about mathematics, it doesn't follow that mathematics is relative.

Also, the facts are just wrong. You can find common ground among all the cultures of the world in morality.

Iztok: Re: Romney. It shows how morality is relative as we have him trying to show his tolerance (with his latest speech being very bigoted indeed) when he was an adult member of racist organization and fails to show us what he did say and do about it at the time to change this if any.

Me: But why bring up racism if morality is relative? All you're saying is, "I don't like racism." It should matter no more to anyone than the statement "I like vanilla ice cream."

There is a hidden implication in what you say that screams absolute morality.

Romney belongs to a racist organization.
It is immoral to belong to a racist organization.
Therefore, Romney is immoral.

And this is why he shouldn't be voted for.

Whether that's true or not is another question, but that is the argument I see.

Iztok: He also mentioned that church will not influence, yet his religion seems it will. His Mormon cult acknowledges their "prophet" as supreme commander. He either has to denounce it or follow this rule if he becomes the president of US. Either way his speech was rather insulting. He doesn't understand the difference between deism and theism (nor do many here.

Me:And I agree. I do not think that he will be able to separate his religion from his politics nor should he. That's the way the system works. We get people from all viewpoints to come and discuss ideas and see which ones are true.

Iztok: Romney said: "freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom." I guess every fool can see where we have freedom without religion and even easier we can think of an instance of religion without freedom.

Me: No they can't! Freedom is an unheard of concept in many parts of the world and if the term is used, it means something quite different from the way we mean it in America.

And do we really have freedom without religion? Go tell that to all those fools who were thrown into the Gulag for the most nonsensical reasons of all. Go tell that to the underground church in China that knows that any member can be killed by the government for being a Christian.

Iztok: Since this is about Romney, here is a question I would like him to answer: "Your family is prominent in a notorious church that proselytizes its views in a famously aggressive manner. Are you only now deciding to make a secret of your beliefs? And if so, why?"

Me: And I think that is an excellent question.

Iztok: A long time ago, Romney took the decision to be a fool for Joseph Smith, a convicted fraud and serial practitioner of statutory rape who at times made war on the United States and whose cult has been made to amend itself several times in order to be considered American at all.

It is time for him to answer some hard questions.

Sincerely,
Iztok

Me: And with that, I agree. I would like to see those questions answered.

Anonymous said...

Nick, "These self-evident truths that we have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.....where do they come from again?"

Hate to say it but have you actually READ the constitution? The aforementioned things are NOT in constitution but are in Declaration of Independence. It is very sad that you do not know that. I don't see any point discussing constitution with someone who doesn't know what is written in it.

Re fairy tales about earth being flat... an interesting quote:

"The church says the earth is flat, but I know that it is round, for I have seen the shadow on the moon, and I have more faith in a shadow than in the church."
--Ferdinand Magellan

Also, if you read the Bible it says nowhere that Earth is spherical, it refers to it as flat object (circle) and it also mentions that if you go high enough you see everything (which is never possible on spherical object). (Clearly Bible is wrong there.)

Re deists, there are really plenty of evidence for it. Let me know which founding fathers you think were not deists (I'll assume rest you agree they are) and I'll give you the references to their deism or admit they were not deists.

Re: morals: Again, unless you say Bible was wrong allowing people to keep slaves, then you can't talk about absolute morals. They change in time/space. Some of them are universal, but only a few. Rest are very relative.

Sincerely,
Iztok

Nick said...

Iztok: Re fairy tales about earth being flat... an interesting quote:

"The church says the earth is flat, but I know that it is round, for I have seen the shadow on the moon, and I have more faith in a shadow than in the church."
--Ferdinand Magellan

Me: Source?

Iztok: Also, if you read the Bible it says nowhere that Earth is spherical, it refers to it as flat object (circle) and it also mentions that if you go high enough you see everything (which is never possible on spherical object). (Clearly Bible is wrong there.)

Me: First off, there is no Hebrew word for a sphere. You can look at the word in Isaiah and find out that in multiple contexts, it does not mean sphere. It refers to something else. The Hebrews just didn't have a word for it.

As for Matthew 4, you can note that this is a vision. Obviously, any reader would know there are places on the Earth you can't see the top of the mountain from and know that that isn't correct and anyone would be able to climb the mountain and see for themselves.

Iztok: Re deists, there are really plenty of evidence for it. Let me know which founding fathers you think were not deists (I'll assume rest you agree they are) and I'll give you the references to their deism or admit they were not deists.

Me: Didn't make any claim about them. I simply asked you to back yours.

Iztok: Re: morals: Again, unless you say Bible was wrong allowing people to keep slaves, then you can't talk about absolute morals. They change in time/space. Some of them are universal, but only a few. Rest are very relative.

Sincerely,
Iztok

Me: If some are universal, then you are a moral absolutist. Now tell me, what do you know about ANE culture and slavery?

Anonymous said...

Nick, you present things youhave no knowledge about (such as claiming things about constitution when they are in the Declaration of Independence and now about Hebrew and lack of word for sphere).

Maybe you should check the meaning for Hebrew word "kadur" before you claim it doesn't have word describing sphere/ball. (several years of working for an Israeli company and spending some time in Israel as well as having good contacts there helps sometimes.)

I guess next time you will start claiming that bacterial flagellum is irreducibly complex and that evolution is "only a theory".


Sincerely,
Iztok

Anonymous said...

Nick, "First off, there is no Hebrew word for a sphere. You can look at the word in Isaiah and find out that in multiple contexts, it does not mean sphere."

Let me see, Isaiah 40:22 "He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth,
and its people are like grasshoppers.
He stretches out the heavens like a canopy,
and spreads them out like a tent to live in."

Then we have Isaiah 22:17-18 we see the word "ball" in it (Hebrew dur or kadur) so if author of Isaiah 40 would really mean a spherical object he would surely use word dur instead of khug (circle). Don't you think? The author of Isaiah 40 obviously meant a flat circle with a tent (shape of sky in his mind) above it.

Sincerely,
Iztok

Nick said...

I'll grant a mistake on the Declaration and will be looking into that, but not on the word for sphere.

The word simply means a circle or a circuit. They had a word for a circle which was used, but not one for a sphere. The word is used two other times and neither time does it indicate sphericity. It simply refers to a circular pattern.

So am I going to see the reference to that Magellan quote?

Chris said...

Why do these get bogged down into little tiny details and away from the main issue?

Debating the meaning of a Hebrew word? C'mon.

Anonymous said...

"They had a word for a circle which was used, but not one for a sphere."

Well considering Isaiah 40 used circle and Isaiah 22 has word ball (which is a sphere) I think the proof that Hebrew had a word for a non flat surface describing earth (ball is a sphere whereas circle is a flat 2D object) is in the Bible itself.

Re: Magellan, my source was a web site (I knew about this quote for years) and upon further research it seems Robert Ingersoll was the one who attributed it to Magellan. It seems this is something similar to supposed conversion of Darwin on his death bed that never happened.

Sincerely,
Iztok

Nick said...

Yep. They had a word for ball. The same word was also used by Isaiah to describe encircling a city and surrounding it, it seems that it refers to a circular pattern instead.

As for Magellan, these kinds of quotes showed up much later, mainly with the book of White on the topic of science throughout history. This includes the ancients thinking the Earth was flat and if I'm correct, the idea of Galileo being a church vs. science thing. In other words, a modern atheist myth.

Nick said...

The same word is also used to describe encircling a city, not necessarily a sphere.

As for Magellan, that kind of thing happens too often. It has more become an atheistic myth especially common since White's book. The idea was to make science and religion mortal enemies for all time.

A real look at history shows the church and science as allies.

Nick said...

Sorry about the double-post. My account was acting odd today.

Big Love Mitt said...

Mitt being Mormon isn't the problem. The problem for me is that he isn't Mormon enough. An honest Mormon would reject Mormonism as being just another part of "Christianity." Joseph Smith said the true religion had disappeared from the earth and he was to resore it. If Mitt was being truthful he would tell all the Baptists and Roman Catholics out there that they are false religionists, and that Mormonism was the ONLY true religion.

But Mitt isn't honest so he will instead try to portray his faith as something Christian, and attack anyone that disagrees as being mean.

Anonymous said...

"If Mitt was being truthful he would tell all the Baptists and Roman Catholics out there that they are false religionists, and that Mormonism was the ONLY true religion."

Isn't this the staple of all religions? They all consider themselves the only true one.

Hence it is also true that no matter what religion you believe in, there are more people on this planet that disagree with it. LDS and Scientology are just the two modern examples on how religion works/gets established. Others have just the same amount of credible evidence of older origin. (If we look at Christianity we can notice it borrowed different things from different sources, virgin birth from one place, flood from another etc...) As Nick said, just modern examples of Myths. LDS used to be a cult but more people fell for it and now it is considered a religion. Same goes for others (religion is different from cult just on number of adherents).


Sincerely,
Iztok

Nick said...

Iztok. Could you give some evidence of this borrowing that you say took place?

Also, I do not see indeed why the LDS want to be considered under the banner of Christians today with Baptists, Methodists, etc. Especially since their prophet cast the first stone as it were when he says that God told him that all of those churches were apostate.

Why want to be connected to an apostate church?m

Anonymous said...

You already know Christmas trees and Easter eggs were originally Pagan, and you probably know the seasonal timing of the two holidays is Pagan too.

Along with miracle working sons of God, born of a mortal woman, they were common elements of pre-Christian Pagan religion. Mithras had 'em. So did Dionysus, Attis, Osiris, and Orpheus. And more.








Jesus is described as the Son of God, born of a mortal woman, according to prophecy, turning water into wine, raising girls from the dead, and healing blind men with his spittle, and setting it up so His believers got eternal life in Heaven contemplating the unutterable, indescribable glory of God, and off to Hell—for the bad folks...

Augustus is described as the Son of God, born of a mortal.

Romulus is described as the Son of God, born of a virgin.

Pythia , the priestess at the Oracle at Delphi, in Greece, prophesied, and over and over again for a thousand years, the prophecies came true.

Vespatian's spittle healed a blind man.

Osiris is said to bring his believers eternal life in Egyptian Heaven, contemplating the unutterable, indescribable glory of God.

Apollonius of Tyana raised a girl from death.

There are tons of other examples predating Jesus.

Not many is really truly original in Christianity.

Sincerely,
Iztok

Nick said...

Iztok: You already know Christmas trees and Easter eggs were originally Pagan, and you probably know the seasonal timing of the two holidays is Pagan too.

Me: And these were not taught in Scripture so they're irrelevant.

Iztok: Along with miracle working sons of God, born of a mortal woman, they were common elements of pre-Christian Pagan religion. Mithras had 'em. So did Dionysus, Attis, Osiris, and Orpheus. And more.

Me: Could you provide some primary sources on these? Takes Mithras for instance? Which one do you mean? There were several types and the earliest we have of them being brought into the Roman Empire is around 69 A.D. give or take a couple of years.

Also, keep in mind Mithras was born out of a rock wearing a cap and carrying a knife. Not sure how that makes him a son of god...

As for the others, do you have any primary sources that indicate that these were going on prior to Christianity?








Iztok: Jesus is described as the Son of God, born of a mortal woman, according to prophecy, turning water into wine, raising girls from the dead, and healing blind men with his spittle, and setting it up so His believers got eternal life in Heaven contemplating the unutterable, indescribable glory of God, and off to Hell—for the bad folks...

Me: You left out important parts.

He was born in a Jewish environment which was not prone to borrowing ideas into a distinctly monotheistic system that upheld the Law and was seen as the fulfillment of prophecy at the due time.

Iztok: Augustus is described as the Son of God, born of a mortal.

Me: Date of this claim?

Iztok: Romulus is described as the Son of God, born of a virgin.

Me: If that's in Plutarch, I don't remember reading it. Got a date for this claim?

Iztok: Pythia , the priestess at the Oracle at Delphi, in Greece, prophesied, and over and over again for a thousand years, the prophecies came true.

Me: Got sources?

Iztok: Vespatian's spittle healed a blind man.

Me: Date of this claim?

Iztok: Osiris is said to bring his believers eternal life in Egyptian Heaven, contemplating the unutterable, indescribable glory of God.

Me: Got a primary resource?

Iztok: Apollonius of Tyana raised a girl from death.

Me: And you do realize that biography dates to the third century A.D. Right? You also realize the writer was commissioned and paid to write that. Right?

Iztok: There are tons of other examples predating Jesus.

Not many is really truly original in Christianity.

Sincerely,
Iztok

Me: You're going to have to do better than this. I've seen the copycat theory for a long time and it is incredibly wanting. Scholars dropped it a long time ago. Only the internet has brought it back into style.

And if you recommend I watch the "Zeitgeist" movie, which I already have, I will be incredibly amused.

Anonymous said...

Nick,

I am sure you will now provide us with Jesus contemporary attesting to existence of Jesus, not someone who at most heard the story second hand and wrote it down. Until you do this, your sources are just as (in)credible as ones mentioned.

So far the number of people actually LIVING when Jesus supposed to be performing his miracles and wrote things down and we have the writings is exactly 0. The earliest is around 70 CE with average age of 35 or so it means he could barely be born at the time that Jesus died.

So all I am asking you to provide same type of credible evidence as you demand of others, then we can talk.

(Basis of all my claim is that there is no credible writings of any Jesus contemporary that would confirm his existence. Hence credibility of whole Christianity seems to be on a shaky grounds. You can't provide any better evidence then any other religion.)

Sincerely,
Iztok

Nick said...

Iztok: Nick,

I am sure you will now provide us with Jesus contemporary attesting to existence of Jesus, not someone who at most heard the story second hand and wrote it down. Until you do this, your sources are just as (in)credible as ones mentioned.

Me: Note this please. No sources have been given on this one. I suppose I am merely to take it by faith. Unfortunately, I don't have that kind of faith. Some primary documents could have been given or even if not that, some scholarly works, but none were.

But let us consider what is meant by contemporary? For instance, if Josephus was 1 when Jesus was alive, does that make him a contemporary?

Also, why must it be a contemporary? Very very very little of ancient history could be said to be contemporary. By this standard, no one today could write a history of the Civil War as there are no contemporaries.

Consider the case of Augustus. We have Seutonius writing 80 years after him and then Tacitus writing not much later. Does anyone really question the validity of them?

Also, Josephus and Tacitus do both refer to Christ. There is one questionable passage in Josephus, but there is one that is not questioned and even the unquestioned one has an underlying theme that is believed to fit Josephus. One simply needs to ask the scholars of Josephus and Tacitus.

However, we do have four contemporary accounts. They're called the gospels. More on this later.

Iztok: So far the number of people actually LIVING when Jesus supposed to be performing his miracles and wrote things down and we have the writings is exactly 0. The earliest is around 70 CE with average age of 35 or so it means he could barely be born at the time that Jesus died.

Me: Actually, this is based on a misnomer. There is a list going around on the internet of writers contemporary with Jesus. Unfortunately, few people take the time to look at what these people wrote about. One wrote about agriculture for instance and he was supposed to write about Jesus?

Also, there is no need to date any gospel after 70 A.D. This puts them within one generation of the events. This is monumental for ancient history.

Furthermore, Matthew and John are believed to be eyewitness accounts. Mark is the memoirs of Peter who was an eyewitness. Luke is the most thorough of the four and is said to be a historian who dots every i and crosses every t.

Not only that, we do have archaeological confirmation of the gospels in that numerous places where they were thought to be wrong we are now finding that, well, they were right.

Please note this isn't about inerrancy of inspiration either. I am not asking you to take the NT as the Word of God. I'm simply asking you to take it as what it is. A set of documents claiming to make a case about a historical event.

Iztok: So all I am asking you to provide same type of credible evidence as you demand of others, then we can talk.

Me: Fine. I've done my part. Now I ask you to provide some real evidence to back the Christ-myth hypothesis. It would not be proper to ask me to back my claim and not do the same.

Iztok:(Basis of all my claim is that there is no credible writings of any Jesus contemporary that would confirm his existence. Hence credibility of whole Christianity seems to be on a shaky grounds. You can't provide any better evidence then any other religion.)

Sincerely,
Iztok

Not only are we sure of his existence, as there are only a few out there who really deny it and they're certainly not the mainstream, we can know some facts about his life. Even the Jesus Seminar will grant you that it's a sure as fact as anything about Jesus that he was crucified. Most scholars will grant you these as well.

That Paul was a skeptic who was converted.
That James, the brother of Jesus, was a skeptic who was converted.
That the disciples claimed that they saw the risen Lord.
That the tomb was found empty on the third day.

Also, note with Paul that we have an early Christian creed in 1 Cor. 15 that even skeptical scholars will grant extremely early, to within a few years of the events. That is extraordinary for ancient writings.

Anonymous said...

Nick,

attempt to prove Bible with Bible is circular logic at its best. Even if certain geographic validity of the Bible is there that doesn't mean anything about other claims. I find it rather odd that God would reveal itself in form of Jesus to extremely uneducated and backward people vs. showing up now when we have more knowledge to test it's credibility. How convenient this is for him?

Also, as I said, no mentioned person actually lived at the time when Jesus lived. All lived after his supposed crucification. The passage in Josephus is short by his standards and out of place giving us the inevitable conclusion it was a forgery. The other one (if I remember correctly) speaks of Christian group not about Jesus.

So no, by no standards you didn't show any evidence of Jesus ever lived let alone performed miracles he supposedly did. Remember that extraordinary claims (of his miracles) require extraordinary proof. So until you come up with them ...

I would settle with firm evidence of walking zombies (outside of the Bible) at time of his supposed resurrection. This should make it easier for you to concentrate your efforts.

As far as Gospels are concerned, there are big discrepancies in them (as far as location goes etc...) that can't really be reconciled outside taking it on faith.

The issue with faith is that it really isn't a virtue, once you say you have faith (believe w/o evidence) you really are disqualified from any further discussion because there is no amount of arguments that would convince you otherwise. This is the main difference between faith and science. Science encourages different views and attempts to prove them, faith takes as is and considers it as a virtue. That is why I believe physicists and biologists etc... there is huge competition to prove certain hypothesis and supported theories. There is no such self correcting mechanism in faith/religion in fact it is discouraged to do so.

Sincerely,
Iztok

Nick said...

Iztok: Nick,

attempt to prove Bible with Bible is circular logic at its best. Even if certain geographic validity of the Bible is there that doesn't mean anything about other claims. I find it rather odd that God would reveal itself in form of Jesus to extremely uneducated and backward people vs. showing up now when we have more knowledge to test it's credibility. How convenient this is for him?

Me: Good thing I didn't do that. I used outside sources such as archaeology and Josephus and Tacitus to back my case that the Bible is reliable.

Also, you speak of them as uneducated. Have you really ready the ancients? When I want to read people that I knew thought about issues seriously, I read them first. Plato has our philosophers today beat hands-down.

Iztok: Also, as I said, no mentioned person actually lived at the time when Jesus lived. All lived after his supposed crucification. The passage in Josephus is short by his standards and out of place giving us the inevitable conclusion it was a forgery. The other one (if I remember correctly) speaks of Christian group not about Jesus.

Me: Go find the scholars of Josephus who will say that. Go ahead. I'll be waiting. Also, there was no response to Tacitus. Find the Tacitus scholar who thinks what was said was a forgery. I'll be waiting. Then, go and explain again what you mean by contemporary. Also, give the list of writers who you think should have mentioned Jesus as well as tell why Augustus is okay even though there are fewer references to him and all are much later.

Iztok: So no, by no standards you didn't show any evidence of Jesus ever lived let alone performed miracles he supposedly did. Remember that extraordinary claims (of his miracles) require extraordinary proof. So until you come up with them ...

Me: Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof? Who says? I think the claim though that the Jews who were as exclusive as could be would copycat mystery religions requires extraordinary evidence. That has not been brought forth. Instead, the burden was put on me.

Also, what counts as extraordinary? You think a miracle is. I don't. I think it's simply supernatural.

Iztok: I would settle with firm evidence of walking zombies (outside of the Bible) at time of his supposed resurrection. This should make it easier for you to concentrate your efforts.

Me: And what evidence would you suggest? The Romans would write that? Of course not. They'd think it nonsense. Also, why would Mark and Luke and John mention it? It fits in best with a Jewish type and Matthew is the one that wrote to the most Jewish community there was.

Iztok: As far as Gospels are concerned, there are big discrepancies in them (as far as location goes etc...) that can't really be reconciled outside taking it on faith.

Me: And the two historians that write about Hannibal crossing the Alps have hopelessly contradictory accounts. Therefore, I conclude that Hannibal did not cross the Alps.

Remember that this is not about inerrancy.

Iztok: The issue with faith is that it really isn't a virtue, once you say you have faith (believe w/o evidence) you really are disqualified from any further discussion because there is no amount of arguments that would convince you otherwise. This is the main difference between faith and science. Science encourages different views and attempts to prove them, faith takes as is and considers it as a virtue. That is why I believe physicists and biologists etc... there is huge competition to prove certain hypothesis and supported theories. There is no such self correcting mechanism in faith/religion in fact it is discouraged to do so.

Sincerely,
Iztok

Me: Then you have a false view of faith. Faith is trust based on what has been shown to be reliable. Also, science has faith as well. Science has to assume that the material world exists, that it is rational, and that our minds correspond to it. There's a reason science arose in Christian Europe and did not arise in Greece and China. Yep. They had some inventions and such, but they never worked out intricate theories and tried to use them to explain the cosmos.

And I'm still waiting for evidence of this copycat hypothesis.

Anonymous said...

Nick,

The Temple of Edfu is a good primary source to look into Osiris and Horus. Well predating story of Jesus.

But then again the candidate this thread is all about has its own golden plates story.

"Not only that, we do have archaeological confirmation of the gospels in that numerous places where they were thought to be wrong we are now finding that, well, they were right."

Care to show us this archaeological confirmations? I mean something that would show his resurrection? Not merely some right names of the towns and places?

"Please note this isn't about inerrancy of inspiration either. I am not asking you to take the NT as the Word of God. I'm simply asking you to take it as what it is. A set of documents claiming to make a case about a historical event."

I thought Bible was about inerrancy at the first place? And supposedly is the word of God?

If the gospels make the case about historical event, how come they are so different, even as far as where event(s) took place as well as timing etc...

Not to mention that Bible was edited (books added/removed) later on and there are still different Christian sects that have different number/set of books in the Bible. Certainly something to say about it.

I would like to use this to get us back on topic where it all started.

The LDS sect with Mitt Romney (with him being a version of a bishop in it) is certainly a good example on how religion/faith gets started and grows. We are entitled to ask him about his background (we are not the government where there is a "no religious test should be given" is a paramount - despite the fact that NC constitution actually requires a religious test) and question how his belief system will influence his presidency. I for example don't want theocracy in this (or any other country) as it is show from the history that where religion plays major role in politics we see bad things happen. I want a candidate that supports science (and no, your comment that church supported science is plain wrong, just as Galileo). I want a candidate that has clear moral standards on his own, not just because he is afraid of punishment from some big daddy in the sky or because he is oping for a reward. I want a candidate to do good because he wants to on his own.

I want a candidate that believes on firm evidence only.


Sincerely,
Iztok

Anonymous said...

Back on questioning the candidates.

Here is what I would like to ask (any) Christian (presidential candidates especially):

1. If you had a chance, would you save Jesus?

2. If no one wanted to "sacrifice Jesus for our sins", would yo step up and do it yourself?

Wonder what explanations of the answers would be.

Sincerely,
Iztok

Nick said...

Iztok: Nick,

The Temple of Edfu is a good primary source to look into Osiris and Horus. Well predating story of Jesus.

Me: Does the temple have any writings or is it all hieroglyphs? Those can easily have stories read into them later on such as Tom Harpur does.

Btw, you do know about Osiris I'm sure. That he never rose from the dead. Instead, his body was dismembered and when put together, he was made Lord of the Underworld. Right?

Iztok: But then again the candidate this thread is all about has its own golden plates story.

Me: Correct


Iztok: Care to show us this archaeological confirmations? I mean something that would show his resurrection? Not merely some right names of the towns and places?

Me: Got any towns and places it has wrong yet? Archaeology can only go so far. It can show us that the gospels are reliable and along with textual criticism we can date the gospels easily to before 70 AD.


Iztok: I thought Bible was about inerrancy at the first place? And supposedly is the word of God?

Me: Inerrancy doesn't have to be true for my argument to hold. All that has to be accepted is the Bible is a set of documents claiming to make a case in history.

Iztok: If the gospels make the case about historical event, how come they are so different, even as far as where event(s) took place as well as timing etc...

Me: How come the two accounts of Hannibal crossing the Alps are flat-out contradictory if they are describing a historical event?

Iztok: Not to mention that Bible was edited (books added/removed) later on and there are still different Christian sects that have different number/set of books in the Bible. Certainly something to say about it.

Me: Right. That's actually quite secondary to my case as I would start with not even the gospels but 1 Corinthians and Galatians which the overwhelming majority of scholars will grant you that Paul wrote.

If you want to try to make the case that the Bible has been changed over the years, feel free.

Iztok: I would like to use this to get us back on topic where it all started.

Me: You can, but I would also like to see some real evidence of the copycat theory. I happen to like to place beliefs on firm evidence after all.

Iztok: The LDS sect with Mitt Romney (with him being a version of a bishop in it) is certainly a good example on how religion/faith gets started and grows. We are entitled to ask him about his background (we are not the government where there is a "no religious test should be given" is a paramount - despite the fact that NC constitution actually requires a religious test) and question how his belief system will influence his presidency. I for example don't want theocracy in this (or any other country) as it is show from the history that where religion plays major role in politics we see bad things happen. I want a candidate that supports science (and no, your comment that church supported science is plain wrong, just as Galileo). I want a candidate that has clear moral standards on his own, not just because he is afraid of punishment from some big daddy in the sky or because he is oping for a reward. I want a candidate to do good because he wants to on his own.

Me: You think my statement is plain wrong? Show it. You'll need more than Andrew White's book also. You do know Galileo was never seen as faith vs. science until 300 years after the events. Right?

By the way, it is actually when atheism has been in charge that things have been for the worse. Mao, Pol-Pot, Stalin, etc. They've murdered far more than religion ever did.

Iztok: I want a candidate that believes on firm evidence only.


Sincerely,
Iztok

Me: A question. Do all beliefs have to be backed by evidence to have epistemological warrant?

Anonymous said...

"By the way, it is actually when atheism has been in charge that things have been for the worse. Mao, Pol-Pot, Stalin, etc. They've murdered far more than religion ever did."

Since this was brought up several times.

Stalin and alike (Hitler wasn't an atheist) did terrible things because they were terrible persons (you could argue that Stalin has a good religious education that enabled him doing what he did) not because they were atheists. On the other hand we all know that 9/11 terrorists did their thing because and in the name of religion. We all know what their last words before they died were.

Big difference in reasoning behind the bad deeds.

On the other hand aforementioned terrorists as well as crusaders, inquisition, Mother Theresa, Pope etc... are responsible for millions of death because of the religion (and in the name of). Every day people die in Africa because of Aids. Why? Pope and alike are telling them that AIDS is bad, but condoms are worse. Some Mullahs are telling that vaccination is bad and now we have influx of diseases we thought we all but eliminated and they are back with a vengeance. Mother Theresa was no saint either. Her conviction was responsible for many deaths. Thing with her was that she actually didn't believe in it anymore, yet she was forcing herself in the name of religion to do things, to follow Pope. She would be much better if she would come out of the closet. At least we could respect her and understand her better. Lucky her letters all but attesting her lack of belief and her struggle for believing in beliefs.

Sincerely,
Iztok

Nick said...

Me: "By the way, it is actually when atheism has been in charge that things have been for the worse. Mao, Pol-Pot, Stalin, etc. They've murdered far more than religion ever did."

Iztok: Since this was brought up several times.

Stalin and alike (Hitler wasn't an atheist) did terrible things because they were terrible persons (you could argue that Stalin has a good religious education that enabled him doing what he did) not because they were atheists. On the other hand we all know that 9/11 terrorists did their thing because and in the name of religion. We all know what their last words before they died were.

Me: Notice I didn't include Hitler for a reason. However, Hitler had a great hatred of Christianity. Now as for this, it's quite amazing! Everyone else when they commit murder, it is because of their beliefs! The beliefs of tyrants though don't lead them to commit murder!

Quite the contrary. Stalin was hand-picked by Lenin for his hatred of all things religious. Marx and Engels made it clear their thoughts on religion. Why is it the underground church in China is persecuted today?

If you believe there is no morality, there is no good and evil, there is no Heaven to gain or Hell to lose, and there is no God to judge on the last day, then why not treat everyone as you see fit?

Again though, you say that these were bad men implying a moral standard that has yet to be given. I'd urge you to remember these men were living out what Dostoyevsky said. "If God does not exist, anything goes."

Iztok: Big difference in reasoning behind the bad deeds.

On the other hand aforementioned terrorists as well as crusaders, inquisition, Mother Theresa, Pope etc... are responsible for millions of death because of the religion (and in the name of). Every day people die in Africa because of Aids. Why? Pope and alike are telling them that AIDS is bad, but condoms are worse. Some Mullahs are telling that vaccination is bad and now we have influx of diseases we thought we all but eliminated and they are back with a vengeance. Mother Theresa was no saint either. Her conviction was responsible for many deaths. Thing with her was that she actually didn't believe in it anymore, yet she was forcing herself in the name of religion to do things, to follow Pope. She would be much better if she would come out of the closet. At least we could respect her and understand her better. Lucky her letters all but attesting her lack of belief and her struggle for believing in beliefs.

Sincerely,
Iztok

Me: Unfortunately, your historical information is incorrect again. It is doubtful that millions were killed in these events. The hardest Inquisition for instance most likely killed 3,500. Compare that to what went on in the Gulag in Russia.

As for the Muslims, yes. I do blame Islam for that. That is a direct outworking of the Muslim worldview. Is what is going on in the Crusades though the same? No. Christ never told us to pick up the sword to evangelize.

And as for Africa, condoms won't stop the spread of AIDS there. The only thing that will do that is morality and the way that will be done is through Christ. My suggestion is sending missionaries over to preach the gospel to the people and give them proper sexual ethics.

btw, I noticed there was no reply on the Christ-myth, the copycat thesis, or the dating of the gospels. Surely you have something better than the Temple of Edfu.

pornstudent said...

Nick- "If you believe there is no morality, there is no good and evil, there is no Heaven to gain or Hell to lose, and there is no God to judge on the last day, then why not treat everyone as you see fit?"

I'm an atheist. I don't believe in a theology of sin and evil, I don't believe in hell, there is no one to judge me on the last day. I have no desire to hurt other people in any way. A lot of the time I want to help people.

People who ask the question you did, I wonder if they would go out and murder and rape if they didn't believe in God? If so, please keep believing.