Faith & Self Defense

Building Confidence Through Evidence

Street Epistemologists – On Guard 1

Street EpistemologyAn interesting thing happened to us at FaithandSelfDefense.com about a week ago. Well-known atheist professor Peter Boghossian tweeted this message to his followers:

These attempts to discourage people from being honest, less dogmatic, & more humble, will fail. http://
faithandselfdefense.com/2015/01/18/breaking-down-street-epistemology/

What followed that tweet by Dr. Boghossian was hundreds and hundreds of atheists clicking on the link to our article about Street Epistemology and many of them leaving comments and asking questions. Some of the people who commented described themselves as ‘street epistemologists,’ so it was a great opportunity to dialog with them about ‘faith’ and ‘reason.’

The purpose of this article is to both follow up on our previous post, ‘Breaking Down Street Epistemology,’ and share insights from our recent discussions with street epistemologists. As the post title suggests, be on guard.

The Purpose of Street Epistemology

Peter Boghossian is author of ‘A Manual for Creating Atheists’ and chief promoter of what he calls ‘Street Epistemology.’

“This book will teach you how to talk people out of their faith. You’ll learn how to engage the faithful in conversations that help them value reason and rationality, cast doubt on their beliefs, and mistrust their faith. I call this activist approach to helping people overcome their faith, ‘Street Epistemology.’ The goal of this book is to create a generation of Street Epistemologists: people equipped with an array of dialectical and clinical tools who actively go into the streets, and the community–into any and every place the faithful reside–and help them abandon their faith and embrace reason.” (A Manual For Creating Atheists, Peter Boghossian, Chapter I, Pitchstone Publishing, 2013)

Boghossian gives credit to both ‘ancient philosophers’ and the more recent ‘Four Horsemen’ of atheism: Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, and Christopher Hitchens. However, Boghossian says he is taking what they started to the next level.

“The Four Horsemen identified the problems and raised our awareness, but they offered few solutions. No roadmap. Not even guideposts. Now the onus is upon the next generation of thinkers and activists to take direct and immediate action to fix the problems Harris, Dawkins, Dennett, and Hitchens identified.” A Manual For Creating Atheists, Peter Boghossian, Chapter I, Pitchstone Publishing, 2013

Dr. Boghossian’s determination to create a generation of street epistemologists has gained national and international response. The website, street epistemology.com, is intent on building an initial group of ten-thousand people ‘who will be active and engage others and teach others better ways to come to knowledge.’ The names and locations of some of the street epistemologists ‘who have committed to educating the world’ are listed on the website’s ‘Join’ page.

Boghossian invites street epistemologists to ‘be one of these Horsemen.’ He goes on to write, ‘you will transform a broken world long ruled by unquestioned faith into a society built on reason, evidence, and thought-out positions.’ Boghossian tells street epistemologists that their work will pay off ‘by potentially helping millions–even billions–of people to live in a better world.’ (Chapter 1)

How Street Epistemology ‘Works’

Street epistemology is, according to Peter Boghossian, ‘talking people out of their faith.’ Notice the keys terms: ‘talking’ .. ‘people’ .. ‘out of’ .. ‘their faith.’  The following definitions and directives concerning those terms are taken from streetepistemology.com and A Manual for Creating Atheists.

‘Talking’ for a street epistemologist begins by asking questions, listening actively, manifesting empathy, and establishing a rapport. That includes meeting the person at their window, speaking softly, in a non-threatening fashion, and making them talk about the reasons why they believe ‘faith is the pathway to truth.’  Once street epistemologists have ‘earned the right to proceed with the next steps,’ they are encouraged to preach by example, mirror the speech of the person they’re talking to, and use the socratic method.

‘People’ for a street epistemologist are those persons with ‘closed minds.’ People with the ‘closed minds’ are people ‘of faith.’ Street epistemologists believe that faith as a method to derive conclusions is ‘unreliable.’ Peter Boghossian believes that people who believe in the existence of God are either ‘pretending to know something they don’t know,’ ‘ignorant,’ ‘delusional’ or ‘victims of a wholesale lack of exposure to alternative ideas and different epistemologies.’ (Chapters 2 & 3) One other reason Boghossian lists is ‘damage to the brain.’ His advice to street epistemologists: ‘if someone is suffering from a brain-based faith delusion your work will be futile.’ (Chapter 3)

‘Out of’ for a street epistemologist means arguing people ‘away from religion,’ ‘separating them from their faith,’ change their beliefs and/or behavior.’ Boghossian speaks about leading believers to ‘doxastic openness,’ which is described as ‘a willingness and ability to revise beliefs.’ (**I’ll share examples of street epistemologists proposing that very thing to me and others in the next part of this series of articles.) Boghossian calls that doxastic openness the ‘awareness of ignorance.’ He says that by helping believers become aware of their ‘ignorance,’ it becomes possible for them to ‘look at different alternatives, arguments, ways of viewing the world, and ideas, precisely because one understands that one does not know what one thought one previously knew.’ (Chapter 3)

As Peter Boghossian says, ‘Change minds and hearts will follow.’ Boghossian believes the job of the street epistemologist is ‘to help others reclaim their curiosity and their sense of wonder–both of which were robbed by faith’ … ‘You’ll help people destroy foundational beliefs, flimsy assumptions, faulty epistemologies, and ultimately faith’ … ‘Helping rid people of illusion is a core part of the Street Epistemologist’s project and an ancient and honorable goal. Disabusing others of warrantless certainty, and reinstalling their sense of wonder and their desire to know, is a profound contribution to a life worth living.’ (Chapter 3)

Peter Boghossian, who is a primary mentor to street epistemologists through his book, videos and personal appearances, speaks of talking people out of their faith as ‘interventions.’ He presents street epistemologists with what he calls – ‘Your new role: interventionist, liberator’ – along with strategies for conducting those interventions. In fact, Boghossian says he views almost every interaction with a believer as ‘an intervention.’

Boghossian tells street epistemologists that their ‘target is faith’ and their ‘pro bono clients are individuals who’ve been infected by faith.’ (**We’ll look at some of the strategies street epistemologists employ in future parts of this series.) He wrote that when street epistemologists view their interactions as interventions as opposed to confrontations or debates, they gain the following:

  1. More objectivity
  2. View believers as people who need help
  3. Less likely to be perceived as an ‘angry atheist’
  4. Learn from each intervention
  5. People who observe the intervention will see ‘the proper treatment modality in action’
  6. Find deeper satisfaction in helping people than in winning a debate

‘Their faith’ for a street epistemologist is what people believe ‘without sufficient evidence.’ Boghossian calls it ‘believing the preposterous.’ In chapter 3 of A Manual for Creating Atheists, Boghossian wrote, ‘in matter relating to religion, God, and faith, believers are often told ignorance is a mark of closeness to God, spiritual enlightenment, and true faith.’ (**I’ve been a Christian for 44 years and personally met thousands of other Christians and never once heard any Christian say that ignorance is a mark of closeness to God. In fact, I’ve heard and said just the opposite. More on that later.) In chapter 4 of his book, Boghossian views faith as ‘a virus’ that needs to be treated.

The perspective of street epistemology is that ‘we are mistaken about something all the time.’ In the training process, street epistemologists are told that they and others ‘believe in a lot of different things concurrently, all of them being potentially false.’ The idea of ‘being mistaken’ is an important part of a street epistemologist’s ‘intervention’ as they ‘help’ believers become aware of their ‘ignorance.’

“The tools and allies of faith–certainty, prejudice, pretending, confirmation bias, irrationality, and superstition–all come into question through the self-awareness of ignorance.” (A Manual for Creating Atheists, Chapter 3)

Boghossian wrote that street epistemologists would meet people who would attempt to evade their help by asserting that ‘every definition faith offered is incorrect’ and that they (the street epistemologist) didn’t understand what faith really is. Boghossian said that when pressed, ‘the faithful will offer vague definitions that are merely transparent attempts to evade criticism, or simplistic definitions that intentionally muddy the meaning of ‘faith.” (Chapter 2)

Next Time

In the next part of this series, we’ll look at some of the intervention strategies of street epistemologists and see some of those strategies in action. Until then, here are some resources you will find helpful, including articles by Tom Gilson and a respectful and insightful debate between Dr. Peter Boghossian and Dr. Timothy McGrew.

___________________

https://elteologillo.files.wordpress.com/2014/01/peterboghossianatheisttactician.pdf

http://www.thinkingchristian.net/posts/2013/10/review-boghossians-manual-creating-atheists/

http://www.thinkingchristian.net/posts/2013/12/free-ebook-peter-boghossian-atheist-tactician/

http://www.premierchristianradio.com/Shows/Saturday/Unbelievable/Episodes/Peter-Boghossian-vs-Tim-McGrew-A-manual-for-creating-atheists

___________________

Faith&SelfDefense

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40 thoughts on “Street Epistemologists – On Guard 1

  1. Pingback: On A Manual for Creating Arheists – How Street Epistemology Works | The Isaiah 53:5 Project

  2. Father Paul Lemmen on said:

    Reblogged this on A Conservative Christian Man.

  3. Pingback: Street Epistemologists – On Guard 2 | Faith & Self Defense

  4. Hi, Craig. This is a continuation of our thread. Here is your last comment.

    “How can we humans know that the disciplines of investigative journalism will lead us to know which faith, if any, is the true one?”

    Journalism (the work of collecting, writing, publishing or broadcasting news stories and articles) has been an important occupation in many civilizations for thousands of years. Investigative journalism (form of journalism where reporters deeply investigate a single topic of interest, often to discover information of public interest that someone is trying to hide) takes the collecting of information to a deeper level.

    Investigative journalism is a discipline and skill set of systematically researching and reporting through an in-depth and original approach. It was the investigative methodology I had available to me as I researched the truth claims of theism and Christianity. However, it’s certainly not the only method.

    I’ve talked with people who became theists and Christians through many disciplines. Some have been professors, scholars, legal experts, crime detectives, scientists, etc. Each person had their own skill set often based on education and professional training and experience.

    What skill set do you use to investigate truth claims? How did you use that method to determine God does not exist and Christianity is not true? Thanks!

  5. Hi, Tee. This is a continuation of our discussion. Here are you most recent remarks:

    “Mark,

    I appreciate your response, and I think we have completely different ideas of what evidence is. Also, when I said contemporaries, I meant outside of the bible. I see you disagreed with the claims of subjects thinking recently deceased Emperors’ souls were alive and ascending to the heavens in the comets, as a comparative, but I also disagree with that. We know about comets now and have falsified that conclusion.

    My most important question was hidden in my response, primarily because I have so many questions still unanswered.

    How can you falsify the resurrection? If it where myth, how would you know?”

    Not sure what you mean by ‘completely different ideas of what evidence is,’ so will need your definition to see what differences we may have there.

    By ‘contemporaries outside the Bible,’ do you mean people who lived in Judea during the early part of the 1st century AD who wrote about Jesus and His death and resurrection who were not followers of Christ? The reason I ask is because of the writings of Clement of Rome and Ignatius of Antioch. They were both born in the early part of the 1st century AD and wrote about the resurrection of Christ. However, both were also followers of Christ.

    My questions concerning the claims of Roman subjects who thought their recently deceased emperors’ souls were alive and ascending to the heavens in the comets were these – ‘What is the source of the story about Julius Caesar?’ and ‘How does the sighting of a comet and someone giving it a self-purposed interpretation compare to the sighting of Jesus after His brutal death by hundreds of people, many of whom spent more than a month walking and talking with Him and sharing meals with Him?’

    “How can you falsify the resurrection? If it where myth, how would you know?”

    Good question. How can we falsify the resurrection of Jesus Christ? Since much of the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ is based on eyewitness testimony, we might ask the question this way – How do we falsify the eye witness testimony of hundreds of people who lived 2,000 years ago?

    False testimony is a legal challenge of perjury. Why would hundreds of people perjure themselves? Could it be that more than 500 people, including the apostles of Christ and Saul (Paul) of Tarsus, conspired to perjure themselves about the resurrection of Christ? If so, why? Many of these same people were tortured and killed because they would not change their story about Jesus’ resurrection? Why would they do that if they knew that the resurrection was false? It would seem that out of a group of more than 500 people, some of them would have falsified the resurrection if it was a ‘myth.’ The lives, beliefs and brutal torture and deaths of tens of thousands of Christians from the 1st to 4th centuries AD is historical, not mythical.

    Given the historical nature of the Gospel accounts, the eyewitness testimony of hundreds of people contemporary to Jesus, the historical account of Acts, and the historical accounts of several of Jesus’ disciples concerning the resurrection, the conduct of thousands of people contemporary to the apostles concerning their willingness to die on account of their belief in the truth of the resurrection, how would you verify the resurrection as myth?

    The resurrection of Jesus Christ occurred in the same city where He was crucified. Jesus had many enemies who wanted Him dead and wanted Him to stay dead. Many of them were leaders of the people who had the power to easily present evidence to the people in that same city that the stories of Jesus’ resurrection were false. They bribed the armed guards at Jesus’ tomb with a large sum of money to say that Jesus’ disciples had stolen His body out of the tomb while they (the guards) slept. If Jesus’ body had still been in the tomb, the Jewish leaders could have simply put the body on display in Jerusalem so everyone would know that stories about Jesus’ resurrection were lies. What happened instead was that the disciples of Christ who had spent more than a month with Jesus after His resurrection and had seen Him ascend into the sky and disappear from their sight, preached loudly in the streets of Jerusalem about the resurrection of Jesus and accused the Jewish leaders of killing Him. Instead of producing evidence that would prove the resurrection stories were lies, the Jewish leaders had the apostles arrested, jailed and beaten. The leaders warned the apostles not to continuing to preach that Jesus was raised from the dead, but the apostles continued to preach it even at the peril of their own life. And this was in the same city where Jesus was crucified just a few months earlier!

    No, this sounds nothing like myth. It sounds like a miracle performed for the glory of God and the authentication of Jesus and His message.

  6. Owen Sparger on said:

    Why would a resurrection necessarily mean that the Christian god exists? After all, there are lots of other ways this could have happened. An evil god could have raised Jesus from the dead so that billions of people would be fooled into believing a false religion and then tortured eternally for being so gullible.

    • Hi, Owen. Is that what you believe about the resurrection of Jesus? Do you have any evidence of an evil god raising Jesus from the dead for the purpose of fooling billions of people into believing a false religion? Whatever the truth may be about the resurrection of Jesus should be based on evidence that can be investigated. The evidence that the Christian God exists is based on many things, many of which I’m documenting in a series of posts titled ‘Convince Me There’s a God’ on faithandselfdefense.com. It’s an account of the evidence that led me from atheism to theism and Christianity. Thanks!

    • Owen Sparger on said:

      There is just as much evidence that an evil god did it as there is that a good one did it.

      In any case, let’s assume Jesus was the god Yahweh and was resurrected. A god who -floods our entire planet, killing babies, young children, and all kinds of animals and plants in the process,
      -slaughters innocent Egyptian boys,
      -allows Israelite men to own slaves and even to sell their own daughters into slavery, and
      -orders genocide on various Middle Eastern tribes cannot be as good as your average human being,
      -allows millions of children to die from hunger, disease, and unsafe drinking water every year when no decent human would allow it if they had the power to prevent it,

      is certainly not worth worshiping.

    • Hi, Owen. I mean no disrespect in saying this, but your arguments are similar to arguments I used as an atheist almost 50 years ago and arguments used by atheists much longer ago than that. The reason I say that is to say they’ve all been addressed many times by many people; especially the one about God being a moral monster. There’s even a book with that in the title by someone I know personally. If you are interested in learning more about excellent responses to your arguments, I recommend Paul Copan’s ‘Is God a Moral Monster?: Making Sense of the Old Testament God.’

      As to your comment that ‘there is just as much evidence that an evil god did it as there is that a good one did it,’ I would very much like to see the evidence. I say that respectfully because while I have seen a lot of evidence for the good God, I have not seen evidence for the evil god, unless you are speaking about Satan.

      Thanks!

    • Owen Sparger on said:

      So, would you carry out any or all of those acts (destroying all living species, committing genocide, the slaughter of children, and the sale of one’s daughters into slavery) yourself? After all, if any god can be justified in committing them, then so can you, right?

      We have first-hand evidence that the angel Moroni appeared to Joseph Smith. Do we have first-hand accounts from people who actually saw the Resurrection take place? If so, I’d really like to see them.

    • Hi, Owen. I appreciate your honing in on the vital point about what God has done in the past – justified. Was God ‘justified’ in what He did?

      I’ll use basic dictionary definitions of the word ‘justified’ for our discussion – ‘to prove or show to be just, right, or reasonable; to show to have had a sufficient legal reason’ (Merriam-Webster Dictionary) .. ‘having, done for, or marked by a good or legitimate reason (Oxford Dictionary)

      The first thing God did, according to the Bible, was ‘create’ the heavens and the earth. Was He justified in doing that? In other words, did God have the ‘right’ to create the heavens and the earth? Was He in a legal position to create? Did He have a legitimate reason to create? If you don’t think God was right in creating the heavens and the earth, let’s discuss that because it may go to the heart of why you think about God’s later actions in history as you do. However, if you agree with me that God did have the right, the legal position, was justified in creating the heavens and the earth, we can move through the history of the earth based on the fact that the heavens and the earth belong to God. He created them. They are His to do with as He pleases. I think your answer to that basic question about whether God had the right to create the heavens and the earth will guide our continued discussion about what the Bible says He did after creation.

      As for the angel Moroni appearing to Joseph Smith, how is that the same as people actually ‘seeing’ the Resurrection of Jesus Christ? I think there is some logic in comparing like-things, as in the angel Moroni appearing to Joseph Smith and the angel Gabriel appearing to Joseph and Mary and the angels appearing to the shepherds. However, comparing Joseph Smith seeing an angel and no human being seeing ‘the’ Resurrection of Christ are not ‘like-things.’ Thanks!

    • So, if you give life to children, does that give you the right to torture and kill them? If not, why would a god have that right?

      The events I mentioned are indeed similar in that both are extraordinary claims. We have a first-hand account from Joseph Smith regarding the appearance of the angel Moroni. Now, please answer my question: Do we have a first-hand account from anyone who claims to have witnessed the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth?

    • Hi, Owen. I’d appreciate your answering my question so we have an understanding of the basic issue that you raised concerning whether God was ‘justified’ in what the Bible claims He has done in history.

      Even though you are asking a question that has no comparison in direct usage, I’ll answer it for you.

      “Do we have a first-hand account from anyone who claims to have witnessed the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth?”

      Yes, we have multiple witnesses to the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth.

      “Now after the Sabbath, as the first day of the week began to dawn, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat on it. His countenance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow. And the guards shook for fear of him, and became like dead men. But the angel answered and said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead, and indeed He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him. Behold, I have told you.” Matthew 28:1-7

      “And entering the tomb, they saw a young man clothed in a long white robe sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. But he said to them, ‘Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid Him. But go, tell His disciples—and Peter—that He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him, as He said to you.” Mark 16:5-7

      “And it happened, as they were greatly perplexed about this, that behold, two men stood by them in shining garments. Then, as they were afraid and bowed their faces to the earth, they said to them, ‘Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen! Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee, saying, ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.” Luke 24:4-7

      “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know— Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death; whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it.” Acts 2:22-24

      “But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.” Romans 8:11

      God the Father and God the Spirit witnessed the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth (since they did the raising) and the two angels may have also witnessed the resurrection since they were at the tomb (at least one angel was ‘in’ the tomb) when the first followers of Jesus arrived.

      Again, I think it would be helpful to our continued discussion if you would answer my earlier question:

      “Did God have the ‘right’ to create the heavens and the earth? Was He in a legal position to create? Did He have a legitimate reason to create?”

      Thanks!

  7. Stryker on said:

    What I find most interesting in street epistemologists’ thinking is their passion for talking people out of their faith. It strikes me as quite odd that they care so much about believing God does not and cannot exist that they exert significant effort into having others believe as they do. I’ve asked atheists many times the same simple questions: In your Worldview, why do you care what others believe? What is the guiding force behind your efforts to have people renounce their beliefs? I’ve received mixed answers, but none that truly get to the root cause of why it matters what others believe.

    As Christians, we believe that people’s souls are at stake and belief that Jesus Christ died for our sins and rose from the grave is paramount to everlasting life. It makes sense that we care what others believe as we want them to accept Jesus Christ into their hearts and be saved. Atheists believe that we die and simply turn to worm food. No afterlife, nothing. If that’s the case, then who cares what I, or anyone else, does in this life, or for that matter, believes?

    – Stryker

    • Street Epistemologist on said:

      That’s a good question to ask an atheist and I have been asked that a few times myself. Why do I care if other people believe? Because I was indoctrinated to believe many things that have no basis in reality. I was made to believe, as a six year old, that I was broken. Inadequate. Later that my body was something to be ashamed of. That sex is dirty unless you’re married and the lights are off. That two people who love each other can’t be married because Leviticus (but pay no attention to those verses about shellfish or tattoos). Because people vote against science and progress based on their religious beliefs and that affects me. Because they want to teach creationism in the classroom based on zero scientific evidence thereby teaching their own children to doubt scientific consensus and that there is some sort of scientific conspiracy to get rid of god(s). That’s not how science works.

      So the simple answer is that your beliefs affect me in the voting booth. Your beliefs affect my children when you try to pass creationism off as science or some pseudo controversy. Your beliefs hold back society when society tries to progress beyond bronze age biases (slavery, geo-centrism, marriage equality, gender equality, stem cell research, ad infintum). It’s time to start asking yourself the difficult questions and remove the cognitive dissonance in your mind. I do not say this confrontationally. I am not trying to get a rise out of anyone or be a troll. You may say that these reasons don’t apply to you. That you’re a moderate Christian who believes in science and evolution. That’s fantastic but if you’re being honest with yourself you know that you are in the minority.

      These are the legitimate reasons why I care if other people believe and will do my best to free people of the faith burden. I hope I answered your question.

      Street Epistemologist

    • Stryker on said:

      Thank you for your answer. I would debate the subjective claims you make regarding “my beliefs”, but that is simply all they are, subjective, so to stay on topic, I’d like to focus on the issue of why you care directly. The fact that my Worldview differs from yours does not appear to be the issue, but rather the fact that I may vote for representatives that you would not like elected, correct? Then the representatives that I may help get elected could pass laws that you disagree with or repeal laws that you like. Further, these elected officials may appoint judges, assign cabinent heads, etc. that you may also disagree with.

      So, it seems to me that this comes down to more of a political issue as opposed to a Worldview one, but I agree that the two are closely related. That being said, I would make the claim that all Worldviews would prefer that those they disagree with voted differently. I could say the same about any other group that I feel differs from me politically. I support their right to vote, but would certainly prefer they vote for candidates that I want in office.

      So finally, are you making a claim that your Worldview is the “right” one or is your goal of changing the minds of those who may vote differently than you based primarily on the fact that you want your opinions and beliefs, along with those that agree with them, to be more prevelent in politics/society? If you believe that this is strictly subjective and that you want people you disagree with to change their minds and/or stop voting, then we have no disagreement on that paticular concept based off of the atheistic Worldview.

      – Stryker

    • Tee Jones on said:

      Stryker,

      Did you not get the answer in the original post? Lynnsy explained why the Christian worldview isn’t the best for everyone. You keep posting this question as if it were profound. I don’t understand why you didn’t understand this paragraph:

      “Religious faith is a knowledge claim about critical facets of the reality we all inhabit. Knowledge informs actions, and actions have consequences that affect other people in this world. Individuals are responsible for the consequences of their actions, and thus have a responsibility to use reliable ways of knowing what is true.

      If you lived in a society where most people believed (without reliable justification) that the tooth fairy was real, gifted us with teeth, meticulously tracked the health of our teeth, and judged us for eternity after death based on the state of our dental hygiene and how much we worshipped the tooth fairy, this would greatly affect how we formed our societies, what we spent societal/government resources on, and how we looked upon one another as fellow beings. This is why it’s important to me to believe in things that are true.”

      -Lynnsy in her previous post (same premise of question)

      I think that is pretty clear why anyone should care. If that isn’t good enough, I don’t think you will understand it in any other way. That is why I care…whether you agree with it or not is up for debate, but that doesn’t change the reality of forcing people to do things against their beliefs. Freedom of religion is also freedom from religion. The unit-establishment clause protects all of us.

  8. Craig P on said:

    So, as an outsider to Christianity and religion in general, I’m curious: What would you say is the best evidence that Christianity is true?

    • Hi, Craig. The best evidence for Christianity is the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and the hundreds of witnesses who saw Him alive after His brutal death at the hands of Roman soldiers. One of Christ’s apostles, who was the chief persecutor of Christians until he became convinced of the resurrection of Christ, wrote about what Christians believed from the early days of Christianity.

      “For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time.” The Apostle Paul

      Paul wrote to Christians in the Greek city of Corinth about several issues, but one of them was that some people were saying there was no resurrection of the dead. Here’s how Paul answered that concern.

      “Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up—if in fact the dead do not rise. For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.”

      Notice that Paul, who was personally called by the resurrected Christ to be an apostle, said that if Jesus had not risen from the dead the Christian faith would be futile.

      There are many evidences that support the Christian worldview, but the best and most important evidence is that Jesus Christ died, was buried, rose from the grave and was seen by hundreds of people before He returned to His throne in Heaven. Thanks for asking!

    • Street Epistemologist on said:

      That is if the bible is true………… A book that is thousands of years old written by men who didn’t know where the sun went at night.

      Which is more likely? A book about dead people coming back to life is true or the fact that we all know that dead people stay dead?

      That also doesn’t take into account that every other religion in the world also has a holy book that says all other holy books are wrong. They can’t all be right and most likely are all wrong.

      Thank you very much for this series of articles. Sincerely. I think you’ve represented street epistemology very accurately and I enjoy the chance to pose thought provoking questions to your readers.

    • Thank you for taking the time to respond. I mean no disrespect by this response as I was once an atheist who engaged with Christians and believed passionately that the Bible was mythical and contained nothing but legends and myths.

      I became a theist through the process of investigating evidence presented to me by Christians and evidence I found on my own during the investigatory process. I was an investigative reporter and used those professional skills to guide me to a conclusion.

      I agree that all of the ‘holy’ books of various religions can’t all be right. That is an important distinction since the truth claims of each religion contradict the truth claims of other religions and each religion believes itself to be correct. That violates the law of non-contradiction. As you say, ‘they can’t all be right,’ and there is the possibility that none of them are right. So, investigating the evidence for each is vital.

      I discovered during my investigation that the Bible was not mythical, but historical in its primary genre. The question then becomes whether the Bible is historical fiction or historical non-fiction. That’s where comparing biblical historical accounts with extra-biblical historical accounts becomes important. Archaeological discoveries also come into play to help confirm or deny historical information. I concluded that the Bible is a reliable, credible historical document referencing verifiable events.

      I believe you are not giving enough credit to our ancient ancestors. While many groups did not ‘know where the sun went at night,’ that was not true of Jews in Hebrew history. Records of their writings demonstrate that they knew what the sun was doing at night. They knew where it went ‘down’ at night and where it would ‘rise’ in the morning.

      They also knew that dead people don’t rise from the dead. That’s why when women told Christ’s disciples that He was alive and had been seen by one of them, the disciples did not believe them. They knew that dead people did not rise from the dead. They didn’t believe that Jesus had risen from the dead until He appeared to them in person.

      The general rule is that dead people stay dead unless something brings them back to life by medical professionals with the necessary knowledge and skills. However, a paramedic, nurse or doctor bringing someone back to life after they were clinically dead is not a ‘resurrection’ in the sense that Jesus was ‘raised’ from the dead. That is beyond anyone’s physical ability, no matter how much they know or how skilled.

      What happened to Jesus was a ‘miracle,’ something that is supernatural. Miracles rarely occur and are God’s work to bring glory to Himself and authenticate a messenger and message. Jesus’ rising from the dead brought glory to His Father and authenticated His position and His message.

      Again, I thank you for commenting here and hope you will comment again.

    • Tee Jones on said:

      Mark,

      You said that you “became a theist through the process of investigating evidence presented to me by Christians and evidence I found on my own during the investigatory process.”

      Did you do the same investigation in other religions? Did you have to believe first, as a I have heard multiple time, “open your heart to Jesus first, before you can know him?” How did you elevate confirmation bias in this endeavor?

      You also said “I was an investigative reporter and used those professional skills to guide me to a conclusion.”

      Words like “investigative,” and “professional skills,” are important to me in my career too and help guide me to a conclusion. The problem I see is that you use dubious claims like 1 Corinthians 15 as evidence of the resurrection. Over 500 people saw him, but is that a very good investigation? The passage doesn’t contain any names of the witnesses, and there is no information of any investigation by the Corinthians having investigated the claim…as I remember, they were hundreds of miles from Palestine. Is that a bias free and truth determining method?

      To be clear, I would really like to see more information from your investigation and see how you built in a reliable method to remove bias and test falsifiability. That would be awesome.

      Next you assert that you “discovered during my investigation that the Bible was not mythical, but historical in its primary genre…Archaeological discoveries also come into play to help confirm or deny historical information. I concluded that the Bible is a reliable, credible historical document referencing verifiable events.”

      This is a great claim, however, I haven’t seen this archaeological evidence that increases confidence. Not all historical claims require the same onus of evidence. The resurrection of Jesus is so extraordinary, that I would imagine it would require many accounts outside of the bible to prove its truth.

      How can you say this and not provide the evidence? For example, Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey contain historically accurate accounts, but are works of fiction. Do depictions of certain places and people correctly (as much as we can guess) mean it is distinct from other oral epics? Also, if hundreds saw the resurrection, why doesn’t it occur in other historical accounts of the time, written by contemporaries of Jesus?

      Also, you say “[t]hey also knew that dead people don’t rise from the dead. That’s why when women told Christ’s disciples that He was alive and had been seen by one of them, the disciples did not believe them. They knew that dead people did not rise from the dead. They didn’t believe that Jesus had risen from the dead until He appeared to them in person.”

      Non-christian religions have resurrections stories also. One of the easiest when studying the death of Julius Caesar, was the comment that appeared after his death for seven days said to be his soul. Comets in these times were often thought to be souls of dead emperors. There are more examples, but the point is made.

      If, it wasn’t 500 people that saw the body of Christ after his death, and if other stories of followers seeing their dead leader have been written of before, how does that make your claim true?

      I appreciate your continued communication.

    • Hi, Tee. I studied Hinduism, Shintoism, Buddhism, and Taoism prior to becoming an atheist. I conducted an investigation into the claims of theism, the Bible and Christianity for several months and was skeptical during most of that time. I did not ‘believe first,’ ‘open my heart to Jesus first.’ As for confirmation bias, my preconceived belief going into the investigation was there was no God and the Bible was mythological and fanciful. My confirmation bias was ‘against’ believing in God, so I had to use investigative skills to be open to wherever the evidence might take me.

      “Over 500 people saw him, but is that a very good investigation? The passage doesn’t contain any names of the witnesses, and there is no information of any investigation by the Corinthians having investigated the claim…as I remember, they were hundreds of miles from Palestine. Is that a bias free and truth determining method?”

      Paul did list the names of several people in 1 Corinthians 15. In addition to himself, Paul said that Jesus was seen by Cephas, the twelve apostles (known by name to the Corinthian Christians), James (half brother of Jesus), and more than 500 people at the same time, ‘of whom the greater part remain to the present.’ This was an open invitation to anyone to talk with the people Paul mentioned and ask them what they saw. Even though Corinth was a long distance from Jerusalem, people in the 1st century made trips of that length and longer with some regularity.

      Paul lived in Jerusalem for many years and was well aware of the claims about Jesus’ resurrection. He didn’t believe it and worked with Jewish leaders to bring an end to the claims until Jesus revealed Himself to Paul. Paul later met with the apostles he mentioned in his letter to the Corinthians to verify many things personally. Paul did his own investigation, then reported what he knew to be true to people in many countries.

      “To be clear, I would really like to see more information from your investigation and see how you built in a reliable method to remove bias and test falsifiability. That would be awesome.”

      Your request is one of hundreds of similar requests I’ve received through the years from atheists and is the primary reason I’m writing a detailed explanation about my investigation. It’s called ‘Convince Me There’s a God’ and can be found on this blog site.

      “This is a great claim, however, I haven’t seen this archaeological evidence that increases confidence. Not all historical claims require the same onus of evidence. The resurrection of Jesus is so extraordinary, that I would imagine it would require many accounts outside of the bible to prove its truth.”

      I’ve been writing about some of the archaeological evidence for the past couple of years, so you’ll also find that in the ‘Convince Me There’s a God’ series. You are correct that the resurrection of Jesus is extraordinary. There are extra-biblical writings that speak to the beliefs by Christians about the resurrection of Jesus, but those are not the same as eye-witness claims as found in the New Testament. The point of the extra-biblical evidence is that non-Christians knew that Christians believed Jesus rose from the dead and were willing to die for what they believed to be true. Some of those Christians may have been a witness to the Jesus being alive after His crucifixion, but most would have believed the testimony of those who were witnesses.

      “How can you say this and not provide the evidence? For example, Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey contain historically accurate accounts, but are works of fiction. Do depictions of certain places and people correctly (as much as we can guess) mean it is distinct from other oral epics? Also, if hundreds saw the resurrection, why doesn’t it occur in other historical accounts of the time, written by contemporaries of Jesus?”

      That’s an important distinction to make between historical fiction and historical non-fiction. Discovering the genre of ancient and modern writings is important to understand both the purpose and meaning of the writings. The authors of the writings included in the New Testament wrote them as historical non-fiction.

      Several contemporaries of Jesus did write historical accounts about the resurrection. They include Matthew (who was an eyewitness of Jesus before and after His death and resurrection), Mark (who wrote what Peter told him about what he had seen as an eyewitness), Luke (who wrote what many people told him about what they had seen as eyewitnesses), John (who was an eyewitness of Jesus before and after His death and resurrection), James (who was the half brother of Jesus and was an eyewitness of Jesus before and after His death and resurrection), and Paul (who was an eyewitness of Jesus after His resurrection).

      “Non-christian religions have resurrections stories also. One of the easiest when studying the death of Julius Caesar, was the comment that appeared after his death for seven days said to be his soul. Comets in these times were often thought to be souls of dead emperors. There are more examples, but the point is made.”

      What is the source of the story about Julius Caesar? Was it Octavian who used the sighting of the comet during funeral games for Caesar to advance his own political goals? How does the sighting of a comet and someone giving it a self-purposed interpretation compare to the sighting of Jesus after His brutal death by hundreds of people, many of whom spent more than a month walking and talking with Him and sharing meals with Him?

      I’ve looked into the claims of non-Christian religions during the general time period of the 1st century BC and 1st century AD and did not find any comparisons that were comparative with the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

      I also appreciate your continued communication and hope my answers were helpful. Thanks!

    • Tee Jones on said:

      Mark,

      I appreciate your response, and I think we have completely different ideas of what evidence is. Also, when I said contemporaries, I meant outside of the bible. I see you disagreed with the claims of subjects thinking recently deceased Emperors’ souls were alive and ascending to the heavens in the comets, as a comparative, but I also disagree with that. We know about comets now and have falsified that conclusion.

      My most important question was hidden in my response, primarily because I have so many questions still unanswered.

      How can you falsify the resurrection? If it where myth, how would you know?

    • Hi, Tee. This thread is becoming too narrow to read well, so I’ll start a new thread including your questions. Thanks!

    • Stryker on said:

      I find it interesting the statements you make: “Which is more likely? A book about dead people coming back to life is true or the fact that we all know that dead people stay dead?”

      Your statement of “the fact that we all know that dead people stay dead” seems to be from this type of action not being commonly observed, or in your view, ever observed. So, why would you stop there? Which is more likely in the following scenarios:

      1) Matter, space, and time are created out of nothing, or the fact that matter, space, and time are not created from nothing as this has never been observed?
      2) The forces of nature just happened to form abstractly from nothing and exist in perfect harmony with each other through random chance, or or the fact that these forces did not happen from random chance as this has never been observed?
      3) Organic life appeared from inorganic life on earth or or the fact that this did not happen as it’s never been observed?
      4) Comets originate in the Oort Cloud or the fact that they do not as the Oort Cloud has never been observed?
      5) Stars form within molecular clouds in interstellar space or they do not as this has never been observed?
      6) Animals create offspring of new, different kinds of animals or animals do not reproduce animals of a new, different kind as this has never been observed?

      There are many more examples of these types of questions, but I’m not asking these for an actual response to each individual question. I’m attempting to demonstrate that you likely believe in many things that have never been observed , but are accepted on faith. And I hate to break it to you, but just because someone with a P.H.D. says something “must have happened”, doesn’t mean it did. It doesn’t mean it didn’t either, but would be a faith belief unless it can be observed.

      I would simply ask that people are consistent. If people stay dead because that’s all you feel we have ever observed, then you should not believe many of the things that you likely claim to believe.

      – Stryker

    • Craig P on said:

      The fact that someone named Jesus died and was buried is nothing unusual. People die and are buried all the time. But, if any given person in the world were resurrected, what would be the best evidence of this–a vision that everyone in the Universe would have available always? Regular visits from the resurrected person, who could telepathically show us videos of heaven and hell? You’ll surely have some other ideas.

    • Hi, Craig. I would think the best evidence of a resurrection would be the evidence given us by the one who caused the resurrection.

      Prior to His death, the disciples of Jesus asked Him this question: “what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” Jesus described many of the things that would happen in the world prior to His ‘Coming’ and of the ‘end of the age,’ which included a time of great trouble (tribulation) that the world would face. After He said that, Jesus described a way that the entire world would see Him.

      “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.”

      Since that appears to be a future event, what God has given us as evidence of Jesus’ resurrection is written accounts of hundreds of people who saw Jesus alive after His brutal death at the hands of Roman soldiers. One of the strongest accounts came from the person most responsible for persecuting Christians a short time after Jesus’ resurrection. Saul of Tarsus was determined to destroy Christianity and was well on his way to accomplish that when Jesus appeared to him in a powerful vision. Saul, who was also named Paul, changed from persecuting Christians to preaching Christianity. Paul gave testimony to what he witnessed many times during his life and spoke of having other visions about Jesus Christ alive in Heaven.

      That’s one instance where Jesus revealed Himself to a person in ‘vision.’ I have read of other people who claim to have seen a vision of Jesus, but that was not my experience. I became a Christian through the process of investigating evidence.

      Thanks for writing and I hope this was helpful in answering your questions.

    • Craig P on said:

      So a couple of people claim to have had visions of Jesus. Now seriously, how could that be better than everyone in the Universe actually being visited by him in person on a regular basis? Then we’d all know who we was, and we could ask him any question we wanted to. We could also see if he really loved us and everyone else. For example, we could ask him to restore the limbs of people whose limbs had been severed. Certainly any good healer would do that if he or she could, right?

    • Hi, Craig. Thousands of people have claimed to have had visions of Jesus through the centuries, but I haven’t had one so can’t personally attest to that.

      Some of your questions are best asked of God. He is carrying out His plan according to His purposes and His timetable. Jesus told His disciples He would return and usher in a Kingdom on earth that would see the healing of the nations. What a wonderful time that will be. Thanks!

    • Craig P on said:

      By what method might one ascertain that a divine plan is being carried out by your god and not someone else’s? If a Jew insists that a plan is being carried out by Yahweh and that it does not involve Jesus, is the Jew right? If a member of ISIS exclaims that a divine plan is being carried out by Allah, is he right? If a couple of Hindus inform me that a plan is being carried out by Vishnu or Shiva, are _they_ right?

    • Craig P on said:

      By what method might one ascertain that a divine plan is being carried out by your god and not someone else’s? If a Jew insists that a plan is being carried out by Yahweh and that it does not involve Jesus, is the Jew right? If a member of ISIS exclaims that a divine plan is being carried out by Allah, is he right? If a couple of Hindus inform me that a plan is being carried out by Vishnu or Shiva, are _they_ right? Please explain the exact process for figuring out who–if anyone–is right.

    • Salvatore Mazzotta on said:

      Exegesis.

    • Craig P on said:

      So, exegesis of the Vedas, the Avesta, the Koran, the Sutras, the Tao te Ching, the Egyptian Book of the Dead, and all other holy books written anywhere in the Universe in the past, present, and future will all lead one to conclude that Jesus of Nazareth is carrying out a divine plan? Really? Please explain how it can be that all the adherents of other religions have missed that fact in reading their holy books.

    • Salvatore Mazzotta on said:

      The Bible.

    • Hi, Craig. I would recommend the careful process of investigating truth claims from each of the worldviews to determine which view has the best arguments from evidence. One of the difficult parts of doing that is confirmation bias and presuppositions. My bias and presupposition as an atheist investigating theism and Christianity was my strong atheism. I had to use the disciplines of investigative journalism to counter my bias toward theism in order to honestly approach truth claims of the theistic worldview and Christianity. Thanks!

    • Craig P on said:

      How can we humans know that the disciplines of investigative journalism will lead us to know which faith, if any, is the true one?

    • Hi, Craig. This thread is becoming too narrow to read easily, so I’ll begin a new thread with your last comment. Thanks!

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