Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Debating a Theist

I am in the process of debating a theist here. The topic, “Does God Exist?” is not very exciting, but he seemed quite enthusiastic about debating me, so I obliged.

Question: Does any one think there has been any new developments in this fight in the past…say…100 years? Or is it the same arguments re-worked?

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Invisible Bible

Last Thursday I was listening to the Albert Mohler Program and he mentioned a book: The Invisible Constitution with the complaint, “Why—If there is an ‘invisible’ Constitution behind the real one; you can put whatever you like in it!”

Now, I haven’t read the book; this is not a take-off on any premise therein.

Coincidentally, this was the same day One Small Step wrote this comment:

And then, to carry on with your line of what other secret messages future generations will find ... if God did inspire in such a way, what other parts of the Bible were inspired in such a fashion? What else did the authors write thinking it was literal truth, but would later to be found metaphorical or symbolic or figurative?


that was resonating through my head at the moment. I almost shouted “Eureka!” as I heard the disapproval from Dr. Mohler. I wanted to reach right through the radio, grab Al by the face, look him in the eye and say, “This is exactly what Christians do. They create an ‘Invisible Bible’ behind the real one and insert whatever they want into it.”

We see the poetic book of Job. A Christian creates an “invisible Bible” and determines it was either poetic, or perhaps poetically describing a literal event, or doctrine, or a description of God, or…whatever! We see a literal event. Right? Nope—the “invisible Bible” is giving us a metaphorical event—didn’t happen. Or perhaps it was a literal event, only mythically enhanced. Or a literal event that was to be a type for a later event. Or a metaphorical event demonstrating prophecy.

We see Jesus mixing it up with the Pharisees. Some look in their “Invisible Bible” and claim this actually happened and is a demonstration of how to show “love” to non-believers. Other people’s invisible Bible indicates it didn’t happen at all—it is myth. Still other people’s invisible Bibles say it did happen, and Jesus was loving them, but this is not an example of we should do.

Yeah, Dr. Mohler—you got it! By creating these “invisible documents” we CAN insert whatever we want. Christians are prolific at it. Paul’s doctrines about women? Well, the bit about not preaching in church—THAT one the Southern Baptist Invisible Bible says the same as the literal Bible. The One about women wearing pearls and gold? Lo and behold the Southern Baptist Invisible Bible says this one is “Right out!” Has to do with a principle, doncha know!

Psalm 22. A poem about a cry for help from an afflicted person. Ahhhh…but turn with me to Psalm 22 in your “Invisible Bible” and it turns out to be a miraculous prophecy of Jesus’ crucifixion. Mind you, the Invisible Bible also says the author of Mark couldn’t have figured that out and used Psalm 22 as midrash to create the Passion Story---oh, no! The Invisible Bible says Mark was writing history. Or at least this one does…

Because the Bible is considered “God-breathed” by most Christians, this creates a fa├žade. A veneer. Where the actual, physical Bible is boringly traipsed over, but underneath one can pull out the “Invisible Bible.” The “Real” Bible. The “God-Breathed” part. This is the part that is taught and fought and commentated and preached and teached and wrestled and able to create divergence in so many different denominations we have given up trying to keep track of them.

Think of this. If all we had was the literal Bible, the available sermons on the topic would have dried up long ago. Assuming there were only 1,000 churches preaching 3 sermons a week, this gives us 312 million sermons having been taught on the Bible. Using the KJV, it averages out to over 10,000 sermons per word! Why hasn’t it stopped?

‘Cause the Invisible Bible provides an infinity of possibilities that can never be exhausted.

What is the Christians’ favorite version of the Bible? The invisible one.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Bible proves Cosmology

Do you know what an ”ad hoc” or “after-the-fact” argument is? It is taking a known conclusion and reviewing the facts in attempt to fit that conclusion.

For example, we obviously now know the Japanese planned a sneak attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Should we have known it was coming? Many people review the build-up of hostilities between the Japanese and the United States (war was almost inevitable) looking for any reference to Pearl Harbor, or plans of such a raid.

Any such indication found, or any notes regarding it becomes an “A-Ha!” moment in which the person claims, “See? See? They should have seen it coming.” What is often overlooked, though, was the anticipation the Japanese would initially attack in the Southern Pacific (they did almost immediately after Pearl Harbor) as well as the fact that war appeared imminent for a long period of time. Even the Japanese were extremely concerned about the viability of such a long-range sortie going undetected.

It is easy to look back, “after-the-fact” and see how America could have seen it coming—the better method is to view it in light of what was happening at the time. As is commonly noted in the intelligence gathering community—it is rarely the lack of information but rather the wealth of information that one has to discern what is relevant and what is not that causes the problems.

Scientists have recently (since 1929) discovered and confirmed through observation and experimentation the universe is expanding. Space itself is expanding. Some Christians have taken this relatively new finding and note how the Bible indicates the universe is expanding. This claim is utilized to show how supernaturally accurate it is to make such a prediction 1000’s of years prior to science discovering it.

But does the Bible really make the claim the universe is expanding? Or is this an ad hoc determination made by picking and choosing certain verses? Let’s look at the verses:

Job 9:8 “He alone spreads out the heavens, And treads on the waves of the sea;”

Psalm 104:2 “Who cover Yourself with light as with a garment, Who stretch out the heavens like a curtain.”

Isaiah 40:22 “It is He who sits above the circle of the earth, And its inhabitants are like grasshoppers, Who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, And spreads them out like a tent to dwell in.”

Isaiah 42:5 “Thus says God the Lord, Who created the heavens and stretched them out, Who spread forth the earth and that which comes from it, Who gives breath to the people on it, And spirit to those who walk on it:”

Isaiah 45:12 “I have made the earth, And created man on it. My hands- stretched out the heavens, And all their host I have commanded.”

Isaiah 48:13 “Indeed My hand has laid the foundation of the earth, And My right hand has stretched out the heavens; When I call to them, They stand up together.”

Isaiah 51:13 “And you forget the Lord your Maker, Who stretched out the heavens And laid the foundations of the earth;…”

Jeremiah 10:12 “He has made the earth by His power, He has established the world by His wisdom, And has stretched out the heavens at His discretion.”

Jeremiah 51:15 “He has made the earth by His power; He has established the world by His wisdom, And stretched out the heaven by His understanding”

Zechariah 12:1” The burden of the word of the Lord against Israel. Thus says the Lord, who stretches out the heavens, lays the foundation of the earth, and forms the spirit of man within him:”

From Here

The word “stretched” is the Hebrew word natah meaning to spread or stretch out. To understand its meaning, let’s see its use in other verses:

“…and pitched [or stretched out] his tent…” Gen. 12:8
“…and spread his tent…” Gen. 35:21
“…Take your rod and stretch out your hands over the waters…” Ex. 8:5
“…The carpenter stretches out his rule…”Isa. 44:15

What we see from that is NOT an infinite and continual expansion, but rather a lengthening with a finite beginning and finite end.

Secondly, we must discuss what is meant by “heaven.” The Tanakh uses the term interchangeably for three regions:

1) The Sky/air where birds fly, winds blow.
2) The area where stars/sun/moon exists
3) The place where God lives.

We see all three examples:

Air/Sky Jeremiah 16:4 “They shall be consumed by the sword and by famine, and their corpses shall be meat for the birds of heaven and for the beasts of the earth.”

Stars/Space Psalm 8:3 “When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, The moon and the stars, which You have ordained,”

God’s residence Psalm 53:2 “God looks down from heaven upon the children of men, To see if there are any who understand, who seek God.”

The heavens were stacked one on top of the other: first the sky, then the stars/sun and then God’s abode. We see remnants of this thought in Paul’s statement of a man being caught up in the “third heaven” (2 Cor. 12:2) and Jesus floating “up;” (Acts 1:9) to get to God’s heaven one had to go past sky, past stars and then hit God’s place.

So what “heaven” were these verses talking about? Go outside. Night, day—doesn’t matter. If you look at the clouds and sun as they stretch from horizon to horizon and almost appear to arch overhead—does it look like a “tent” of sky stretched out? Or at night, if you are away from the city, and can see what look like millions of stars, does it look like a dark tent and tiny pinpricks (with the moon as a great big hole)?

At the time the Jewish authors were writing this—they were poetically describing their impression of what the sky and space looked like from God’s perspective—like a great big tent. There was no intention of making a cosmological claim of the Big Bang Theory.

What the Christian must be claiming is God was sending secret signals across the millenniums—a double-entendre, if you will, informing us in the 21st Century how the Jews were thinking of a tent, but God was sneakily telling us of expanding space. (Makes you wonder what other “secret messages” are out there for future generations!)

Or is this “after-the-fact”? Are people looking for any clue as to any indication of God knowing about an expanding universe, and using this as an excuse?

So I thought for a fun thought experiment, we could pretend the universe isn’t expanding. That scientists discovered it has a finite, definite size. Can we find verses supporting the theory God was sending secret messages of a limited, measurable universe?

Well, what do you know...

Psalm 19:6 “Its rising is from one end of heaven, And its circuit to the other end; And there is nothing hidden from its heat.”

Isaiah 13:5 “They come from a far country, From the end of heaven-The Lord and His weapons of indignation, To destroy the whole land.”

Isaiah 40:12 “Who has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand, Measured heaven with a span. And calculated the dust of the earth in a measure?”

Jeremiah 31:37 “Thus says the Lord: "If heaven above can be measured, And the foundations of the earth searched out beneath, I will also cast off all the seed of Israel For all that they have done, says the Lord.”

Jeremiah 49:36 “Against Elam I will bring the four winds From the four quarters of heaven, And scatter them toward all those winds; There shall be no nations where the outcasts of Elam will not go.”

Look at what we found! Verses discussing how there are “ends” and “corners” to heaven. An infinitely expanding universe doesn’t have ends or corners—only a finite, fixed one could. The heaven described is measurable—something an expanding universe never is.

We find other verses describing what appears to be a fixed size universe:

Job 22:14 “Thick clouds cover Him, so that He cannot see, And He walks above the circle of heaven.”

Job 26: 11 “The pillars of heaven tremble, And are astonished at His rebuke.”

Job 41:11 “Who has preceded Me, that I should pay him? Everything under heaven is Mine.”

Unless God’s walks are getting longer, it is describing a set-sized universe. Or a God who needs to get on a diet plan:

Jeremiah 23:24 “Can anyone hide himself in secret places, So I shall not see him?" says the Lord; "Do I not fill heaven and earth?" says the Lord.”

If God fills heaven and earth, and heaven has expanded (quite a bit) since Jeremiah was written—is our God “bigger” than their God?

O.K., that was easy to find. Now let’s try something harder. For our thought experiment let’s assume science discovered our universe is getting smaller--instead of a Big Bang we had a Vast Vacuum. Can we find verses describing such a universe? I could find one:

Isaiah 34:4 “All the host of heaven shall be dissolved, And the heavens shall be rolled up like a scroll; All their host shall fall down As the leaf falls from the vine, And as fruit falling from a fig tree.”

Scrolls get smaller as they roll up. Yeah, this one is a bit of a stretch. (he he he) No more of a stretch than claiming:

“For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.” Rom. 8:20-21

Is “proof” the Bible talks about the Second Law of Thermodynamics. Not kidding.

What’s the point of all this? To demonstrate claiming some book has holy insight is a dangerous thing. It causes people to look for things that simply are not there. There is no great scientific insight into the Big Bang here. No “secret revelation” waiting for Hubble to unlock the hidden code.

Just people trying to bolster the Bible into something it is not.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Tagged

A tagging by The Barefoot Bum

Can You Remember The Day That You Officially Became An Atheist?

I remember the day I first contemplated the horrific thought there might not be a god. I looked in the mirror, drew in a breath and said out loud, “There is no god.” My next immediate reaction was the slight fear of lightening coming out of the socket! No joke.

I went to work, and over the next few weeks I realized I no longer thought of god as an entity, but more as a project. I don’t remember the exact day. Some time in July-September of 2004

Do you remember the day you officially became an agnostic?

Never really thought about it. I remember listing my belief as “agnostic” when I posted on Christianforums, but that was more out of a sense of being slightly stunned there couldn’t be a god. Was it really that possible?

How about the last time you spoke or prayed to God with actual thought that someone was listening?

Hmmm…long ago. Few years? I have spoken to god when believers tell me, “Just say the following prayer…” more to humor the notion. But think someone is listening? Nah…

Curiously, perhaps, the few times I have had spiritual moments or God-moments since becoming an atheist, the last thing I wanted to do was talk or pray or do anything other than revel in the moment.

Did anger towards God or religion help cause you to be an atheist or agnostic?

No. Why would it? I could not get my mind to process the thought, “There is a god” without evidence crowding the thought out.

If I felt anything about God or religion on my journey to atheism it would be disappointment. I asked god a lot to answer my search for him and heard nothing. Who wouldn’t be disappointed in such an event?

Here is a good one: Were you agnostic towards ghosts, even after you became an atheist?

I was a-ghostic (as in “there are no ghosts”) prior to being an atheist and still am today. I see a similar lack of proof for ghosts—why would I be agnostic toward them, but atheistic toward a god?

Do you want to be wrong?

No. Who “wants” to be wrong? Don’t we “want” to have correct information and act upon it in a correct manner? My chief desire is to know what actually is, and act rationally upon it. However, I recognize, having been wrong in the past, I am certainly wrong about something now.

Tagging Roman, Jon, and He Is Sailing (if he is even around anymore)

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Figurative Morality

The Barefoot Bum wrote an excellent blog entry entitled ”The Moral Failure of Figurative Theology.” I am not quite ready for it to be consigned to the back-room of blogdom.

There has always been a tension regarding the literalism of the stories of the Tanakh. At one time, most Christians believed the Great Flood literally occurred as recorded in the Bible. (Whether Judaism always believed it to be an actual historical event is a matter of another discussion.) Christians believed there was an actual 40 days (and nights) with actual rain, and the entire planet, every continent, every mountain, every single piece of earth was covered with water. And Christians believed the entire animal kingdom was saved by virtue of one (1) very big boat.

Science began to discredit the story in two primary ways: 1) Geology demonstrated there was no universal flood and 2) Biology demonstrated the difficulty in all the species (including insect, plant, fish, and avian) either surviving such a flood, or fitting in such a boat.

This tension caused Christianity to fracture into three predominant groups. The first group continues with literalism. Any evidence pointing to the contrary is discounted, discredited or disavowed. Literalism is maintained at the cost of science, observation and (in my opinion) reasonableness.

The second group assumed a combination of literalism/allegory. That there is “some truth” (and how much is a matter of debate) to the story, but it didn’t actually happen as literally written out in Genesis. Most hold to a “local flood” concept.

The third group considered it a complete allegory. Entire myth. That this was just a story, made to give a moral point. Much like Aesop’s fables—there was no talking mouse and talking lion and never expected to be. The idea was what was to be conveyed.

We see these machinations in Creation (OEC vs. YEC vs. theistic evolution). In Exodus (including the Ten Plagues and Joshua’s genocide.) In the stories of Judges. Regarding David and Solomon—even later prophets like Daniel or Isaiah. And yes, in the New Testament as well. Did the authors of the gospels record what Jesus actually said, or did they record what they expected him to say? Did the author of Acts recording the literal speeches of Peter, Stephen and Paul, or summations or even broad doctrinal statements?

But The Barefoot Bum takes it a step further. A warranted step further. If the stories presented are of figurative historical nature; are the moral dictates within the stories equally figurative?

Going back to the flood story. If it was only a local flood, or was entirely a myth—what is the moral being proclaimed here?

God sees wicked people.
God kills all the wicked people.
God saves a few humans and a few animals.

In our current society, we attempt to rehabilitate people. If they are doing something wrong, we hope to give them an opportunity to correct their ways. We punish people based upon the extent of their wrong-doing. We do not levy the death sentence to rapists and jay-walkers alike.

We punish the actual wrong-doers. We do not electrocute the murderer, then kill his wife, then kill his new-born son and 5-year-old daughter. And kill his dog, his cat, and 10 gold fish.

Yet these are the very actions of the God of the Great Flood. He didn’t attempt to rehabilitate. He administered the same punishment for all. He killed 2-day-old infants for the sins of their fathers and mothers. He killed all of the household cats (except 2) because…well…cats are evil, I guess. (Dogs, I could see. But cats?)

In fact, we start to see figurative morality begin to take hold in the claims of Christianity. Ask about Onanism. Or the Mosaic Law. (“Much of that was done away with by the New Covenant.”) Or slavery. (“Their slavery was different than our slavery.”) Or Polygamy. (“Uh…er…”) Or women wearing gold 1 Tim. 2:9. (“That has to do with modesty, not actually wearing gold.”) Or Divorce. (“The wronged party can re-marry.”) Or alcohol. (“Their wine was different than our wine.”)

We see how the morals being imposed within the Bible no longer apply today (eating pork) or mean something else today (women dress modestly) or only meant for that time period (polygamy, slavery). They become a “figurative” morality.

Which brings us to the great question as posed by The Barefoot Bum. I would state it as follows (making it my own):

If the stories of the Bible are figurative, and the morals are figurative—what possible mandate would the Bible have upon us today? In other words—if we do not rely upon the Bible for history and we do not rely upon the Bible for morals—what DO we rely upon it for?

Other than stories of how former civilizations viewed their gods.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Explain Yourself

How many times have we heard the phrase, “Atheists have to explain _____”? (Yes, I know. Atheists actually have to only explain is no god, but work with me here…)

“Atheists have to explain how the observable universe came into existence.”

Apparently I will need extensive knowledge in cosmology, astronomy, physics, and quantum mechanics.

“Atheists have to explain how life came from non-life.”

Now I need training in chemistry, geology, astronomy, and biology.

“Atheists have to explain ‘gaps’ in the fossil record.”

Brush up on biology; add paleontology, more on geology.

“Atheists have to explain how consciousness and morals came into existence.”

Add psychology, sociology, anthropology, quite a bit of history. And, to help flesh out our education, it would be great to study archeology and writing, as well as learning economics, environmental and even marine biology.

Like a shotgun, questions surrounding the universe are fired one right after another, prefaced with, “Atheists have to explain…” and when we are unable, it becomes an “A-Ha!” moment whereby atheism is considered an intellectual bankrupt concept.

Fine. You want an explanation? “Magic Fairy Pixie Dust.” How did the universe come into being? “Magic Fairy Pixie Dust.” Life from non-life? “Magic Fairy Pixie Dust.” Life developing consciousness and sense of morality? “Magic Fairy Pixie Dust.” Evolutionary “gaps”? Well….you get the idea.

Not a very compelling explanation is it? Not something you walk away thinking, “Wow! That guy REALLY knows his stuff! Every question presented, he came up with a well-researched, thought-out viable demonstration of how such a thing existed.”

I don’t have to connect the dots, do I?

”God” is not an explanation.

No one accepts “Magic Fairy Pixie Dust” as telling us anything about abiogenesis, or the initiation of the Big Bang. Even with the words coughed out, we are left scratching our heard. “HOW does Magic Fairy Pixie Dust make morality?”

Yet as crazy a scenario as this might be, it is exactly the thinking behind the idea of asking these questions. Since the atheist says, “we don’t know” and the theist can say “God”—that “God” is somehow an explanation. Guess what? It is not!

We are left with the same problems. HOW did God initiate the Big Bang? HOW did God evolve the animals?

I have come to a realization in my life. I don’t know everything. At some point I will have to rely upon some experts. Even experts who may not agree with me. I don’t know cosmology. Quantum mechanics? I strongly suggest you talk to someone else. I am more than willing to listen to alternate views, but they have to be persuasive against the experts.

I am always stunned at how many Christians think they have to be “experts” on everything. We can have a reasonable discussion about the existence of God, and they are an “expert” on philosophy. If the topic switches to the Bible, they become “experts” on history in the First Century CE as well as Canaanite History. Oh, and archeology as well.

Don’t believe me? How many times have we heard Christians say, “In those times, people would…” and upon researching we would realize they don’t have a clue? If the topic switches to evolution—guess what? By golly, they are “experts” on biology. On to abiogenesis—“experts” on chemistry. How the universe started? I don’t have to say it.

There seems to be no topic in which the Christian says, “You know what? I don’t know that field, and probably shouldn’t discuss it. I will leave it to experts who disagree with me.” Never.

And why not? Because they have a ready made expertise answer for everything. “Magic, fair”--…er…”God.”

Friday, October 03, 2008

An Evening Wasted with Frank Turek

This week I had an opportunity to hear Dr. Frank Turek, co-author of ”I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist” speak at a local university. I am firmly convinced some discussions deduct IQ points. Just by listening and following the conversation, you become stupider the longer you give it any deference. While I can’t say the total evening consisted of such conversations, there were moments…

Dr. Turek initially started off indicating four points were in contention: (actually there were five, but I forget the additional point—it was encompassed within these anyway):

1. Does Truth Exist?
2. Does God Exist?
3. Can Miracles Occur?
4. Is the New Testament reliable?

We were immediately informed he would not be able to get to the fourth point, and after talking around a bit, he also indicated he would not be covering the third point either. So we were going to be talking about the first two only. From the collective “Amen’s” and “That’s right” at the appropriate Jesus-moments throughout the speech, I would guesstimate the audience at 85-90% Christian. The “True Christian” pk-readings maxed out at 74.5% at one point.

Dr. Turek introduced the law of non-contradiction. (Yawn.) Explained it, and then jumped in with “Does Truth Exist?” “Truth” was defined as “what actually is.”

O.K. so far—no worries. He conspiratorially let in the audience on a big secret as to how to refute skeptics. Are you ready? “Turn the claim on itself.”

On the PowerPoint Screen (used liberally) up popped the statement, “There is no Truth.” Dr. Turek indicated how he hears this “all the time” and how we hear this “all the time” and how we may have even said it at one point. He then unwrapped the mystery of how to “turn this claim” on itself and refute it.

If you are reading my blog and you do not know how to respond to “There is no truth”—I suggest you stop reading right now. In fact, I recommend you pop over to Line Rider--a lovely little drawing game that will remind you of the pleasure of drawing from young childhood. And you don’t even have to stay in the lines!

A graphic was added, accompanying his statement, “In fact—you will look like a genius when you rebut this statement.” Somebody’s genius-gauge has been set way, way too low. And broken. And then stolen.

I was begrudgingly granting this may be necessary ground to cover. For many Christians—this may be new territory, and needed establishing. I eagerly waited for the next point. I did not know I had time to get a bite to eat, make some phone calls and catch a quick nap before it would come.

Dr. Turek felt this Grand Idea needed reaffirming. Over and Over and Over. We entered into a dreary routine. Up would pop a statement like “That may be true for you, and this is true for me” and he would ask how to refute it. After the requisite pause, some audience member would figure out how to turn it into a question, and yell it out. And then another phrase would appear, “You can’t know the truth.”

We built and burned this strawman. Then we built and burned the strawman’s wife. Then we built and burned the strawman’s kids. We were deep into Second Cousins, I think, before Dr. Turek was satisfied we had sufficiently absorbed the technique.

[Although this did give me an opportunity to test the theory as to whether this made one “look like a genius.” After one man shouted out the correct response, I peered at him intently, looking for signs of genius. He did not appear geniusified…but I discovered I felt pretty stupid for looking for signs of genius when there shouldn’t be any. Perhaps the system works; a “reverse-osmosis” sort of thing.]

Now that we had established “truth” exists (because we are SUPER-geniuses) we could move on to the next question—“Does God Exist?”

Dr. Turek decided to give us a heart attack by saying, “I believe in the Big Bang!...[dramatic pause]” You could feel the audience swell with tension: Big Bang = Big Bad Science = Darwinism = Burn the Heretic and we didn’t Bring. Enough. Matches! “…and I know who the Banger is!” A collective sigh; he was back on the right side. The creepy kid in the corner stopped menacingly flicking his Bic.

He then spent some time proving the Big Bang. (Red shift, radiation noise, Einstein, blah, blah, blah.) Actually gave some pretty good facts and figures. I don’t want to shock you too, but I believe in the Big Bang as well. I was only paying half-attention as I listened, waiting for him to get to the next point. Again.

And after proving the Big Bang (whoopee!) out pops this morsel of yesterday’s head cheese:

“So atheists say that something (universe); came from nothing (prior to the Big Bang). What sounds more reasonable? That ‘something can come from nothing’ or that ‘something came from an eternal something.’?”

Stop the busses and back up! There is something seriously incorrect here. While this term may be colloquially used--Dr. (we want to know “the truth,” right?) Turek, could have provided more clarification to our situation.

We begin observation of our universe at 1 Planck Time (that is 1/10 to the 43rd power of a second. A very, VERY short time) after the Big Bang. We cannot observe prior to that instant We simply don’t know if there was “nothing” at Big Bang, or a singularity, or what. We don’t know!

Secondly, we should note that while quantum physics works, and the theory of relativity works—both of these are incompatible. We don’t know how both can work. Further, both completely break down, and do not exist prior to that 1st Planck. Dr. Turek’s “law of causality” does not exist. The very law he is attempting to utilize to prove what was in place at this point in time--does not exist at this point of time!

Thirdly, we must note that time (and space and matter) began at the Big Bang. This is difficult to wrap our hands around. “Time” is a measurement in change. We go from one status to another status by time ticking forward. To our minds, one “second” there was ____, and the next “second” the Big Bang occurred. Yet no such “seconds” could happen, because there was no “time.”

It is incorrect, really, to use the term “prior to the Big Bang,” since “prior” implies a comparison in time, and there IS no prior to our observable time. (Note, this is as difficult a problem for a theist as the non-theist. Most theists, to avoid this problem, conveniently declare by definition [but they really don’t know] God is “outside” time. Never really explaining what “outside” means other than “a fancy philosophical term that sounds good to get me out of the current time conundrum.” But if God is outside time, He/She/It has the same problem of never changing. Never going from “God” to “God and Creation” since no time can occur to allow God to change from being alone to being with us.)

Back to our Dr. Turek. The audience is nodding their approval to such a fantastically astute statement as to how reasonable the notion of “something from nothing” is not, and “something from something we made up” is. To tighten up what the comparison (if accurately stated) we should have:

1. Cosmologists say the observable universe can only be seen back to 1 Planck time after the Big Bang. What happened before that, and what existed we do not (and possibly cannot) know.

2. Dr. Turek says the observable universe can only be seen back to 1 Planck time after the Big Bang. What happened before that, and what existed we do not (and possibly cannot) know. Therefore there must be a God we cannot observe who did…something… What that “something” is [the creation process] we do not (and possibly cannot) know.

Now, in comparing those statements—which is more reasonable? “I don’t know.” Or “I don’t know, so a God we don’t know must have done it in a way we don’t know.” Seems to me one “I don’t know” is sufficient.

And now we launched into Dr. Turek’s three (3) proofs for God:

1. Kalaam’s Cosmological Argument.
2. Teleological Argument
3. Moral Argument.

It was the standard presentation of Kalaam’s. Whatever begins must have a cause. [At the end of the talk, prior to the question and answer period, Dr. Turek raised this again, and stated, “perhaps you wonder how this applies to God?” Sure enough, one of our audience members was kind enough to indulge by asking “What Caused God?” which allowed Dr. Turek to pounce with glee on the ”whatever BEGINS” must have a cause, and since God doesn’t have a cause, he is exempt from the law.]

Again, having heard these arguments, I tuned out. (Do you see a pattern here? Hmmm…)

The Teleological Argument is one of design. (If you need the argument it goes like this:

1) See all these amazing facts about the universe/the cell/humans/small sea animals?
2) Aren’t those facts amazing?
3) There must be a god, ‘cause those facts are so amazing!)

We hit the same tired analogies. Yep—the watch. Mountain vs. Mt. Rushmore. He did introduce a spilled box of Alpha-bits spelling out a message. ½ point for the new analogy. He didn’t mention “Shakespeare” to my surprise. Extra 2 points. He failed to tell us how to compare a designed object by a designer within our universe and an object not designed by this designer within our universe. Minus 10 gadjillion points.

It was during this argument I noticed a very bizarre thing. See, I’m the type of person who does his research. Prior to the speech I had downloaded a number of youtube videos of Dr. Turek, popped ‘em on my iPod, and listened on the way. One of them was on the fingerprints of God.

Dr. Turek launched into the same speech. When I say “same speech” I do not mean similar illustrations, or arguments. It was the exact speech. Word-for-word. The same pauses. The same inflection. The same jokes. The same moments in time when he read the Bible. This was far more than mere memorization—even that will have some hiccups.

It was as if he was an actor, and had performed this play so many times, with the same lines and the same tones and the same breaths, and this was one more performance. I’m telling you—I could have played the video over the loudspeakers and shut off his mike, and no one there would EVER accuse him of lip-syncing. I started saying his exact words immediately before he did. It was eerie.

Not that there is anything necessarily wrong with this—I understand speakers have prepared speeches they use repeatedly. I just have never heard one so…exactly imitated.

We finished the beating the design argument, and zipped right into the moral argument:

1. Every law has a lawgiver.
2. There is moral objective law.
Conclusion: Therefore there is a moral objective law giver.

The first point was considered a given. The second point was “proven” by the concept we all have a sense of morality, so it couldn’t just be opinion, right? Godwin’s Law came into force, as Mother Theresa was compared to Hitler. (Personally, I wouldn’t have used Mother Theresa.)

And if it is just your opinion Hitler was wrong…why…that’s ludicrous; people are outraged by the notion morals could only be opinions. And golly gee, we all share some opinions, so they must be objective. Right? That proved objective morality, right?

Alas, the conclusion does not necessarily follow, in that we failed to answer the question “objective to WHOM?” There is more I could discuss in response, but this argument was kinda rushed through due to timing.

One thing I found fascinating was that Dr. Turek had three (3) books on stage: “I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist,” “The Bible” and ”The God Delusion.” I remember him pointing out his own book twice, each time to promote it. (I have no problem with that, by the way. He is a paid speaker earning a living.) He used the Bible as an illustration once (“If there is no truth; THIS can’t be true.”) and read from it once. But he pointed out and picked up, and used for illustrations “The God Delusion” half a dozen times.

I heard Dawkins name again and again. If we counted up the words in this speech, “God” would be number one, with “Dawkins” firmly in second. “Jesus” would have been a far, far third. At one point, I looked around for Dr. Dawkins, because it seemed Dr. Turpek was addressing him so much, I thought it was a debate! I wanted to stand up and say, “Since Dr. Dawkins could not make it this evening—could you address us, please?”

And then came the Question and Answer period. I wondered how some of these people could process thoughts well enough to put one foot in front of the other. It is here I must commend Dr. Turek. Questions that I would have said, “Sit down and stay here for 3 hours until you can complete two sentences that are coherent” he politely nodded his head. Good responder, always found a point of agreement, avoided the tough questions with a question (people feel obligated to answer questions, so he often used the tactic, “Well…let me ask you a question…”) and was polite to things that were barnyard inane. He did an outstanding job of catering to his majority audience, while refraining from disassociating the questioner.

One question:

“I am a ‘gnostic’ [I couldn’t tell if he said “Gnostic” or “agnostic” so I will put in an apostrophe to be safe] “and you brought up some interesting points. That stuff about how the universe was designed, and from the Big Bang. I don’t know about all those things on morals and such….and you mentioned how that school…Harvard?” [Audience: “YALE!”] “Yeah…Yale…how it was founded on God and stuff. See, some of that stuff your God did, like in the Old Testament, and in those communities, how it was O.K., but you talked about a moral objective and, well…my question is this:

“Why is it God is always referred to as a male?”

You can’t make this stuff up. Actually, the question was much, MUCH longer, and much more rambling, and never gave us a clue as to where it was headed.

Then we had the Christians who stood up and gave us their testimony and how it is better to believe in a god and be wrong, then not believe in a god and be wrong. Thank you Dr. I-Just-Came-From-My-Bowling-League Pascal. Or if we would just ask Jesus, he would provide all the answers…..if we are sincere, of course.

I never ask questions at such things. The audience is [extremely] hostile, the speaker well-prepared, and even if you DO manage to catch them up, they respond with:

1) Asking a question with a question;
2) State they don’t have time, and recommend a book.
3) Modify the question to a sound bite pleasing to the audience.

About the only thing you can hope for is to ask a question pertinent enough, someone who is actually interested in learning more talks to you afterward.

Was it really a “wasted” evening? Naw—I enjoyed it. Once in awhile I still get cravings to go back to church. Fit in. Be part of “that scene” once more. An evening like this?—great reminder as to why I don’t fit in. If this was “intellectual heavy” for Christian get-togethers, I would commit hari-kari with a pew-pencil in the “emotional-light” situation of church.